Honesty will prevail, incoming Newport councilman says

June Casagrande

Even before being sworn in as City Councilman, Dick Nichols has

already exhibited a style of wading boldly into controversy.

At the Nov. 12 council meeting, just as previously warring parties

had found a harmonious compromise on the size of a Mormon temple

steeple, Nichols rehashed the matter by saying he thought the steeple

was too short.

"Architecturally, it would have been prettier if it was 10 feet

higher," Nichols said Tuesday, reaffirming his objection to lowering

the steeple from about 100 to 90 feet. It was a politically risky

move, especially in council chambers packed with residents who had

fought passionately to keep the steeple as short as possible.

Nichols drew fire during the campaign by referring to a motorist

as a Mexican, even though he did not have any information about the

man's citizenship or country of origin.

Such moves will likely set the tone for Nichols' next four years

on the dais. The Corona del Mar resident says he will have no qualms

about speaking his mind, especially when it comes to honesty in

government.

"When people make a statement, I expect it to mean something,"

Nichols said.

He will hold his colleagues, staff members and residents doing

business with the city to the same standard of honesty, he said, and

people will be able to expect honesty from him, if not always

complete openness.

"If the item is something I believe either that people do not

understand or I think they should understand, I will try to clarify

that and make it clear what the council's voting on," he said.

At other times, such as the city's recent lease negotiations with

the American Legion, there's no point in publicly airing all the

potentially contentious details.

"I met with the people at the American Legion and asked if they

were satisfied with the deal and they said they were, so in a case

like that, there's no reason to bring controversy into the chamber,"

said Nichols, who will be sworn in as a council member on Tuesday.

Other issues, though, are certain to be controversial in Nichols'

hands.

For example, he said he plans to make known to Councilman Steve

Bromberg that he believes something should be done about the Village

Inn. The restaurant, in Bromberg's district, has drawn numerous

complaints and even a court case from neighbors upset about the noise

and patrons.

"Until that is changed, I'm going to stick it to Bromberg every

once in a while," Nichols said.

Nichols' pet issue, property rights, will be central to his

service to the city. He said he plans to keep a close watch on the

general plan update, which he believes probably goes too far in

trying to overhaul the entire document. And he made a bold vow on

behalf of all property owners.

"I will not change anybody's zoning unless the adjacent property

owners are aware of what's happening and take part in it," Nichols

said. "I know that's a strong statement. I mean it."

* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport.

She may be reached at (949) 574-4232 or by e-mail at

june.casagrande@latimes.com.

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