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Newport Beach mayor outlines vision for 'doing the right thing'

For newly appointed Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon, being on the City Council means more than casting a vote on a single issue.

Dixon became mayor in December, about a year after being elected to the council as part of a slate of four candidates known as Team Newport. She used her State of the City address Thursday night to highlight goals for the coming year and introduce her way of thinking about city government.

Ideas and plans presented in the past year by members of Team Newport often have bumped against the ideologies of some council veterans, sometimes leading to colorful discussions and arguments among council members.

"Newport Beach is made up of more than just one group, one neighborhood, one idea or philosophy," Dixon said. "It is composed of people who are smart, who get things done, who love their city, who are involved in their city and would not live anywhere else and yet who have different points of view on the many issues of the day."

Dixon, who moved to Newport from Pasadena about five years ago, kicked off her address at the 35th annual Speak Up Newport Mayor's Dinner at the Newport Beach Marriott with a video taking the audience through a brief history of her life before entering city politics.

Mayor Diane Dixon described Newport Beach in her State of the City address as "composed of people who are smart, who get things done, who love their city, who are involved in their city and would not live anywhere else and yet who have different points of view on the many issues of the day.” (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

One of her key experiences was working in the private sector as an executive at label maker Avery Dennison, where she was responsible for the company's global communications and government relations. She said that role shaped her view of how to successfully implement public policy.

"I believe that I have to be responsible to the people who put me here, just as I would be to shareholders and investors," she said. "That means I must listen, respect our residents and business owners, be transparent and rigorously protect our fiscal house. Then doing the right thing on particular issues follows naturally."

Dixon said the city is in "excellent shape," pointing to solid finances and projections of rising revenue from property, sales and lodging occupancy taxes.

However, there is still work to do, she said.

She outlined her strategy to update the Harbor Master Plan for capital expenditures related to sea walls, dredging and El Niño management, assist in the process of hiring a new police chief and focus on improving infrastructure at Balboa Peninsula, West Newport and Mariner's Mile.

Dixon said she is reminded of the importance of city leaders when she sees people in line at City Hall with home remodeling plans or seeking a new business permit, or enjoying the library, parks and beaches.

"I see in these things the concrete results of our animated debates and discussions, our votes and actions as council members past and present," she said. "And how we touch the lives and affect the fortunes of our friends and neighbors, the people of Newport Beach. I know that our job as elected officials is to create a city where people can dream, can act and can thrive, and I will listen. And then get out of the way and let them do it."


Now there's a simpler way to protect eelgrass and still let dock owners dredge, Newport says

Newport Harbor dock owners who for years have refrained from dredging sediment because of the cost of preserving eelgrass could soon see less mud under their boats.

In December, Newport Beach received a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and the California Coastal Commission for a program that allows small-scale maintenance dredging under and adjacent to private, public and commercial docks and piers in Newport Harbor. It also allows regulated effects on eelgrass.

Although marine biologists consider the underwater grass with its green, slender blades to have an important role in the development of habitat for marine life in the harbor, protecting the plant has kept many dock owners from dredging under their slips for decades.

Dock owners apply to the city for dredging to be done by a city contractor at the owners' expense. In 2014, the city received dredging applications from fewer than 10 people among about 1,200 dock owners, according to city data...read more

The DP 103: Who made news and lent influence in 2015

Here is the annual Daily Pilot 103, a list of those who made news and lent influence in 2015.

Named are the year's newsmakers, as well as those who stayed out of the limelight but still made an impact. Thanks go to everyone who suggested names.

Of course, there are more people who make a difference than there are spaces on the list but there is no way to include them all. Please tell us who we forgot by commenting online or sending in a letter to the editor at dailypilot@latimes.com.

1.) Diane Dixon: The Newport Beach mayor and her Team Newport allies ushered in a year of political challenges to the status quo — some would say for the better, others would argue unnecessarily, but all would agree that 2015 was the end of business as usual.

Communities: Balboa Village Revitalization Program Receives Award

The city of Newport Beach was given an award of merit for Economic Planning and Development for the Balboa Village revitalization program by the Orange Section of the American Planning Association California Chapter.

The award was accepted by community development director Kimberly Brandt at a ceremony at Cooks Chapel in the historic Anaheim Citrus Packing House.

The award recognized the comprehensive and concerted efforts of the Balboa Village Citizen Advisory Panel and Balboa Village Advisory Committee since 2011.

Brandt said, “We are very pleased that this multi-pronged revitalization effort has been recognized by the American Planning Association.”

The non-profit organization includes over 600 professional planners in southern California that represents the public, private and academic sectors; and is devoted to advancing the science of physical, economic and social planning at the local, regional, state and national levels.

Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon attended the ceremony and remarked, “The Balboa Village is transforming before our eyes and will be a revitalized commercial, residential and visitor-serving center for years to come.”

