By Noah Blom, Newport Beach City Councilmember
The basic function of the Newport Beach City Council is setting public policy. The sole ability for the City Council to accomplish this basic function is through agendas set well in advance of a meeting pursuant to “The Brown Act.”
In other words, the only way for a Council to actually accomplish its core responsibility is through the meeting agenda.
But as it currently stands, the Council has delegated that authority to the City Manager. No matter how good a City Manager is (and ours is great), the City Manager is accountable only to the City Council and not directly to the people of the City of Newport Beach.
The Elect Our Mayor initiative would ensure that the power to hold public policy makers accountable rests in the hands of the people.
As proposed, a directly elected Mayor would be able to set the agenda and be directly accountable to both the people and the City Council. Plus, City Council members themselves could place items on the agenda if three members voted to do so (similar to the current policy).
If a Mayor didn’t want to place an item on the agenda and three other Council Members couldn’t be found to want an item on the agenda, why in the world would that item be worthy of staff time and consideration?
This process is helpfully discussed on the www.ElectOurMayor.com website under the FAQ section. Which is why I was a puzzled when I read Susan Skinner’s comment that the agenda-setting function was “hidden” in the initiative language. It wasn’t even hidden from Will O’Neill’s original op ed published in the Newport Beach Indy.
But more to the point, Dr. Skinner’s main concern appears to be that a Mayor could move items around on the agenda to avoid frustrated crowds. This may surprise Dr. Skinner, but the Mayor currently has the “discretion to change the order of business” as part of our city’s agenda-setting policy.
Though uncommonly used, the most common use of that discretion is not to avoid crowds, but instead is used to ensure that a crowd doesn’t need to sit through an entire agenda if their item is at the back of the calendar.
I encourage residents to read more about the Elect Our Mayor petition at the website where concerns are helpfully answered. If you would like to sign up to volunteer or find out where petitions are available to sign, please visit our site for that too: https://www.electourmayor.com/get-involved.