Barbara Venezia...
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Can Toerge carry the recall torch now that Brenner is out of the running?

Who is, and who isn’t, ready to rumble with recall this summer?

As the political temperature rises in Newport, the recall process of Councilman Scott Peotter took another step forward this week when City Clerk Leilani Brown approved the recall petition.

“The petition format is sufficient,” she wrote to proponents.

The Committee to Recall Scott Peotter can now start gathering the approximately 8,500 signatures needed in the next five months to bring a recall vote

Symbolically, what happens here is a game-changer, regardless of who prevails.

If the recall is successful, it sends a message to council members and their power brokers that there are consequences when the voice of the people is ignored.

If this fails, Peotter and his supporters both on and off the council become stronger than ever.

But like any good summer mini-series, this recall is already presenting unexpected twists and intrigue.

As I reported back in April, if signature-gathering successfully leads to a vote, residents will be asked if they want to remove Peotter, and, if yes, choose someone to replace him.

Mike Toerge, who lost to Peotter in 2014, is still a candidate if Peotter is recalled, but apparently Friends of the Corona del Mar Library chairwoman Joy Brenner isn’t any longer.

Back in April, Brenner was enthusiastic, saying she felt “compelled” to serve and had been urged by friends and neighbors to run for office for decades.

This week she’s singing a different tune.

“It is with a huge sense of relief and some sadness that I have to announce my decision NOT to run for Newport Beach City Council,” she said in an email to supporters.

Brenner did some “soul searching, and with so many dear friends battling illnesses, I feel like I need to make the most of whatever time I have left. I still have traveling to do and many other things.”

Though I respect Brenner’s reasons, I wasn’t convinced it was the whole story.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it before, that moment when a potential candidate realizes the depth of the ugliness ahead, how negative politics is in this town, and concludes they want no part of it.

When Brenner and I spoke, she admitted this weighed greatly on her decision. She just couldn’t see herself in that kind of fight.

Brenner still supports the recall effort and is hoping someone else will throw their hat into the ring.

But with Brenner bailing, this changes the dynamics of the recall’s success, in my opinion.

I’ve heard from more than a few in town who feel that as much as they dislike Peotter, they’re not crazy about longtime planning commissioner Toerge either. And faced with a choice between the two, they’d stay with the devil they know, so to speak.

Some aren’t convinced Toerge opposes high-density development, a divisive issue in town with Museum House and other issues. Though he says he now opposes new high-density, he supported Measure Y, a failed initiative that would have allowed more large development at Newport Center, in the 2014 election.

Many saw Brenner’s entry into the recall race as a welcome alternative.

Now that she’s out, I feel that unless the recall committee attracts other candidates, betting the farm on Toerge might be a fatal mistake.

If an alternate candidate, who is a longtime resident, well-respected and without political baggage, doesn’t jump in over the summer, I don’t see this recall effort being successful.

On the flip side, in Peotter’s camp, he continues to send out his email blasts using a photo of the city seal and stating the email isn’t official city business.

He’s been reprimanded before for using the seal, but I guess he’s technically within the rules by using a “photo” and the “unofficial” label to make it clear his missives aren’t from City Hall.

But this is just another example of a guy exhibiting behavior unbecoming his office.

In this latest blast, May 15, he claims the “Recall is being used to Stifle Free Speech.

“Seems as though the Recallers are trying to intimidate me and others by using the recall to scare us into inaction,” he writes. “They have even said that they can’t let me vote on another budget. They really can’t have me stopping their tax-and-spend ways.”

From where I sit, this whole recall is not about stifling speech, spending or scare tactics.

Simply stated, there’s a growing section of the community who may not like the councilman’s behavior or opinions, but, more importantly, disagree with his vision for the city, especially when it comes to high-density development.

In interviews with recall committee members, I’ve never heard anyone once say Peotter isn’t entitled to his views; they just don’t agree with where he’s taking this city.

So is a difference of opinion really censorship?

Or is this recall merely a civic way to hit the reset button when enough constituents disagree with whom they elected?

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


Meeting a `Soprano,' hitting the Press Club dinner, talking to Monahan about his run


From pasta sauce to politics to the OC Press Club Awards, there’s lots of interesting tidbits to report this week.

