Incumbent Councilmember Leslie Daigle is being challenged by Mark Tabbert in the city’s 4th District in the Nov. 2 election. Although their race has been overshadowed by the closely watched 3rd District contest between Rush Hill and Ed Reno, the Daigle-Tabbert matchup offers voters a distinct choice between two very different candidates. This week, they agreed to answer our 10 Questions about the issues, the race – and good vacation spots. The were interviewed by Newport Beach Indy Editor Roger Bloom.
1. Why are you running, and why should people vote for you?
Daigle: I want our municipal government to be recognized for effective, efficient, and responsive service delivery to our residents. I also want to do what I can to reassure our residents that our city government is honest, open, operates with integrity, and is taxpayer focused. I hope I have earned reelection because in this difficult fiscal environment, we have actually reduced the size and cost of our government, balanced our budget without increasing taxes, and focused our resources on the highest priorities of our citizens: maintaining the high level of service and response times for police, fire and paramedics, devoted attention to improved water quality of our bays and beaches, continued to press for enforcement and extension of the settlement agreement protecting our residents from increased flights from John Wayne Airport, and completed the rebuilding of our widely praised OASIS Senior Center.
Tabbert: I’m running because I care about my community and its future. Preserving Banning Ranch was where I started, but the more I talk with neighbors the more I’m convinced we need an independent voice on the Council. Measure V is a perfect example of keeping residents in the dark. Fifteen changes to our City Charter all rolled into a single measure, seven Council yeas and not one discouraging word. It’s a conspiracy, and who really can say what’s behind it.
2. If elected, what would be your three top priorities for the four-year term?
Tabbert: Listening to residents will remain No. 1 for me, just as I’ve done in my door-to-door campaign. Communicating to residents about what is happening at Banning Ranch would be No. 2. Studying how we can maintain and enhance community spirit and involvement would be an overriding goal.
Daigle: They will continue to be: (1) Spending restraint. Live within our means without imposing new tax burdens on our residents. Reduce costs and payrolls. (2) Protection of Newport Beach’s natural assets: Our bays and beaches. The peace and quiet we seek overhead. Our parks and open space. (3) Vocal and moral support for the entrepreneurs and risk takers whose small businesses are the backbone of our city’s economy, and who are hurting and struggling. They deserve our respect, encouragement and patronage.
3. What would you like to see in a new John Wayne Airport settlement agreement, and how could you bring it about?
Daigle: Winning extension of the existing protections and restrictions on JWA flights and routes will be challenging. Our airport is the most noise-restricted major airport in the country and there are constant pressures for expansion. An improving economy will exacerbate that. We will need a sophisticated and determined effort that will involve legal challenges, political negotiation and lobbying, and constant pressure from our citizens and their representatives.
Tabbert: No one person or group will “bring it about.” It is a huge, complicated issue that involves multiple communities, the county, and the FAA – to name a few. AirFair, SPON, and the Airport Working Group, as well as the city of Newport Beach, will need to work together to, No. 1, maintain the curfew. Maintaining the curfew will be my No. 1 priority.
4. What is your all-time favorite book? Why?
Tabbert: “Walden.” It is a theology text not a nature book. I’ve read it many times. I pick it up frequently to read passages. I can quote passages and love to do it. Our world and our lives are sacred. This is the message of “Walden.”
Daigle: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It gave me simple joy.
5. Some say the Civic Center project is too big and too expensive. Is it?
Daigle: It’s a very significant, costly project. But a case can be made that this is a good time to take advantage of a slow construction economy and relatively cheap financing to accomplish it. In the end, I believe it will be a source of pride and improved access to municipal services for our community, on par with the rebuilt OASIS Senior Center that opened last week. The real threat to our budget is if we lose control of the project’s schedule and incur cost overruns. I’ve proposed to my council colleagues that we engage the services of a hard-nosed development advisor, a person with significant experience in large-scale construction projects who can represent the taxpayers’ interest in keeping this project on time and within budget. To significantly reduce the ultimate cost of the new Civic Center, I believe we should entitle the existing City Hall site for mixed commercial uses, and dedicate the revenuesto reducing the construction debt.
Tabbert: Absolutely. A city of 92,000 did not need a $50 million City Hall when this all started. Now, Council Persons talk about being proud of this $100-$128 million project, and how we “deserve it.” It would make me proud if we learned to do with a little less and be grateful for our surroundings, and set our sights on preserving as much as we can of the gifts we’ve been blessed with, places like Banning Ranch.
