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Guest Column

Jeff Herdman

City financial report is “impressive”

Jeff Herdman

Newport Beach City Councilman Jeff Herdman

The City of Newport Beach recently received its financial ratings report from Fitch Ratings. I was so impressed with the report that I wanted to share some of its findings with you. Below I have taken statements from the report to demonstrate the flavor of the financial condition of our City:

AAA Rating

This rating reflects notable financial flexibility and low liability levels.

Consistent tax base performance enhances the city’s strong revenue growth prospects, and a well-controlled expenditure framework.

Conservative financial management will enable the city to maintain financial stability and solid reserves in a potential economic downturn.

The extensive use of pay-as-you-go capital financing and planned pension overfunding to eliminate the outstanding liability support the City’s low debt condition.

The City reliably maintains reserves which generates a low potential decline of the City’s revenues in an economic downturn, and maintains ample fiscal tools to address any future financial stress.

Well-managed long-term liabilities in relation to pension payments to address their city’s unfunded liability. The report provides the following evidence for the above findings:

The local economy benefits from the City’s mature, wealthy tax base and strong employment.

Home values are among the highest in the country.

Unemployment is exceptionally low.

The City benefits from diverse revenue sources.

The City’s mature tax base, stable demographics, high personal incomes, and focus on economic development have contributed to strong historical general fund growth.

The unfunded pension liability constitutes just under one-third of the long-term liability. The City has taken recent action to mitigate the effect of escalating pension costs and eliminate their unfunded pension liability within 20 years, thus placing a low burden on the City in terms of long-term liability.

Conservative budgeting and sound financial policies have resulted in a trend of general fund operating surpluses and strong reserve levels.

As always, I remain at your service. Please continue to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have at 949.922.3594 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Letters to the Editor:

Former council candidate comes out against Peotter

When I began my campaign for city council last year, I believed, and still do, that to govern our community, one has to understand our community.

Scott Peotter’s response to the recall notification, clearly shows that he does not grasp that concept. Simply does not get it.

Mr. Peotter’s right to express his opinions is absolute. However, as an elected official, he does not have the right to force those views onto the people he governs. Mr. Peotter is not entitled to impose his rigid ideology on a community that, quite frankly, has other opinions and ideas about city government and what its role should be. His job is to understand what the community wants and needs, and then work to achieve those goals and desires.

This is the disconnect that exists between Mr. Peotter and the community. This is why Mr. Peotter should be recalled. Simply put, his views are not the views of the people in his district or in the City of Newport Beach.

The people of this city did not want Museum House, yet Mr. Peotter supported the draconian obligation that the petitioners include in their referendum the entire EIR and related documents. When over 16,000 signatures were turned in, Mr. Peotter disparaged the petition gatherers and voted not to accept the will of the people. He sought to subject the taxpayers of our city to an expensive special election. As an alleged champion of free speech and taxpayer’s rights, these actions appear contrary to his expressed views.

Mr. Peotter’s trespasses against the people, and the soul of this city, are extensive and well documented. They range from blind, unquestioning support for all private development to a palatable disdain for civic culture. They run the gamut from a refusal to fund libraries to reducing public safety under the guise of fiscal responsibility. Mr. Peotter needs to go, not because of what he believes, but because of what he seeks to impose upon a city that is better than he believes it to be.

In the last election, the message we put forth was the proposition that to govern Newport Beach, you have to understand Newport Beach. And while the messenger putting forth that proposition may have been a flawed candidate, the message resonated. That message continues to resonate. That is why a recall petition is being circulated. That is why Mr. Peotter will be recalled.

Phil Greer

Newport Beach

• • •

Another vote against Peotter

Scott Peotter likes to say that the recall is about intolerant residents attacking his freedom of speech. No Scott, it is not. Let’s be clear, this recall is about your complete failure to follow the law and to respect both your oath of office and the residents who elected you.

In June 2015, Peotter went to the Costa Mesa Tea Party and disclosed confidential information and made statements that could have exposed the city to legal liability. His speech was posted on YouTube and when it was discovered he tried, reminiscent of Watergate, to cut 17 minutes out of the video. The council made him read an apology to the public on August 13, 2015. Why can’t he follow the law, and what was he even doing in Costa Mesa?

In 2014, he was caught by the City Clerk taking contributions in excess of the legal contribution limit from the owners of Woody’s Wharf, then in litigation with the city. He failed to report the return of the contribution and then defiantly, held a fundraiser at Woody’s. Here again he failed to report the cost of the fundraiser as required by state law. He later accepted, and reported another excess contribution by Council Member Duffield. Again, he was defiant and did not return the money until he was caught by a resident. “I can break the law until I get caught” is not the standard we expect, Scott.

On more than seven occasions, he used the city seal, contrary to the municipal code, in e-mails to raise campaign funds, endorse partisan candidates, insult his colleagues and engage in national issues. Twice the council reprimanded him and they even changed the law to restrict his abuse. Yet as recently as last week, Scott was still using an image of the seal, as if he had found a loophole, on his offensive e-mails. What kind of elected official repeatedly skates this close to the edge of ethics violations on purpose?

All three candidates in the recent council election condemned the racist Farsi language signs, which failed to identify the party that paid for them as required by law. Only Scott Peotter went to the newspaper to defend their use.  Who does that?

Finally, Scott alone went to the newspapers to defend the decision to require 3,700 unnecessary pages in the Museum House petition. This was done for one reason only, to frustrate the constitutional right of the people to petition their government. You took an oath to defend the constitution Scott. You violated that oath.

