Some questions just can’t be answered. Others, like whether Newport Beach’s new City Hall is a boon or boondoggle, are much easier to assess, as a recent article in the Register, which posed that very question, clearly shows.
It wasn’t that long ago that the complex, dubbed the “Taj Mahal” by critics for its extravagance, was still a much-delayed work in progress. Now, even in completion, many residents still don’t seem convinced about the value of the many features and amenities on the 12-acre site.
In fact, rather than accept the grotesque example of government excess that took place, Newport residents revolted at the ballot box in 2014 and look to have restored some fiscal discipline to one of Orange County’s wealthiest cities.
These pages have been calling the project, which ballooned from an initial $49 million to more than $140 million, a boondoggle since ground was broken in 2010, but it is refreshing to see that the new Newport City Council seems to agree, voting in June to begin an independent audit into how every dollar was spent on the project.
With an audit underway, and a council request to the District Attorney’s Office for a criminal investigation into Assistant City Manager Steve Badum, who, the Register reported, “may have failed to report dozens of meals and other perks given by contractors on the project,” hopefully the whole affair at the “City Hall in the park” can end better than it began.
What is done is, unfortunately, done, but, like so many government public works projects that go awry, it should at least serve as a warning to other councils with similarly grand designs and a wake-up call for residents across the county to fervently oppose such colossal wastes of other people’s money.
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