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Mailbag: Controversies, contributions drive concerns about Orange County races

A view of the AES Huntington Beach Generating Station and the Magnolia Marsh Ecological Reserve.
A view of the AES Huntington Beach Generating Station and the Magnolia Marsh Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach in 2016. An opponent of the proposed Poseidon Desalinization project, which would be located next to the power plant, stresses the importance of the local water district elections.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

While most of the local election races focus on city councils or school boards, perhaps the most important contests are those for water district board positions.

This is because of the looming presence of the proposed Poseidon desalination plant project in Huntington Beach.

For the record:

3:16 PM, Oct. 22, 2020An earlier version of the letter regarding the Poseidon desalinization project stated that it is backing Allan Mansoor’s candidacy for the Municipal Water District of Orange County. Mansoor says he has not received support from Poseidon.

The for-profit Poseidon outfit has pumped tens of thousands of dollars of support to favored candidates in both the Orange County Water District and the Municipal Water District of Orange County.

It is trying to save its billion-dollar boondoggle, which not only harms marine life and the environment but forces ultra-expensive desal water down the throats of area water ratepayers despite widespread misgivings about the project.

The reason these races are so important to everyone is that there are long-term negative impacts to our water rates and water policies if ruinous decades-long contracts are approved.

If more Poseidon skeptics are elected next month, our pocketbooks might be better protected.

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

Steel’s airport decision doesn’t bode well

I have difficulty in supporting Michelle Steel in her bid for Congress.

I attended the meeting she chaired regarding the expansion of John Wayne Airport allowing larger corporate jets to take the spaces of smaller airplanes. All of the speakers expressed empathy for the hundreds in attendance, but ultimately she backed the county’s interest in getting more income from the larger aircraft.

When the expansion is completed we can expect increased noise from the corporate jets using the airport outside of the current restricted hours.

Do I trust her to look for my best interest if elected to Congress? No.

Clay Wells
Balboa Island

Steel is tone deaf and dangerous

On Sept. 29 at the Board of Supervisors meeting, chair Michelle Steel suggested ending mask use in our public schools.

These reckless comments highlight a pattern of child endangerment in exchange for Steel’s political aspiration.

As bipartisan trustees of the Ocean View School District, we prioritize student welfare. We’ve successfully partnered with the state to reopen safely for students, faculty and staff.

This required tremendous community sacrifice from every stakeholder. Supervisor Steel is deaf to the scientific validity of mask use and repeatedly questions safety guidelines that will harm innocent children and threaten school closure once again.

Steel is playing politics with children’s lives, and this isn’t the first time.

In 2015, Rainbow Environmental Services was under fire for systemic environmental abuse and endangerment of predominantly Latino school children in the Oak View community in the heart of Surf City.

Under Steel’s supervision, Oak View students were “subjected to bird droppings, nauseating odors, dust and chicken bones” as “bird urine was seeping through” the school’s roof.

To fight this public health threat, the community looked to Steel for solutions because she held supervision responsibility for trash operations in Huntington Beach and could put an end to toxic exposure and environmental degradation.

She refused to meet. Rainbow Environmental Services — an Arizona-based Organization, was one of Steele’s top donors.

Our district took her to court. The Ocean View School District beat Rainbow Environmental Services and forced them to pay over $26 million in mandated upgrades and improvements to Rainbow’s facility and the Oak View school itself.

Once again, we must fight for student safety and expose Steel. She is the most dangerous politician in Orange County. Vote accordingly.

Gina Clayton-Tarvin
President, Board of Trustees
Ocean View School District

Jack Souders
Clerk, Board of Trustees
Ocean View School District

Blom’s support is suspect

I am a third-generation Balboa Island resident who has spent two months researching the City Council race.

I am deeply concerned that District 5 candidate Noah Blom is being recruited to give a voting majority to the real estate funded “Team Newport” bloc. After all, according to public filings, Blom has the same campaign treasurer as Team Newport council members Will O’Neill, Kevin Muldoon and Marshall Duffield and unsuccessful 2016 Team Newport candidate Lee Lowery.

Not only is Blom endorsed by O’Neill, Duffield and Muldoon, but Blom donated the maximum allowable amount to O’Neill’s reelection campaign.

The overwhelming majority of Blom’s campaign contributions are from developers and real estate companies and individuals associated with these industries. He’s also received funding from local and out-of-state short-term lodging operators.

Looking through his Fair Political Practices Commission Form 460s, it is astonishing to see how few of Blom’s donations come from residents who do not work in real estate or an associated industry.

The single biggest donor in this year’s City Council race is the real estate funded Atlas PAC, which gave $17,500 to “Residents for Reform Supporting Avery, Blom and O’Neill,” a group funded exclusively by Atlas PAC and developer Robert (Bob) McCaffery.

Atlas PAC, based near Sacramento, is funded by $50,000-plus contributions from real estate companies and was started with a loan from Lowery.

