In his address to the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce at the Wake Up! Newport event on Thursday morning, Mayor Kevin Muldoon proclaimed March 12 to be Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Day, commemorating the organization’s 110th anniversary on the date of its creation in 1907.
He was introduced by former mayor Rush Hill and joined by chamber president Steve Rosnasky, as well former mayor Keith Curry, current councilmen Scott Peotter and Will O’Neill, and Newport Beach Chief of Police Jon Lewis in the audience that packed into the Friends Room at the Newport Beach Public Library.
Muldoon echoed the financial numbers he touted at recent speaking engagements (including the Mayor’s Dinner), telling the audience that there are over 20,000 businesses incorporated in Newport Beach, with approximately 237 new business licenses awarded each month.
“The state of the city is strong,” Muldoon said, heralding the impressing tax income that the city brings in, including $93 million in property tax and $36 million in sales tax. The harbor, a subject central to the chamber, brought in $200 million last year, he said.
Highlighting his goals for the city, Muldoon only briefly mentioned his plans to employ wireless technology to improve traffic congestion and refurbish the sea wall. He elaborated on his plan to contribute to the $300 million unfunded pension liability.
The pension issue, he told the crowd, is ultimately the responsibility of the state. “But we are an extraordinary city,” and can pay into the fund continuously by maintaining an efficient staff and being “lean and mean” at the city level.
Among other criticisms, Muldoon said that Calpers and those responsible for its investments are “blinded by political decisions,” which has led to its abysmal returns of just one percent. Calpers initially promised the state to yield returns of seven to eight percent, but has yet to do so.
“We are picking up the slack, and will contribute more of our own funds,” he said. The city can only do so much though, and that “some change will have to occur at the state level.”
Locally, Muldoon expressed his desire to update the city’s General Plan, which hasn’t been changed since 2006. He said an update will take years of work with planners and will cost about $1 to $2 million to put on a 2020 ballot. Emphasizing the collection of input from all residents, Muldoon said, “We want to involve the community and let all of the different villages have a say.”
Joking that he had hoped to avoid any hard questions, one resident did inquire about the status of the Museum House project. Muldoon replied that city council had voted to rescind its original decision to move forward with the 100-unit high rise condominium complex in Newport Center. He reported that it was the most contentious council meeting of his tenure as mayor, but that he was impressed with the decorum of many of the activists who spoke passionately against the now-dead project.
He did appear to allude to some of the less-restrained speakers at Tuesday’s council meeting when he offered advice to the Future Business Leaders of America high school students in the Wake Up! audience.
“If there is an issue that affects you, come to city hall and listen to what people have to say,” he said, “and if you feel so inclined, come up to the podium and say something.”
It is important, however, to watch what works and what doesn’t. He implored them not speak threateningly, particularly to elected officials.
“Wagging fingers,” and yelling is not a way to get one’s point across, Muldoon told the students. “Keep calm. It will help you in college and after.”