Who’s hot, and who’s not, on DP 103’s final list


The DP 103 list of most influential people is out for 2016 — and apparently this year marks the end of the tradition.

The list has certainly had a good run, and I’ve had some fun writing about those who’ve sizzled — and fizzled — over the years.

No. 1 on my sizzle list this year — and on the DP 103 too — is Newport Beach activist and Line in the Sand founder Jean Watt.

Watt was on fire this year. At age 90 she inspired and mobilized her grassroots movement to gather more than 13,000 signatures in just two weeks, bringing the planned Museum House project closer to a vote of the people in a referendum.

Watt knocks out City Council member and former Newport mayor Diane Dixon for the top DP spot this year, as Dixon moves down to No. 15.

Dixon was No. 1 in 2015 with her meteoric rise to mayor pro tem — and then mayor this year — after being elected in 2014.

But she fizzled in my book in 2016 as she claimed to be studying every issue and listening to all sides, yet remained tone deaf to the public’s political landscape regarding the unofficial dog park, fellow council member Scott Peotter’s various rants and the Museum House condominium tower.

Ranked 12th on the list is my favorite “frenemy,” political consultant Dave Ellis.

A regular on the list for many years, Ellis was No. 100 in 2013, 61 in 2014 and 78 in 2015.

Ellis certainly sizzled this year, proving that as far as the political influence game goes in Newport, he’s top dog. He actually rated higher than most of the City Council members he helped get elected, with the exception of Mayor Kevin Muldoon, who is No. 4.

And I feel Muldoon wouldn’t have ranked above Ellis this year if he hadn’t been anointed the new mayor by his “Team Newport” cohorts on the council. Muldoon held spot 30 on the 2015 list and 36 in 2014.

Faced with the possible referendum on the Museum House project, being mayor in 2017 is pretty much a sucker’s bet, as they say in Vegas. Was he smart to accept this position?

If Muldoon votes to move ahead with sending the 1,100-page petition document mandated by the council to each of the 53,131 Newport voters, the cost could bring the price tag of the election to upward of $2 million.

And if he suggests deleting the document pages, his fellow Team Newport members may not agree, which could make him appear politically impotent.

My guess is voters won’t forget this whole referendum debacle with Team Newport, but as mayor, Muldoon will be the face of this mess, regardless of how it plays out.

Team Newport could go from being the heroes of the 2014 election to the zeros of 2018 when they are up for reelection.

Another person Newport residents won’t soon forget is 26th on the list this year — Councilman “Two Ton Eddie” Selich.

I jokingly call him this since it was Selich’s idea that the council include the 1,100 pages of background documents for the Museum House project on all the petitions for a referendum — resulting in the signature drive producing nearly 2 tons of paper.

Selich, who is now termed out of the council, has said of Museum House that “one more high-rise will not change the look and feel of Newport Center.”

So was this a spiteful act aimed at the public, with the outcome poorly calculated by Selich and Team Newport?

Or was it an ingenious way for Selich — who’s not a member of Team Newport — to jam up Team Newport after he left office, since they would inherit this public relations nightmare?

Moving my attention to movers and shakers in Costa Mesa, the DP 103 list certainly reflects the wind of change in that city.

Costa Mesa residents flipped the ideology of their City Council majority with the reelection of Councilwoman Sandy Genis, who came in at No. 8, and the election of newcomer John Stephens, No. 16.

Costa Mesa’s newest mayor, Katrina Foley, hits No. 3 on the list. She ranked seventh in 2015 and No. 1 in 2014.

This is Foley’s first crack at mayor, and she’s already making some important changes that the council is scheduled to vote on at its next meeting.

Tom Hatch would lose the title of chief executive officer of Costa Mesa and rightfully return to the title of city manager.

All public comments at council meetings would be heard at the beginning of each meeting, and council members’ comments will be heard at the end.

The mayor’s office, previously a “private space,” Foley says, will now be the Office of the City Council, where members can meet with the public.

Though these changes are mostly ceremonial, they do send a message that there’s a new sheriff in town, so to speak, and things will be different under her watch.

I could go on and on about this final DP 103 list, but it’s time to put it to bed and ring in 2017 with all its amazing possibilities, and I predict there will be many.

Happy new year!


BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at