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By Jill Cowan
8:51 PM PDT, October 21, 2014
Even as councils in neighboring cities have come to accept sharply split votes along political lines as the norm, elected officials in Newport Beach have long said they’ve avoided letting ideological differences get in the way of prudent decision-making.
But now, a slate of four City Council candidates has vowed to shake up the seven-member panel, making for one of the most contentious Newport Beach council elections in recent memory and posing a challenge to the polite, corporate-boardroom-style conservatism that has typified Newport politics for years.
The four candidates have a clear aim: clamp down on what they say is the current council’s wasteful spending.
While the slate’s opponents have said its goals are ideologically driven rather than solution-oriented, its members say they’re reform-minded.
The slate, known as Team Newport, includes Diane Dixon (District 1), Marshall “Duffy” Duffield (District 3), Kevin Muldoon (District 4) and Scott Peotter (District 6).
Among their most vocal opponents is Mayor Rush Hill of District 3, the only incumbent up for reelection Nov. 4.
Tim Brown and Roy Englebrecht are facing off against Muldoon for the seat that will be vacated by termed-out Councilwoman Leslie Daigle.
Michael Toerge is squaring off against Peotter for the seat of termed-out Councilwoman Nancy Gardner.
Dixon is running unopposed for the seat of termed-out Councilman Mike Henn.
Team Newport first coalesced around local activist Bob McCaffrey, who declared his intention to help field a slate of council candidates in March after losing a lengthy fight to keep the city from increasing residential pier fees, which are considered rent for the use of public tidelands.
During that fight, McCaffrey, who headed a group known as Stop the Dock Tax, lambasted the city for spending about $140 million on its new Civic Center, derisively referring to it as the “Taj Mahal.” The nickname has become a rallying cry for members of McCaffrey’s Team Newport.
The Civic Center project is emblematic of the current council’s egregious waste of taxpayer money, Team Newport candidates contend. They have been less specific about how they plan to cut spending, though they have pledged to closely examine various city departments.
McCaffrey didn’t respond to calls seeking comment Tuesday.
To be sure, Newport council members and candidates are almost always Republicans. But some observers have said Team Newport’s existence falls in line with broader political trends.
“The nation is becoming more stratified,” said Fred Smoller, an associate political science professor at Chapman University who closely follows Orange County politics. Local races, he said, “are becoming much more ideological.”
And that, Hill says, is exactly what Newport doesn’t want.
“It’s easiest described as the difference between the way Newport Beach is operated over the last eight to 10 years versus the way Costa Mesa or Irvine have operated,” he said. “We’ve had a council come together that doesn’t vote in packs. One time, two will vote together. Then another time a different two will vote together, but they respect one another. Then it’s off to the next topic.”
Hill said an embrace of differing viewpoints and areas of expertise has been key in helping the council maintain the high level of city service that Newport residents have come to expect.
Members of Team Newport have resisted that characterization.
“It’s interesting how people refer to partisan politics when what they mean is politics they don’t believe in,” Peotter said.
Peotter — a former Irvine resident who led a successful 1989 campaign to remove protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation from an Irvine human-rights ordinance — said sticking to his beliefs doesn’t make him an extremist. He said it makes him principled.
“It’s silly to assume that you wouldn’t work with people to accomplish your ideology,” he said. “I would flip that back on [Hill] and say that his idea of extremism is showing his lack of ideology or a foundation.”
Dave Ellis, a longtime Orange County conservative political consultant and former Orange County Fair Board member who is representing members of Team Newport, chalked up Hill’s claims to sour grapes. The Republican Party of Orange County has endorsed the candidates on the slate but not their opponents.
“When your own party rejects you, it causes you to whine a little bit,” Ellis said.
Steve Rosansky, president of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and a former councilman of nine years, said the tone of the election is unlike anything he has seen in his approximately 15 years of involvement in Newport Beach politics.
The chamber has not endorsed any candidates for council this year.
“In my experience, the slate thing is unusual,” Rosansky said. “It definitely feels different than it has in a long time.”
Duffy Home & Walking a Mile a Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2014
DUFFY WALKING MILE A DAY AS HE RECOVERS FROM BYPASS PROCEDURE
You can’t keep a good man down, especially when he’s Duffy Duffield and he’s running for City Council.
