Mailbag: School board elections are as important as other races

Ocean View School District Supt. Carol Hansen in a classroom with protective plastic shields.
Ocean View School District Supt. Carol Hansen, pictured on Sept. 2, said that the district will have protective plastic shields for teachers and students in addition to other safety protocols in place for when instruction returns to the classroom. A reader writes that school board elections are even more important because of the pandemic.
(Courtesy of Ocean View School District)

Some of you who read this do not have children in school, so you tend to be less interested in local schools. Congressional, state and city elections are important, but school board elections may be even more critical for the future of our country.

The children right now are the people who are going to work on the planes you board, fix everything that needs to be fixed in your houses, become your doctors, your nurses, your scientists (who will develop new drugs to help humanity) and become teachers to pass on the thrill of learning to your kids.

During the pandemic, what our children’s education looks like could not be more important, so who decides that makes a huge difference. Sure, the administration makes decisions, but the body that hires them is the school board and who is on that school board could not be more important.

See Costa Mesa Brief on YouTube for videos, and when you vote, please check out the board of trustee candidates statements and vote for the best one.

Martie OMeara
Costa Mesa
Retired teacher

Outlining Blom’s history

Newport Beach residents should be very concerned about what is going on in the City Council election. Significant special interest contributions are flowing into the campaign of Noah Blom in order to oust independent Councilman Jeff Herdman. This is designed to ensure a majority in place as the city considers the general plan revision and other significant development issues.

You may not know Blom. In 11 years on the council, I have no memory of having ever met him or having heard from him on any issue. Records show he failed to even vote in 12 elections since 2002, so we can say he is not exactly civic minded.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, city health officers in Costa Mesa cited him and shut down his restaurant for public safety violations. When you look at his actual record, contrary to his campaign ads, he is not an involved civic leader, a successful businessman or a leader in responding to the pandemic. He is a candidate beholden to a small group of donors with very specific agendas at City Hall.

In contrast, Herdman is a man of integrity, who works hard every day to improve the quality of life in Newport Beach and to reduce the impacts of the airport on our neighborhoods. He is an independent voice, not a rubber stamp.

If you are concerned about the future of our city, join with me and a bipartisan group of civic leaders and vote s for Herdman.

Keith Curry
former mayor
Newport Beach

Businesses would have a champion in Blom

Small businesses are struggling. If your favorite restaurant or neighborhood shop hasn’t yet closed its doors for good, it may do so soon. The coronavirus has decimated retail sales and, unlike chain stores, small businesses do not have the resources to survive indefinitely.

On Balboa Island, where I have my store, it seems like every day I see a new “Going Out of Business” or “For Lease” sign on Marine Avenue.

Not only is the charm of our shopping districts at risk, small businesses employ 44.1% of workers in this country, according to the Small Business Administration. And sales taxes generated by small business make up a large portion of the city’s budget.

So far, Newport Beach’s efforts to help small business have been, in my opinion, too little and too late. This can be seen in the continuing and accelerating permanent business closures.

The current City Council even voted down a proposed $20,000 marketing grant of mainly federal funds to the merchants of Balboa Island. I am sure the council had its reasons, but I think it is significant that no one on the council operates a small store or restaurant. Most are lawyers or retired public employees.

Small business needs a champion on the City Council. I believe Noah Blom is that person. As a restaurateur, he knows what it is to start a business, create jobs and to make payroll each month. Our City Council could use his entrepreneurial energy and in-depth business knowledge. I urge you to vote for Blom.

Matthew Pour
Founder, Balboa Island Merchants Assn.

Let’s reelect Harley Rouda

It is hard to believe that a superstar like Harley Rouda would have any competition for the Congressional seat he has occupied since 2018. But it just shows you how entrenched some ideologies can be and how money in politics can as often as not buy power.

But just what kind of power will his opponent, Republican Michele Steel, wield in a large governing body controlled by Democrats? Even the Orange County Register, a bastion of conservatism in Orange County, questions her suitability, stating that in her interview, “she seemed poorly versed in federal policy issues and overly reliant on GOP talking points.”

Harley Rouda, to many peoples’ pleasant surprise, won the endorsement of the Register’s editorial board, explaining that while they have many issues on which they disagree, the congressman has ”proven to be a credible representative of the district, and a supporter of many issues the editorial board cares about strongly.”

This important endorsement follows another award Harley received in June, when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce honored Rouda with the Abraham Lincoln Leadership for America Award.

Let’s hope voters realize how important it is to our 48th district to re-elect someone who has a strong and also caring voice — Harley Rouda!

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

Russ Neal’s attempt to disparage Rep. Harley Rouda by comparing House vote percentages to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is, once again, a knackered illustration of conservative identity politics.

If we wish to pursue a “guilt by association” comparison, then Republican Michelle Steel has no problem with children in cages, is ambivalent about Russian bounties on American soldiers, indulges dystopian and dangerous QAnon conspiracy theories, cares little about reintroducing toxic materials to our air and water, refuses to strongly denounce continued Russian interference in our elections, promotes the dangerous fallacy that herd immunity is a viable means of combating the COVID-19 pandemic, and so on.

Conversely, Harley Rouda has exhibited a level-minded approach during his time in Congress and is a shining example of what can be accomplished when willing to work with anyone, irrespective of party affiliation.

Mark Scott
Huntington Beach

Local Republicans mum on Trump

President Donald Trump made headlines for refusing to grant a disaster declaration — and thus federal relief funds — to California, even as we’re still breathing the smoke from another devastating wildfire season. He changed his mind later, under pressure, but he’s continued to spew falsehoods about the fires’ causes and callousness toward their victims.

Where were our local Republicans— specifically, the elected officials and candidates currently trying to turn our area of Orange County back from blue to red — when the president was refusing to help their fellow Californians? Where was the leadership from Michelle Steel, John Moorlach or Diane Dixon? Not one of them so much as tweeted a polite objection to his decision, much less issued a request for him to reconsider his refusal or a rebuke of his naked spite for our state. Not one of them was willing to put their community over their loyalty to Donald Trump.

Why should any of us trust them to represent us when a disaster comes to Orange County? Vote for Harley Rouda, Cottie Petrie-Norris and Dave Min. They understand the science of climate change, and they care about the Californians who stand to suffer from its effects — in other words, us.

Eliza Rubenstein
Costa Mesa

Costa Mesa deserves praise on budget

Costa Mesa needs extraordinarily careful budget management due to the impact of COVID-19. Mayor Katrina Foley, who is running for reelection, and Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens, also running for City Council reelection, along with their council colleagues and city staff, have demonstrated their capability and judgment on fiscal matters by reasonably addressing the impact of the pandemic.

Before COVID-19, the city’s outlook for Fiscal Year 2019-20 was bright. In February, the Finance Director reported that expenses were on budget and revenues were up. She anticipated that there would be no need to use $450,000 from reserves.

In March, all that changed. Costa Mesa’s revenue plummeted abruptly. Even before Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home order, Costa Mesa’s top sales tax producer, South Coast Plaza, closed temporarily.

To make matters worse, the city had to spend unbudgeted expenses related to COVID-19, including purchasing personal protective equipment, more thorough cleaning of City Hall, and outfitting employees with the technology needed to work remotely.

Under the leadership of Foley and Stephens, the council directed the city to defer capital projects, lay off or furlough 91 part-time employees and eliminate all nonessential spending. The Council approved the use of up to $4.5 million in “disaster” reserves.

The city’s preliminary year-end results indicate that these efforts were very successful. Indications are that no disaster reserves will be necessary to balance the FY 2019-20 budget for normal recurring operations.

In this environment, when so much remains out of the City’s control, it is difficult to predict the balance of the year. What we do know is that Foley, Stephens, City Council, and the staff led by Farrell Harrison has demonstrated the right stuff to protect Costa Mesa in one of the worst financial crises in the city’s 67-year history.

Ralph Taboada
Costa Mesa
Chair, Finance and Pension Advisory Committee

At the most recent Costa Mesa City Council meeting, residents received good news concerning last fiscal year’s budget. Considering the impact of COVID-19 on the city’s economy, residents would be justified in expecting a dire year-end budget report. Fortunately, the council, city leadership and employees recognized the potential financial crisis and quickly made the difficult changes necessary. The preliminary result is not a deficit but a $251,000 General Fund surplus.

How did they do it? They reduced expenses. Making these changes on short notice is challenging. It requires collaborative problem solving by people who are willing to accept the facts of the situation. Honest and open debate where differences are discussed is an important part of the process. Some residents might be skeptical that this can be done effectively in government these days. It’s easy to be critical of the governing challenges during a pandemic, especially in an election year. That’s why it’s important we acknowledge excellent leadership and management, especially when those efforts create positive results.

I urge Costa Mesa voters to use caution when they hear negative political rhetoric about the city’s finances. The presentation to the City Council on Oct. 20 by Finance Director Carol Molina is available on the city’s website. I think you will agree that this bit of good news comes at a time when good news seems to be in short supply.

The City Council, city manager, executive staff and employees deserve our praise in my opinion. This situation is not over and there are many unknowns and challenges going forward. Based on what I have seen so far, Costa Mesa residents are lucky to have this team on the job.

Tom Arnold
Member, Finance and Pension Advisory Committee
Costa Mesa

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