Barbara Venezia...
Stirring the pot of controversy
 one column at a time...
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Harley Rouda thinks the sweet spot is in the moderate middle

8/10/18

Who is Harley Rouda?

I wanted to know more about the Democratic candidate challenging the 48th District’s incumbent congressman, Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa).

According to Rouda’s campaign website, the Laguna Beach resident is a husband, father, “successful businessman, philanthropist, attorney and tech entrepreneur.”

The day we spoke I asked if had ever held office.

He hadn’t.

I wondered why a first-time candidate wouldn’t start at the City Council, Board of Supervisors or Assembly levels.

Rouda tells me he considered running for City Council when he was younger, but was busy growing his real estate business.

During the economic downturn, “It was all hands on deck.”

He saved his business and now says he mostly does “board work.”

“With the 2016 elections it was time to get engaged in the political process,” he says.

“It was the Trump agenda and Rohrabacher’s support of it, and the type of representative he’s been,” that motivated him to make the leap to a congressional run, Rouda says.

Rouda, a former Republican who registered Democratic last year, considers himself a “moderate” and feels more are needed in government.

Which brought our discussion to partisan politics and the polarization of the two parties.

Rouda says voters need to deal with this one elected official at a time.

He says in the 2016 election cycle, his observation was both political parties were guilty of “party first, country second, debating personalities and not issues.”

“There is more we agree on and less that we don’t,” he says. “When I made the decision to run, I was tired of party first and country second. I will reach across the aisle to put country first.”

Rouda points to shifting county voting demographics, which indicate the number of registered Republicans declining as the number of unaffiliated independent voters rise.

He feels this indicates voters are moving more to the center.

I asked Rouda about local issues like John Wayne Airport and the proliferation of sober-living homes, which are important to residents in his district.

Rouda says the sober living proliferation problem is more of a county and state issue.

I agree that’s an element to the solution, but what about revising the Americans with Disabilities Act on the federal level by declassifying alcoholics and drug addicts as disabled, as his former primary opponent Republican primary candidate Scott Baugh had suggested?

“From a local standpoint there are hundreds in the 48th, and they don’t need hundreds to meet the critical needs,” he says.

Rouda says there are good and bad operators, and the bad need to be weeded out.

He says government funding for addiction needs to “be tightened up to provide accountability and locally more control, and that may require ADA modifications to address the issue.”

He says there needs to be “accountability by providers — some of the underlying issues are not having health care in place and the opioid issue across the U.S.”

As far as the airport issue, Harley says this goes way beyond JWA, Long Beach Airport and Los Angeles International Airport because flight patterns have been altered.

“We need the FAA to honor the current curfew agreement,” and we need political leaders who will stand up for that at the federal level,” he says.

He says Rohrabacher has “done a horrible job” regarding airport issues, and points to the fact the FAA makes amendments regularly all over the country, though the congressman has failed at his attempts.

Another issue we touched on was cities’ unfunded pension liabilities.

Since Rouda’s campaign is financially supported strongly by labor unions, could that close union alliance scare off moderate voters who want pension reform?

Rouda doesn’t think so, saying, “Some unions have turned their pensions around, and some have a long way to go.”

“Some negotiations need to take place to meet the anticipated obligations and the ability to stay solvent,” he adds. “Get all relevant parties to sit at the table and be honest about the facts.”

During our conversation we touched on many issues, which I plan to discuss at the upcoming Feet to the Fire Forum Sept. 22 at Orange Coast College’s Robert B. Moore Theatre.

Rouda tells me he looks forward to discussing the issues with Rohrabacher.

So far Rohrabacher’s people haven’t committed to the date, telling me it was too far in advance.

But if things work out, Rohrabacher might attend, they say.

I asked Rouda if he could speak directly to Rohrabacher what would he say about this.

“We, the people, are your constituents that you took an oath to represent, and who want to meet with you and hear your answers,” he says. “So do your job and meet with us.”

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




Officials say Herdman leaked candidate information, but he says it wasn’t him. So who was it?

