Beware of the “Growth Machine”

StuNews Newport
18 September 2018
Letters to the Editor:
Beware of the “Growth Machine”
By Jean Watt
The question is who to vote for in November’s City Council election? I know who I’m voting for because actions speak louder than words. Forums are good introductions, but often don’t do much to differentiate one candidate from another. All candidates say they “love” Newport so, once again, we need to examine actions, not words.
 
There is one type of action I discovered that sums it up for me. Some members of the current City Council are wittingly or unwittingly part of the “growth machine” which is well ensconced in Orange County. Of course it is – because there is lots of money to be made here through decisions about big, lucrative development – the sky’s the limit. There are political futures to be furthered as well. 
 
Here’s one case in point. In 2017, then Mayor Muldoon (with Duffy as Mayor Pro Tem) wrote a letter on behalf of the City Council and City of Newport Beach (that’s us), at the behest of the City of Irvine Mayor and the Irvine Company, saying that we would all love it if Amazon would locate its second headquarters in Irvine – with 50,000 new high paying jobs along with other associated jobs and families. This never appeared on our City Council’s agenda for the public to see. And what would we have said? 
 
We would certainly have wanted to know more about the sheer volume of development, density and traffic that would mean. What would 50,000 or more new families do to the already too expensive housing market? However, the letter said, and I quote,
 
 “The City of Newport Beach is pleased to support a collaborative proposal of the City of Irvine and the Irvine Company to secure Amazon’s second headquarters. We are proud civic leaders of one of 34 cities in Orange County – America’s sixth largest county, greater in population than 21 states in the Union…Each of our cities presents unique opportunities and strategic advantages to accommodate all that Amazon seeks for its next headquarters.”
 
As it turns out, Amazon went elsewhere and subsequently we read of the impact of its first headquarters in Seattle, of its loss of “soul” from the building boom primarily by Amazon’s impact. An article in the New York Times by Timothy Egan reads, “I live in the city that hit the Amazon jackpot, now the biggest company town in America. They have 40,000 employees here, who in turn attracted 50,000 other new jobs. They own or lease a fifth of all the class A office space. But median home prices have doubled in five years, to $700,000. This is not a good thing in a place where teachers and cops used to be able to afford a house with a water view.” This article ended with, “To the next Amazon lottery winner I would say, enjoy the boom – but be careful what you wish for.”
 
17 of the 34 City Mayors wrote such a letter as requested by their growth machine cronies. Laguna, for one, did not. Laguna has a soul it has steadfastly tried to preserve, and, like Laguna, I hope we would choose to keep our charm and character as well. As a start we can elect people who by all indications will choose to put the Newport Beach citizens first. Three people running for our City Council want to know what we think, and I’m voting for them – Joy Brenner, Tim Stoaks, and Roy Engelbrecht.
 
Sincerely,
Jean Watt
Newport Beach