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Newport Beach

Questioning the council candidates to see what they’re thinking

With less than two weeks until Election Day, Stu News Newport is offering you a final look at the candidates competing for Newport Beach City Council seats for District 2 (Brad Avery vs. Nancy Scarbrough) and District 5 (Jeff Herdman vs. Noah Blom).

We asked each candidate the most important issues facing their Districts and the City as a whole; we asked each how they differ from the opposition; what the “dirt” is on their race; and for a little something maybe you don’t know about each of them.

We hope this helps. Remember, your vote does make a difference.

Questioning the candidates Brad Avery Questioning the candidates Nancy Scarbrough  Questioning the candidates Jeff Herdman Questioning the candidates Noah Blom

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Submitted photos

Newport Beach City Council Candidates (L-R) Brad Avery, Nancy Scarbrough, Jeff Herdman and Noah Blom

What is the biggest issue or issues facing your District and how will your handle that? (Limit to 2)

Avery: Development of Mariner’s Mile/Coast Highway. Support community opposition to widening Coast Highway from Dover to Superior. Work with residents to mitigate the impacts of the proposed Mariner’s Mile development. 

Neighborhood traffic and pedestrian/bicycle safety. We need to consider all input. Conduct Newport Heights community traffic survey and workshop to gather information and build consensus on next steps toward safer streets. Continue to work with NMUSD for safer transition zones around the three schools.   

Scarbrough: Representation – We don’t have a voice at this point. District 2 has been the step-child for many years. We are faced with development on Mariner’s Mile that is not in touch with the community vision of what Mariner’s Mile should be or with the General Plan. The West Side of Newport is being explored (by the Housing Element Update Advisory Committee - HEUAC) for high-density, low-income housing. We need a representative on the Council who will speak up for the community’s shared vision. I will be a strong advocate for ensuring housing and community facilities are consistent with the Vision Statement of the General Plan and the Vision Statement for Mariner’s Mile. 

Traffic and Enforcement – these issues are related. When schools are open, we have lots of traffic for short periods of time. At other times of day, the people who drive in the neighborhood do not obey the traffic laws (rolling stops or no stop at all for stop signs, texting on phones or distracted driving). Add to that formula, the new electric bikes, skateboards and scooters that fly through stop signs at 30+ miles per hour, driven by adults, and kids without a license or knowledge of vehicle laws. The process for causing our police department to patrol in this neighborhood and actually enforce the laws by issuing citations, is for the City Council to instruct the City Manager, to instruct the Police Chief to enforce the laws. Right now the Council majority does not have the stomach to do that, so there are very few patrol cars and weak enforcement.

Herdman: John Wayne Airport overflights. Continue to “lead the charge” when it comes to all matters aviation as chair of the NB Aviation Committee.

Business and Tourism Recovery as it relates to COVID-19. Continue to support small businesses by taking advantage of all recovery dollars available and ensuring that these dollars get straight into the hands of business owners. 

Blom: The Airport through a three-part approach: technology, negotiations and publicity.

Small Business Recovery: by supporting the existing and struggling; stimulating the new and future; and strengthening relationships and community. 

What is the most important issue or issues facing the city and how do you stand on it? (Limit to 2)

Avery: Managing the impacts of COVID-19. Support local businesses with code flexibility, grants, loans. Remain vigilant to local COVID-19 trends and adjust outreach accordingly. Support efforts of public safety personnel to inform and protect people in public spaces. Utilize the knowledge of our local health professionals. Manage budget shortfalls with less spending; suspend non-essential projects, search out grants, private support for certain civic improvements. Do not raise taxes/fees.

Scarbrough: Economic Recovery – Restore the community and businesses following the COVID pandemic. We should be actively supporting local businesses. The city had a “Strategic Plan for Fiscal and Economic Stability” in 2009. It is supposed to have an annual review, but of course that isn’t happening. There was also an Economic Development Committee that met between 1993 and 2010. It was disbanded in 2011. It seems like there are steps to be taken here. 

State Mandated Housing Requirements – Fight back against the State mandates for so many high-density housing units. The State housing requirements are unachievable, and the City is spending 1 1/2  to 2 million dollars to look like we are trying to comply. We could focus our efforts on documenting the reasons the requirements are unreasonable, align ourselves with other coastal cities who are in the same boat and serve the problem back to the State with a price tag for what it will take in concessions to comply with the mandated housing.

Herdman: Economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19. The mitigation is careful budgeting and oversight on all expenditures, large and small; placing capital improvement projects on hold; utilization of reserves, if necessary, to assist in economic recovery. 

Blom: Homelessness: collaboration with neighboring cities; cleanliness by upholding our standards; enforcement through maintaining law and order.

