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Letters to the Editor

We deserve a mayor that’s accountable to the residents

2020 woke up a lot of people just like me. Moms who thought we didn’t need to engage much in politics suddenly saw that our disinterest in politics didn’t mean that politics wasn’t interested in us. 

During that time, leadership mattered. Having a person in charge as Mayor mattered. Having a city council majority that would keep beaches open, would push back on bad policy, and would fight for our kids mattered.

By the end of 2020, many of us suddenly realized that our system needed more accountability to us. We didn’t elect our Mayor? Seriously? We just roll the dice and hope for the best among seven people? Two of whom voted to close beaches and put mask mandates in place in our city? That’s how our Mayor gets chosen?

We deserve better and we deserve to have our Mayor campaign directly to us for that position.

At the end of the day, the question we’re asked is simple: should our Charter be changed to provide for the direct election of our Mayor. I’m voting yes and hope that you will too.

Annette Harper

Newport Beach 

What’s the problem that Measure B solves?

Let me revert, in the closing days of the Measure B campaign, to a question that has been raised often over the past few months.

What is the problem in Newport Beach that Measure B solves?

Are we spending too much money on civic improvements? Are we making mistakes in our police or fire policies? No. Almost everyone agrees that Newport Beach is well-governed, perhaps one of the best-governed cities in the state.

At no point have the Measure B proponents ever identified a real-world problem in Newport Beach that Measure B would solve.

At best, proponents of Measure B say that the “problem” it solves is that we do not elect our mayor. That is a rather circular definition of a purported problem.

The main proponents of Measure B, Will O’Neill and Noah Blom, said not a word about direct elections of the mayor when they ran for council in 2020.

Indeed, nobody in Newport Beach was talking about this issue until late 2021, when the proponents started soliciting signatures on a petition to change the charter. Surely, if our current council system was causing real problems, people would have been talking about those problems for more than a few months.

There is no problem in Newport Beach that Measure B will solve. Rather, if passed, Measure B would create problems in Newport Beach, by destroying our collegial city council in favor of an all-powerful mayor. Please, join me and the many former mayors, city councilmembers and other city leaders in voting NO on this ill-advised measure.

Walter Stahr 

Newport Beach

Look through the clutter and vote Yes on B

Have you voted yet? In the few days left to vote, I hope you’ll join me in answering the following question: Shall [the Charter] be amended to provide for the direct election of the Mayor, who would be nominated by residents and registered voters of the City of Newport Beach and elected by the voters of the City at-large?”

That’s it. That’s the question. Should the charter be changed so that we – the voters – can choose our Mayor?

My answer is YES on B. 

Have you ever seen the opposition to this question talk directly to what is on our ballot? Or to the City Attorney’s impartial analysis? I haven’t.

Instead, they want you to answer completely different questions. They have run mail pieces asking if you want an “elected King” or to spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on the Mayor position. They’ve sent out mail asking if you want a “Republican power grab” and even invoked Donald Trump’s name as a boogeyman. None of that is on our ballot.

So, look past the clutter, the irrational fear mongering, the made-up stories and the bitterness. Answer the question in front of us. If we do that, we’ll have a Mayor that is directly accountable to us for the first time. 

Ruth Kobayashi

Newport Beach

Closing argument on Measure B

I have followed the debate on Measure B very closely. I remain a strong YES on Measure B. I urge Newport Beach voters to read the actual measure and read the voter pamphlet and ignore the hyperbole from the opposition. If you do, you will most likely vote YES on B.

I must confess that I am extremely disappointed with the tactics of the NO on B group. There are, no doubt, many fine people in the NO on B group. But the group clearly rejected the path of an honest debate in favor of an “end justifies the means” campaign to defeat Measure B. Misleading slogans, half-truths and outright misrepresentations about Measure B are mostly what I saw and read from the opposition. To be sure, the best example of the misdirection is the central rallying cry of the NO on B group – “Stop the Power Grab.” This sounds sinister but it actually makes no sense. Exactly what power is being “grabbed” and by whom is it being grabbed? These questions were never answered by the No on B group because they are unanswerable. It was simply a scare tactic.

Measure B merely gives Newport Beach voters the right to cast a ballot for the Mayor of their City. Power to the people.

John O’Hara

Newport Beach

Measure B is all about one guy’s future political career

Although I recently moved from Newport Beach, we have many friends there and a sincere interest in the city. 

