With the election just a few days away, Newport Beach City Council candidates are working to wrap up a campaign season that has had both high and low points and covered a wide range of topics.
Early and mail-in voting has already begun, but most residents will head to nearby polling stations on Tuesday to select which three new faces they would like to see up on the dais.
Voters will choose from: Brad Avery and Shelley Henderson in District 2; Mike Glenn, Jeff Herdman and Lee Lowrey in District 5; and Fred Ameri, Phil Greer and Will O’Neill in District 7.
Over the last few months, the candidates have participated in a number of forums and discussions. They sometimes disagreed, but most of the events were civil, informative and insightful.
Although the 2016 local election season was not without its controversies. Lawsuits were filed, signs were stolen or damaged, and accusations were made.
Unfunded pensions and over-development were the main issues on the minds of both candidates and residents at most Q-and-A events throughout the season.
Candidates were often asked about a few major projects in town, including Banning Ranch, Museum House, and 150 Newport Center. More recently, Porsche AutoNation also joined the conversation.
There were a few hot topics this election year, including recording candidate forums, campaign managers, and city funded art.
Candidates often offered varying ideas or solutions on issues, like revitalizing Mariners’ Mile or improving the harbor.
For more information, visit newportbeachca.gov/government/departments/city-clerk/general-municipal-election-november-8-2016
Brad Avery ■ District 2 ■ averyfornewportbeach.com
Why are you running?: I’ve lived in Newport Beach since childhood and would like to contribute to the community that’s given so much to me.
Favorite spot in Newport Beach? Anywhere on the harbor.
Biggest issues facing Newport Beach?: Significantly reduce our debt while maintaining/improving infrastructure and our quality of life.
How long have you lived in Newport Beach and in your district?: 47 years in Newport, 30 years in district 2
Consider yourself No/slow/pro-growth?: I support growth that conforms to the General Plan and does not adversely affect communities with traffic, noise, etc.
Thoughts on recording candidate forums?: I have no problem with recording of candidate forums by private groups.
Position on city funded arts?: The city should support the arts in every way except providing direct funds. When reasonable, the city should provide facilities, fee relief, staff support, inclusion in existing announcements, mailers, etc. Our arts should be primarily supported by local institutions, businesses, and residents. We have a generous community.
Ideas and issues for the harbor?: The harbor needs a push to protect and improve it for the rest of this century. Key elements include permanent small-scale dredging, more support to residents and businesses with dredging permitting, seawall repair and replacement, improving water quality, maintaining zoning for marine related businesses.
Thoughts on how this campaign season has been conducted?: We had eight good candidates who were respectful of each other. As always, there was some back and forth in the press, but overall we remained focused on the issues residents wanted to hear about. The candidate forums were excellent, and our local media did a great job covering them.
What would be your first action, project or idea for Council?: As a first term councilman, I plan to listen and learn. I certainly want to participate in the effort to reduce the debt and still deliver on the basic needs of our residents and businesses. In the first year I would like to move forward on harbor improvement initiatives.
Thoughts on the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Plan and alternative ideas?: I support the gradual transition of Mariners’ Mile into a village atmosphere, ideally with PCH slower, more links across, a waterfront “boardwalk,” low rise parking structure (or two.) We want to end up with a vibrant mixed-use community that has many connections to the harbor and its activities. Existing marine use areas must remain, and the overall theme should celebrate our harbor and connection to boating.
Reader Submitted Question: How do you feel about the idea for a water taxi? A water taxi service on the harbor sounds great. But it won’t work without a large subsidy from the city, and that’s not a good solution. The Harbor Commission has looked at this several times.
Expand/Add: If I am elected, I look forward to helping residents and businesses maintain and improve our city.
Shelley Henderson ■ District 2 ■ shelleymhenderson.com
Why are you running? Too many of our residents still feel disconnected from city government. They want a voice at city hall. I want to be that voice.
Favorite spot in Newport Beach? The Coliseum (at Pelican Hill) and Fashion Island
Biggest issues facing Newport Beach? Unfunded liability and drug abuse among youth.
How long have you lived in Newport Beach and in your district? 3 years.
Consider yourself No/slow/pro-growth? I am pro – medium paced-growth.
Thoughts on recording candidate forums? I have no problem with it – great for those who cannot attend.
Position on city funded arts? I think this is entirely appropriate.
Ideas and issues for the harbor? We all want a safe and successful harbor in Newport. To that end, it is critical that we support the preservation of water – dependent commercial and recreational activities.
