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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-speak-up-20160915-story.html

Development projects, city debt and the future of Mariners’ Mile were among topics discussed Wednesday night during Speak Up Newport’s City Council candidate forum at the Newport Beach Civic Center.

About 100 people attended the event, moderated by Michele Gile, the Orange County reporter for KCBS-TV/2 and KCAL-TV/9.

Newport voters will decide Nov. 8 who should fill three available seats on the City Council.

Harbor Commissioner Brad Avery and law student Shelley Henderson are running for the District 2 seat, which represents Newport Heights and Newport Crest. The district’s current council member, Tony Petros, is not running for re-election. Henderson did not attend the forum.

Businessman and community activist Mike Glenn, businessman Lee Lowrey and retired educator Jeff Herdman are vying for the District 5 seat, which represents Balboa Island, Harbor Island, the Fashion Island area and a portion of Big Canyon. Councilman Ed Selich, who currently represents District 5, is termed out this year.

Attorney and city Finance Committee member Will O’Neill, attorney Phil Greer and former Planning Commissioner Fred Ameri are running for the District 7 seat, which represents Newport Coast and Newport Ridge. Councilman Keith Curry, who currently represents the area, also is termed out this year.

All of the candidates spoke in favor of Banning Ranch LLC’s proposal to build 895 homes, a 75-room hotel, a 20-bed hostel and 45,100 square feet of retail space on 62 acres of coastal land.

The California Coastal Commission denied the project this month, citing a lack of cohesion between the developer and commission staff members who recommended the project be reduced to about one-third of the proposed size.

Avery said he would prefer the development to be about half the size.

Ameri, who in previous forums said he believed the development was too large but that the property owner has the right to build something on the land, said Wednesday that he believes it’s a good project that would clean up an old oil field.

The candidates also weighed in on the city’s efforts to rejuvenate Mariners’ Mile, a stretch of West Coast Highway between Newport Boulevard and Dover Drive.

In 2011, the council identified Mariners’ Mile as one of six zones needing revitalization. Work in other areas, including Corona del Mar, Balboa and Lido villages, West Newport and Santa Ana Heights, has been underway for years.

However, a decision on how best to use the narrow Mariners’ stretch, which is hemmed in by bluffs on one side and Newport Harbor on the other, has long eluded city leaders.

City Council hopefuls spoke about improving the area’s walkability through sidewalk expansions and maintaining the current traffic-lane count.

Greer said the city should use recent projects in Corona del Mar, such as a sidewalk expansion along East Coast Highway, as a template for how to make Mariners’ Mile more pedestrian-friendly.

Avery said he also supports making the area safer for pedestrians. “The traffic is just violent,” Avery said. “Cars are going so fast, it’s uncomfortable to walk it right now.”

Glenn said that while landowners along Mariners’ Mile likely would have most of the say in how the area develops, he indicated he would support a boardwalk and shuttle service there.

Lowrey also supported building a boardwalk.

O’Neill said he’d like to see a more open, walkable harbor area but is relying on residents to share their visions.

Herdman said he wants the area to be a nautical village with open harbor views.

Ameri said the city should maintain the same number of traffic lanes on the highway and perhaps remove street parking to be able to widen sidewalks.

The candidates also were asked about a recent proposal supported by Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon and Councilman Scott Peotter to place a charter amendment on the local ballot asking voters whether they want to require public approval before the city can use a certificate of participation or a lease revenue bond greater than $10 million.

A certificate of participation, a financial instrument for issuing bonds to fund capital improvements, was used in funding part of the Civic Center development project.

Lease revenue bonds are secured by lease payments made by the party, often a municipality, leasing the facilities that were paid for by the bond. Newport does not have any lease revenue bonds.

In August, the City Council decided to hold off on the ballot measure proposal and sent it to the Finance Committee for consideration.

Avery, Lowrey, Greer and Glenn indicated support for giving voters a say on city debt. Ameri said he agrees with it “in concept.”

“It’s the government. They are always going to want to get into your pocket,” Glenn said. “We need to protect ourselves through a voting mechanism. We never know who’s going to be on the City Council in five, 10, 20 years. We need to be able to have that power ourselves as citizens.”

O’Neill said he’s looking forward to discussing the proposal at the Finance Committee but that it isn’t ready for the November ballot.

Herdman said he strongly opposes the measure because it could limit the city’s ability to fund important projects, especially during an emergency.

