By Sara Hall | NB Indy
City Council candidates talked Tuesday night about their backgrounds and priorities, pointing out the differences that set them apart from their opponents in their respective races.
The Newport Beach City Council candidate forum was held by the Central Newport Beach Community Association at the American Legion Post 291 on the Peninsula on Tuesday evening.
Both candidates in the most talked-about race, Ed Reno and Rush Hill in District 3, had a few specific points to make about themselves and each other.
Reno reiterated several points he has mentioned at past candidate forums, that he would ask the tough questions if elected, like why the civic center project costs have increased, and can the city afford the large city staff.
Reno also continued to mention his relationships and experience in Sacramento and Washington, DC, while characterizing himself as an outsider.
“He’s an insider,” Reno said about his opponent. “I have nothing to gain.”
Hill listed his many relationships and committee and commission seats that he has held locally. He added that he is not planning on running for anything else and he is committed to the residents of Newport Beach. He will work hard for all four years of the term, he said, echoing a question he asked Reno at the last candidate forum about whether Reno could commit to the full four-year term even though rumors imply he may be looking to run for a higher office or seek an appointment.
Reno said that Hill is a “terrific man” and that the race is not about personalities, it’s about asking the tough questions. The state and federal budget are broken, he said, the city is the last line of defense and it is important to be fiscally conservative.
“My own son is going to grow up here,” he said as one of the reasons why the management of Newport Beach is important to him.
Both candidates for the District 4 race, incumbent Leslie Daigle and Mark Tabbert, spoke about which should be more of a priority, the economy and development of the city or the environment.
“I’m more concerned with economic cooling than global warming,” Daigle said.
Former councilwoman Jean Watt has supported her, Daigle added. Watt is possibly Newport Beach’s most significant environmental leader, according to Daigle.
Daigle also noted that although she would rather run unopposed, voters can benefit from having a choice in a contested campaign. She also mentioned an article in which her opponent spoke highly of her and said his candidacy was primarily designed to raise voter consciousness about global warming.
Tabbert said in his rebuttal that Daigle was referring to an article in which the writer had misquoted him.
He also remarked that he hated to see the city continually be redeveloped and said the city focuses too much on development. He went on to say that he has no financial ties to the city and no political baggage. He called himself a businessman and an environmentalist.
“A common citizen,” he said.
Tabbert said he hopes to be “another voice on the council and not so many unanimous votes.”
Tabbert stated that Daigle works as a consultant for cellular companies and then writes laws regarding the same issue, he said.
“(Is that a) conflict of interest?” asked Tabbert. “In my book it is.”
All the candidates mentioned that the pending expiration and renegotiation of the John Wayne Airport settlement agreement was a top priority. Tightening the curfew on landings and takeoffs and getting more city control were both concerns.
“(We were) asleep at the switch,” said Tabbert.
The airport was also a topic for District 1 incumbent Mike Henn, who is unopposed in the district. He received a quiet applause when he announced the installation of tsunami sirens on the Peninsula would begin soon. The hold-up, he said, was getting the California Coastal Commission to agree on what color the towers should be.
Nancy Gardner, unopposed incumbent for District 6, said the goal of the council is to meet the expectations of the residents, and she intends to do just that.
She defended the Civic Center project costs and said that over the course of 30 or so council meetings several features have been added. This is the center of our city, she said, and it will be there for generations. It will represent Newport Beach, she added. The city also hired a top architect for the project, she said.
“Yet we still keep our eye on the bottom line,” she said. “We’re not a City Council that adds things we can’t afford.”
Many of the candidates talked about projects and concerns specific to the Peninsula.
“The Balboa Peninsula is the birthplace of Newport Beach,” Daigle said. “No other area of our city relentlessly attracts people from near and far who want to share a piece of the action, even if it is for just a day.”
That, she said, can be a challenge and a concern. Part of that concern, she said, is water quality and the restoration of Newport Bay, both of which have been and will continue to be a top priority for her.
Henn said he will focus on keeping a balanced city budget and to be fiscally responsible. He also said that the city will continue to lower city pensions. He mentioned dredging Newport Bay and the Rhine Channel and said the long-term goal is to assure that the harbor is maintained long into the future.
“This is my agenda for the next four years,” Henn said, “I hope it matches yours.”