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Avery, Lowrey and O’Neill for Newport Beach City Council

There are three open seats available on the Newport Beach City Council this year, with Councilman Tony Petros choosing not to seek re-election in District 2 and Councilmen Ed Selich and Keith Curry being termed out of office in Districts 5 and 7, respectively.

In District 2, we found much to like about Shelley Henderson — very reasonable views on property rights and development, her support for the Measure MM supermajority requirement for any future tax increases and an impressive background — but her lack of participation in candidate forums causes us to wonder about her commitment to the job.

Brad Avery’s attitudes on development are too anti-growth and heavy-handed for our taste, but he is sound on fiscal issues, criticizing the old council for running up too much debt and calling for spending restraint, particularly in the wake of the Civic Center project boondoggle.

In District 5, we liked some of what Mike Glenn has to offer, but we give the nod to Lee Lowrey. Lowrey co-founded a real estate investment and management company and serves as chairman of the Atlas Political Action Committee, which advocates for free markets, limited government, lower taxes and individual liberty.

“Property rights are very, very important to me,” Lowrey told us, adding that proposed developments need to stick to the General Plan and the planning process. Furthermore, some city regulations are “a little bit out of whack,” he said. Lowrey also wants to cut the budget, pursue pension reform and improve infrastructure, such as making needed seawall repairs.

In the hotly contested District 7 race, we were impressed by attorney Will O’Neill’s knowledge of the city’s finances, informed by his position on the Finance Committee. “If you don’t understand the budget, you don’t understand the policy,” he explained to us.

O’Neill also supported the Banning Ranch development and is committed to pension reform and continuing to pay down pension liabilities at an accelerated rate, though his endorsement by the city’s police and fire unions gives us some pause, particularly given that Newport Beach already has the highest per-household unfunded pension liability ($6,653) in the county, according to a May Register report. O’Neill said that in talks with the unions he simply laid out the numbers, explained how increasing pension costs would crowd out other city services, and made them no promises. He seems sincere, so we will take him at his word, and hold him to it.

We also gave very serious consideration to endorsing Fred Ameri in this race because of his strong understanding of business and land use issues in the city.

The Editorial Board recommends votes for Brad Avery, Lee Lowrey and Will O’Neill on Nov. 8.

This article is by the Orange County Register Editorial Board, and was released on October 31.

Vice Chair Michelle Steel appoints new Orange County Airport Commissioner, Lee Lowrey

During the June 29th, Board of Supervisors meeting Vice Chair Michelle Steel and her colleagues appointed longtime Newport Beach resident Lee M. Lowrey to the Orange County Airport Commission representing the 2nd District.

“I look forward to working with Mr. Lowrey as my district representative to the commission. I believe his vast experience and lengthy personal affiliation to this area as resident make him the perfect candidate,” said Vice Chair Steel. “My primary objective is to ensure that the residents living closest to the airport have a strong voice on the County Airport Commission.”

Mr. Lowrey is the Chief Financial Officer and Co-Founder of Arbor Capital Partners in Newport Beach. As a resident of Newport Beach for a total of 18 years he understands the significance of the role that John Wayne Airport plays for Orange County both in assets and concerns. His extensive experience managing investment assets also make him a prime choice for making wise financial decisions.

“I am honored to be nominated by Supervisor Steel to serve on the Orange County Airport Commission. I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners on ensuring that the Orange County Airport continues to deliver best in class facilities and service to our residents and businesses of Orange County, as well as upholding the Settlement Agreement and JWA curfew to protect Newport residents from airport noise,” said Lee Lowrey

The Orange County Airport Commission is tasked with the responsibility of making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on issues concerning the development, maintenance and daily operations of John Wayne Airport as well as all airports.

This article was released by the Office of Vice Chair Michelle Steel.

Lee Lowrey Running
For Newport City Council

April 13, 2015, The Daily Pilot, Hannah Fry, Reporter

Lee Lowrey, a local businessman known for raising money for political campaigns, is stepping out from his leadership position in a well-known political action committee to run for a seat on the Newport Beach City Council.

Lowrey, a registered Republican, filed paperwork this week declaring his intent to run for the District 5 seat, which represents Balboa Island and the Fashion Island area.

“I’ve helped a lot of people volunteering and raising money for a lot of years, but I’ve always wanted the opportunity to actually run for office myself,” he said.

If elected, the 45-year-old Balboa Island resident would replace Councilman Ed Selich, who will be termed out this year after serving on the council since 2006. Mike Glenn, an 11-year Balboa Peninsula resident and activist, and Jeff Herdman, a 17-year Balboa Island resident, also have launched campaigns for the seat. 

Lowrey, a resident of Newport Beach the past 18 years, moved to Balboa Island nearly two months ago. His wife, Sarah, used to live on the island and the two had long wanted to find a home there.

Lowrey recently co-founded Arbor Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Newport Beach specializing in real estate investment and development in Southern California and Colorado. Before that, Lowrey spent several years as a portfolio manager at Colony Capital managing real estate investment portfolios totaling more than $1 billion.

He said his experience in finance in the private sector would make him an asset as a councilman.

“Growing up during the Reagan years, I experienced the real benefits of a pro-work, pro-business and limited-government culture,” he said. “My passion for public service and a conservative philosophy of governance not only began with the Reagan revolution but continued up to now.”

Lowrey said that if he is elected, he would like to focus on financial transparency, budgetary oversight, improving Newport’s aging infrastructure and maintaining public safety resources.

Specifically, he said the incoming council will have to handle how to fund improvements to the city’s sewer system. The City Council recently turned down a staff proposal to increase customer sewer rates to fund repairs.

Lowrey said an increasing number of teenagers abusing heroin in local schools also is a cause for concern.

“As I learn more about it, I hope I can be someone who tries to bring that issue more to light,” he said.

Lowrey is no stranger to politics in and out of Orange County.

His interest in politics and government was spawned in 1988 as a volunteer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s first U.S. congressional campaign and continued in his time as a student at USC and in leadership roles as chairman of the Orange County Young Republicans.

Most recently, Lowrey has acted as founding chairman of the Atlas Political Action Committee, a non-candidate-controlled committee that raises money in support of certain candidates and in opposition to others.

The committee has supported council candidates in various Orange County cities, as well as politicians running for county supervisor, state Assembly and governor.

During the 2014 council election in Newport Beach, the committee spent thousands of dollars supporting then-candidates Scott Peotter, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and Kevin Muldoon, who were ultimately elected. Atlas also spent thousands sending mailers opposing candidates Mike Toerge and incumbent Rush Hill, both of whom lost.

Three council seats are up for grabs in the November election, with at least two candidates running for each one.

Councilman Tony Petros, who represents District 2 — which includes Newport Heights and Newport Crest — is running for reelection. Shelley Henderson also is trying for the seat.

Local lawyers Phil Greer and Will O’Neill and former Planning Commissioner Fred Ameri are running to replace Councilman Keith Curry, who will be termed out of his seat representing District 7 (Newport Coast and Newport Ridge).