Barbara Venezia...
Stirring the pot of controversy
 one column at a time...

Newport Beach and Costa Mesa election season begins in earnest


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,

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

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



“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

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.


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


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 


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


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.