8/3/2018

There’s a famous quote by Ben Franklin: “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

So who didn’t keep the secret termed-out Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson possibly applied to become Newport Beach city manager?

The drama started back in April, when City Manager Dave Kiff learned some on the City Council wanted him to retire earlier than planned.

Newport Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, Councilmen Scott Peotter, Will O’Neill and Kevin Muldoon have denied pressuring Kiff to speed up his retirement, but I don’t really buy that.

Things turned ugly at a special council meeting Monday morning to interview three of the top contenders for Kiff’s job — prompted by the leak of Nelson’s name last Friday afternoon.

Audience members chanted, “Vote them out,” after Councilman Jeff Herdman’s unsuccessful motion to table the hiring process until after the November election didn’t get a second.

“I was honestly amazed by the intense chanting that then took place,” Herdman said in a statement. “It appears to me that a revolution has been launched!”

When I first read the flurry of emails over the weekend by folks outraged over the possibility that Nelson was being considered, I found him an odd choice at best.

Nelson had just made an unsuccessful bid for the 39th Congressional District seat in the June primary. He previously attempted to change term limits for supervisors, which didn’t go over well, as many felt his motivation was self-serving.

Nelson and his chief of staff penned an explanation for their proposal in 2016, according to an article in the Voice of OC.

“Forcing an individual out of office after eight years of service (as is current practice) only diminishes a Supervisor’s and his/her staff’s ability to capitalize on the years of education and experience to achieve significant and sustained reforms on behalf of Orange County taxpayers,” according to the proposal.

This all indicated to me that Nelson’s goals in public service included higher political aspirations. A city manager position — a job Nelson has never held — isn’t generally a stepping stone in that direction. City managers are administrators, not makers of political policy like a member of the Board of Supervisors.

Couple that with the fact he’s an attorney, which can often — but not always — be more lucrative than being a city manager and the whole thing just doesn’t add up.

Line in the Sand, a political action committee, sent an email blast encouraging folks to attend the Monday meeting and “join the many others who are taking this opportunity to voice their concerns about the way the council majority is handling the city manager recruitment/replacement process and the consequences the politically-motivated appointment of an unqualified person could have for our home town … ”

The email included a link to comments on the situation and, as you can imagine, they weren’t positive.

Herdman posted his own message urging residents to attend, saying he would do his best “to ensure that the finalist for the position is qualified.”

“Two out of the three finalists that will be interviewed on Monday are outstanding,” he wrote. “The third is not, however, I fear that this candidate may be the council majority’s favored candidate, and to be honest with you, I am losing sleep, as well as quite disturbed about this possibility.”

At the meeting, Herdman found himself in the crosshairs of his fellow council members and City Attorney Aaron Harp, who accused him of violating the state’s open meeting law, the Brown Act.

“His statement violated the confidentiality he agreed to uphold and contained a number of inaccurate statements,” Harp read from a prepared statement.

When I spoke to Herdman Tuesday morning he denied being the leak.

“I hadn’t even told my wife who the finalists were,” he said. “I have never in my entire career ever breached a confidentiality agreement.”

And Herdman’s statement never mentioned Nelson’s name.

Later that day, in another posting to constituents, and again not mentioning Nelson by name, Herdman explained in the initial interview with “this candidate I knew absolutely nothing about him other than what I had read on his resume … based on his performance during the interview I did vote to place him in the top three for a second interview.”

“As a result of this leak I began receiving e-mails and face-to-face comments from people encouraging me to not consider this individual for the position,” he wrote.

After doing some “fact checking myself,” he concluded, “this individual was no longer a viable candidate.”

So if Herdman’s’ not the leak, who is?

It’s not uncommon for those seeking any position to call influential friends, asking them to put in a good word.

And you know how people love to talk in this town.

Could Nelson have inadvertently — and innocently — leaked his own name?

He wasn’t available for comment, but his chief of staff, Denis Bilodeau, told me, “I haven’t heard him speak to anyone about it.”

Nevertheless, Harp and the council should do a deep dive into this question since Herdman adamantly denies leaking.



Arguments over ballot arguments; Sacha Baron Cohen satirizes Dana Rohrabacher

7/27/2018

Is “real” news weirder than “fake” news?

