Letters to the Editor

Isn’t it time to give those that aren’t a part of a team a shot at mayor?

I enjoyed Tom Johnson’s Fair Game column on August 11 but have a different take on two points. 

First, regardless of whether Will O’Neill has or hasn’t done a good job as mayor, the fact that he’s running unopposed is not good news for our city. Competitive elections are healthy for democracy and encourage voter participation. It’s better to have choices on the ballot. 

Why will we have so few options on city council races this November? For one thing it’s incredibly expensive to run in Newport Beach as incumbents can build up war chests for four years between elections. And residents who might consider throwing their hat in the ring know that certain candidates are backed by some nasty actors who fight dirty to get their people elected. We saw this in 2014, 2016 and 2018, and I suspect we’ll see it again this year. Running for council should be a chance to serve the community, not a terrifying experience. Regular residents and local businesses lose when dirty politics win. But that’s where we are.     

Second, the fact that O’Neill, Kevin Muldoon and Duffy Duffield have endorsed Jeff Herdman’s opponent before the first debate isn’t just notable, it’s alarming. As Tom noted in his column, Herdman ran on his own against a slate of candidates in 2016 (“Team Newport” 2.0: O’Neill with Brad Avery and Lee Lowery). Duffy and Muldoon were part of the first Team Newport slate elected in 2014. 

For two years, until Joy Brenner was elected, Herdman was the only council member not associated with a slate. He has indeed been a strong and independent voice, on airport issues and many others. He works on city business seven days a week, is effective and always available for residents. What reason could his colleagues have for endorsing an opponent they presumably don’t know much about?

There are several possibilities, all of them political. Herdman’s willingness to think for himself and err on the side of transparency most likely has something to do with it. But it could also be about retaining control of the mayor and mayor pro tem seats, which are supposed to rotate, but have been jealously guarded by Team Newport since they were swept to power in 2014. These titles obviously give a boost to those who are running for higher office, which two Team Newport members are currently doing. We can probably assume that this game of musical chairs will continue if the same team, or some other iteration of it, keeps a majority on the council. 

Whatever the election results in November, I hope four people on the council will agree that the long-term residents who are not part of any team and not running for higher office should have a chance to serve their city as mayor and mayor pro tem. 

Jennifer McDonald

Newport Beach

Interviews for council members start now

Running for City Council should be compared to being interviewed for a new job, an occupation that should be taken seriously. One would expect that these representatives would have a proven track record and would continue to share these results after four years.

In Newport Beach, every resident can cast their vote across the board for an incumbent or a new candidate in our City. Together, we hold hands along our coastal gem to make certain that we make a better path for our children, move forward with smart and responsible growth, while maintaining the charm of our town.

Newport Heights and Cliff Haven are very unique areas in which 4,300 children travel to and from three schools: Newport Heights Elementary, Horace Ensign and Newport Harbor. The models of these dynamics are continuously changing with these schools during COVID; but nonetheless, we have an abundance of children, junior guards and families traveling throughout our neighborhoods and yet, safety still remains a major issue in our neighborhoods.

In my professional years, if I did not perform in four months, let alone four years, I would have been terminated and replaced by someone who could obtain those desired results. 

I have interviewed the new candidate and I will be hiring Nancy Scarbrough for District 2 to represent me in 2020.

As for the incumbent, a nice guy, but you know what they say about nice guys. We must begin to put people before politics. 

I encourage every citizen in Newport Beach to be an educated voter and attend the “Meet the Candidate Forum” on August 20 at 9 a.m. This meeting will be moderated by CEO Lucy Dunn of the Orange County Business Council. This is free and can also be attended via Zoom at

Peggy V. Palmer

Newport Beach

November propositions will impact real estate, be knowledgeable

This November 3rd, you will be asked to vote for three different propositions that will affect real estate, specifically, property taxes and rent control. We’ve seen variations of these propositions before and regardless of the outcome this November, we’re likely to continue to see more in the foreseeable future.

Proposition 15 relates to commercial and industrial real estate and how property taxes are computed. Proposition 19 takes the current Prop 60 and 90 to a new level regarding the ability of homeowners to transfer their current property tax rate to a new home. And Proposition 21 addresses rent control. Let’s take a look at each.

