Last week was a busy one for citizens who spoke up and attended city meetings and study sessions.
I attended two study sessions and one forum. The study sessions were about the best use of the City Hall site and a proposed raise on rent in the marina, termed the “dock tax” by the owners of businesses being affected. The forum was about the proposed City Charter changes on the November ballot in Newport Beach.
And, while I did not attend the City Council meeting where the main topic was the riding trails in the Santa Ana Heights area, I did view it on television.
What struck me about all these meetings was th common theme of citizens coming together to express their views, ideas, and proposed solutions for projects that are going to affect our city, local residents, and businesses directly in myriad ways. What I saw was government in action, with local citizens and business owners/operators using their democratic rights to voice their opinions through local government.
Those of you who could not attend the meetings can find out what happened through the local newspapers, by watching television, and by contacting people who attended the meetings. These issues are important to us as residents and merit a look at both sides and an expression of your opinions through a vote in November and continued presence at meetings as the discussion and decision-making continues on some of these items.
Each of these meetings had a full house of participants except for the Speak Up Newport forum on the charter. While it was well attended, there were more empty seats than I expected on such an important proposal for our city government. The charter is the city’s road map for conducting our business. The proposed changes cover 38 areas and are all packaged together in Measure EE. You need to become familiar with how these changes could affect governance in the city – and you, now and in the future.
I became aware of the Speak Up Newport as a candidate for City Council four years ago. I joined the group because it has dedicated individuals who spend a great deal of their time bringing these issues and forums to the public, so that we have avenues to look at the many sides of issues that matter in the city. The president of Speak of Newport is Robert Hawkins, a former planning commissioner.
The forum included local citizens Ron Hendrickson, and Jim Mosher, who presented their reasons for voting no on the charter changes. The supporters of the changes were Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry and Paul Watkins, who chaired the Citizens Charter Update Committee that recommended the changes to the City Council.
Both sides were prepared and presented their points of view so that the public could understand how these amendments will affect local governance.
What is impressive about the turnouts this past week was the people’s passion for the city and the citizenship that they exhibited throughout. Each study session had more than 10 speakers. I was proud to be a citizen of the city, observing and sitting near fellow citizens who approached the council one by one, expressing their points of view and knowledge of issues.
Emotions were running high and issues are both personal as well as fiscal for the city and the citizens. But the citizens did the right things to help our council understand their concerns and proposed solutions. They were prepared, they observed the time limits, they were respectful, concise, convincing, and offered suggestions, data, and solutions.
Mayor Nancy Gardner did an excellent job of managing the emotional climate in all three meetings. She exhibits concern, seeks more information, and ensures that everyone is heard. Her facilitation skills were a key factor in helping the audience, speakers, concerned citizens, and council to see that further study and review is warranted on all of these issues before final decisions are made.
Citizens, never underestimate the power of information, knowledge, dignity, presentation, preparation, passion, and perseverance; you are making a difference in our community and your influence is greater than you think. Collaboration and communication are the keys to making our city better, more efficient, productive, prosperous, and a place to call home that we all feel a part of.
That is my take.
City leaders want to hear from you about choosing between an upscale hotel development or apartments for the City Hall site. Send letter or emails, or attend the council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. to voice your opinion.