Intolerant residents? You’re right Scott, we are intolerant of your law breaking, insults and attacks on our constitutional rights.

Lori Morris

West Newport/Balboa

• • •

Glenn awaits Dixon apology

Here are the flawed conclusions by (city) staff about why I “owe the city money”.  Note that I requested none of these in physical form, and many of them I specifically requested in electronic form, which is free (and they were delivered as such).

If the city wants to print things without my permission or request, then that is about as reasonable as a gardener mowing your lawn without permission and then sending you a bill.

It seems there are a lot of staff problems that can be dealt with here, and perhaps more importantly, it highlights that Councilmembers attempting to use documents to publicly shame activists for the city should probably independently verify the accuracy of those documents before engaging in such intentional malice.

Thanks so much for your time, and I am glad this is now resolved from a financial end.

I look forward to a formal and public apology from Councilwoman Diane Dixon on her error.  

I also hope that the city sets a policy up to stop wasting paper – if, in fact, these pages were ever even printed at all.

Mike Glenn

Newport Beach

Letters to the Editor:

Long time community activist organizes campaign to oppose Councilman Scott Peotter recall

I became involved in city politics over a decade ago to stop the over-concentration of drug and alcohol rehab homes in West Newport and expose the corrupt politicians profiting from them, while our community suffered the impacts. 

The deeper I dug, the more corruption I found at City Hall. 

They hid documents, obfuscated the truth, and allowed our community to become ground-zero for some of the worst drug rehab over-concentration that California has ever seen.  

I discovered a former mayor and city councilman were involved.  It was disgusting. 

In 2014 a group of councilmembers was elected bringing transparency and sunlight to government.  

Councilman Scott Peotter is a leader in cleaning the mess up and protecting residents. 

Scott and I often disagree on issues and he isn’t always politically correct, but he always fights for us. 

Newport Beach city councilman Scott Peotter is shaking up our bloated and corrupt Newport Beach city government. 

He was elected in 2014 on a platform of reduced spending, cutting regulations, and reining in our massive $500 million pension debt and Taj Mahal bond payments. 

Scott is not afraid to speak his mind – calling out the excesses and corruption of the past decade. 

His political opponents have targeted him for a recall because they want to return to the days of overspending on pet projects like the Taj Mahal, Marina Park, proposed west side community center on Costa Mesa’s border, and give preferential treatment of those “politically connected” at the expense of the ordinary community member. 

Let’s keep Free Speech Alive in Newport – Stop the Scott Peotter recall.

Robert Rush, Chairman

Save Free Speech in Newport Beach

Let’s Recall Scott Peotter

Scott Peotter is an embarrassment to our community and a failure as our city councilman. He tries to say he is being recalled because of his faith, or that he is politically incorrect and outspoken. None of that is true. He is being recalled because of his support for high rise development, his efforts to deny the constitutional rights of residents to petition their government, his utter failure to follow our laws and his insults to his colleagues and the public.

He strongly supports high-density, high-rise development and even endorsed raising the height limits for developers on Lido. He fought hard to block the Museum House referendum by requiring the ten-pound petition and voted twice to approve the project.

Peotter has insulted his colleagues, compared a councilmember to notorious killers, and insulted residents who opposed his high-rise development plans. He violated the Brown Act by disclosing confidential closed session deliberations and broke campaign contribution regulations and political reporting laws. He misused the city seal and has been rebuked twice by the council. He is the subject of an FPPC investigation for election law violations.

He proposed speculating in the stock market with city tax dollars, voted for fee cuts and large settlements for his contributors and voted against the city sexual harassment prevention policies. Claiming to be a “fiscal conservative,” Peotter uses his council position to collect compensation from four public agencies. 

As for keeping his promises, pension debt is $70 million higher and accelerating faster since he took office. The operating budget is up $22 million, capital spending is down because Marina Park was completed, not because of Peotter. His plan to reduce bonded debt would have increased debt service by $20 million. He was successful in putting an embezzler on the finance committee.

Our city cannot afford the extremist policies of a councilman who disrespects our laws and who mocks and insults residents who disagree with him. Sign the petition to recall Scott Peotter. 

For more information visit

Lynn Swain

Committee to Recall Scott Peotter

Guest Column

Scott Peotter

I will always stand up for Free Speech

Scott Peotter

Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter

In his early writings Benjamin Franklin warns, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” 

Recall Because of Being Politically Incorrect

An intolerant group in Newport Beach has initiated a recall against me tonight because I speak my mind. Their list of “grievances” against me read as though the real reason that they want to recall me is because I am politically incorrect!

I have strong beliefs in limited government, reduced taxation, regulatory reform, property rights, and yes; I am an unapologetic Christian.

I politely and forcefully speak my mind but I don’t subscribe to political correctness.

The City Needs Differing Opinions

Over the past decade, Newport has lacked robust debate. Unanimous city council votes have led to saddling Newport taxpayers with over $550 million in unfunded pension debt and the cost of our excessive city hall, a $150 million monument to political excess.

Our children will be paying for those decisions for decades.

Promises Kept

I was elected in 2014 with a clear mandate to stop the city’s excessive spending. Frankly, their criticisms are based on my doing what I promised during the campaign. I know, what a concept that a politician actually makes good on their promises. My opponents are still bitter.

My political opponents want to stifle my free speech and return to the days over-spending and sweetheart deals for insiders.

