On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission reviewed “Plan 17” that was presented by the City of Newport Beach. This plan included 64 rings– 32 of them containing fire, and 32 containing charcoal. Four of the new rings will be added on the Back Bay, leaving the oceanfront with 28, rather than the 60 we had just a few years ago.
This is a sad and tragic loss for Newport Beach, our visitors, and our vibrant character which spans back to our founding over 100 years ago– but moreso, this is illegal. How? Well, on the Jan 13 City Council meeting, we had a majority vote (five) saying that we wanted 60 fire rings. This was confirmed in the infamous Jan 27 meeting, with four of those five confirming that this is precisely what they voted on.
So why was the city staff acting outside of the councils votes? We clearly had a majority rule saying that the council supported 60 woodburning fire rings– this is without dispute. How did it happen that city staff ignored the council’s vote and promoted the “Plan 17” to the California Coastal Commission– countermanding the vote by council? This is a clear violation of basic parliamentary procedure: Staff cannot act contrary to the votes of the council… but in this case, they did.
Much like an illegal search, the vote by the California Coastal Commission is “fruit of a poisonous tree”, and must be discarded, as it was voting on a rogue presentation by city staff that is running contrary to the official council vote. The Jan 13 vote was the last time that the council voted on this item, and therefore the last time that it was available for public comment.
We have a situation here where staff is operating outside of the authority of council. Staff is clearly running the city by itself– not only outside of the authority of council, but contrary to it.
Alternatively, if council made deals behind closed doors on this subject– ignoring their own previous votes and conducting these deals without any sort of public transparency, then we are dealing with an even worse situation.
So which one is it: Do we have a run-away staff which is running the show despite the official council vote, or do we have deals being made without the input of the public, which run contrary to official public votes?
Whichever it is, it clearly violates the basic fundamentals of public debate, trust in governance, and standard legal discourse. The presentation by city staff is therefore the fruit of a poisonous tree and the vote by the Coastal Commission is a product of that very same tree, and must be discarded. If council wants to bring this up for discussion again, vote on it, and send it back to the Coastal Commission LEGALLY, then I encourage the process. However, until it is done– and in that order– the legally binding rule right is the same as it was after the January meeting: We still have 60 wood-burning fire rings.