Newport Beach Councilman Tony Petros (Dixon endorser and Woody’s Wharf anti-dancing crusader) recently penned an article saying that we have $25 million just sitting around ready to spend for capital improvements, but instead of fixing the sewer system which has been neglected for decades and is crumbling beneath our feet, he wants to build another monument– this time, it will be called the “West Newport Community Center”, and will cost untold fortunes in annual maintenance (Marina Park, our newest build, is costing taxpayers $1m/year to maintain).
At precisely the same time, as the proposal to spend $25m today, there is a proposal to raise taxes by $25 million by the year 2027 to pay for the sewers.
Uhhh…. does anyone else see something wrong here?
Here is the tax hike schedule:
As you can see, by the year 2027– after five years of consecutive tax hikes fully escalate in 2020– we will have collected $24m in taxes to fix the sewers. Slightly less than the amount of money that it would cost to build a community center.
So why not pay for the sewers now instead of waiting through 11 years of permanent tax hikes? Simple: It can be done– but this is a battle of priorities. What will make a better re-election photo for Petros: Standing beside the monument he builds with his name on the brass plaque, or fixing our ever-neglected sewage pipes? The answer is obvious.
Here’s the real rub, though: Does West Newport even want a community center? Some may, surely (heck, some people want anything!) — but the overwhelming majority do not. How do I know this? Because if the community really wanted it, the YMCA or a for-profit (or non-profit!) entity would have stepped up to the plate to build one so that they could make a buck… because that’s how free markets work.
But they haven’t. Because the simple fact is that there aren’t enough people in West Newport to make this commercially viable. So if they won’t spend their own money on this voluntarily, why should we be extracting taxes involuntarily to use on the exact same project? This is– once again– an example of government intrusion into the free market… all while our sewers are dying the most disgusting, horrible death from their continued decades of neglect.
Petros argues “we should not be confused between capital planning/programming and other municipal efforts, like enterprise funding (such as water and wastewater) and General Fund allocations.” — there is no confusion. General Fund money can be applied anywhere (hence the name), and we have a massively broken sewage system accordingly to absolutely everyone (including Petros himself).
To make this abundantly clear: the proposal is to spend the money we have right now– that could be used to fix the sewage systems– and use it to build a monument instead, and then to raise taxes to replace that same money while at the same time paying countless additional dollars to maintain a monument that virtually nobody wants.
So why is there this struggle? Well, it’s been going on since 2009 when Council has continuously ignored our sewer system funding (hey, I get it– it’s not a glamorous subject, but when toilets don’t flush or when they flush into the middle of PCH– it’s a big deal). Right now, we are about 18 months away from our sewer system going completely insolvent– and that’s simply not cool.
The worst part about this? I proposed a solution to all of this years ago. I’ve been working on it for almost a half-decade. I outlined how MesaWater could provide cleaner water with greater reliability and take us off the Greater California water supply line– all for half of what we are currently paying. Yeah, you read all of that correctly. To boot, they would be taking care of our sewage system. You can read the article from SaveNewport here (April 22, 2015), and the article I published in the LATimes, here (May 23, 2015).
In case you are wondering about the article picture, it is a picture of Nero playing the fiddle/harp while Rome burned… I think the face may be someone elses, though. Sorry Tony.
Also, an acknowledgement is due to Tony, as he was Dixons first big city endorsement, and she snagged the Mayor Pro Tem title out from under him as repayment. The staff was so certain that Tony was going to get the nod that they had already printed up the papers with his name on it. That stinks. Not worse than broken sewer lines, though. Don’t build that community center and don’t raise our taxes– we’ve got more than enough money and our sewers need immediate attention!