As I complete my second term as mayor of this exceptional city, I’d like to share a few thoughts.
But first, I want to offer congratulations to Council members Will O’Neill and Brad Avery on their selections as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem, respectively. I have great confidence in their leadership, and I look forward to a productive year ahead.
I want to thank all my fellow council members for their hard work and dedication to Newport Beach. My one top-line goal this year was to restore civility and collegiality among our Council. I am pleased to tell you that your Council is high-functioning, hard-working, respectful of each other and committed to achieving what’s best for Newport Beach and its residents. This Council works hard for the people of Newport Beach. And it shows.
We all — and I mean residents, staff and Council — were busy this year. We created several ad hoc committees: Homelessness, Election Reform, the Library Lecture Hall, Business Improvement Districts, and the General Plan Update Steering Committee.
These committees are working hard to address pressing issues and community needs. Their work will continue in the new year.
Additionally, I continue to be amazed and grateful at the dedication and hard work of our residents. They serve countless hours providing their knowledge and expertise on our standing commissions and committees like Aviation, Harbor, Arts, Finance, Library, Parks, Beaches and Recreation, and Planning.
Much important work was done this year including:
- A restructured Aviation Committee to address the critical issues related to John Wayne Airport;
- Extensive Harbor Municipal Code revisions are underway;
- Special trees on Balboa Island, addressed capably by residents, business groups and PB&R;
- And, by the Finance Committee, a balanced budget, with a substantial surplus and a Triple-A credit rating for the City;
All that while also funding an aggressive pay-down of our unfunded pension gap, thanks to our hardworking Finance Committee. This involved many hours of staff and committee time to formulate the best options. These payments since 2015 have saved the city interest costs of nearly $115 million dollars over the next 20 years. This savings reflects rigorous fiscal management by your Council and is an extraordinary achievement.
And our citizen committees continue to work on many more issues that touch every resident:
- Our homeless task force — led most capably by Mayor Pro Tem O’Neill and Council members Avery and Joy Brenner — to identify solutions to this vexing issue in our city;
- Sculpture Garden installations and art exhibits,
- Harbor dredging,
- And a new Library Lecture Hall that is moving forward with preliminary public and private funding commitments.
There’s never a shortage of projects or issues! But we stay focused on continual improvement of our infrastructure and the distinct amenities that create value for our community and property owners.
Many concerned residents consistently come out to our Council meetings, or those of the commissions and committees, to share their advice and expertise. The wisdom of our residents often shows us viable alternatives, and we are better for it.
A big thank you to the city staff. There is a lot on their plate — I suspect more than the normal — with the projects I’ve already mentioned and more. Newport Beach enjoys the quality of life it has in no small part because of the city staff’s commitment to go above and beyond the merely satisfactory, at all levels.
I’m pleased we continued to take important actions to promote public safety and to invest in the city’s future. We added a police officer position to restore the department’s staffing to the pre-Great Recession level, and to tacitly acknowledge that crime exists in our community. It rises and falls over the months of the year, but new state laws reducing prison sentences, loosening parole requirements and downgrading felony crimes to misdemeanors are contributing to rising crime rates across Orange County.
We have the finest men and women serving in our Police Department, and I am proud of their commitment, hard work and their personal sacrifices to keep our city safe. The Department’s resourceful efforts to address criminal activity in our neighborhoods — and its nationally recognized cold-case resolutions — are second to none.
Meanwhile, the two new fire stations, one complete and on budget and the other in process; the proposed Library lecture facility; improvements to our parks and roadways; our water and waste-water infrastructure investments, are all actions that improve public safety and improve the city’s quality of life.
I want to especially recognize and thank our City Manager, Grace Leung, who has seamlessly transitioned into our city. She keeps us moving in the right direction professionally and efficiently. We are in good hands.
I have enjoyed the greatest honor of public service in our City — serving as Mayor twice in five years. I am humbled by the deep commitment to our city by our residents, our city staff and our Council. We all work together — we discuss, disagree and debate — to ensure the city runs efficiently, with fiscal prudence and an operating model that best serves our residents and business owners.
Having completed my term, I am delighted to turn the mayor’s gavel over to Mr. O’Neill — a first-rate council member and colleague. And I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Newport Beach in whatever role fate has in store.
Best wishes to your family for a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season,
Mayor, Council Member
Diane Dixon joined Newport Beach City Council in 2014, representing District 1. She completed her second tenure as mayor on Tuesday. Reach her at [email protected].