July 2014.

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dailypilot.com/news/tn-dpt-me-0731-newport-grand-jury-pension-20140730,0,3051396.story

Grand jury data on pension liabilities paint varied pictures

The panel blames lack of adequate budget numbers for shortcomings in its evaluation of the effects of unfunded obligations.

By Emily Foxhall

7:17 PM PDT, July 30, 2014

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In a report aiming to evaluate how cities are being affected by pension liabilities, the Orange County Grand Jury called for area cities to make more budget information readily available.

Lacking the desired data, the 2013-14 group tried to use its own measurements to illustrate the effects.

Depending on which is used, the two measurements can offer very different perceptions of some cities’ ability to meet their pension obligations.

Among 10 Orange County cities studied, Newport Beach had the highest unfunded liability per capita (per resident), but the lowest as a percentage of general-fund revenue. The report said those metrics “would not be needed if the cities provided adequate budget data!”

Newport Beach had unfunded liabilities of $274,594,522, according to data as of June 30, 2012,provided to the grand jury by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. That number reflects the difference between the city’s assets and the amount needed to meet pension liabilities.

Evaluating the impact of unfunded liabilities on a city such as Newport Beach would be feasible with more information, the report said.

“It would be a simple matter of checking whether a city’s predicted revenues for current and future years are sufficient to meet total planned expenditures in those years, including the pension-related expenditures,” it said.

Instead, the report applied measurements related to the census and cities’ general funds.

Newport Beach’s population was just over 87,000, according to the report, making the unfunded liability nearly $3,154 per person — the highest amount among the 10 cities deemed comparable.

The second- and third-highest ranking cities when measured per capita were Brea and Laguna Beach, at about $2,325 and $2,292, respectively.

Costa Mesa’s liability per capita ranked fourth-highest at $2,039.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff said such numbers are flawed, misleading and inaccurate, providing information counter to the report’s intention.

“It actually moves the bar the wrong way,” he said. “Instead of educating people, it misleads.”

Though the 10 cities compared included only those that use city employees for police and fire protection in addition to nonsafety city services, Kiff said they still differ in services that their nonsafety employees provide.

He offered Costa Mesa as an example, noting its water and sewer systems are managed by agencies other than the city. Those outside employees have pensions, too, but those amounts were not counted.

A city like Newport Beach that provides many services in-house often gets singled out on pensions, Kiff said. “It always identifies Newport because we have everything under one roof,” he said.

Kiff added that the per-capita amount is not an accurate reflection of a resident’s obligations. The city serves many daytime workers and tourists who also pay into pension costs, be it through buying a car at a local dealership, parking in a metered lot or staying at a hotel, he said.

“People keep thinking that it’s just the resident that has to pay for this, and it’s not,” he said.

Laguna Beach likewise has a lot of tourists, said City Manager John Pietig, who also cautioned that the per-capita measurement can be misleading.

Cities would best be evaluated individually, he said.

Still, the solution to a lack of public understanding of a city’s pension burden wouldn’t be solved simply by throwing out more numbers, said Fred Smoller, an associate professor of political science at Chapman University in Orange.

“It’s not enough to simply put the data out there,” Smoller said. “They have to be analyzed and interpreted and put into context in order for them to have meaning and therefore be accessible to the public.

“This is another example of how the shortfall in news coverage is undermining public discussion of a critical issue,” he added. “Do cities really have an incentive to let people know what public pensions cost?”

Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer said the context in which a city arrived at its current obligations also is important to public understanding.

“There is a train wreck coming and there has to be some kind of warning,” Righeimer said.

Though Newport Beach had the highest unfunded liability per capita in the report, it also stacked up as the city most able to handle its liabilities when city revenue is considered.

Newport Beach’s unfunded pension liabilities came out to 107.5 percent as a measurement of general fund revenue – $255,333,875 – in the 2013-14 budget.

The second- and third-lowest were Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach, at 109.7 and 112.1 percent, respectively.

Kiff believes those statistics better reflect a city’s status but still are not totally accurate, since they do not take into account other obligations.

“You can’t just stop paving the streets,” he said.