Recall Special Election Will Cost City $500,000

This recall is based on policy differences, that is what elections are for. If successful, this recall election would be heard sometime between November and February of next year. I am up for election in November next year. I look forward to running on my record. 

The recallers will not intimidate me, I will fight this recall to protect everyone’s right to respectfully speak freely, whether you agree with me or not. In my opinion, that’s the foundation of democracy.

Guest Column

Paul Blank

Notice of recall served to Councilman Scott Peotter 

Paul Blank

Corona del Mar resident Paul Blank 

Editor’s note: Tuesday night, Paul Blank, a longtime Corona del Mar resident, served Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter with written notice of the intent to recall him. The following is Blank’s address to the Council.

Good evening.

I am Paul Blank, a 30-year resident of Corona del Mar. You may have heard me speak earlier this evening during the study session as I am also the current Chairman of the Harbor Commission.

When leaders don’t listen to their constituents or treat them fairly and with respect those constituents can easily turn into activists.

Tonight, I have become an activist.

The residents of Corona del Mar are not being properly represented by their councilman.

A man who moved to the city eight months before the election specifically to run for this seat;

A man who does not own property in Newport Beach;

A man who has consistently opposed parks, libraries, fire stations and the people that use them;

A man who has been disrespectful while conducting public business, insulted his colleagues, called his constituents liars and disparaged dedicated staff;

A man who has insulted leaders and staff in other agencies while representing Newport Beach;

A man currently under investigation by the FPPC for various allegations of campaign finance violations;

A man who tried to undermine the constitutional right of residents to petition their government by requiring 3,700 unnecessary pages in the Museum House petition;

A man who stands in stark conflict with the community on the issue of high rise development.

The activist in me is now working to replace this man as our representative at the earliest possible opportunity. This is not about his right to free speech, it is about the standards of conduct we expect of our elected officials.

On behalf of the registered voters of District 6, my neighbors and friends throughout Newport Beach, and the 30 signers of this notice, we hereby formally serve this Notice of Recall on Councilman Scott Peotter.

Letter to the Editor:

Former foe comes out against Peotter

I am not participating in this recall with a sense of joy. I’m participating from a sense of duty. I ache for my city. Councilmembers serve at the pleasure of the voters. 

(Scott) Peotter has called some of the most respected members of our community liars, pouters and whiners. This is patently disrespectful and inconsistent with the qualities that make a good leader and public representative. His disrespect for the people he serves does not stop there. The list of his indiscretions and questionable actions is long, well documented and will be splayed out in the weeks to come. The sum of Peotter’s record renders him untrustworthy and unsuitable for office.

Michael Lee Toerge

Corona del Mar

Letters to the Editor:

Time for Councilman Peotter to Go

Like many of my neighbors, I have been appalled by the changes in our city council during the past two years. Rather than focusing on the quality of life, parks and open space for our kids, replacement of aging facilities and sound fiscal management, we see council members injecting themselves into national issues, using tax resources to reward their contributors and injecting a coarseness in our public discussion that never existed before.

No one more embodies these changes than Councilmember Scott Peotter. He has insulted his colleagues, insulted leading residents who disagree with him, and has blatantly disregarded our laws regarding campaign contribution limits, disclosure of closed session information, campaign reporting and the use of the city seal.

He has been the leader and instigator in making our city government more partisan. For example, he changed the rules so that his political allies could serve on the city finance committee. This led to the appointment of his political friend and convicted felony embezzler Jack Wu to the committee.

Normally, I would be willing to wait until the next election to address Peotter’s record. But the costs are simply too high to wait. This year he is proposing several items that would have long term financial consequences to our city. For example, selling the old City Hall property would eliminate a long term Tidelands revenue source that would fund public improvements for generations, much like the long time lease for the Balboa Bay Resort. Peotter wants to cut our libraries, fire stations and community centers. This will cause these projects to cost much more in the future. Two more budget cycles and two more rounds of commissioner appointments are too much for me.

What really put me over the top however was how Peotter reacted to the Museum House project. Not only did he vote for this project twice, but he conspired to place in the petition more than 3,700 unnecessary pages to try to frustrate the people’s right to petition the government. Even after 14,000 signatures were submitted he refused to rescind the project and engaged in a round of insults and name calling against the citizens leading this effort. We should demand more from our councilmembers.

Recalling Scott Peotter now will help restore civility, focus the council on city issues and allow us to move our city forward in a spirit of community. Visit

Georgia Foell

Newport Beach

• • •

A recent settlement by the city (taxpayers) paying over $202,000 to resident Kent Moore’s lawyer is appalling. 

His case involved seeking public documents regarding alleged misdeeds during a trip sponsored by the Newport Beach Sister City Association and minor children in 2010 to Antibes, France.

Moore was frustrated at every turn. At one point the city claimed they couldn’t find the records due to migration to the Taj Mahal from the old city hall site. 

The “dog-ate-my-homework” excuse didn’t satisfy Moore.

He got fed up and rightfully hired a lawyer. The city played cat-and-mouse forcing Moore’s lawyer to file a lawsuit. The city should have produced the documents years ago instead of letting the meter run.

I credit the current council with stopping the clock and cutting our losses. 

Taxpayers should demand our $347,000 per year city manager Dave Kiff and $321,000 per year city attorney Aaron Harp pay the $202,000 settlement.

Bob McCaffrey

Volunteer Chairman, Residents for Reform

Balboa Island

Letters to the Editor:

More, not less, fire investment requested by this resident

This letter is in response to Mark Adams letter.

