Newport Beach Harbor Commission votes against pairing abolition

City staff proposed severing commissioner-council member pairings.

NEWPORT BEACH ― The concept of “pairing” is often associated with food and wine, not everyday governance. Yet city council members and harbor commissioners are paired together in Newport Beach – a unique practice rarely found in nearby municipalities. The existence of such a practice is currently up for debate, as members of Newport Beach’s Harbor Commission balked at a city staff proposal to abolish commissioner-council pairings.

Commissioners deliberated the commissioner-council pairing abolishment at their July 12 meeting, ultimately deciding not to support the proposal.

Council member Marshall “Duffy” Duffield did not attend the July 12 Harbor Commission meeting due to the proposal’s existence on the agenda, according to Harbor Manager Chris Miller.

Duffield acts as the commission’s liaison to the City Council.

Newly elected Harbor Commission Chair William Kenney asked why city staff proposed eliminating the practice of having each commissioner paired with a council member; both the commission and council have seven members.

Another commissioner asked if he or his colleagues could still reach out to council members and have informal discussions if the commissioner-council pairing was abolished.

Miller said such questions would have to be answered by Newport Beach City Attorney Aaron Harp.

Commissioners eventually voted against the abolishment proposal; Commissioner Duncan McIntosh was not present at the July 12 meeting.

Harp later told The Log the commissioner-council pairing system is a unique practice and the issue would have to be vetted out a little more before the city makes a final decision.

“The Harbor Commission pairing scenario is unique in that most of the Boards and Commissions do not pair Commissioners with Council Members,” Harp stated in an email to The Log. “At this point, the goal is to make sure all of the Boards and Commissions are being treated uniformly and getting the feedback they need to be successful.

“The Harbor Commission raised some valid questions about how Commissions and the City Council should coordinate and receive input,” Harp continued. “I haven’t had a chance to speak to city staff about this matter yet; however, I would imagine this will be placed on the Harbor Commission agenda in the future so there can be more discussion related to this matter.”

Miller pointed out the City Council agenda would indicate when a commissioner is scheduled verbally report to the dais, should the commissioner-council pairing system be abolished.

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