Thoughts on how this campaign season has been conducted? For the most part, it has been conducted with a fair amount of integrity.
What would be your first action, project or idea for Council? I’d like to take a fresh look at the provision of some of our city services to ensure we have the most effective and efficient delivery of the same. Business licenses are a good starting point.
Thoughts on the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Plan and alternative ideas? I have some concerns about uninhibited pedestrian movement with respect to MMRP, however, I look forward to the continuing discussions with stakeholders and City Council movement following.
Reader Submitted Question: How do you explain your absence at many of the forums and lack of involvement with the city of Newport Beach? After becoming an official candidate, I was very happy to attend all of the candidate forums to which I was timely invited, and available to attend.
Expand/Add: I have concerns and need clarification of a few minor issues regarding the Porsche and Museum projects respectively before making a final determination as to my support of either project.
Mike Glenn ■ District 5 ■ glenn2016.com
Why are you running? Stop the increasing taxes, save dog beach, execute my plan giving Newport virtually unlimited water at half our current rates.
Favorite spot in Newport Beach? Lookout Point and Dog Beach. Also: Aurora on Balboa Peninsula (order the chops there, and also join me there on election night to watch the votes come in!).
Biggest issues facing Newport Beach? Unfunded pension problems, Dave-Ellis-Slate-Voting, property rights violations, council people not listening to residents, and gross displays of wasting taxpayer money.
How long have you lived in Newport Beach and in your district? 12 years in Newport Beach, between Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula.
Consider yourself No/slow/pro-growth? I am pro-property rights, but also pro-law. There are proposals on-deck which violate Greenlight (a growth-limiting law) which are flatly illegal. We should not be breaking the law.
Thoughts on recording candidate forums? We should record and live-stream all sessions held in Council Chambers – including Planning Commission meetings and other Commissions and Boards. Council Chambers should be available for candidate forums at no cost.
Position on city funded arts? I love art but I shouldn’t be spending other people’s money to fund it (like taxpayer money). Privately fund it. I’ll make a substantial contribution out of my own wallet, voluntarily. Others would too.
Ideas and issues for the harbor? Unwind the Dock Tax – it’s a violation of Prop13. Do continual dredging. It’s safer and cheaper than doing it once every 30 years.
Thoughts on how this campaign season has been conducted? I wish people were paying more attention to inconsistencies in the answers candidates are providing. As a candidate, if I point it out, it seems petty – but these are very important things to identify before people get into office. Perhaps having my hobby as an investigative journalist on Newport Council issues has allowed me to see these inconsistencies more clearly.
What would be your first action, project or idea for Council? Stop the violations of Prop13 by unwinding the Dock Tax. Commission a study with MesaWater to seek out ability to share resources. Restore the Fire Rings. Legalize Dog Beach access. Stop violations of the Greenlight Initiative (you know – follow laws). Begin steps to aggressively pay-down our unfunded liabilities before it is too late (in eight years, it is too late).
Thoughts on the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Plan and alternative ideas? Continual bad outreach by the developer to the community. Yes, they have property rights, but they should also be good neighbors. Right now, they aren’t.
Reader Submitted Question: What would you like to see done with the Balboa Theater property? I would have liked to have seen taxpayer-owned property sold for the offer of $1.7 million which was being offered rather than the $1million that it was sold for, to a friend of the council’s. That’s $700,000 in taxpayer money that was stolen from our city’s coffers.
Expand/Add: Banning Ranch offered to build only 900 units instead of 1,400, give the public 80 percent of their property, un-fence it, and clean it up (it’s an active oil field now). I think that’s a good deal. The city’s plan to pay off unfunded pension needs to be a lot more aggressive. I’m the only candidate who does not have a campaign manager, and the only one in District 5 who is not backed by PACs, IEs, or other organized special interest groups. I’m the only one not endorsed by current council, a council who has seized property, increased taxes and violated Prop13.
Jeff Herdman ■ District 5 ■ jeffherdman.com
Why are you running? To continue giving back to the city, and to preserve our past and protect our future.
Favorite spot in Newport Beach? Crab Point (Little Balboa Island).
Biggest issues facing Newport Beach? According to the polls, traffic and development (reuse of existing land).
How long have you lived in Newport Beach and in your district? 62 years (since l954).
Consider yourself No/slow/pro-growth? Reasoned and thoughtful re-use of existing land while following the General Plan.
