Print

Letters to the Editor

Advisory group approves of council’s decision to open discussions on COVID-19 related items

At their lastb meeting, the Newport Beach City Council voted to discuss the passage of a mask enforcement ordinance, as well as instituting a one person-one seat rule in bars and eating establishments, at a future meeting. Recover Newport, a group of former Newport Beach Mayors and Councilmembers, wishes to congratulate the current City Council on their decision to open these items for discussion as a way of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus as many California cities have already done, including our neighboring communities of Costa Mesa and Irvine.

The constant change in State regulations is creating a yo-yo effect which causes confusion among both residents and businesses.

This group believes that having an open discussion at a City Council meeting will allow those for and against such regulations the ability to let the City Council know their feelings on the subject.

Hearing their constituents’ feelings and discussing the issue amongst themselves will assure all residents that the City Council has thoroughly vetted these issues no matter what decision they reach.

The City Council is to be commended for taking this proactive step and we encourage them to schedule this agenda item as soon as possible.

Edward Selich           Tony Petros 

Rush Hill                    Nancy Gardner

Steve Rosansky        Mike Henn 

Keith Curry               Don Webb

Recover Newport is a group of former Mayors and City Council members who are invested in safely restoring the economic and community health of the City of Newport Beach which has been damaged as a result of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. This group has been observing public health- and policy-related responses at the state and county level, focusing on the actions that would directly affect community sustainability and resilience in Newport Beach.

Our schools need to be open

(To Mr. Sung, NMUSD and respective BOE members)

In the wake of recent reopenings of many OC private and charter schools (for in-person instruction), I became very curious and frustrated with the situation. Why are my children (students at HVE) [Harbor View Elementary] at home struggling with remote learning while my neighbors’ kids go to school? It is well documented that distance learning has been a “failure” (by OC-BOE) and kids’ testing scores have fallen behind (by numerous sources).

HAVES AND HAVE NOTS

We are literally in the midst of a real educational divide which grows every day our schools remain closed. The HAVES and the HAVE NOTS are more real than ever.

WAIVER SYSTEM

Once I learned of the waiver system introduced in August, I grew very upset it was put forth too late in the planning process (after OC BOE voted for full opening, only to be shut down by the Governor based on watch list status) and that the majority of schools granted waivers were private and charter, whom are more able to pivot, yet one OC elementary school district was able to obtain the wavier. 

State leadership has been poor (perhaps inexcusable and unconstitutional in closing of our schools) yet proactive measures and communication from the OC BOE, DOE, districts and schools have also been lacking. We have no clear idea when schools may actually reopen (only words such as “should be able to reopen as of” from Dr. Chau, County Health Officer) and no clear cut idea of what safety measures will be taken/have been taken in preparation of reopening.

Why haven’t more districts, specifically NMUSD taken steps to obtain the wavier especially as OC BOE voted for a total opening? Where is the gap analysis of what is needed for the waiver versus CDPH Industry Guidelines for school operations? What is the plan for the safe reopening in light of the CDPH paper published in August?

Can we really sit back and wait for OC to come off [the] “watch list” (now defunct) and stay off of it as the primary means for reopening? Waivers seem to offer the safest bet for K-6 to ensure continuity in operations. 

PETITION

Approximately two weeks ago, I started an online petition for NMUSD district to pursue a waiver or provide reasons why they could not. The basis of this petition is to close the educational divide and provide for our students what other local schools are doing. After all, we live in the same environment and can take precautions for the kids and staff.

Since my petition started, our potential reopening date at some unknown capacity, Phase 2 (aimed for after Labor Day, September 8, as stated by Mr. Chau yet has never been communicated by our school, district or OC BOE/ DOE) has since been pushed back (by at least two weeks to September 22) due to the Governor’s new four-tiered, color-coded system. As suspected, the State’s system, previously the “watch list” and now color-based, is not reliable since the State keeps changing criteria, and local dynamics in OC may or may not meet the new criteria.

Yet what we DO know is waivers have been granted and continue to be granted allowing some students the advantage of in-person learning while many are not allowed to do so.

PLAINLY EXPRESSED

Our kids need to be in school. There are huge costs (educational, emotional, social, as well as economic to families) for kids to be in distance learning. (Those families that wish to elect distance should be able to do so, but the vast majority want their kids in school.)

450+ SIGNATURES

In two weeks, we have collected more than 450 signatures for NMUSD Superintendent Mr. Sung to “waiver up” or answer why we cannot. The link to the petition is listed below and enclosed is the PDF file of the signers to date. I expect this list to grow in number over time as the petition will remain open at https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/waiverup-hve.

I look forward to your discussion on September 2 at the BOE meeting (held via teleconference) and a response to this email/petition, specifically to all the concerned parents and community members who have signed it and remain keenly interested in having all kids back at school for in-person learning ASAP with proper safeguards. We deserve leadership, transparency and action.

Sincerely,

Alicia Volkov

Corona del Mar

Cautionary Tales

Being a resident of Newport Beach has definite benefits for enjoying the magnificent scenery that surrounds us. We can take advantage of the beaches, parks, hiking trails and, most significantly, the Upper Newport Bay without traveling to another city or country.

More recently as a Newport Bay Conservancy volunteer and board member, I have become aware of just how important preserving and protecting this territory has become. There are many more people out recreating in the area, whether it be biking, hiking or kayaking. Most are cognizant of the fact of how precious this area is to the wildlife habitat. However, there are of late, many who are not aware of the preserve and protect guidelines that, over the years, have been implemented so that this estuary remains pristine for future generations.

Living in the Bluffs area affords me the luxury of being able to walk down to Big Canyon to observe and paint the beauty of the Back Bay from all angles and vantage points. Imagine my horror to find a woman in the mudflats claiming to be picking weeds! I was told that she has been doing this for years, but obviously didn’t realize that this was a protected area with vegetation for nesting endangered birds.

Then, while kayaking, I noticed there were many more kayakers and paddle boarders floating into channels that were clearly marked closed to any traffic, also for protection of wildlife (and endangered species). There is also no beaching of any crafts on any of the sand beaches (or islands) in the upper bay, and certainly no hiking in the designated habitat restoration areas that are clearly posted. We, as volunteers are only to advise, not to enforce, which can be quite a frustrating experience.

The icing on the cake this week, however, was a Duffy boat parked in the water off Big Canyon, where a boater dove into the water to cool off. As tempting as this might be, it is prohibited to boat past the Newport Aquatic Center (NAC) from the lower harbor with any motorized boat, including these electric flat bottomed boats. Luckily, they didn’t have to be towed out because getting stuck in the mud is a common occurrence even for kayaks if they get too close to shore…been there, done that!

I might give all the violators the benefit of the doubt, but it seems common sense went out of the window once COVID joined us. Please rethink any of these actions because they all have dangerous consequences. Habitat can be destroyed as well as long-lasting effects on the wildlife that reside in the Upper Newport Bay. Remember we are the guests on their turf, not the other way round. So if you are hiking with dogs, remember that Newport Beach has a leash law. If you have a kayak or paddle board, respect the channels that are closed to traffic. (Take advantage of the new buoy signs that show where you can go and what you might see.) If you own or rent a Duffy, please be aware that any boating past the NAC is strictly prohibited. Stay safe and sane in these trying times and in the future.

Sherry Marger

Newport Beach