Candidate debate set for Sept. 30

COSTA MESA — Several Orange County news outlets are joining forces for a political forum involving candidates for the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach city councils.

The Newport-Mesa Feet to the Fire Forum will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Ave. The event is free and open to the public.

Expected panelists include Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit, Newport Beach Independent Publisher Tom Johnson, Voice of O.C. Editor Norberto Santana Jr., OC Weekly columnist Gustavo Arellano and Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis.

Register columnist Barbara Venezia will serve as mistress of ceremonies. She and Canalis organized the event.

"When John first called me about the forum, I thought it was a great idea, though it would be like herding cats," said Venezia, who wrote for the Daily Pilot before moving over to the Register. "So many personalities, so many territorial issues, all the more reason a forum like this was needed."

The debate will address the interdependency of the two cities and cross-over issues like Banning Ranch, John Wayne Airport and recreation and health in both communities.

"Costa Mesa and Newport should be working together much more than they are now, so let's start the dialog with the new crop of candidates and really hold their feet to the fire on issues," Venezia said.

Though the format is still being worked out, Canalis and Venezia plan to soon meet with the other panelists with the aim of creating a lively and engaging event that not only stresses accountability but education, Canalis said.

"While there are a good number of debates in Newport-Mesa this fall, Barbara and I wanted to do something with a bit more edge and personality while still achieving our main goal — educating the voters," Canalis said. "It certainly helps to have someone like Barbara, who is not only a lively writer but has television experience, set the pace and keep the audience engaged. I know or have met each of the panelists and believe they will ask the kinds of questions that matter to the electorate."

Invited candidates for Newport Beach include Councilwoman Leslie Daigle and candidates Ed Reno, Rush Hill and Mark Tabbert. Though up for reelection, council members Nancy Gardner and Michael F. Henn were not asked to debate, as they are running unopposed.

Invited candidates for Costa Mesa include Councilwoman Wendy Leece and candidates Sue Lester, Chris McEvoy, Chad Petschl and James Righeimer, planning commission chairman.

All of the Newport and most of the Costa Mesa candidates have agreed to attend.

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