4:04 PM PST, December 15, 2012
Like everybody, we love a parade. And like everybody in the media, we love a protest.
But in Newport Beach's holiday dustup over dock fees, we're going to side with organizers of the 104th annual Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights and urge spectators to attend. There's no good reason to skip the annual tradition since the parade's organizers, the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, did not impose the dock fees; the City Council did that all on its own.
Stop the Dock Tax folks have valid points in their opposition to the fee increases that residents with docks on public Tidelands. However, we believe that their boycott won't hurt its intended target, City Hall, and will instead cause collateral damage to businesses large and small that depend on revenue from the biggest holiday event in Orange County.
We've already heard that some spectators think the boat parade was canceled altogether. That's a shame. Visitors, diners and hotel guests trickle in for the annual parade, filling the coffers of many businesses that sometimes are slow this time of year. Someone selling Balboa Bars or renting out rooms in a Balboa B&B shouldn't do less off-season business just because some disagree with the council's policies.
And while it could be argued, fairly even, that the chamber is the third rail of Newport Beach politics, it has no decision-making authority over dock fees. The chamber doesn't pass ordinances or set rates; that responsibility belongs to the council alone.
Now, we're not going to urge the Stop the Dock folks to withdraw their protest or plans to boycott, and we have no opinion (at least not yet) on whether the new residential rates set by the council are fair. It's also opponents' fundamental right to expression to keep their docks and homes dark. Sometimes governments need to be sent a message, and that's all these folks are doing. So to the most ardent opponents living along the waterfront: We respect your position.
We just don't agree. We see no reason for everyone else to opt out of a wondrous annual event that many, particularly children, enjoy. We're not urging anyone to cross a picket line. We just think those who choose to attend the parade can go without guilt. The holiday spirit is bigger and stronger than politics — even in Newport.