The report also shared misgivings: “A significant drawback to the General Fund Percentage metric is the difficulty to achieve any reliable apples-to-apples comparison since city revenues are structured differently.”

Kiff said cities instead should be evaluated on whether they have sustainable plans to pay off the liabilities.

To mitigate costs in Newport Beach, employees will pay more toward their pensions over time, new employees will receive less-generous packages and outsourcing is being considered where it can be, he said.

When it comes to the overall approach, “We think we measure up pretty well there,” Kiff said.

The city intends to pay off its unfunded liability for safety employees in 25 years and for nonsafety in 21 years, Kiff said.

City Finance Department Director Dan Matusiewicz said Newport is trying to take a “balanced approach,” setting aside money to cover things such as unexpected costs, workers’ compensation and equipment replacement.

But Newport Beach resident and political consultant Dave Ellis thinks the city should be able to pay down its liability faster.

“It’s a policy decision, ” he said. “Newport is a very wealthy city. It has that option.”

UNFUNDED LIABILITIES PER CAPITA

Newport Beach: $3,154

Brea: $2,325

Laguna Beach: $2,292

Costa Mesa: $2,039

Anaheim: $1,784

Huntington Beach: $1,718

Orange: $1,532

Fullerton: $1,319

Fountain Valley: $1,288

Garden Grove: $1,215

UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITIES AS PERCENT OF GENERAL FUND REVENUES

Orange: 237%

Garden Grove: 229.4%

Costa Mesa: 221.1%

Fountain Valley: 196.4%

Brea: 189.7%

Anaheim: 124.5%

Fullerton: 118.4%

Huntington Beach: 112.1%

Laguna Beach: 109.7%

Newport Beach: 107.5%

Source: 2013-2014 Orange County Grand Jury report, “Orange county City Pension Liabilities”

Dear Newport Harbor Dock Owner,

We’ve had quite a ride over the past 2 ½ years. We had to sue to restore the equity in your dock that was stripped away in the adoption of the Dock Tax. We were unable to modify the Dock Tax rate in the lawsuit settlement negotiation.

Thus, over the next 4 years your Dock Tax will increase 350%, unless a new city council is elected that is more realistic.

The Dock Tax is projected by city staff to raise roughly $1 million.

Rush Hill has created a “Permit Holiday” program to run during his mayoral term of 2014. It’s a typical give-away program politicians use in election years to curry favor with voters.

You can read a city memo here that discloses the Rush Hill Permit Holiday program has cost the city about a million dollars so far – about the same amount as the Dock Tax.

Is the Dock Tax paying for Rush Hill’s Permit Holiday?

Respectfully,

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Bob McCaffrey
Volunteer Chairman, Residents for Reform

P.S. Residents for Reform is funded with small donations from Newporters concerned about our city’s future. You can help keep our campaign going by donating here.

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BY AMY SENK / FOR THE REGISTER

The city of Newport Beach has submitted a coastal development permit application for a charcoal-only beach fire ring pilot program.

The city’s 60 beach fire rings have been charcoal-only since March in an effort to comply with new rules from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. In June, City Manager Dave Kiff confirmed that the city planned to conduct a 26-month pilot program.

The city’s 50-page application was submitted on July 17, and signs announcing the pending application have been posted.

According to the city’s application, the city has staff “dedicated to overseeing the use of the fire ring areas near the Balboa Pier and on the Corona del Mar State Beach.”

“These staff members serve not only to ensure the charcoal only rule is complied with, but also as reconnaissance in the field,” the application said.

Since beginning the charcoal-only program, the application states, the same general numbers of people are using the rings as before, and for about the same length of time.

Fewer than 5 percent of visitors choose to go to Huntington Beach to burn wood, and although noncompliance exists when staff members are not present, the city believes “that smoke levels are significantly decreased,” the application states.

The pilot program would not involve moving or removing and rings and would continue education and outreach and increased staffing to monitor ring usage, the application states. The application also includes a photo of six women smiling in front of a blazing fire that appears to be fueled by a mound of charcoal.

The Coastal Commission has not yet posted online its August meeting agenda, and it is unclear when the Newport Beach charcoal application will be scheduled.

