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Letters to the Editor:

Activist “taxed” by councilmembers’ conflicting decisions

If you thought that Mr. (Scott) Peotter and Mr. (Marshall) Duffield were ‘anti-tax, let’s vote on bonds’ councilmen, you would be wrong. Their anti-tax stance becomes remarkably flexible when one of their financial backers requests a tax increase, as occurred last month when they approved the largest property tax increase in the City of Newport Beach since the passage of Proposition 13.

At the same June 26 meeting where the council put their misnamed “Taxpayer Protection Act” on the November ballot to require a vote to fund major public capital improvements, projects that do not even raise taxes, they approved the formation of a Mello Roos district for Uptown Newport at the request of developer Bill Shopoff, a frequent contributor to the Gang of 4.

The massive Uptown Newport project was approved years ago and is now coming out of the ground at MacArthur and Jamboree. One might expect that all financial dealings would have been finalized years ago when the project was approved, but the developer has just now asked the city council to authorize additional Mello Roos taxes for this project. This allows the city to tax future residents for required improvements such as the streets and parks that are being built rather than charge the developer. 

As a result, each new homeowner in this development will pay up to $4,500/year in additional property taxes for 30 years for a potential total tax of $27 million. Ironically, these homes were intended as affordable housing and these future homeowners were denied a vote in this particularly onerous tax. 

This was all approved without a whimper by the anti-tax contingent of the council.

The hypocrisy of this action is staggering but perhaps not unexpected. The overriding philosophy of Peotter and Duffield appears to be a ‘me first, city second’ attitude. 

Since the best predictor of future actions are past actions, I can only assume that we can expect more of the same unless we remove these men from office and replace them with true public servants.

Susan Skinner

Newport Beach

Please don’t let our gondola business sink

On behalf of the Coalition to Protect Mariner’s Mile, we wanted to inquire (about finding) two slips for the gondolas and a small office space for this small family owned company, Gondola Adventures. 

The owners Elisa and Greg Mohr spoke at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to plead for help to find a new home and we are afraid their voices fell on deaf ears. 

If the City can make room for the Invictus, one would think that the City could find a way to accommodate an iconic company that has serviced Newport’s marine related industry for more than 25 years. 

Any help would be greatly appreciated, as Gondola Adventures has to find a home before November 1, 2018.

Please feel free to share, as this family owned “gem” of a business really needs the community’s support right now.

Peggy Palmer 

The Coalition to Protect Mariner’s Mile

Newport Beach 

Letter to the Editor:

Not happy with traffic enforcement in city

There’s a general understanding in our city that traffic enforcement is failing miserably. Threads on sites like NextDoor have made it very clear that there is vast room for improvement. 

Jamboree, for example, is a drag strip on weekend nights. The stop signs on the Flower streets are routinely ignored. Running red lights has become the norm in Newport. It’s out of control. 

In the past, I’ve corresponded with the city manager and the sergeant heading our traffic division. 

There are 2-3 motorcycle officers in the city during the day. They knock off at 6 p.m. 

Because violations seem to be increasing, I emailed the police chief. Not even an acknowledgement. He simply turned over the email to the same sergeant running traffic. The sergeant seems to be trying his best. But I doubt deployments and staffing fall under him. 

So last week I sent an email to the entire city council. In the letter I detailed my concerns and highlighted a few problem areas. Evidently our safety and safety of the kids going to school is beneath the purview of our council. City manager Dave Kiff and councilman Peotter were the only two to respond. 

It’s time for accountability. 

Have we created an elitist PD that can’t be bothered with routine traffic enforcement? That might just be the case. I’ve personally seen officers totally ignore obvious major traffic violations right in front of them. Recently I was stopped on the corner of Jamboree and San Joaquin. Two police officers were directly in front of me at our red light. They watched 5 or 6 cars run the red light, it was already green on our side. They did nothing. 

It’s time for a change of tactics or change at the top. But this cannot continue. 

Mark Adams

Newport Beach 

Letter to the Editor:

Not happy with the Peotter appointment to Finance Committee

Another week of chaos in Newport Beach. Scott Peotter was put on the Finance Committee, ensuring his dangerous and expensive “ideas” previously dismissed by the Finance Committee will be brought back again and again. 

