August 2017.

As America continues its Great Civics Lesson, it is worth hearkening back to our country’s origins through heightened discourse. In Federalist Number 62, James Madison warned that it “will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood….” It remains incumbent upon all levels of government to wipe away bureaucracy where it invades upon liberty and efficiency.

At our most recent City Council meeting, my colleagues and I voted unanimously to cut decades of bureaucracy, empower our staff and volunteer boards, and free hundreds of thousands of dollars for core infrastructure spending.

We did so by revising our City Council policies. Until recently, we had one hundred twenty-eight policies that direct staff, our volunteer boards, and even City Council how to conduct themselves in a variety of situations. We have policies directing how the Mayor is elected, processing tree donations and removals, maintaining an appropriate level of reserves, permitting events at our beaches and parks, etc.

Unfortunately, many of these policies had grown dusty and ignored. One of those policies actually required an annual review…that was rarely conducted. Another policy explains that City Council members use switches to turn on green and red lights to vote yes or no – a technology that has not existed for quite some time. Another policy actually gave a verbatim script to city employees for their voice mails…that no one used.

The City Council appointed a subcommittee of Mayor (Kevin) Muldoon, Council Member (Brad) Avery, and me to combine policies when practical to provide more efficiency, update or eliminate outdated or unused policies, eliminate policies that merely restate existing local, state, or federal law, update for changes in processes, names and/or procedures.

Department directors helped immensely along the way by suggesting changes to policies that directly affected their spheres. A special thanks to Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs and Assistant City Attorney Michael Torres for their hard work.

Ultimately, the City Council voted unanimously to reduce the number of policies by 32, eliminate 72 pages, and eliminate over 12,000 words from the City Council Policy Manual. Reading what we eliminated is nearly the equivalent (in length, not quality) of Macbeth.

City Council also directed our Harbor Commission, Planning Commission, and Finance Committee to review an additional fifty-one Council Policies with the same goals.

We welcome additional public input and appreciate working hard for our residents.

Former Newport Beach councilman and defeated Assembly candidate Keith Curry is upset that the current council refused to apply for gas tax money (“Commentary: Newport council’s $480,000 rejection sends the wrong message to Sacramento,” Aug. 18).

The council refused to apply for Gov. Jerry Brown’s gas tax because the state would use Newport’s and other cities’ applications for “free money” as proof that the citizens want the gas tax.

There is a repeal of the gas tax underway and will likely be on the November 2018 ballot. The City Council felt that the big picture of getting rid of the gas tax for all Californians was more important.

I know it is an anathema for a big government advocate to understand that some things are more important than higher taxes and bigger government. Giving more money to Sacramento and Caltrans, which already mismanage billions, is foolish.

This Democratic Party passed gas tax (sorry to be partisan, but only one Republican voted for it) will raise the state gas tax from 40.6 to 58.3 cents/gallon, second only to Pennsylvania at 59.3.

Registration and excise taxes go up for every car as well. Even those electric cars (the ones that Brown wants you to buy to keep those greenhouse gases low) must pay $100 a year extra to make up for the fact that they do not pay gas taxes.

California has the second-highest cost for gasoline (we are behind Hawaii by one penny a gallon). In November, once the tax kicks in, California will likely be the highest price per gallon in the U.S.

The poor are the hardest hit, as they tend to commute longer distances and pay a much larger percentage of their income on transportation. Of course every product (think Amazon) gets shipped, so all costs will go up to pay the tax.

As a councilman, Curry used to openly boast about Newport Beach’s lack of potholes. Now, in his latest editorial, he claims that the gas tax funds that the current council voted to reject were “needed state funds to improve our streets, specifically MacArthur and University.”

The council did not include any income from the gas tax in this years’ budget, and our roads will continue to be of the same standard that we are used to.

Special kudos to Councilman Jeff Herdman to stand up against the Curry doublespeak to vote for the taxpayers and not the big government tax-and-spend types.

Amusingly, Curry claims, “In the last council meeting we experienced one of the most irresponsible and ideologically misguided acts in recent memory.”

Curry must have forgotten the $255,000,000 Civic Center (including debt service), as well as the $232,000,000 (principal and interest) of “non-refinance-able” Civic Center debt with which he saddled the City of Newport Beach.

The $480,000 of unguaranteed gas tax funds that the council is eligible to apply for equals less than 0.2% of the amount of Civic Center debt that Curry left Newport Beach taxpayers.

SCOTT PEOTTER is a Newport Beach city councilman.