Economic Recovery: marketing with more local focus; maintenance by keeping our strength and culture; and growth of our merchants and businesses. 

How are you different from your opponent?

Avery: I am approaching 4 years of experience on City Council. Other experience: 5 years as Newport Beach Harbor Commissioner; 2 years as vice chair and chair of city’s Water Quality and Tidelands Committee. Currently on city’s Finance Committee and Ad Hoc committee on Homelessness. Member, Board of Advocates, Oasis Senior Center.

Scarbrough: I participate by attending most City meetings and community meetings on a regular basis; I have a comprehensive knowledge of issues throughout the City; as a SPON (Still Protecting Our Newport) board member we regularly discuss environmental issues such as the Bay, the Banning Ranch and recently Short-Term Lodging; I am on the SPON Policy and Budget committees, and the Good Neighbor Policy Committee; I attended almost every City Council meeting for the last three plus years; I attended or viewed the live feed of most Planning Commission meetings for the past three years; I attended almost every Finance Committee meeting for the last year; I attended and commented at several Zoning Administrator meetings; I attended all but one of the community outreach meetings for the General Plan update until the Mayor canceled the committee; I attended every public meeting of the new Housing Element Update Advisory Committee (HEUAC) charged with finding property to rezone for 4834 high-density, low-income housing units in Newport Beach. After COVID-19 this will be the biggest issue of 2020 and probably 2021 and no one is talking about it; I attended most meetings of the Aviation Committee; I attended and commented at the Orange County Board of Supervisors meetings regarding the General Aviation Improvement Program; I attended and commented at several Orange County Airport Commission meetings regarding the General Aviation Improvement Program; I attended and commented at every meeting of the Homeless Task Force before it was disbanded; I attended all the public meetings for Newport Beach Election Reform; I attended all the public outreach and Study Sessions for Cottage Preservation and 3rd Floor Massing ordinances; I regularly attended the Corona Del Mar “Good Morning CdM” meetings until they were postponed. I have attended several of the virtual meetings since they changed formats; I participate in the Newport Heights Improvement Association (our HOA) meetings as a member; I am an active participant in the Protect Mariners Mile Coalition; I have attended and commented at NMUSD Board meetings and was very involved in the (failed) effort to save the Ensign trees; I attended every town hall meeting put on by Newport City Council members Joy Brenner, Diane Dixon and Jeff Herdman; I was one of three people to regularly attend the Office Hours with councilman, now Mayor, Will O’Neill until they were canceled or postponed; I have been working at this for several years, attending numerous meetings and events on a weekly basis. No member of the Council or Staff have attended as many meetings as I have. 

Herdman: Experience, institutional knowledge, longevity within the City; leadership training and implementation; really having an overall and in-depth understanding of the issues and priorities of the majority of Newport Beach residents and property owners, and the willingness and ability to devote the time necessary to address those issues and priorities. Serving on City Council is a serious job; I work seven days a week at helping to solve some of our City’s biggest problems. 

Blom: I believe in freedom and the strength of my fellow citizens. I am an advocate for keeping beaches, boardwalks and our town open and thriving. I am an advocate for parents that want their kids to have a childhood and get our schools and playgrounds open. I want to project a message of positivity and excitement. 

What’s been the biggest attack during the campaign against you and how do you counter it?

Avery: My opponent says I’m a nice guy. I am guilty.

Scarbrough: I have heard myself referred to as a liberal. I am moderate in all things. So far I haven’t had anyone attack me personally or lie about me, however we have a few weeks to go. We’ll see…

Herdman: It really has not been an attack, but my opposition claims to have had endorsements from the Newport Beach Fire, Police and Lifeguard Departments. He has corrected that on his website; however, the majority of his mailers continually point to fire and police endorsements.

I did not receive endorsements from the Fire and Police Associations four years ago. I was told at that time that they only endorse “winners.” 

This election season I couldn’t even get the president of the Fire Association to return my phone call for the purpose of meeting. I did meet with the police union president; however, they chose not to endorse me. 

I did not have either unions’ support in my first election, yet I won. I’ll do it again this time!

Blom: Attacks on my family and business. I never thought that a divorce 13 years ago would be part of a political campaign or that an opponent would use a fictional character assassination by a “secret society.” 

I counter these attacks with positivity and strength. They are not who I am, and they do not define me. If I throw mud back then I perpetuate bad behavior and this enduring politics of hate. I will stay on message. I will ignore fiction and continue to fight for the values and love I have for my city. What tears us down only makes us stronger. 

Are you in favor or opposed to the addition of the Harbor Commission to the NB City Charter?

Avery: Very much in favor.

