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Wu: Measure doesn't need to hit the ballot

July 21, 2012|By Jack Wu

We, the people, elect our leaders, our City Council members, to make decisions on our behalf.

Through their laws, we elect them to make the difficult decisions for the people to keep society from descending into a "Lord-of-the-Flies" state of chaos.

We trust them to protect us from non-Newport Beach locals (banning the Corona del Mar fire pits), we trust them to protect us from other Newport Beach locals (no organized coaching of our children in public parks), but most of all, we trust them to protect us from ourselves (no smelly Jack Wu types in the library).

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But what if the council can't be trusted to protect us from themselves?

Well, that's what ballot box legislating is. When a council feels that a decision is too difficult to make on its own, it "punts" and puts the issue on the ballot.

The city of Tustin recently did this by putting on the November ballot a measure that will allow voters to decide whether to eliminate all forms of compensation for council members, while in contrast, the Orange City Council, because they are capable of making difficult decisions by themselves, voted to take away their own compensation.

So now Newport Beach is going through its seemingly bi-annual task of cleaning up its city charter, where any changes made will have to be approved by the electorate in November. Most of the potential changes are primarily housekeeping items, things that need to be updated for the 21st century.

But Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry decided to throw in one of the most random, most non-significant, most unlikely scenarios known to any municipality in the past decade.

Community watchdog Jim Mosher put it best after the most recent council meeting.

"As you may have heard, at Tuesday's council meeting Mayor Pro Tem Curry brought the charter issues facing Newport Beach into sharp focus," he said. "It is not whether an expense stipend should entitle council members to fringe benefits. It is not whether the council should be available to citizens twice a month. It is not whether contracts with sitting council member's firms should be illegal. It is not whether citizens should be able to file class action claims.

"It is none of the 34 things the committee considered. Instead, it is: red light cameras! We can have total trust in the prudence of future councils with respect to everything else, but we can't trust them on red light cameras."

Were we in risk of getting red light cameras in Newport Beach?

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