City Council candidates have been busy the past week, attending three public forums and discussing a variety of topics.
Friends of the Oasis held a discussion on Sept. 5 at the senior center. Speak Up Newport quizzed the candidates during their meeting on Wednesday. And Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel with the council hopefuls on Thursday morning.
The council hopefuls include: Diane Dixon for District 1; incumbent Mayor Rush Hill and Marshall “Duffy” Duffield for District 3; Tim Brown, Kevin Muldoon and Roy Englebrecht for District 4; and Scott Peotter and Mike Toerge for District 6.
Moderators for the events were former mayor and city activist Evelyn Hart, premier entertainer and showbiz veteran Jim Roberts and CdM Business Improvement District advisory committee chairman and the CdM chamber’s Local Community and Governmental Affairs organizer Bernie Svalstad.
The Oasis crowd was the largest with more than 120 attendees, while SUN asked the most questions. The CdM group focused many questions on their neighborhood.
Duffield was absent from the CdM forum.
During the last two forums, Dixon -who is running unopposed- opted to only give an opening statement, allowing more time for the others.
“I am running unopposed, but it’s important to me to still be out here and meet and greet everyone,” Dixon said during the forum at Oasis, and to “get to know and listen to people.”
She wants to turn her nearly four decades of business experience and community leadership into service for the people of Newport Beach, she said.
This is her full-time job, she emphasized.
Each forum opened with introduction statements, followed usually by one or more questions that required only a yes or no answer and nothing more. SUN opted for allowing the candidates to rate the importance of the issue on a scale of one to 10.
The SUN scale questions included the importance of a water taxi and rating the sculpture garden, among many others.
The candidates were split on the water taxi, with the highest rating of 12 coming from Hill and the lowest of zero tied between Duffield, Muldoon and Peotter. Brown gave it a seven, Toerge a one and Englebrecht a five.
They were also divided on the sculptures. The highest being an eight from Toerge and Hill and the lowest from Duffield with a negative one. Peotter gave the issue a zero, Muldoon just one and Englebrecht and Brown both gave ranked it as a three.
When asked about Measure Y at all of the forums, all but Englebrecht said they are voting yes on the measure in November.
The 500 apartments or condos would certainly increase traffic, Englebrecht argued.
The rest of the candidates were on the other side of the issue.
At each forum Peotter simplified the measure with a basic comparison.
“Let’s make it simple here. We’ve got approvals for 10 pounds of development down in Newport Coast. The proposal is building eight pounds of development in Newport Center,” he explained.
Newport Center is much better equipped to handle the traffic, he argued. It has the greatest capacity to handle traffic, Brown agreed.
This is an opportunity, Toerge noted.
The measure will help mitigate some of the traffic issues the city faces, Brown said. He also noted that, if elected, he would work to renegotiate or relieve the bonds on the toll road. If there was no toll up to Newport Coast Drive, it would create a feasible bypass, he explained.
There are also significant revenue opportunities from the development agreements, Hill said.
It’s a complicated issue and he wished there was a better solution, Duffield added.
Leasing the old city hall site for a hotel was also brought up.
Muldoon suggested that the city sell the property to the developer to help pay down the debt.
“I don’t think the city should be in the hotel business,” he said.
Englebrecht, Peotter and Duffield echoed his sentiments.
It could provide years and years of revenue to help pay down the debt, Brown countered.
Brown, Toerge and Hill supported leasing the site for a hotel.
The fire rings were also discussed at all of the forums. The candidates were split on the issue.
Hill, Brown and Toerge support the fire rings as they are and using charcoal. It’s a compromise, several candidates pointed out.
“There are two elephants dancing, the Coastal Commission and the AQMD, and we’re caught in the middle,” Hill said.
On the other side were Peotter, Muldoon, Englebrecht and Duffield. They supported the fire rings to be wood burning, not charcoal.
“You’re right, Rush,” Peotter replied. “We have two elephants dancing in that room and Newport Beach started the tune to get them dancing.”
“We’ve used wood for all of our civilization and we’re still alive,” Duffield said.
Englebrecht said the council voted without doing their homework on the subject.
“What they did was wrong,” he said.
Muldoon supported the wood burning fire rings, but admitted there should be regulation and certain items and trash should not be burned.
The John Wayne Airport agreement was also a hot topic at the discussions.
All of the candidates supported the agreement and want to continue the curfew.
“It’s the most important thing we have to deal with,” Hill said. “It is the biggest danger, threat to our quality of life and our property values.”
They all agreed that it was an issue that the city needs to continue working on and keep it as a priority.
Traffic is one of the top issues facing the city, several candidates agreed.
It needs to better managed, a few noted. .
Some mentioned intermodal transportation and supporting biking and walking in the city
“We need to improve opportunities for people to ride bikes,” Brown commented.
Other topics discussed in one or more of the forums include revitalization of Balboa Village, moving the police station, adding a third lane in each direction to PCH through Mariner’s Mile, pension reform and more.
The CdM discussion quizzed the candidates on the difference between the chamber of commerce and the BID, as well as asking about their support and/or participation in the village’s three major events: Coastline Car Classic, Christmas Walk and the Scenic 5k.
When presented with the opportunity to ask their opponent a question, most of the candidates chose a light-hearted question or declined to ask anything at all.
Lido resident Dotty McDonald was impressed with the forum at Oasis.
“I thought it was wonderful,” she said.
She gained valuable information about the candidates, as well as Measure Y, she added.
Corona del Mar resident Bud Rasner and Port Street residents Bob and Dottie Cole also attended the Oasis discussion. There was a lot of good discussion, they agreed.
“This is what local politics should be about,” Rasner said. “People are out here, they’re informing themselves… We’re trying to learn.”