Category: Newport Beach.

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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-herdman-20160630-story.html

Hannah FryContact Reporter

Balboa Island resident Bob McCaffrey made public allegations this week that Newport Beach City Council candidate Jeff Herdman is ineligible to run in the November election because of his service on a city advisory board.

Herdman, a longtime Balboa Island resident, is bidding to replace termed-out Councilman Ed Selich representing District 5, which includes the island, Newport Center and a portion of Big Canyon.

Also vying for the seat are community activist Mike Glenn and Lee Lowrey, a local businessman known for raising money for political campaigns.

Herdman is on the Civil Service Board, which advises the council on personnel matters, conducts appeal hearings for city employees in disciplinary matters and launches investigations of personnel claims by city employees covered by a public safety union.

Balboa Island resident Bob McCaffrey claims that Jeff Herdman’s role on the Newport Beach Civil Service Board makes him ineligible to run for City Council. (File photo)

Balboa Island resident Bob McCaffrey claims that Jeff Herdman’s role on the Newport Beach Civil Service Board makes him ineligible to run for City Council. (File photo)

McCaffrey alleges that, under the city charter, Herdman’s position on the board prohibits him from serving on the City Council. Herdman was appointed to the board in 2014 and his term expires in June 2018.

McCaffrey said the issue at hand is outlined in Section 710 of the charter, which states that “the Civil Service Board shall consist of five members, none of whom while a member of the board, or for a period of one year after [he] has ceased for any reason to be a member, shall occupy or be eligible for appointment to any salaried office or employment in service of the city.”

The provision’s aim is to curb conflicts of interest while ruling on employee matters, according to McCaffrey.

A council member receives $1,274 in monthly compensation, while the mayor receives $1,808 per month, according to city documents.

Whether that money is a salary or a stipend is a point of contention.

McCaffrey said he believes a council position is a salaried office and interprets the charter to mean Herdman cannot serve on the council.

“Herdman should fold his tent now and not embarrass himself with a long and expensive legal battle,” McCaffrey wrote in a news release.

Herdman disagrees, saying the money paid to council members is reimbursement for expenses incurred.

He said he has hired a lawyer to research case law and write a letter to the city clerk showing court decisions that back his stance.

“It is clear to me that the tactics being employed by the opposition are forms of harassment that have resulted in my having to take time away from the campaign to deal with them, to cause me to have to spend money on legal advice and to discourage me from running for an office that I have every right to compete in,” Herdman said. “I think it is critical that my supporters and the community be aware of the tactics being used by the opposition against my campaign.”

Petros drops bid for second term on Newport council

Selich said he believes the charter section was intended to prohibit Civil Service Board members from becoming permanent city employees — not elected council members — for a year after they have served on the board.

“I think some people are making the argument that because the City Council is part of the CalPERS pension and receives health benefits that it de facto makes them a salaried employee,” Selich said. “The next big question is who is going to be the one to interpret it.”

City Atty. Aaron Harp declined to comment, saying he would not be the one to make the determination.

City Clerk Leilani Brown said she is looking into the issue.

This isn’t the first time McCaffrey and Herdman have bumped heads.

McCaffrey is the chairman of a political action committee known as Residents for Reform, which supported “Team Newport,” a slate of council candidates consisting of Diane Dixon, Kevin Muldoon, Scott Peotter and Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, who swept the four available seats in the 2014 election and now constitute the council majority. McCaffrey donated funds to the slate.

McCaffrey said he intends to support Lowrey for District 5 in November.

Herdman has been critical of Peotter, Muldoon and Duffield since they were elected.

In April 2015, Herdman sent a letter to the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that a campaign contribution Peotter received violated the Political Reform Act and city code. Peotter denied wrongdoing.

Herdman also has suggested in published letters to the Daily Pilot that the city should request that the FPPC conduct a full audit of all the candidates in the 2014 election to examine their “independent expenditures, slate mail committees and other expenditures spent to influence the election.”

Last November, McCaffrey filed a complaint with the FPPC against Herdman, alleging that he failed to submit a mandatory form before soliciting and accepting campaign donations. Herdman denied violating the law.

To some, the tension between the two Balboa Island residents highlights the changing demeanor in Newport Beach politics.

“Politics seem to have become more contentious and based in ideology,” Selich said. “We’ve never had all this FPPC stuff going on. All of this really doesn’t have anything to do with what’s important in the community.”

