Measure Y and a Group Think City Council

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Being elected to the Newport Beach City Council (even being appointed to fill a vacancy) or being appointed by the Council to any one of the several city commissions in no way conveys to those individuals any special omniscience or omnipotence relative to providing good local governance and or sustaining the city as a residential community.

Several members of the Council recently posited that the city’s credit rating, fund balances and reserves, and relationships with the business community make us the city that we are.

Most of us would like the city to remain the residential community that we are and not an ever expanding corporate footprint of a local development company, as proposed by the City Council through Measure Y. However, we as local voters do not matter to the Council. Remember those prophetic words of Mitt Romney: “Corporations are people, my friend.”

The big voting bloc in our city is the corporate citizen with all the power and it can out-vote every registered-to-vote citizen in Newport Beach! That is because the Y initiative started with the group think City Council and the Council’s commissioners, who think just the same as the “don’t rock the boat” council members because they are all programmed to be proactive for development through their associations as City Hall Insiders. They are all members of the same choir. That applies to the City Staff as well.

What is group think? According to [research psychologist and author] Irving Janis, “Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people’s common sense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion. Here, the desire for group cohesion effectively drives out good decision-making and problem solving.”

Janis goes on to say that groupthink prevails when there is a strong, persuasive group leader, a high level of group cohesion, and intense pressure from the outside to make particular decisions.

One can notice group think in Newport Beach when a Council member, city commissioner, city staffer or an advocate for Measure Y speaks or writes publically. They all sound like automatons reading from a script. Peer pressure is applied openly or silently to any particular dissenter on an issue that is group supported and the dissenter succumbs and once again becomes a team player.

Reflecting now on those early years of the 2000s, Newport Beach Council members always carried the water for local developers. Do you remember the Free Newport Beach movement which was an antecedent to Green Light? Green Light was a response to Team Newport’s assault on open space in the city. You will easily recognize the names of those former Council and Chamber of Commerce members who comprised the Team Newport.PAC and they are still proselytizing for more building and development.

If you do remember old Team Newport, you realize that the two years the current Council, Commissioners and City staff spent working with the Developer preparing Measure Y is just an extension of the former Team Newport’s goals! A walkable city? Please, show more creativity, City Council!

To be sure, there are some nice people, amiable people, competent people, and friendly people on the Council and among the commissioners. But they are on the side of the Corporate Citizen with the deep pockets and media connections, and that starts with the votes on the current council.

Our City Council has a dangerous penchant for favoring corporate interests in Newport Beach. This is a great time to reevaluate the council’s commitment to keeping Newport Beach a residential community.

Jerry G. Alston, PhD

Newport Beach

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