Category: Newport Beach.

Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter works hard for our city, fighting to lower costs, eliminate overtaxing and reducing government every day.

He aggressively took on putting the firewood back on the beaches immediately after we got in office. He did it with more vigor than any councilperson and got it done. Team Newport made a lot of promises, and Peotter led the charge on many issues.

I was easily intimidated by members of the old council, but not Peotter. I supported him on 99% of his motions.

Obviously, the old guard disliked what we were doing and fought back with vindictive and mean remarks. It was not fun, and I did not look forward to council meetings knowing whatever we tried we would be ridiculed in public by one or more of the old remaining council members.

Team Newport has done its best to deliver what it promised and Peotter was and is a big part of that effort. We inherited a huge debt, therefore we had to revert to limited spending and smarter planning to keep the city running like the citizens expect.

Peotter knows Newport Beach. He raised his children in the Port streets, and they all graduated from Corona del Mar High School. He spent years on the Newport Beach Planning Commission, donating his valuable time away from his architecture business. He is the only council member who has expertise in building and development. I believe his knowledge in this field is vital for the council to know if a project is good, viable or bad for the city.

Like so many others, Peotter was hit hard during the recession. Unfortunately, he had to sell his property and move to a more-affordable neighborhood until he could find his way back to the city he loves.

Peotter is a very sincere man who speaks his mind. I am proud to be working with him on the council, and I always listen to what he has to offer in an objective way. Don’t always agree, just like I don’t always agree with others on the council, but that’s not bad, it’s healthy.

If you want to recall Peotter, you may as well recall me too. I’m proud to sit on the council with him and continue fighting for what Team Newport promised.

MARSHALL “DUFFY” DUFFIELD is the mayor pro-tem of Newport Beach.

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot

In his diary, President Ronald Reagan was quoted as saying, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” Newport Beach Councilman Jeff Herdman’s April 17 letter, “Reagan statue influenced my vote on arts’ package,” is proof that Reagan was right.

In 2011, private funds were raised by former Councilman Keith Curry for a statue of Reagan in Newport Beach. Led by a column written by former Daily Pilot Editor Bill Lobdell, the Democrat-dominated Newport Beach City Arts Commission objected, arguing the process was circumvented because they are responsible for determining “appropriate” art in Newport.

President Reagan’s opponents went nuts when Curry suggested locating it at the new Civic Center. The council blinked. The beautiful, bronze statue was eventually dedicated in late 2011, in a dark cul-de-sac near a public bathroom, where it was later vandalized.

Recently, Mayor Kevin Muldoon and the current City Council voted 5-1 to relocate Reagan’s statue to the Civic Center. Herdman opposed the move because there were “just too many unanswered questions.”

Sound familiar? Imagine if President Reagan had taken Herdman’s wait-and-see position when he broke the back of Communism.

Mike Schroeder

Newport Beach

The writer is past chairman of the California Republican Party.

In response to Councilman Jeff Herdman’s April 13 commentary, “Newport Beach is a picture of financial health,” I disagree.

Herdman uses a recent Fitch Ratings report to spout the party line about the city’s financial health.

We should all remember Orange County’s 1994 bankruptcy that the rating agencies missed, at great cost to taxpayers.

Robust overspending over the past decade has put Newport in a precarious financial position.

We have one of the highest per-capita debt ratios of any city in the state.

Herdman’s idea of fiscal health is gouging taxpayers for city government.

Imagine our financial health if we didn’t have to pay $22,000 per day for 30 years for the “Taj Mahal.”

Our unfunded pension liability is in excess of $350 million. We have employees making in excess of $400,000, including benefits.

I come from a different perspective than Herdman. I have never been a public employee with a guaranteed check every two weeks and a lifetime pension.

I built my business one brick at a time while avoiding debt at all costs.

Herdman’s parroting of a rating agency report gives me no comfort about our future.