Thoughts on recording candidate forums? Major candidate forums should continue to be recorded and broadcast on the Newport Beach channel. Not all voters are able to attend the forums, and every opportunity available should be made to reach the voters in order to allow them to make an informed vote.
Position on city funded arts? I fully support funding of the arts; an integral part of our city’s culture and reputation.
Ideas and issues for the harbor? The Harbor Master Capital Improvement Plan developed by the Tidelands Management Committee should be fully implemented (a master plan of projects reaching out to the year 2055).
Thoughts on how this campaign season has been conducted? I have fully enjoyed my past year of campaigning. This experience has introduced me to a whole new audience of people that had I not made the decision to run for city council, I would have never met. I am so very impressed with the interest and passion that people have for our city, a passion that I share.
What would be your first action, project or idea for Council? Campaign Reform would be one of the first projects I would attempt to initiate. There is a need to develop and implement campaign contribution disclosures, empower the city attorney to enforce campaign codes and laws, and limit the amount and time duration of when campaign donations can be made in order to bring city council elections back to the purpose of electing the best qualified candidates.
Thoughts on the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Plan and alternative ideas? Excellent steps have been taken to involve all stake holders in the Mariners’ Mile revitalization efforts. Several meetings have been held with all of the stake holders who choose to participate in this process, and the outcome appears to be an excellent example of consensus building.
Reader Submitted Question: Stance on short-term rentals and tent control? I do not support rent control in the city of Newport Beach. The city has developed a plan for the management of short-term rentals that appears to be effective with provisions for the reevaluation of the plan one year after implementation. The critical piece of this plan is enforcement which is the key to the effective implementation of all city codes and ordinances.
Expand/Add: My campaign is based on the fact that I simply want to give back to this city that we are all so privileged to live in. My primary focus on the council will be to truly represent the majority opinion, even if that goes against my own personal opinion. The people of Newport Beach can rely on me to be approachable, to listen, to be decisive, and to always try to build consensus. Providing high quality public services, thoughtful and reasoned problem-solving as it relates to traffic, land reuse, and water quality, and continuing to keep crime rates at a significantly low level will be my priorities.
Lee Lowrey ■ District 5 ■ lowreyfornewport.com
Why are you running? 1) Keep NB public safety top in class, 2) stop massive city wide debt spending, 3) reduce public employee pension debt, 4) curtail drug abuse in NB schools.
Favorite spot in Newport Beach? Gulfstream.
Biggest issues facing Newport Beach? Unfunded public employee pension liabilities.
How long have you lived in Newport Beach and in your district? 18 years in city, eight months in district.
Consider yourself No/slow/pro-growth? Smart growth.
Thoughts on recording candidate forums? I don’t see any issues recording candidate forums. OK by me.
Position on city funded arts? Perfect case for private public partnerships. City can provide public areas and access for privately funded art. NB residents will get the best of both worlds. Beautiful art in public spaces provided by private support.
Ideas and issues for the harbor? The harbor is a $200 million economic engine for NB. We must provide continual upkeep for public spaces such as the Balboa Island sea wall, channel dredging, etc. The harbor needs focus from city leaders and this will be one of my top priorities.
Thoughts on how this campaign season has been conducted? Even with the large number of candidates running, it is a typical city wide campaign season. Not many surprises. Things seem to be going as expected.
What would be your first action, project or idea for Council? One of my first projects will be to put a task force together for the Balboa Island sea walls. As a major tourist draw and public infrastructure concern, it is a top priority for the city and especially the residents who live on Balboa Island.
Thoughts on the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Plan and alternative ideas? I have seen a number of conceptual plans for the revitalization of Mariner’s Mile. A number of the plans have a similar feel to downtown La Jolla which I like. It is an exciting time to be part of a project that will define a portion of our city for the next half century. I hope we see large scale public participation in planning one of the most important areas of our city.
Reader Submitted Question: Explain complaint about exceeding contribution limits and your stance on the suggested campaign reform proposal: My campaign received two checks with one check having the initials of the business organization in question and the other spelt out. The amount was $150 over the limit. Once the overage amount was found out it was properly refunded.
Of the various campaign proposals that have been suggested, one that I would vote yes on would be for all city wide lobbyists to be registered in the same fashion state wide lobbyist must be registered with the state.
Expand/Add: I know how special our city is, and I will keep Newport Beach the indisputable gem of Orange County. My overall guiding philosophy will always center around the principle that the residents and businesses are what make Newport Beach the greatest place to live, work and visit.