Grateful for the past and current community leaders, staff and council members’ participation on BVAC, she further noted, “They led the work to create and inspire a workable and livable plan for our community.”

Regarding the work done by Brandt and her community development planning team, a five year process has brought dozens of community members and staff to create improvements to streetscapes, landscapes, signage and store fronts to the village, all of which complement the iconic historical and cultural roots of Newport Beach.


Commentary: Budget process isn't perfect, but council has a record of fiscal responsibility

The Daily Pilot, By Diane Dixon

The Newport Beach City Council this week approved a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The vote was 4 to 3, with Councilmen Scott Peotter, Kevin Muldoon and Duffy Duffield opposed.

I voted for it.

I agree with Peotter's statement at the meeting that this budget has not been thoroughly vetted by the finance committee and the council, because it was presented to us under tight time constraints. That has indeed been frustrating. It's a very large and arcane document, and we new council members very much want to get an understanding of and control over city spending.

The result is a budget that none of us new members is completely happy with.

But here's the thing: This is not the end of it. We will continue in the coming weeks, through the finance committee and council itself, to review and revise this budget using the budget-amendment process.

There is plenty of time to keep working — deliberately and in consultation with the community, other stakeholders and staff — to achieve our budget goals.

I am encouraged that we have made many fiscally responsible decisions already:

• We have eliminated the Balboa Performing Arts Center from the capital budget, at a savings of $5.8 million in project costs and hundreds of thousands a year in future operating costs. Plus the city will get income from the sale of the property.

• We have dealt with rapidly escalating cost estimates for a West Newport community center by drawing a line in the sand on its price tag and rolling back those estimates from $34 million to $25 million.

• We are getting ready to audit the civic center project and learn lessons that I believe will save us millions on future projects.

• We are moving forward on reducing city staff this year by considering the outsourcing of several more city functions. City staffing levels also will continue to shrink through attrition. We will definitely end this next fiscal year with fewer full-time employees than the current year, even including the four police officers added to improve public safety.

• We are paying more now to reduce long-term obligations like unfunded pension liabilities. This up-front payment of nearly $9 million is a new, higher cost in the budget, and it's what is making the 2015-16 spending plan slightly larger than the current one. But it's also what everyone knows must be done and avoids millions in future interest costs.

These are real accomplishments that directly reflect the platform that we new council members ran on last year. We can be proud of them.

Are these changes occurring at a rate that satisfies Peotter, Muldoon and Duffield? No. And I am not satisfied either.

But I know that we are working hard and making real progress, and we're doing it in a way that is well-considered and not disruptive to the community. And there will be many more changes in the coming weeks and months.

Then, once we go through this process, we will direct and set parameters for the city staff in the preparation of next year's budget — something we did not have the opportunity to do this year. We will be able to set revenue and spending targets at the very beginning of the process, toward the end of this calendar year. The draft budget we get next spring will more clearly reflect our fiscal restraint and caution.

Managing a quarter-billion-dollar budget is a serious and multiyear process that involves listening to many stakeholders, reviewing program and spending plans with staff, making sometimes hard choices, and being vigilant and diligent in following through.

It's a long road, but I'm confident we will get to where we want to be.


2 Newport council members want audit of Civic Center project

The Daily Pilot, By Hannah Fry

Two Newport Beach City Council members are calling for an audit of the city's hotly debated Civic Center project.

The request from Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon and Councilman Kevin Muldoon comes on the heels of a city inquiry into whether Assistant City Manager Steve Badum failed to report gifts and meals from companies doing business with the city.

A memo from City Manager Aaron Harp and the City Council identified C.W. Driver, a Pasadena-based company that acted as construction manager for the $142.5 million Civic Center project, as one of the businesses that may have provided gifts to Badum.

The city sent a complaint about the matter to the Orange County district attorney's office for review. The office has not filed charges against Badum.

Members of city staff and the council declined to comment on the inquiry or its relationship to the proposed audit.

"We are not looking for someone to blame," Dixon said of the audit. "I personally don't believe anything criminal or corrupt was going on, but I do believe there are lessons to be learned about how to better manage major public works projects in this city."

When the Civic Center opened in May 2013, some residents saw it as a symbol of irresponsible spending by a city government that was out of touch with the needs of the community.

Dixon, Muldoon and Councilmen Scott Peotter and Marshall "Duffy" Duffield were elected to the council in November after running as a slate known as "Team Newport." They were among the project's harshest critics leading up to the election.

The audit idea was floated months before the Badum inquiry. When the new council members took their seats in January, city staff presented a cost analysis of the Civic Center project, explaining why some aspects cost more than others. While the rest of the council appeared to be satisfied by the presentation, Dixon expressed a desire for an outside company to look at the city's process for construction projects.

And she and Muldoon said they have been approached by many residents who continue to question the Civic Center's price tag.