Take the spat between Newport Beach activist Bob Rush and former Newport Beach mayors Keith Curry, Rush Hill and Mike Henn and former Mayor Pro Tem Jean Watt over whose statement should be used against an as-yet-unnamed measure slated for the November ballot.

The measure, if passed, would require 55% of voters to approve a city charter amendment before the city can use a special type of financing — certificates of participation — for projects costing $50 million or more.

Rush was quoted in a Daily Pilot story saying critics could “kiss my ass.”

The online comment thread — which I verified with those who made the comments — got crazier, with Curry calling Rush “a failed Democrat Assembly candidate who recently made the crazy assertion the city had an ‘enemies list,’ and [is] a `shill’ for [political consultant] Dave Ellis and Councilman Scott Peotter.”

Rush fired back, disparaging Curry and his “friends.”

I felt this was especially disrespectful as it pertained to Watt, a well-respected 91-year-old advocate.

On Wednesday, Rush explained that his reference in the comment thread was meant for Hill, Curry and Henn, not Watt, as he had no idea she was involved.

Rush isn’t the only one Curry has a bone to pick with.

Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker is another.

Candidates have until Aug. 10 to pull official papers to run for City Council, yet the O.C. Republican Central Committee this week endorsed incumbent Newport council members Scott Peotter, Kevin Muldoon and Diane Dixon and Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield.

This didn’t sit well with Curry, a staunch Republican.

Curry wondered in a July 22 email to Whitaker whether endorsements were made before “Duffield and Peotter voted for a property tax increase of up to $4,500 per year.”

Curry pointed out “the city operating budget is now $56.5 million higher and the unfunded pension liability is $70 million higher than when Peotter, Duffield and Muldoon took office.”

“I wanted to make sure you had all the facts so that you don’t embarrass the party by saying they are ‘anti-tax,’ for ‘cutting spending,’ ‘supportive of transparent voter rights,’ they are ‘for strong law enforcement’ or that ‘they stand up to tax raisers like [recalled state Sen.] Josh Newman.’ Because the facts tell a different story.”

Whitaker’s answer?

“They filled out questionnaires and got 32 signatures each to go directly to the Central Committee,” he wrote to Curry. “That happened at our June meeting. They met the bylaw requirements and got a unanimous vote.”

What about Dixon? Did she really agree at the Central Committee meeting to endorse her fellow incumbents, if asked?

When we spoke last, she explained her intention was to wait until after the Aug. 10 filing date before endorsing.

Last April, Dixon publicly chastised her fellow incumbents, calling out their alleged behind-the-scenes antics to pressure Newport City Manager Dave Kiff to leave before the end of his contract. I gave her kudos for championing the truth and felt she certainly heightened her political profile with this move, distancing herself from “Team Newport.”

Now her party feels she needs to lend this positive profile to those same incumbents with an endorsement.

Will she?

“I am a lifelong Republican,” Dixon wrote in an email. “I sought and obtained the Republican Party endorsement in 2014. I independently requested the endorsement again for my reelection in 2018. I support Republicans running for office in the November election.”

That statement didn’t really answer my question.

Rohrabacher appears on Showtime spoof

Then there’s Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s appearance on comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Showtime series, “Who is America?”

The Costa Mesa Republican appeared to embarrass himself by apparently agreeing with the pretense of arming children as a way to reduce school shootings.

Watching the satirical series’ trailer, it’s obvious to me that Cohen is heavily made up, and his accent is so off I can’t imagine anyone taking him seriously.

Rohrabacher, in a statement, called the show “false news” and said he was never interviewed by Cohen and that the editing inaccurately made it look like he supported arming schoolchildren.

“Cohen’s people apparently used footage from an interview I submitted to earlier this year for a bogus Israeli television company supposedly celebrating the country’s 70th anniversary,” according to his statement. “In that interview, which was not with Cohen, I spoke broadly of training young people at a responsible age in self-defense. At no time did I endorse training toddlers in handling guns.”