Peotter actually told the Finance Committee and its member Larry Tucker “Tough Crap” for not advancing the Peotter idea to require a vote on lease obligation debt. Two days later the Finance Committee actually did consider Peotter’s proposal and declined to support it.

Despite lacking support from the Finance Committee, city staff, city financial advisors and any other city in California, nonetheless, our council did move forward to put a charter amendment on the ballot to require a vote for lease obligations.

One could only laugh as Brad Avery sheepishly asked if we would “actually be the only city in California with this restriction?” Answer: Yes, and Will O’Neill discovered to his surprise that yes, sea walls would be financed with Certificates of Participation if financing was needed.

The council exempted financings for emergency repairs from “state or federal declared emergencies”. They also added an exemption from “locally declared” emergencies. This is actually not a thing, just a big loophole for the council. Having discovered that Certificates of Participation would be used to fund sea walls, dredging and bulkhead improvements, they added a loophole for any project that “could prevent the damage to property”. Hmm, wouldn’t that include almost anything like a fire station, road repairs or utility undergrounding?

The council was not really concerned with the specifics, they now have a ballot measure campaign that will allow fundraising outside of our campaign limits. Expect to see their smiling faces in your mailbox in support of this measure.

I hope voters have had enough of the nonsense at the city council and they will reject this poorly written political ploy and the council members who continue to put politics before community.

Gerald A. Giannini

Newport Beach

Letter to the Editor:

PCI Consultants says City falsely accused them of violating state election laws

I write to you on behalf of PCI Consultants, Inc. (“PCI”), and its President, Angelo Paparella. As you are aware, PCI was retained earlier this year to circulate and solicit signatures on a petition calling for the recall of City Councilmember (Scott) Peotter. During the review of submitted signatures at the Orange County Registrar’s office, PCI agreed that it appeared that a circulator hired by one of its subcontractors had submitted approximately 50 fraudulent signatures on one or more of the recall petition sections. PCI is cooperating fully with the District Attorney’s investigation into the matter. PCI has also cooperated fully with the City Council’s investigation into the matter, including providing the City Council with all of the documents the City has requested in response to a subpoena issued to the company earlier this year. 

Nevertheless, in describing PCI’s response to the City’s document request, City Manager Dave Kiff’s Staff Report for Agenda Item 24 for the City Council’s June 26, 2018, meeting asserts that “it does not appear that the company [PCI] provided instructions or certificates to gatherers as required by California Elections Code Sections 9607, 9608, 9609, and/or 9610.” The Staff Report, as well as City Manager Kiff’s “Insider’s Guide” and proposed Ordinance
No. 2018-12, essentially accuse PCI of violating state election laws by failing to demonstrate compliance with Elections Code sections 9607 and 9609. 

Before you proceed to further defame PCI by accusing it of violating Elections Code sections 9607 and 9609, we suggest that you actually read the language of those statutes, which neither City Manager Kiff nor City Attorney Harp appears to have done. Both sections explicitly apply only to the gathering of signatures on initiative petitions – not recall petitions, which is what are at issue here. Elections Code section 9607, for example, states: 

 “The proponents of an initiative measure shall ensure that any person, company, or other organization that is paid, or who volunteers, to solicit signatures to qualify the proposed measure for the ballot shall receive instruction on the requirements and prohibitions imposed by state law with respect to the circulation of the petition and signature gathering thereon, with an emphasis on the prohibition on the use of signatures on an initiative petition for a purpose other than qualification of the proposed measure for the ballot.” 

Likewise, section 9609 declares: “(a) Prior to allowing a person to circulate an initiative petition for signatures, the person, company official, or other organizational officer who is in charge of signature gathering shall execute and submit to the proponents a signed statement that reads as follows: 

“I, ______, acknowledge that it is a misdemeanor under state law (Section 18650 of the Elections Code) to knowingly or willfully allow the signatures on an initiative petition to be used for any purpose other than qualification of the proposed measure for the ballot. I certify that I will not knowingly or willfully allow the signatures for this initiative to be used for any purpose other than qualification of the measure for the ballot. 

(Signature of Official) _______________ Dated this ________ day of __________, 20___

“(b) The certification required by subdivision (a) shall be kept on file by the proponents of the proposed initiative measure for not less than eight months after the certification of the results of the election for which the measure qualified, or if the measure, for any reason, is not submitted to the voters, eight months after the deadline for submission of the petition to the elections official. 

