In just a few days, Newport Beach residents gathered 13,730 signatures to require a public vote on the Museum Tower project. More people signed the petition than voted for councilmembers Peotter (11,920) or Muldoon (11,768). It is also clear to observers of this process that if needed, twice this number of signatures could have been obtained.
This accomplishment is all the more remarkable in light of the unprecedented deceitful media campaign, including paid thugs to intimidate petition circulators and signers. Councilman Peotter launched a series of weird, personal attacks on petition supporters like citizens of the year Jean Watt and Nancy Skinner. The city council attempted to suppress the people’s right to petition by requiring thousands of unnecessary pages such as the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and random staff report exhibits to be included in the petitions. This made them weigh more than ten pounds each and cost thousands to print. It didn’t work.
Now project supporters are alleging that the petitions are deficient because some maps are in black and white instead of color and the EIR was not printed in large enough type. Really? For the city council to reject the petitions for these reasons would require a breathtaking display of arrogance and contempt for the city’s residents.
The council’s tampering in the petition process is now backfiring as the council must print and mail ten pound ballot pamphlets (twenty pounds if you accept the arguments of project sponsors), to 57,020 registered voters. An election that would have cost less than $200,000 will now cost in the millions. This waste of millions of taxpayer dollars is directly and personally the responsibility of those four remaining councilmembers who required all the extra pages to frustrate the petition process. The new council can avoid these costs by rescinding the approvals for the project.
Not to be forgotten is the role of Team Newport puppet master Bob McCaffrey and Residents for Reform who filed a bogus Fair Political Practices Commission complaint to try to shut down project opponents. It was quickly dismissed. Those who may have supported McCaffrey and Residents for Reform on issues of dock fees or public spending may be surprised to see that this group is really just a shill for the high rise development clients of Dave Ellis. It always has been.
Ironically, the project has many positive attributes and could have competed well on its merits. Museum supporters should be asking some hard questions of their political consultants.
Keith Curry is a former mayor of Newport Beach.
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