Barbara Venezia...
Stirring the pot of controversy
 one column at a time...
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Feet to the Fire will blaze new trails in 2018, but will cities televise forums so voters can watch?

2/9/2018


I'm dusting off my leather, flame pants and gearing up for another season of Feet to the Fire Forums.

Since we started in 2010, my co-founders, John Canalis, executive editor of Los Angeles Times Community News; Norberto Santana Jr., publisher of Voice of OC.org; and Tom Johnson, publisher of Stu News Newport online, have been committed to asking tough questions of candidates in this no-holds-barred talk show format.

With this media collaboration, Feet to the Fire, — or F2F, as we refer to it — has grown in popularity each election cycle.

The 2018 season finds the F2F gang back on stage at the Robert B. Moore Theatre at Orange Coast College for three exciting forums.

We'll explore the city council races in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, the inaugural Costa Mesa mayoral race, and, for the first time, dip our toes into the 48th Congressional District contest.

As producer of the events, I've already locked in May 30 for the 48th District — currently represented by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa), who is running for re-election.

With a bevy of new faces opposing Rohrabacher, this should be an interesting and informative discussion.

By the end of February, dates for Newport Beach and Costa Mesa races will be set, so stay tuned.

Months of planning go into F2F. Panelists started discussions at the end of 2017 as to what races to focus on in 2018, since we were getting requests countywide.

Unable to cover every race, Santana is creating a F2F podcast that will include countywide candidate interviews, discussions about issues and conversations among the F2F gang.

At VoiceofOC.org readers can visit the new Election Central page for information on the county congressional races taking shape, as well as find candidate information, maps, voting history, demographics and the latest news.

The live tapings at the Robert B. Moore Theatre will be available on YouTube, NBTV and, we hope, CMTV.

Readers may remember that in January 2016, Costa Mesa council members, led by then-Mayor Steve Mensinger, voted not to continue airing or taping council candidate forums.

At the time, Mensinger explained to me city attorneys advised the city could be liable if it were to pick and choose which forums to tape and air.

Of course I wasn't buying this for a minute. I felt this was just an excuse to control information.

I suggested Mensinger and Councilman Jim Righeimer come up with a forum policy to include a criteria to apply to the city for airing and taping.

Two years later that has not happened.

The forum issue was supposed to be heard at the Tuesday council meeting, but it wasn't.

There was talk of a study session. In my opinion, that's just another bureaucratic stall.

Looking at the report prepared by Dane Bora, city public affairs manager, he estimates $750 in labor costs per forum.

And it's not like they tape an exorbitant number of them.

As Bora wrote: "The following are the forums that have been taped in the past and the number of times each has been recorded: Mesa Verde Community Inc. (7), Feet to the Fire (6), Cable Company/Daily Pilot/Chamber of Commerce (5), Eastside Homeowners Group (3) and Latino Business Council (2)."

This whole thing hasn't been a problem. Mayor Sandy Genis should take the lead here, and convince the council to let Bora get on with forums and stop wasting time.

The issue also came up in September 2016 with Newport's council.

Then-Councilman Ed Selich defended forums taped and aired by NBTV, saying of the approximately 12 in the city that year, four forums were requested and taped: Feet to the Fire, Speak up Newport, the West Newport Assn. and Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Then-Councilman Keith Curry also favored forums and felt the sentiment behind not taping them was politically motivated by the Team Newport bloc.

Though the issue thankfully went nowhere in 2016, my favorite argument against forums came from Team Newport's Kevin Muldoon, who was then mayor pro tem.

"We don't need neo-Nazis and other political parties we can't control showing up," and using city money to promote a political agenda, he said.

Two years later, I still don't see a neo-Nazi problem in Newport.

Political forums are, by their very nature, political. This anti-agenda argument made no sense then, and still doesn't.

Those working to limit access to information that enables voters to form opinions mustn't prevail.

Since 2010 NBTV and CMTV have been good partners of F2F. That should continue to ensure voters have the information they need to make good governing choices.

