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Politics make headlines

TOP 10 STORIES OF THE YEAR:

Where to build city hall, who to elect and the economy are some of the top stories from 2008.

December 30, 2008|By Michael Alexander, Brianna Bailey, Alan Blank and Joseph Serna

Editor’s note: The following are the top 10 stories in Newport-Mesa in 2008, as judged by Daily Pilot editors.

1 Measure B: Newport Beach voters approved a controversial ballot measure in February that requires the next Newport Beach City Hall to be built on a 12.8-acre parcel of city-owned land next to the central library on Avocado Avenue. Opponents of the measure wanted the entire site preserved as a park. The measure divided Newporters over the issue of preserving open space in the community. Allan Beek, a local activist, filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the measure and City Council members sparred openly on the subject. Jack Croul, a wealthy retired paint manufacturer, made things interesting when he donated $680,000 in support of the measure.

Now plans are moving ahead to build a new $60-million municipal complex on the site that will include a park and a parking structure. The Newport Beach City Council in January will discuss approving a contract with the San Francisco-based architect Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to design the new city hall.

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2 Economy: The nationwide recession walloped Orange County this year, and the Newport-Mesa area was by no means immune.

Local financial institutions and real estate developers tanked, nonprofits hit the skids and cities were forced to make tough budgetary decisions as a result of the economic downturn.

Lines of investors stood for hours in the parking lot of the Costa Mesa branch of IndyMac Bank when they heard it was being taken over by federal regulators in July. It was unclear whether deposits over a certain amount would be covered by insurance, and a crowd of frightened area residents waited to hear the news.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Performing Arts Center lost more than $13 million when its expensive bond insurance policy, which was thought to be virtually risk free, had to be written off. And Opera Pacific, the county’s decades-old theater company, canceled the remainder of its season in November after its first production because it couldn’t get enough money from donors.

Costa Mesa also had to tighten its belt. Executives from all city departments shaved money from their budgets by not hiring people to fill empty positions while road improvement projects were delayed, and city vehicles and buildings went without scheduled repairs. Recently, the police department disbanded its narcotics unit to save additional cash.

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