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Gardner takes less-is-more approach

'My big idea this year…is there is no big idea,' she tells crowd at mayor's dinner, saying the city has enough big projects on its plate and 'one more major undertaking might just be one too many.'

February 04, 2012|By Mike Reicher
  • Newport Beach Mayor Nancy Gardner smiles as she gives her state-of-the city address Friday night at the Newport Center Marriott.
Newport Beach Mayor Nancy Gardner smiles as she gives… (STEVEN GEORGES,…)

When Newport Beach Mayor Nancy Gardner delivered a two-word state-of-the-city address to the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce last month ("it's fine"), people thought she was mostly joking.

Turns out she wasn't.

Gardner slightly elaborated on that theme Friday night at the annual mayor's dinner, hosted by the advocacy group Speak Up Newport. She said the City Council and its administrators have reshaped the government the past two years, and now it is time to take a breath, to see how the major changes work out. Beyond that, she proposed revamping the city's TV station, better chronicling the area's history and identified some long-term goals.

"My big idea this year…is there is no big idea," Gardner told a sell-out crowd at the Marriott hotel in Newport Center.

She pointed to the merging of the Planning and Building Departments in 2010, the thorough fiscal planning under Keith Curry when he was mayor in 2010; and neighborhood revitalization projects last year spearheaded by then-Mayor Mike Henn.

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"We have done a pretty big reorganization of the city," said Gardner, whose mayoral term lasts a year. "That's a lot, and I think maybe one more major undertaking might just be one too many."

The crowd, mostly made up of politicians, city staffers and community leaders, cheered her brevity and, well, lack of stated ambition.

Bernie Svalstad, chairman of the Corona del Mar Business Improvement District, agreed on Saturday that the city already has undertaken enough projects. He liked the council's moves to privatize more city services, and its revitalization efforts. Others mentioned the under-construction Civic Center and various parks and community centers planned for West Newport.

"They've got a full plate right now," Svalstad said.

Still, the mayor offered some issues that she said should be readily solvable.

She said the 106-year-old city should improve its historical record-keeping and called for the Newport Beach Historical Society to collaborate with the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society.

Gardner's father wrote two books about Newport's colorful characters in the early 20th century: "Bawdy Balboa" and "Naughty Newport," which was recently released on Amazon.

"I think we can do better," she said, suggesting the city launch an oral history project.

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