BARBARA VENEZIA  can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

Nonprofit Priceless Pets sniffs out locations for Costa Mesa animal shelter


2/2/2018


Last week I wrote about how Dr. Anthony Rizk, owner of Newport Center Animal Hospital and Pet Hotel Suites, 1333 Avocado Ave., had entered into a six-month contract with the city of Costa Mesa for medical services to treat strays. The agreement is a temporary animal shelter solution since the contract with the Orange County Humane Society (OCHS) expired Jan 21.

Readers asked me for more information on the city's animal adoption process.

Due to city insurance and liability issues still being sorted, adoptions can't currently be done by Rizk's hospital (though he'd prefer to do them).

So this is how it works now: Once the seven-day hold is up, and an animal is deemed medically fit by Rizk, transportation is arranged to the nonprofit Priceless Pets Rescue, which has adoption locations in Chino Hills and Claremont.

Costa Mesa has a non-exclusive agreement with the no-kill shelter, paying it a $25 per animal transfer fee, providing the animals are spayed or neutered and micro-chipped.

Locations aren't convenient to Costa Mesa, but Priceless Pets, which was founded in 2007, has a stellar reputation and is zeroing on a local location, according to board member Lynette Brown.

After reading my Dec. 18 column about Costa Mesa's need for a temporary solution for strays, Brown said she called Councilman John Stephens, offering her organization's help.

Stephens put her in touch with City Manager Tom Hatch.

Coincidentally, Priceless Pets was already scouting an O.C. location in Huntington Beach.

That focus has now changed to Costa Mesa.

"I want to reassure people we want to get as close to the community as possible," Brown said. "We are all about the animals."

She hopes to have a lease shortly.

Depending on how long the city permitting process takes, Brown estimates things could be up and running in three to four months.

I'd like to see the city's Animal Services Committee and City Council make approvals a priority, continuing to fast-track plans to stabilize animal control.

In the meantime, Brown tells me she's doing all she can to streamline adoptions for Costa Mesa's strays and has reached out to partners at PetSmart Charities.

Plans are underway to work with the Costa Mesa store, 620 W 17th St., and its mobile adoption program.

On Monday, Brown toured Newport Center Animal Hospital and Pet Hotel Suites with Rizk.

"I was very impressed," she said.

Just missing Brown, I toured the facility that day with my dogs Rocco and Stasha.

We ran into Justin Martin, Parks and Community Services director, visiting the facility with city staffers as part of a new, weekly routine.

Martin and his team spoke with hospital staff regarding the animals on site, "photographing and videoing the impounded animals so they can be tracked and promoted for adoption on the city's website," he told me, offering links to my readers.

Here's a list of impounded animals: costamesaca.gov/impoundedanimals

And here's a list of adoptable animals: costamesaca.gov/adoptableanimals

Martin's department will work closely with Animal Control on assisting impounded animals and overseeing the current contractors for animal shelter and adoption services.

They'll also serve as liaisons to the newly appointed Animal Services Committee, which will assist in making recommendations to the City Council regarding long-term solutions/options for improving animal services.

Committee member Christie McDaniel has been doing her homework in anticipation of the panel setting its first meeting.

She's talked with my friend Tim Stoaks, president of the non-profit Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter, in gathering information for Costa Mesa to form its own non-profit resident support group in the future.

Stoaks said he's happy to share his experience and mentioned Costa Mesa in a recent update letter to FONB AS supporters:

"The City of Costa Mesa, after a long search, has contracted with a veterinarian in Newport Beach to handle Costa Mesa's animal shelter needs," Stoaks wrote. "FONBAS, as a group whose mission is to help every animal find a good home, is pleased Costa Mesa has found, at least temporarily, a solution to their shelter needs. Though the two city's shelters are unrelated, we are all working hard for the benefit of all animals."

In the same newsletter, the organization announced plans to start a capital campaign to build a new Newport Beach Animal Shelter, kicking off fundraising with "The Fur Ball Gala," which I've been asked to co-chair.