Hannah Fry, hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot

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http://m.ocregister.com/articles/city-720136-overtime-county.html

By JORDAN GRAHAM AND JESSICA KWONG

2016-06-21 22:17:47

SANTA ANA – Orange County’s public city employees earned $144,817 on average last year, amounting to a 3 percent raise from the year prior, according to data released Tuesday by an open-records advocacy group.

The records, which include public data for all but two of the county’s 34 cities, revealed that much of that pay often comes from total compensation packages, not base pay, with 41 percent of average total annual pay coming from benefits, overtime and other payments.

Tuesday’s report was released by the conservative-leaning group Transparent California.

At $453,092, Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos’ compensation package was the highest of any city worker in the county and the sixth-highest among city managers in the state, according to the data. His $341,710 base salary is top among all city managers in the state.

The average total pay for a city manager in Orange County was $279,000 last year.

Related: See the top paid employee in each Orange County city

Cavazos received a 5 percent, $17,000 bonus from Santa Ana in January amid reports he was being investigated for having a relationship with a subordinate city employee. The following month, the City Council extended Cavazos’ contract until February 2019 instead of October 2017.

The city manager said he hasn’t been able to analyze the report, “but obviously I am very grateful for the wages and benefits that I have.”

“I’m glad that I’m so important,” he joked, adding that his base salary is “pretty much equivalent” to what he earned as Phoenix city manager prior to being hired by Santa Ana.

Cavazos also said his lifetime pension from Phoenix is the second-highest retirement benefit in the Arizona city’s history. But he said his ex-wife gets 45 percent while he gets 55 percent – his portion being $125,000 annually

Though overtime pay dropped 5 percent countywide from 2014, the report notes several city employees who earned more than double their base salary by working large amounts of overtime in 2015.

In Anaheim, firefighter Daniel Lambert earned $156,693 in overtime on top of his $102,065 salary, and fire engineer Brian Pollema made $156,191 from overtime in addition to his $113,218 salary. In all, 18 Anaheim city employees earned more than $100,000 in overtime last year.

Robert Fellner, Transparent California’s research director, said such high overtime was dangerous for public safety workers.

Sgt. Daron Wyatt, spokesman for Anaheim police and fire departments, questioned Fellner’s knowledge of fire department operations, pointing out that firefighter shifts are 24 hours long but typically include time to rest and that the city doesn’t allow firefights to work more than five straight shifts. He said “high fire seasons” and minimum staffing requirements provide many opportunities to work overtime and that some firefighters volunteer more than others.

“We are not going to put someone in a position that is dangerous to them or endanger the public’s lives,” Wyatt said.

Santa Ana’s 27 percent increase in overtime payments last year was the highest of any Orange County city, according to the report.

Among all city employees, Costa Mesa workers had the highest average salary, earning $165,388 in total compensation. Newport Beach employees were second with $165,025 on average, followed by Huntington Beach workers, who earned $162,713 on average.

Costa Mesa spokesman Tony Dodero called Fellner’s analysis an “apples-to-oranges comparison,” because Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa all have their own police and fire departments, while many other Orange County cities contract out for those services.

Police officers and firefighters tend to have higher benefit packages than other employees and to work more overtime.

Transparent California also released reports Tuesday on employee compensation in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, though the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego were not included in those reports.

In Los Angeles County, public city employees earned $131,600 on average last year. In San Diego County, they made $122,614.

Among Orange County cities, employee payment records for Placentia and Laguna Beach were not available on Transparent California’s website.

Contact the writer: jgraham@ocregister.com or 714-796-7960

© Copyright 2016 Freedom Communications. All Rights Reserved.
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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-charter-amendment-20160615-story.html

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The Newport Beach City Council took initial steps forward Tuesday on a proposed charter amendment that could mandate residents’ approval of certain amounts of future bond debt.

The council voted 4-3 to send the amendment to the city Finance Committee so the seven-member advisory body can vet the proposal before the council can vote to place it on a ballot. Council members Keith Curry, Tony Petros and Ed Selich dissented.

The move slowed the process for the amendment, which was originally considered for the Nov. 8 election. Instead, 2018 is the earliest voters could see it on the ballot.

Discussion of the charter amendment came at the behest of Councilman Scott Peotter, who has long criticized the previous City Council for incurring bond debt to fund a portion of the controversial $143-million Civic Center project. The charter amendment, he said, would place much-needed controls on the city’s future spending habits by imposing certain debt procedures and restrictions.

“It’s not going to bring back that money, but it’s going to insert the voters in the process,” Peotter said. “I trust the voters, and I have no problem erring on the side of the voters.”