I am bemused at the entire Measure B issue. A revealing look at the Measure can be made by taking Mr. O’Neill’s (recent) op/ed penned May 8 and substituting his name in the text every time you see the word “Mayor.” It clearly paints the picture that Councilman O’Neill conjured up the measure with the sole purpose of him being the only likely choice in a free and clear election of a Newport Beach Mayor. 

I have never seen such an obvious self-serving proposal to keep his political life extended after his expected “terming out” of council in 2024! He obviously has sights on higher office than Mayor which makes his potential 8-year gig in that capacity a needed steppingstone to a state or federal post. Without something to step on and from, he is destined to be a former councilman and mayor with nowhere else to go. 

It IS a power grab, but not by a committee or PAC. It is an attempted power grab by the sole author of the self-serving Measure B. Don’t fall for it. Let Mr. O’Neill term out and fade away. 

Richard Weaver

Castle Rock, CO

There’s a lot wrong with Measure B, where to begin?

Newport As We Know It

Since our City’s incorporation in 1906, Newport Beach voters have elected a governing body of co-equal decision makers who, at least as often as new members are elected to it, select one among themselves to serve as their presiding officer. The City’s hired professional, and hopefully objective, administrative staff brings matters before this governing body when a decision is required of them, on behalf of our citizens. 

The presiding officer, as the governing body’s figurehead, has a duty to sign papers related to the decisions made by it as a whole, and, when asked, to articulate its majority’s position, whether or not he or she personally endorses it.

Originally referred to as the “President” of our City’s “Board of Trustees,” since August 1927 California law has described such a presiding officer as the City’s “Mayor,” and the body as a whole as the “City Council.”

This is not a perfect system. None is. But it does allow the council to choose as their presiding officer the colleague they feel will be most congenial and effective in executing the largely ceremonial duties attached to the office – and to immediately choose a different colleague if their first choice doesn’t work out.

The Promises

Measure B dangles before us the alluring fantasy of a new world in which – if we only vote “yes” – we will be able to impose on the Council a presiding officer aligned with our vision for the City who will, in a way “accountable” to each of us, magically guide the rest of City government precisely as we would like.

Much as I would like to have more control over how my city is run, I am voting “NO” because to accomplish its goals Measure B would enact a very specific scheme replete with poorly-thought-out details. Most of those details do not actually accomplish the stated goals and most could not be changed without another costly voter initiative. 

In my view, Measure B would permanently impose on us a system even less perfect than our present one. 

Shared Vision? 

First, since the Mayor would be elected in exactly the same way as all the current Councilmembers, I see no guarantee the person elected would be any more to my liking, or share my vision, than the seven from whom the Mayor is currently chosen.

At least equally important, unless the Mayor were to be elected through a system of primaries and runoffs – something Measure B does not propose – there is no guarantee the person elected will even be preferred by a majority of the people. 

When recently disgraced Anaheim elected Mayor Harry Sidhu ran for election in 2018, he was in an eight-way winner-take-all race in which only 49% of Anaheim’s voters participated. Of those voting, less than a third chose Mr. Sidhu. So, he became “the people’s choice” with five out of six Anaheim voters never having expressed a preference for him, and more than two thirds specifically wanting someone else. We can expect similar results in Newport Beach under Measure B.

Rotating the position among seven separately elected persons does not ensure any one of them will share my views, but it does seem likely more different people’s views will be held by the rotating Mayor at some time, than if we place all our bets on just one person for four years at a time.


Second, the Mayor under Measure B will clearly be less accountable to the people, not more. 

Currently, if we don’t like a Councilmember’s performance as Mayor, our Council of representatives can, on our behalf, at any time, demote that person back to the status of a regular Councilmember.

Measure B would remove that power. Once elected, the Mayor could act with much more impunity. For far from being more accountable to the people and their representatives, we would be limited to the options we already have for all elected officials: waiting for the end of their term or mounting a difficult and expensive recall campaign. 

If the Measure B proponents truly wanted a Mayor accountable to the people, why are they proposing to give the person a four-year term? Isn’t it axiomatic that a truly accountable Mayor should face the people more frequently – say by running for election every two years, or even annually? 

Moreover, if a misbehaving Mayor chose to leave office voluntarily, as Mr. Sidhu did recently in Anaheim, or if the seat became vacant for any other reason – such as the sitting Mayor moving, becoming incapacitated or being elected to another office – Measure B would generally require our City to hold an expensive special election to fill the vacancy, likely attracting few voters. Especially considering the many alternatives available, that is, to me, a completely unnecessary waste – much like the estimated $215,000 being spent to put Measure B on a non-normal City ballot – to fill what is supposed to be a ceremonial and ministerial position. 

