Scrooge is Back in Newport Harbor

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Well it happened.

The “Republican” city council, with the help of its lone Democrat, instituted a new tax on dock owners in the city. Merry Christmas.

Reminds me of the famous Reagan quote about those 11 words that nobody wants to hear: “I am from the government and I am here to help.”

The city council has not presented the case that they have these great plans for the harbor that will improve the looks, function and the amount of business that it sees. Nor does it plan to restore it to its former cleanliness before the urbanization upstream washed into Newport Harbor. Nor does the city have plans for how to prevent the harbor from becoming worse. Nor has the council explained how this dock tax is simply to pay their fair share for all these great things making this more like a user fee rather than a tax.

No, it seems that the excuse for implementing a tax on the private dock owners is that if they don’t do it, the state will, and the state would be worse.

So, the group protesting the dock tax, is proceeding with their plans to boycott the annual Christmas Boat Parade. put ads in major newspapers including OC, LA, and the Inland Empire last Saturday telling the world about their boycott. explained at the council meeting this week that they have spent thousands decorating their houses, boats and docks, to contribute their part to the Christmas spirit in Newport Harbor and that if the dock tax is approved they will turn their lights out during the parade in protest.

No matter, the council enacted the tax 5-1 with Leslie Daigle voting no and Ed Selich abstaining because he owns a dock. The council is acting the part of Scrooge, worrying about every last cent that they might be entitled to grab rather than the spirit of Christmas, good cheer and contributions that boat and dock owners make to our community.

It seems that the council needs to have the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future visit them tonight. The ghost of Christmas past might show them the long history of Newport Harbor, the harbor’s vitality and clean bottoms, sandy beaches, contributing to the nature of the city of Newport Beach, and the ability of free citizens to engage in free enterprise without government interference. Maybe the past goes all the way to Boston Harbor in 1776.

The ghost of Christmas present might show them the current dirty water of the harbor, the lack of a dredging permit to maintain the harbor or for residents to maintain their docks, or the $200,000 lifeguards and Taj Ma-City-Hall.

The ghost of Christmas future might be, as some rumors have circulated, a recall of those members that voted to tax Christmas. Selich got a pass, Daigle voted against the tax, Keith Curry was recently re-elected and can’t be immediately recalled, and Steve Rosansky is no longer on the council. That leaves Nancy Gardner, Rush Hill, and Mike Henn all subject to recall.

Unlike Scrooge, I don’t anticipate the council will change the future by changing their ways. But hey, thankfully Christmas isn’t about boats and parades. We will have fun this Christmas regardless as to what this council did or didn’t do. Scrooge won’t ruin Christmas for us.

The Christmas boat parade is another issue. The parade won’t be cancelled. It will still occur. There will still be some great boats and certainly there are many well decorated houses and docks, some of which may be dark during the Christmas Boat Parade.

But just like the city council, it won’t be as good as it could have been.

Scott can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. You are correct Scott. The tax on residential piers is a pre-emptive strike. Let’s throw in the towel against the eroding forces of Sacramento tax and spend. You are correct this is a new tax. The current $100 annual fee is an inspection fee, not a rent or a tax. Historically, neither the City nor the State Lands Commission believed there was legislation in place to impose a rent or tax. It took SB 152 for the state to generate revenue from its more than 3,000 lakes and rivers. The City’s position is that SB 152 does not apply to the City. What does? Your Reagan quote applies. All revenue from the dock tax goes to the City. The State Lands Commission gets no revenue from the new tax but the prevailing thinking is Newport taxes itself (with questionable authority to do so) before the State Lands Commission intervenes in our local affairs.