Byline: Russ Enzo
After an especially contentious Newport Beach City Council meeting with local waterfront homeowners who were targeted for a special high “dock tax” increase, I walked away with a real sense of disillusionment. No one listened to locals’ concerns about this issue, and the council, as a whole, did not seem to care what we thought, or about what kind of financial devastation we might experience from their action.
The so-called “dock tax” isn’t really a tax, it’s a user fee on the city-managed tidelands adjacent to private homes. The city claims it wants to charge a “fair market” rate for the “private” use of these areas, after keeping fees about the same for many years. But its calculations of what’s “fair” are debatable, since the fees are largely based on the value of the structures, not the tidelands — despite the fact that the city does not repair, rebuild or maintain any of these structures it is charging for.
Instead, it is charging private homeowners a special fee for homeowner-owned, homeowner-built, homeowner-maintained and homeowner-paid-for piers. And after we pay the dock fees, homeowners are still stuck with all the bills to repair and maintain these backyard docks and piers.
Still wonder why residents think these fees are unfair?
While fire departments generally throw water on fires to cool things down, it seems that our city council prefers the use of gasoline. They could not possibly have done a better job of inflaming local residents than they did at the Dec. 11 meeting.
At the meeting, five of six city council members supported an exorbitant, home-budget-busting hike in the dock fees — instead of favoring a fair, measured increase over the current amount. And they seemed to take a great deal of pleasure in telling a crowded room full of local residents (who had the nerve to complain) that they didn’t know what they were talking about, telling us we would not be financially hurt by this huge increase — from a flat $100 a year fee to a new charge ranging anywhere from $400 to $3,000 a year — and telling us in no uncertain terms, and with a four-letter word thrown in for good measure, that the city was going to do what it was going to do, despite what its residents thought ought to be done.
Didn’t any of the five “ayes” care that the residents they were busy attacking were the ones who voted them into office in the first place?