I find it funny that Rohrabacher and his handlers fell for this whole “false news” bit and yet they’re dancing around on agreeing to attend a Feet to the Fire candidates forum Sept.22 with actual journalists.

This week, Rohrabacher spokesman Michael Schroeder said he couldn’t schedule a date two months out and that they were still going through many forum requests. They “may” accept the F2F invitation at the last minute.

I feel Rohrabacher is afraid to face the real journalists of F2F, as well as his opponent, Democrat Harley Rouda, who has accepted the invitation.

Will Rohrabacher ever answer some tough questions this election season? Or just look for a friendlier forum?

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





Is “real” news weirder than “fake” news?

Take the spat between Newport Beach activist Bob Rush and former Newport Beach mayors Keith Curry, Rush Hill and Mike Henn and former Mayor Pro Tem Jean Watt over whose statement should be used against an as-yet-unnamed measure slated for the November ballot.

Interest high as details of Feet to the Fire forums firm up dates

By Barbara Venezia

JULY 19, 2018, 4:00 PM

Newport Beach and Costa Mesa candidates began pulling official papers to run for office on Monday. We won’t know the complete spectrum of candidates until the filing period closes Aug. 10.

Last week I shared the tentative dates for the upcoming Feet to the Fire forums at the

 Robert B. Moore Theatre at Orange Coast College.

Two of those dates have changed: the Costa Mesa and congressional forums.

Costa Mesa’s mayoral and council candidate forums are now Sept. 17, as not to conflict with the Jewish holiday on the original date, Sept.19.

The 48th Congressional District race has been moved to Sept. 22. As I mentioned last week, incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s contact Jason Pitman told me that on weekdays the congressman is in Washington. We’d originally planned for Sept. 17, a Monday.

Will Sept. 22, a Saturday, work? Campaign representative Michael Schroeder tells me I should have an answer next week. I’ll keep you posted.

Rohrabacher’s Democratic opponent, Harley Rouda, has confirmed for Sept. 22.

Moving on to the races in Costa Mesa, mayoral candidates Al Melone and council

members Katrina Foley and Allan Mansoor  as well as Mayor Sandy Genis have 

agreed to the forum. 

This race is one for the city history books as voters will directly elect their mayor for the first time. The current system allows council members to appoint one of themselves.

Genis certainly has something to prove here after the uproar of becoming mayor by unprecedented vote when the council removed Foley, a former ally, from the ceremonial post in November.

Genis sided with Mansoor and Councilman Jim Righeimer to remove Foley, which shocked many.

To this day we still don’t have details as to what prompted Foley’s removal or Genisto turn on her.

Back in November Righeimer assured me there would be an explanation.

“This will all come out in due time,” he said. "You’ll know why, and it’s not a personality issue.”

The answers never came, and this lingering question will be one Genis will eventually have to address. It’s certainly something we’ll ask about at Feet to the Fire.

This week I started contacting council candidates about their anticipated participation.

Costa Mesa District 3’s Brett Eckles and Andrea Marr are in, but no word yet from Teresa Drain.

In District 4, Manuel Chavez is in. I’ve yet to hear from Michelle Figueredo-Wilson.

In District 5, Arlis Reynolds was quick to respond yes to F2F, as was Rebecca Trahan.

Turning to Newport, I haven’t yet contacted incumbent Mayor Marshall Duffield and Councilmen Kevin Muldoon and Scott Peotter, but I will by next week. The Newport council candidate forum is Sept. 20.

I don’t expect any of them to accept the invitation; they passed on the F2F opportunity in 2014. Over their four-year term it’s been my experience this isn’t a group comfortable with answering direct questions.

Though Councilwoman Diane Dixon is running for re-election, she’s unopposed. If that remains the case, there’s no need for her to participate in the forum.

As far as challengers to the Newport council incumbents, my friend and neighbor Tim Stoaks is running against Duffield, Roy Englebrecht is looking to unseat Muldoon, and both Joy Brenner and Mike Toerge are running against Councilman Scott Peotter. They all plan to take the stage Sept. 20.

Last week’s column garnered much reader response, as you can imagine, now that this election season is in full swing.