I think it's smart for the budding Costa Mesa Animal Services committee to use FONBAS as an example of what can be accomplished with a public private government partnership.

Animals don't recognize city borders, so it's up to us to see both cities have state-of-the-art facilities to ensure their safety and care.

BARBARA VENEZIA is an opinion columnist writing political and social commentary since 2007. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com


Costa Mesa is on the right track with new approach to animal services





1/26/2018

Costa Mesa Mayor Sandy Genis called Friday night to make sure I'd seen the city's press release regarding a temporary solution for the city's stray animals now that the contract with the controversial OC Humane Society in Huntington Beach has ended.

I had.

And I was pleased the city signed an initial contract with the Newport Center Animal Hospital and Pet Hotel Suites, 1333 Avocado Ave., and its owner, Dr. Antony Rizk.

Genis agreed this was a good first step in the process and possibly in finding a permanent solution to the city's shelter issue.

Located in Fashion Island, the hospital has impressive customer reviews on Yelp, unlike the OC Humane Society.

And the location is closer than OCHS, and will open more opportunities for Newport and Costa Mesa residents to adopt animals.

I called Rizk Monday and asked about his background and plans for Costa Mesa.

Rizk has worked with golden retriever and Labrador rescue and done pro bono work for the Orange County Animal Shelter.

But it was his time at OCHS in which I was mostly interested.

Rizk explained right out of veterinary school he worked for OCHS.

"I was basically an employee," he told me.

Citing "professional courtesy," he wouldn't say anything negative.

"The big thing I want to give everyone is confidence we are a different facility," he said. "We are all inside and climate-controlled."

He's open to the public taking tours, asking questions because he's all about "transparency."

Rizk understands the negativity surrounding OCHS and said it's time to put that in the past.

"This is a new beginning," he said. "I'm really excited and glad to be back in shelter medicine. We got our first three strays in today."

As part of the city's temporary solution, Rizk's practice will receive $20,833 per month for veterinary services.

Rizk said the city is still trying to figure out how adoptions will be handled, due to insurance and liability issues.

He'd prefer to take care of the animals on Day One, using the adoption process at his facility.

"I'm all about the animals. I don't want to see animals suffer because people can't make up their minds," he said.

After strays are medically checked out by Rizk, the city has a non-exclusive agreement with Priceless Pets Rescue, a no-kill shelter with locations in Chino Hills and Claremont.

Admittedly, locations aren't convenient to Costa Mesa, but the city is also contacting "almost every rescue organization in O.C. "to work on adoptions temporarily," Councilman John Stephens explained.

Rizk is excited about working with the city and is already developing a plan to become its permanent animal-care solution.

He said by remodeling his facility's second floor, providing a separate entrance, an isolation space for new arrivals and a "comfort room" where families can bring their own pets to meet potential adoptees, this would be a state of the art shelter/adoption facility.

And he's willing to spend "what it takes" of his own money — an estimated $100,000, plus — to make the changes it if the city sees his office as a long-term solution.

In the interim, he's eager to start a foster care program for cats and dogs and a volunteer training program. Those can't get underway until the city sorts out volunteer procedures, insurance, etc.

Stephens said volunteers can get on a waiting list by calling the city at (714) 754-5000.

It's commendable that city leaders have moved quickly here, but more, obviously, needs to be hashed out.

Stephens said he's pleased the transition coincides with the launch of the city's new Animal Services Committee.

"It gives them laser focus right out of the gate," he said.

Committee member Christie McDaniel met with Rizk this week and toured the facility.

McDaniel told me she's convinced Rizk will "do whatever he can to accommodate the concerns and questions that residents may have," adding that he's "kind and gracious."

"No one loves animals more than me," Rizk said, adding he plans on offering a free office visit to any animal adopted there, as well as discounts for future visits.

He doesn't want the Fashion Island address to scare off folks concerned about pricing.