Fred Ameri ■ District 7 ■ fredameri.com
Why are you running? I am passionate about public service and giving back to my community and country that have given me the opportunity to work hard and achieve all my goals in life.
Favorite spot in Newport Beach? The preserve in the Back Bay area. It’s serenity must be protected by dredging where needed and protect its natural beauty.
Biggest issues facing Newport Beach? Over-development and the traffic it generates. It is still not too late to go back to follow our General Plan and Greenlight initiative for any new project that comes before City Council.
How long have you lived in Newport Beach and in your district? OC for 55 years and Newport Beach and district 7 for last 19 years. We intend to live the rest of our lives in our home in Harbor Ridge community.
Consider yourself No/slow/pro-growth? I consider myself a “reasonable growth” activist. I have no problem with new development, as long as it follows the G.P. and G.I.
Thoughts on recording candidate forums? I have no problem with recording candidate forums. I’ve had all the debates recorded and I would like to be able to review when I am elected to remind me of the issues that were discussed.
Position on city funded arts? I consider myself a lover of all kinds of art, both for enjoyment and an educational tool, but we all have priorities in life. We need to look at projects that are needed and those that are discretionary. Secondly, the Arts Commissions needs to concentrate on raising money from the private sector and have the city contribute based on a matching fund concept.
Ideas and issues for the harbor? We must protect and improve our harbor to first class facilities. Construction and repair of the sea walls are one of my most important priorities.
Thoughts on how this campaign season has been conducted? I intended to run a clean campaign and concentrate on the issues. But I quickly found out that it was not the case. I have gone through winning a lawsuit regarding my name and, recently, inappropriate sign and mutilation of my campaign signs. It just takes a few people to change the image of our city for the negative by these actions.
What would be your first action, project or idea for Council? My very first action would be to create a consensus among the council members. I want to make sure we are all transparent. When we disagree and vote on what we believe in, let the residents be the judge.
Thoughts on the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Plan and alternative ideas? Being a retired professional urban planner and traffic engineer for 44 years, I have so many innovative ideas, some that have been tested in other cities, that I cannot summarize in a few sentences.
Reader Submitted Question: How is traffic a “regional issue” and how can it be improved? Traffic, being a major issue, has so many facets. The issue is so technical that anyone without some knowledge simply cannot make a rational decision. A traffic study can be prepared a hundred different ways. It takes an expert to analyze the assumed parameters and how they are interpreted. We must communicate with our neighbor cities that affect our traffic and agree on a regional plan that we all will be bound to follow. Unfortunately, we are at the receiving end for traffic that is generated by visitors from our neighboring cities.
Expand/Add: I have tried to bring up the most important issues with having limited space. Our council must recognize that our residents have put their trust in us to do the best job for our city. That is not a choice on our part, but a duty.
Phil Greer ■ District 7 ■ philgreer2016.com
Why are you running? To preserve and protect the history, traditions and community that are Newport Beach. I am running to bring civility back to local politics and to give the residents a voice that can be heard over that of the special interests.
Favorite spot in Newport Beach? Rothschilds in Corona del Mar.
Biggest issues facing Newport Beach? Development, traffic and the unfunded pension liability. My endorsement by Line in the Sand shows my commitment to protecting the community from over-development and the traffic problems. My years on the County’s Public Finance Advisory Committee demonstrate my ability to deal with complex financial issues.
How long have you lived in Newport Beach and in your district? 22 years in the same home, in the same district.
Consider yourself No/slow/pro-growth? Very slow growth.
Thoughts on recording candidate forums? All candidate forums should be recorded and broadcast. The public should be able to see and hear the candidates.
Position on city funded arts? Art and culture are the heart and soul of any city. I am a strong proponent of the city funding the arts.
Ideas and issues for the harbor? Dredging and the sea walls are the primary issues facing the Harbor, which is one of our most prized resources. We must do everything possible to protect, preserve and enhance our harbor its facilities.
Thoughts on how this campaign season has been conducted? Some people have behaved well and some people have not behaved as well as they should.
What would be your first action, project or idea for Council? My first order of business would be to stop Museum House and review all proposed development projects within the city to ensure that they conform to the general plan and the needs and wishes of the community. I would look at all spot zoning proposals and variance requests to ensure that they are in compliance with the city’s vision.
Thoughts on the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Plan and alternative ideas? Mariners’ Mile Renovation has to, again, conform to the area in terms of the businesses that are there and how they are developed.
Reader Submitted Question: Explain your ongoing litigation and how/if it could interfere with your campaign and/or work on council: The ongoing litigation is trivial and has had absolutely no impact on the campaign and will have even less impact on my work on the council.