Dixon said she is not concerned about the city's current construction endeavors, including the $38.3 million Marina Park project that is scheduled to be completed by January on the Balboa Peninsula. But she said she hopes an audit would help the city improve its processes for future large-scale projects.

"We need to be able to go before the citizens and say, 'Here's what happened — the good, the bad and the ugly — and here's what we're going to do going forward,'" Dixon said. "Only then will we begin to restore the people's trust in their city government."

Muldoon said that if the council approves an audit, the city likely would contract with an agency to conduct it. A cost estimate for an external audit was not available, but Mayor Ed Selich said it would likely be "very expensive."

"I don't quite understand the reason for it," Selich said. "My initial thought on it is that it will be … a waste of city money, unless there's some specific reason why we should do it."

Selich said he has not been approached by residents demanding an audit.

Muldoon said the audit's benefit to the city would outweigh its potential cost in the long run.

"I think in the end the benefit in cost reduction on future projects is going to justify any expense," he said.

Dixon and Muldoon plan to present the idea to the rest of the council at its next meeting May 12.

Two Newport Beach council members ask for audit of $140 million Civic Center project

OC Register, By Megan Nicolai

Two Newport Beach City Council members are calling for an audit of the city’s $140 million Civic Center project.

Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon and Councilman Kevin Muldoon announced Thursday they would ask for the support of fellow council members at the May 12 council meeting to hire an independent auditor to look at the project.

They want the audit to discuss “what drove costs on the project, how it followed and or deviated from standard private-industry practices, how effective the city’s oversight was and how early decisions such as having the same company act as lead contractor and project manager affected the final cost,” according to the announcement.

The Civic Center project, finished by 2013, involved construction of a city hall, a 95,000-square-foot civic center, a 17,000-square-foot library expansion and the 14-acre Civic Center Park. The project ended up costing $142.2 million.

Dixon said in the announcement that an audit could provide lessons in how to manage upcoming projects like a community center in west Newport Beach and the renovation of the Corona del Mar library and fire station, which are now in planning phases.

Dixon and Muldoon supported an internal audit of the project back in January. Muldoon said he’s heard from many residents asking for more transparency around how costs for the Civic Center ballooned.

“I’m hearing more and more often that some of the residents ... would like there to be a third party audit,” Muldoon said. “I think a lot of the council members will agree that there should be transparency.”


District 1 Update with Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon

Newport Beach Indy, By Gina Dostler
April 10, 2015

Revitalization is the theme that is drawing residents and business owners to town hall meetings on Balboa Peninsula held by Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon, where they can participate in the discussions of improvements to District 1, which includes the Balboa Peninsula and Lido Isle.

Projects such as Sunset Ridge Park, Balboa Blvd. landscaping and major maintenance to  harbor and ocean piers are just a few of the completed projects that make up the many layers involved to bring economic vitality to the area.

The challenge actually feeds Dixon’s love of solving problems. “Listen” and “act” are key ideas she utilizes to make things happen.

And listen we did when the Newport Bach Indy sat down with Dixon to learn about the listening she’s been doing, and what’s coming down the pipeline.

NB Indy: You recently sent a survey out to residents and business owners in your district asking what issues are most important to them. Have you received the results yet?

Dixon: Just preliminary ones at the moment. The full results will be out by May 4. But so far the fire rings, with maintaining its footprint, seems to be an important issue. Residents have accepted the compliance mandated by the California Coastal Commission but feel strongly about keeping the original locations. Those that had no fire pit by their home oppose having one placed nearby, which are a consequence from regulations the city must follow. The 60 fire rings need to be placed 100 feet apart, a distance further apart than they were originally.

Indy: So traffic and parking were not as important as fir rings?

Dixon: It is important. But it’s such a fundamental part of living at the peninsula, whereas the fire rings actually bring a change to many residents. Boardwalk congestion and quality of life also ranked high. The safety of people brings concern when motorized vehicles such as electric bikes run through crowds on the boardwalk. And the quality of life issue needs to be brought up to speed between restaurants and residents. We are making a lot of progress in that area with our peninsula peace talks.

Indy: What kind of progress?

Dixon: We’ve gained great support in our efforts to bring business owners, residents, police and the city all together, opening lines of communication. We have dialogs about business practices, security, employee training, and operating procedures on how to better handle nuisance crimes related to alcohol. It’s very new to the restaurant owners, to share information among each other with coordinated efforts. For instance, communication can take the form of texting, one security to another, warning that service was refused to a person who might be coming their way. We appreciate their partnership and good work in helping with improving the quality of life in the peninsula.

Indy: All this ties into your main objective, to bring economic vitality to District 1. But how does it positively affect the residents without adding more congestion?

Dixon: A thriving economy is essential to the city life, not a blighted one. When businesses are successful, strong economics takes place with increased revenue from sales tax and increases in property values. And it’s true, there are other layers to consider and we are addressing the increase of traffic and parking that is bound to happen. We have measures in place such as establishing more parking areas in several locations. And we are gathering information on implementing a shuttle system similar to the ones operating in Laguna Beach and Dana Point.

