Letter to the Editor: Why I Support the Elect Our Mayor Campaign

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Throughout the past couple of years, it has become increasingly evident how much elections matter. At a local level, elections have affected our ability to be outside in nature, choose where we eat our food and send our children to school.

While LAUSD is still inventing barriers to prevent children from returning to the classroom, students in Orange County can attend in person.

Though we hope the worst of the pandemic is behind us, we have seen that strong leadership is what builds a community and inspires its resilience. California is a different state than it was two years ago, and not for the better. It’s hard to see that when we look at our beautiful neighborhoods and ocean views. Still, when data shows that almost all demographics are leaving for other states, we are reminded that we need strong leadership at a local level to preserve the communities and lifestyle we love.

We elect our local leaders to reflect our voices and make decisions that support the vision of a community where we want to live. A school board and a council are entrusted with building a vision for the future that reflects the needs of its constituents.

To that end, it is vital that city councils and school boards lead with vision. And that is why I support the Elect Our Mayor Campaign.

What you might not know – I certainly didn’t – is that the city council doesn’t set the agenda. It is set by the City Manager. We elect our council members and school board members. We don’t elect our City Managers and our Superintendents.

At the school board, the Board President sets the agenda in concert with the Superintendent and other school board Trustees. This is one important aspect that the Elect Our Mayor Campaign seeks to change.

Electing six council members from various districts around the city, with an at-large mayor whose job includes setting the agenda, ensures that a city-wide vision is carried out in every vote, at every meeting.

Being a mayor in a city like Newport Beach will be more critical to maintaining its character in the years to come. A directly elected mayor will have four years to work with other council members to create and execute a thoughtful vision and look many years ahead.

As I have talked to folks around the city, the biggest question that I get is, “Why now?”

The simple answer is stability and long-term relationships. Planning for the next 25 and 50 years cannot be accomplished with a mayor who only needs to work well with council members for one year.

As housing density legislation coming from the state begins to impact our quality of life, it is to Newport Beach’s benefit to have a mayor who has served with and knows other mayors in Orange County over several years. The ability to pick up the phone and discuss how another city is navigating changing requirements and legislation impacts our quality of life.

So if you haven’t taken time to frame the question, “Why does Newport Beach need a directly elected mayor?” now is a great time to do so. Is a rotating mayor, as is currently the case, better for our city’s long-term stability and character, our villages? Does the current system best represent all residents of the city?

As someone who plans on living in this city with my children for years to come, I support an elected mayor to lead Newport Beach into the future.

Michelle Barto / Newport Beach

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