I am relieved that we now have fiscal conservatives on the council that understand it’s the taxpayers’ money — not the city’s.

Bob McCaffrey

Balboa Island

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot

NEWPORT BEACH — The life-sized statue of Ronald Reagan has had a tough go of it, even in Newport Beach, a city that reveres the former president as a conservative icon.

A month after its dedication in November 2011 at Bonita Canyon Sports Park, vandals tied a chain around the $60,000 bronze statue and tried to pull it away using a vehicle. Whether the vandals wanted the scrap metal or were trying to make a political statement was never determined.

The city removed the statue, spent $6,500 to repair it and replaced it at the park in February 2012.

On Tuesday, about five years later, Mayor Kevin Muldoon convinced the City Council that the statue should be moved.

“The Reagan statue now sits in a lonely cul-de-sac where it’s been vandalized and neglected,” Muldoon said. “I think this is not fitting of a statue honoring a former president.”

The council agreed, voting 5-1 on Tuesday, April 11, to remove the statue from the park and put it in a new location.

The Arts Commission will make a recommendation as to where, but Muldoon proposed it be placed at Civic Center Park at City Hall and become a permanent part of the city’s rotating sculpture exhibition.

Ten sculptures are rotated through the park every two years, with the current pieces expected to be removed later this year.

The statue issue was paired with another council item to contract with Arts Orange County for $105,731 to manage the third phase of the city’s rotating sculpture exhibits and appropriate $155,731 from Visit Newport Beach for project management and payments to artists.

Damaged base of the Ronald Reagan statue in Bonita Canyon Sports Park at end of Ford Road in Newport Beach Sunday morning, November 6. Vandals in the early Sunday morning tried to topple the statue. Newport Beach Police Department is investigating.ADDITIONAL INFO:reaganstatue.03-11/06/11-Photo by RICHARD KOEHLER FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The base of the Ronald Reagan statue in Bonita Canyon Sports Park is damaged. (Photo by Richard Koehler, Contributing Photographer)

Councilman Jeff Herdman dissented with that part but expressed approval for the relocation of the statue of the 40th chief executive and former California governor.

“No one wants to go against the Gipper,” Muldoon joked.

Neglected Ronald Reagan statue to be moved again in Newport Beach


With city officials projecting that Newport Beach’s payments to the state’s public employees pension fund could be up to $16 million more next fiscal year, the city Finance Committee heard a lengthy presentation Thursday about the city’s unfunded pension obligations.

Officials also noted there could be little or no increase, depending on the direction of the City Council, which budgeted about $31 million of its $278-million budget toward pensions in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

How much the city will choose to spend on bringing down its pension debt in fiscal 2017-18 — which begins July 1 — is still being determined, but city officials say it could have the effect of halting some coveted capital projects, including a new library and fire station in Corona del Mar.

During a council meeting Tuesday, City Manager Dave Kiff recommended that the city hold off on finalizing expenditures for the estimated $8-million library and fire station — nicknamed the “fibrary” — and other endeavors until the pension question is fully addressed.

Kiff said he didn’t think it was responsible to spend such funds “when we have such an uncertain debt ahead of us.”

Newport’s unfunded pension liability recently was pegged at $315 million.

Kiff repeated his recommendation Thursday, adding that finding $10 million to $16 million to cut from the 2017-18 budget while maintaining a high standard for city services has been very difficult.

Councilman Will O’Neill said during the Finance Committee meeting that he agrees with most of Kiff’s recommendations but doesn’t want the CdM “fibrary” delayed for five years, as Kiff suggested. O’Neill recommended breaking ground in as little as three years.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon said a dropoff in funds coming into city coffers from developments is expected in coming years.

Though developments aren’t always popular, she said, developer fees have funded many city parks and other amenities that Newport residents have come to appreciate and expect.