This reply is concerning your apprehension regarding firemen and the need for a new fire station in Newport Beach. Many of us take the city of Newport as a fun, flashy lifestyle with a spectacular year round climate. 

What many might not realize in their day-to-day activities is that our “beautiful” city is located above a major earthquake fault line, also surrounded by lots of ocean and bay water. If such a disaster was to occur, we will need ALL THE HELP FROM THE FIRE DEPARTMENT that we can get. 

So, that being said, I am in favor of one, two or even three new fire stations. If we can spend multi millions on an extravagant civic center, then we can cough up some money for a new fire station and the personnel that goes along with it. 

Sherry Fox

Newport Beach

Two lanes, not three, through Mariner’s Mile

We already fought this battle in the early 1970’s, when similar forces were also at work for private economic gain. We won that battle with good reason: to tone down the racetrack and to keep Newport a civilized seaside town. (Marshall Duffield’s father supported this control.)

More lanes, and narrower ones at that, being proposed (for Mariner’s Mile) invariably mean faster, more dangerous driving conditions. Already, between Dover and Avocado, there are three lanes in each direction and it is clear that the extra lane there is no solution to a traffic jam.

Any city in the world has traffic in its city limits from 5-6 in the evening — it’s hardly justification to completely uproot everything and everybody and pave over more land!

The last thing the Newport Beach City Council needs to spend money on (private land acquisition for example) is the widening of PCH, when money could be put to much better use in paying down the debt for the absurdly way-overspent City Hall, not to mention the City’s pension responsibility. 

Every beach city between San Clemente and Sunset Beach has two lanes, not three, in each direction.

Newport should be supporting small businesses, not ripping them out by widening the PCH.

Just leave it alone Mr. (David) Webb. You surely have more important things to do. Get it? The residents don’t want what you are pushing. Better to focus on helping to make Mariner’s Mile — REALLY for mariners.

That’s what citizens of this great City want, not a racetrack or a series of car sales lots. I speak as a 50-year resident of Newport Beach.

David A. Grant

Newport Beach

Letter to the Editor:

Reader irked at former Mayor Curry and plenty else in our City

I’m not certain why Tom Johnson thinks we residents want to hear from Mr. Curry but we don’t. His excessive spending on the Taj Mahal city hall, his petty battles with councilman Scott Peotter have grown tedious. Curry was a spendthrift mayor and continues to try to impose his grandiose spending habits on our beach town.

I don’t agree with much of what Mr. Peotter presents nowadays.

But when I see full fire trucks parked in front of supermarkets...yes, I know all of the arguments about training, needing a full complement of men together yada yada yada...but still we are wasting resources on lunches...those guys have cars and do not work five day weeks, can have groceries delivered...I can see the financial arguments for delaying firehouse construction. 

Add to that the unfunded pension liabilities in our town and one can see the reasons for the current city council to be fiscally prudent.

That would be a first for our beloved Newport Beach.

Mark Adams

Newport Beach

Letter from:

Steve Rosansky

Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce turns 110

Steve Rosanky

Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Steve Rosansky

Yesterday, Sunday, March 12, the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce celebrated the 110th anniversary of its founding in 1907 as the first business membership organized in the fledgling City of Newport Beach. At the time, the City was incorporated just one year earlier. The founding members were 16 local businessmen, who called themselves the “Harbor Boosters,” – each contributed five dollars for the initial expenses of the Chamber.

In the early years, the Chamber was a driver in the creation of Newport Harbor and its surrounding industry. In 1927, the Newport Chamber and the Balboa Chamber merged into one chamber called the Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce. After several subsequent name changes, the organization is now known as the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Although 110 years old, the Chamber has remained a vibrant and ever-evolving group of businesses dedicated to its mission of promoting economic opportunity through business and community leadership and to enhance the social and civic environment of Newport Beach. Today, the Chamber has grown from the original 16 to 650 diverse business organizations representing thousands of employees and the whole spectrum of the Newport business community.

The Chamber fulfills its mission through events and programming directly related to its four core competencies: Connection, Education, Community and Advocacy. The Chamber hosts a number of monthly events including the popular WAKE UP! Newport series at the Main Library, featuring prominent speakers in an approachable environment. Our Chamber mixers are legendary and occur at the hottest restaurants and venues all over Newport Beach. We also educate our members at monthly business luncheons designed to give business people the tools they need to succeed in today’s challenging environment.

Perhaps the thing the Chamber is best known for is the high quality Civic events that we host every year. Preeminent is the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade and Ring of Lights celebrating its 109th year, which annually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the City to see this on-the-water spectacular, not to mention a $6 million+ impact on city revenues. In addition, events like the Police Appreciation Breakfast (this month on March 29th), the Scholarship and Athletic Awards Dinners, Fire & Lifeguard Appreciation Dinner, Corona del Mar Sandcastle Contest, Newport Beach Economic Forecast and the Citizen of the Year Gala have been connecting the business community with Newport Beach residents and Newport Beach Civil Service Employees for decades.

Not to rest on our laurels, the Chamber in the last year has beefed up its offering to include a young professionals group known as Navigate-Modern Professionals; a women’s focused group called In.Spire – Women in Business and networking and referral groups we call the Referral Roundtables.

In summary, the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce is the go-to organization in town dedicated solely to the continued success of the Newport Beach business community.

