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Daily Pilot

Measure EE passes

Newport's charter reform initiative glides through.

By Jill Cowan

12:32 PM PST, November 7, 2012

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Newport Beach residents approved 38 changes to their city charter on election day.

About 18,862 voters (57%) were in favor of Measure EE, and 14,244 (43%) were opposed, according to final election results released Wednesday.

"I'm encouraged citizens saw through misrepresentations of opponents to make the city more efficient and protect it from [class-action] lawsuits," Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry said, taking a short break from mingling at the Orange County Republican Party's election night gathering at the Westin South Coast Plaza.

The measure will make a variety of changes to a document likened to the city's constitution. Among its more visible provisions were a ban on red-light cameras and class-action lawsuits. Most of the changes were relatively minor updates to the charter's language.

Opponents had argued that the measure would make too many changes to be considered with just one vote and that it decreases transparency.

Earlier Tuesday evening, one of Measure EE's primary opponents Jim Mosher stood just outside the legally mandated 100-foot campaign boundary at Mariners Elementary School as a chilly evening mist settled in. A steady stream of residents passed through the heavily trafficked poll location.

Mosher, who sported an "I Voted" sticker, held a sign urging passersby to vote no on the measure. He said he'd been out since early in the day and that he'd "spent the weekend outside supermarkets," getting his word out.

At Mariners, he said, he hoped to turn a few more voters who may not have followed the issue much leading up to the election.

Indeed, many residents hitting the polls said they didn't know much about local races. National and statewide races, for the most part, were what drew them to the polls.

"Ironically, the local issues have more impact on our lives," said Paul Bellamy, 56, who dropped off his vote-by-mail ballot at City Hall, but people "start at the top." He said he knew he was unusual in putting in about 10 hours of election research time. He wasn't in favor of Measure EE.

"I thought they tried to put in too much on a single item," he said.

Terry MacNeish, a three-year Newport Beach resident who was volunteering as a poll inspector, said he doesn't follow local politics much, but he also had harsh words for Measure EE.

"It looks like a patchwork hack job, but one of my friends who's running for city council said it's necessary," he said. Still, he said that the red-light camera (which opponents had criticized as a "red herring") was questionable.

"What that was doing in there, I don't know," he said.

That afternoon, MacNeish's voice echoed through the cavernous Lido Fire Station, next to city hall as he gave instructions.

Tami Smith, 32, said as she headed into the City Council chambers to cast her ballot that she didn't decide to cast her vote for Mitt Romney until "the last few weeks," and that she was torn on Proposition 30 — her husband was saying no, but she'd seen how cuts to education negatively impacted friends who'd gone back to college. Asked about Measure EE, though, she said, "I don't know about all of that."

Nevertheless, Smith stressed that voting is an important civic duty — regardless of what you vote for.

Smith had MacNeish snap a photo of her in front of a sign directing voters into the fire station. She carried her two-year-old daughter and pushed her months-old son in a stroller.

Though she ended up being redirected into the nearby polling station inside the city council chambers, she said she took the photo to encourage her friends to vote.

"So many people give excuses why they can't go – their vote doesn't matter or they have kids," she said.

jill.cowan@latimes.com

Twitter: @jillcowan