Indy: What is at the heart of your efforts?

Dixon: I’ve spent my whole career engaging people, listening to what’s going on, learning and working through policies. When people come together whether it is at a town hall meeting or through answering a survey, they make a difference. I know I can – I am. I’m a resident too. And I know there is a lot of work still to do. But it’s getting done, one step at a time.


Curtain might come down on theater on Balboa Peninsula

The O.C Register, By Megan Nicolai
April 8, 2015

The long crusade to restore an 88-year-old theater in the Balboa Village could be at the end of its run.

The City Council will discuss Tuesday whether to sell the theater at 707 E. Balboa Boulevard, city spokeswoman Tara Finnigan said. The city bought the theater for about $450,000 in 1998 and was renting it to the Balboa Performing Arts Theater Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to raise funds for the theater’s renovation, for $1 per year.

The four brick walls are all that are left standing of the theater, once a hangout for Hollywood stars and a place to drink liquor during prohibition. The roof leaks, and it has a sand floor. The interior was gutted more than a decade ago, the chairs ripped out and sold, the stage and balcony removed.

The city has been discussing turning the theater into the Balboa Village Fine Arts Center, which would cost about $5.8 million – $460,000 to design the project and get permits, $5.29 million to construct the building and another $50,000 for furniture, fixtures and other equipment. Councilwoman Diane Dixon said that price tag made her, and many residents, take a step back from the project.

Dixon said when she held a recent town hall for Balboa Peninsula residents to discuss city projects in the neighborhood, she held a show of hands to see whether residents wanted to see the theater turned into a fine arts center. There wasn’t much support, she said.

“I talked with a lot of people, and I don't think I heard from a single one who said fight to keep it,” Dixon said. “It’s sad, because so many community members have … been struggling to make the Balboa Theater a viable enterprise.”

For the people who fought for years to restore the theater, it’s a disappointing – though understandable – move by the city.

“I think the City Council has been a very patient landlord over the years,” said Steve Beazley, who was hired as executive director of the foundation in 2013. “They’re acting in total fairness.”

Dayna Pettit, who said she worked on the project for 15 years, said she always thought the renovation of the theater would be an important step to reinvigorate the Balboa Village. But years of trying to get the project off the ground wore her down, she said.

“We spent hours and hours and days and days trying to do what we could,” Pettit said. “It’s very sad. I understand the city is sick of the project. Jeepers, I know I am. ... I busted my gut for a long time, but I just got worn out with it.”

The theater opened in 1927 and was used for vaudeville and small theater performances. It switched to a film house in about 1939, and did well into the 1960s, according to Register archives.

In the 1970s, the theater experienced a drop in popularity and made a brief foray into X-rated films under the name The Pussycat Theatre. It moved onto quirkier films after that, with late-night showings of films like “Reefer Madness” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

After decades of showing movies, the theater shut down in 1992 because of poor attendance. A push to restore the theater started around 1995, and became part of a plan to revitalize the aging Balboa Village.

But the price of restoration, initially believed to cost about $1 million, climbed all the way to $6.5 million by the early 2000s when the full scope needed for renovations was determined. The roof had holes. Flooding of the stage occurred at each high tide. The theater's balcony didn't offer a clear view of the stage area, so it had to be scrapped as part of overhauling the interior. The new venue would need seismic retrofits and would have to meet requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

While the foundation was able to raise about $5 million during its almost 20-year tenure, most of that money went to paying for new architectural designs for the renovated theater, personnel and other costs, Beazley said. Some renovations were made, but the full project stalled from lack of funds.

Residents and potential donors were plagued by “donor fatigue,” Beazley said. Private investors didn’t want to get involved with a 350-seat theater, which they said wouldn’t make any real money, Pettit said.

“I’ve raised a lot of money for a lot of organizations and charities, but with this one we were stuck,” Pettit said. “People didn’t want to give, and it was going to take a lot of money to fix up.”

Still, Pettit said she hopes someone might be interested in restoring the theater.

“I keep hoping someone will step up,” Pettit said.



Town Hall Tackles Parking

Parking, specifically the lack of parking, was the main topic of discussion at District 1’s town hall meeting on March 16.

The coastal commission did not approve the parking lot plan on the hill above Sunset Ridge Park, so the park was built without one. Residents are now concerned the only parking available is a small lot located across the road at Superior Avenue and PCH, a busy and potentially dangerous intersection.

Public works director Dave Webb discussed possible plans the city has initiated to address this problem. A pedestrian/cyclist bridge that connects the new park to the current parking lot and another one connecting across PCH from the lot was suggested.

This would also help improve flow and safety associated with the high volume of pedestrians and cyclists crossing to get to the park.

Regarding the amount of parking spaces, Webb proposed to expand it into a two story lot with underground parking as the first floor.

