By Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry and Councilmembers Steve Rosansky and Ed Selich
On Nov. 6, Newport Beach voters will have the opportunity to update the City Charter to save tax dollars, protect taxpayers and make government more efficient.
Measure EE was developed by a Citizens Charter Update Committee, representing all areas of our city. The committee reviewed recommendations developed by City Manager Dave Kiff, based on his three years of experience in helping to make our city work more effectively. Following thoughtful deliberation, the Citizens Committee recommended a package of reforms that became Measure EE.
These include eliminating a provision that could compel our police chief to leave the department headquarters and be located at the new City Hall, dropping costly and outdated newspaper publication requirements estimated to save $18,000 annually, and streamlining our contract provisions.
Even the opponents concede that most of the changes are simply ministerial in nature and will result in a more efficient city government. Putting four, or 10 or 30 separate measures on the ballot would only be more confusing and costly to taxpayers. We believe you are wise enough to understand Measure EE. They do not.
Three provisions of the charter update deserve special attention.
One would provide protection to the taxpayers of the city against class-action lawsuits. You may be surprised to know how much time, and how much money, lawsuits brought against the city by enterprising lawyers cost our residents. Lawsuits targeting the city as a “deep pocket” are a real risk to our financial stability and our continued ability to provide high-quality services such as our award- winning library and parks and recreation services. It appears that this provision is what is primarily motivating many of our most vocal opponents, three of whom are either currently suing the city or have sued the city in the past. One of them sued for $250 million.
The second provision bans the use of red-light camera ticket traps. This is a technology sold to cities by private corporations who split the nearly $500 ticket fines. This has become a corporate-funded racket in more than 100 California cities. Slick lobbyists with campaign cash to dispense move into cities to support candidates and obtain these contracts. Red-light cameras not only exploit taxpayers and motorists with excessive fines, they result in accident rates that are more than twice those at intersections where cameras are not used. Measure EE ensures that residents must vote to approve red-light cameras before they can ever be used in Newport Beach.
The third provision takes our current conflict-of-interest provisions and augments them with the highly developed and extensive conflict provisions in state law. This creates clear, bright-line tests for what is and is not a real conflict. Current language is vague and ambiguous. For example, it bans anyone with an “indirect” interest in any contract with the city from holding office. That may sound good until you realize that it has the effect of banning, among many others, the more than 100 residents of Beacon Bay who live on leased tidelands property from serving on the City Council.
Opponents have consistently made false and confusing statements regarding the compensation clean-up. Contrary to their assertions, no retired councilmembers receive health benefits. Health insurance for current councilmembers has existed for nearly 40 years and is not impacted in anyway by Measure EE. The current charter provides for “reimbursement for expenses” but sets a set amount that adjusts automatically for inflation that is completely unrelated to actual expenses. Why this confusing approach? It is not clear but no matter what the charter calls it; the IRS calls it compensation, requires it to be reported on a W-2 form and be subject to income taxes. Measure EE treats council compensation in accordance with how the IRS treats it, updates the charter so you can see what is actually being paid and does not in any way increase compensation for anyone.
The Orange County Taxpayers Association supports Measure EE because they know it protects taxpayers, eliminates waste and reduces government costs.
The Corona del Mar and Newport Beach chambers of commerce support Measure EE because a strong and efficient city is good for local business, and the Newport Beach Firefighters support Measure EE because protecting taxpayers from a catastrophic legal judgment can help preserve essential public safety services.
Read Measure EE for yourself and join with the entire City Council in voting “yes” on Measure EE.