December 2016.

By Scott Peotter, Newport Beach City Councilman

During our last council meeting, it was out with the old and in with the new. The three outgoing councilmembers, Keith Curry, Ed Selich, and Tony Petros, stepped down and Brad Avery, Jeff Herdman and Will O’Neill were sworn in.

At the meeting, the outgoing councilmembers were slapping themselves on the back and congratulating themselves as we politicians usually do. Taking credit for good things and leaving the next council with the failures, trying to preserve their “legacies.” People thanking them for their service, which is significant.

But what exactly is the Curry legacy? I was thinking that legacy would be debt and spending, and “Creepy Looking White Bunnies.”

From $5M to $650M in debt in ten years. When Curry took office in 2006 the only debt was the remainder of the $9M library bond and no unfunded pension liabilities. During the Curry Council years, they borrowed $128M of “non-callable” certificates of participation (COPs) that you cannot repay early or refinance even though lower rates would have saved the city $40M. Total owed with interest: almost $300M.

Curry then used this borrowed money to buy Creepy Looking White Bunnies, the $150M Taj-Ma-City-Hall and $40M Marina Park.

Before Curry, there were no unfunded pension liabilities, now we owe $350M. Unfunded pension liabilities are one of those things that you hear about all the time these days, without really understanding what it really means. In this case, a previous council to the Curry council retroactively raised public employee pensions (guaranteed payments regardless as to what the market does). Then the returns that the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) made were 0.6 percent instead of the forecasted 7.5 percent. So, the taxpayers must make up the difference, in the case of Newport, we owe CalPERS almost $350M.

John Adams, our second president, was one of the most famous of our founding fathers. Right up there next to Jefferson, Washington and Franklin. But when Adams was President he signed The Sedition Act into law. Unfortunately, many people think of this when they think of Adams, and it has somewhat tarnished his stellar image as the co-author of the Declaration of Independence and the author of the Constitution of Massachusetts (the oldest surviving constitution in existence today).

What was the Sedition Act? The Sedition Act made it illegal to “write, print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the government. Many people that disagreed with Adams were thrown in jail because of this law. It was later repealed by Jefferson when he became President.

Curry’s Sedition Acts:

Limited Our Rights to Protest: The Curry Council passed an Anti-Targeted Residential Picketing Ordinance that prohibits protestors from protesting within 300 feet of a private residence.

Censor: Then Curry tried to censor a fellow councilman (me) because he disagreed with what I said in my political newsletter when I stood up for traditional marriage by criticizing the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage. Failed.

Incumbent Protection Political Reforms: The next “Sedition” was a so-called Political Reform Initiative that would have restricted citizens’ rights to contribute to certain types of committees that were all legal but none of which supported Curry or his acolytes. It also would limit when candidates could raise money (which would give self-funding candidates an advantage). Failed.

Makes Political Signs Illegal: Now just last month, Curry proposed making posting of political signs that he disagrees with illegal. He complained about the “Vote for Ameri” signs that were posted in Farsi claiming that they were illegal (they were not) and that they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The Council Refused to consider it. Failed.

So you decide: Which is the more prominent Legacy? Curry’s Sedition Acts (desire to have government stop or limit speech he doesn’t agree with), or Curry’s $650M in debt and expensive boondoggles of the White Bunnies, Taj-Ma-City-Hall and Marina Park?