To all in our fair, beautiful and affluent city who support the arts in the form of the Sculpture Garden at Civic Center Park, the Art in the Park annual event, the Summer Concert Series and the many other cultural events that the city Arts Commission and Foundation offer to us, an explanation from me is warranted concerning my no vote at the most recent City Council meeting on funding Phase III of the Sculpture Garden.
Had this agenda item not been amended to include the relocation of the Ronald Reagan sculpture from Bonita Canyon Park to the Civic Center Sculpture Garden, and had the motion not been amended to include language that communicated to the Arts Commission and Foundation that future funding would not be forthcoming, I would have voted yes.
While the amended motion did pass, and the commission was awarded the allocation from Newport Beach & Co. for Phase III of the Sculpture Garden, the two amendments also passed. There were just too many unanswered questions for me to approve the amended motion.
From what funds will the relocation of the Reagan sculpture come? Will the funds approved in the motion be expected to pay for the relocation, thus reducing the amount the Commission will have for Phase III of the Sculpture Garden?
Why was it necessary for the motion to contain language that sent a strong message to the Arts Commission that future funding will not be forthcoming?
That was not the subject of the motion. It was simply to approve, or not approve, funding for Phase III of the Sculpture Garden. I simply did not see the purpose in amending the motion to include an expression of lack of future support for arts funding. This message has come across loud and clear to the Arts Commission, and it is currently working on strategies to become self-funded. Why rub their noses in it further?
And finally, why did this motion even have to include the relocation of the Reagan sculpture? This could have been accomplished through our Public Works Department as a part of its day-to-day operations.
I am disappointed in the lack of support shown for the folks who volunteer their time and expertise in putting Newport Beach on the map as a champion of the arts and culture. I will continue to show and voice my support for this most important community characteristic and endeavor.
The writer is a city councilman.
Recall effort is not about freedom of speech
Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter likes to say that the recall effort is about intolerant residents attacking his freedom of speech. No, it is not. Let’s be clear, this recall is about his complete failure to respect his oath of office and the residents who elected him.
In June, 2015, Peotter went to the Costa Mesa Tea Party and disclosed confidential information and made statements that could have exposed the city to legal liability. His speech was posted on YouTube. The council made him read an apology to the public.
In 2014 he was found to be taking contributions in excess of the legal contribution limit from the owners of Woody’s Wharf, then in litigation with the city. He failed to report the return of the contribution and then held a fundraiser at Woody’s. Here again, he failed to report the cost of the fundraiser, as required by state law. He later accepted, and reported another excess contribution by Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield.
He used the city seal, contrary to the municipal code, in emails to raise campaign funds, endorse partisan candidates, insult his colleagues and engage in national issues.
Finally, Peotter went to the newspapers to defend the decision to require 3,700 unnecessary pages in the Museum House petition. This was done for one reason — to frustrate the constitutional right of the people to petition their government. Intolerant residents? You’re right Scott, we are intolerant of your law breaking, insults and attacks on our constitutional rights.
Disinterested vs. uninterested
When reading June Casagrande’s column on April 15 regarding the use of four particular words, I got what long ago songwriter Cole Porter named one of his songs, “I get a kick out of you.” The kick came from June’s explanation of the word, “disinterested,” as it immediately brought to mind a scene from the 1991 movie “Bugsy,” starring Warren Beatty.
Bugsy (Beatty) was trying to talk another gangster into joining his gang that would benefit the potential new hoodlum. The other bad guy flatly told Bugsy that he is completely disinterested, whereupon Bugsy explained to him that disinterested means impartial, and what he really means is that he is uninterested.
Casagrande’s column used that same explanation in defining the difference between the two words, which could mean that she has seen that movie, really knows what she is talking about or is perhaps a very distant relative of the late Bugsy Siegel. I have to go with the notion that she is quite knowledgeable in what she does and leave it at that. Besides, who wants to incur the wrath of some bad guy from long ago and say that he is wrong?
NEWPORT BEACH — The life-sized statue of Ronald Reagan has had a tough go of it, even in Newport Beach, a city that reveres the former president as a conservative icon.
A month after its dedication in November 2011 at Bonita Canyon Sports Park, vandals tied a chain around the $60,000 bronze statue and tried to pull it away using a vehicle. Whether the vandals wanted the scrap metal or were trying to make a political statement was never determined.