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The city charter currently restricts the city from entering general obligation bond debt –similar to school bonds – that exceeds an amount equal to 15% of the total assessed value of the property in the city. General obligation bonds, which cause an increase in local property taxes, cannot be issued without two-thirds voter approval.

The proposed charter amendment would not affect the rules for general obligation bonds.

However, Peotter is suggesting that the city also restrict other types of debt, such as certificate of participation bonds, which were used to fund part of the Civic Center project. COP bonds do not require an increase in property taxes, according to city Finance Director Dan Matusiewicz.

Under the proposed amendment, a single debt issuance could not exceed 25% of the annual revenue of the fund that would repay the debt.

For example, if the city planned to repay bond debt from the roughly $200-million general fund, the amendment would cap the city’s borrowing potential at $50 million. A simple majority of voters would have to sign off if the city wanted to borrow a larger amount, according to Matusiewicz.

The proposed amendment also seeks to restrict the city from incurring non-callable debt, or debt that keeps the city from paying it off early or refinancing if rates allow.

The $128 million in bonds that helped fund the Civic Center project, which are repaid by the city over a 30-year period, cannot be refinanced or paid early without the city incurring a penalty.

Bonds that don’t allow payoff within five years would not be allowed without a majority vote of the people, unless voters decide to extend the time period, according to the proposal.

Curry has been vocal in his disapproval of Peotter’s proposal, calling it irresponsible and an example of amateur-hour politics.

“This is designed to leave a big turd in the city after [Peotter] leaves,” Curry said. “This is pathetic. This is bad public policy. Nobody else in America has this policy. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

Another proposed charter amendment would ask voters to consider whether the charter should require at least five of the seven council members to vote in favor of a general tax increase before placing the increase on the ballot for voter consideration. Current city policy requires a simple majority of the council.

The council signed off last year on the measure, which was spearheaded by Curry. On Tuesday it was expected to vote to add it to the ballot for this year’s election.

However, Mayor Diane Dixon opted to combine Peotter’s proposal with Curry’s and send them both to the Finance Committee for consideration.

“Neither the two-thirds vote on new taxes nor the bonded debt item was vetted by the Finance Committee and exposed to in-depth public debate and discussion,” Dixon said. “There has been no council-approved special tax imposed on residents in over 50 years or in anyone’s memory, and I do not believe any such tax increase is likely to see the light of day, particularly between now and November 2016. So I do not believe there is a need to put such a matter on the November ballot this year before the Finance Committee has had a chance to look at it.”

Curry took issue with the amendments being combined, partly because his had already been vetted by the City Council.

“There’s no real question about its value; it’s simply a political ploy to try to combine it with a very poorly drafted, poorly conceived proposal from Mr. Peotter and to sort of hijack this idea and have everybody pretend the history that’s happened over the course of the last year didn’t occur,” Curry said.

The Finance Committee and the City Council will both have to sign off on the proposed charter amendments before they can move forward.

Hannah Fry, hannah.fry@latimes.com

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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/opinion/tn-dpt-me-0515-commentary2-20160513-story.html

By Ed Reno

I read with great interest the recent opinion piece by Mayor Diane Dixon and Finance Committee member Will O’Neill (“Commentary: Let’s examine refinancing N.B. Civic Center debt,” May 11).

I recall that in 2009, when the concept of a new Civic Center was being debated during my council campaign, the voters were assured that the project would not cost more than $90 million — up from a projected $30 million when first proposed years earlier.

Wrong! The Civic Center turned out to cost $140 million.

I wish that the City Council majority of the time would have reconsidered such a massive government project, and I am reminded of an observation PJ O’Rourke once made: “It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.”

Therefore, I am in agreement with Mrs. Dixon and Mr. O’Neill that what needs to be looked at now is 1) Is there a more favorable financing structure that the city could adopt and save taxpayer money? and 2) How and why were the certificates of participation so punitive to the city and its taxpayers?

The citizens of Newport Beach expect constant and thoughtful leadership and if the proposal to review the financing of the Civic Center determines that better is possible, then why should the residents of Newport Beach have to settle for status quo?

Balboa Island resident ED RENO is a previous candidate for Newport Beach City Council.

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot

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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/opinion/tn-dpt-me-0515-commentary2-20160511-story.html

A recent proposal for addressing governments’ pressing pension obligations may also point the way for Newport Beach to deal with its Civic Center debt.