For more information on all of our programs and events, as well as membership, you can visit us at

Steve Rosansky is President & CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce

Letter from:

Gary Sherwin

Tourism Matters: Newport Beach “Springs” Forward

Gary Sherwin

Visit Newport Beach President & CEO Gary Sherwin

This winter is one for the record books. No, not for tourism in Newport Beach which had more rainy days than it has in probably six years. Tourism and rain usually aren’t a great combination unless you are marketing a rainforest. But the upside is that our medians around town are finally green, and the hillsides rival that of Ireland with their emerald sheen.

Aside from the weather, our industry is facing some challenges heading into the rest of the year. The much publicized “travel ban” from Washington has already caused a slowdown in international arrivals according to the U.S. Travel Association, and as national economic policy is clarified and a proposed tax plan is presented and approved, the economy is a bit uncertain although most people have seen their retirement plans soar thanks to a vibrant Wall Street. It seems many people, including meeting planners, are taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach before making meeting and vacation plans. Here at Newport Beach and Company, we are watching developments closely and adjusting our plans where appropriate.

Here in town, we bid farewell to the Fairmont Newport Beach (and its excellent General Manager Karl Kruger) as it temporarily becomes the Duke Hotel and eventually the Renaissance Newport Beach after an upgrade and renovation. Our newest gem, the Lido House Hotel, is rising from the ground on the peninsula with an expected opening in March 2018. Local resident and developer Bob Olsen has put his heart and soul into this project and when finished, it will solidly reflect our unique and special Newport Beach culture. Both properties will be very welcome additions to our community.

Spring is almost here, and it is about time to get out and enjoy our wonderful community again. And if you see one of our visitors out there, please thank them for choosing our wonderful community to relax in.

 Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Newport Beach & Co.

Letter to the Editor

As a native of Newport Beach, I now live near the northern end of Jamboree in Orange.

The Balboa Peninsula Point, the Wedge, Newport (El) Grammar School, Horace Ensign and Newport Elementary are the framework of my life.

Back to the days of the Independent Daily Pilot to recent years and repeated requests to the now Pilot owners, the LA Times, I found no avenue for receipt of news from and about Newport Beach. (I found the inability for the paper to be mailed to me, ludicrous in that I subscribe to printed newspapers as far reaching as Montecito, CA to East Hampton, NY).

I have known Duncan Forgey since 1st grade. He introduced me to your ‘newspaper’ and I am so happy that he did! I have enjoyed his writings, especially as our histories are so meshed.

City business and news across the board has reignited my NB connections and I give my NB friends a break from my inquiries about what’s happening at ‘home’.

 Thank you for your online publication! Looking forward to keeping in touch.

Chris (Spencer Gentosi) Hooker

Letter from:

Gary Sherwin

Tourism Matters: A Special Tribute

Visit Newport Beach City President & CEO Gary Sherwin

Usually in this space, we talk about the phenomenal assets Newport Beach has including its beaches, harbor, excellent hotels and its aspirational brand, all of which make us a very successful destination. 

Today, I wanted to talk about another critical asset, people, and two of whom we lost on the same day. Former Newport Beach Mayor and Newport Beach & Company Vice Chairman Denny O’Neil and Werner Escher, the Executive Director of Domestic and International Markets for South Coast Plaza, two icons of our community, passed away Jan 6. 

There has been considerable media coverage of both their passing that are richly deserved. Both were instrumental in making our community considerably more economically vibrant. 

After serving two terms on the Newport Beach City Council as well as a stint as Mayor, Denny was appointed to our Executive Committee by the City Council in 2011. Denny admittedly didn’t know much about tourism when he joined the board, but that wasn’t the point. He was bringing the perspective of the city and that of a former city attorney. 

Denny relished his role and set to work learning about our industry, how it worked, the markets we pursue to bring visitation to the city and got to know our staff on a first name level. He was completely dedicated to his work on our board and his respect among our hospitality community soared. 

When we had legal issues such as contracts or lease agreements, Denny brought his legal mind to our benefit, volunteering to handle all of those on a pro bono basis. He championed our development into a broader marketing agency for the City by encouraging agreements to expand marketing of the Christmas Boat Parade and restaurant marketing with the Newport Beach Restaurant Association. 

More importantly, he was a sage counsel, as he was to so many city officials and business leaders keeping us all on the straight and narrow, and respecting the division between public and private partnerships. Denny leaves a hole in my heart and this organization that will not be easily filled. 

I have lost a good friend. 

Werner Escher, although working in neighboring Costa Mesa, was a long-time Newport Beach resident who was a national tourism figure. When he joined South Coast Plaza more than 40 years ago, it was a mall in a lima bean field. It had a handful of stores but it had big aspirations. Werner was literally the pioneer of retail tourism; the concept that people would actually get on a plane from a faraway place and come to shop. When he began this effort, he was mocked. Really, who would come all the way from Japan or China to go shop in his mall?

Of course, Werner was right, they did come and boy did they spend. Asian visitors now account for more than 20 percent of South Coast Plaza’s business. There was always a rivalry with Fashion Island, but Werner admitted he shopped there a lot.

Now retail centers across the country follow Werner’s lead and market themselves globally, but none do it with the flourish of Werner.

The man had a quick wit and an elegant goofiness that endeared him to all his colleagues throughout the country. You could always count on Werner to be a partner with you on projects and to help all of us tell the OC story to a wider global audience. It seemed like he was always everywhere and at every meeting. No one worked it like Werner.

Although he was a promoter of Costa Mesa, he was also proud to live in our city where he raised his family with his wife Diane, who would often roll her eyes as Werner told another corny joke at a social function.

Werner was indeed a character but he was also a visionary who was whip smart and developed a loyal following around the world.