When he took over the practice in 2016, office visits cost upward of $70. Rizk reduced that to $48.

"I want this to be the shelter on Avocado that every knows and get rid of the stigma of doggie jail," he quipped.

I like Rizk's enthusiasm, sense of humor and genuine love for what he does.

Costa Mesa is on the right track here, and might be on the verge of becoming the gold standard in animal services.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.


AIDS Services Foundation rebrands, expands, leaving longtime supporters unhappy


1/19/2018

Laguna Beach residents Al Roberts and Ken Jillson founded AIDS Services Foundation (ASF) in 1985, eventually turning it into one of the county’s most respected HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations.

But the organization has changed its name to Radiant Health Centers — and some longtime board members are displeased.

Mark Gonzales, vice president of Radiant’s board of directors, tells me the name change is part of “expanding services.”

“According to a recent analysis, nearly 9,000 LGBT residents in Orange County have no health insurance, and nearly 30,000 are underinsured and receive their healthcare through safety net systems and government-financed health programs,” Gonzales says.

He went on to explain that as HIV and AIDS treatments have evolved, many AIDS service organizations have done the same to meet client needs.

“Despite our great strides over the decades, six people per week in Orange County test positive for HIV,” he says.

The agency served 1,400 clients in 2017.

He tells me the “more inclusive name [Radiant] is an important first step toward providing the additional health services to those at risk.”

Radiant plans to offer an expanded array of mental and behavioral health services to members of the LGBT community who are HIV negative, helping them deal with addiction, housing needs, nutrition and PrEP services — pills that can reduce the chances of HIV infection — to those who are at highest risk for contracting HIV.

Not everyone is happy with the changes and the manner in which they came about.

Anita May Rosenstein, whose family has donated upward of $2.5 million to ASF in the past 20 years, has decided to leave the advisory board.

“An evolution in mission does not require the abandonment of legacy and, in my opinion, ASF’s current rebranding efforts are exactly that: an abandonment of a positive, respected, even revered, organizational legacy that took more than 30 years to build,” she writes in her resignation letter. “The current decision to abandon this recognizable brand for a generic, non-descript and over-used brand name (Radiant Health Services) that will take years to distinguish seems ill-founded and, in many ways, disrespectful of those who have served and been served by this organization for decades. It is a decision I cannot embrace.”

Rosenstein understands the desire to evolve and points to another organization she supports: AIDS Project Los Angeles, which changed its name to APLA Health a few years ago, keeping in place the original branding. She feels ASF should have followed its lead.

“The decision to proceed with the rebranding took many things into consideration,” Gonzales says, including the viewpoints of founders, donors and more than 100 others — 13 of 16 board members, clients, donors, staff, volunteers and other important stakeholders among them.

Rosenstein says she wasn’t consulted.

“Wouldn’t you go to one of the largest donors and talk about this?” she asks.

Fellow Advisory Council board members Marilyn Brewer, a former state assemblywoman, and Pearl Jemison-Smith, a nurse who helped organize Orange County’s first AIDS walk, also resigned.

After 20 years of involvement Brewer wrote:

“The cavalier manner in which the executive committee of the board of directors shared the so-called new direction with the Advisory Council was reprehensible and disrespectful. It is abundantly clear to me that the current executive committee of the board of directors finds us irrelevant.”

Jemison-Smith says when she resigned last month after 30 years of service, she received only one thank you letter — and that was from Jillson.

Roberts says he’s confused by all of this.

“It’s getting messy and that’s why I want out,” Roberts says.

Roberts and Jillson’s vision of ASF is no more. They say they won’t support Radiant.

And like Brewer, Jemison-Smith and Rosenstein asked their names be removed from Radiant’s website and marketing materials.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard rumblings things weren’t going well within ASF.

In April 2016 I was contacted by sources within the agency alleging high employee turnover and other issues.

No one I interviewed would go on the record, so I passed the concerns over to county Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who asked the county to open an investigation since ASF receives county and federal funding.

