Community Commentary: A great evening speaking up about Newport

Just in case you missed it, let us fill you in on the 30th Annual Speak Up Newport Mayor's Dinner.

The sold-out event was held on Feb. 11, 2011, at our own Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, and they did a wonderful job with the over 450 guests.

Emcee Peter Buffa (not related to Hosni Buffaat) and musician-extraordinaire Jim Roberts made the program go smoothly, but with Peter's occasional funny jabs. Others also participated in the jokes.

Have you ever smiled during an invocation? Orange County Supervisor (and Vice Chair) John Moorlach made sure we did! And, Newport Beach Police Chief Jay Johnson ensured that we paid strict attention to the flag salute.

The evening was not without surprises, and the first was former Mayor Tom Edwards' presentation of the SUNshine Award to a quite surprised and touched former Mayor Jan Debay.

The recipient is a person who has given many contributions, outstanding leadership, great friendship and dedicated service to our Newport Beach community.

Jan gave an eloquent thank-you speech. Congrats, Jan: You are the perfect SUNshine award winner!

After dinner, Buffa introduced 15 former mayors going as far back as 1969's Mayor Doreen Marshall. The 45 Table Underwriters, plus many, many other Newport residents, enjoyed Mayor Mike Henn's keynote speech, the State of the City.

Mayor Henn addressed the current state of the city, noted the strong finances in a challenging year, and complimented everyone on working through a difficult 2010.

His main focus was "generational planning," which focuses on addressing challenges to better the city for generations to come. Four challenges include redefining city government, reigning in retirement costs, managing tidelands resources and revitalizing our neighborhoods.

We also were among the first to learn that our new mayor has a Facebook page. And he plans to continue "Meet the Mayor" days, the first of which will begin on Feb. 19 at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Well, sounds like fun, doesn't it? If you missed the 2011 Mayor's Dinner, plan on attending our next one in February 2012! See you there, and check out

For those who are not familiar with Speak Up Newport, SUN is an independent (very independent) nonprofit mutual benefit corporation that holds monthly forums on important topics in the community as well as the Mayor's Dinner. The monthly meetings are at the Newport Beach Yacht Club.

SUN also recognizes individuals, volunteer organizations, and public officials who make positive contributions in the community. Finally, SUN gives scholarship awards to local college bound students who attend the two area high schools.

ROBERT C. HAWKINS is president of Speak Up Newport. JO VANDERVORT is treasurer of Speak Up Newport.

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