Denny was a true statesman and Werner a true ambassador. Both of their contributions to our city, as well as their loss, will be felt in Newport Beach for a long time.

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Newport Beach & Co.

Letter from:

Gary Sherwin

Tourism Matters: Taking a look at the year ahead

Visit Newport Beach City President & CEO Gary Sherwin

In 2016, we established a mantra in our office: do big things, do them smart and be emotionally impactful.

In a quick look back at our activities in promoting Newport Beach last year, I can confidently say that we scored a “hat trick” in delivering on our objectives. It was a record year based on a number of business metrics – including hotel occupancies and room night bookings through Visit Newport Beach – but perhaps one of the more exciting, emotionally impactful efforts will be broadcast on national television in a couple weeks.

Now, before I share that exciting news, let me cover some more recent accomplishments of interest to our tourism community.

Last month we officially launched our new marketing campaign, fresh with creative visuals which speak to the breezy-yet-aspirational attitude of our destination. We are rolling it out across all of our public-facing marketing channels and you’ll be immediately drawn into its theme of encouraging our visitors to take their own unique tastes, interests and passions to the next level. We welcome all to “Journey Well Beyond.” Get a preview of our new campaign here.

In one of our more impactful events, we joined forces with the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Commodores Club to deliver the 108th edition of the annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade. In marketing the colorful event, we released a series of creative materials celebrating the human, heartfelt aspect of the parade – the emotional connection visitors and locals have with the sparkling event each year. All local news channels covered the opening event and through interviews with our chamber leadership, the positive financial benefits of the parade to our community were reported.

In every list of the key reasons people travel and the expectations they have when exploring a destination, memorable dining opportunities remains among the top three. This makes our January “Newport Beach Restaurant Week” so important to our community. 

As Orange County’s longest standing restaurant week, Newport Beach Restaurant Week, from Monday, January 16 through Sunday, January 29 returns for 14 delicious days of exciting culinary offerings that spotlight the best of dining in scenic Newport Beach. Participating restaurants will offer special, two- or three-course, prix fixe menus priced between $10 and $25 for lunch, and $20 to $50 for dinner. We are proud to work with the Newport Beach Restaurant Association to present this event –bon appetite!

Finally, I’ve saved one impactful event for the end - buried the lede, as they say in media terms. But it’s a rose-filled doozey!

On January 9, ABC will air an episode of its wildly popular “The Bachelor” reality show. The reason we’re so excited is that the key “first date” of the show was taped right here in Newport Beach! We worked carefully with the show’s producers to create a spectacularly romantic date that showcases the best of our destination, and evokes dream-like aspirations of coming to Newport Beach for the ultimate dating experience. Tune in Monday Jan 9 to watch as Newport Beach accepts a rose and becomes a costar that evening!

Here’s to a wonderfully successful 2017 – we certainly are off to a great start!

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Newport Beach & Co.

Letter from:

Keith Curry

Council voter suppression to cost taxpayers millions

Newport Beach City Councilman and former Mayor Keith Curry

In just a few days, Newport Beach residents gathered 13,730 signatures to require a public vote on the Museum Tower project. More people signed the petition than voted for councilmembers Peotter (11,920) or Muldoon (11,768). It is also clear to observers of this process that if needed, twice this number of signatures could have been obtained.

This accomplishment is all the more remarkable in light of the unprecedented deceitful media campaign, including paid thugs to intimidate petition circulators and signers. Councilman Peotter launched a series of weird, personal attacks on petition supporters like citizens of the year Jean Watt and Nancy Skinner. The city council attempted to suppress the people’s right to petition by requiring thousands of unnecessary pages such as the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and random staff report exhibits to be included in the petitions. This made them weigh more than ten pounds each and cost thousands to print. It didn’t work.

Now project supporters are alleging that the petitions are deficient because some maps are in black and white instead of color and the EIR was not printed in large enough type. Really? For the city council to reject the petitions for these reasons would require a breathtaking display of arrogance and contempt for the city’s residents.

The council’s tampering in the petition process is now backfiring as the council must print and mail ten pound ballot pamphlets (twenty pounds if you accept the arguments of project sponsors), to 57,020 registered voters. An election that would have cost less than $200,000 will now cost in the millions. This waste of millions of taxpayer dollars is directly and personally the responsibility of those four remaining councilmembers who required all the extra pages to frustrate the petition process. The new council can avoid these costs by rescinding the approvals for the project.

Not to be forgotten is the role of Team Newport puppet master Bob McCaffrey and Residents for Reform who filed a bogus Fair Political Practices Commission complaint to try to shut down project opponents. It was quickly dismissed. Those who may have supported McCaffrey and Residents for Reform on issues of dock fees or public spending may be surprised to see that this group is really just a shill for the high rise development clients of Dave Ellis. It always has been.

Ironically, the project has many positive attributes and could have competed well on its merits. Museum supporters should be asking some hard questions of their political consultants. 

Keith Curry is a former mayor of Newport Beach.

Letters to the Editor:

Reader disappointed in developer tactics, city hall and police for Museum House debacle

Absolutely, let’s bring it to a vote. Your comments on the Museum House developer’s tactics are sadly right on.  

Some of us, and particularly those women who were harassed day after day by the Museum House goons at Eastbluff Center are understandably frustrated. Our respect for city government and the Newport Beach Police Department in particular has taken a big and likely long lasting hit. City Manager (Dave) Kiff sent a memo out asking anyone with a harassment complaint connected with signature gathering to call him. They did and the effect was zip. Minutes after the police left, it was harassment time all over again.  