Nothing ever came of it.

“Basically everyone we interviewed wouldn’t speak up and provide facts, so we couldn’t move an investigation forward,” Bartlett says.

This new name controversy is troubling to me. I chaired the Friends of Dorothy Guild of ASF from 2007-12 and served on the ASF board of directors.

Though Jillson’s and Robert’s resignation letters remained upbeat — they thanked supporters who shared their vision for ASF over the decades — the fact is they’ve stepped away. I suspect many of their friends will as well, leaving Radiant to blaze its own new trail.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

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Elections could shift the balance of power in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach

1/11/2018

It’s going to be an interesting year for local elections.

Who will be Costa Mesa’s first elected mayor?

How will district voting change the dynamic of that city’s election?

Will Newport voters clean house and vote in a political shift in ideology on the council, as Costa Mesans did in 2016?

These are just the tip of the political icebergs we’ll be navigating as election season unfolds.

This week I’ve decided to focus on Newport, as several candidates say they are ready to rumble. Mayor Marshall Duffield, and council members Diane Dixon, Scott Peotter and Kevin Muldoon — up for re-election.

The first name emerging is a 40-year resident, boxing promotor Roy Englebrecht. He’s back after his 2014 council loss to Muldoon in District 4.

The last go around Englebrecht raised no money, had no yard signs or mailers, and only spent $100 on campaign T-shirts.

“I got 2,882 votes, losing by about 7,000,” he joked. “I certainly got the best return on my money of any candidate in 2014.”

This year will be different.

After selling his business last year to Alliance MMA, Englebrecht says he’ll “transition out” by this summer, making the City Council his only professional obligation.

His says his campaign website will be up in less than 10 days, ready to raise money, garner endorsements and outline his platform issues and potential solutions. He’s already busy organizing supporters and advisors.

In 2014 Englebrecht was the only candidate who came out strongly against Measure Y, which sought to allow increased density at Newport Center. Though that didn’t get him the endorsement of the powerful political action committee Line in the Sand, he met with members again over the summer in hopes of receiving their support in 2018, which, if granted, could be a game changer.

Among his campaign issues will be high-density development, election reform and addressing the city’s unfunded pension liabilities.

Englebrecht likes what Costa Mesa is doing regarding district elections, as successfully campaigning throughout an entire city is a cost-prohibitive $100,000-plus.

I asked Englebrecht for his campaign philosophy.

“I don’t complain, I compete,” he said.

Another returning name is 51-year Corona del Mar resident Joy Brenner.

She was in, out, then in again during the failed Peotter recall effort.

Now she’s committed to win the District 6 seat come November.

Though Brenner is nursing a broken wrist, injured after falling while taking down Christmas decorations, I found her in amazing spirits.

She’s busy planning her Jan. 25 campaign kick-off party at C Dobbs Boutique in Corona del Mar, launching a website, Joyfornewport.com, and organizing events like “Walk With Joy.”

Brenner says her campaign will be “full of joy” and “cheerful spirit.”

With her long history of community involvement, she’s a familiar name and a strong contender for a Line in the Sand endorsement over former planning commissioner and expected candidate Mike Toerge.

Toerge was ready to challenge Brenner in the failed Peotter recall, but running in a short recall election is certainly different than running a full race in 2018.

Though I wondered if he’d put himself through the rigors of campaigning after his defeat in 2014, he said this week, “I’m still in the mix and working on a strategy to bring resident-first leadership to my district.”

No doubt Line in the Sand’s endorsement and grass-roots support will move the needle for candidates it supports in 2018.

And now it seems a candidate may be emerging from within their ranks.

Line in the Sand board member Tim Stoaks says he’s ready to make a play for Duffield’s District 3 seat.

Stoaks is a friend and neighbor, so I understandably have mixed feelings. I have no doubt his experience as a former Santa Ana Heights Redevelopment Agency Project Advisory Committee member and chair, current AirFair board member, involvement with Still Protecting Our Newport (SPON), the Newport Beach Animal Shelter and and Newport Harbor Educational foundation, will serve him well.

