Mailbag: Calls to rescue lifeguard jobs from city cuts

Re: Staffing levels may be reduced (Permanent Lifeguards), Daily Pilot April 19, 2011: The city of Newport Beach has proposed to reduce the year-round lifeguard staffing levels by about 40% (from 13 to 8 employees). As a Newport Beach homeowner, I generally appreciate the city's attempt to save money. However, I find this to be a dreadful proposal.

With fewer year-round lifeguards on patrol during the off-season, more people will drown in our city. At the current staffing levels, a tragic "off-season" drowning occurs about once a year. I can't imagine the grief the various families go through each time a drowning occurs. With a significant cut to year-round lifeguard staff, these horrible events will occur more often.

Any proposal to offset the staffing cuts by bringing in, at the last minute, seasonal lifeguards on "sunny" off-season days is flawed. The veteran year-round lifeguards are the best-qualified lifeguards to identify and spot swimmers in distress during the off-season where one lifeguard must cover a very long portion of coastline.

Once again, I appreciate various cost-savings programs the city has recently implemented. However, this specific cost-savings idea will result in unnecessary tragedies. As a Newport Beach taxpayer, I am not willing to have that blood on my hands. For that reason, I respectfully request the city to withdraw this proposal.

Wade Womack

Newport Beach


There's really no 'off season' in Newport Beach

I have worked for the City of Newport Beach for over 35 years as a lifeguard and have to say I don't often agree with former Battalion Chief Eric Bauer on many things, but his comments on service during off season were right on the money (Mailbag: Off-season lifeguards essential to saving lives). A beach town such as Newport Beach doesn't really have an off season, just a different group of users.

Councilwoman Leslie Daigle says the city observed beachgoers during the winter months and found many go to run, walk, drink coffee, but few venture into the surf, but then in the next paragraph she says it is unclear how many of them actually go into the water. It sounds to me like no official study was done, and she is just popping off a sound bite that fits the budget proposal.

Lifeguards have been around more than 75 years in Newport Beach, yet the city councils and city managers have failed to educate themselves on what these public safety workers do. They seem to be sold on the old stereotype lifeguard theme, and refuse to see the real picture.

This is the biggest obstacle the professional lifeguard faces. In fact it is so bad, the last promotional exam I took had five components in which two of them were clear signs that the council has no clue to the importance of lifeguards and duties they perform: 1.) Write an essay to City Council on what lifeguards do during the winter. 2.) Give an oral presentation to council persons on what lifeguards do during the winter.

I am also worried about City Manager Dave Kiff's comments. He admits that the ocean is a hazardous environment, so to know this and still choose not to provide proper lifeguard staffing, is negligent and will most certainly generate a lawsuit or two down the road, which will surely cost the city more than it will save by reducing these positions.

I retired last November, and I am offended and embarrassed by the civic leaders of Newport Beach who find it necessary to spend $180 million for larger offices, during tight economic times, and be willing to reduce essential services and public safety to the residents and visitors of Newport. Any injury or loss of life due to this cut is on you guys, not the lifeguards

Mitch White

Costa Mesa

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