“As a city councilman, I would not want to have my hands tied,” he said.

Voters in November will consider a different ballot measure spearheaded by Curry that asks whether a super-majority vote of the council should be required to approve tax increases.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot

Clean Water – Fred Ameri

Today we begin Fred’s Fun Facts, a whimsical review of council candidate Fred Ameri’s wild claims. 

The Upper Newport Bay is an ecological treasure that is one of the last coastal habitats for endangered species. 

For a decade the city council, led by Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, worked with federal, state, and local agencies to secure funding for Lower & Upper Bay dredging. 

She met with Representatives Ken Calvert, Ed Royce, and Senator Dianne Feinstein to plead our case for federal dredging funds.  She was successful, and we are indebted to her. 

With the campaign season upon us, we now learn that council candidate Fred Ameri is taking credit for securing $5 million in Back Bay dredging funds.  

No one remembers Ameri’s involvement.  Fred’s Fun Fact #1.  (many more to come) 

What else is Fred Ameri fabricating?

 

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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/opinion/tn-dpt-me-0902-barbara-venezia-column-20160902-story.html

In the hit CBS TV series “BrainDead,” bugs from outer space land in Washington, D.C., eating politicians’ brains and contributing to some very weird behaviors by these folks.

The show is masterfully written, funny and one of my favorites this summer.

As I was watching the other night, I wondered, “Have space bugs made their way to Newport?”

You have to admit, things are getting pretty odd in this town’s council race, and it’s as good an explanation as any, I guess.

Take last week when resident William Stewart filed a lawsuit in O.C. Superior Courtagainst O.C. Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley and Newport Beach City Clerk Leilani Brown in hopes of forcing council candidate Fred Ameri use his given first name, Farrokh, on the ballot.

The intent here, in my view, was clearly to play on residents’ private prejudices against those of Middle Eastern descent.

Ameri, who is of Persian descent, blames opponent Will O’Neill, as well as O’Neill’s campaign supporter, Newport Councilman Scott Peotter, whose brother is the attorney for Stewart and O’Neill’s political consultant, Dave Ellis, for these antics.

But O’Neill says he has no acquaintance with the plaintiff, the lawyer in this case or any of it.

To me he’s either totally out of touch with his handlers or turning a blind eye to their campaign tactics.

Either way it’s not good.

The whole situation takes this race to an all-time low. But did the political brain trust, who thought this was a good tactic, actually help Ameri here?

“Absolutely, this has helped my campaign,” says Ameri. “People are calling like never before. They’re making me the most famous guy in Newport.”

Though Ameri is outraged, labeling this campaign tactic “racist,” it’s not like he didn’t anticipate it.

Last February, Ameri and O.C. Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker asked Kelley’s office for an official opinion on Ameri’s first name.

Taking into consideration Ameri has used Fred since 1998 on his voter registration, Kelley writes, “If he came to file for office at our front counter, we would accept this name as his ballot name.”

“I believe that it is in his best interest to keep his name as it has been registered for 18 years,” Kelly continues. “Of course, this could always be challenged in a court of law, but since this is how he is known in the community, I think he has a good case. I am not aware of any rules that are violated by this.”

I called Ellis, my favorite “frenemy,” to talk about Ameri claiming he’s the real culprit behind the name issue lawsuit.

He denies it.

“I am also responsible for world famine and the Zika virus,” Ellis jokes. “I’d be happy to pay for Fred’s therapy.”

Ouch!

Ellis went on to explain another interesting twist. He says last summer potential candidates Phil Greer, Ameri and O’Neill wanted to retain his services for this election. Ellis met with each of them before choosing O’Neill in December.

Ellis says he sent emails to Ameri to stop telling people he’d hired him.

“You proceeded to spend three months telling folks that you had retained my services, which was wrong of you to say,” Ellis writes. “I never led you on or ‘tricked’ you. When you asked me to print remit envelopes for you, I declined because I did not to lead you on.”

As you can imagine, Ellis has strong opinions about O’Neill’s opponents.

“Over the next few weeks, you will hear all sorts of whining from Fred Ameri and Phil Greer about negative campaigning, etc.,” Ellis says.

And he gave me his reasons for not taking them on as clients.

“Greer is a fiscal train wreck with nearly $700,000 in current state and federal tax liens pending against him,” he claims, and, “Ameri spent 30 years at RBF Consulting Engineers. They provided engineering services for the development of most of South Orange County — around 1.5 million people — and now he’s anti-development.”

