The Newport Beach City Council voted 4-3 on a measure allowing city residents to decide the mayoral election process on Tuesday, Oct. 26. The decision was made amid concerns that the proposed “Elect Our Mayor” measure would grant the city’s mayor too much power.
If passed, the “Elect Our Mayor” measure would give Newport Beach voters the ability to directly vote for their mayor. Currently, seven city council members — each of whom is elected by the people — internally vote upon the position of mayor.
Separating the office of the mayor from city council would decrease the number of districts in Newport Beach from seven to six. Upon the measure’s passing, redistricting would occur before the 2024 general election.
Supporters of the measure claim that it will give Newport Beach a strong leader who can push back on state and federal mandates. They argue that the measure will allow the community to have a unified vote, and the mayor in turn will serve as a voice for the entire city.
“I don’t want some secret horse trade in the backroom. We’re not giving executive power to a great mogul, we’re giving the citizens of Newport a chance to choose their mayor,” Newport Beach City Councilman Noah Blom said.
Opponents of the measure argue that having a mayor separate from the city council would put too much power in the hands of a single person. The measure details that, rather than the city manager, the mayor would gain the ability to set and order agenda items. However, to counterbalance this, three city council members would still be able to partner and place items on future agendas.
“The city manager will be required to run every routine agenda item through the mayor, effectively making all city business dependent on the approval of that mayor,” Newport Beach resident and measure opponent Susan Skinner said.
Despite these concerns, those in support of the measure believe it will change Newport Beach for the better.
“This is still America and we’re going to fight for every element that is America and that’s the democracy that we hold dear … I’m not saying it’ll always be perfect. I’m not saying you’ll always like the person in power, but at least it’s your choice and not ours,” Blom said.
The “Elect Our Mayor” measure could appear on the ballot as early June 2022 in a special election, or during the regularly scheduled general election in November 2022. Regardless of when it appears on the ballot, the new election process would not take effect until 2024.
Elaina Martin is a City News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.