But when it comes to this column and the Feet to the Fire Forums, I call them like I see them, regardless of friendships.

“Bring it on, I’m ready for a lively debate of the issues with you and anyone else,” Stoaks told me.

Folks enter these races knowing full well how ugly Newport campaign season gets but say they’ll stick to the issues and look forward to Feet to the Fire and other community forums.

As Brenner said, “I’m not running against anyone, I’m running for Newport.”

Candidates can pull official papers starting July 16 so there’s plenty of time for more candidates to emerge until the nomination period closes Aug. 10.

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


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How will district voting change the dynamic of that city’s election?

Will Newport voters clean house and vote in a political shift in ideology on the council, as Costa Mesans did in 2016?

These are just the tip of the political icebergs we’ll be navigating as election season unfolds.

This week I’ve decided to focus on Newport, as several candidates say they are ready to rumble. Mayor Marshall Duffield, and council members Diane Dixon, Scott Peotter and Kevin Muldoon — up for re-election.

The first name emerging is a 40-year resident, boxing promotor Roy Englebrecht. He’s back after his 2014 council loss to Muldoon in District 4.

The last go around Englebrecht raised no money, had no yard signs or mailers, and only spent $100 on campaign T-shirts.

“I got 2,882 votes, losing by about 7,000,” he joked. “I certainly got the best return on my money of any candidate in 2014.”

This year will be different.

After selling his business last year to Alliance MMA, Englebrecht says he’ll “transition out” by this summer, making the City Council his only professional obligation.

His says his campaign website will be up in less than 10 days, ready to raise money, garner endorsements and outline his platform issues and potential solutions. He’s already busy organizing supporters and advisors.

In 2014 Englebrecht was the only candidate who came out strongly against Measure Y, which sought to allow increased density at Newport Center. Though that didn’t get him the endorsement of the powerful political action committee Line in the Sand, he met with members again over the summer in hopes of receiving their support in 2018, which, if granted, could be a game changer.

Among his campaign issues will be high-density development, election reform and addressing the city’s unfunded pension liabilities.

Englebrecht likes what Costa Mesa is doing regarding district elections, as successfully campaigning throughout an entire city is a cost-prohibitive $100,000-plus.

I asked Englebrecht for his campaign philosophy.

“I don’t complain, I compete,” he said.

Another returning name is 51-year Corona del Mar resident Joy Brenner.

She was in, out, then in again during the failed Peotter recall effort.

Now she’s committed to win the District 6 seat come November.

Though Brenner is nursing a broken wrist, injured after falling while taking down Christmas decorations, I found her in amazing spirits.

She’s busy planning her Jan. 25 campaign kick-off party at C Dobbs Boutique in Corona del Mar, launching a website, Joyfornewport.com, and organizing events like “Walk With Joy.”

Brenner says her campaign will be “full of joy” and “cheerful spirit.”

With her long history of community involvement, she’s a familiar name and a strong contender for a Line in the Sand endorsement over former planning commissioner and expected candidate Mike Toerge.

Toerge was ready to challenge Brenner in the failed Peotter recall, but running in a short recall election is certainly different than running a full race in 2018.

Though I wondered if he’d put himself through the rigors of campaigning after his defeat in 2014, he said this week, “I’m still in the mix and working on a strategy to bring resident-first leadership to my district.”

No doubt Line in the Sand’s endorsement and grass-roots support will move the needle for candidates it supports in 2018.

And now it seems a candidate may be emerging from within their ranks.

Line in the Sand board member Tim Stoaks says he’s ready to make a play for Duffield’s District 3 seat.

Stoaks is a friend and neighbor, so I understandably have mixed feelings. I have no doubt his experience as a former Santa Ana Heights Redevelopment Agency Project Advisory Committee member and chair, current AirFair board member, involvement with Still Protecting Our Newport (SPON), the Newport Beach Animal Shelter and and Newport Harbor Educational foundation, will serve him well.