Some residents who live near the fire rings have praised the charcoal-only rules and believe that smoke pollution has been reduced since the rules have been in place.

But many beach visitors have expressed the opposite opinion, said Doug Swardstrom, a leader of the Friends of the Fire Rings group that is working to bring wood bonfires back to the beach.

– Amy Senk writes for Corona del Mar Today.

Councilman Petros is a nice guy.  But it appears that he is the city manager’s ventriloquist.  One of our volunteers annotated Petros’ commentary.  I thought you would enjoy it.

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dailypilot.com/opinion/tn-dpt-me-0706-commentary1-20140701,0,3062868.story

Commentary: Newport is fiscally sound, and council intends to keep it that way

By Tony Petros

9:42 AM PDT, July 1, 2014

Two years into a four-year Newport Beach City Council term, it is not unusual for me to still feel like “the new guy.”

But in those two years, I’ve had opportunities to contribute to many city committee and council efforts and have added to my existing knowledge. I appreciate more how this multimillion-dollar operation works.

Fresh on the heels of the council’s adoption of a balanced budget for Newport Beach’s fiscal year 2014-15, I want to share a few highlights from my experience on the City Council’s Finance Committee and describe what this full-service, municipal operation is working on.

The 2014-15 budget is a $280-million plan. The approved expenditures are less than the revenue projections, putting Newport Beach on tap for another year of surplus and another year to further bolster reserves. [The city’s budget documents show in 2003 total revenues from all sources was $110 million. According to Tony this year budget is $280 million —  a 172% increase in 11 years.  Our population grew about 4,500 with the addition of Newport Coast in 2003.]

City revenues from its share of the property, sales and hotel occupancy taxes collected by the state have increased steadily over the past 10 years. The rise can be attributed to growth in our local business community, visitors and property values — not tax increases. Those tax rates are set by the state or voters.  [the growth has come in the size, depth, and cost of local government.  For example, last year the city librarian made more than the Governor of California.]

As these revenues grow, the city has more money to invest back into the public realm. We can build more parks, landscape more streets, improve more libraries and fund more public safety services. As we do, the value of our community will rise and subsequent revenues increase. [The only parks built by the city in the last decade is the passive park at PCH & Jamboree and basketball courts in West Newport.  Any new parks were built by the developers of the Castaways (Bob Henry Park), Newport Coast (Bonita Canyon Park, Newport Ridge Park, & Coastal Peak Park) as part of the development agreement negotiated with the County of Orange in the mid-80’s.] 

It is a prime example of a virtuous cycle. Ever-growing investment in the city leads to ever-growing valuation of our community and ever-growing reinvestment in neighborhoods, business, local environment and beaches.

For example, investment in public right-of-way spurs residence and business improvements, thus increasing the value of the property. Increased shopping opportunities provide for greater sales tax receipts. The increase in the number of hotel rooms, the quality of these destinations and the efforts of Visit Newport Beach increase hotel occupancy and the associated tax. [Visit Newport is a unregulated non-profit corporation with no public oversight.  It does not post agendas or have public meetings, yet it spends $4 million a year in hotel bed tax dollars.]

I believe the public-private investment strategy is working. The assessed valuation of Newport Beach properties has increased every year since 2003. And last year, we had the highest percent increase in assessed valuation of any city in Orange County.[The assessed valuation increase he references is due to the annexation of Newport Coast in 2003 – the housing values of the Coast are significant thus larding up the city coffers with significant additional property taxes.]

Our commitment to public investment is also evidenced in how the city serves its residents, businesses and visitors. Our employees are exceptional. My friends and colleagues around town expect a beautifully maintained community and high-quality recreation, library, police, lifeguard, fire, senior and other municipal services. They should and we are committed to continuing to deliver platinum-level service even as we further reduce the city’s full-time staff.  [Keep reducing.  Salaries and benefits were $130 million this year. 30 employees made more than the Governor of California, including the librarian.]

We know what you expect and we have the staff to deliver it. We also know, however, that government manpower here comes with a public pension system mandated by the state. That system is flawed and has issues that can’t be punted into the future.  [CalPERS does not set wages, salaries, and benefits.  They invest money.  The city council sets wages and benefits after negotiating with the respective bargaining units.  Blaming CalPERS for our local decisions is disingenuous.]

