We are now officially in election season, and not just for the country. This November, three Newport Beach City Council seats are up for grabs.
To let voters meet the candidates and hear them discuss the issues and challenges facing Newport Beach, the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual city council candidates forum as part of its monthly Wake Up! Newport series on Thursday, August 20 at 9 a.m. More than 200 people registered to watch the candidate forum.
This year, the council districts 2, 5 and 7 are up for reelection. District 2 is a competition between incumbent Brad Avery and challenger Nancy Scarbrough. District 5 pits incumbent Jeff Herdman against challenger Noah Blom. In District 7, incumbent Mayor Will O’Neill is running unopposed.
All five candidates participated in the August 20 candidate forum, moderated by Lucy Dunn, CEO of the Orange County Business Council.
Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Rosansky, a former City council member and former Mayor, hosted the event and told viewers that “our role at the Chamber is to be a catalyst, convener, and champion for the Newport Beach business community. Hosting today’s form fulfills all of those roles. This is the first candidate forum of the election cycle, and I am excited to see the candidates in action. Some are familiar faces, some are newer to local politics.”
Rosansky noted that “being the first candidate forum, we tend to get the unvarnished and unrehearsed answers to questions concerning current issues of concern to Newport Beach residents and business owners.”
Rosansky introduced moderator Lucy Dunn, who set the ground rules. First, each candidate had two minutes for an opening statement to explain why they are running for City Council. Then, each candidate will answer a series of questions about issues concerning Newport Beach. Then, each candidate had a closing statement.
Because Mayor Will O’Neill is running unopposed, Dunn asked him to give an opening statement, and then let the other candidates continue the forum without him.
The first candidate to introduce himself was City Council member and Mayor Pro-Tem, Brad Avery.
“Newport Beach is a special place. I’ve known that from the day I graduated from Newport Harbor High School, I knew it during my three decades as director of Orange Coast College’s nonprofit marine program,” said Avery. “I have five years on the city’s Harbor Commission, which introduced me to the unique needs of Newport Harbor and taught me how the city worked. My volunteer work on the Board of Governors of Sherman Gardens and Library has shown me the jewel of Corona del Mar. I joined the board of advocates at OASIS senior center, which opened my eyes to how a great city of active seniors can add to the quality of life for so many.”
Avery said his community service prepared him for his tenure on the City Council, and he’d like another four years to help guide the city through the pandemic.
“Like everyone, I look forward to the recovery but I keep my expectations in check. When we recover, and we will recover, it will happen faster and easier if we are all kind and look out for each other. Today your council is working well and is implementing solutions to help weather this storm. This would not be possible without the efforts of our residents, businesses, volunteers, city management and staff. And we are so proud of our police, fire personnel and lifeguards. They have protected us during one of the most stressful periods in our city’s, and nation’s, history.”
Avery stated that he was committed to property rights, supporting small businesses, maintaining clean waterways, and reducing traffic congestion, as well as remaining vigilant against airport noise and pollution.
“I strive to listen, learn, and make the right votes that reflect good policy and the will of the majority,” concluded Avery.
Up next was Nancy Scarbrough, the other candidate in District 2.
“I have owned my own small business for 35 years,” began Scarbrough. “My company designs and manages construction of corporate and medical offices. We exist because of change. Without change, I wouldn’t have a business. I’m running for city council because I have seen a need for active participation and independent decision making which I feel has been lacking. I think I am well suited for the position, because of my involvement in many city activities.”
Scarbrough noted she has attended most of the city council meetings for the past several years, as well as many of the planning commission meetings. She has participated in or attended meetings for numerous study sessions, city committees, community groups, and other activities that were city functions.
“I have a pretty good understanding of the issues, including the general plan, housing, EDUs, homeless issues, various airport issues, school district issues, as well as some things going on in the county and other areas of southern California including the Coastal Commission,” said Scarbrough. “I am a really strong advocate for community involvement. Involvement is crucial to the success of our city, and effective government doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I would be honored to represent you on the city council.”
The first District 5 candidate to speak was Noah Blom, a newcomer to city politics but not to the city of Newport Beach.
“Some of you know me from my restaurants,” said Blom, referring to Arc Butcher & Baker on the Balboa Peninsula and Arc in Costa Mesa. “I am not a politician. The reason I am running for city council is because I love Newport so much. I grew up here, it’s been my home. I got an opportunity to leave Newport and see the beautiful world, and really missed what this community offers.”
Blom explained that this is a time of transition, and he believes the city needs new leadership to guide the city through that transition.
“The old guard did a great job of keeping up with the challenges that Newport has faced,” he said. “We haven’t always agreed on every decision, but that’s great. That’s part of the group of community. We want to see that moving forward. Right now, we have a lot of challenges ahead and we need some dynamic thought and some new people that are really going to get their hands dirty and get into the gusto of this. Otherwise, the small businesses aren’t going to survive. They’re not going to grow.”
Blom noted that the city has done a great job throughout the pandemic, and has done it with great leadership up and down the city council.
“I give thumbs up to everyone there right now including my opponent,” said Blom. “We have such a strong community and I want to see it grow stronger. As we move forward every day I want to take the assets that I have learned in business, and talking to 300 people, hearing from every type of Newporter, I want to bring them together, and in bringing them together, I want to see us gain a strength we didn’t have before. That’s what I am running for City Council.”
Next to speak was City Council member Jeff Herdman, the other candidate for District 5.
“I am a 66 year resident of this great city,” began Herdman. “As a current council member, I work hard, sometimes seven days a week, helping to solve some of our city’s most difficult problems. Problems like the homeless, quality of life issues related to John Wayne Airport, supporting businesses during this Covid crisis. Making difficult decisions and trying to protect our citizens from this virus. State required housing issues, and then there’s always the issue of maintaining services that all of Newport expects despite the economic effect this pandemic is having and will have on our city. All very very challenging times. Now is not the time for change on our council. Ability and experience is what is needed. Council members understand and know exactly what’s going on in terms of the complexity of all of the issues facing our city. For the past four years, serving on the Newport Beach City Council has been an absolute honor, and I hope to continue to serve the people of District 5 as well as constituents throughout the entire city with integrity, transparency, and a very hard work ethic.
Last to speak was Mayor Will O’Neill, running unopposed in District 7.
“It would be an understatement to say this year has not gone the way I expected when I became mayor,” said O’Neill. “It hasn’t gone the way any of us expected-as parents, as neighbors, as friends, as employers, as employees.”
O’Neill said he expected the most difficult and pressing issue would be housing mandates from the state, which he said are still pressing and important. But the pandemic and its related affects from a health and economic perspective have taken become more important issues.
“I appreciate the Chamber’s support during this period including early adoption of outdoor retail and dining,” said O’Neill. “We still have a glimmer of hope. Yesterday was the county’s first day when all metrics were under the state’s arduous standard. And it’s also the year of the volunteer, which has taken a diffident perspective this year but it carries thee same meaning. Please wake up each day asking how you can help someone else. We are a stronger community when you do.”
Dunn then asked the candidates a series of questions related to traffic, the airport, COVID-19, short term rentals, the Newport Beach Police Department, harbor issues, and other topics.
To watch a video of the complete candidate forum and hear all candidate responses, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMFmfe5OwjM&feature=youtu.be.