By Sara Hall | NB Indy
City Council candidates answered various questions at the Corona del Mar Residents Association forum Wednesday night, but the question on everyone’s mind was where District 3 candidate Ed Reno was.
Reno was scheduled to be on the panel but failed to make an appearance.
“OK, last question: Where’s Mr. Reno?” asked moderator Michael Toerge near the end of the night.
Reno did not return a call late Wednesday night, but his campaign consultant, Dave Ellis, said the candidate was also scheduled to attend a fundraiser at a home on Balboa Island that evening, and “must have gotten caught up in that.”
“He was just double-booked,” Ellis said, noting also that “we had more than 100 RSVPs” for the Balboa Island event.
Meanwhile, the rest of the City Council candidates met for the fifth time to discuss issues and try to earn votes from Newport Beach citizens. The forum was held in the Evelyn Hart Event Center at the Oasis Senior Center.
Incumbent Nancy Gardner gave the introduction speech but was not on the panel because she is running unopposed for District 6. Incumbent Michael Henn was also left off the discussion table because he too is running unopposed, in District 1.
Reno’s opponent in District 3, Rush Hill, made his introductory speech based on two things he learned during his time working as education advisor for former Gov. Ronald Reagan: The importance of giving back to the community and that “government is done by those who show up.”
“I think it’s terribly important that you have to have (the) people that you elect show up to participate,” Hill said, repeating a campaign theme that took on added sharpness with Reno’s absence from the forum.
Hill listed city projects and people he has worked with and the relationships he has created throughout the years. Most recently, he said, he has been involved with the oversight of the new Civic Center project and the charter update commission.
Hill also talked about one of the hot topics of the night: Measure V. Measure V changes 15 sections of the Newport Beach City Charter. It is the first major update to the charter since 1974.
District 4 incumbent Leslie Daigle said that Measure V is a series of innocuous measures and the reason the city decided to bundle the measures together is basically because City Council are “penny pinchers” and it saves money to do the changes as one ballot measure.
Daigle said the measure probably could have been packaged better and that she understands it has caused some confusion.
“Well, I’ve got to say that’s the first time I heard the word ‘innocuous’ used toward [the measure],” said her opponent Mark Tabbert. “I’ve heard two things, I’ve heard good housekeeping and I’ve heard important charter reform in the same talk. I absolutely do not agree with the City Council or with what Leslie [Daigle] just said. This is not an innocent change.”
According to Tabbert, 20 percent of the items in the measure have been rejected by the voters in the past when they stood on their own merits. Tabbert also said that in the past, city charter changes have been voted on individually.
“The city didn’t review the whole charter like they tell you, the city hand-picked what was to be reviewed,” Tabbert said. “And they gave the list to the committee that worked on this charter. The amount of misinformation that has gone around about this issue is astronomical.”
Hill countered that he was on the committee that reviewed the charter and the reason the 15 items were put together is because after finishing 12 public hearings it was clear they were non-controversial, Hill said.
Hill said the items had been reviewed and the public had come in, read them, questioned them and any appropriate changes had been made. The city saved “six figures” when the council made the decision to list them under one item, Hill said.
“The reason it’s controversial (now),” Hill said, “is because there are people running for City Council that are looking for things to hang hooks on to complain about… And so this popped up as one of those hooks. There is nothing controversial in this, everything in it is positive, all the people vetted it. If you have a complaint where were you during the 12 meetings when it was all vetted and discussed?”
Tabbert replied in his closing speech.
“Rush says there’s nothing controversial about it, I’ll give you one example, the Chamber of Commerce. … Under Measure V the city can give a lot more money to the Chamber of Commerce,” Tabbert said. “I don’t know if it’s a lot more or unlimited, but they have the ability to do that.”
Tabbert went on and said that five out the six people that voted on that are Chamber of Commerce members.
“Is that a conflict of interest? It is to me,” Tabbert said.
Afterward, Martin Flink of Corona del Mar said he found the forum very informative and he was sorry to see that Reno did not show. He said he didn’t have any specific questions in mind that he wanted answered, he was more interested in the general discussion although he did wish there were more broad questions.
“The questions were pertinent (and specific) to the election,” he said.
Jeanine Paquette and Lu Ella Bennett, both longtime residents of Newport Beach, said that it was an informative forum and they learned a lot about the candidates.
Bennett said she wanted to hear the general discussion, but Paquette had a few specific issues she wanted to hear. She has a few objections to certain aspects of the proposed zoning code concerning the flower streets, and she was also interested in hearing about airport.
“I wanted to find out what kind of people they are,” said Paquette. “It was very informative.”
Other topics covered included employee pensions, leaf blowers, fire hazards in the gullies and canyons of Corona del Mar, city finances, John Wayne Airport and Banning Ranch. For a full account of the discussion, visit www.newportbeachindy.com.