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Twitter: @BradleyZint

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot

By Scott Peotter, Newport Beach City Councilman

During our last council meeting, it was out with the old and in with the new. The three outgoing councilmembers, Keith Curry, Ed Selich, and Tony Petros, stepped down and Brad Avery, Jeff Herdman and Will O’Neill were sworn in.

At the meeting, the outgoing councilmembers were slapping themselves on the back and congratulating themselves as we politicians usually do. Taking credit for good things and leaving the next council with the failures, trying to preserve their “legacies.” People thanking them for their service, which is significant.

But what exactly is the Curry legacy? I was thinking that legacy would be debt and spending, and “Creepy Looking White Bunnies.”

From $5M to $650M in debt in ten years. When Curry took office in 2006 the only debt was the remainder of the $9M library bond and no unfunded pension liabilities. During the Curry Council years, they borrowed $128M of “non-callable” certificates of participation (COPs) that you cannot repay early or refinance even though lower rates would have saved the city $40M. Total owed with interest: almost $300M.

Curry then used this borrowed money to buy Creepy Looking White Bunnies, the $150M Taj-Ma-City-Hall and $40M Marina Park.

Before Curry, there were no unfunded pension liabilities, now we owe $350M. Unfunded pension liabilities are one of those things that you hear about all the time these days, without really understanding what it really means. In this case, a previous council to the Curry council retroactively raised public employee pensions (guaranteed payments regardless as to what the market does). Then the returns that the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) made were 0.6 percent instead of the forecasted 7.5 percent. So, the taxpayers must make up the difference, in the case of Newport, we owe CalPERS almost $350M.

John Adams, our second president, was one of the most famous of our founding fathers. Right up there next to Jefferson, Washington and Franklin. But when Adams was President he signed The Sedition Act into law. Unfortunately, many people think of this when they think of Adams, and it has somewhat tarnished his stellar image as the co-author of the Declaration of Independence and the author of the Constitution of Massachusetts (the oldest surviving constitution in existence today).

What was the Sedition Act? The Sedition Act made it illegal to “write, print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the government. Many people that disagreed with Adams were thrown in jail because of this law. It was later repealed by Jefferson when he became President.

Curry’s Sedition Acts:

Limited Our Rights to Protest: The Curry Council passed an Anti-Targeted Residential Picketing Ordinance that prohibits protestors from protesting within 300 feet of a private residence.

Censor: Then Curry tried to censor a fellow councilman (me) because he disagreed with what I said in my political newsletter when I stood up for traditional marriage by criticizing the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage. Failed.

Incumbent Protection Political Reforms: The next “Sedition” was a so-called Political Reform Initiative that would have restricted citizens’ rights to contribute to certain types of committees that were all legal but none of which supported Curry or his acolytes. It also would limit when candidates could raise money (which would give self-funding candidates an advantage). Failed.

Makes Political Signs Illegal: Now just last month, Curry proposed making posting of political signs that he disagrees with illegal. He complained about the “Vote for Ameri” signs that were posted in Farsi claiming that they were illegal (they were not) and that they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The Council Refused to consider it. Failed.

So you decide: Which is the more prominent Legacy? Curry’s Sedition Acts (desire to have government stop or limit speech he doesn’t agree with), or Curry’s $650M in debt and expensive boondoggles of the White Bunnies, Taj-Ma-City-Hall and Marina Park?


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.


With Newport Beach’s unfunded employee pension liability expected to soar to to $315 million in 2017, city leaders are walking a tightrope in their efforts to pay down the debt while maintaining a high quality of life for residents.

The city’s Finance Committee on Thursday reviewed a staff proposal to ramp up annual and discretionary payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System to help pay off the city’s growing unfunded pension obligations.

The city’s unfunded liability, which reached $276 million in 2015, is projected to climb to $315 million in 2017, according to a city staff report. The unfunded pension liability is the difference between the amount the city owes in retirement benefits and the money it has set aside to fund them.