Greer says the $700,000 figure Ellis throws out is wildly inaccurate.

“No, it was never $700,000,” he tells me. “At best, it is $250,000. There are a ton of duplicate liens and other mistakes by the IRS. What Dave has done is add up everything regardless of whether it is duplicate or not and come up with an unsubstantiated number.”

Greer further explains that there had been an ongoing 2002 IRS dispute, which is being resolved, “reducing the claimed tax liability for 2002/2004 from approximately $160,000 to approximately $40,000, amended returns can be filed for the other impacted years, balances, if any, can be paid, and will be resolved shortly.”

Greer confirms he met with Ellis last summer, but not to hire him. He says they met because Greer’s wife, Arlene, had initially showed interest in running for office.

“My meeting with Dave was to determine how nasty he would get if Arlene was to actually become a candidate,” says Greer. “I was simply being proactive in protecting my wife. I have no intent or interest in associating myself with the sort of campaigns Dave runs.”

Yep, Gotta love those space bugs…

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached atbvontv1@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot

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http://www.ocregister.com/articles/ameri-727016-name-candidate.html

A Newport Beach resident is asking a judge to order that City Council candidate Fred Ameri’s birth name – Farrokh – be used on election materials.

The suit filed Monday by William Stewart in Orange County Superior Court, alleges that City Clerk Leilani Brown and Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley are misleading voters by allowing Ameri to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot using his widely known nickname, Fred, instead of Farrokh, his legal first name.

Ameri, a 19-year resident of the city, is running to replace termed-out Councilman Keith Curry, who represents District 7. He said he does not know Stewart and believes the issue of his name is meant to stroke fear and racism against him at the polls.

The former planning commissioner came to the U.S. from Iran when he was 19 to attend school, he said.

“Associating me to be an Iranian and associating me with the terrorist government of Iran is a dirty trick,” Ameri said.

Attorney Bruce Peotter, who represents Stewart and is the brother of Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter, disputed Ameri’s assertion that race is a factor in raising the issue of his name.

“It appears he wants to make race the issue,” Peotter said. “He simply needs to follow the law and use his real name.”

Also running for the seat are attorney Phil Greer and Finance Commissioner Will O’ Neill.

The lawsuit lists the Irvine Police Department, a notary public and a U.S. District Court clerk who processed Ameri’s naturalization papers as those who know Ameri as Farrokh, according to court documents.

The suit also references Ameri’s legal name for misdemeanor charges in 2004 for driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit, DUI and reckless driving that were dismissed the next year, according to court records.

Stewart is also requesting portions of Ameri’s candidate statement be removed for what he says are references to other candidates.

“I am personally providing the majority of my campaign’s funding, making me the only independent candidate,” the statement said.

Peotter said Ameri’s candidate statement should have only referred to his experience.

“The clerk should have prevented that because it’s against the law to refer to other candidates,” he said.

The California election code says the candidate statement should be limited to only the candidate’s own background and qualifications.

Ameri said everyone knows him by his nickname and that whoever is behind the lawsuit has intentions to mislead voters.

“I’ve lived in the country for more than 55 years and I’ve been using Fred since I was a teenager,” he said.

A court date is not yet scheduled on the matter.

Contact the writer: 714-796-2478 or lcasiano@ocregister.com

oneill

NEWPORT BEACH, CA – Recently retired California Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter has endorsed Will O’Neill for Newport Beach city council, district 7.

“Will O’Neill has the intellect and integrity to represent Newport Beach with the highest ethical standards.  When I hired Will, I knew he could handle some of California’s most complex legal issues.  I am proud to see his dedication to public service continue,” stated Marvin R. Baxter, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court (ret.)

O’Neill earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford University, where he was a member of the varsity track team, and his juris doctorate from U.C. Hastings College of the Law.  He is the recently elected president of the U.C. Hastings Alumni Association.

Newport Beach is full of talented legal minds; very few have worked at the California Supreme Court.

“I will approach my council service with the highest ethical standards, as my service at the California Supreme Court demanded. Newport Beach expects its council members to enter office with a clean ethics record and leave the same way. I expect that my background at the highest level of California’s legal system will benefit the city’s taxpayers,” concluded O’Neill.

For more information go to www.oneillfornewport.com or follow Will O’Neill on Facebook.

