No on Measure V

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Should you be concerned about Measure V?


By the city’s own count, since adoption of the City Charter in 1954, a total of 54 proposals for its amendment have been presented to voters at a total 20 different elections.  In each of those cases, individual issues were presented to the electorate as separate votes.  When the City Council does this, voters embrace some “reforms” and reject others.

In 2010, for the first time, the Newport Beach City Council has bundled 15 separate and unrelated proposals – three of which were previously rejected by voters and others of which would be complex and controversial if presented separately – into a single yes-or-no vote.

The number of bundled issues is so large that no clear explanation of the 50 pages of changes that are being voted upon is possible in the 500-word “analysis” allowed to the city attorney on the sample ballot.

Previously rejected proposals in Measure V

Leaving Chamber of Commerce funding to the discretion of the council was a rejected alternative in 1955. Deleting the present dollar limit was proposed by Charter Update Commission members who are officers of the chamber and four of the five commission members recommending the issue to the voters are chamber members.

Selling waterfront property by majority vote without creating a specific exception to the prohibition against such sales in the charter was rejected by a nearly 2:1 vote in1974.

Increasing the time limit on city contracts from 25 to 55 years was soundly defeated in 1974.  We are now being asked to remove the time limit entirely.

Is the remainder just “housekeeping”?

The centerpiece issue of “closing Proposition 13 loopholes” is considerably more complex than can be guessed from the ballot description. One of the main “loophole” fixes removes the council’s authority to impose taxes that may be necessary to fund employee pensions.

The Charter Update Commission itself decided at its Feb. 16 meeting that this provision should be left intact because it was an obligation previous voters had committed the city to honor and was properly “grandfathered” in under Proposition 13  — yet individual commission members unexpectedly reversed themselves, with little opportunity for public input, on the night the City Council formulated the ballot language.

The proposal to “simplify franchise processes” effectively nullifies the existing charter protections requiring public notice and hearings before the council can let exclusive contracts for such things as trash hauling, cable TV service or tree trimming. The “simplification” adds language that leaves the council free to establish whatever alternative procedures they desire.

The current threshold of $30,000 for submitting contracts to competitive bidding is not as antiquated as proponents – who initially announced Measure V as the first charter overhaul in 50 years — might imply.  The current level was in fact narrowly approved by voters in 1986. The proposed increase to $120,000 is far more than the amount of inflation since 1986.

The proposal to “amend the Civil Service System” as presented in July completely scraps the current voter-approved ordinance, leaving only the Civil Service Board as a body to hear employee complaints.  During Update Commission meetings, members were repeatedly told that a replacement Civil Service ordinance would be acted upon in time for voters to be able to compare it to the one they are being asked to repeal, but the replacement ordinance did not appear until the Oct. 12 council meeting and will not be finalized until Oct. 26, a week before the election.

Voters have a right to understand what they are being asked to vote upon, and to vote for or against individual “reforms” as they have done in past years.  This is not possible when 15 separate and distinct proposals are rolled into a single yes-or-no vote.

Vote NO on Measure V.

Mark Tabbert

Tom Billings



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