But when it comes to this column and the Feet to the Fire Forums, I call them like I see them, regardless of friendships.

“Bring it on, I’m ready for a lively debate of the issues with you and anyone else,” Stoaks told me.

Folks enter these races knowing full well how ugly Newport campaign season gets but say they’ll stick to the issues and look forward to Feet to the Fire and other community forums.

As Brenner said, “I’m not running against anyone, I’m running for Newport.”

Candidates can pull official papers starting July 16 so there’s plenty of time for more candidates to emerge until the nomination period closes Aug. 10.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

How will district voting change the dynamic of that city’s election?

Will Newport voters clean house and vote in a political shift in ideology on the council, as Costa Mesans did in 2016?

These are just the tip of the political icebergs we’ll be navigating as election season unfolds.

This week I’ve decided to focus on Newport, as several candidates say they are ready to rumble. Mayor Marshall Duffield, and council members Diane Dixon, Scott Peotter and Kevin Muldoon — up for re-election.

The first name emerging is a 40-year resident, boxing promotor Roy Englebrecht. He’s back after his 2014 council loss to Muldoon in District 4.

The last go around Englebrecht raised no money, had no yard signs or mailers, and only spent $100 on campaign T-shirts.

“I got 2,882 votes, losing by about 7,000,” he joked. “I certainly got the best return on my money of any candidate in 2014.”

This year will be different.

After selling his business last year to Alliance MMA, Englebrecht says he’ll “transition out” by this summer, making the City Council his only professional obligation.

His says his campaign website will be up in less than 10 days, ready to raise money, garner endorsements and outline his platform issues and potential solutions. He’s already busy organizing supporters and advisors.

In 2014 Englebrecht was the only candidate who came out strongly against Measure Y, which sought to allow increased density at Newport Center. Though that didn’t get him the endorsement of the powerful political action committee Line in the Sand, he met with members again over the summer in hopes of receiving their support in 2018, which, if granted, could be a game changer.

Among his campaign issues will be high-density development, election reform and addressing the city’s unfunded pension liabilities.

Englebrecht likes what Costa Mesa is doing regarding district elections, as successfully campaigning throughout an entire city is a cost-prohibitive $100,000-plus.

I asked Englebrecht for his campaign philosophy.

“I don’t complain, I compete,” he said.

Another returning name is 51-year Corona del Mar resident Joy Brenner.

She was in, out, then in again during the failed Peotter recall effort.

Now she’s committed to win the District 6 seat come November.

Though Brenner is nursing a broken wrist, injured after falling while taking down Christmas decorations, I found her in amazing spirits.

She’s busy planning her Jan. 25 campaign kick-off party at C Dobbs Boutique in Corona del Mar, launching a website, Joyfornewport.com, and organizing events like “Walk With Joy.”

Brenner says her campaign will be “full of joy” and “cheerful spirit.”

With her long history of community involvement, she’s a familiar name and a strong contender for a Line in the Sand endorsement over former planning commissioner and expected candidate Mike Toerge.

Toerge was ready to challenge Brenner in the failed Peotter recall, but running in a short recall election is certainly different than running a full race in 2018.

Though I wondered if he’d put himself through the rigors of campaigning after his defeat in 2014, he said this week, “I’m still in the mix and working on a strategy to bring resident-first leadership to my district.”

No doubt Line in the Sand’s endorsement and grass-roots support will move the needle for candidates it supports in 2018.

And now it seems a candidate may be emerging from within their ranks.

Line in the Sand board member Tim Stoaks says he’s ready to make a play for Duffield’s District 3 seat.

Stoaks is a friend and neighbor, so I understandably have mixed feelings. I have no doubt his experience as a former Santa Ana Heights Redevelopment Agency Project Advisory Committee member and chair, current AirFair board member, involvement with Still Protecting Our Newport (SPON), the Newport Beach Animal Shelter and and Newport Harbor Educational foundation, will serve him well.