Proposition 15: A ‘Yes’ vote would change the current taxation rate on commercial and industrial buildings from the current Prop 13 rules which establishes property taxes based on the property sales price. The new valuation would be based on the property’s current market value. Like residential property, Prop 13 limits the commercial property taxation to 1 percent of the sales price with an annual adjustment limit of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. A change from the purchase price to market value would be phased in beginning in fiscal year 2022-2023. Properties such as retail centers, whose occupants are 50 percent small business would be taxed based on market value beginning in fiscal year 2025-2026. There are a couple of exceptions to Prop 15, including properties whose owners have $3 million or less in holdings in California – these properties would continue to be taxed at the purchase price. You can imagine the impact of a new “market value taxation” on commercial property owners. It’s easy to say, “Well, they can afford it”, not necessarily and not a fair argument. I suspect that there will be a fight determining how often commercial and industrial buildings get reassessed and assessment valuation challenges will keep county assessors extraordinarily busy. I vote ‘No’.

Proposition 19: A ‘Yes’ vote on 19 will bring some much-needed relief, in my opinion, to our shortage of residential real estate inventory. You may recall that Prop 60 and Prop 90 were voted into law in 1986 and 1988 respectively. Prop 60 allowed homeowners who are at least 55 years of age to take their current property tax rate to a new purchase within the same county provided that the next home was of equal or lesser value. Both properties are required to be a primary residence. Prop 90 allowed Californians to transfer their property tax base between different California counties but, unfortunately, each county could opt out. Currently, only 10 counties allow such a transfer. Additionally, utilizing this tax advantage is a one-time deal. Proposition 19 would make the following changes: 1) The newly acquired property can be of any value (with a slight adjustment in taxes if the property is of higher value), 2) Eligible homeowners can transfer their property taxes to ANY county in California, 3) Eligible homeowners now also include persons with severe disabilities and victims displaced by a natural disaster, and 4) This tax provision can be used up to three times (except the natural disaster scenario). The number of folks taking advantage of these new rules would greatly increase real estate movement and certainly help with our continuing shortage of available homes for sale. This ballot measure is also gaining a lot of traction due to revenues and savings being directed to fire protection services. I vote ‘Yes’.

Proposition 21: A ‘Yes’ vote would allow local governments to implement rent controls. Rent control is always a hot topic. I get it as I am on both sides of the argument as a real estate practitioner and a landlord. Basically, this measure would replace the Costa-Hawkins Act, which was passed in 1995, limiting or eliminating government involvement. Prop 21 will allow local governments to adapt rent control measures (rent increase caps) on housing units, except on 1) Housing that was first occupied within the last 15 years and 2) Units owned by natural persons who own no more than two housing units with separate titles, such as single family houses, condos and some duplexes. Again, I get both sides of this argument but in the end, I prefer to let the market determine what is fair. I vote ‘No’.

Although I’ve given my inclination regarding how I’m voting on these propositions, this article is not intended to tell you how to vote. Please take the time to read more about these three propositions that will be on your ballot November 3rd. There are more details to each that are not discussed here. Another critical factor when determining how to vote on these propositions is to examine who, or what, revenues are meant to support. Most importantly, get out and vote!

Troy Davis

The Agency Realty

Newport Beach

Block voting undermines process

How voting consistently as a team or a bloc in a non-partisan Council can undermine democracy. (Subtitle: Why Costa Mesa has 12 “new” candidates running for City Council, while Newport Beach has only 2).

–If Council members rely on others to make their decisions, constituents are not being served by independent thinkers (thus independent voters).

–As a result, voting as a bloc can imply that your Council member is putting the opinion of other members above the consensus of his/her constituents.

–Voting as a bloc or team also suggests that there might be some outside influences putting pressure on the team to vote a certain way. 

–A community is less likely to get quality people to run for office because people can feel pressure running against the member of a team and because the cost becomes prohibitive.

–Members of a bloc do not always perform at an optimum level because they know they will be carried by their team members.

–A bloc is only as strong as its weakest link.

–The strongest member of a bloc can consistently dominate other members.

–A team that enjoys being the dominant force in a Council will usually resist change because they fear that new ideas and progress might weaken their power.

–Blocs can give members such a sense of security and power, that they can turn non-partisan issues into partisan ones.

–Blocs or team endorsements of a candidate especially in “at large” elections can make elections less democratic.

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach