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West Newport Beach Assn. hosts City Council candidates forum

Jim Miller was moderator for the West Newport Beach Assn.'s candidates forum held on Zoom.
Jim Miller, the moderator for Wednesday’s West Newport Beach Assn.‘s candidates forum held on Zoom, delivers an invocation at the start.
(Screenshot by Lilly Nguyen)

Election season continues in Newport Beach with another City Council candidates forum Wednesday night, this one held by the West Newport Beach Assn.

This follows other forums held this year by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and Speak Up Newport. The latest forum was moderated by board member Jim Miller.

Miller described the organization as the “eyes and ears of [the] community since 1956" and that its mission was to protect and improve the quality of life for residents of Newport Beach.

The forum was held through Zoom.

All five candidates attended, but only four candidates, including incumbents Brad Avery and Jeff Herdman and prospective council members Nancy Scarbrough and Noah Blom, answered questions. Sitting Mayor Will O’Neill, who is running for reelection, also attended, but was not asked questions as he is running unopposed.

Staff and volunteers for the Patient Safety Movement Foundation walked from Balboa Pier to Newport Pier to bring awareness to patient safety on Tuesday, two days before World Patient Safety Day.

The others are running to fill seats in District 2, which includes Newport Heights/Cliffhaven and West Newport, and District 5, which includes Balboa Island. O’Neill is running for reelection for District 7, which includes Newport Coast.

Nancy Scarbrough delivers her opening remarks.
Nancy Scarbrough, a board member of the local development and environmental watchdog group Still Protecting Our Newport, delivers her opening remarks during the West Newport Beach Assn.‘s candidates forum on Wednesday.
(Screenshot by Lilly Nguyen)

With 2 minutes to introduce themselves, candidates answered questions for a little over an hour and a half.

O’Neill used his introduction to thank the city’s fire department in assisting fighting some of the 26 major fires and three extended attack wildfires burning throughout California. State officials said Thursday that firefighters responded to 22 initial attack wildfires. O’Neill said the city is rebuilding the fire station near Lido Isle, adding that city officials are close to getting bids and financing for the station.

As wildfires rage in the West and hurricanes pummel the Gulf Coast during a pandemic, disaster aid has been forced to evolve, for better or worse.

“I am really excited to see us moving that forward because that is going to increase our responsiveness throughout the peninsula and up into the heights as well,” O’Neill said. “This is one of those moments where you look back on it and say, ‘Maybe that should have been done a decade or maybe even two decades ago,’ but the nice thing is we’re able to do it now.”

“We’re able to do it fiscally and responsibly and we’re going to make the city safer and that’s exactly what this job entails,” O’Neill said.

Scarbrough explained that she’s never been a politician before, but that she’s been involved in a number of city issues such as the nearby John Wayne Airport and involved with Still Protecting our Newport. A small business owner, Scarbrough said she’s lived in Newport Beach for 15 years and raised her three sons in the city.

Scarbrough described herself as independent, adding that she felt the council needed a strong councilperson with an open mind.

Brad Avery delivers his opening remarks.
Brad Avery, who is the incumbent running for District 2, delivers his opening remarks during the West Newport Beach Assn.‘s candidates forum on Wednesday.
(Screenshot by Lilly Nguyen)

Avery, the incumbent running for District 2, said he grew up and lived in several parts of the city, acknowledging that times have changed since his childhood. Avery said that he’s enjoyed being a part of the conversations in the city on traffic and growth.

Avery said that he tries to uphold what is “on the books now and try and mitigate what we can for folks that are being impacted by all the ramifications of the success of our great city.”

Incumbent Herdman said he loves Newport Beach and has lived in the city just “eight years shy of [his] entire life.” He added that he worked hard on the City Council while tackling issues with the airport, homelessness and, now, COVID-19.

Supt. Russell Lee-Sung assured the Newport-Mesa Unified School District is prepared to start reopening schools Sept. 29, when thousands of TK-2 students will return to campuses after a six-month hiatus.

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported Thursday that there have been 1,101 cases and 21 deaths in Newport Beach.

Herdman said he doesn’t feel that now is the time for change on the council, adding that stability and experience was what was needed. He said it’s been an honor to serve District 5 for the last four years.

Noah Blom delivers his opening remarks.
Noah Blom, a restaurateur running for the council seat for District 5, delivers his opening remarks during the West Newport Beach Assn.‘s candidates forum on Wednesday.
(Screenshot by Lilly Nguyen)

Blom followed, but countered by saying that he felt residents were excited for “new ideas that aren’t the status quo, aren’t things we’ve seen before.” Blom said that he felt it was time to maintain who and what Newport Beach was but also continuing to push forward with the support of the community.

“We’re coming off of something that’s challenged the world, not just our city. That challenge has to reunite us. I’ve seen it in Newport, more than I’ve seen it anywhere else,” Blom said. “People aren’t vacationing as much. They’re staying home. They’re reexperiencing what this town is and they’re getting that excitement again.”

Miller asked questions of what the prospective council members about the city’s current relationship with the John Wayne Airport and its airlines, short-term rentals, how to improve the area in and around the Newport Pier, safety on the boardwalk, transparency with the public and the city’s COVID-19 response.

City Council members in Newport Beach represent districts but are voted in at-large. Voters will cast their ballots on Nov. 3.

The next forum will be held virtually by the Corona del Mar Residents Assn. on Sept. 30 at 6 p.m.

Readers can watch the West Newport Beach Assn.‘s candidates’ forum at youtube.com/watch?v=dADc_3bomYQ.

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