League of Women Voters: Newport Beach City Council Can Hike Transparency

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(Editors Note: This letter was sent on March 4, 2016 to the Newport Beach City Council)

An important goal of the League of Women Voters is to encourage transparent and easily accessible public information at all levels of government. The League of Women Voters of Orange Coast Board has recently learned about the City Council vote of 4 – 2 on Tuesday, February 23, 2016, to deny the request of Newport Beach residents to have the Planning Commission meetings televised live. There is no surer way for residents to lose trust in their elected officials than for them to feel that their City Council is suppressing access to readily available and inexpensive public information. Televising the meetings live would be a win-win for the City Council, the Planning Commission and the community, as discussed below. Therefore, the League of Women Voters of Orange Coast respectfully requests that the City Council immediately agendize this matter for reconsideration, and vote in favor of televising the Planning Commission meetings live for the purpose of encouraging knowledgeable Newport Beach residents to participate in their public process.

The City Council is elected by residents to make important decisions affecting the community, with input from their electorate. Because the Planning Commission is appointed by the City Council to evaluate and render decisions on land use and development proposals, it is important that Newport Beach community members have access to both City Council and Planning Commission meetings via live television. Currently, only the City Council meetings are televised live.

Televising the Planning Commission meetings will help residents learn more about the planning process and to better understand the projects before the Commission. Such knowledge leads to a better informed community and public decision-making process. That is why all cities that abut Newport Beach televise both their City Council and Planning Commission meetings.

From the League’s experience, public participation sheds a more comprehensive light on planning and development proposals and helps Commissioners make better, more thoughtful decisions on behalf of their communities. City planning and development should not occur in a vacuum. Moreover, offering televised meetings also shows respect for the time of community members who are unable to attend an entire meeting; residents could watch the live meetings from home until it is time to arrive at City Hall to address the Commission on projects under consideration. Additionally, aging and disabled residents who are unable to attend meetings may watch the meetings from home and contact their elected officials to voice their opinions once they better understand project proposals.

We want to commend Mayor Dixon and Council Member Petros who voted in opposition to this denial, and thank the entire City Council for your reconsideration of and affirmative action on this important matter.

League of Women Voters of Orange Coast Co-Presidents: Diane Nied, Barbara Wood and Grace Winchell

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org