Feet to the Fire is back

From left, Jay Humphrey, Tony Capitelli, Lee Ramos, Al Melone, Rita Simpson, Mayor Jim Righeimer and Christopher Bunyan debate at the 2014 Feet to the Fire forum.
From left, Jay Humphrey, Tony Capitelli, Lee Ramos, Al Melone, Rita Simpson, Mayor Jim Righeimer and Christopher Bunyan debate at the 2014 Feet to the Fire forum.
(SCOTT SMELTZER / File photo)

Back in 2010, when Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis proposed the idea of a talk show-style candidates forum, where reporters do the interviewing, I was keen on the idea. Thus, Feet to the Fire Forum was born.

Along with our media partners at Voice of O.C. and the O.C. Register, an informative platform arose for voters to evaluate candidates, not only on their knowledge of issues and opinions, but also on how quickly they could think on their feet.

Over the years F2Fhas grown in popularity, airing on the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa municipal government access channels, as well as online. Unfortunately, this year we won’t have CMTV’s participation, as council members in that city voted not to air or tape any candidate forums, ours included.

Fortunately, NBTV will tape both events. F2F is paying for NBTV’s services on the Costa Mesa forum.

Those in Costa Mesa will be able to view it later on YouTube and on

At Orange Coast College’s Robert B. Moore Theatre, we’re back with the 10th and 11th editions of F2F on Aug. 17-18. The 17th will feature council candidates from Newport. On the 18th, it’s the Costa Mesa City Council candidates.

Meet-and-greets with the candidates are from 6 to 7 p.m. each night and the forums start at 7:15. All are welcome, and it’s free.

Historically, candidates look forward to being onstage with us, and this year’s no different.

Fred Ameri, a former planning commissioner who’s running for Newport’s District 7, told me that even if he wasn’t invited, he was planning to show up.

Candidate Mike Glenn of District 5 said he appreciates the fact that it is “excellent exposure, and the forum has a widespread reputation.”

District 7 candidate Phil Greer tells me he’s looking forward to being there and having the opportunity to share his viewpoints.

District 5 candidate Jeff Herdman says he’ll be there.

Now, as excited as these guys are, there are candidates in Newport who aren’t attending, namely those handled by political consultant Dave Ellis: Lee Lowrey of District 5, Will O’Neill of District 7 and Brad Avery of District 2.

When I spoke with Avery last week, he told me he’d be in Catalina boating with friends from Northern California. But will it matter to voters that he’s choosing to be with his peeps in Catalina over coming to F2F?

So far, Avery’s only opponent is Shelley Henderson, who hasn’t pulled papers or returned my calls. So unless she or someone else gets in this race by the 17th, Avery is a shoo-in anyway.

Ameri says he’s disappointed opponent O’Neill won’t be attending.

“Maybe we can eliminate the middleman and have Dave Ellis show up for Mr. O’Neill at the Feet to the Fire Forum,” Ameri said.


Greer tells me not showing up does a “disservice to the public,” as live forums give voters an opportunity to hear candidates’ views and not “pre-packaged responses.”

I called Lowrey several times, but received no response.

I did talk with O’Neill. Let’s just say he’s not a fan of my column. But personalities aside, he should reconsider coming, because it’s really not about liking me, it’s about impressing voters.

On the Costa Mesa front, Ellis does have a candidate who will show: Mayor Steve Mensinger, who’s up for reelection. He’ll join other F2F veterans who’ve performed well in the past, like Councilwoman Sandy Genis, former Mayor and Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, as well as returning candidates Lee Ramos, Jay Humphrey and John Stephens.

Each season of F2F we change things up a bit. This year former Daily Pilot Publisher Tom Johnson, the man who started my path into journalism, joins me onstage. I’m excited to have him as a co-host. Listeners of his weekly radio show, “Sunday Brunch with Tom and Lynn,” know we’ve been discussing the races on the air.

KOCI 101.5FM is also slated to air the forums live each night.

As I talk to the candidates, I’ve been asking which issues they’d like to discuss.

In Costa Mesa, Mensinger says solutions are needed to fix the blighted motels and the crime they attract. Costa Mesa must also pay for its unfunded pension liabilities, he urged, and improve infrastructure.

Humphrey suggested discussing the plethora of initiatives on the ballot.

In Newport, the report card of “Team Newport” will be a hot topic, as voters need to decide if they want to expand on this concept with more like-minded candidates or move in another direction.

And high-density development will be discussed each night, as both cities face their challenges with that.

It’s going to be a great Feet to the Fire series!

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