You have probably read or heard about the unfunded pension liabilities prevalent throughout California and the country. It’s a serious problem, and a lot of public agencies can barely get enough traction to make effective changes.

Not ours. We asked our employees to pay more toward the cost of their pensions and they agreed. They will fund $7.4 million of the city’s pension costs through payroll deductions in fiscal year 2014-15. The city took a major, but little noticed, step in 2013 to accelerate the payments on the city’s unfunded liability. [According to the Orange County Grand Jury Newport Beach has the highest unfunded pension liability of any city in the County.  At $3,100 per resident it needs to be paid down quicker.  Irvine is doing it in less than ten years.]

Doing so eliminates that liability in 21 to 25 years and saves the city millions in interest. We will not just pay down the current unfunded liability. We will pay it off, relieving taxpayers of this burden. The City Council and staff are not “kicking the can” down the road, hoping the problem goes away or the market makes a miraculous recovery. [See above.  Sometimes being #1 isn’t the goal.]

No, we’re dealing with it today.

I want to address one other topic, one that is often misconstrued — debt. There can be good reasons to issue bonds to fund improvements that will cross multiple generations. Our city fathers and mothers realized this years ago. Debt financed one of Newport Beach’s earliest school houses in 1905 and the city’s first water system in 1909.

Newport harbor’s jetties were funded by $700,000 in bonds in 1927 and 1928. And $1.16 million from FDR’s “New Deal” National Recovery Act of 1930 helped dredge the harbor, but an additional $640,000 in local bonds matched it. Many of the iconic places of Newport Beach were created through bond indebtedness, and those bonds were paid off and retired. [Each of the examples of debt cited resulted in the economic development of Newport Beach.  How does $228 million in debt for the Taj Mahal result in economic development for our city?  And, the land was free.]

Newport Beach has recently carried debt too. The Central Library was funded with bonds as was the water system that links to the groundwater basin in Fountain Valley. In 2011-12, our bonded debt was $126.6 million (this is the Civic Center’s bonds). At the end of the coming year, it will be $116.5 million. Debt service is 4.6% of our general fund revenues, which is well below the conservative threshold (at 8%) recommended by Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard and Poor’s. [Over the past decade, this crop of councilmembers has accrued more debt than the prior 90 years of the city’s history combined.  That’s not a legacy to be proud of.]

I’ve worked on a lot during my 30-plus months as the “new guy” on the council, and what I’ve shared here is merely a snapshot. The underlying theme is that the city is fiscally strong and getting even stronger. I attribute that to our citizens and businesses.

You just wouldn’t have us run the place any other way. That long-held expectation has meant we invest wisely, spend conservatively and manage carefully to keep our community’s virtuous cycle moving.  [Tony, $1,100 desk chairs and $225,000 in decorative bunnies at the city hall that was supposed to cost $90 million but ended up costing $228 million (debt service included) suggests differently.  But, you’re a nice guy for trying.]

TONY PETROS is a member of the Newport Beach City Council.

BY NICOLE SHINE / STAFF WRITER

 The invitation-only Newport Beach Government Academy was held at City Hall from April to June. Some residents wonder whether the workshop was a waste of tax dollars and why invitees were hand-picked.
JOSHUA SUDOCK , ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

NEWPORT BEACH – The invitations promised insiders a peek at city government in a workshop funded by a Newport Beach tourism marketing group.

Of the 31 residents and City Council hopefuls who were invited, about a dozen said yes to Newport Beach Government Academy – a free class from April to June.

“I felt privileged to be asked,” said Michael Toerge, who sits on the city Planning Commission and is running for City Council. He posted the academy certificate on his campaign Facebook page.

The academy was held at City Hall twice a month from 6 to 8 p.m., an attendee said. Attendees leafed through handouts on municipal governance and watched PowerPoint presentations delivered by city staff, including the fire captain, police chief, city attorney, finance director and human resources head.

The Newport Beach Foundation organized the academy. The foundation is a nonprofit subsidiary of Newport Beach & Company, the city’s tourism marketing arm. The city gives Newport Beach & Company a share of bed taxes, which amounted to $3.6 million last fiscal year, according to a city staff report.