“(c) Failure to comply with this section shall not invalidate any signatures on a state or local initiative petition.” 

As can readily be seen, neither of those sections (nor sections 9608 or 9610) applies to or imposes any obligation on companies that are hired to solicit signatures on recall petitions, which fully explains why PCI’s response to the City’s subpoena did not include any instructions or certificates that the Staff Report erroneously suggests should have been included in PCI’s production. 

We therefore request that the City publicly correct the record by retracting those portions of the Staff Report, proposed Ordinance No. 2018-12, and City Manager Kiff’s “Insider Report” that wrongly state or imply that PCI has violated or has potentially violated state election laws by failing to maintain or provide the instructions and certificates referenced in Elections Code sections 9607-9610. Having hereby been put on notice regarding the erroneous allegations contained in these City documents, any further repetition of these or any similar allegations at the June 26, 2018, City Council meeting will constitute “knowing or reckless” disregard of the truth under New York Times v. Sullivan’s “actual malice” standard for defamation. 



Fredric D. Woocher 

Strumwasser & Woocher, LLP

Los Angeles

Letter to the Editor:

This is what Koll looks like from up here?

I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the “Birdseye Perspective” of the Koll Center Residences on the City of Newport Beach website. In addition to the other problems with this massive project, it is completely out of character with the surrounding buildings with its size and height. 

Is this the first step towards the Koll Business Park becoming a high-rise, high-density area? I thought there was an agreement that low impact housing was going to be built at this site. What has happened to that? I do hope the city council remembers this compromise and keeps these buildings to a moderate size.

Joan McCauley

Newport Beach

Letter to the Editor:

A Good Day for Residents

As someone who is occasionally critical of the city council, I think it is appropriate to offer a word of thanks when it is due. On Tuesday, the council rejected Councilman Scott Peotter’s proposal to implement the City of Irvine political patronage model for the City Finance Committee. This 6-1 vote ensures that the Finance Committee will continue to enjoy the strong participation of experienced members of the city council and not become a place to use political appointees to wage surrogate battles in backrooms.

More importantly, the closed session report indicates that the council has put to rest efforts to sell the old city hall/Lido House Hotel site. This project will generate tens of millions of revenue for the benefit of Newport residents in the years ahead. Selling the property has been a longstanding objective of Councilman Peotter.

Third, the council adopted a sound budget. I give the council credit for finding ways to expand needed public safety services, improve the harbor and fund capital improvement projects. 

Councilmembers Will O’Neill and Diane Dixon made special note of our efforts to accelerate the pay down of our unfunded pension liability. This continues the efforts begun by the prior council and is to be commended. Here again, on a 6-1 vote, the council decisively rejected a last-minute effort by Councilmember Peotter to divert $8 million of our pension pay down into a  separate investment fund. In essence, he believed the city could “beat the stock market” on our own. The city gets no credit on reducing its pension liability and the liabilities continue to accrue interest at 7.25 percent unless and until we pay down the money with CalPERS. The council was right in rejecting this reckless proposal by Peotter who alone, voted against the budget.

Finally, the council decided to send the Peotter proposal to require a vote on lease obligation debt to the Finance Committee for fiscal review. 

I expect there will be an effort to provide emergency exemptions, raise the threshold level for a vote and otherwise address the many problems of this proposal. At the end of the day, you cannot fix bad legislation with cosmetic changes. Hopefully the council will continue to separate itself from Peotter on these financially costly and misguided ideas. The last council meeting was a good start


Keith Curry, Former Mayor

Newport Beach

Letters to the Editor

Don’t Be Fooled by Political Ploy

Once again, without proper fiscal or public review, the Newport Beach City Council is considering a Charter Amendment to require lease obligation debt, which by legal definition does not involve an increase in taxes, to be submitted to the voters. 

No other city in California, nor to my knowledge in the entire country has this requirement. That should tell us something. This is a bad idea from Scott Peotter. Currently there is no projected need for lease debt for more than 50 years. Some of the council members who will consider the next debt issue have not yet been born. The city currently has the highest bond ratings of any city in the nation and our current lease debt service is less than the annual budget surplus and very affordable.

