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Commentary: Arguments against dock fees not sound

December 26, 2012|By Mike Henn

As many residents are aware, I served on both the council ad hoc committee that reviewed tidelands rents for commercial users and the council working group that reviewed tidelands' rents for residential piers. I have been intimately involved for more than two years in the whole range of issues and considerations that impact these reviews and voted in favor of the final recommendations adopted by council.

Recently, Councilwoman Leslie Daigle (the lone dissenting vote on the recommendations) issued a commentary to the Daily Pilot explaining the reasoning for her vote ("Commentary: Why I voted alone against the dock tax (Dec. 21). While I respect Daigle as a fellow council member, her commentary must be rebutted as I believe she made a number of questionable allegations and statements and resurfaced canards that are untrue and inaccurate.

They include:

It's a tax. It's not. It's rent, pure and simple. When private individuals make exclusive private use of public recreational waters, they need to pay fair market rent for it. If they don't want to rent public waters, they can choose not to use them and avoid the charge.

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Prudent management of existing tidelands revenues. Daigle implies that if we simply manage our existing revenues better, there would be no need to raise residential pier rents. It is abundantly clear that the long-term needs of maintaining and improving our harbor far outstrip the available revenue, even including the recently increased rents. In any event, we are increasing rents because doing so is mandated by law, not because of need.

Increased bureaucracy. Daigle knows that city employment is down from 833 full-time positions in 2009 to about 750 today and likely getting smaller. To promote the "all governments grow" dogma is to ignore the hard work that Daigle and the rest of us have done to make government smaller and smarter in Newport Beach. The city manager has assured us that the new rental amounts can be calculated and billed with current resources, using some of the same harbor resources staff that has ably managed two huge dredging projects nearing completion. It is these personnel, among others, that Daigle wishes did not have their salaries funded by tidelands revenue.

Dock confiscation. This is an absurd allegation. How many homes has the city confiscated for missed water bills? How many cars seized for forgotten parking tickets?

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