This would also accommodate the added visitors to the proposed dog park. When asked by Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon if the residents wanted a dog park in that area, little enthusiasm was generated.

Another concern for parking was raised when Webb detailed the Marina Park project that is currently under construction. Pay stations will be present on the lots in the park. Visitors utilizing the community center with paid classes will not have to pay for parking. It will not be available for residential use.

Street parking at the park will have meters yet open for the residents at night. Webb assured them there is more parking than they need with additional spaces located at Bay Avenue and at 18th street.

The 10 acre park with its view of the bay has a 72 foot high icon tower equipped with a tsunami warning sign, and will sport a 11,000 square foot sailing and 10,500 square foot community center along with a girl scout leadership center and a restaurant. A dock with 23 slips for 40 to 60 foot boats will make the park available to those visiting by sea.


Commentary: Joint effort is leading to Balboa Peninsula solutions

By Diane Dixon
March 13, 2015 | 12:48 p.m.

This week, for the first time in a long time, Newport Beach moved to address some of the problems associated with the concentration of alcohol-serving establishments on the Balboa Peninsula.

And for perhaps the first time ever, the city did it without ordinances or regulations or permit requirements or some other imposition of government authority.

Instead, the city basically served as a facilitator, getting everyone involved in a room to talk, listen and problem-solve.

The result is a voluntary code of best practices that I hope eventually all of the establishments will sign on to. It will be honed, implemented and monitored by regular meetings of the business owners as well as police and community representatives.

A second prong will be a plan to get more police "boots on the ground" during peak hours, so officers can respond more quickly to problems as they arise and also be a visible deterrent to bad behavior. This may require further City Council action, which I believe will be forthcoming.

This plan has the support of business owners, residents and the police. The City Council will formally consider it at its next meeting, and based on comments at this week's study session, I believe it will be supported.

Under the plan, the business owners will take several steps, including training employees, equipping security personnel with radio headsets and monitoring interior public areas and the outside premises with video cameras.

I, and my fellow council members, want to thank everyone involved in the process so far for lending viewpoints and advice on this complicated issue.

Thank you, residents, for your time and determination to begin a constructive conversation.

Thank you, business owners, for your cooperative spirit and efforts, and for taking the problems seriously and coming up with a sensible and voluntary code of conduct for alcohol-related businesses in the area.

Thank you, police and city staff, for providing the crime data and other information that helped everyone understand the problems and identify potentially viable solutions.

I think the community has created a plan that could very well lessen the nighttime incidents that are concerning to the residents and police. I would like to see it given a chance to work.

This process has been an example of what can be done when people, instead of leaping into conflict, come together, express their views and concerns, listen respectfully and carefully to others, and try to work out a solution that's fair and acceptable to all. In short, when we all listen up and wise up, instead of lawyering up.

Building a strong and vibrant community takes everyone's effort and commitment. We want to work together because it is the right thing to do. It is how communities succeed in providing safe neighborhoods for residents and a vibrant business environment for merchants.

I am committed to continuing the open dialogue as we move forward, making the peninsula a more hospitable place for residents, business owners and visitors.

DIANE DIXON is mayor pro tem of Newport Beach.

Q&A with Newport Beach City Council Member Diane Dixon

A few questions with newly elected Newport Beach City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon of District 1.

Q: Now that you’re on the Newport Beach City Council, what are your priorities?

A: My priorities are those I outlined in my campaign: fiscal discipline, government transparency, and listening with respect and an open mind to all the city’s residents. I don’t expect these priorities to change as a result of incumbency or the passage of time.

Q: How do you plan to help the residents of your district and of the entire city during your term?

A: In a general sense, I think the entire city will benefit from a more efficient and transparent city government. More specifically, I’m keenly interested in continuing the economic development and revitalization of the Peninsula and the West Side, continuing improvements to ease traffic and improve parking on the Peninsula and citywide, and working to rationalize income and expenditures related to Newport Harbor and develop a long-range plan to clear and maintain all its navigable channels.

Q: What is a specific action you’d like to take while on council?

A: I’d like to see processes now underway lead to actions to extend the revitalization of the Peninsula down to the Balboa Village area. The parking management plan adopted this month is a start. There are other actions the city can take in cooperation with the business community and the residents to improve safety and quality of life, and we’ll be advancing those in the coming months.

Q: What do you hope to learn from the project completion close-out audit on the Civic Center?

A: Now we all understand how the project grew in scope and expense because of council decisions to keep adding expensive “nice to have” structures like the library expansion and pedestrian bridge without consideration of the budget impact. But there was another layer of decision-making that resulted in the city paying about $20,000 per space for a parking structure and about $900 per square foot for the City Hall office building – both way above industry standards. We need to figure out how that happened so we can put systems and processes into place to guard against “scope creep” and unbudgeted spending.

Q: Why is it important?