Many speculated on candidate campaign strategies and shared thoughts on the races, which I appreciated.

There was overwhelming interest as to which candidates will say yes to the various Feet to the Fires, more so than I’ve ever seen since we started the program in 2010. People want to hear candidates engage and answer questions.

As Feet to the Fire nears, we’ll start planning what issues we’ll address. Feel free to keep emailing thoughts, and yes, high-density development is already on the list.

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

Newport Beach and Costa Mesa election season begins in earnest

7/13/2018

July 16 officially starts campaign season in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa and those running for elected office need to pull official papers in their respective city clerks’ offices before the Aug. 10. deadline.

Costa Mesa’s election page suggests candidates make an appointment with the city clerk to review all documents.

The page offers links so residents can keep abreast of candidate filings, disclosure statements, ballot measures, district maps and election notices.

Newport’s city election page also has all the same information as it pertains to the upcoming November elections.

Looking at both cities’ election information pages, I found Costa Mesa did a better job; it’s far more user-friendly than Newport's.

That’s important because there’s a lot on the line in 2018 politically in both cities, and voters need to do their homework. Cities should make this as simple as possible so residents can educate themselves.

Election season is busy for me as I prepare to bring readers candidate profiles and get into the pre-production phase for the upcoming Feet to the Fire election forums.

The tentative dates for F2F are Sept. 17, 19 and 20 — each at the Robert B. Moore Theatre at Orange Coast College. There’s always a meet and greet with candidates from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and forums start at 7:15 p.m.

The goal for Sept. 17 is to bring Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and his Democratic challenger, Harley Rouda, together for a comprehensive conversation about the 48th Congressional District.

I’ve spoken with Mac Zilber of Los Angeles-based Jacobson & Zilber Strategies, which represents Rouda. He says his candidate will be there and welcomes the conversation.

Jason Pitkin, who represents Rohrabacher, says he will check the calendar and get back to me, as Rohrabacher is usually in Washington on Mondays.

I stressed with Pitkin how much interest there is in this forum and offered flexibility with dates in order to make it happen.

I’ll keep readers posted. Let’s see what happens.

Sept. 19 is all about Costa Mesa. We’ll explore the candidates for each district and the mayoral race. The plan is to have the first part of the evening devoted to council races, and the second to the mayoral candidates.

Voters in Costa Mesa will be asked to vote by district. If you’re not sure which district you live in, there’s a good description on the city’s website.

As of this week, the following council candidates have filed intention statements, according to the city’s website, but this field could narrow — or expand — depending on who pulls official papers.

I’ve listed them by districts and campaign websites or Facebook pages so readers can start to familiarize themselves with this new crop. Any one of these folks could wind up making decisions affecting your family’s future so be your own investigative reporter and feel free to contact them directly.

Start asking questions, as I will, in the coming weeks.

Costa Mesa Mayor
Costa Mesa District 3
Costa Mesa District 4
Costa Mesa District 5

Newport elections are a little different. No matter where a voter lives, they can vote for a candidate in each of the city’s seven districts, which is why Newporters need to do a bit more homework than their Costa Mesa counterparts. The candidates must live in whichever district they run.

Information to contact incumbents can be found on the city’s site, newportbeachca.gov/government/city-council

Newport Beach District 1
Newport Beach District 4
Newport Beach District 6

That’s what the political landscape looks like so far.

The local political drama will start to unfold in the coming days, weeks and months with intrigue, nastiness, misinformation, hidden agendas and more. Those in power will fight to keep it, and those wanting political change will battle against them.

As I’ve said many times in these columns, people get the government they deserve. Decide what you deserve and start paying attention now. Your city’s future is literally at stake.

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




‘Good Morning Newport’ seeks to bring public affairs to the social media generation

6/28/2018

 

“Good Morning Newport” is a new political online show created by 27-year-old Alex Crawford and his friend and business partner, Riley Hayes, 29.

Both grew up in Newport and run Everything Bagel, their own full-service video, digital and social media ad agency.

With Hayes directing, and Crawford hosting, the two posted their first episode of “Good Morning Newport” this week.