Scarbrough: I am opposed to Measure Z, not because I don’t agree with the concept, but the measure was written without any public input or review and it was presented to the Council in a way that discouraged public comments, so it was as if the authors didn’t want the public to review the language. I think it should be discussed openly and brought back in two years at the next election. The current Harbor Commission, even though it is not codified in the City Charter, is fulfilling all of the responsibilities and duties needed to manage our harbor. No member of the Council or candidates indicate any desire to unwind the duties of the Harbor Commission, so why rush? I don’t see any harm in waiting to have a full public review of the language of this measure to be sure it is written in a way that the public agrees with. 

Herdman: I support the addition of the Harbor Commission to our City Charter. The harbor is the largest asset in our City. It generates a substantial portion of our annual revenue. It needs continual maintenance, upkeep and improvement. The Harbor Commission plays a significant role in the areas of maintenance and improvements. The Harbor Commission also fulfills a critical lobbying role, as well, when it comes to securing state and federal dollars for the needed dredging of our harbor. 

Blom: I am in favor of the Harbor Commission being added to the Charter. 

Politics aside, what’s the one thing you would want the community to know about you?

Avery: I work to consider all sides of an issue, don’t have agendas, and I am open to a good argument. 

Scarbrough: I am a planner by profession, I understand building codes and construction. I’ve held leadership positions since I was a Girl Scout patrol leader in 3rd grade, all the way through being president of the Senior Planning Board for the Girl Scout Council as a senior in high school. I am Informed, Involved and Independent. I am compassionate, a mother and grandmother. Most people label me nice. 

Herdman: I want the community to know that I consider it an honor to have been given the responsibility of governing our City. I thoroughly enjoy being a member of the Newport Beach City Council and carrying out all of the responsibilities involved. 

I look forward to serving the people of Newport Beach for another four years, serving with integrity, hard work, dedication, and love for this City. 

Blom: I love to bake. I do it at the wee hours of the morning and find it to be so meditative and relaxing. Fresh bread when the sun rises can change any outlook on the world. Breaking bread together is what makes community.

Fair Game


Candidates debate issues in SUN forum

Tom headshot 8.25.20Wednesday of this week I had the honor of moderating a panel of the candidates running for City Council in November. The event was organized by Speak Up Newport, the city’s preeminent group for presenting the debate on important community issues.

The program was recorded and is available here in its entirety. Five candidates participated, beginning with opening statements (7:21). Times for specific portions of the meeting are presented to enable readers to find answers to issues near-and-dear to them.

In District 7, Mayor Will O’Neill offered up an opening statement, but because he is running unopposed, he ceded his remaining time to the other candidates with contested races.

The other two districts feature incumbent and Mayor Pro Tem Brad Avery vs. Nancy Scarbrough in District 2 and incumbent Jeff Herdman vs. Noah Blöm in District 5.

A number of issues were discussed during the 62-minute Zoom presentation in various question formats. However, due to some Zoom-related technical issues during the first portion only, I’ve included the answers below.

The first portion (13:56) asked each candidate for a simple grade from 1-10, with 10 being best, on multiple Council actions. Their grades are as follows:

–How good of a job is the current City Council doing in managing the COVID-19 crisis? 

Nancy Scarbrough - 8

Brad Avery - 9

Noah Blöm - 8

Jeff Herdman - 10

–How good of a job has the current City Council done in managing the budget in light of the $33m shortfall? 

Scarbrough - 9

Avery - 10

Blöm - 10

Herdman - 10

–How good of a job is the current City Council doing in managing traffic flow in the city? 

Scarbrough - 6

Avery - 8

Blöm - 7

Herdman - 8

–How good of a job is the current City Council doing in managing the John Wayne Airport situation?

Scarbrough - 2

Avery - 10

Blöm - 5

Herdman - 10

The next part of the first portion presented an issue and asked for a Yes or No answer, no discussion. Their answers were as follows:

Considering the City’s current budget situation should City funds be used to subsidize the proposed Library Lecture Hall once the budget crisis passes?

Scarbrough - Yes

Avery - Yes

Blöm - Yes

Herdman - Yes

–Should the Flower Streets in Corona del Mar be one way?

Scarbrough - No

Avery - Yes

Blöm - No

Herdman - Yes

–Should electric bicycles be banned from the Oceanfront boardwalk?

Scarbrough - Yes

Avery - Yes

Blöm - Yes

Herdman - Yes

–Do you support a cap on the number of short-term lodging units in the city? 

Scarbrough - Yes

Avery - Yes

Blöm - No

Herdman - Yes

–Given that the City is required to provide 4,832 dwelling units in the housing element would you now be in favor of the Museum House residential project in Newport Center?

Scarbrough - No

Avery - No

Blöm - Yes

Herdman - No

–Should the City more aggressively enforce COVID-19 regulations? 