Each year, city staff looks for ways to more quickly pay down the city’s unfunded liability compared to what the state recommends. In the coming months, the Finance Committee will be tasked with making a recommendation to the City Council about how much Newport should contribute to the liability in the next budget.

“This is our biggest nut to crack,” said Finance Committee member Patti Gorczyca.

The challenge lies in that the city is responsible for paying down the liability, but the amount of debt fluctuates annually based on CalPERS investments, making it difficult for city leaders to get their arms around the issue, officials have said.

The California Public Employees Retirement System is expected to receive a 7.5% annual return on its pension investments. However, in 2015 the investment earned 2.4%, which resulted in Newport’s liability growing from $252 million in 2014 to $276 million.

In 2016, the investment fund again performed poorly, earning a 0.6% return, which officials say will further increase the city’s unfunded liability to more than $300 million.

Staff on Thursday suggested the city begin paying on the 2016 investment loss during the 2017-18 fiscal year and pay down the two-year losses over a 20-year period rather than a 30-year schedule in an effort to save money on interest.

Staff also recommended the city make one-time payments to pay down the debt faster and consider budgeting for higher annual payments into the system in years they can afford it.

If approved, the proposal would require the city to pay $5 million more to the state agency in the first year, but would result in a $69 million savings over 30 years, according to city staff.

Several committee members on Thursday emphasized that the city needs to balance paying off its unfunded liability with maintaining quality of life services that residents expect.

Councilman Keith Curry, who also sits on the Finance Committee, said Thursday that major reforms to the CalPERS program are needed at the state level to help local municipalities get a handle on the issue.

“Chasing the unfunded liability number is a fool’s errand,” he said. “The real issue we need to focus on is our affordability. I don’t think this is a solvable problem at the municipal level.”

Rising unfunded pension liabilities isn’t a new issue for Newport Beach.

City leaders have taken steps to mitigate rising pensions costs over the past several years, including establishing lower benefit formulas for new hires, having employees pay more of the pension costs and reducing staff by nearly 100 employees.

The City Council approved a fresh start payment plan in 2014, which increased the amount of the city’s annual payments to the fund, allowing them to get caught up after 19 years. In theory, the move allowed the city to pay the pension costs in a more timely fashion with less money going to pay off interest.

Finance Committee member and City Council candidate Will O’Neill said while the city has taken proactive steps, there is more work that needs to be done.

“More money toward this issue necessarily means less money is available for services to our residents,” he said. “We risk our fiscal house going up in flames if we take our eyes off this front burner issue.”

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Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot


Under California state law, a city proposal to impose, extend or increase a tax for general government purposes must be approved by two-thirds of the city council before the measure can be submitted to voters.

But there are two kinds of cities in California: a “general law” city is governed under state law, and a “charter city” is governed by a charter — a kind of local constitution — that’s written by the city council or an elected charter commission, and then approved by the voters. Charter cities have supreme authority over their own municipal affairs. A charter provision trumps a state law on the same topic, with a few exceptions carved out by the courts.

One of those exceptions is the two-thirds requirement for city council approval of general tax measures before they can be placed on the ballot. The courts ruled that city charters could require a simple majority vote instead.

Now two charter cities have put measures on the ballot to amend their city charters to give local taxpayers a little more protection from tax increases. The measures would require a two-thirds vote of the city council before a city-sponsored measure to impose, extend or increase a tax could be placed on the ballot.

In Anaheim, the charter amendment is Measure U. In Newport Beach, the amendment is Measure MM.

Both measures deserve a yes vote on November 8.

Measure U and Measure MM extend to the residents of these two charter cities the full protection approved by voters in 1986 when they passed Proposition 62, the Howard Jarvis-backed “Voter Approval of Local Taxes” Act. The loophole opened by the courts can be closed by the voters.

The measures, both titled the “Taxpayer Protection Act,” need a simple majority to pass.

Some Newport Beach residents argue that Measure MM should also have required voter approval before the city can incur debt to finance the construction of public improvements. But that’s no reason to oppose it.