Chapman Law School dean and former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell recently raised an interesting point regarding long-term pension obligations in an opinion piece in the Orange County Register. A Harvard law school graduate, UC Berkeley professor of business, and former California director of finance, Campbell is widely recognized as a national leader in economics.

Campbell’s premise is that with bond interest rates at historic lows, governments have an opportunity to address long-term financial obligations by borrowing at reduced interest rates.

Campbell was discussing pension debt and Newport Beach has significant unfunded pension and retirement benefit obligations that are included in Campbell’s proposal. Additionally, Newport Beach spends approximately $8 million per year paying down the $281 million-plus Civic Center debt, and we are curious whether the same prescription could apply.

Piggybacking on Campbell’s thesis, we believe it’s time to conduct some serious fact-finding to determine whether the market conditions are right to revisit our Civic Center debt obligation.

Now, this is not a discussion of whether the project should have been built. It’s done. Some like it, others don’t. So be it.

Our goal is to ask questions concerning the best financial strategy going forward, not accuse, nor cause emotions to rise. We simply want to know whether the timing is right for an accelerated payoff that ultimately reduces the burden on taxpayers and explore the options, if any.

Newport Beach taxpayers and businesses generate significant annual revenue. As policymakers our job is to prudently allocate these funds with the goal of limiting the burden on all taxpayers. And one thing we have learned about Wall Street is that if the deal is right there is always a buyer.

We support retaining the appropriate professionals to advise the city on these issues:

•When the City Council approved the Preliminary Official Statement on Nov. 9, 2010 to issue the proposed Certificates of Participation to finance the Civic Center project, it included three full paragraphs devoted to permitting prepayment of certain certificates. The COPs were then issued a week later, but the final version deleted those paragraphs and simply stated that the certificates “are not subject to prepayment prior to maturity.” Basically, the City Council waived its rights to prepay or refinance a $280 million debt obligation for a period of 40 years. What happened? And is the prepayment penalty our biggest obstacle to accelerating the payoff?

•Are rates low enough to offset the prepayment penalty?

•The debt was issued as a “certificate of participation,” which is a way for local government to finance projects without requiring a public vote. If we are able to refinance, should the City Council ensure that the issue be put to a public vote?

These are very complex issues that require careful analysis. We don’t have the answers but look forward to the Finance Committee with outside counsel putting in the time to determine if market conditions are right for the accelerated payoff of our $281 million-plus Civic Center debt obligation.

DIANE DIXON is mayor of Newport Beach. WILL O’NEILL is an attorney and member of the Newport Beach Finance Committee.

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot

https://www.newportbeachindy.com/tempers-flare-curry-ousted-finance-committee-chair/

Accusations were flying, tempers were flaring, and the gavel was pounding Tuesday night in Newport Beach City Council Chambers.

After 45 minutes of discussion and argument, Newport Beach City Council voted 4-2 to remove Councilman Keith Curry as chairman of the Finance Committee and replace him with Councilman Tony Petros. Councilmen Curry and Ed Selich dissented, and Petros abstained. Curry will remain as a member of the committee.

Things heated up on the dais, as Mayor Diane Dixon repeatedly told Curry he was out of order, out of line, or off topic. Curry repeatedly tried to respond by saying his comments were relevant to what Dixon was accusing him of doing.

She said Curry had treated citizen committee members poorly and had belittled, bullied, and insulted them, Dixon claimed.

Recently, two finance committee members told her they were thinking of resigning, Dixon said. The reasons were similar and specific, she continued: They were not interested in serving on a committee where chairman Curry refused to consider their input or suggestions or value their extensive expertise in financial and business matters.

They both told Dixon that they were treated in a condescending manner and that their ideas were mocked, stonewalled and summarily dismissed.

Although Dixon convinced them to stay on the committee, Curry’s temperament and behavior has not improved, Dixon said.

“This type of behavior is unacceptable,” Dixon said.

Selich noted that he was also contacted by two members of the committee, one had similar concerns while the other didn’t notice anything of the sort.

“I think it’s absolutely wrong to remove him as chairman,” Selich said. “It really isn’t the right thing to do.”

It’s an insult to his decade of service and commitment to the city, he added.

Dixon retorted that it was an insult to the community that Curry has belittled a citizen committee member.

During Tuesday’s meeting Curry tried to discuss the members who have left or have mentioned that they wanted to leave the Finance Committee, as well as their reasoning, but was shut down by Dixon.