Election requirements cause debt proposals to be larger, not smaller as they are increased to involve multiple projects to broaden political support. It prevents the timely award of construction bids because bids will either be padded by 30 percent or will expire before an election can be held. Alternatively, it requires going to the voters without a sound basis of a project’s cost. Of course, there is the added cost of an election itself and the sequencing of projects into the season immediately following a biannual election date will cause project costs to rise.

It will prevent future city councils from responding to natural disasters such as an earthquake, fire, tsunami or landside where critical infrastructure could be destroyed. Puerto Rico shows us what happens when a jurisdiction does not have immediate capital markets access after a disaster. Depending on wording and limits, it could require our next police car replacements to be voted on.

It will pit neighbors against each other as the council will pay cash for projects favored by a majority while requiring others to seek voter approval, irrespective of actual financial analysis.

What is truly disappointing is that the real reason for this proposal is to allow council members in the November election to evade the campaign spending limits by using a committee formed to support this measure. Remember the “Team Newport 2016” signs from the last election paid for by Measure MM donors? Don’t you think this council would pay more attention to following our campaign laws?

Don’t be fooled by this cynical effort to create a phony issue by people who have actually accomplished nothing for the good of the community. 

Keith Curry, Former Mayor 

Newport Beach

Want to support Koll Center Residences but canceled workshops prevent that

I have been looking forward to expressing my support for the Koll Center Residences at a Planning Commission workshop on two separate occasions now. This is a General Plan compatible project that will generate tens of millions of dollars in fees for the City. 

It won’t affect traffic in my neighborhood – Eastbluff – or any of the other established neighborhoods in our town. I understand there was an issue about a quorum, but I’m wondering is something else up? Why is this taking so long to be heard? 

Lisa Fogarty

Eastbluff Community

Newport Beach

Former mayor says potential financial moves bad for city

I spent a 40-year career as Chief Financial Officer of publicly held companies, and 9 1/2 years in service to the residents of Newport Beach, first on the planning commission and then on City Council where I chaired the Finance Committee for several years.

I am intimately familiar with the workings of the City’s budget and the City’s financial standing. There is no need whatsoever for the proposal to require a vote prior to issuance of COP’s. It will hamstring future Council decisions to properly move forward with large projects or financing of potential catastrophic events afflicting our City. It is not necessary, since our City has ample financial flexibility to budget for costs of necessary large-project financings. Is the City’s Finance Director recommending this action? This proposal is a very bad financial policy for our City. Please reject this idea, or, at the very least, refer it to your Finance Committee for careful study before you consider it.

Similarly, there is no need to sell City assets, including the Lido House land. What is the proposed need that drives this idea? It certainly can’t be a budgetary need. It certainly can’t be a need to make extra payments on our pension obligations…we are already doing that in steady, meaningful amounts, which is the proper dollar-averaging approach to do it. I believe this is a slippery slope to embark on. Why stop at Lido House? The City has many assets it could sell, but I believe it’s bad policy to do so and curb the City’s flexibility to manage those assets over time. Please reject this idea.

Mike Henn, former Mayor City of Newport Beach

Newport Beach

Guest Column

Dave Kiff

An insider’s look at what’s going on in and around City Hall

Dave Kiff

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff   

There is a busy afternoon and evening planned for the Newport Beach City Council when it meets this coming Tuesday, June 12. Here is the Insider’s Guide for that meeting. The Guide is not an attempt to summarize every item on the agenda – just the ones that seem of specific interest to me. I encourage you to read the full agenda if you wish. 

In the afternoon session starting at 4 p.m., we will talk about three things: Learning about advances in earthquake warning systems. They won’t give any of us a lot of time, but maybe just a short time to get away from windows and old buildings, and to electronically send signals to elevators to stop and open at the nearest floor. Technology can be a good friend here. Council Member Muldoon asked for this to appear on the agenda.

Going deep into undergrounding. We’ll talk about costs for current and planned undergrounding districts, as well as some strategies to reduce those costs. Folks in the pending CdM District (near Avocado), on the Peninsula along Balboa Boulevard in the 30s-50s, and other neighborhoods interested in undergrounding may want to listen in.

An update to the Council on a proposed Harbor Department, further stepping up some of our efforts to make the Harbor even more customer-friendly.

