Commentary: So much to smile about in Newport

The morning coastal fog has retreated the past few days, perhaps a welcome sign that our real summer has begun. It always brings a new wave of energy and smiles about our special place on the planet.

But the sun isn't the only thing producing smiles.

How about the bunnies at our new Civic Center?

And the free concerts there that have been so well attended?

How about new signs of life and energy along Mariners Mile with the promise of The Winery opening on the bay, and the new retail shops at the high visibility corner of Dover and Pacific Coast Highway?

Is anyone besides our mayor sad that the South Coast Air Quality Management District hasn't been able to find a firm to produce a prototype propane fire ring to replace the real things at Big Corona? Not me. What a mess.

The annual red tide has come and gone. Of course, I'm talking about our exceptional Junior Lifeguard program.

For a great workout, jump on a bike and ride some or all of the paved and dedicated mountains-to-the-sea trail created by the Irvine Co. that stretches from the lower Back Bay to Irvine Regional Park. A big wow.

The better bike lanes painted on some of our worst bike/car conflict areas seem to be working. This is a real and consequential community-driven accomplishment.

No question that members of the Newport Beach Police Department would have stood their ground and kept the peace if the Huntington Beach dustup had occurred here.

And there are big hopes, which I share, that a new boutique hotel on our old City Hall site will bring new life, energy and an economic boost to that entrance to our city.

Maybe the new owners of the nearby Lido Village can do their part to reclaim the glory of years past?

The assessed value of our city's commercial and residential real estate now tops $42 billion, second only in Orange County to much larger Irvine. That probably says more about the economic strength and appeal of Newport Beach than any other statistic.

Completion of the Irvine Co.'s new "PIMCO Tower" in Newport Center will keep the financial powerhouse here and permit PIMCO to consolidate its spread-out work force. That, in turn, will lead to an introduction of high-quality rental units in our most prominent and important economic center. A big deal.

Even warm, sunny and lazy days of summer can't mask conflicts.

The anti-dock-tax forces around the bay are still smarting from significant fee increases (which I opposed) and a city suggestion that they really don't "own" the docks that sit on city tidelands. Look for these dock-tax forces to loom large in the coming elections. (I am termed out and cannot run again for a seat on the City Council.)

The crowded field of early announced candidates for soon-to-be termed-out council seats reflect, in part, community dissatisfaction.

Our librarian, by far the highest compensated (salary and benefits) in the region, is retiring. We have a chance to recalibrate and attract a talented replacement based on a common-sense compensation package that is fair to the candidate and the taxpayers.

Some of us want to give much less weight to the human resources-engineered salary comparison studies that only drive up (and never down) the wage and benefit spiral that threatens our fiscal health. There are many reasons beyond wages that our city can attract great municipal employees. Watch us try.

And watch us continue to figure new ways to stop the insidious pension "spiking" that takes place as some employees approach retirement, leaving the city with outsized and unjustified retirement benefit obligations for decades to come. The council recently decided merit bonuses should not count toward higher retirement benefits.

I can't get worked up at all about the two mooring permits that should be issued to two local owners of so-called mega-yachts for short-term stays in the harbor. I think the ships are awesome, cool, hip, fascinating, fun and built to be quiet, self-contained and nonpolluting. Let's welcome them as we do other boating people to our harbor.

For the moment, though, my mind is on fun things: Bikes, baseball, beach, beer, barbecue and, oh yes, sunscreen.

Let's savor the moment.

LESLIE DAIGLE is a Newport Beach councilwoman.

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