A: We have other major capital projects coming, most notably a new police headquarters, which will be a complex project because of the technology and regulations involved. Understanding how costs could have been better controlled in the Civic Center project will help us keep these future capital projects under control.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add that the residents should know about you?

A: Residents should feel free to express their opinions to me on any issue facing the city. My email isDDixon@NewportBeachCA.gov.


The 2014 DP 103: Newsmakers and notables

Welcome to the annual Daily Pilot 103, a list of those who made news and lent influence in 2014.

Many of the names below came from reader suggestions, while the others were chosen by the Daily Pilot's news, features and sports staffs. Thanks go to everyone who participated; we would have forgotten some key entries if it weren't for you.

We think this is a fairly comprehensive list of the year's newsmakers, as well as those who stayed out of the limelight but still made an impact. But as these things go, there are more names that make a difference than there are spaces on the list. We started with about 150 people and there was no way we could include them all.

1.) Katrina Foley: Costa Mesa voters returned this school board member, whose focus is on public safety and quality of life, to the City Council with the most votes in a contentious field of eight.

2.) Marshall "Duffy" Duffield: It's rare for anyone to unseat a Newport Beach mayor, but this electric boat pioneer did just that, topping the "Team Newport" slate, which won four seats.

3.) Jean Watt: This longtime Newport Beach activist still proved she can organize a fight, helping defeat a development initiative, Measure Y, on Election Day.

4.) Steve Mensinger: Costa Mesa's new mayor is joined with his predecessor, Jim Righeimer, in a lawsuit against the Costa Mesa Police Assn., alleging he was illegally tracked by a GPS device.

5.) Jim Righeimer: This Costa Mesa mayor pro tem championed laws affecting motels and sober-living homes, but remained entrenched in political warfare with organized labor and activists.

6.) Diane Dixon: This new Newport Beach councilwoman ran as part of Team Newport but has shown an independent streak that could translate into a swing vote.

Read more


New Newport Councilwoman Dixon listens to residents' needs

The Daily Pilot
December 20, 2014

For newly elected Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon, an interest in politics is a family affair.

With two journalists for parents, a sister who just finished a stint on the Costa Mesa City Council and an upbringing that centered on local government in her hometown, Dixon says her foray into politics was inevitable.

Of course, it didn't happen like she anticipated.

After graduating from USC with a degree in political science, Dixon thought she would break into the political scene sooner rather than later. But she spent 30 years managing global corporate communications for a Fortune 500 company in Southern California.

"I didn't run at 30 like I thought I would," she said.

Instead, her sister, Wendy Leece, became the politician, serving on the board of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and most recently as a Costa Mesa councilwoman.

But at age 62 and with an election for a Newport Beach City Council seat in her district approaching, Dixon decided it was finally her time.

"It all lined up to say this is what I'm supposed to be doing now," she said. "I'm not about climbing any more mountaintops. Now it's about helping the community thrive."

Dixon retired from her long career in the private sector and moved from Pasadena to Newport Beach with her husband, Pat, about four years ago.

Dixon, her husband — an avid sailor — and their daughter spent a lot of time in Orange County on vacation and visiting Leece, so when the time came to decide where to retire, Newport Beach was an obvious choice, she said.

In November, Dixon was elected to the City Council, taking over the District 1 seat, which represents the Balboa Peninsula and Lido Isle.

Dixon, Marshall "Duffy" Duffield, Kevin Muldoon and Scott Peotter formed "Team Newport" during the campaign and swept the four available seats on the council.

The slate emphasized fiscal conservatism and was critical of perceived overspending by the previous council.

Immediately following the swearing-in ceremony Dec. 9, the rest of the council selected Dixon as mayor pro tem, a position she will hold for a full calendar year. If tradition stands, Dixon could become mayor in 2016.

"When she told me she was going to run, I was very encouraging," Leece said. "I thought it was a great idea that she would want to serve her community."

Though she's new to the political scene in Newport Beach, Dixon's interest in local governments was stoked by her parents' career in newspapers.

When she was in elementary school, her parents moved her and her sister to Arizona, where they had bought a small community paper.

Dixon remembers being impressed by the local politicians her parents wrote about who had dedicated their time to the community.

"It impressed me that people could run for office and actually make positive changes," she said.

Throughout her adolescence and into her adult years, Dixon became a self-described "news junkie," reading at least five newspapers each morning.

She plans to bring pearls of wisdom from her parents' reporting careers into her political life.

"I learned at a young age to always check the facts and look at all sides of an issue before forming an opinion," she said. "People just want to be listened to and to know that their voice matters."

She said her time as a chief communications officer helped her develop the listening skills necessary to be an effective councilwoman.

She put that skill to work early in her campaign, walking around the city, meeting residents and listening to their concerns.

"Residents from Newport Coast to Peninsula Point have many things in common, but the protection of their property values and their quality of life is what I heard about the most," she said.

