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Outlook is sunny for Newport

Mayor Keith Curry states he intends to focus on bringing the city and its citizens closer together through cultural, economic improvements.

February 09, 2013|By Jill Cowan

Like their individual residents, cities have a kind of hierarchy of needs. And once the more basic ones are met — functionality, safety, comfort — it's time to take aim at loftier ideals.

That, Mayor Keith Curry said Friday night during his State of the City address, is where Newport Beach finds itself heading into 2013.

He spoke to a crowd of past and present city officials, friends and family assembled at the Newport Beach Marriott for the 32nd annual Speak Up Newport Mayor's Dinner.

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"In my new job as a college instructor, I spend a lot of time thinking about what concepts to impart to students on how to approach the creation of public value and to impact the quality of life in our cities," Curry said. "This year, I would like to focus on some initiatives that will make the relationship between our residents and our city both more interesting and more meaningful."

To that end, Curry — who also serves as director of the Concordia University Center for Public Policy — said he plans to ask the council to allot a small percentage of the city's development fees to invest in public art. The announcement drew applause.

He added that private contributions will fund a variety of cultural improvements throughout Newport, like at the Balboa Theater and Explore Ocean.

In his speech, Curry called for a proactive review of the city's municipal code — similar to last year's review of the city's charter resulting in a spate of changes approved with Measure EE — to eliminate outdated rules and inefficiencies.

But first, Curry cited author Peter Kageyama in laying out Newport's solid fulfillment of expectations that fall closer to the base of that hierarchy.

He told the audience that the city is "financially strong, economically vibrant."

He detailed the city's efforts to cut costs by increasing public employee pension contributions and reducing its workforce by 10% since 2008. Curry credited the city's department heads and City Manager Dave Kiff with keeping negotiations with employees cooperative and civil.

Still, he said, "more needs to be done, but we're making good progress."

Curry underlined that the council has made a "very conscious decision that we will not use our reserves to balance the budget."

"As a result," he said, "our reserves grew each year throughout the recession to the highest level in the city's 107-year history, in excess of $100 million."

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