Expand/Add: By combining years of practical business, financial and legal experience with over two decades of homeownership in Newport Beach, and then adding years of community service and a passion to serve the community that has given so much to my family and myself, the result is a candidate for city council who not only has some sand between his toes and some seaweed in the trunk of his car but has the experience, expertise and commitment to serve our community with no agenda other than to give back.
Will O’Neill ■ District 7 ■ oneillfornewport.com
Why are you running? We must preserve and enhance why families have moved to Newport Beach in decades past – for decades to come.
Favorite spot in Newport Beach? Our backyard with my wife, our children, and our friends looking out toward our world-class city.
Biggest issues facing Newport Beach? Our city faces over $500 million in long-term liabilities from unfunded pension costs and Civic Center debt. That figure was less than $10 million ten years ago.
How long have you lived in Newport Beach and in your district? My wife and I are raising our children in a home we have owned over three years.
Consider yourself No/slow/pro-growth? I support revitalization efforts, like Lido Marina Village. And who wouldn’t want greater access to the harbor with a boardwalk along Mariner’s Mile?
Thoughts on recording candidate forums? Nearly all of our dozen-plus candidate forums were recorded. Voters have had ample opportunity to hear the differences between the candidates.
Position on city funded arts? Support continued public funding of our arts, but not by relying on developer fee agreements to fund the rotating civic center sculpture garden as required by Council Policy I-13. That developer fee fund – called the “Cultural Arts and Facilities Fund” – is projected to syphon away over $1M from developer mitigation efforts (traffic, environmental, etc.) in the coming years.
Ideas and issues for the harbor? Develop a plan to repair/replace our harbor infrastructure such as seawalls; local control of the mooring fields; work toward reducing the eight-figure deficit in the tidelands harbor capital fund; work with Councilman Duffield, Brad Avery, and our devoted Harbor Commission.
Thoughts on how this campaign season has been conducted? The debate forums have been well-run, respectful, substantive and informative. Walking precincts and meeting with neighbors throughout the city has been a real treat (thank you if you opened your door!). Folks have responded positively to our message of fiscal conservatism and facilitating community leadership.
What would be your first action, project or idea for Council? Add study session items addressing (1) our city’s debt policies, (2) unfunded pension liability as discussed at Finance Committee; and (3) development of a harbor master plan. Eliminate asset forfeiture funding. Address unfunded mandate inside our sewer enterprise fund. Address city council review and approval of master plans within the city that have expenditure components. Request city attorney address city’s ability to recover federal government subsidy shortfall on civic center bonds.
Thoughts on the Mariners’ Mile Revitalization Plan and alternative ideas? The city should work toward taking over local control of PCH along Mariners’ Mile, like it did in Corona del Mar. Bicycle safety, traffic, neighborhood outreach, and helping our local businesses should all be priorities. We should not widen the lanes to make traffic faster in an area filled with bicyclists and businesses that rely on thoroughfare commerce. Working with businesses to revitalize the area (akin to CdM or Lido Marina Village) will be vital, especially if we can develop a boardwalk.
Reader Submitted Question: Explain your “back to basics budgeting” style and how that will help/apply to the city finances and/or paying back unfunded pensions? I support back to basics budgeting that prioritizes improved infrastructure, liability reduction, and restoring Newport Harbor. Our city faces over $500,000,000 in unfunded pension liability ($315M) and civic center debt ($220M+). Ten years ago, that figure was almost zero. Left unchecked, these long-term liabilities will crowd out quality-of-life services that we have come to expect, such as fire, police, and lifeguards. Our harbor also needs substantial infrastructure improvement, including dredging and repairing/replacing aging seawalls. That effort will be made difficult by the eight-figure deficient created inside the tidelands capital improvement fund. But difficulty will not dissuade good action.
Expand/Add: Declined to state on Museum House and Porsche AutoNation due to pending matter (Woody’s Wharf).
Newport Beach’s schools, safe streets, houses of worship, and natural beauty draw families like mine here every year. Promoting community leadership and preserving what drew my family here are core reasons for my candidacy. I have been humbled to receive strong support from past and present council members and mayors, Finance Committee members, Planning Commissioners, Civil Service Board members, Harbor Commissioners, Parks, Beaches & Recreation Commissioners, our police and fire associations, leaders in other cities, and the Chair of the OCTA. We will continue to rally around preserving our culture and neighborhood relationships.