Attachment:      Photo – Justice Marvin R. Baxter swearing in Will O’Neill as clerk of the California Supreme Court

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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-newport-feet-fire-20160817-story.html

Newport Beach City Council hopefuls who took the stage for the Feet to the Fire forum at Orange Coast College on Wednesday night each vowed to run a positive campaign focused on bringing fresh ideas to city government.

The caveat to that, they agreed, is if opponents attacked them first. Some campaign materials casting a negative light on candidates has already been circulated, they said.

“If someone picks on me, I’m a street fighter,” said Fred Ameri, who is running for the District 7 seat, which represents Newport Coast and Newport Ridge.

Roughly 50 community members filed into OCC’s Robert B. Moore Theatre in an effort to learn about the candidates and where each stands on issues. Daily Pilot columnist Barbara Venezia and former Daily Pilot Publisher Tom Johnson hosted the discussion, billed as being in a “talk show” format.

Newport voters will decide Nov. 8 who should fill the three available council seats.

 

Businessman and community activist Mike Glenn, businessman Lee Lowrey and retired educator Jeff Herdman are vying for the District 5 seat, which represents Balboa Island, Harbor Island, the Fashion Island area and a portion of Big Canyon. District 5 Councilman Ed Selich is termed out this year.

Attorney and city Finance Committee member Will O’Neill, attorney Phil Greer and Ameri, a former planning commissioner, are running for the District 7 seat. Councilman Keith Curry, who currently represents the area, is termed out.

Harbor Commissioner Brad Avery and law student Shelley Henderson are running for District 2, which represents Newport Heights and Newport Crest. The district’s current council member, Tony Petros, is not running for reelection.

Henderson, O’Neill, Avery and Lowrey did not attend Wednesday’s forum.

Feet to the Fire came a day after the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce presented its own candidates forum.

Candidates in both discussions remained friendly with one another despite disagreeing on issues.

The conversation during both focused heavily on development in Newport Center and Banning Ranch, as well as alleviating traffic and paying down the city’s $276-million unfunded pension liability, which attendees agreed are some of the most significant issues.

Venezia and Johnson, both Newport residents themselves, quizzed candidates on how they would plan to fund public art. The issue was discussed during the 2014 election, in which four new council members — Mayor Diane Dixon, Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon and Councilmen Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Scott Peotter — were elected on a slate known as “Team Newport.”

Some on the council have advocated for Newport’s art programs to move away from city funds and instead become privately funded through donations.

Ameri and Glenn, while both emphasizing their appreciation for the arts, said they support the private funding model. Herdman said he supports spending city money toward the arts as long as other needs like infrastructure are also being met.

Greer, whose wife is a member of the city Arts Commission, said he would be open to other funding sources but that the city should be responsible for funding some public art.

“I really believe art is integral to the community,” he said. “It gives it culture and it gives it character.”

Herdman said the decision of where to spend city dollars often gets political.

“We need to take care of our infrastructure, our basic needs and address our debt,” he said.

While the chamber-sponsored forum stuck to the issues, Feet to the Fire’s discussion also touched on the report card of the current council and the state of politics in Newport.

Greer, Glenn, Herdman and Ameri said they have been disappointed with Team Newport’s performance in the past two years.

Glenn, originally a supporter of many of Team Newport’s ideas, said he was discouraged because he felt the group did not keep campaign promises such as protecting property rights or reducing costs and taxes.

“We got duped in that election,” Glenn said. “That’s why I’m running this time.”

Candidates for the Costa Mesa City Council will take the stage at the Moore Theatre at 7 p.m. Thursday for another edition of Feet to the Fire.

Is Phil Greer OK?

Today’s Daily Journal has story regarding about Phil Greer’s serious health issues, and his inability to appear in court due to a “literally fatal” heart condition and bypass surgery.  (story attached)

We hope Phil is ok, a city council campaign can be stressful.

Apparently Judge Peter J. Wilson (not the former Governor) has serious questions about Phil’s claims of his “literally fatal” heart condition.  In attempting to dodge a June 22 hearing date in a malpractice case filed against him, Phil filed a declaration, under the penalty of perjury, saying his heart bypass surgery was May 27.  In an unrelated bankruptcy case Phil’s declaration stated the surgery was on May 27.

Once Judge Wilson saw the video of Phil campaigning for city council with a “literally fatal” heart condition things got very uncomfortable for Phil.