On a recent morning while sitting in the council chamber, Dixon pulled out her list of ongoing projects in her district and residents' concerns. She has the two-page index with her constantly, keeping her on track for what needs to be done.

Her district includes the dynamic Balboa Peninsula, which many cherish as the city's only remaining downtown area. But with much activity come significant challenges, she said.

Public safety and nuisance problems on the peninsula, the development of Hotel Lido and the revitalization of Balboa Village are at the top of her to-do list.

"It's a symphony of issues that we're dealing with," she said.

Newport Council needs Diane Dixon

Diane Dixon is running unopposed in Newport Beach City Council District 1. Ms. Dixon has campaigned on a much-needed platform of fiscal restraint and transparency for the city. While Newport undoubtedly is a wealthy city, Ms. Dixon doesn’t believe that gives city leaders the obligation to spend willy-nilly.

Among Ms. Dixon’s top priorities is getting serious about reducing the city’s $571 million long-term debt, grappling with its sizeable pension debt – which she notes the O.C. grand jury declared the highest in the county – and, overall, being more transparent about the way the city spends its money.

She believes the City Hall project, which ballooned to over $140 million and will cost much more after financing, should have first gone before voters.

After 30 years in corporate America, “managing corporate and governmental affairs for a publicly traded Fortune 300 company,” Ms. Dixon has the acumen, background and experience to offer the leadership Newport Beach needs.

We look forward to her service on the council.

Dozens take ice bucket challenge to support Newport Beach man with ALS

Diane was one of about three dozen people who turned out for an Ice Bucket Challenge to support Ralph Rodheim and increase awareness of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Ralph - businessman, civic leader, 2011 Citizen of the Year, and an early supporter of Diane - was recently diagnosed with ALS.

Read the OC Register's account of the event here.

To make a donation in Ralph Rodheim’s honor, send your donation to ALS Association of Orange County, 1232 Village Way, Suite A, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Reference Ralph Rodheim with your donation.


Commentary: Peninsula is finally seeing improvement; let's keep the momentum going

July 25, 2014
The Daily Pilot

Nobody's yet singing "Happy Days Are Here Again," but after many years of seeing city economic development resources and efforts directed elsewhere, residents and business owners on the Balboa Peninsula now have reason to at least whistle an upbeat tune.

Starting with the renovation of the 32nd Street center, now anchored by Pavilions, and continuing through Via Lido Plaza upgrade with new anchor tenant West Marine, the Newport Marina mixed-use development, the new 10-acre Marina Park with a multiuse community center and marina, and the Balboa Boulevard beautification project, all now underway, the peninsula has witnessed a welcome surge in private and public investment.

Coming soon are the planned Lido House Hotel on the old City Hall site, which is before the Planning Commission, and the 15th Street Revitalization Project, which is in the final planning stage following public input sessions.

In addition, the new lifeguard headquarters is now complete, renovations of Lido Marina Village are now underway by its new owner, and ground will soon be broken on Lido Villas town homes on the eastern tip of Lido Village.

Meanwhile, many residential and commercial property owners throughout the area have been renovating and updating their properties, creating the "green shoots" that are so important to lifting the spirits and confidence of other property owners.

It is almost breathtaking to envision the emerging revitalization of our extraordinary community.

The property owners, Councilman Mike Henn and his predecessors, past and current City Councils and the city staff, as well as the members of the community who have worked long and hard with them, are all to be thanked and commended for the revival we're seeing at the western end of the peninsula.

Part of the reason I'm running for the 1st District council seat (Councilman Henn is termed out) is because I want to be part of these exciting changes and help see them through to completion without delay.



Political Landscape: Lincoln Club supports Dixon in council bid

July 8, 2014
The Daily Pilot

The Lincoln Club of Orange County has thrown its support behind businesswoman Diane Dixon's bid for the Newport Beach City Council, according to a news release.

She is running to replace Councilman Mike Henn in the District 1 council seat after he is termed out. The contest for the Balboa Peninsula-area post also includes Michael Glenn, who owns a technology company. Harbor Commissioner Joe Stapleton recently withdrew.

With that nod, Dixon becomes the first and only Newport Beach council candidate to earn the conservative organization's endorsement so far this year, according to the release.

"Diane Dixon is an experienced, articulate and savvy woman,"Kerry Reynolds said in a statement from the club. "She knows that what works best for all Americans is a government that supports the dreams and aspirations of its citizens and doesn't get in their way with large government control and onerous taxation and regulation."

Dixon, who is the sister of Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece, said in the release that she is delighted and honored to have earned the club's support.


Political Landscape: Petros backs Dixon for council

April 18, 2014
The Daily Pilot

Political season is in full swing, as are the endorsements.

Businesswoman Diane Dixon, a candidate for the Newport Beach's 1st City Council District, has secured the backing of Newport Beach Councilman Tony Petros and city Planning Commissioner Fred Ameri.

