There are three open seats available on the Newport Beach City Council this year, with Councilman Tony Petros choosing not to seek re-election in District 2 and Councilmen Ed Selich and Keith Curry being termed out of office in Districts 5 and 7, respectively.
In District 2, we found much to like about Shelley Henderson — very reasonable views on property rights and development, her support for the Measure MM supermajority requirement for any future tax increases and an impressive background — but her lack of participation in candidate forums causes us to wonder about her commitment to the job.
Brad Avery’s attitudes on development are too anti-growth and heavy-handed for our taste, but he is sound on fiscal issues, criticizing the old council for running up too much debt and calling for spending restraint, particularly in the wake of the Civic Center project boondoggle.
In District 5, we liked some of what Mike Glenn has to offer, but we give the nod to Lee Lowrey. Lowrey co-founded a real estate investment and management company and serves as chairman of the Atlas Political Action Committee, which advocates for free markets, limited government, lower taxes and individual liberty.
“Property rights are very, very important to me,” Lowrey told us, adding that proposed developments need to stick to the General Plan and the planning process. Furthermore, some city regulations are “a little bit out of whack,” he said. Lowrey also wants to cut the budget, pursue pension reform and improve infrastructure, such as making needed seawall repairs.
In the hotly contested District 7 race, we were impressed by attorney Will O’Neill’s knowledge of the city’s finances, informed by his position on the Finance Committee. “If you don’t understand the budget, you don’t understand the policy,” he explained to us.
O’Neill also supported the Banning Ranch development and is committed to pension reform and continuing to pay down pension liabilities at an accelerated rate, though his endorsement by the city’s police and fire unions gives us some pause, particularly given that Newport Beach already has the highest per-household unfunded pension liability ($6,653) in the county, according to a May Register report. O’Neill said that in talks with the unions he simply laid out the numbers, explained how increasing pension costs would crowd out other city services, and made them no promises. He seems sincere, so we will take him at his word, and hold him to it.
We also gave very serious consideration to endorsing Fred Ameri in this race because of his strong understanding of business and land use issues in the city.
The Editorial Board recommends votes for Brad Avery, Lee Lowrey and Will O’Neill on Nov. 8.