Another gatherer at Gelson’s was surrounded by nearly a dozen jerks preventing her from reaching citizens interested in signing her petition. The police officer who showed up for a few minutes did nothing as if he were under orders to make an appearance and then look the other way.  

No Kiff, no follow-up and certainly no police protection. Mr. Kiff needs to take the Chief out to the woodshed.

Michael C Smith

Newport Beach

Library Foundation Director expresses gratitude to the community for support

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Library Foundation members and supporters, program attendees and our email subscribers – the Newport Beach Public Library system is truly extraordinary because of you. Whether you brought a child to storytime, checked out a book or sponsored a lecture, it is your participation at any level that makes the library such a vibrant and beloved community center.

During the last year, the Library Foundation provided $220,000 in funding and $295,000 in programming for the Newport Beach Public Library. We receive NO government funding and minimal corporate sponsorship. Our support is primarily from people like you – individuals who understand the immeasurable value of a great public library. To see where your dollars went specifically, click here.

At this time, I ask that you help us keep up this strong momentum of support for the Newport Beach Public Library with a contribution of any amount.  We are a membership-driven, not-for-profit organization so every gift we receive is greatly appreciated and very important. 

Some of our membership premiums are shown here. Library Foundation members also get $5 discounts on tickets to our popular programs like The Witte Lectures. You deserve it for creating such a first-rate library in our community!

Thank you so much if you have already given. I wish all of you the very best of the season.  

In gratitude,

Tracy Keys
Executive Director

Letter to the Editor:

When exercising our right to vote invokes threats of violence, something is deeply wrong

I don’t know if this letter should be a “Letter to the Editor” or the front-page top news story of the day, none the less, the word needs to get out to the residents of Newport Beach – Be very wary of several thugs around town who are trying to stop you from signing a local petition! I have lived in Newport Beach for more 18 years and I have never, ever experienced anything like what I experienced on Tuesday night. While walking into the Ralph’s at East Bluff shopping center, I stopped by a table to review a local petition. While trying to engage in a conversation with the two people at the table about the petition, three young men in the background intervened, were talking over my conversation, insulting me, were making assertive remarks and overtures. This was a very uncomfortable situation, so I confronted them on their bullying and thug tactics. At that moment, I became very afraid of the encounter and I feared the situation could escalate into a violent encounter.

Immediately afterwards I called the Newport Beach Police Department to report the incident, but the police said they cannot do anything as these tactics are not illegal.  Make no mistake while these tactics may not be illegal they are tantamount to obstructing my right to exercise my democratic right to vote – and that is morally wrong. I urge the citizens of Newport Beach to be on guard for these people, but most importantly do not let them intimidate you if you chose to sign the petition.

After the encounter, I learned these people have been employing these bullying tactics city wide for several days. It was even reported these young men are harassing our senior citizens, women and children and there was even one violent punching encounter reported. It’s shocking and shameful that proponents of one side of an initiative have hired numerous outside people to interfere and try to stop our right to exercise our right to vote in our City – we are better than that in Newport Beach.

But the most important question I had to ask was, what it is really that these people are seeking to accomplish that they go to such extremes? What is their hidden agenda?  As I understand it, the Museum House is a watershed issue for the residents of Newport Beach. Aside from the new museum funding that may result from the City’s first major high-rise residential building, the residents of Newport Beach need to wake up to the fact that we are at a fundamental crossroad as to the vison of what we want Newport Beach to be. Will we retain our more historical, residential, recreational character and way of life, or do we take the first and likely the precedent setting step to a community with more high rise buildings, greater density and traffic? And while the City Council and the Planning Commission have decided in favor of the high rise (…no doubt since they want the additional revenue for the City), and while the supporters of the new museum (most of whom are not even residents of Newport Beach) want us to harbor the building, the residents of Newport Beach have not yet had an opportunity to weigh in whether or not an almost 300-foot high rise is acceptable to us.

All this petition is proposing is that the residents of Newport Beach be allowed to exercise our right to weigh in, to decide the community vision and direction of our City that we want for many years to come.

With the bullying tactics of the Museum House supporters, I can only assume that the developers, the countywide supporters of the new museum and Museum House believe the residents of Newport Beach will vote the high rise down and will vote to retain our unique world-class character. Since the highrise supporters fear a vote, they have proven they will spend any amount of money and use any tactics necessary to stop the vote.

It’s a very sad day for the residents of Newport Beach not because of the thinly vailed threats of the thugs with their anything goes tactics, but that the supporters of the Museum House are trying to suppress the residents’ of Newport Beach fundamental right to vote.

Robert Mortenson

Newport Beach resident

A strong California economy

For years I have followed Senator John Moorlach as a member of the OC Board of Supervisors and now as state senator. I applaud him for his concerns about wasteful spending but it seems he doesn’t get that as a senator he’s also responsible for all the things needed to have a strong economy and healthy communities.

Moorlach recently opposed a bill addressing global climate change signed by Gov. Brown. Climate change is real, the CO2 emissions that contribute to climate change are harmful to our health. Trivializing or ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.  Not addressing the problem only makes it more difficult to deal with later. This summer was the hottest worldwide ever, last year was the 2nd hottest summer.  

Californians are already feeling the effects of climate change, from rising sea levels along the coastal communities to drought-stricken farming communities. It’s long past time that we address the problems and plan for our future.  We need to capture the rare rainfall we receive and if necessary, build desalination plants to supplement our water needs. Why isn’t John Moorlach able to see what we need and plan accordingly?