Watching the 16-minute, inaugural episode on Facebook, I was impressed with the quality of the production, writing and cutting-edge political content.

The show tackles issues dealing with recent Newport council decisions and upcoming elections in a funny, informative and entertaining way.

Crawford opens with a segment stating how six of the seven council members are represented by political consultant Dave Ellis, who Crawford says “prefers to work in the shadows … and jokes, “people are afraid to say his name,” a reference to Lord Voldemort in “Harry Potter.”

The tongue-in-cheek banter is entertaining throughout as the hosts address serious issues, such as the controversy surrounding City Manager Dave Kiff’s retirement announcement, with footage from the council meeting where Diane Dixon dressed down those on the council whom she felt were responsible for his decision to opt out of his contract early.

There’s also an interesting interview on this first episode with council candidate Joy Brenner, who says she is running because “it has become evident the City Council was not really listening to the citizens” on Museum House and other issues.

After watching the show, I called Hayes and Crawford.

I was especially interested in them because of my background in access cable with the comedy cooking show “At Home on the Range” from 1992-1998. In those days cable was the only avenue available for projects like mine; today the online creative outlets are endless for budding young producers like Crawford and Riley.

The two initially partnered for a documentary project about the history of Newport Beach dating to 1906.

Their movie project is ongoing but in the meantime it prompted “Good Morning Newport.”

To give you some background on these guys, Hayes graduated from Chapman University, where he majored in film. Crawford studied journalism in Oregon and worked on a sports radio show in Portland.

Crawford moved back to Newport to team up with Hayes and make the documentary about their hometown.

They started going to council meetings to learn more about city government, connect with residents and network.

Not a bad plan. If you’ve been to council meetings, they’re well attended by longtime residents with lots of history behind them.

So the two started talking to people and sitting in on council meetings. They soon discovered all was not well in Newport’s political arena.

Hayes was surprised to find “many of these council members didn’t grow up in Newport,” which troubled him.

“Now, more than ever, those who did grow up here need to be included” and it “shouldn’t be up to who [has] more money to lobby and special interests.”

Crawford and Hayes say they understand that council meetings can be “boring” to younger folks.

With that in mind, their intent with “Good Morning Newport” is not only to inform and inspire the next generation politically, but entertain it as well.

So the pair started taking their cameras to council meetings and streaming live on Facebook.

Though residents can watch meetings via cable and on the city’s website, Crawford and Hayes feel their generation is more apt to watch on social media.

“There are great city groups keeping government in check,” they say, and with their show, they’ll highlight these groups, giving them new exposure to a wider audience.

Realizing they “could make a serious difference in bridging the gap through an entertaining video show,” their plan is to produce two episodes of “Good Morning Newport” a month.

As they discuss current issues, they’ll also refer to the city’s rich history, which they’re continuing to discover through their documentary research.

They plan on interviewing former and current council members, as well as candidates running this year.

It’s exciting for me to see younger people interested in local politics, and if “Good Morning Newport” grows a substantial audience, I feel it could be a game changer this political season.

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


New private carrier, JetSuiteX, promises to voluntarily comply with airport curfew




Friends from L.A. who regularly meet me for fun at my vacation home in Las Vegas have raved about flying JetSuiteX.

It’s easy to see why.

Friends from L.A. who regularly meet me for fun at my vacation home in Las Vegas have raved about flying JetSuiteX.

It’s easy to see why.



6/22/2018


Friends from L.A. who regularly meet me for fun at my vacation home in Las Vegas have raved about flying JetSuiteX.

It’s easy to see why.

They depart from JetSuiteX’s private hangar in Burbank and arrive in another in Vegas.

They don’t hassle with Transportation Security Administration lines (baggage is screened privately). There are 30 luxury leather seats per plane — no middle seats — 36 inches of legroom, onboard Wi-Fi and complimentary beverage service. There are no overhead bins, and instead of baggage claim, luggage is unloaded onto the runway for passengers when they deplane.

JetsuiteX bills itself as a “private jet experience at coach prices.”