Among the alternatives: the Council could simply continue to function with the Mayor Pro Tem serving as Mayor until the next election; or the Council could be empowered to appoint a caretaker Mayor pledged not to run for the position when, at the next regular election, the people would elect a permanent replacement.

Directing Government As We Wish? 

Third, Measure B proposes to afford the Mayor greater influence over the City’s direction by giving him or her unprecedented agenda setting power and cementing into our City Charter a rule that would suppress the ability of our other representatives, and their constituents, to be heard. 

The agenda is the way (and under state law, the only way) matters are brought before our elected decision makers for public discussion. The vast majority of these are matters presented by the City’s paid administrative staff that require a decision by the Council. A few others are items placed on the agenda by Councilmembers on behalf of their constituents or on their own initiative. The details of how the agenda is prepared for a particular meeting, including the City Manager’s role in that process, has always been left entirely to the discretion of the Council, so they are free to modify the agenda-setting procedures to meet changing needs. And the procedures have, indeed, changed over time.

By placing it in our Charter, Measure B would make permanent one particular and untried system of agenda setting. 

Matters could be placed on the agenda, and therefore come up for discussion, only with the permission of the elected Mayor. The Mayor, it seems, would be completely free to reject requests from staff and colleagues. The only exception would be that the elected Mayor may have to accept the request of three or more Councilmembers to place an item on some future agenda, likely of the Mayor’s choosing. 

Such rules are widely seen as tools to consolidate power by suppressing dissenting views, creating a government less responsive to citizen interests, not more so. 

Shortly after his election, the now-disgraced elected Mayor Sidhu in Anaheim pushed through his Council very similar restrictions on agenda setting (but milder since he still allowed staff to put items on the agenda without needing mayoral consent). Fortunately for Anaheim, he did not manage to get those restrictions cemented into their city charter, so the council is free to move back, as they appear to be doing, to the former system in which every councilmember, individually, had the power to place any item of interest to them, or their constituents, on the agenda for discussion.

More Problems

A final example of the many that might be mentioned as new problems Measure B would create – and one I do not recall having been pointed out in any previous letters to Stu News or the campaign mailers – is the imbalance it will create in the timing of our from-district Council elections.

Newport Beach voters currently elect representatives from Districts 1, 3, 4 and 6 at one election and from Districts 2, 5 and 7 at the next. Measure B proposes to rather arbitrarily eliminate District 7 to create a council consisting of a Mayor and six lesser from-district representatives. But the obvious problem (aside from why not seven plus a Mayor?) is that would leave four of the lesser Council seats up in one election and only two in the next. 

For so-called general law cities, Government Code Section 34906 provides a simple way to get back to even staggering (with three of the six seats up at each election). 

Measure B cements the uneven staggering into our City Charter, where it could only be corrected with a future initiative. 

My Conclusions 

In short, Measure B is more than some sort of advisory request for voters to say whether they support directly electing the Mayor of Newport Beach, with details to be worked out later. 

It is, instead, a request to vote “yes” or “no” on permanently instituting a very specific way of implementing and empowering a directly elected mayor. 

The specific way offered by Measure B is fraught with problems, just a few of which have been detailed above. 

In my view, Measure B’s way would be even worse than the admittedly imperfect system we have now.

Given that, one might ask: Why did the Council majority that put Measure B on the ballot not take the time needed to discuss and correct its many problems?

For, as currently written, B is bad for Newport Beach.

I am voting “NO.”

Jim Mosher

Newport Beach

The strong mayor and setting of the agenda

A recent mailer by the proponents of Measure B included the definition of “accountability.” According to Measure B’s supporters, the strong mayor will be “accountable” to each of Newport’s 85,239 residents. The mayor is gonna be busy.

Taking this cue, I decided to check out the meaning of “SOLE DISCRETION” which words appear in Measure B: one person “shall have SOLE DISCRETION to set City Council agendas and to change the order of business on the agendas.” 

The “Law Insider” says that “SOLE DISCRETION” means “the right and power to decide a matter, which right may be exercised arbitrarily for any reason or no reason at any time and from time to time.” 

Wow! Pretty expansive “right” and “power,” eh?