Dixon cut him off and asked him to stay on topic, saying “we’re not talking about other people who were appointed, we’re just talking about your leadership and temperament” and civility, or lack thereof, she reiterated.

“It’s on topic because these are the allegations you (Dixon) made against me,” Curry retorted.

The final straw for Dixon was when Curry publicly insulted a citizen committee member in a local newspaper, she said.

“This council is not a consequence free zone,” Dixon said.

Dixon personally apologized to Finance Committee member Patti Gorczyca for the “public humiliation” that Curry caused with his comments.

Curry’s response was, in his opinion, “fairly measured” in terms of Gorczyca’s proposal. As Curry tried to explain the proposal in question, Dixon again stopped him, saying the debate about this particular financial proposal was not going to happen during the council meeting.

Curry was finally able to briefly describe the proposed plan as putting taxpayer money in the stock market, which he thought was “financially illiterate.”

“Hopefully we can put a fork in this,” financially reckless idea, Curry said.

The proposal puts the city at risk for millions of dollars, Curry said.

“We’re one vote away from a trip to crazy town in this city,” Curry said.

The issue was scheduled to be discussed at Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting, Curry noted. The outcome of that discussion was not available at the time of print.

Councilman Scott Peotter made the request that Curry be removed.

The purpose of the committee is to provide input for the city council, involve citizens in the process, and hold regular meetings to provide accessibility and transparency for the public, Peotter explained. Instead, the meetings have been irregular and the chairman, Curry, controlled the agenda, was not allowing others to add items and “stifling” the discussion of alternatives, Peotter alleged.

“This was supposed to be a working committee and it’s not working,” Peotter said. “I believe that the problem is that Councilman Curry is not allowing that free discussion, not allowing those free ideas to come out.”

Peotter also claimed that there are only a couple meetings scheduled in the near future and the budget has yet to be discussed thoroughly.

“I think it’s important to get our act together and discuss the budget as we need to,” Peotter said. “And I think Mr. Curry is going to be a roadblock to that.”

The budget isn’t written yet, Curry pointed out, so there is nothing to discuss yet.

A working group of the citizen members are meeting at their convenience to discuss the budget, Curry added. They are working on coming up with ideas and recommendations for the budget, he added.

There was a lot of back and forth with Dixon and Curry as they tried to talk over each other.

“You are not going to stifle me up here because of your political retribution, Mayor,” he said to Dixon. He later claimed it was retribution because she didn’t like how her campaign fundraising described in a newspaper article.

“Let’s not editorialize the comments,” Dixon said.

“That’s exactly what you’re doing. You made a whole speech of editorializing,” Curry shot back.

Public comments included being disappointed at the “disgraceful” behavior of the council members during the Tuesday night discussion, wanting more information about the specific proposal Curry was accused of stifling, not condoning bad behavior by council members, and making the recordings of meetings (like the Finance Committee) more readily available to the public.

In the end, Curry was removed as chairman and Petros was voted in as the new chair. Petros said he did not take the responsibility lightly.

“I expect civil behavior when we meet,” Petros said. “We have a lot to do, this is budget season.”

Arts Commission Agrees on Funding Plan

Posted On 22 Apr 2016

By : Sara Hall

From the first phase of the sculpture garden exhibition, Ray Katz’s “Odyssey” looms over the Newport Beach Civic Center.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The Newport Beach Arts Commission unanimously approved recommending to City Council a three-year funding and staffing plan to create a long-term self-sufficient arts program in the city.

“While this is not a perfect solution, it is a compromise,” Arts Commissioner Caroline Logan said at the meeting last week. “I feel this is a good way to move forward… We can give it our very, very best shot.”

If approved by City Council, the plan will likely provide the funds needed not only to support existing programs, but expand programming, according to Library Services Director Tim Hetherton.

“The city has clearly created a desire for a robust culture and arts program,” Hetherton writes in the staff report.

After reviewing the draft plan last month, City Council directed the Arts Commission to identify goals, objectives and a long-term vision for arts in the city.

In order to accomplish this goal the Commission believes that there are a number of fundamental changes that need to be implemented to create a successful privately funded arts program.

Council requested that the Arts Commission begin to develop public-private partnerships to reduce the reliance on the general fund for arts programs.

“We wanted to discuss with the commission proposals that the commission, and arts in general in Newport Beach, would become more self-sufficient without having to rely on general funds,” said Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs. “We wanted to make you (the commission) more independent from the city and the city’s general fund.”