On June 6, the Orange County Board of Supervisors cleared JetSuiteX to begin commuter flights to Las Vegas from Orange County. Flights start June 29.

To give you some background, there are two related companies here: JetSuite and JetSuiteX.

JetSuite offers private planes — passengers rent the entire plane. Membership fees, which range from $50,000 to $400,000, include a sliding scale of flying credits toward flights. JetBlue is the company’s main investor.

You can also sign up for last-minute, daily “SuiteDeals,” which give you the chance to fly privately starting at $536 each way.

Founded in 2008 by CEO Alex Wilcox, the aircraft fleet consists of Embaer Phenom 100, Phenom 300 and E135 jets.

“ … You can charter … a whole jet or purchase by the seat at prices near commercial fares,” according to the website.

JetsuiteX is the division that offers “the best of private travel at not-so-private fares.”

I talked this week with Rachel Porges, vice president of marketing and business development for JetSuite and JetSuiteX.

She tells me JetSuiteX will have two roundtrip flights from John Wayne Airport to Las Vegas on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and three flights on Fridays and Sundays. O.C.-to-Vegas fares range from $129 to $219, depending on day and time. All flights originate from private aviation hangars.

Since JetSuiteX is basically a hybrid of private and commercial flying, I wondered if it would voluntarily obey the JWA curfew since it is suggested — not required — for private aviation operators.

Porges says they “will absolutely adhere to the curfew,” not taking off before 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends, and landing by 11 p.m.

“JetSuiteX is considered a commuter carrier, and our flights and passengers are covered under the commuter allotment,” says Brian Coulter, vice president of flight operations for JetSuiteX.

I asked about jet noise.

“A recent noise study conducted by the airport in 2016 showed that the Embraer 135 jets flown by JetSuiteX are as quiet, if not quieter, than general aviation airplanes,” Coulter says. “In fact, they qualify for operations at any time, though we are definitely going to operate them only within the airport's recommended ‘daytime hours.’”

What about passengers with limited mobility?

“We have wheelchair ramps available for boarding and an aisle chair, should they need it,” says Porges. “In fact, avoiding the long lines and walks and jetways at airports is typically one of the best benefits JetSuiteX offers for anyone, especially relevant for limited-mobility or disabled individuals, and for parents with children.”

There’s no extra charge for traveling with dogs or cats. Animals must travel in approved carriers that fit under the seats immediately in front of their pet parent passengers.

I was a bit disappointed in this, since I drive to Vegas at least twice a month with my two dogs, Stasha and Rocco, and would love an option to fly with them without stowing them in carriers.

I was hoping the policy would include purchasing seats for them, allowing their car seats to strap in for safety. They are 30 and 40 pounds, respectively, too big for the required pet carrier, which is 12 inches by 12 inches by 9 inches.

I bet there are plenty of travelers like me with well-behaved dogs who’d happily pay top dollar for this option. As innovators in the airline travel space, maybe a flight a day for those with animals is something the company should explore?

Safety was another issue I raised with Porges.

Does the private line comply with commercial standards?

Porges states that JetSuiteX complies with all standards for commuter carriers, include passing major airline audits and Department of Transportation fitness tests.

She referred me to the safety page on the company’s website, which outlines its compliance and touts that “JetSuite is rated Platinum, the highest safety rating achievable in civil aviation, from independent safety auditors … . ”

JetSuite also claims it’s the only light jet charter company with in-flight, real-time satellite weather mapping and safe taxi technology installed on every plane. The company website touts high levels of certification for its captains and awards of excellence from the National Airline Transportation Assn.


I might have to try it — but only if there’s a way to accommodate Stasha and Rocco.

4:06 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information on JetSuite X’s safety record.




Friends from L.A. who regularly meet me for fun at my vacation home in Las Vegas have raved about flying JetSuiteX.

It’s easy to see why.


Friends from L.A. who regularly meet me for fun at my vacation home in Las Vegas have raved about flying JetSuiteX.

It’s easy to see why.

Friends from L.A. who regularly meet me for fun at my vacation home in Las Vegas have raved about flying JetSuiteX.

It’s easy to see why.

