The Board of Directors of SPON (Still Protecting Our Newport) voted unanimously to oppose the June ballot item known as Measure B to directly elect the Newport Beach Mayor. The board members concluded that a directly elected mayor would be a disaster for Newport Beach primarily because it will shift the current balance of power from seven equal councilmembers to one mayoral superpower and six lesser councilmembers.
In addition, the board is concerned that the cost to implement this will likely run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the new staff positions needed to carry out the increased mayoral responsibilities.
The SPON board is especially concerned that the Measure B proposal will give the mayor the exclusive power to control what is included on the city council meeting agendas, resulting in an empowered mayor who can unilaterally decide what issues the council will – and won’t – consider. It is conceivable that this powerful mayor position could become a “one-stop shop” for developers and others who contribute to the mayor’s campaign in exchange for getting their development item on the agenda. It is equally conceivable that community and environmental groups may not be able to have their community-focused items included on the council agenda if this powerful mayor initiative is passed.
The SPON board is also concerned that this powerful mayor position will subvert the will of Newport Beach residents who voted for term limits for those serving on city council. Currently, city councilmembers are limited to serving two consecutive four-year terms – a total of eight consecutive years. Under the directly elected Mayor proposal, a City Council member could serve two consecutive four-year terms, followed by two consecutive four-year terms as mayor, for a total of 16 consecutive years in office. The SPON board believes this will attract career politicians who are looking for a step up to their next elected office, rather than encouraging civic-minded folks to run for office whose only goal is to serve the needs of the Newport Beach community.
According to SPON president, Charles Klobe, “Since 1974, SPON has worked tirelessly to protect the natural environment of Newport Beach, from saving the Back Bay from commercial development, to working out a Settlement Agreement with JWA to limit growth. The directly elected mayor initiative will give too much power to the mayor and threatens our ability to maintain the quality-of-life Newport Beach residents have always enjoyed.
“For these reasons SPON strongly urges voters to Vote ‘No’ on Measure B on the June primary ballot.”