By Ron Hendrickson
9:12 PM PDT, September 29, 2012
On Nov. 6, as part of the Newport Beach municipal election, the voters will have the opportunity to vote on 38 charter amendments, all with one "Yes" or "No" vote.
Our City Council, not the staff, nor the charter update committee, made this inconsiderate decision. Previous councils have listed proposed changes separately. Just prior to making this decision, they added at the last moment, without any prior notice, an amendment to prohibit red light cameras, which is a subject the council has never before discussed.
Knowing that most people probably don't like red light cameras, the council majority apparently believed the unsophisticated electorate would simply vote for the entire 38 charter amendments without another thought. Although Councilman Ed Selich and Mayor Nancy Gardner initially tried to sway the council away from this addition (which Councilman Keith Curry offered), they were outvoted on the straw vote.
Selich said it well: This operational language is not the kind of item that goes into a charter, but is more appropriate for an ordinance. It was simply an enticement for the council majority and it was apparently too great to turn down.
The city attorney even listed it as the first item in his impartial analysis of the charter amendments. This is included in the sample ballot.
But really, how could it be impartial when he participated in writing these amendments?
Now, there are a number of other good reasons for the voters to turn down these charter amendments. Here are just a few.
Section 200 Powers: Makes one simple change, "and" to "or." By this simple change our more restrictive charter does not govern, but the more liberal state constitution would govern.
Section 608, which discusses illegal contracts, financial interest: It is also liberalized and relaxed, by removing "directly" or "indirectly," and by making a conflict by a city official apparently only if any contract, sale or transaction is "made by them in their official city capacity." So it would appear that if the council member recused himself or herself, the remainder of the council is free to make a decision that could benefit the recused council member.
Section 609: The current charter does not allow a council person to concurrently hold any other public office. This section is being modified to toss out this restriction and to allow government code section 1099 to govern. It could allow a council person to hold a concurrent elective office. In effect, this change and others reduce our charter and could really make us more of a general-law city. Why do that?
There are other problems that you will hear about before the election. These are just a few. However, if you have a problem with just one of the 38, you need to vote no on Measure EE.
RON HENDRICKSON is a 40-year resident of Newport Beach.