"Diane is independent, she listens and she's a problem-solver," Petros said, according to a news release. "Those are the qualities you like to see in a council member. I'm looking forward to working with her."

Dixon also has endorsements from former Sen. Marian Bergeson, former Newport Beach Mayor Evelyn Hart, former City Manager and Councilman Robert Shelton, state Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) and Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, among others.

She is seeking the Balboa Peninsula-area seat held by Councilman Mike Henn, who is termed out. Michael Glenn, who works in technology, is also in the race. Harbor Commissioner Joe Stapleton recently withdrew from the race.


Fundraising Success and Key Endorsement for Diane Dixon

March 21, 2014
Newport Beach Independent

Diane Dixon’s city council campaign received a significant boost this week with a highly successful fundraiser Tuesday night and the endorsement of former Sen. Marian Bergeson.

The sunset reception at The Dock in Cannery Village was packed with supporters from the 1st District, which Dixon is seeking to represent, as well as other areas of Newport Beach.

The $45,000 in that Dixon has raised have exceeded expectations.

I am very grateful for the support of each and every one of you,” Dixon told the crowd.  Together, we can meet the challenges facing Newport Beach in an open and constructive way, and protect the wonderful quality of life that Marian Bergeson and other city leaders through the years have achieved for us.”

Bergeson had previously committed to support Harbor Commissioner Joe Stapleton, but enthusiastically moved to back Dixon after Stapleton announced last week he would not be seeking the 1st District council seat.

“Diane Dixon unquestionably has the experience, commitment and energy to be an excellent City Councilwoman for her district and for the entire city,” said Bergeson, who was the first woman to have served in both the Assembly and state Senate, as well as having served on the Newport-Mesa school board and OC Board of Supervisors, and as California’s Secretary of Education.

She added, “I also believe it is important, with the upcoming departures of Councilwomen Nancy Gardner and Leslie Daigle, to have an accomplished woman elected to the council this year.”

Bergeson joins a fast-growing list of Dixon supporters that also includes former Mayor Evelyn Hart, former City Manager and Councilman Robert Shelton, Councilwoman Leslie

Daigle, former three-term Los Angeles District Attorney and Republican candidate for attorney general Steve Cooley, former Councilwoman and 2013 Citizen of the Year Jean

Watt, and business leader and philanthropist Paul Musco.

Dixon said she is “grateful for the support of these community leaders as I work to get my message out to all the voters of Newport Beach.”


Bergeson endorses Dixon for Newport council

March 20, 2014
Daily Pilott, By Emily Foxhall

Former state Education Secretary Marian Bergeson has endorsed business consultant Diane Dixon for Newport Beach City Council.

Dixon is seeking the seat for District 1, currently occupied by Councilman Mike Henn, who has reached his term limit.

Bergeson previously supported Harbor Commissioner Joe Stapleton for the election, according to a news release, but he has since dropped out of the race.

"Diane Dixon unquestionably has the experience, commitment and energy to be an excellent city councilwoman for her district and for the entire city," Bergeson, a Republican, said in a prepared statement.

Bergeson further noted the importance of electing a female council member because the only two current female council members, Leslie Daigle and Nancy Gardner, will be termed out this year.

No other female candidates have announced an intention to run for the November election.

Bergeson's endorsement is highly sought by area candidates. She is the first woman in California elected to both the state Assembly and Senate, according to her biography, and also served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and the Newport-Mesa Unified school board before becoming education secretary.

Former Mayor Evelyn Hart, former City Manager Robert Shelton and Daigle, among others, have also endorsed Dixon, according to the release.

Her campaign has raised $45,000 since Jan. 1.

Though Stapleton has dropped out, technology businessman Michael Glenn remains in the Peninsula-area council race.

Dixon is the sister of Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece. She lives on Lido Isle with her husband, Patrick.

A longtime Southern California businesswoman is weighing a run for a Newport Beach City Council seat, according to a document filed with the city Thursday.

Diane Dixon, who recently moved to Newport Beach from Pasadena, said earlier this week that she was mulling a run for the District 1 council seat, which will be vacated by Mike Henn when he is termed out next year. She had said she planned to make a decision before the holiday season.

A city website showed that her statement of intent to run was filed Thursday morning...read more


With Newport Beach City Council elections looming in 2014, anyone contemplating a run against Councilman Rush Hill or for the seats being vacated by Leslie Daigle, Mike Henn and Nancy Gardner would be wise to make their decision by January.

A fact not lost on Newport resident Diane Brooks Dixon.

I’d heard she was thinking of running for Henn’s District One seat. A conversation this week with her confirmed those rumors.

Since last August, Dixon, a registered Republican, says she’s seriously considered throwing her hat in the ring.

So much so that she’s been inviting movers and shakers to her home for coffee or wine, and meeting with small pockets in the community to determine if she can gather enough support for a winning race...read more




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