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City Life: Not enough young voters engaged

October 25, 2010|Steve Smith

Anyone who has to speak in public regularly would benefit from watching Rush Hill, one of the Newport Beach City Council candidates.

At Wednesday night's candidate forum at the new OASIS Senior Center in Corona del Mar, Hill took a swipe at Costa Mesa. And I didn't care, in part, because he was right.

Along with Councilwoman Leslie Daigle and her challenger, Mark Tabbert, Hill was one of three candidates at the forum. There were supposed to be four, but for a reason that wasn't disclosed, Ed Reno was absent. He later said he was double-booked.

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Throughout the evening it looked like Daigle's feet were hurting her. That was a disappointment, because Daigle recently questioned a $125,000 contract item for the new Civic Center project that allowed the city's Public Works Department to hire an outside building plan inspector without having to do a formal review of competitors' qualifications. This is the type of questioning and oversight that elected officials should conduct as standard operating procedure.

It did not matter that Daigle questioned an item that was about 1% of the project's total estimated cost. From me she gets a standing ovation not only for her inquiry, but for the response it produced from Public Works Director Steve Badum.

"We did not shortcut our process to do this," he said. "This happens quite a bit."

Oh, really?

Hill's Costa Mesa jab came when the candidates were asked whether the current public employee compensation plans in Newport Beach, including pensions, were sustainable. Hill talked about the Newport Beach "family" working together to reach an agreement with unions that would help the city get through the recession in good fiscal health.

On these negotiations, he said, "We don't scream and holler in this town."

I did not give him the "stink eye." Hard to do that when the man is right.

In addition to the compensation issue, the three candidates were asked about managing fire danger in parts of the city, a resident survey process, Measure V, and the all-important leaf blower controversy. It seems that leaf blowers are a necessary nuisance and tolerated more in some parts of town than in others, which is probably true in every city.

My thought here was that someone should fund a research and development program at UC Irvine to create a leaf blower that is silent and effective. But then, as someone who vacuums leaves, I've never understood the concept of blowing them elsewhere.

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