The city removed the statue, spent $6,500 to repair it and replaced it at the park in February 2012.
On Tuesday, about five years later, Mayor Kevin Muldoon convinced the City Council that the statue should be moved.
“The Reagan statue now sits in a lonely cul-de-sac where it’s been vandalized and neglected,” Muldoon said. “I think this is not fitting of a statue honoring a former president.”
The council agreed, voting 5-1 on Tuesday, April 11, to remove the statue from the park and put it in a new location.
The Arts Commission will make a recommendation as to where, but Muldoon proposed it be placed at Civic Center Park at City Hall and become a permanent part of the city’s rotating sculpture exhibition.
Ten sculptures are rotated through the park every two years, with the current pieces expected to be removed later this year.
The statue issue was paired with another council item to contract with Arts Orange County for $105,731 to manage the third phase of the city’s rotating sculpture exhibits and appropriate $155,731 from Visit Newport Beach for project management and payments to artists.
Councilman Jeff Herdman dissented with that part but expressed approval for the relocation of the statue of the 40th chief executive and former California governor.
“No one wants to go against the Gipper,” Muldoon joked.
In my experience, civil asset forfeiture is a bit like hockey. People who care about the subject aren’t just in half-way, they know it cold. Recent action by the Newport Beach City Council should not only raise interest for those readers who have advocated for individual liberty and far greater due process protection, but also create interest for those who have never given the issue any thought.
But, first, a brief primer on the ills of most civil asset forfeiture laws.
Few issues bring together the Heritage Foundation and the ACLU, but the pernicious side effects of nobly-intended civil asset forfeiture laws have done just that. Congressman Darrell Issa explained last year in an op-ed that many jurisdictions have a low bar for seizing private property, stating that “civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize property as long as they believe that the assets in question were somehow connected to criminal activity.”
Various police chiefs around the country have described their departments’ reliance on seized assets, including one police chief from Columbia, Mo., who stated in a public hearing that seized assets were “pennies from heaven” and that seized assets get his department “a toy or something you need.” The New York Times has reported that even the IRS has seized control of personal bank accounts without ever charging or convicting the owner. The federal government has yet to adopt substantive reforms, but California recently took a half-step in the right direction.
Senate Bill 443 modified state law to require a conviction before state or local police can seize property worth less than $40,000, increased the government’s burden of proof from the civil “clear and convincing” standard to the criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, and plugged a loophole in state law that allowed agencies to partner with the federal government to operate under more lax rules.
The Orange County Register’s Editorial Board celebrated California’s half-step toward greater due process protection. The board correctly questioned, though, why we maintain a system where a law enforcement agency can act as judge and jury over any seized assets without a burden of proof that binds an actual judge or jury.
On March 14, 2017, the Newport Beach City Council unanimously overhauled its civil asset forfeiture and seizure policy to address those concerns. The new policy respects and exceeds the due process protections in place at the state and federal levels.
Newport Beach now “recognizes the taking of property due to alleged criminal wrongdoing is entitled to the same legal protection as the taking of a person into custody for alleged criminal wrongdoing.” Consistent with the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the city of Newport Beach “requires due process of law before a person be deprived of ‘life, liberty or property.’”
Furthermore, Newport Beach will not accept any seized or forfeited assets — no matter the value or type — unless due process has been afforded and unless all applicable federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations have been followed.
This ought to be the minimum standard for all cities, states and even our federal government. Congressman Issa’s op-ed last year noted that “the federal government needs to set a framework for smart reform.” Agreed. But cities throughout this country can and should act on their own to do the right thing rather than wait for congressional action.
In a time when police departments need good press — and most have certainly earned it — government leaders ought to be stepping forward and applauding those departments that have been holding themselves to higher standards. Especially those departments whose actions have not led to the egregious abuses newspapers highlight.
I am proud to count the Newport Beach Police Department among those departments whose policies match these higher expectations. I thank Police Chief Jon Lewis and his staff for working with the Newport Beach City Council to craft a policy that recognizes this higher due process standard. And by raising our standards to truly comport with due process and the rights of our citizens, I hope we can encourage others to raise the bar, and provide the protection that we all deserve.
Will O’Neill is a Newport Beach City Council member.