On Class and Other Quaint Values

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If you came of age in earlier times in our nation’s history, you understand that Donald Trump is merely the latest incarnation of the dark underbelly of our national character: the anti-Semitic, pro-fascist radio rants by Roman Catholic priest Charles Coughlin of the 1930s and 40s, and Sen. Joe McCarthy, who became positively hysterical over purported hidden communists in the U.S. (He went too far when, on national TV, he accused “Army officers for not answering questions about their political beliefs,” according to “How McCarthyism Worked,” by Alia Hoyt).

McCarthy called “Brigadier General Ralph Zwicker, a decorated veteran and hero in Normandy, “a disgrace to the uniform he wore.”

Televangelists like Pat Robertson in recent decades have degraded the core Judeo-Christian value of social justice in favor of fostering fear and loathing against LGBTs, Muslims, and other manner of “aliens,” toward whom Jesus demonstrated compassion.

Locally we have Dave Ellis, the puppeteer who managed the campaigns of Team Newport (Scott Peotter, Kevin Muldoon, and Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, and Diane Dixon) to victory in 2014. Abetted by Bob McCaffrey, he is now embarked upon completing the takeover of the Newport Beach City Council through his management of the campaigns of this year’s candidates Brad Avery, Lee Lowrey, and Will O’Neill.

If you’re on Team Newport’s hit list, you’ve already seen the negative campaign messages.

In an e-blast dated September 20, McCaffrey, volunteer chairman of Residents for Reform, sent out the alarm to the residents of Balboa Island, where both he and Jeff Herdman, who is running for District 5, live: “City Council Candidate Jeff Herdman Supports Rent Control in N.B.–Stop rent control. Stop Herdman.” The appalled Herdman responded: “Being a landlord myself, I can assure you that I am not in favor of rent control in our city. I don’t want anyone telling me how much I can charge for rent! Moreover, while I do support the concept of Section 8 Housing (that’s affordable housing), for everyone deserves a roof over their head, here in Newport Beach I just don’t see it happening with property and land value being as high as it is.”

In a later telephone conversation, Herdman pointed that Section 8 Housing is the law in the U.S.

But Herdman is not alone in being targeted by the powers behind Team Newport.

Fred Ameri was sued by Scott Peotter’s brother, who wanted Ameri to change his nickname (the aforementioned Fred) to his given name of Farrokh. (Ameri was born in Iran.) My conspiracy theory (and it’s only a theory) is that this was likely a nifty way to attract any mid-Eastern-phobics to the Team Newport ticket.

It’s one thing to engage in negative and misleading campaigning, but it’s a whole other thing to ignore the political process by refusing to engage in the community forums where citizens can compare their positions with their opponents and question them about their agendas.

The most notorious of these has been Shelly Henderson, who could not be bothered to respond to the invitation to appear at the Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club forum at Oasis Senior Citizen Center on Thursday, Sept. 15. Henderson has been running a stealth campaign in which she shies from facing the citizens she proposes to represent. A visit to her Facebook includes a video of Henderson walking in Back Bay, slightly breathless, as she narrates what time she gets up in the morning (early), how beautiful Back Bay is, and that the planes ascending overhead from John Wayne Airport remind her that her life is going up.

Henderson, who has rented in Newport Beach since 2012, would benefit from listening to the residents who have fought airport noise and pollution these past few decades. Henderson’s tag line is “Protecting Taxpayers on Day 1.”

If you live and breathe numbers, then the Team Newport candidates will do. If, however, you believe that effective government does not end with fiscal responsibility, and that the standard of civility and collegiality that was the benchmark of Newport Beach government matters, then you will understand that Team Newport will not serve the city well. There is a better way.

That was clearly evident at the NBWDC forum on Sept. 15, where the candidates who showed up were knowledgeable in a way that newcomers cannot be on the concerns of the locals. Candidate Brad Avery, a longtime resident, for example, advocated for “slow, responsible growth and better water quality, including an improved plan for dredging the bays.”

Mike Glenn reminded the 60 attendees that he opposed pro-development Measure Y (supported by all the Team Newport candidates of 2014), which was defeated by nearly 70 percent of voters. Jeff Herdman, a retired educator and a resident of Newport Beach since 1954, used the term “community service” to define his candidacy, declaring himself “a grass roots candidate with no ties to developers or special interests.”

Ameri – that would be Fred Ameri – also wants to serve. There’s that ideal again, service. Phil Greer said he was an attorney, kidding that he was sorry about that, and refreshingly added that he has friends on both sides of the political aisle (Greer is endorsed by the environmentalist organization Line in the Sand). Even more refreshing is that when asked for a yes or no response regarding their belief in climate change, all the candidates present agreed that it was real. Not a denier in the bunch! This is a sea change from years past when it was not considered wise for local politicians to even mention climate change.

The current political climate of déclassé behavior evidenced by Donald Trump and those who came before him is to be resisted. A notable aspect of the evening was the collegiality displayed among the candidates, some of whom were competing for the same district. At one point someone joked that it was too bad we couldn’t elect all five of us (Ameri, Avery, Mike Glenn, Greer, and Herdman).

What we must do, however, is elect council members whose vision and commitment goes beyond ideology and special interests. To have all seven council members as part of the cabal known as Team Newport would be unhealthy. What’s wanted is the diversity and independent thinking that makes for a well-governed town.

As Herdman put it, “It’s so important for our city to be governed by individuals who have an appreciation for our history and a vision for [its] preservation.”

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