According to city policy I-9, the general fund provides $55,000 per year for the support of culture and arts.

“This is the “public” side of the equation,” staff explains in the report.

The master plan aims to create public/private partnerships and has identified three sources: Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation, Visit Newport Beach, and development agreement capital funds.

In May of 2015, the Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation distributed their remaining assets of $175,000 to the Newport Beach Art Foundation. The foundation turned the funds over to the city to be specifically used for performing arts with a preference to the Balboa Village area of town. None of these funds have been used yet, according to city staff.

The city and Visit Newport Beach have an agreement that states that Visit NB will contribute $150,000 per year to the city for programs or activities (public art, cultural and promotional activities, beautification projects, etc.) that benefit the public.

Policy I-13 authorizes the deposit of two percent of the unallocated public benefit fees received by the city from development agreements into the  Public Art and Cultural Facilities Fund.

There was some discussion over whether or not the funds from the developer fees would be allowed to support the rotating sculpture garden exhibit, since the policy states that funds will be used “for the acquisition and maintenance of permanent art structures and installations in public places.” But officials decided that since the park is permanent, those funds could be used, Jacobs noted.

The plan also aims to focus on increasing fundraising efforts.

art_culture_master_planThe Newport Beach Arts Foundation, a private nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, “has been supportive of the Arts in Newport Beach for many years, but has not reached its potential for fundraising,” the staff report notes.

Staff is recommending that the foundation “grow into a full-fledged fundraising arm” for the commission, using the model created by the Library Foundation.

To help, the master plan also calls for hiring an arts manager that would be paid through funds provided through Visit Newport Beach for a period of up to three years.

The manager would advise the foundation board, work with the community to implement the vision of the master plan, and fundraise. Staff anticipates that the position should pay for itself by the end of the third year.

Several public speakers noted that there needs to be a clear directive and guidelines for the future.

“We need a cultural vision that sets us apart from (other nearby cities),” said Michaell Magrutsche.

There needs to be a commitment from the city that art is important, he said.

Other commenters noted the need for a clear and effective structure for private fundraising, concern for reliance on the two percent of developer fees, and supported the idea of hiring an arts manager.

Arts promote and drive people to the city, noted resident Leslie Miller, they are a channel for economic development.

“It’s incumbent on the commission and the foundation to drive the demand,” Arts Commission Vice Chair Lynn Selich said.

It changes depending on the who is elected to city council and what the community wants, Selich noted. It’s a challenge, but this is a good start, she added.

“This is going to continue to be a moving target,” Selich said, “but it’s a process.”

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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-0414-lee-lowrey-20160413-story.html

Lee Lowrey, a local businessman known for raising money for political campaigns, is stepping out from his leadership position in a well-known political action committee to run for a seat on the Newport Beach City Council.

Lowrey, a registered Republican, filed paperwork this week declaring his intent to run for the District 5 seat, which represents Balboa Island and the Fashion Island area.

“I’ve helped a lot of people volunteering and raising money for a lot of years, but I’ve always wanted the opportunity to actually run for office myself,” he said.

If elected, the 45-year-old Balboa Island resident would replace Councilman Ed Selich, who will be termed out this year after serving on the council since 2006. Mike Glenn, an 11-year Balboa Peninsula resident and activist, and Jeff Herdman, a 17-year Balboa Island resident, also have launched campaigns for the seat.

Lowrey, a resident of Newport Beach the past 18 years, moved to Balboa Island nearly two months ago. His wife, Sarah, used to live on the island and the two had long wanted to find a home there.

Lowrey recently co-founded Arbor Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Newport Beach specializing in real estate investment and development in Southern California and Colorado. Before that, Lowrey spent several years as a portfolio manager at Colony Capital managing real estate investment portfolios totaling more than $1 billion.

He said his experience in finance in the private sector would make him an asset as a councilman.

“Growing up during the Reagan years, I experienced the real benefits of a pro-work, pro-business and limited-government culture,” he said. “My passion for public service and a conservative philosophy of governance not only began with the Reagan revolution but continued up to now.”

Lowrey said that if he is elected, he would like to focus on financial transparency, budgetary oversight, improving Newport’s aging infrastructure and maintaining public safety resources.

Specifically, he said the incoming council will have to handle how to fund improvements to the city’s sewer system. The City Council recently turned down a staff proposal to increase customer sewer rates to fund repairs.

Lowrey said an increasing number of teenagers abusing heroin in local schools also is a cause for concern.

