Mailbag: Newport should audit civic center spending

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http://www.dailypilot.com/opinion/tn-dpt-me-0503-mailbag-20150429,0,3260626.story

Newport taxpayers will pay over $666,000 this month in mortgage payments on the Civic Center, or “Taj Mahal.” That’s $8 million per year for 26 more years.

We should remember that it was Councilman Keith Curry and former council members Mike Henn, Steve Rosansky and Rush Hill who stuck us with a debt debacle that includes a $28-million pre-payment penalty. Who agrees to a pre-payment penalty?

Recently Councilman Scott Peotter simply wanted to have a discussion on the Taj debt and our long-term pension debt — one of the highest per-capita in the county — but he was dissuaded by the civic center supporters on the council. I applaud him for advocating for transparency.

The media reports about the assistant city manager possibly accepting gifts from the Taj Mahal contractor is yet another reason the City Council should commission a full audit of the civic center project. We need to know what the city manager and council knew.

An audit would determine if the 700-plus change orders were properly approved without influence.

Last November’s election was a reflection of the public’s distaste for runaway spending by our local government, symbolized by the civic center, it’s fancy chairs and artistic foibles.

At their first meeting after election, the new City Council members requested an audit of the Civic Center project. It died in the crib.

Two weeks later, the city manager delivered a report chronicling the project’s explosion to $140 million because of elements the voters never contemplated in the 2008 Measure B election.

The city manager’s report was a historical review — not an audit. It was a weak attempt to pacify curious new council members who had just won campaigns pledging to audit the Taj project.

Irvine has learned the value of a forensic audit that revealed massive overspending for the Great Park project. Newport should learn from our border city.

Bob McCaffrey

Volunteer chairman, Residents for Reform

Balboa Island

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Clean up the boulevard

Many residents and visitors enter Costa Mesa every day via the 55 Freeway/Newport Boulevard.

For what seems like forever, we have been greeted by shoddy construction equipment and a group of palm trees that were last trimmed at the turn of the century. Enough is enough. I know there are probably jurisdictional issues among numerous government agencies, but can’t the city take charge and clean up the mess?

Bruce Major

Newport Beach

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Give credit to those who have cut water use

Almost a year ago, I stopped hosing off my driveway and sidewalks.

I stopped washing my car. (I use a hand-held vacuum and a detail spray.) I only flush when necessary and don’t run the water while brushing and shaving. Additionally I turn the shower off while soaping.

I cannot reduce my usage anymore. Now that water conservation and penalties are coming, will I be fined for not cutting back?

Gary Philips

Costa Mesa

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