April 2016.


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.”



Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter is requesting that the City Council vote Tuesday either to replace Councilman Keith Curry as chairman of the city Finance Committee or remove him from the committee altogether.

Curry has served on the seven-member committee since 2006 and has been chairman about half that time. Councilman Tony Petros, Mayor Diane Dixon and four appointed residents make up the rest of this year’s committee, which reviews the city’s annual budget and advises the City Council on financial matters.

Peotter alleges that Curry lately has blocked committee members from adding items to the agenda for discussion and prevented them from thoroughly reviewing budget documents.

“He’s been a block with the Finance Committee, preventing them from getting anything done,” Peotter said Friday. “The agenda is tightly controlled by him so other people can’t get items on the agenda.”

Curry countered by saying Peotter is calling for his removal because Curry opposed a proposal that the city look into putting surplus money into a trust to cover its unfunded pension liability. The unfunded liability is the difference between the amount the city will owe in retirement benefits and the money it has set aside to fund them.

Committee member Patti Gorczyca, whom Peotter appointed to the panel, suggested the group explore the surplus option, according to meeting minutes.

Curry called the proposal “financially illiterate.”

Curry instead favors a plan already in place, in which the city uses a portion of its surplus money to accelerate payments to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in an effort to pay off the city’s projected $257-million liability in 19 years — 11 years faster than its previous 30-year plan. The payment plan is expected to save $129 million in interest over 30 years, city staff has said.

Curry said he learned of the proposal to remove him in an email from City Manager Dave Kiff on Wednesday, the day before the council agenda was made public.

“I didn’t get any advance warning or courtesy notice from my colleague,” Curry said.

The City Council could vote to remove Curry as chairman of the committee, remove him from the committee completely or allow him to remain in his position.

If the council chooses to remove him, Dixon would appoint another council member to the panel and remove the committee member whom that person had appointed.

Peotter said it’s important to make the change now, as next fiscal year’s budget is making its way through the Finance Committee to the City Council.

“We need to flesh out all the details of the budget and look at alternative ideas,” Peotter said. “If we don’t do this now, we won’t be able to have a really good look at the budget.”

Tuesday’s City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot




Daily Pilot

April 23, 2016

Mailbag: Councilman Curry’s criticism of Mayor Dixon is unsubstantiated

Re. “Commentary: Proposal would improve transparency in Newport Beach,” March 22: Councilman Keith Curry has recently attacked our mayor, Diane Dixon, in a reprehensible, unprovoked manner. He has done all he can to accuse our mayor of corruption — an absolutely baseless charge.

No one in Newport Beach can serve more than two consecutive four-year terms on the City Council. Thank goodness.

Term limits are good for the city and good for the council members. In my brief time on the City Council, I have witnessed a long-time veteran on the council see boogeymen behind most votes and evil intentions behind too many actions. Perhaps he will get back to seeing the best in people when he is no longer in the arena.

I have witnessed Dixon act with nothing but civic virtue in her heart. She addresses everything this community asks of her. She reads to children at the library. She speaks at Oasis. She mends fences broken by animosities born out of attacks on others similar to those she is now facing.

She is, simply put, a servant-leader.

Do I agree with her on everything? No. But I respect her efforts, abilities and rationale. And not once have I ever seen her take action driven by personal or monetary gain.

We have to rise above these types of attacks that Curry is leveling against our mayor. I stand up in Dixon’s defense and ask that you do too.

Marshall “Duffy” Duffield

Newport Beach

City councilman



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