Op/Ed: Elect Our Mayor

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Will O’Neill

By Will O’Neill, Newport Beach City Council Member

You don’t elect your Mayor in Newport Beach. Instead, your Mayor is chosen by the city council every year, rotated only from amongst themselves. But you can change this system and ensure that your Mayor is directly accountable to you.

Ballots hit mailboxes this week and the last question gives you the power to require that accountability. The question is simple and straightforward: shall “the Newport Beach City Charter be amended to provide for the direct election of the Mayor?”

Directly elected by you, the voters. Not only will you have a direct vote, but it also means that the Mayor will be directly accountable to you.

The power right now is with the city council. If you vote yes, the power to elect your Mayor shifts to you. Just like the ballot question itself, your vote is that simple.

Interestingly, there is opposition to this direct democracy from a Political Action Committee that has changed its name a couple of times. The PAC started out as “No Elected Mayor,” which is exactly what the group advocates. Quite literally, they don’t want you to elect your Mayor.

After paying a political consultant thousands of dollars, they changed their PAC’s name to “Stop The Power Grab.” Perhaps you have seen their signs scattered around our public sidewalks, medians, and shrubs.

Residents have asked repeatedly: “what power grab?”

What power grab indeed? Right now, the power rests with the City Council. When Measure B passes, the power will be with the voters. That’s the power grab that they want to stop.

That same group sent out its first mail piece a couple of weeks ago, which has been thoroughly debunked. During a recent debate, in fact, the advocate against your voting for your Mayor agreed that statements on the mailer were not technically true. He then said: “I’m sorry. It was a postcard. You only have a certain amount of space.”

That is not an excuse for inaccuracies. Inaccuracies such as claiming that Measure B would “require a huge budget increase for the mayor that would cost Newport Beach taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.” To the contrary, there is no such requirement at all of any such expenditure in Measure B.

Inaccuracies such as claiming that Measure B would create an “elected king.” Or that the Mayor would have “total control of our city government.” These claims are not just false, but provably false.

In his impartial analysis published on our City’s website, the Newport Beach City Attorney stated clearly that the Mayor would simply be “a voting member of the Council” and that “at any Council meeting, three Councilmembers would have the discretion to add an item to a future agenda.”

This is not a “strong Mayor” system, nor does it diminish the voice or role of city council members. It does, though, force the Mayor to be directly accountable to you because you are the one electing the Mayor.

Last week, the opposing PAC set its sights on debasing a bipartisan issue by appealing to rank partisanship by sending out mail claiming that Measure B is “a Republican power grab” that would “diminish democratic representation.”

Not only is such a statement false, but we should reject the opposition PAC’s effort to devolve a unifying issue into blue-state mud-slinging.

Instead, let’s come back to the question that voters will be answering on their ballots:  Shall “the Newport Beach City Charter be amended to provide for the direct election of the Mayor?”

We the voters should choose our Mayor. Vote Yes on B.

For more information, please visit www.ElectOurMayor.com.

Hon. Will O’Neill currently serves on the Newport Beach City Council and served as Mayor in 2020.

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