The definition prompted the following hypothetical: I like cigars. The strong mayor may not. If I were a Councilmember or resident and if Measure B passes, can the strong mayor block my cigar bar proposal as an agenda item or, in the alternative, can the strong mayor put my matter near the end of the agenda when residents may have already left the chambers or dozed off? Or maybe – in the strong mayor’s SOLE DISCRETION – can my cigar bar proposal be blocked until a year from now? 

Sadly, I believe the answer to these questions is “yes.”

And, by the way, I believe the defectively drafted Measure B would allow the strong mayor to thwart consideration of my cigar bar on the agenda EVEN IF three other Councilmembers requested its inclusion. 


The Measure B language (unfortunately) is clear on its face: “With the concurrence of at least three members of the City Council at any public meeting, an item MAY [not “WILL”] be added to a FUTURE agenda.” 

Please note the ill-advised choice of the word “MAY” instead of the word “WILL” which word change, of course, would have compelled the strong mayor to add my cigar bar proposal if three other members agreed. So, as you can see, the strong mayor can decline to add my cigar bar to the agenda EVEN IF THREE OTHER COUNCILMEMBERS request its addition. 


And – even if added – the strong mayor has the SOLE DISCRETION as to WHEN (if ever) to add the cigar bar to a FUTURE agenda.

Does FUTURE mean in two weeks? Does FUTURE mean in a month? Does FUTURE mean in a year? Does FUTURE mean when the strong mayor develops a liking for cigars?

Sad (again).

As seen, Measure B’s agenda setting language is fatally flawed on several fronts. Please vote “NO” on the Bad for Newport Measure B.

Paul K. Watkins

Newport Beach

Spirited community meeting discusses traffic and potential solutions

I was at the community meeting last night concerning the closure of lower Tustin Avenue which is being done on a trial basis in the Heights. It was nice to see the number of neighbors in attendance, particularly those who live on other streets which are affected by the closure. 

One issue that was brought up but that was probably lost during the spirited speeches was: What are the widths of all the streets whose traffic has increased during the time that Tustin has been walled off? My house on Redlands and a friend’s house on Riverside date back to approximately 1943. If I heard correctly, that was before the houses were built on lower Tustin and Oceanview. 

One of the main problems residents from lower Tustin and Oceanview expressed was that their streets were only 30 feet wide. That is why I thought the width of other streets could be of concern as well. 

Different alternatives to the closure which many in the streets around Tustin and Oceanview prefer (as well as a few from the latter who spoke), are one-way streets, the addition of sidewalks and increased policing to name a few.

Riverside, with traffic parked on both sides of the street, and visibility limited by a hill, seems particularly hazardous to residents who cannot let children play in their front yard, nor enjoy walks on their street. The closure of Tustin results in an increase of 200 cars per day or 1,400 per week which aggravates an already trying situation.

Also, the traffic on Riverside and upper Tustin is very fast moving which, when coupled with the number of cars that use those streets, creates great cause for concern.

As mentioned, traffic on upper Tustin is a nightmare. It would be interesting to know its width as well. Not to say that lower Tustin, and Oceanview don’t have their problems, but it would help the traffic discussion to talk independently about the problems of each street. Or as in the case of Tustin, the traffic of each half.

It never serves the community well in the long run to make changes that do not take all factors into consideration equally, not just those (to use an overworked metaphor), of the “squeaky wheel.” 

The map that was used at the first traffic meeting was very helpful to see the numerical effects on each street when the barricade was put up. We tried to distribute those maps in the community so that everyone started with the same amount of information. Some in attendance felt that the traffic counts should take summer traffic into consideration. Unfortunately, no one was there from Cliff Drive to express the new traffic problems that they were facing. Irvine, which has terrible traffic at certain times of the day was not represented either. Perhaps these streets trust that the Council will make decisions that take their problems into consideration.

After the meeting, one lady from Riverside spoke to me of a very bad traffic accident on that street. Yet there didn’t seem to be an opportunity to express such information from other streets as the residents from lower Tustin and Oceanview were a bit more aggressive than the others even though it seemed that they did not outnumber them. I tried to say something and was repeatedly interrupted by the people around me.

Between the time limited monologues at council meetings and a boisterous and over energized crowd is a happy medium. That said, last night’s discussion was handled aptly by Mr. Brine and Mr. Webb, despite the feeling among some spectators that perhaps the decision of what to do with Heights’ traffic had already been made.    

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach


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