Community Commentary: Questions and answers on the Civic Center project

September 13, 2010|By Dave Kiff

Writers to the Pilot have recently expressed some concern (and relayed some misunderstandings) about the city's budget and the Civic Center project. I apologize in advance for the length of this letter – but I recognize and appreciate that Newport Beach taxpayers want and need to know where their money is going. Transparency is important to the City Council and to me, too.

So bear with me, please, and let me try and help with some clarification:

Q: Did the city have a $10 million budget shortfall?

A: It was $8 million. The City Council directed me to address it without significantly impacting services. We worked hard at it, and closed fiscal year 2009-10 in the black.

Q: Is the Civic Center happening at breakneck speed?

A: Gosh, it sure doesn't seem so. At my count, there have been at least 32 public meetings about this project over about 2 ½ years. If that's too fast, then we are guilty as charged. But 30 months of planning and designing the Civic Center, to me, seems long. A good, deliberate public process takes time.


Q: Has the process been transparent?

A: Respectfully, it doesn't take a Freedom of Information Act request to find our website, the Central Library, the City Clerk's Office or the council meetings.

Here's how transparent this has been:


•Twelve open and public meetings of Civic Center Design Committee in 2008 and another three meetings in 2009 held in the Central Library and in the Council Chambers with agendas, minutes and an opportunity for the public to comment each time.

•One of the Design Committee's public meetings was an all-day session on a Saturday (Sept. 28, 2008 ) and taped, cable-cast and Web-streamed on NBTV and the city's website, advertised three times in the Daily Pilot (and one front-page story about that day), to allow the public to see the five design submittals. One was chosen later by the current City Council .

•Four public meetings, including two of the City Council, where the "general design parameters" of the Civic Center project were discussed. These parameters, which have been on our website since May 2008, determined the current scope of the project.

•At least 16 public meetings of the Newport Beach City Council where the Civic Center Project or its contracts have been on the agenda, presented and/or discussed.

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