The Regular Session at 7 p.m. has a whole bunch of items, but not all are Guide-worthy. The ones that are include Sunshining a tentative agreement with our good colleagues represented by the Newport Beach Police Association. The NBPA represents both rank-and-file officers as well as non-sworn folks in records, the jail, dispatch, and more. Hard work on both sides brought an agreement forward that I think respects the interests of the community, the Association members, taxpayers and the city government.

A few parents from Carden Hall have written to the Council in recent weeks concerned about a planned mobile needle exchange program that could route its way through western Costa Mesa, not far from our city limits. A couple of Council members asked me to bring a statement of concern forward for consideration that the Police Chief would later send to the State agency that reviews the program’s certification. 

The proposed Fiscal Year 2018-19 City Budget is up for adoption. The budget process here is a tad unique – to get a good grasp of it, you would review the Budget that I proposed back in April and then layer on a document called the “Budget Checklist” over it. The Checklist, if adopted along with the Budget, is the late catch-up and correction items that came up between April and today. All in all, and in my biased eyes, this is a fairly conservative budget that adds no new full-time positions from what we have right now, while still accommodating new needs for the Harbor and safety in our schools. And while continuing our very aggressive pension paydown program – where we pay more (nearly $9 million more) than we have to pay to get ahead of the unfunded pension liability. A nostalgic note: this is my last budget that I’ll prepare here, and I am pretty proud of it. I am even more proud of the staff from our Finance Department and our Department Heads and budget analysts that help wade through it with me – in meeting after meeting, and mind-change after mind-change. 

A big dollar item is up after that (all within the Budget’s parameters) that would award a contract to a private sector provider to manage our parking infrastructure. That’s meters, pay stations, on-street parking spaces, and our big beach and other parking lots. We’ve contracted that out for about 6-7 years now, and it’s gone OK with some bumps. I think people are still surprised to see the “KGB Car” (as I call it) that goes around using License Plate Recognition (LPR) to see if folks are current with their meter payments and pay stations.

Council Member Peotter asked his colleagues to consider changing the structure of the Finance Committee to an all-citizen body, so that’s up for discussion Tuesday night. Today, three Council members and four non-elected citizens sit on the Committee, which advises the Council on a number of things involving the City’s finances (pensions, audits, budgets, more).    

Thank you for reading. Please forward this Guide to family, friends and members of your HOA if you represent one. I always like hearing from you, too, so please don’t hesitate to ask a question or offer a comment. 



Dave Kiff

City Manager

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Letters to the Editor:

Appreciation for City is important to this former mayor

When deciding who should represent me on city council, one of the most important attributes I look for is an appreciation for our city’s culture and history.  It is a critical factor in the evaluation of the projects and programs that determine our future. With such an appreciation, new projects will be organic and fit in well.  Without it, too often they will be out of character, discordant and disruptive. I am supporting Joy Brenner because she has this appreciation. 

That is not the only reason for my support. I have worked with Joy, and I have been impressed with her preparation, her thoughtfulness and her efforts to be inclusive. Joy is one who puts in the hard work. She reads the boring reports, she does the necessary research, and she reaches out – not just to one side or group, but to as many people as she can to get a full picture. When it comes time to make a decision, there is a solid foundation for her action.

Finally, Joy has a strong moral compass. She will be steadfast in standing up for her positions. Her decisions will be based on what she sincerely believes is best for the city, not because of pressure from some group or individual. This is the kind of person we want to represent us. I urge you to vote for Joy as council member for District 6.

Nancy Gardner

Former Council Member for District 6

Newport Beach

Another call to stop the development

I am writing to add my voice to the growing number of Newport Beach residents speaking out about overdevelopment in our city. The city council continues to approve high density developments and is now proposing the Koll High Rise Residential building near the John Wayne Airport.

As voters, we have made it clear to the Newport Beach City Council that this type of development is not wanted. In 2000, a large majority of voters approved the Greenlight initiative limiting run-away growth. In 2014, a large majority of voters rejected a General Plan Update that would increase growth in the city.  And in 2016, voters signed a referendum petition that stopped the Museum House Condo Tower.

It’s time for the Newport Beach City Council to start listening to their constituents and reject the Koll condo project outright. Newport Beach Citizens do not want high density, high rise developments. 

Thank you,

Melody L. McCulloch

Newport Beach

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