Speak Up Newport has hosted the annual Mayor’s Dinner at the beginning of the year for the past 40 years. Last year’s dinner, which featured then Mayor Will O’Neill giving a State of the City address, was held on February 6.
The 40th annual Mayor Dinner had been scheduled for Feb. 5, 2021, but due to COVID-19 concerns, it was postponed. Mayor Brad Avery did offer an informal State of the City address via Zoom, with Speak Up Newport promising to hold an in-person event once COVID-19 restrictions eased.
That time has come. A Mayor’s Reception was held on the outdoor event lawn at the Newport Beach Country Club on Wednesday, July 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. Nearly 400 people attended, including local politicians, business owners, Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Steve Rosansky, Newport Beach & Co. President and CEO Gary Sherwin, and many others.
The reception began with libations and food stations, and gave attendees a chance to say hello to each other after a 15-month separation.
Prior to Mayor Avery giving a State of the City update, Speak Up Newport President Ed Selich introduced the SUN scholarship recipients from Newport Harbor High School and Corona del Mar High School:
- Wiktoria Garbowiec, graduate of Corona del Mar High School. She will be attending the University of California, Santa Barbara. She will be majoring in pre-economics and accounting.
- Kendall Kelly graduated from Newport Harbor High School. In the fall she will be attending the University of Georgia. She will be studying Journalism in hopes of giving a voice to the voiceless like girls in the Teen Project.
- Jackson Swain is a graduate of Newport Harbor High School. He will be furthering his education at Boise State University, majoring in construction management.
- Julia Wong is a graduate of Corona del Mar High School and will be attending UCLA in the fall. She plans to major in Environmental Biology with a minor in Public Health.
“Each year thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and an anonymous donor, Speak Up Newport is able to award four $3,000 scholarships to deserving students at Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar High schools,” said Selich. “This year’s winners exemplified the tradition of these scholarships going to students with outstanding academic achievements and community involvement.”
Next, Mayor Avery offered an update on the state of the city. He began by stating humorously that “this year’s dinner was postponed, and frankly, I was relieved. No speech to give, and best of all I didn’t have to follow Will O’Neill. But it is an honor to be Mayor of a beach town like no other. In most cities, couples try to stay together for the sake of their children. But in Newport, we try to work things out for the sake of the club membership and the yacht.”
He thanked SUN board member Debra Allen for her help in organizing the event, and he thanked Selich by noting that “he was busy tearing up and down PCH in his new corvette, the one with modified pipes.”
He also recognized his colleagues on the city council, all of whom attended except Duffy Duffield.
“Duffy is currently leading the TransPac yacht race. That’s what I call an excused absence,” said Mayor Avery.
Mayor Avery said he would keep his speech to 12 minutes because this was a relaxed setting and not a formal speech, although he covered a lot of topics in the brief time period, including thanking residents who served on city boards, commissions, committees and nonprofit foundations.
Then he turned his attention to the last year and the challenges the city faced with the pandemic and the protests, and the ongoing homelessness issue, which he called “the challenge of our times. It’s a reflection of governmental failure to care for the most vulnerable in our society, including those who are struggling with mental health issues and drug addiction. It’s our moral obligation to do so.”
Another challenge Mayor Avery addressed is the state housing mandate, which calls for a dramatic increase in housing.
“This may mean up to 15,000 new residents, more traffic, more services, schools, public safety, it means adding more capacity to our roads, water and sewer systems,” said Mayor Avery. “The deadline to submit the plan is February of 2022. There is little room to mitigate the stress to our quality of life. We are working hard on the issue. Thanks to the residents who have followed the situation and brought excellent advice.”
Mayor Avery then noted that “Newport Beach is known as a fiscally-conservative city. We produced a pandemic budget that allowed to city to navigate the crisis with no layoffs and no reductions in public services, which is a rare thing.”
He also said that the city was moving ahead with pandemic deferred infrastructure projects including roads, sewers and waterlines.
Mayor Avery mentioned that there are hundreds of volunteers in our community, thousands of nonprofits, 30 houses of worship, and 18,000 businesses contributing to a thriving economy. He added there were 3,000 open building permits.
“We are constantly building and bringing value to the table,” said Mayor Avery.
He also thanked the police, fire and lifeguards for their commendable work.
He concluded his remarks by stating that “a great city is active and always changing. We have 65 parks, an exceptional harbor, villages, Marina Park, the civic center, OASIS Senior Center, miles of boardwalks—those are the spaces that bring people together. It’s up to all of us to maintain and improve those spaces. Let’s continue to reinvent ourselves and meet the challenges of the century. Let’s work to continue the quality of life for the next generations.”
One final activity–the annual group photo with al former Newport Beach Mayors in attendance.
Speak Up Newport (SUN) is a non-partisan citywide residents group organized to promote the common good and general welfare of the Newport Beach community. The objective of SUN is to provide a forum for all residents to review and discuss the challenges and opportunities for Newport Beach as a model city in which to live, work, play and retire.
For more information, visit http://www.speakupnewport.com.