Scarbrough - Yes

Avery - Yes

Blöm - No

Herdman - Yes

Portion 3 (19:21) included a series of questions asking for 20-second answers. The questions asked are below and their answers can be found on the video link.

–Traffic is one of the top issues cited by Newport Beach residents citywide. Groups such as Line In The Sand and Still Protecting Our Newport cite over-development as a significant factor in excessive traffic. In addition to what the city is already doing, what new ideas do you have to address the problem?

–Many residents feel the constant noise of construction in their neighborhoods is intolerable. What would you do about this problem if elected to the City Council? 

–With the state mandate on dwelling unit numbers do you support adding over five-story high-rise residential in Newport Center? Yes or No and Why or Why Not? 

–Arguably, besides Coast Highway though Corona del Mar, Mariner’s Mile is the most visible icon of traditional Newport Beach character to those driving Coast Highway through Newport Beach. If elected, would you propose to reverse the City Council decision to add the third lane? Yes or No and Why or Why Not? 

–Recently the City Council decided to suspend the General Plan in favor of pursuing the Housing Element. This will entail amending the Land Use Element and Circulation element without a comprehensive General Plan update. Do you agree with the City Council decision? Yes or No and Why or Why Not? 

–Both Federal and State agencies are increasingly placing requirements for local agencies to address sea level rise. Since so much of Newport Beach is susceptible to sea level rise do you think the city should aggressively pursue an adaptive plan for sea level rise? Yes or No and Why or Why Not? 

–Although recently overshadowed by COVID-19, homelessness is still a major issue. The City is required to provide a 70-bed shelter and is in active negotiations with Costa Mesa on a shared facility. If those negotiations fail, specifically, where in Newport Beach do you feel such a shelter should be located?

–Traditionally the City Council takes a hand’s off approach on school district projects. In the recent controversy regarding tree removal at Ensign Middle School to the dismay of some area residents, do you think the City Council should have taken a more aggressive position on this issue? Yes or No and Why or Why Not? 

–Given the recent problems with early prison releases resulting in a strain on police resources in Newport Beach are you in favor of increasing police funding levels and, if so, where would the funding come from? 

Portion 4 (39:48) included a series of questions that can be found below asking for 45-second answers. Again, the answers can be found on the video link.

–At a previous forum, all of your answers, with a few exceptions, were pretty much the same. Please explain the one issue (or characteristic) you believe most differentiates you from your opponent.

–Do you believe the current City Council is being transparent with the City’s residents? Yes or No and Why or Why Not? 

–Newport Beach has a Council-Manager form of government. Almost two years ago the City Council revised Council Policy A-1 allowing the Mayor to place items on the Council agenda at the Mayor’s discretion. This is a departure from past procedures where the City Manager placed items on the agenda and the City Council as a whole could vote to place items on the agenda. It now allows the Mayor to place actions on the agenda at the Mayor’s discretion without concurrence from the City Council. Do you believe this has given the mayor too much power? Yes or No and Why or Why Not?

(Editor’s note: Council A-1 was revised to eliminate this provision)

–The City, AirFair, Airport Working Group and other civic groups have been working on containing the noise and traffic from John Wayne Airport. Some residents are not satisfied that enough is being done. In addition to what already is being done what new ideas do you have? 

–One of the biggest financial issues facing the City of Newport Beach is the unfunded liability for City employee pensions through the PERS plan. The City Council opted to continue to accelerate its PERS payments in the current budget. If the current budget revenue projections fall short mid-budget year, should the city cut the accelerated pension program in order to maintain the current levels of service to its residents?

–This is a District specific question for each of you. What is the most important issue in your district and how would you address it? 

–The City Council has objected to the 4,832 required RHNA housing units as excessive and appealed that number. However, even if the 4,832 RHNA housing units are reduced, Newport Beach will still be required to provide a significant number of housing units. Where would you place these housing units?

The last portion included the closing statements from each candidate (1:02:12). 

I commend all of the candidates for putting their hats into what many would consider a contentious circle in a very difficult time.

My best to each.

• • •

So I went to my cardiologist, Richard Haskell, M.D., this week for a routine six-month check-up. Fortunately, everything seems good.

I did tell him that unfortunately I’ve put on some weight during this pandemic time. 

He smiled and said, “That’s your COVID 19, now it’s up to you to flatten the curve,” pointing to my belly.

Thanks, Doc.

• • •

This week we celebrated four years of Stu News Newport. On September 8, 2016, we launched SNN the day following the Daily Pilot’s decision to move away from coverage of just our local market, opening up a clear path for us.

There are so many people to thank for our success, including our wonderful columnists, of course our advertisers who not only share their message, but support a voice for this town, and you, our readers, who make this effort all worthwhile.

Thank you. Here’s to many more!

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