Mailbag: Laguna Beach High School grad needs help after accident

Brigitte Naughton uses a microscope in the lab at Yale.
Laguna Beach High School graduate Brigitte Naughton uses a microscope in the lab at Yale. She was recently in a boating accident that injured her mouth and jaw and will require major reconstructive surgery.
(Courtesy of Celine Macmillan)

My sister Brigitte Naughton (who is 20 years younger than me) was born and raised in Laguna Beach. Brigitte went through the whole Laguna school system, from El Morro to Thurston to Laguna Beach High, where she graduated with multiple academic scholarships. She received her undergraduate degree with honors in biochemistry and molecular biology at UC Santa Barbara, along with a minor in English Literature, and was the science editor of the university newspaper. The head of the English department at UCSB offered to sponsor her for a doctorate. After graduating, Brigitte was hired at Pfizer Oncology in San Diego, where she performed research on cancer therapies to pay off her student loan debt. She was quickly promoted to senior associate researcher. Her co-workers at Pfizer encouraged her to apply to graduate school in order to reach her full potential. She applied to the top graduate schools in her field and was accepted to eight highly competitive programs. She is now going into her third year at Yale University, working towards a doctorate in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.

Brigitte exemplifies what students from the Laguna Beach School District can achieve. And now, due to a terrible accident, Brigitte needs our help.

Brigitte was on a small boat with friends recently when a line for wakeboarding snapped and a large metal piece hit her face, the force of it shattering her jaw, knocking out teeth and splitting her tongue. She is dealing with major reconstructive surgeries on her jaw and teeth, nerve damage to her mouth, and complicated surgical procedures involving internal stitches and two permanent metal plates placed in her jaw. The ambulance, the first emergency room she was taken to and all the future dental work — including efforts to realign her bite, braces, implants, root canals on injured teeth, and potential crowns — are not covered by her Yale insurance.

In spite of everything, Brigitte remains focused on her academic goals at Yale. Her professors are helping her on the academic front; let’s help her on the financial front.

From Brigitte: “I am so appreciative of the donations received. I was in the hospital for two days and underwent major reconstructive surgery to repair my shattered jaw. I had two metal plates permanently inserted to fix my fractured jaw, in addition to sutures to repair my tongue that was split in half and my chin that was cut through. I am lacking sensation in my lower left chin and lip, but the doctor is optimistic that because the nerve was not severed, I may regain feeling in this area. It’s been a really challenging time, worrying about whether I can afford the care I need while focusing on my studies and lab work. I hope to be able to continue my PhD and regain the ability to eat and talk normally. I cannot overstate how grateful I am to those who have helped.”

Here is the link to Brigitte’s GoFundMe page:

Celine Macmillan
Laguna Beach

Re: Woman arrested on suspicion of vandalism, assaulting officer after breaking Costa Mesa PD window, Daily Pilot, June 30. A drunk, 20-year-old woman throws a rock with such force and accuracy that she breaks a second floor window in the police station! Seriously she should be PITCHING for a baseball team.

Kim Hadj Hamou
Huntington Beach

Due to the massive fireworks on the Fourth of July, about 120 animals were taken to the Huntington Beach Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, Daily Pilot, July 7. Animals such as a peregrine falcon, a black-crowned night heron chick and a gray fox hit by a car were some of the helpless creatures scared and hurt by the fireworks and noise in the sky. It is readily apparent that only humans seem to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth. If Dr. Doolittle could be summoned he might hear some of the comments by the animals such as: “Who do I have to bite to make a dent in the chain of command that has the authority to get this holiday off the books?” “Could the person in charge of all these loud noises and colors move their stupid show about 100 miles out to sea and let the sharks and whales have their turn for a while?” And lastly, “If the inconsiderate humans have to have this holiday, have them put a mute on all the sounds, black out all the bright colors and get rid of the horrible smells we have to endure from the stuff that makes them go boom, boom.” “Other than that … we are willing to share our home with you guys.”

Bill Spitalnick
Newport Beach

An archaic Municipal Improvement Act of 1913, meant as a vehicle for beneficial community development in the pre-World War One era, has silently morphed into a stealth, “under the radar” strategy to levy tens of millions of dollars in property taxes without the normal rigid safeguards and procedures for voter approval. The city of Newport Beach has mastered the use of this Municipal Act specifically to under-ground utilities over the past 20-plus years. The strategy is to divvy up each project as a small Assessment District affecting several hundred property owners at a time without attracting too much unwanted attention. To date, per the data available on the city’s website, it has been accomplished over 60 times. Due to its impact on a small number of properties at any one time, it gets scant attention from the public at large and protests by the scattered opposition are ignored by the city or drowned out in the cacophony of absurdities spouted on NextDoor.

One such project, Assessment District 124, is scheduled for a so-called vote on July 27. Unlike the others, this is an unusually large $32,815,700 project affecting 966 properties on Balboa Island. The average cost (a property tax euphemistically called an “assessment” under the California Constitution) amounts to a staggering $34,000 per parcel, if paid as a lump sum. However, by my calculations, if paid over 20 years the total payment could be as high as $54,000 depending on the bond interest rate in 2023 or 2024.

Now to the upcoming Balboa Island vote on July 27. The ballots, mailed out around June 10, are 100% by mail; the ballot roster is managed by a contractor hired by the city. Four weeks after the mailing, it was determined during a private meeting that a number of voters have not yet received their ballots and may not even be aware of the assessment about to befall them. This has been a recurring pattern on past such ballots — as little as 70% voter participation in many cases — leading to passage with way less than 50% of affected property owners approving. Furthermore, the city has no methodology for checking signatures on the mail-in ballots, relying solely on the penalty of perjury. The vote, by design and I am told by statute via Article II of the California Constitution, is a matter of public record subjecting participants to potential intimidation and peer pressure.

The city has provided several informational attachments along with the ballots. Missing in the attachments are the customary pleadings for and against the initiative from each of the two camps so that the voters can make an informed choice. No opposing view has been provided with the ballots. There have been no hearings or informational meetings held by the city on this huge four-years-long project. We have been told by the city that this obvious lack of transparency and ballot integrity is sanctioned by the Municipal Improvement Act of 1913. But the city continues to present itself as an independent, honest arbiter in an unpleasant feud of its own making, between dueling neighbors.

It is high time for the city to step in and protect the residents. But will it do so? Highly unlikely given the creative approach (having property owners seemingly opt into higher taxes voluntarily) provides them with a convenient and healthy subsidy to what is in essence city and utility infrastructure projects.

Jamshed Dastur
Balboa Island

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