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Newport Beach


Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

Councilman Blom’s decision to drink on the dais is not a popular one among readers

Fair Game Toms new headshotTo drink or not to drink, that is the question?

In Tuesday’s Fair Game we asked the question of whether or not the people of Newport Beach were okay with City Councilman Noah Blom “enjoying a glass of wine from the dais during a meeting.”

The response was overwhelming. Although several residents voiced opinions that it was okay, most were adamantly opposed. Several even went as far as saying Blom should resign.

But that went past the boundary I was seeking…#1–Is it okay for him to drink? #2–If not, should he become our next Mayor Pro Tem?

Still others voiced their concerns as to the legality of drinking in public. I took that as a challenge to try and figure out, yes or no, is it illegal, or not. Remember, when Noah asked City Attorney Aaron Harp, he said no, but that it was “frowned upon.”

First, I asked several sitting council people whether it was legal or not? The best I could get was “I’ve never seen a law or rule stating it wasn’t.”

Next, I headed to the Newport Beach Police Department and began by asking this question at the front desk, “Is it illegal for me to bring a glass of wine in here to the lobby of the PD?”

After their initial puzzled look after the question, the initial response was “yes, I think so.” But when I took it a step further and explained my full question regarding the Councilman Blom dilemma, three different officers responded with “That’s a good question.”

The last one, did however, refer me over to the City’s Municipal Code. So, I checked. 

There are a number of things referencing alcohol and drinking in public (MC 10.04.010), but nothing specifically answered my question. 

“No person shall drink or consume any alcoholic beverage, or possess any can, bottle or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage which has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed, in or on any public street or alley, public sidewalk, public or private parking lot, public restroom, public pier, private pier open to the public upon the payment of any fee, public beach, vacant lot, or public park.”

Everything but a public building.

I thought, well maybe the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has something. They did, under Chapter 9.105.010 – Public Consumption and Possession of Alcoholic Beverages:

“Public property and public areas within the city should be readily accessible and available to residents and the public at large. The consumption of alcoholic beverages in these areas can constitute a public health and safety hazard that adversely impacts neighborhoods, commercial areas and the general welfare of the city. It is the city’s intent to promote the use and enjoyment of public property and specified private property while balancing special events where alcoholic beverages may be permitted with appropriate conditions and regulations in place.”

Cutting to the chase, this means in my estimation, to drink at the City you need a permit. Still, I would like to remind you all, I’m not a legal scholar, not even close. 

I’ve heard several council personnel are considering the formal introduction of a rule or regulation to enforce “proper decorum.” However, they’ll need four votes to get it passed.

At the beginning of this effort, I was hoping to give you a definitive answer as to the yes or no, but it hasn’t been that cut and dry.

Below, I’ve taken a bunch of excerpts from letters received since Tuesday. But, before we go there, a couple of things. 

First, to the woman who submitted a comment anonymously that she was the “mother of three young children” and completely supported Noah and his right to drink at City Hall. I ask her, would you also be okay with your children’s teacher drinking in the classroom? I could argue that he or she probably needs a drink more than Noah while chasing around 20-30 kids.

Second, I thought this letter in particular submitted by Peter Zeughauser raised a couple of strong concerns: 

“As far as I know, drinking alcohol without a permit is unlawful at nearly all city public facilities. I don’t know that city hall is formally included or excluded, but it seems to me that a council member consuming alcohol while doing the public’s business lacks decorum. And, it might expose the city to liability if the person consuming the alcohol was impaired as a result and had an accident causing in an injury to someone else or damaged property while driving after the meeting. 

“I would be curious to know whether councilman Blom condones city employees drinking on the job? What about the views of the rest of the council? What about leadership by example? Is this something we want our kids to think is ok? My understanding is that the alcohol was served in a coffee cup. Why would somebody do that unless they thought it lacked decorum and was inappropriate to be seen drinking while sitting at the dais? Now that we know at least one council member drinks on the job why not buy the council a set of wine glasses so we can get it out in the open. At least then we’ll know how often and how much alcohol is being consumed.”

And this one by Gerald A. Giannini:

“Elected representatives’ behavior, within any Governmental body, at any level of the spectrum carries with it written and implied decorum to be followed. Willfully disregarding these principles disrespects fellow Council Members, the office itself, the office holder, and most importantly, the voters. 

“The use of alcohol removes the ‘filter’ part of a person’s attitude, as witnessed by Councilperson Blom’s use of ‘locker room’ language to express his opinion at a recent City Council Meeting. The Council Chamber has no place for this type of language or immaturity. This is not only childish, but it also further shows that voters made a mistake with electing this individual. 

“While it is disappointing that he is on the Council, it begs the question as to how could any of the other astute Council members even think of or support this type of person to be the face of our city, as Mayor Pro Tem? The past year has seen many difficult changes and many time-honored standards of our society condemned and laws routinely ignored. The City of Newport Beach has always been a cut above the norm and this distinction should continue. Therefore, the Council should not reward this type of performance or contribute to the further decline in decency, by selecting Councilperson Blom as Mayor Pro Tem.”

Many other excerpts and comments can be found elsewhere in today’s Stu News Newport under Letters to the Editor. 

‘Less anyone think that we’re only printing one side, rest assured that all comments supporting Mr. Blom’s conduct have been included.

• • •

The Original O.C. Swap Meet returns tomorrow to the OC Fair & Event Center. 

The “original” is not to be confused with the old Teller Family swap meet that graced the fairgrounds in its heyday.

This event was created in recent time to provide a space for local small businesses and the community to come together in an outdoor setting showcasing products and goods for all to buy. 

It runs from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., with free admission. There is a $10 charge for parking. 

• • •

The final Crossroads of the West Gun Show also takes place this weekend at the OC Fair & Event Center. Doors open on Saturday (Nov. 27) from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday (Nov. 28) from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Tickets at $18 for a two-day pass.

A state law written by Sen. Dave Min of Irvine, was passed only affecting gun sales on the OC Fair site, ending a relationship that lasted some 25 years.

That law goes into effect on January 1.

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