A week after quadruple-bypass surgery at Hoag Hospital, Duffy is up and walking a mile a day around his neighborhood as his rehabilitation quickly progresses.
“I just want to thank everyone for their support and good wishes these past few days,” Duffy says. “You have really helped Terry and I through a trying week.”
Duffy was released from the hospital on Friday, and spent the weekend talking with visiting friends and on the phone with well-wishers, campaign aides and a voters.
Doctors said the 5-hour procedure Oct. 13 went very well and they expect Duffy to make a complete recovery.
Marshall Duffield, known universally as Duffy, is the inventor of the Duffy electric boat and founder and owner of the company that makes them. He is the largest manufacturer of electric boats in the world, with 14,000 Duffys on the lakes and harbors of all continents. He served on the Newport Beach Harbor Commission for 10 years. A frequent visitor to Newport Beach as a young child, he and his family moved here permanently in 1958. He is a graduate of Newport Harbor High School and a member of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.
Duffy Duffield and family friend LJ Edgecomb outside Duffy’s home in Newport Beach. Duffy is walking a mile a day as he quickly recovers from a bypass procedure last week.
On Election Day please support Team Newport.
District 1 – Diane Dixon
District 3 – Duffy Duffield
District 4 – Kevin Muldoon
District 6 – Scott Peotter
Volunteer Chairman, Residents for Reform
P.S. Thank you for your continued support of our effort to restore decorum and fiscal restraint to our city council. Your donations allow us to continue supporting candidates that want change. You can safely donate here.
On December 12, 2012 the city council levied a 350% Dock Tax on Harbor residents. They didn’t need the money. There was no court order, state law, or administrative ruling requiring the tax increase.
At the hearing Rush Hill dropped an S**T bomb on a taxpaying resident. I was offended.
The hearing had to adjourn at 7:00 p.m. so they council christen the new $142.5 Taj Mahal. It was then-councilman Rosansky’s last meeting and he wanted his name on the brass plaque.
I was appalled. I vowed to stay active to elected a new city council that is respectful and fiscally responsible.
Our new TV spot reminds us of Rush Hill’s offensive language.
It’s Time for a Change at city hall. Please support Team Newport.
Commentary: Our city leaders appear to have lost their way
By Denys H. Oberman
5:23 PM PDT, October 15, 2014
My philosophy has always been to openly address challenging issues and commit to achieving meaningful solutions.
I have been actively involved in a number of difficult issues facing our community over the past 15 years — residential neighborhood integrity and safety; revitalization of the Lido/Balboa Penninsula; environmental preservation; and responsible infrastructure and land-use planning.
We have come to a point where the interests of our representatives are clearly not aligned with those of the residents. The City Council says, “It’s not broken, so why fix it?” while the residents are saying, “It’s time for a change.”
An unprecedented groundswell of frustration and discontent with the current city leadership’s decisions and practices has been growing. The November election provides an opportunity for voters to select four new council representatives.
This is a nonpartisan election. The issues relate to our quality of life and the city’s ability to sustain and provide services based on sound fiscal programs.
The new Civic Center is an example of city leaders gone wild. The project began with a residents’ initiative approving the building of a City Hall with $30 million to $60 million cash on hand. The project, despite repeated public objections, quickly got out of hand. The city said no problem and financed the larger project with a certificate of participation, which, unlike bonds, does not require a public vote. This saddled the city with more than $252 million in debt and onerous prepayment penalties. The city is still spending.
In addition, the city regularly invests considerable expense and effort, in the guise of citizen participation, in going through “advisory” processes that are neither consistent with environmental regulations nor administered with adequate disclosure and public process.
Residents jump eagerly to participate, only to learn that the city ignored what they had to say and decided on policies inconsistent with public input or interest. Measure Y and the Lido Village design guidelines are two examples.
Legal claims by individuals and groups against the city have grown, much to the distress of the residents who feel that they have exhausted the administrative process and that this is the only path for equitable relief. This is symptomatic of dysfunction in the city’s administrative process, which I am hopeful will be resolved with new leadership.
It is inexcusable that residents should have to repeatedly resort to formal organization and legal claims to preserve the character, safety and environmental quality of their neighborhoods.
There are seven districts in the city. While the city elects one representative from each district, each council representative is charged with representing the interests of the entire city.
The upcoming election represents an important opportunity to take our city successfully into the future, with leaders who are truly committed to the residents’ goals and values.