But when it comes to this column and the Feet to the Fire Forums, I call them like I see them, regardless of friendships.

“Bring it on, I’m ready for a lively debate of the issues with you and anyone else,” Stoaks told me.

Folks enter these races knowing full well how ugly Newport campaign season gets but say they’ll stick to the issues and look forward to Feet to the Fire and other community forums.

As Brenner said, “I’m not running against anyone, I’m running for Newport.”

Candidates can pull official papers starting July 16 so there’s plenty of time for more candidates to emerge until the nomination period closes Aug. 10.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.

Mayor Genis sees promise in Costa Mesa’s animal services future


1/5/2018

In December , I broke the news that Costa Mesa city officials had received a letter from Dr. Samir Botros, owner of the Orange County Humane Society Shelter (OCHS) in Huntington Beach. Botros wrote that he wouldn’t be renewing his contract with the city for animal control services when it expires Jan. 21.

This came as good news to many — including me — who felt the city shouldn’t continue this contract considering the allegations against the organization for mismanagement and mistreatment of animals.

I’ve followed the OCHS controversy closely. Readers have also weighed in heavily, saying Costa Mesa should follow the path Newport Beach took in 2015, when the city pulled away from OCHS and founded its own shelter.

In my last column of 2017, Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens asked the community to contact him and city staff with ideas for an interim animal rescue solution.

So as the holiday haze started to lift this week, my first order of business was to check in with Stephens and Costa Mesa Mayor Sandy Genis to follow up about what has happened since they received Botros’ letter.

Stephens tells me the response has been great from residents, rescue organizations, animal hospitals and neighboring shelters.

Genis says over the holidays she was busy visiting shelters, talking with veterinarians and rescue organizations.

When we spoke on Wednesday, Genis told me she has a line on a gentleman who has a kennel on Riverside Drive in Santa Ana Heights, where Newport’s shelter is. He is interested in selling the property.

Though she doesn’t know what price he’ll be asking just yet, Genis says the facility looks promising and has a good capacity to house both cats and dogs.

Genis also spoke with a friend from an animal rescue organization who has put the word out within that community that Costa Mesa is looking for help. Genis is feeling very positive about the feedback she has received so far.

In researching animal control solutions, Genis also spoke with a shelter consultant to get an understanding about the amounts cities are spending these days.

On the low end it’s approximately $8 per capita of population. On the high end it’s about $32.

According to Genis, Costa Mesa has been spending closer to the low end and will need to spend more for higher quality animal control.

She’s estimating an average of $15 per capita, which could be more than $1 million and require the city to reexamine its budget.

No doubt there’s a passion in Costa Mesa for animals, and the answer most likely will lie in a public-private partnership.

We saw a glimpse of that last year when Stephens raised $50,000 in just a few short weeks for his Fourth of July animal-friendly fireworks project.

If this same effort went into securing Costa Mesa’s shelter, I have no doubt it would be successful. There are many pet lovers in the city.

Stephens has estimated 70% to 75% of Costa Mesa households have pets. Though the city doesn’t have an actual number confirming that, Genis says the average nationwide is 40%. If you figure a good many of those have more than one animal, that’s a healthy number of pets.

Moving forward, the city has more than two dozen applicants for its new animal control committee, which will be tasked with solving the shelter issue

Genis is thrilled by the community response and says appointments to the committee are scheduled to happen during the next council meeting. The panel is expected to play a vital role in the development of a long-term solution.

Genis tells me her goal is to have as many animals adopted as possible. That’s feasible if the city works closely with community groups and rescue organizations.

“The more people you have looking at something, the more the issue will be noticed,” Genis says.

As she researched other shelters locally, Genis discovered they did a good job getting the word out about their adoptable animals using websites, special events and social media like Nextdoor.com. They’ve done a better job on that front than OCHS.

The due diligence of Genis and Stephens on this issue is commendable.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com.