Council passes gavel to Gardner

NEWPORT BEACH — In its annual changing of the guard, the City Council on Tuesday named Councilwoman Nancy Gardner as the new mayor.

Gardner, who has served since 2006, has advocated for environmental and quality-of-life issues, including improving baywater quality and the recent smoking ban in city parks.

A native of Newport Beach, Gardner, 69, has over the years served on local nonprofit boards and city committees.

Gardner, who represents the Corona del Mar-area district, succeeds Mike Henn, who listed among his biggest accomplishments during the past year the revitalization of various neighborhoods, completing and launching major dredging projects, and working to reform public employee pensions.

"This is the No. 1 long-term threat to the fiscal health of our city," he said of pensions.

Councilman Keith Curry, who was mayor before Henn, was named mayor pro tem.


Tucker appointed to Planning Commission

In other action, Larry Tucker was appointed to the Planning Commission by a 6-1 vote, with Gardner voting for candidate Tim Stokes. The appointment process was rushed because Henn and others said they had to fill former Chairman Charles Unsworth's seat quickly, as the commission is reviewing the proposed Banning Ranch development.

Some, including Councilman Steve Rosansky, criticized the appointment process saying there was no need to forgo interviews and other deliberative steps the council usually undertakes. Rosansky voted for Tucker, a real estate developer.


Dredging money approved

Shallow spots in Newport Harbor should soon be dredged, thanks to a $2.5-million city infusion the council approved Tuesday. The Army Corps of Engineers, which is running the operation, is still waiting for federal, county and private donations to fully fund the $6.9 million project.

Said Henn about private donations: "I'll be looking to have conversations with key members of the harbor community."


Former mayor chosen for Visit Newport

The council also selected former mayor Dennis O'Neil, a lawyer, to be the city representative on the executive board for Visit Newport Beach, the city's visitors bureau.

The organization had lax oversight, a city audit found, and executives were spending public tax dollars somewhat haphazardly. In September, the council voted to give the city more controls over the group, including appointing a representative on Visit Newport's board.

Again, Gardner was the lone dissenting vote. She supported Paul Blank, a cosmetics executive and former co-owner of the Casa Laguna Inn & Spa in Laguna Beach.

Twitter: @mreicher

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