The second-biggest financial contributor to this year’s race is Eagle Four Partners, a private-equity group specializing in real estate investments.

In contrast, the vast majority of Jeff Herdman’s donations are from individual Newport residents. I found only three donations out of about 100 possibly linked to developers. While Blom’s average donation is in the amount of $690, Herdman’s average donation size is $305.

There has been talk from supporters of Blom that Herdman is funded by the developer Manouch Moshayedi. Between 2016 and today, Moshayedi and his wife donated a total of $2,200 to Herdman. There is no evidence they have contributed anything else, personally or via a PAC.

The real estate industry needs their voices heard at City Council. But members are supposed to work to create a balance between the often competing needs of developers and residents.

Sadly, the evidence strongly suggests that Blom will join his friends in fighting for developers at the cost of residents.

Veronica Cassidy
Balboa Island

When you follow the money behind Noah Blom, it goes beyond vacation home operators and the Museum House developer.

Campaign reports show that local developer and owner of Mobilitie Corp. Gary Jabara, and affiliated persons have given $4,800 to Blom. This includes a maximum $1,200 donation from Cameron Jabara who lists his occupation as “student.”

Residents of the Mariner’s Mile area will remember Jabara as the developer of the project containing the Mariner’s Mile post office. Residents in Newport Coast and other neighborhoods remember Mobilitie for their efforts to erect cellphone towers throughout the community.

Residents in all neighborhoods will remember this developer for his contempt for public input and working with the community.

There can be no doubt that Noah Blom will be owned and operated by his contributors if elected.

If you are concerned about unlimited vacation homes in your neighborhood, if you are concerned about more high-rise high-density developments, if you are concerned about the proliferation of cellphone towers throughout the city, and if you are concerned about the future of Mariner’s Mile, you should be very concerned about the big money propping up the campaign of Noah Blom.

I am voting for an independent council member who will stand up for residents. I am voting for Jeff Herdman for Newport Beach.

Lynn Swain
Big Canyon

Herdman’s ‘special’ ties to developers

Recent letters by Jeff Herdman supporters, including Newport Beach Council woman Joy Brenner, speculated that competitor in the race for council Noah Blom received “dark money” from mysterious out-of-town developers.

While Herdman tries to fend off taking developers’ money both in 2016 and 2020, in which these same developers are currently buying and developing properties in Newport, he completely misses the mark on Blom’s endorsements.

Contributors of “dark money” noted by Herdman’s hit piece were Gino Canori and Gary Jabara. Interesting facts — the Canoris are an Orange County family that Blom went to school with at Santa Margarita and they continue to be close friends.

Gary Jabara frequents Blom’s ARC Butcher & Baker restaurant to buy his employees gourmet lunch boxes each month. Not so dark after all.

In contrast to Councilman Herdman, Blom has no history of development, nor has he partnered on any developments, yet Herdman’s campaign conveniently concocts hit pieces claiming Blom is a “special interest” candidate.

In contrast, sitting Councilman Herdman, who was supported by Stop Polluting Our Newport and other anti-development groups, has taken money from the California Real Estate PAC, Apartment Assn. of Orange County, the California Apartment Owners’ Assn. of Orange County, the National Assn. of Industrial and Office Properties, the Building Industry Assn. of California and three companies associated with the high-density Shopoff projects along Jamboree Road.

Herdman even took thousands of dollars from the proponent of the Marine’rs Mile expansion project: mega-developer Manouch Moshayedi.

After recently being exposed with public records, Herdman changed his tune. Don’t worry he says, it’s a good thing to take all of that money because now the developers listen to his opinions about their projects. Is that really his defense?

And on Nextdoor, Herdman said: “Manouch actually calls me when he is working on a new business or tenant to ask my opinion!” It’s an amazing thing when a council member brags about backdoor meetings that change the character of Marine Avenue and Mariner’s Mile.

Seems to me that Herdman is the clear “special interest” candidate in this race, given his close relationship with local developers and advocates who have clear intentions to “whitewash” our charming beach communities.

Rick Osborne
Little Balboa Island
Newport Beach

School board election is important too

While some voters may not pay much attention to school board candidates, especially during a presidential election, we must remember the future of our children’s education rests in the hands of our trustees.

While some believe having a child just beginning in school qualifies a candidate to serve, I disagree.

As a regular volunteer and parent leader in my four children’s local public schools, I know from experience their needs and priorities changed from kindergarten to middle to high school.

It is crucial that our decision-makers understand all levels of students to set goals and determine priorities that serve all students.

I support Vicki Snell in her reelection as she has worked tirelessly for our children for 20 years including six as our trustee in Area 1.

She has experience, children that attended our schools at all levels and a long-standing connection to our community with a primary loyalty to students and families.

In addition, her opponent has received $17,500 from the Newport-Mesa teachers union for this election, and I can’t help but be concerned her primary loyalty may not be to the students.

Hydee Beth
Costa Mesa

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