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Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

Rumors of last-minute changes to re-drawn districts seemingly put to rest

Fair Game Toms new headshotI’m not the biggest fan of 7:30 a.m. meetings…too early for someone who regularly struggles with sleep…but multiple people contacted me this week and said you should join in and listen to City Councilman and former Mayor Will O’Neill speak about the proposed new redistricting lines. Will, you see, was the featured speaker at yesterday’s Corona del Mar Residents Association monthly meeting.

If you follow this process on redistricting, you’ll know that every 10 years a national census is taken and then district lines up and down the different levels of government are redrawn to balance out population numbers in which candidates are elected.

Locally, O’Neill, along with immediate past Mayor Brad Avery and Councilwoman Diane Dixon, had been tasked with reviewing all of the proposed district maps submitted by residents and consultants for future city elections, with the goal of selecting the best one(s) to be forwarded to the council for final approval.

Dixon, O’Neill and Avery, at the end of that process, unanimously agreed that submission “#1” was the one they collectively supported. Then, at the last minute, O’Neill asked that several other submissions also be included in the package to council to offer them a choice and to respect the process of the community getting involved.

That’s when the rumors started. The talk was (is) that the council would change the recommendation at the end of the process and vote on another submission. 

Why is this a problem or concern? Those speculations include the idea that if a new map is chosen, it would change district lines that would eliminate Robyn Grant’s 2022 announced bid for a council seat and also potentially impact Councilwoman Joy Brenner’s 2022 re-election effort. 

That would happen because a redrawn border line would move Grant’s residency into another district, virtually ending her hopes and intentions of running. Those same line changes could significantly impact Brenner’s base of supporters.

Back to Will’s CdM presentation yesterday morning, when he reiterated that he continues to support submission #1. That seemed to bring relief to those on the Zoom call, most of whom were ardent Joy Brenner fans.

Still, I called Will afterwards to discuss his eventual plans on the issue. You see, the approved submissions now go to a City Council Study Session, with a hearing, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, and then on to Council (also with hearing) for formal adoption on Tuesday, Feb. 22. 

When confronted with the rumors on a potential unwanted maneuver, Will asked me if I’d also write about it when those negative rumors proved to be unfounded afterwards? I promised him I would. 

• • •

Speaking of O’Neill, his Elect Our Mayor initiative was brought before the Lincoln Club’s Legislative Committee recently for discussion and consideration.

The Lincoln Club is the largest conservative donor network in California and founded here in Orange County back in 1962 to “to reduce the power and scope of government, pushing for lower taxes,” according to their website.

Will made a presentation promoting the initiative, while Walter Stahr presented the dissenting side. 

Stahr’s biggest issue, I’m told, centered around the fact that the initiative could elect an opposition candidate, much like last year’s OC Supervisor race did when Democrat Katrina Foley ran against three Republicans, affording her the opportunity to gain the most votes, or Costa Mesa, which now elects their own mayor, and are now left leaning.

The Legislative Committee agrees with Stahr, rejecting support as they passed the item over to their Executive Committee, where it was also rejected. Finally, it went before the overall Board of Directors, where it reportedly was also “unanimously” rejected.

Will said that he was “surprised that the Lincoln Club even took an opinion,” saying he personally thought it strayed from their core mission.

• • •

A “Public Notice of Application for Ownership Change” for the ABC license at the Helmsman Ale House on the Balboa Peninsula was posted last week. The sign announced the new applicant as Lemon Meringue LLC.

So, what’s going on? Mr. Everything restaurants, Mario Marovic and his Lounge Group have owned the Helmsman. Mario told me they sold to “a nice young man” named Lucky Callender. He’s reportedly the son of Don Callender of Marie Callender fame. 

Meanwhile, Marovic and his team are busy opening their new authentic oceanfront taqueria and tequila bar named Super Panga Taqueria

Mario tells me they’ll feature “homemade Mexican food, rotisserie Al Pastor and more, in an open-air concept with multiple roll-up garage door windows. It’s located next door to Dory Deli

 They’re scheduled to be complete by mid-February.

• • •

A huge endorsement for Diane Dixon in her run for the 72nd Assembly District. Earlier this week the Republican Party of Orange County officially endorsed Diane.

“This endorsement gives Dixon a massive advantage in the election and sends a clear message to potential challengers,” said Dixon campaign consultant Natalie Blanning.

Just prior to the endorsement meeting, Scott Voights, a past mayor and current councilman in Lake Forest decided to throw his hat into the ring. 

He then received endorsements from O’Neill, Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon, Mayor Pro Tem Noah Blom and Councilman Duffy Duffield, but those overall efforts failed to attract the Party as a whole.

Dixon also received endorsements from the Lincoln Club, Rep. Young Kim, Rep. Michelle Steel, former Rep. Mimi Walters, Senator Pat Bates, Assembly member Laurie Davies and former Assembly Republican leader Curt Pringle.

The newly drawn Assembly District includes the cities of Aliso Viejo, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, Newport Beach and Seal Beach.

• • •

Say it ain’t so, Library Services Director Tim Hetherton is retiring from overseeing the Newport Beach Library. Tim initially planned to call it a career come March but has now agreed to stay around until a new library director can be found.

We’ll keep you posted.