Moorlach wants only to address is pensions. Fair enough, but why does Moorlach attack the pensions of police, firefighters, and teachers when he’s taking an $84,000 pension from OC taxpayers? The LA Times said Moorlach blamed the pension problems on policies when Moorlach “knew better.”  The problem was caused by an economic crisis slowdown. 

The threat to our economy and our future isn’t pensions; the threat is not having clean air and available water. Without them our quality of life suffers, businesses are driven away, and our economy struggles.

I urge you to support Ari Grayson for state senate. Ari has the vision California needs to thrive.

Pat Grossman, MD

Newport Beach, CA

Letter to the editor:

Concerned about Johnson’s city hall thoughts 

(Tom) Johnson’s comments regarding city council are concerning for a few reasons, but I agree with him on at least one.

His statement that Peotter is a proponent of same sex marriage is backwards. Completely false.

His contention that Curry, Petros et al leaving the council is a bad thing is also not mainstream thinking.

Curry’s support of the city hall Taj Mahal cost him an election, the support of the average NPB citizens.

The current council has done nothing to stop unbridled development in the city, hasn’t fixed the crime and housing problems on the peninsula, has approved a hotel debacle on the old city hall site without a strong, planned traffic solution.

As for Muldoon, he may not be the strongest mayoral candidate but Dixon had no experience either.

Is that a good thing? Is new blood and ideas what the city seeks? 

Time will tell. 

Mark Adams

Newport Beach

Invictus not the only yacht blocking the view

The yacht Stimulus on the 200 block of South Bayfront, Balboa Island needs to relocate.  

While the huge yacht is a fine vessel, it is several times larger than any other boat on the Island. It hangs grossly over its dock on all three sides, encroaching on the slip next door. It sits immovable on the sand for hours on either side of low tide every day, and at medium and higher tides its bridge exceeds Balboa Island building height restrictions. It dominates views for several blocks of residents up and down the bay front. It causes navigation problems, particularly during the Beer Can and other regattas, and the only time it has left its tenuous side tie is when it was stolen and run ashore up in Long Beach.

I believe numerous other residents on this side of the Island have registered complaints about this boat with the Harbor Department – when I first talked with the Sherriff’s office 3 years ago they were well aware of the situation, citing dozens of similar calls about this boat. They cited the harbor rule (I think not written but adopted in practice) that the boat is okay as long as it does not protrude into the Bay more than its beam. In this case, its beam is 21’, and according to the Sherriff’s office they’ve measured it many times and it is less than that. I agree, I’ve measured it many times and it’s usually 20’ 11”.

I have rarely seen anyone staying in the house (which by the way violated building codes when it was built by a prior owner), but I believe the owner of both boat and home is a Los Angeles resident who rarely visits. I don’t remember ever having seen the boat leave except when it was stolen. Rarely are there people at the house, I›ve knocked many times to talk with them, but no one is home.

I respect property rights, and he appears to be within his rights. In this small community where we all make accommodations because we live so close to each other, this is inconsiderate and inappropriate, but apparently not illegal.

I wonder if the absentee owner has any idea of the ill will that festers on his Stimulus?

Matt Clabaugh

Balboa Island

South Laguna feeling the crush of summer visitors…Help!

In his interview with Tom Johnson, and in other venues (including in his testimony to the Coastal Commission on Sept 7, 2016), Mr. Mohler has repeatedly asserted that “One wintering owl visits the site for three to four weeks nearly every January.” But this is simply not true. For example, here’s a photo of a Burrowing Owl that I took on Banning Ranch – looking in from the north – on March 15, 2016.

Mr. Mohler’s biologists have not surveyed for owls every year, nor have they surveyed at various times of the year. The latest surveys, in January 2014, covered only 29.75 acres of the 400-acre property.

Banning Ranch includes approximately 122 acres of suitable habitat for the Burrowing Owl, so the 2014 survey covered only a quarter of the suitable habitat. By searching for owls on only a fraction of the property, surveying mainly in January, and by ignoring much of the information gathered over the years (some of it by his own consultants), Mr. Mohler has created a false narrative that he finds pleasing, but that others can easily see through.


Click on photo for a larger image

Dudek [an environmental and engineering consulting firm] biologists conducted focused owl surveys on 29.75 acres during three weeks in January 2014, and detected one or two owls on the southeastern mesa; they missed another Burrowing Owl that local resident Cindy Black recorded and photographed eleven times during that same month.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, it has stated that the surveys and analysis provided by Mr. Mohler’s team are inadequate to allow CDFW biologists to evaluate the status of the owl on Banning Ranch, its habitat requirements there, or how implementation of the project would be likely to affect the owls.

Mr. Mohler told you that his “low point” in attempting to build his project at Banning Ranch has been “dealing with a Coastal Commission process that is heavily weighted against Project Applicants.” During eight years of reviewing the biological information that Mr. Mohler and his team have submitted to the Coastal Commission and other agencies, I have encountered a consistent pattern of misinformation, downplaying both the sensitive resources present and the potential adverse effects of the proposed project. His demonstrably false statement about the Burrowing Owl, set forth in your publication, is typical. Readers may wish to consider whether the process might have gone more smoothly, and been more productive, had Mr. Mohler and his team established a basic level of trustworthiness in their dealings with both the agencies and the public.

Robb Hamilton

President, Hamilton Biological, Inc.

Consultant to the Banning Ranch Conservancy