On Mother’s Day, Stasha the Wonder Dog and I sat in with Tom Johnson on his weekly KOCI-FM radio show, “Stu News Sunday,” and was delighted to meet actor Steve Schirripa, who was in studio hawking his new line of organic Italian pasta sauces.

Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccalieri on “The Sopranos” and currently portrays Detective Anthony Abatemarco on the CBS show “Blue Bloods,” listened to the show in his car a few weeks ago. He has a place in Laguna and told his publicist to see if he could get him on the show.

Schirripa’s created a line of pasta sauces based on his mother’s recipes that are now available at Vons and on his website.

I haven’t tried his sauces yet, but they’re on my grocery list!

Fairgrounds on the Fourth

Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens also stopped in and talked about the OC Fairgrounds and the city's collaboration on the upcoming July Fourth safe and sane fireworks events.

As reported in the DP, Stephens was successful in raising the $50,000 needed to pull off an event that he hopes will discourage illegal fireworks.

Fines for those naughty, noisy illegal fireworks will now be $1,000, if the cops catch you. Stephens hopes this event will be a deterrent.

Stasha, like most animals, hates the loud booms of July Fourth.

Stephens, a dog owner, says the fireworks display won’t have those scary noises; it will be more of a “pyrotechnic” display.

Stasha gives Stephens four paws up and kudos for his efforts.

Starting at 3 p.m. on the Fourth, the event is free to the public and will include entertainment, food, games and fun. Parking is free up until 5 p.m. Fireworks are later in the evening.

Gary Monahan weighs mayoral run

And speaking of Costa Mesa, former Councilman Gary Monahan raised a few eyebrows Sunday when he posted on his Facebook page he was planning to run for mayor in 2018.

“OK I have Steve Mensinger, Jim Righeimer, Jim Fitzpatrick, Jim Fisler, Lee Ramos, Dana Rohrabacher, John Moorlach and a heck of a lot others behind me,” he wrote, “… Let’s do this. ”

When I emailed him Tuesday about his plans he wrote: “Nothing is final”.

Yes, the 2018 elections are going to be interesting, and not just locally.

GOP backer raises money for Newsom

This week I received an invitation from neighbor Jim Glidewell regarding a fundraiser he’s having at his home for California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate for governor in 2018.

Newsom is a Democrat, while Glidewell is a Republican and Lincoln Club member who previously held a fundraiser at his digs for Marco Rubio during the presidential election.

Why the switch?

Glidewell said Newsom “will make an excellent governor of California,” though he readily admits some have questioned his choice.

“The Republican Party, of which I am a staunch supporter, will not have a viable candidate for office this coming election,” he said. “I feel Gavin is the obvious winner, and I’d like to vote for someone who can actually win for a change.”

Glidewell says he introduced Newsom to his conservative friends, and were impressed with Newsom’s grasp of the issues and his moderate views on some issues.

Glidewell is among a growing number of O.C. Republicans who are fiscally conservative, but feel the party isn’t in line with their social beliefs.

“I’m liberal socially, I take care of my employees,” said Glidewell, president and CEO of Glidewell Industries. “I’m trying to improve industry and my employee’s lives; that’s my focus, not just profits,”

The fundraiser is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 6 at Mesa Manor, 2300 Mesa Drive, Newport Beach.

And if this address seems familiar, it was formerly the Village Crean. Glidewell bought the estate at auction in 2013, and renamed it Mesa Manor.

If you’re interested in attending, RSVP by contributing $250, $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 online at

A win at the OC Press Club Awards

Rounding out this week, I attended the annual OC Press Awards at the Balboa Bay Club Monday night.

Winners included: Best Feature Story, honorable mention, the Daily Pilot’s Hannah Fry, who also received second place for the Real OC award; Best Food/Restaurant Story, third-place prize, the Pilot’s Bradley Zint. Pilot contributor Nuran Alteir also won third place for feature writing in Weekend, a sister publication of the Pilot.

And the David McQuay Award for Best Columnist went to my buddy and Feet to the Fire cohort Norberto Santana Jr., publisher of the Voice of OC.

I was awarded second place.

Stasha unfortunately didn’t win in the Best Lifestyle/Family Blog category she’d entered. But when I broke the news to her she didn’t seem to mind, she just yawned and went back to watching DOGTV.

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

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