The foundation, in turn, got a $5,000 grant from Newport Beach & Company. The money covered start-up costs for the new foundation and course materials for the academy.

Attendees included some past and current candidates for City Council, such as Diane Dixon and Joe Stapleton, along with local leaders culled from municipal boards and commissions.

“It was a combination of people I know and people who had served on city boards and commissions,” said Homer Bludau, a former Newport Beach city manager and now the foundation’s executive director. He said he made the list of 31 invitees after sifting through paperwork submitted by applicants to boards and commissions at the City Clerk’s Office.

Invitations to the academy didn’t arrive in the mailboxes of all council hopefuls.

One City Council candidate, Michael Glenn, wondered whether the training was an appropriate use of tax dollars meant to market the city. Others wondered whether the city’s marketing arm, Newport Beach & Company, was giving an inside track to a hand-picked few.

“Are they trying to pick who their new bosses are going be?” asked Scott Peotter. A former Planning Commissioner who is running for City Council, Peotter wasn’t invited to the classes.

Dennis O’Neil, chairman of the Newport Beach Foundation, said the foundation’s board is made up of community leaders volunteering their time, such as Marian Bergeson, a former state legislator and secretary of education.

The foundation’s stated goal is “identifying and investing in leadership talent through meaningful educational development.”

“It wasn’t set up to educate people who were running for office,” O’Neil said. “It turned out that two of the candidates were (running). If elected, I think that would make for more knowledgeable leaders.”

He said he and Bludau will sit down with the current city manager to discuss whether the academy, still in a pilot stage, should be expanded. He said it’s likely the classes would be open to the public in the future.

Stapleton, an attendee, likened some of the material to Leadership Tomorrow, a Newport Beach-based nonprofit that provides lessons on a host of civic issues through a collaboration with leaders in cities including Irvine and Costa Mesa. The program, according to its website, is open to any Orange County resident.

Contact the writer: nshine@ocregister.com or Twitter:@nicolekshine

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By TERI SFORZA / STAFF COLUMNIST

image0-O.C. Grand jury finds $3.3 billion retirement hole

So let’s start with the bracing news: Orange County cities have promised their workers more than $3.3 billion in retirement benefits that they do not have.

But smile in the face of danger: Thanks to unpleasant prodding from CalPERS, they’ll be painfully paying down that debt in coming years. It will hurt – likely impacting programs for Joe Citizen – but it should not cripple any bergs in O.C. (though the same obviously can’t be said for the likes of Stockton, San Bernardino or Vallejo, which are either in or teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, thanks largely to retirement obligations).

This latest in local public pension number-crunching comes courtesy of the Orange County grand jury, which examined unfunded liabilities and urged greater transparency in a recent report.

“The 2013-2014 Grand Jury is aware that there is a political element to any discussion of unfunded pension liabilities,” it said up front. “Unions may view the problem as being exaggerated as a means to weaken the power of public employee unions and strip hard-won benefits and influence future negotiations. Others are concerned with the affordability of pensions that many people describe as ‘generous.’” (We at The Watchdog cop to that last part).

“The public commitment to addressing the issues in a timely manner and accepting some pain now and not pushing the issues off to the future must be in place,” the grand jury continued in a slightly-scolding tone. “If unfunded pension liabilities are not addressed, cities could reach a crisis where outcomes are painful enough that they affect the quality of life in Orange County.”

Big picture:

• Orange County cities have promised workers $10.45 billion in retirement benefits.

• They have set aside $7.13 billion to pay these benefits.

• That, unfortunately, leaves them the aforementioned $3.32 billion short.

• On average, O.C. cities have just 68.2 percent of the money they’ll need stashed away – far less than the 80 percent figure many strive for (though some experts say even 80 percent isn’t good enough).

• The most underfunded city is Costa Mesa, at just 61.9 percent, followed closely by Newport Beach (62.2 percent), Garden Grove (65.8 percent) and Huntington Beach (66 percent).

• The most well-funded cities are Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Dana Point, Lake Forest and Aliso Viejo, all at 77.2 percent.

