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Election 2020: Meet the candidates for Newport Beach City Council

From left: candidates Brad Avery, Noah Blom, Jeff Herdman, Will O'Neill and Nancy Scarbrough.
Five candidates are up for election on Nov. 3. From left: candidates Brad Avery, Noah Blom, Jeff Herdman, Will O’Neill and Nancy Scarbrough.
(Courtesy photos)

In less than a week, Newport Beach residents will be casting their vote to fill three seats on their seven-person City Council.

Newport council members represent districts but are voted in at-large. Seats are up for election — or in the case of the three incumbents running, reelection — in District 2, which includes Newport Heights/Cliffhaven and West Newport; District 5, which includes Balboa Island; and District 7, which includes Newport Coast.

Running for District 2 is Nancy Scarbrough and incumbent Brad Avery. For District 5, incumbent Jeff Herdman and Noah Blom are running. In District 7, current Mayor Will O’Neill is running.

The Daily Pilot sent a questionnaire out to all candidates for City Council in its coverage area to get a sense of who they are, why they are running and what issues they believe matter most in their communities. O’Neill was not included as he is unopposed. Some responses have been edited for formatting, length or clarity.

BRAD AVERY (incumbent)

Age: Did not answer

Professional occupation: Non-profit fundraising consultant

Education: Bachelor of Arts in journalism, University of Southern California; Master of public administration, Cal State Long Beach

Time lived in city of residence: 50 years

Previous public service: Harbor Commission (2011-2016); City Council member (2016-present); Water Quality and Tidelands Committee (2017-2019); Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness (2019-present); Election Reform Committee (2017-2019); Finance Committee (2020); Board of Advocates for Oasis Senior Center (2016-present); Board of Governors for Sherman Gardens and Library (2019-present)

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

Given the suddenness of the pandemic, the city responded very well to the crisis. Our city manager and her team carried out council directives to mitigate COVID-19 impacts. Our public safety personnel performed. The city is beginning to recover. However, this fall and winter is uncertain. The city must continue to provide services and support for residents and businesses. If we work together, we will recover.

This summer, the Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

I can’t speak for our residents in terms of their views on these issues, but I do know Newport Beach citizens have huge hearts and support many organizations that are dedicated to addressing these concerns. Our residents also have high expectations that our first responders will always deal professionally and respectfully with any individual they encounter.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 4,834 units (RHNA). How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

Our allocation of 4,800 units is not a realistic number, given that our city is essentially mature and built out. The city is working to comply with the mandate, but we are also determined to defend against such an arbitrary assault on local governance. This threat to our quality of life is real, but it is also not a done deal by any stretch.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

I remain concerned about the budget if the pandemic worsens this winter. As a member of the finance committee, I will help work toward a balanced budget that will reflect the impacts of COVID-19. Our 2020-21 budget had to be slashed by $30 million. This resulted in no reductions to services for our residents, businesses, and visitors. We hope for the best and plan for the worst.

NOAH BLOM

Age: 40

Professional occupation: Chef, restaurateur

Education: Did not answer

Time lived in city of residence: 30 years

Previous public service: None

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

The handling of COVID-19 by the city was excellent. Mayor O’Neill and other members reacted quickly to mitigate long-term damage to the city’s budget. The recovery is not the reaction. I will bring a strong and business-minded voice. I will fight for small business and residents alike. This is not politics as usual. The city needs leaders who are ready to fight for the people, not against them.

This summer, the Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

The most dangerous problem America faces is forgetting that we are all Americans. We are not at a crossroads of hate but of opportunity. When protests came to Newport Beach, peace, understanding and order ruled the day. We must approach our future with the respect to let voices be heard by continuing to be a community of charity and love and empowering our public safety officers.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 4,834 units (RHNA). How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

The state housing mandate is not feasible. The city must continue, with other cities, to push back against Sacramento against these unattainable goals. We are not a vertical city and much of our land is cost-prohibitive to many of the requirements the state has passed down. We will continue to push back against governance that will have a negative impact on the amazing community we treasure.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

I will dedicate a huge part of my focus on the promotion and well-being of our villages and districts. Maintaining the charm and financial success will require new ideas, positive communication and community input. I will be an advocate of small business and will never stop fighting for the city and its culture. Faced with new problems, we will need true leaders and positive energy.

JEFF HERDMAN (incumbent)

Age: Did not answer

Professional occupation: Retired education administrator

Education: Cal State Long Beach, Chapman University

Time lived in city of residence: 67 years

Previous public service: President of Balboa Island Improvement Assn.; former president of Little Balboa Island Property Owners’ Assn.; City Charter Revision Committee; Tidelands Management Committee; Newport Beach Civil Service Board; Balboa Island Museum Board of Directors; Orange County Vector Control board of trustees; Newport Beach City Council

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

The city of Newport Beach has been compliant with all orders. The city has not gotten out in front of these orders, nor lagged behind. The first priority has been the well-being of its citizens. The recovery of our business and tourism industry is a priority and will continue to be as we move to less restrictive conditions. Such recovery is vital to the well-being of our economy.

This summer, the Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

Support for all of the individuals who make up the outstanding group of first responders from the city of Newport Beach is, of course, a top priority. We have the very finest and it is imperative that it remain so.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 4,834 units (RHNA). How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

To maintain the quality of life that residents have come to expect, it is important to plan for the effects that such an increase in housing would have on our city. Circulation and traffic issues and increased demands on services, environmental effects and education all need to be taken into account. Moreover, the reality of whether or not the city has the space to zone is in question.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

I would continue to focus on John Wayne Airport issues as they relate to airport noise and pollution, as well as expansion. Maintenance of the best water quality possible in our harbor will continue to be a priority. Completion of the trash wheel project will be a focus and timely mitigation of the needs of the homeless in our city must be a major focus.

NANCY SCARBROUGH

Age: 65

Professional occupation: Commercial interior designer, space planner

Education: Environmental Design at UC Los Angeles

Time lived in city of residence: 15 years

Previous public service: Newport Heights Improvement Assn.; Still Protecting Our Newport (SPON); Good Neighbor Advocacy Group; Protect Mariners’ Mile

What are your thoughts on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If elected, how would you help the city recover?

To help restore the community and local businesses following the COVID pandemic, we need to: continue to coordinate and find ways to allow local businesses to remain open to the maximum extent possible, create an economic development committee to ensure a long-term effort to support our businesses and support a robust communication program to keep the public informed about best practices.

This summer, the Orange County area saw demonstrations related to issues of social justice, policing and inequity. How do you think constituents view these issues, and how would you address them on the dais?

The residents that I have spoken with have expressed support for the manner in which our police department responded to the demonstrations. They believe the Newport Beach police acted in a professional and controlled way. I felt that the communication from the city manager and the city staff was thorough and timely. I do not believe there was much that could have been handled differently.

State housing allocations over the next several years may require the city to zone for 4,834 units (RHNA). How would you maintain residents’ quality of life while addressing the housing crisis?

We should fight back against the state mandates. We could focus our efforts on documenting the reasons the requirements are unreasonable, align ourselves with other coastal cities and serve the problem back to the state with a price tag for what it will take in concessions to comply. I will be a strong advocate for ensuring housing is consistent with the vision statement of the general plan.

What else would you focus on as a council member?

Increased and transparent representation. We have a number of extremely important projects and issues that will require City Council decisions over the next few years, including but not limited to development along Mariners’ Mile. Community-altering decisions should not be made without exhaustive community input. I’ve been watching this pattern develop over the last several years, and I don’t see it changing without a changing of the guard.

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