Newport Beach residents are calling out Councilman Noah Blom for drinking wine on the dais and now his city council colleagues may consider a formal policy against drinking alcohol during city council meetings.
“This is a guy that’s making decisions that affect all of us, so if he is inebriated while he’s making a decision, he can’t possibly make the best decision if he’s drinking on the job,” said Newport Beach resident Dr. Susan Skinner in a phone interview last week.
She said she would like to see Blom censured for drinking at city council meetings and for the council to ensure that nobody ever does this again.
At last week’s city council meeting, Blom owned up to drinking wine on the dais and said he appreciates “a fine Barolo more than most people in this world.”
“As the world has discovered and it was discovered up here, sometimes after dinner, I do enjoy a glass of wine and I did so at a council meeting before,” Blom said at the meeting. “I fully recognize how that was not what we want to be doing up here, as I’ve heard it from many people from different accords.”
The councilman also said he would not drink alcohol on the dais again.
“From this point forward, I think all you’ll ever see up here is some iced tea, maybe a beautiful cappuccino or a glass of water for me, as it’s no longer in the decorum of what the public would like,” Blom said at the meeting.
Councilman Kevin Muldoon said he appreciated Blom’s remarks.
“I respect that you are a man who wants to be true to your rebellious nature and yet is going to listen to the residents when they cite their concerns,” he said at the same meeting.
Under the current Newport Beach municipal code, drinking alcohol in any public street, sidewalk, restroom, beach, park or parking lot is illegal, but the code does not specify public buildings like the city council chambers.
It seems other cities like Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa also don’t have explicit rules against councilmembers drinking at council meetings, according to emails from their city clerks.
That could soon change in Newport Beach.
City council members may decide to agendize a discussion on formalizing a policy prohibiting drinking at a future meeting to avoid such incidents happening again.
Councilwoman Diane Dixon proposed an agenda item be brought before the council to amend council policy regarding decorum and the city’s municipal code.
“Part of our issue in the city is that we probably need to clarify and define the appropriate Council decorum so people understand what it is because it has not been clarified,” she said at the meeting. “So we don’t leave anyone guessing as to what that is, and the use of alcohol in our public buildings.”
For the discussion on such a policy to happen, at least three city council members would have to support the issue being put on a future meeting agenda.
In a phone interview last week, Dixon said the earliest the policy could be brought up — if supported by the council — would be January.
“We’ll talk about whether it needs to be an ordinance that goes into the Municipal Code. I do not know the answer to that yet and that will be up to council to decide,” she said.
Skinner said she hopes the issue is brought forth on a future agenda.
“I never thought I would have to say this, but I think the city council needs to fully define what’s acceptable and … state that drinking during the city council meeting is not acceptable,” she said.
Following reports that a resident went up to Blom’s trash can after a meeting and discovered a cup he had been drinking from with wine in it, Stu News publisher Tom Johnson asked Blom directly if he drinks wine at city council meetings.
Johnson wrote that Blom confirmed he did enjoy wine at meetings often and Blom said he doesn’t apologize for it.
Some Newport Beach residents wrote letters to Stu News stating that Blom’s actions were inappropriate, offensive and disrespectful. Other residents wrote they had no issue with Blom drinking wine on the dais.
Skinner and two other residents spoke out during the meeting last week to condemn Blom’s actions.
To illustrate her point, Skinner held a glass of sparkling cider at the podium as she spoke and asked the council if they felt it was appropriate.
The next Newport Beach City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday Dec. 14 at 4 p.m.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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