“As I learn more about it, I hope I can be someone who tries to bring that issue more to light,” he said.

Lowrey is no stranger to politics in and out of Orange County.

His interest in politics and government was spawned in 1988 as a volunteer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s first U.S. congressional campaign and continued in his time as a student at USC and in leadership roles as chairman of the Orange County Young Republicans.

Most recently, Lowrey has acted as founding chairman of the Atlas Political Action Committee, a non-candidate-controlled committee that raises money in support of certain candidates and in opposition to others.

The committee has supported council candidates in various Orange County cities, as well as politicians running for county supervisor, state Assembly and governor.

During the 2014 council election in Newport Beach, the committee spent thousands of dollars supporting then-candidates Scott Peotter, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Kevin Muldoon, who were ultimately elected. Atlas also spent thousands sending mailers opposing candidates Mike Toerge and incumbent Rush Hill, both of whom lost.

Three council seats are up for grabs in the November election, with at least two candidates running for each one.

Councilman Tony Petros, who represents District 2 — which includes Newport Heights and Newport Crest — is running for reelection. Shelley Henderson also is trying for the seat.

Local lawyers Phil Greer and Will O’Neill and former Planning Commissioner Fred Ameri are running to replace Councilman Keith Curry, who will be termed out of his seat representing District 7 (Newport Coast and Newport Ridge).

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/-708110–.html

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Some regard Newport Beach as a vapid enclave for the wealthy, a world of $300,000 Ferraris, tony addresses and oh-so trendy shops at Fashion Island.

But there is more to this beach city than its status seekers. In many ways, Newport Beach is surprisingly normal both for its successes and its struggles. Still, many of those issues are larger than what most cities ever face.

Don’t forget it was Newport Beach that joined the unsuccessful attempt 15 years ago to get a commercial airport built at the former El Toro Marine base to replace John Wayne Airport.

This is a city where the average income is in the six figures and whose leaders are well-equipped to compete for tourist dollars, cope with aging infrastructure and grapple with heated fights over development.

The new City Hall and Civic Center turned into an economic hand-grenade after construction costs soared to more than $150 million. That controversy was a skirmish compared with the issues surrounding the 401-acre beachfront development known as Banning Ranch.

The biggest threat to Newport Beach is nothing less than climate change. City engineers warn that rising oceans could flood large areas of seafront property. The looming question is who pays?

CLIMATE CHANGE WARNINGS

Diane Dixon permanently moved to Newport Beach about three years ago from Pasadena and immediately jumped into politics. After a short stint on the City Council, the USC grad became mayor and promised to reduce Newport’s long-term debt.

She points to her background for being able to make that promise. Before briefly working for the Irvine Co., she served as senior vice president for corporate affairs and communications at Avery Dennison Corp., a publicly traded Fortune 500 company.

For too long, Dixon says, the city postponed certain projects. She notes the need for half-century-old private docks to be rebuilt, harbor dredging and mitigating rampant eelgrass. “It’s part of the circle of life to replenish public infrastructure.”

Still, Dixon has concerns. “Our unfunded pension liability,” she says, “keeps me up at night.” She says CalPERS keeps moving the goalpost and estimates the city’s liability at $250 million.

A review of city projects finds deteriorated and sometimes broken cast iron water mains in Corona del Mar (updates will be made this summer); an outdated 60-year-old fire station (to be rebuilt by mid-2017); the bridge that connects Big Balboa Island with Little Balboa Island declared “functionally obsolete” by Caltrans (a new bridge is scheduled to be complete by the end of this year).

But the need for beefed up seawalls dwarfs those projects. Dixon estimates the cost to replace or repair seawalls at $100 million.

A few years ago, I talked with Newport Beach Assistant City Engineer Robert Stein. He joked that in 90 years there’s a good chance residents on Balboa Island during high tides “will get in kayaks and go downtown to get supplies.”

Stein made the comment lightly. But his prediction about rising sea levels was serious.

Today, city records describe the problem of 75- to 85-year-old seawalls in more genteel terms. But their warnings are even more dire: “There are a few segments around Balboa Island that are not quite high enough should we experience extremely high tides and waves.”

The report goes on to note that six years ago, seawater flowed over seawalls during a moderate storm surge at high tide. Three years later, ocean water touched the top of seawalls during a king tide with no wind or waves.

The city report concludes, “Should there be further rise in sea level, longer segments of the existing seawall around Balboa Island could be subjected to this overtopping.”

Design options and style concepts are scheduled to be posted online this month.