Rohrabacher’s anti-LGBTQ comments fall

On indifferent Republican ears

6/1/2018


Think before you speak.


Roseanne Barr and incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa)

 are two examples of public figures unwilling — or unable — to take this

 wise advice.


Barr blew up her career this week over a racist tweet.


Rohrabacher, addressing a group of Realtors, may have done the same 

when he said it’s OK for homeowners to decline to sell their properties to buyers 

whose LGBTQ “lifestyle” doesn’t align with their beliefs.


Or maybe not.


 Judging from the OCGOP’s lukewarm reaction to his discriminatory

 comments, it may not affect him at all.

Disney-owned ABC took appropriate action, quickly canceling a hit TV

 show, which sent a strong message that its star’s inappropriate behavior

 would not be tolerated.


This week I asked the chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, 

Fred Whitaker, if the party would take any action against Rohrabacher

 following his statements since the OCGOP endorsed his re-election.


“Dana Rohrabacher is the endorsed candidate for election to the 48th

 Congressional District for both the OCGOP and the CAGOP and has 

been since December,” Whitaker said in an email. 


“Congressman Rohrabacher has issued a statement on the bill in question.

 I refer you to that statement.”


The bill to which he refers, House Resolution 1447, “the Fair and Equal 

Housing Act,” would expand protections based on sexual orientation and 

gender identity. 


It’s already illegal not to lend, sell or rent property based on race, color, 

religion, gender or national origin.


The Realtors had asked Rohrabacher to support the bill expanding those 

protections to the LGBTQ community.


While Barr’s statement had dire consequences in the entertainment business, 

no one in Republican politics is publicly distancing themselves from 

Rohrabacher.


On May 23, before Rohrabacher made his comments, Orange County 

Supervisor Michelle Steel penned a lengthy endorsement commentary in 

the Daily Pilot touting her support for Rohrabacher, a “trusted friend,” 

“godfather to her second daughter” and “… the best man for the job.”


I called Steel’s office this week to see if she still supports Rohrabacher in 

light of his stance. I didn’t get a response.


I don’t know Rohrabacher personally, but I spent a substantial amount of

 time with Barr in the early 2000s and never heard her make a racist 

comment until that tweet appeared.


She’s a comedian with no filter, which is an unfortunate part of her complex personality.


Tweeting in the middle of the night on Ambien was just plain stupid, and

 she’s old enough to know better. 


But at least she apologized.


When I first read Rohrabacher’s comments, I thought they were stupid as

 well and figured he’d recant.

He didn’t. 

He’s unapologetic.


Rohrabacher’s campaign spokesman told CNN that the congressman 

“does not believe the federal government should force those with strong 

religious convictions into a personal or business relationship that is contrary 

to their religion.”


Rohrabacher himself told the Orange County Register that he meant what he said.


“We’ve drawn a line on racism, but I don’t think we should extend that line,” Rohrabacher said, according to the newspaper. “A homeowner should not be 

required to be in business with someone they think is doing something that is immoral.”


So what does former Assemblyman Scott Baugh — Rohrabacher’s chief 

Republican opponent in the 48th Congressional District primary — think of

 his opponent’s latest comments?


Was he jumping for joy in his living room as I imagined?


Baugh said, “It’s an absurd position” Rohrabacher is taking here since

 “selling real estate is a commercial transaction.”


Though I don’t condone what Barr wrote, let’s face it, she’s just a comic,

 not a 30-year congressman who can‘t figure out that housing discrimination 

based on sexual orientation is similar to racial discrimination, 

that “the line” he describes between these two fair housing issues needs

 to be erased.


Unlike ABC’s swift actions, the OCGOP is choosing to do nothing about

 Rohrabacher. 


At least the National Assn. of Realtors withdrew its endorsement.


Will voters follow suit Tuesday and kick this guy to the curb?



Think before you speak.

Roseanne Barr and incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) are two examples of public figures unwilling — or unable — to take this wise advice.


Think before you speak.

Roseanne Barr and incumbent Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) are two examples of public figures unwilling — or unable — to take this wise advice.