All my lawyer buddies tell me the State Bar rarely disciplines lawyers.  You have to really screw up to get one disciplinary action.  Two is impossible.  Phil has two, and maybe a third is one the way if he survives his “literally fatal” heart condition.

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http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-chamber-forum-20160816-story.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Development proposals, the city’s unfunded pension liability and the idea of eliminating the city’s business license tax were among the topics of discussion Tuesday during the first Newport Beach City Council candidate forum of the 2016 election season.

The morning forum, presented by the Chamber of Commerce, was moderated by Lucy Dunn, president of the Orange County Business Council.

“There are some very important issues facing the city,” said chamber President Steve Rosansky. “We have a chance to pick the future we think is best for Newport Beach.”

Newport voters will decide Nov. 8 who should fill three available seats on the City Council.

Businessman and community activist Mike Glenn, businessman Lee Lowrey and retired educator Jeff Herdman are vying for the District 5 seat, which represents Balboa Island, Harbor Island, the Fashion Island area and a portion of Big Canyon. Councilman Ed Selich, who currently represents District 5, is termed out this year.

Attorney and city Finance Committee member Will O’Neill, attorney Phil Greer and former Planning Commissioner Fred Ameri are running for the District 7 seat, which represents Newport Coast and Newport Ridge. Councilman Keith Curry, who currently represents the area, also is termed out.

Harbor Commissioner Brad Avery is running for the District 2 seat, which represents Newport Heights and Newport Crest. Law student Shelley Henderson has announced her intent to run but has not yet submitted paperwork to make it official. Henderson did not attend the forum. The district’s current council member, Tony Petros, is not running for reelection.

Candidates agreed that alleviating traffic congestion and paying down the city’s $276-million unfunded pension liability will remain two of Newport Beach’s biggest hurdles in the next several decades.

For the past several years, the city has used a portion of surplus money to accelerate payments to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in an effort to more quickly pay down the pension debt and save money on interest payments.

“I think what the city is doing is the fiscally responsible thing,” Greer said. “I would continue the course that we’re on because it’s working.”

Most candidates agreed that the city has made significant strides and should continue to look at ways to ramp up payments and pay down the debt faster.

Glenn suggested reducing city staff by about 20% over 10 years through attrition to help mitigate the cost of retirement.

Lowrey suggested the possibility of investing outside the state system, which he said has proved to be a “lousy investment fund.”

Dunn sought the opinion of each candidate about the proposed development of homes, retail space and a hotel on Banning Ranch and plans to develop residential properties in Newport Center.

O’Neill was hesitant to speak in specific terms about projects being proposed because legal precedent could bar him from voting on them, if he is elected. However, he said he supports an additional residential element in Newport Center and believes the Banning Ranch project should be approved by the California Coastal Commission in September. The Newport Beach City Council has already OKd it.

Ameri said that while he believes the proposed Banning Ranch development is too large, the property owner has the right to build something on the land. Ameri added that he opposes Museum House — a proposal to add 100 residential units in a 25-story tower on the current site of the Orange County Museum of Art — because of its possible impact on traffic.

Avery said he wishes the Banning Ranch project were smaller but he wouldn’t be against the Coastal Commission approving it. He said he supports slow growth, implementing design and view corridors and receiving compensation from developers for large projects.

“I’ve lived here all my life and it’s hard for me to see the infill and growth … but at the same time, it’s the world we live in,” Avery said.

Glenn and Lowrey indicated they favor the Banning Ranch project because it would clean up the land and open it for public use.

Glenn said both Museum House and the 150 Newport Center project — a proposal to build 45 residential units in a six-story building at the site of the Beacon Bay Auto Wash — should be subject to voter approval.

Herdman said he is in favor of projects that are consistent with the city’s general plan, which serves as a blueprint for local development.

Dunn asked the candidates for their thoughts on a proposal supported by some on the current City Council to eliminate the city’s business license tax, which could result in a $4-million annual revenue loss for the city.

O’Neill said he would be interested in looking at it after the city pays down its pension obligations.

Avery agreed, saying he would consider it if it can be done in a way that makes financial sense for the city.

Lowrey advocated phasing out the tax, as did Glenn.

Herdman, Ameri and Greer said they likely would be against such a proposal if they are elected.

“I’m not in favor of reducing any kind of revenue for the city,” Herdman said. “We need to invest that money wisely.”

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN