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Mailbag: Newport residents may want a library lecture hall but they certainly don’t need one

The Newport Beach Central Library.
The Newport Beach Central Library. A Library Lecture Hall has been proposed for the campus.
(File Photo)

Paul Watkinsrecent letter (“The Newport Central Library needs a lecture hall for prominent guest speakers,” Oct. 11) supporting the need for an $8 million library lecture hall makes my point: he “wants it.” We don’t “need it.”

Watkins, vice chair of the Board of Library trustees, thinks it’s a good use of our taxes to spend $8 million so high-profile speakers like Doris Kearns Goodwin can be shrouded in opulence — at our expense — as she hawks her latest book.

He wants taxpayers to spend $8 million because neither the $140 million City Hall chambers or adjacent Friends Room “offers fixed comfortable seating or a sloped floor that preserves all-important sight lines.”

Here’s a an idea to save us $8 million: rent a riser for $200. The sight lines will be perfect.


Here’s another idea, Watkins: If you pay Goodwin’s fee she will speak on the beach, and we’ll save $8 million and apply it to things we need like bay dredging, public safety and paying down the pension debt.

I was pleased to read that the library folks would use private funds for 50% of construction costs. They can start by paying all of the estimated $750,000 architect fee and fund-raise for 100% of the construction cost because they want it.

Bob McCaffrey
Newport Beach

Lecture hall is indeed a Newport Beach need

At the risk of boring your readers with our to-and-fro exchanges, I would like to make a couple of observations regarding Bob McCaffrey’s recent sarcastic comments about the proposed Library Lecture Hall (“Newport library doesn’t need to build a lecture hall,” Oct. 9).

McCaffrey’s letter mentions an $8 million price tag for the lecture hall several times before he finally concedes that half the construction costs will come from private funds. That cost-sharing arrangement was part of the Library Board’s presentation to the council on March 12, which Mr. McCaffrey either knew or should have known before he started his letter-writing campaign in the press about the lecture hall cost.


McCaffrey apparently did not see the published photo I took of the March 8 Witte Lecture by Amy Walter in the Friends Room. Indeed, Walter is on a riser and is still cut off from view for many attendees on the flat-floored Friends Room. And I guess McCaffrey’s simplistic and naive suggestion would have us stack riser-upon-riser-upon-riser so that folks sitting up front would crane their necks to look up at the speaker. Think first row at the Lido Theatre.

The Friends Room hosted over 69,000 participants in 2018 spanning more than 200 events, approximately one- to one-and-a-half times the number of participants in 2009. Over 1.1 million people visited our libraries in 2018. Demand is growing for both.

Yes, the Library Board views the lecture hall as a “need” at this point. While McCaffrey ridicules our desire to offer high-quality facilities to host our programming, we believe the library campus will be greatly enhanced with a 275-seat lecture hall (plus 50 overflow capacity), with sloped fixed comfortable seating and excellent sight lines, with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment.

McCaffrey does not believe such a facility merits even one cent of public funding, even though the city will own 100% of the lecture hall upon completion with some attendant revenues. He has other priorities for the city’s money, but the Library Board believes enhancing the Central Library competes well with any other city project, especially since half the construction cost will in effect be donated to the city.

Paul Watkins
Vice chair, Board of Library trustees
Newport Beach

Let public speak at start of school board meetings

After multiple requests, the Newport Mesa school board has decided to discuss on Oct. 29 returning public comments to the beginning of its meetings. This is where public comments should be.

At the last board meeting, over 120 teachers attended to address concerns. Ten or more were allowed to speak, but that was after 10 p.m., when they had waited four hours.

Waiting until the end of meetings to speak has not shown any respect to the citizens the school board represents. Parents should be able to speak at the beginning of the meeting and then return home to monitor homework and bedtime for their children.

Teachers should be able to state their concerns and then return home to prepare for their next day of teaching and take care of their home responsibilities. Teenagers should be encouraged to attend and speak at school board meetings but not late at night. Young parents who want to speak should not have to spend money on child care in order to speak.


Newport Mesa trustees, return public comments to the beginning of the board agenda so you can listen to and better partner with the families you represent.

Martie OMeara
Costa Mesa

Give readers more notice of events

In the Oct. 19 edition of the Daily Pilot, on page 2, there were four notices of events taking place that day, and three others of events happening on Saturday and Sunday.

I may have attended one or more of the Saturday events if I had known about them before Saturday. I’m retired and don’t get up at the crack of dawn.

I read the sports section of The Times with my breakfast, but don’t get to the rest of the paper until later in the day.

Please give us at least a day’s prior notice of upcoming events.

Louis S. Caric
Huntington Beach

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