• For a great many, what they owe exceeds what they spend in an entire year; for some, it exceeds what they spend in two years.

Why should you care? These retirement benefits are guaranteed. If there’s not enough money in the pot, California taxpayers must make up the difference.

“Money spent by OC cities to deal with unfunded pension obligations necessarily comes at the expense of other services cities provide to their residents,” the grand jury wrote. “Catch up contributions to amortize these unfunded liabilities can be a significant expenditure in a city’s budget, and the growth and unpredictability of these unfunded liabilities make it difficult to budget for future years.

“Orange County cities made painful cuts in services to their residents in response to the 2008 Great Recession and would like to restore these services as the economy recovers,” it continued. “However, restoration of services will be delayed or even further reduced in many cities until unfunded liabilities are dealt with.”

FUN WITH MATH

Now, measuring the depth of pension holes is as much art as science. How to compute the value of current investments – by fair market value, or by egghead actuarial value? And how much interest do you expect to earn on those investments each year – as much as 7.5 percent, as little as 5 percent? How long do you expect people to live?

The answers to those questions grow or shrink the hole. So it’s a bit like gazing into a crystal ball.

Of course, what counts right now is how the California Public Employees Retirement System answers these questions. It is Pension Czar for 33 of O.C.’s 34 cities, and after some extremely optimistic assumptions more than a decade ago (Everything’s going great and always will! Give better retirement benefits to your workers – it’ll cost nearly nothing!)CalPERS has gone all Grinch.

It lowered the expected rate of return on investments (which deepens the hole). It’s going to increase expected lifespans for retirees (which deepens the hole). It’s using marketrather than actuarial value for investments (which deepens the hole).

If you just use actuarial (rather than market) value for investments, the hole for O.C. cities instantly shrinks $1.4 billion! the grand jury noted. Down to $1.9 billion, from the aforementioned $3.3 billion!

But enough daydreaming. The economic recovery has indeed translated into revenue increases for cities – but those increases will likely be consumed playing catch-up on unfunded pension liabilities. “For example, one city’s internal budget shows pension contributions ramping up from 8 percent to 12 percent of their General Fund and remaining there for several years and then ramping back down to 8 percent,” the grand jury wrote.

BEWARE

Public workers are in no way insulated from this pain. They’re kicking in more for their retirements, just as cities are, but one popular move may backfire on Joe Public.

To ease the blow, many public agencies are offsetting newly-required worker contributions with salary hikes. Which can make the picture worse.

“(T)he city of Garden Grove decided to offset an increase of 3 percent in public safety employee pension contributions with a 3 percent increase in salary,” the grand jury noted. “In some ways this looks like a very tempting zero-sum game; the new rules are followed, and the city’s budget and employee’s take home pay are essentially unaffected.

“The catch is that the employee will now have a base salary at retirement 3 percent higher than the pension system had been assuming in predicting its pension payout to that employee. This increased pension payment will be made for the remainder of that employee’s life, i.e., a new unfunded pension liability has been created,” it warned.

ACTION

None of this is news to public agencies, which are doing all sorts of hat dances to make things work. One of the most interesting might be in Irvine.

A year ago, Irvine adopted an “unprecedented plan to aggressively pay down” almost all of its unfunded liability in 10 years. To wit: It’s borrowing from a special fund set aside for infrastructure rehabilitation, and has already kicked in $13 million toward a $141.5 million unfunded liability.

This results in a virtuous cycle of savings. The early payoff will save Irvine some $33 million, which will be put back into the community, Mayor Steven S. Choi said in a prepared statement.

Of course, Irvine is one of the more fiscally comfortable cities in California, known for jealously guarding its infrastructure (and thus having an infrastructure fund of $51 million in cash); many cities can only dream about that sort of cushion.

Anaheim, O.C.’s largest city (not coincidentally with its largest unfunded liability at $612 million), is already making way on the transparency thing. Beginning with the 2014-15 budget, Anaheim’s five-year plan for its general fund calls out expected increases for salaries and benefits, including CalPERS increases due to assumption changes and expected medical cost increases, officials said.