DENYS H. OBERMAN, CEO of a strategic advisory firm, has lived in Newport Beach for 25 years.
Newport City Council candidate recovering after heart surgery
BY MEGAN NICOLAI
Chase Rief, Duffield’s son-in-law, said Duffield had chest pains over the weekend and went to Hoag early Sunday. He was scheduled for surgery and went through the roughly five-hour procedure Monday afternoon.
Duffield is running against Mayor Rush Hill for the 3rd District council seat in Newport Beach. He’ll be in the hospital for observation for three to five days, said spokesman Roger Bloom.
Terry Duffield, Duffield’s wife, released a statement thanking the staff at Hoag and promising her husband’s campaign would continue.
“The surgery went well, there are no complications, and the doctors anticipate a full recovery,” she wrote. “He will begin physical therapy by the end of the week.”
Rief said when he saw Duffield in his hospital room, he was already up and joking and chatting with nurses.
“I walked in and he had a huge smile on his face,” Rief said. “He’s taking it easy today. … but he’s a hard worker. I’m sure he’ll be on his iPad emailing in a few days.”
Bloom said while he won’t be able to walk voting precincts or attend candidate forums for a while, Duffield will continue to speak with voters over the phone.
“I just want to stress that the campaign continues,” Bloom said. “We’re all very heartened by that. … We’re looking forward to election day.”
Contact the writer: email@example.com; on Twitter @MeganNicolai
By Bob McCaffrey
1:48 PM PDT, October 2, 2014
Newport Beach Councilman Mike Henn’s recent commentary about the city’s finances is worthy of a response [“Commentary: Prepayment of debt would trigger financial penalties,” Sept. 15]. His condescending reference to education and ignorance is symptomatic of how the little taxpaying serfs of Newport are treated by our intellectually superior elected officials. But I digress.
Henn makes a point that we can all agree upon. Newport Beach has a lot of money. How many cities have oil wells? Even better than oil wells, how many cities have Fashion Island churning out sales tax?
Henn references the city’s credit rating by the same agencies that CalPERS is suing because they relied upon the credit rating of Structured Investment Vehicles (sub-prime mortgages). CalPERs lost more than $1 billion in retiree funds, saying it didn’t really understand the investments but committed the money because the deals received the “highest credit ratings” from Moody’s and Standard & Poor (the credit-rating agencies that missed the Orange County bankruptcy.)
It’s really hard to spend all the money Newport collects in taxes every year. But our politicians are special and manage to spend it with vigor while perched in their $1,100 leather Herman Miller chairs.
Newport has a spending problem created by council members who have increased the city’s budget 172% during the past decade.
Our great-grandchildren will be paying off the Taj Mahal and long-term pension debt if we don’t get change at City Hall. Some $571 million of long-term debt is a lot of money — even by Henn’s standards.
City council candidates Duffy Duffield, Kevin Muldoon and Scott Peotter have challenged Henn and the City Hall big-spenders on the debt load they have piled upon Newport’s taxpayers. They have a plan to reduce the long-term debt, starting with selling the old City Hall site instead of leasing it.
Peotter, Muldoon and Duffy believe government should not compete with the private sector or be in the hotel business. It is a fundamental philosophical difference between the fiscal reformers and the current philosophy at City Hall.
They are fiscal conservatives who want to pay down the debt quicker than Henn. Henn doesn’t believe paying off the debt faster is a good idea. But he’s much smarter than the city of Irvine, which is paying down long-term pension debt in nine years compared with Newport’s 25-year schedule. Irvine will save millions; Newport gets to pay Wall Street millions.
Henn must like paying the bank (CalPERs) more money than we should. It’s just a different way of looking at things than Duffy, Peotter and Muldoon view the world.
Henn calls the fiscal reformers “ignorant” for having a different opinion.
That’s an example of why this is a watershed election. If you’re happy with the Taj Mahal cost, bunnies, $1,100 office chairs and the largest, long-term pension debt of any city in Orange County, vote for Henn’s candidates. (He has endorsed Mayor Rush Hill, Tim Brown and Mike Toerge).
If you want debt reduction, spending reform and a little common sense at City Hall, vote for Peotter, Muldoon and Duffy. This is an election between the reformers and the big-government spenders.
BOB MCCAFFREY is volunteer chairman of Residents for Reform. He lives in Newport Beach.