The Editorial Board recommends a yes vote on Measure U in Anaheim and Measure MM in Newport Beach.


The majority of the hopefuls for Newport Beach City Council say development and the city’s $276-million unfunded pension liability have risen to the top of the most pressing local challenges leading to the Nov. 8 election.

However, how to best tackle those issues is where the eight candidates vying for three available council seats differ.

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.

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.

Harbor Commissioner Brad Avery and law student Shelley Henderson are running for the District 2 seat, which represents Newport Heights and Newport Crest.

Herdman and Greer have taken a hard stance against the types of development that have gone before city leaders for consideration recently. Both have opposed the Museum House project, which proposes to build 100 condominiums in a 25-story tower in Newport Center. Both have won favor with community groups that are wary of citywide development.

“Development has almost gotten out of control in this city,” Greer said. “We’re not following the general plan; we’re spot zoning and it impacts our lives. I think we’ve reached a tipping point.”

Ameri has advocated for traffic mitigation to be a mandatory part of any development proposal.

Glenn has promoted himself as a champion for property rights.

Lowrey and O’Neill have not taken firm positions on specific projects but instead have vowed, if elected, to research and consider each project on its own merits.

O’Neill, Lowrey and Henderson have said that paying down the unfunded pension liability is their top issue.

Avery, who has spent several years on the city’s Harbor Commission, said improving water quality, dredging and infrastructure repair in the harbor rank high on his list of goals.

Regardless of who is elected, the introduction of three new council members will mark a significant change for the City Council. The results of the election will shape the vision for the city for at least the next decade, said Councilman Ed Selich, who represents District 5 and is termed out this year.

Councilman Keith Curry, who represents District 7, also is termed out, and Councilman Tony Petros, who represents District 2, is not seeking a second four-year term.

Typically, council members with longer tenure show newer members the ropes. But this year, with four current council members clocking two years of experience and three new members coming aboard, the group could face a learning curve, Selich said.

“This time around it’s a group of rookies, and it’s going to be a lot of work for them,” Selich said. “They’re going to have to determine how to deal with the pension situation and the development issues folks are concerned about.”

O’Neill said that while an entire council with less than a full term of experience may be uncommon in the city, it points to the importance of electing people with experience on city boards, commissions and committees.

“With Councilman Curry leaving the council this year, it’ll be particularly important to have someone on the council who has served on the Finance Committee and understands those critical issues,” O’Neill said.

In 2014, voters elected four council newcomers — Diane Dixon, Kevin Muldoon, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Scott Peotter. All were managed by campaign consultant Dave Ellis and ran on a slate known as “Team Newport.” Duffield knocked out incumbent Mayor Rush Hill in District 3.

The Team Newport members pushed for fiscal reform at City Hall, calling attention to the debt the city had incurred while building the new Civic Center complex. They also were critical of the previous council’s decision to increase fees for residential docks and swiftly moved to reduce the fees once they took their seats.

This year’s election, unlike in 2014, has not seen a traditional slate of candidates or many issues that have polarized residents, candidates said. However, Greer, Ameri and Herdman have expressed concerns that Avery, O’Neill and Lowrey, who hired Ellis as their campaign consultant, could create a voting bloc with members of Team Newport.

“All Team Newport has to do is elect one more candidate and they can exercise block voting,” Herdman said. “I’m disappointed with the possibility of that. Past councils each have had individual thinkers, and that’s missing from our council now.”

However, O’Neill and Avery said they find the notion of someone pulling strings behind the scenes and telling them how to vote highly unlikely.

Once people are elected, they often find like-minded members of the council, which can result in similar votes, Avery said.

“I can’t imagine getting a phone call telling me how to vote,” he said. “If it ever happened, I would say ‘Thank you for your comment’ and cast my vote in the best interest of the city.”

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Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

Copyright © 2016, Daily Pilot