The grand jury admittedly didn’t address the other elephant in the room – promises to pay for retiree medical care, “an issue which deserves attention similar to that needed for pension funding,” it said. Agencies are at least stashing money aside to pay for pensions; almost nothing has been set aside for health care. But that’s another story.

Contact the writer: tsforza@ocregister.comTwitter:@ocwatchdog

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/brown-520364-city-says.html

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Venezia: Tim Brown launches a well-studied candidacy

By BARBARA VENEZIA
CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST
FOR ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

bvontv@earthlink.net

Published: Aug. 8, 2013 Updated: Aug. 21, 2013 12:28 p.m.

I talked with Tim Brown after he announced his candidacy for Newport Beach Councilwoman Leslie Daigle’s District 4 seat last week.

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed him running for office. When Daigle’s seat was up in 2010, he contemplated it, but decided to pass.

Running against an incumbent would be an uphill battle, and Brown knew that.

In 2014 she’s termed out, leveling the political playing field for every candidate itching to replace her – including Brown, a full-time professor at Riverside College and owner of Tim Brown and Associates, an educational consulting firm.

He was planning to announce his campaign in November, but then Roy Englebrecht announced his candidacy for the same seat on July 25.

“I picked up the newspaper and was blindsided by how quickly Roy’s announcement appeared. I needed to get out there and let people know there was more than one candidate in the district race,” he told me.

So Brown moved up his announcement and got busy.

He’s talking with former Daily Pilot city editor Steve Cahn to help him build a campaign website that he hopes to have online in November. He’s also started interviewing campaign consultants.

Is noted Newport consultant Dave Ellis on his short list?

Brown says he hasn’t considered him, but has thought about what his campaign will be like.

“I want this to be a well-organized, well-run campaign – a model for others to follow. Everyone I bring on board needs to share my philosophies,” he said.

Brown says he hopes to raise $100,000.

As an educator, he says he doesn’t have the means to self-fund any part of this.

“I’ll have to rely on folks who think I will do a good job representing them,” he said.

Brown’s banking on his 18 years of involvement in civic organizations, like Rotary, Leadership Tomorrow, and the Chamber of Commerce – to name a few – to put him over the top.

“I have very deep roots in the city and have been part of a lot of groups,” he said. “People know I’m committed to this city.”

Brown’s served on the city’s aviation committee and is a member of the Planning Commission.

While on the city’s finance committee, he helped find finance options for the new City Hall/Civic Center, he says. It’s a project

he strongly defends.

Though some may balk at the $135 million cost, Brown likens it to the Balboa Pavilion.

“When it was built it was very expensive and I’m sure people back then complained about the cost, but look at how important it is today,” he said. “The architecture is unique and it’s become an icon for the city.”

He feels the same will be true in time with the City Hall/Civic Center project.

“Everybody I talk to is in awe when they walk into the building. It’s not difficult to be impressed,” Brown said.

I ask every candidate why they’re running for office. I’ve found people are either ticked off about an issue or power hungry.

Brown says he is neither.

He says city surveys show the majority of Newport residents are content with how the city is being run, but does acknowledge there’ve been a few bumps in the road over the past years.

Brown believes Newport’s leadership has spent money wisely and praises city employees’ efficiency.

“It would be hard to argue the city hasn’t been well led in the last decades,” Brown said. “The voters want to elect someone to continue those responsible leadership qualities.”

At 62 this registered Republican isn’t married, but since 1999 has shared his life with longtime companion Stephanie Murguya and their dog, Simmer.

Brown is already sounding like a seasoned politician to me.

When I asked if he was for or against the beach fire rings, I didn’t get a simple answer.

“When you ask a question like are you for or against, you want a yes or no answer. However, remember, I teach critical thinking and problem solving skills. I do not believe the issue is whether or not we should have fire rings on the beach. I believe the issue is whether or not we can control what people burn in the fire rings on the beach, thus making them less of a nuisance for people who live near them and safer for all of those who enjoy them,” he said.

Brown says he supports the rings, “providing they burn clean and are safe and encourages ideas about alternative fuels.”

Other issues he tells me he’d like to focus on if elected are the revitalization of the Peninsula and Mariners Mile, John Wayne Airport, and preserving the ecosystem in the Back Bay