“We are doing today,” Dixon says of the seawalls, “what we should have done 40 years ago.”

BANNING RANCH BATTLES

Numerous development projects dot the city. They range from a seven-story, 49-unit collection of condos with subterranean parking near Fashion Island to a luxury, 130-room hotel on 4.25 acres in Lido Village.

But the whale is Banning Ranch, a massive swath of coastal bluffs, wetlands, abandoned oil wells and land east of the Santa Ana River and north of Pacific Coast Highway.

For years, developers and environmentalists fought over its future.

Finally, it looked like the area would be open for both development and public use.

Three years ago, the Newport Beach City Council approved building 1,375 homes and 75,000 square feet of retail on 95 acres. That would have left some 300 acres of open space.

Still, environmentalists went to war.

The Banning Ranch Conservancy rallied its troops to make the entire ranch a nature preserve. The Save Newport Banning Ranch crowd followed suit.

“Banning Ranch is the largest parcel of unprotected coastal open space and wetland property remaining in Orange County,” Save Newport Banning Ranch stated, “and can provide public access to many outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and biking.”

Last fall, the California Coastal Commission basically agreed with the protesters and declared the land important to “sensitive coastal species.” One of those species is the California gnatcatcher, a little bird that has been the bane of developers for decades.

Developers caved, downgrading their plans to what many people would consider more than a reasonable compromise. The latest proposal is for 895 residential units on 53 acres, a 75-room boutique hotel and 45,000 square feet of retail space. That leaves 323 acres of open space.

The next Coastal Commission meeting on the matter is slated for May. Already, the Banning Ranch Conservancy is gearing up. The group’s rallying cry: “Let’s fight for every cubic inch of Banning Ranch that we can save in May!”

Perhaps they forgot the entire area is private land.

Contact the writer: dwhiting@ocregister.com

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2016-03-08 23:07:16

Newport Beach will ask a state agency to reconsider their restrictions on beach fire rings.

The Newport Beach City Council voted 5-2 to send a letter to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, asking the state board to reconsider a rule that requires wood-burning fire rings within 700 feet of residences to be spaced 100 feet apart.

The letter will ask the air quality governing board to reconsider those regulations, first passed in 2013. If the board removed that restriction, fire rings could move back to their pre-2013 footprint if Coastal Commission gives its approval.

Councilman Scott Peotter, who suggested the letter, said with a recent shift in the makeup of the governing board, the fire ring regulations could find less support. The Air Quality board voted 7-6 on March 4 to oust its top executive, Barry Wallerstein, after moving into a Republican-controlled membership.

The city’s beach fire ring plan, which includes both wood-burning and charcoal-burning fire rings, will involve relocating some rings around Corona del Mar State Beach, the Balboa Pier and several around Newport Dunes. It’s also estimated to cost $165,000 per year to employ a private security firm to ensure people at charcoal-only rings don’t use wood around the Balboa Pier and Corona del Mar State Beach.

Peotter said his ultimate goal is to keep beach fire rings in their current footprint. The city’s plan, approved by the Coastal Commission, would mean moving some of the rings when the commission’s permit finally arrives at the city.

“People are going to be ticked if we implement this (plan),” Peotter said of moving the fire rings.

Councilmen Keith Curry and Ed Selich voted against sending the letter. Selich said the fighting between residents worried about wood smoke and residents trying to preserve beach bonfires “tore the community apart.”

“You’re really opening up a can of worms here,” Selich said to council members supporting the letter.

Before the most recent Coastal Commission-approved plan, the city had 60 fire rings at Big Corona beach and the Balboa Pier.

Roughly five years ago, the council looked at whether all beach fire rings should be removed due to health concerns raised by several residents. The council voted to remove the rings in March 2012, and applied for a permit with the Coastal Commission for their removal. The city eventually removed its application in 2013 when it became clear the commission thought the rings should be preserved.

In July 2013, the air quality board voted 7-6 to approve regulations that govern beach fire rings, and the city the next year moved to limit all rings to only charcoal fuel.

The new council in November 2014 sought a different path, and early last year adopted a plan that kept some wood-burning and some charcoal rings to meet all rules, adding some at Newport Dunes. The Coastal Commission approved much of the new plan, but the city does not yet have the permit from the commission.

City manager Dave Kiff said beach visitors sometimes get frustrated with the new regulations of charcoal in some rings and wood in the others.

“We’re just making people unhappy with this,” Kiff said.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7990 or mnicolai@ocregister.com

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