6. What would your goal be for the Banning Ranch property, and how would you achieve it?
Tabbert: There is money to buy Banning out there, if a community gets behind its preservation. It does not happen overnight. With a little help this year, Banning might have been given $30 million of Measure M money. Banning Ranch was one of 11 finalists out of 190 applicants for Measure M money, but the City Council would not lift a finger to help close the deal.
Daigle: The voter approved General Plan provides a blueprint. The city will accommodate third-party purchase for 100% open space, but the city will not own or provide funds for acquisition. I don’t believe we will ever gain voter approval to purchase the entire parcel for park and open space use. Our citizens have not approved a park bond issue since the early 1950s. Failing acquisition by a third party, I do believe we can reach an agreement with the owners that respects their property rights and the existing general plan for the property. Much as we did with the Irvine Company at Castaways, I am confident we can negotiate a land use solution that leaves the city with significant public park and open space land without a cash outlay, and permits the owner to reasonably use part of the land for a quality residential community.
7. Describe your dream vacation.
Daigle: France has a special appeal to me. Not its government or its politics or its governing philosophy, but in many special ways, France appeals to my senses. The fashions in Paris are amazingly diverse and I enjoy the museums, gardens, and street cafes. I don’t think the French are allowed to serve a bad meal anywhere. Everything from a simple sandwich or salad to more complicated meals isdelicious and beautifully presented. Next time I go to Paris, I fully intend to have a real French éclair. I’d like to also visit the countryside of France. Bicycling in Provence is special with the stunning vistas, small villages and farmers’ markets. It’s a dream to once again climb Mont Ventoux with French riders cheering me on. Descending around switchbacks and through sharp turns made my eyes water.
Tabbert: I took it when I chartered a 40-foot sailboat and sailed in the British Virgin Islands. I love to sail. A friend and I sailed to Hawaii three years ago on a 32-foot boat. That was an adventure and a voyage. Sailing in the British Virgin Island is simply heaven.
8. What is your position on privatization of city services?
Tabbert: I liked what Councilman Mike Henn said in the Newport Beach Indy this week (Oct. 8 issue). You have to look at everything in order to achieve efficiency, and I think that is what we all want. I’ve had my own business since 1997. I understand budgets, and before I went on my own I had experience dealing with unions, including the Teamsters and Longshoremen’s Union.
Daigle: I think we should regularly explore areas where privatization appears to promise more effective service delivery at a more efficient cost to our taxpayers. I wouldn’t consider it for police, fire and paramedic services. But we’ve embraced it for street sweeping, water meter reading and for some plan checking. In its efforts to migrate to enhanced parking meter technology, the city is requesting proposals from the private sector. Privatizing at this juncture presents an opportunity for cost savings, as the city is relieved from the capital expense of upgrading technology and on-going labor expenses, while also providing opportunity to maximize revenue through improved collection rates. Decisions to privatize should follow a thoughtful, comprehensive analysis. I see it as a management decision, not a political one. It’s about being open to embrace new ways to creatively accomplish our responsibilities at the lowest reasonable cost.
9. What do you think is your opponent’s greatest strength?
Daigle: The welcome clarity of his forthright statement at the start of this campaign that he had no criticism of my performance in office or how City Hall has been operating. He said his campaign was focused on raising the awareness of our community about the threats of global warming, and what we should be doing locally to address it.
Tabbert: Diligent, detail oriented, shows up, and works at the job.
10. What do you think are the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for the city right now?
Tabbert: The financial picture is bleak and may remain so. There is a chance that it will drag on for years. I would do all I can to preserve resources and reduce expenses. I feel the greatest opportunity would be found in broadening our community outreach. We should do more to tap into the talents, experience and wealth of our community. I have talked with world-class leaders over the last few months who live right here. They are an untapped resource.
Daigle: I am much more focused on the challenge of economic cooling than I am on global warming. The truth is that many of our residents, non-profits, churches and businesses are struggling through this prolonged economic downturn. We see it in too many shuttered storefronts, too many vacant offices, too many homes on the market for months, too few customers in our shops and restaurants, thinner newspapers, more foreclosures and bankruptcies, and reduced revenues for city services. Even in this relatively affluent city, it is a time of widespread restraint, retrenchment, insecurity, worry, and even fear. I truly believe that we are resourceful, resilient and remarkably creative people who can and will adjust and survive to see a better day. But this is a time for us to pull together, not apart. A time for us to support each other, and lift up those who are struggling. A time to patronize our neighborhood businesses and charities. This is a community-wide challenge, not just one for City Hall. It’s also a great opportunity for us to set aside historic differences, stop demonizing each other, work together for the common good, and try to be a little more kind and understanding of our neighbors.