Mailbag: We need the public's input on the harbor

When it comes to Newport Harbor, everyone agrees on two things: It's one of the finest small craft harbors in the world and it's essentially built out. The 1,200 private homes on the bay take up 85% of the waterfront. The remaining portion is occupied by commercial operations, public access areas and public institutions.

The harbor is magnificent, thanks to careful public and private stewardship over the past 100 years.

Looking ahead, the harbor will remain essentially the same beautiful place for the next 100 years, with many improvements for all users. However, this will only happen if we provide at least an equal amount of planning and funding that was contributed by citizens and City Hall over the last century.

The harbor may be built out, but it will never be finished. The elements are against us: higher water, silt, rot, corrosion, erosion. We demand cleaner water, better services and character preservation.

A comprehensive vision for the harbor exists. "Harbor and Bay Element, fourth chapter of the city's 2006 General Plan, sets forth goals and policies based on the outcomes from a four-year public process. In broad terms, the 18-page document shows the way forward for managing and improving Newport Harbor for generations to come. It is a reflection of our values, a guide for decision making and a view to our harbor's future. It was approved by voters, and it's easily found on the city's website.

The heavy lifting needed to implement the plan led to the creation of Tidelands Management Committee, formed a year ago by then-Mayor Mike Henn and council members Nancy Gardner and Ed Selich. Along with a citizens' advisory group, the committee is working toward the completion of a master infrastructure plan for the harbor, Upper Newport Bay and our beaches.

It is also coming to grips with the challenges of financing what will ultimately be a budget in excess of $100 million. Regardless of revenue issues, a solid plan is needed to fulfill the vision of the 2006 Harbor and Bay Element.

This is where you come in. Despite many public meetings on this subject, informed input is still needed. What improvements do you think the harbor needs? Below is a partial list of the infrastructure improvements being considered. Additionally, the Harbor Commission is seeking ways to retain harbor character and improve services.

Infrastructure items

•Lower bay dredging (now occurring). New higher seawall for Balboa Island. Build Marina Park and Mariner's Mile Walkway.

Harbor character/services

•Should there be a limit on the size of vessels in the harbor? Do current pier head and/or project lines need adjustment? Should Newport conduct its own on-going dredging?

•Should Lower Castaways be developed for public small boat launching? Is a water taxi service needed? How do we keep marine businesses on the waterfront? How do we improve services for mooring lessees?

It's vitally important that we consider every idea. The best ideas usually come from those who use the harbor and know it well, but we need fresh input from all citizens.

Please email any harbor commissioner with your thoughts about maintaining and improving Newport Harbor. The commission welcomes your input. Our next meeting is at 6 p.m. June 13 in the Council Chambers. The Tidelands Management Committee will review the Infrastructure Master Plan in detail at its meeting at 4 p.m. June 20 at the Oasis Senior Center.

•Duffy Duffield:

•Brad Avery:

•Duncan McIntosh:

•Chairman Ralph Rodheim

•Karen Rhyne:

•Doug West:

•David Girling:

Brad Avery

Newport Beach

The writer is a harbor commissioner and sailing instructor at Orange Coast College.


Political ambition hurts Costa Mesa

The city of Costa Mesa is a small blip on the map, but it's a perfect example of the overall problems we face. It's a city that could be a jewel of Orange County. It has location, industry, a good tax base and people who enjoy living here. And like many cities, it went though tough times over the last couple years and some sacrifices had to be made.

But what is happening in its political world is just appalling. A perfect storm formed and spawned a breeding ground for a couple of ego- and political-driven people who have no desire to help anyone but themselves and their followers. For the record, I still feel both political parties are corrupt, but in this instance it's the Republican Party that is running this zoo.

Somehow, after twice failing to get elected in Fountain Valley, Jim Righeimer brought his asylum to the Costa Mesa City Council. He weaseled a majority and has brought the city to its knees, all for political gain.

Creating chaos where there is none and stopping a city's healing by tearing away compromise, 30% of the entire city's staff is gone, while the other 70% are threatened (best word I can think of) with huge pay cuts, layoffs, stolen benefits, etc.

The city or the citizen's needs are never considered. It's the GOP that is running its playbook. Police, firefighters, teachers and unions are causing "your misery." If it were a comic, you would see growth and prosperity in a locked room, with Righeimer and Councilman Steve Mensinger holding the door shut.

If the council would just use half the effort to work together, the city would thrive. But too much effort is used to make statements, have talking points and line up the next GOP candidates. Over-spending on lawyers and lawsuits to lay people off, or increasing spending 400% on gutters and street slurry just to create deficits, is not productive.

It's the people who have to fix these problems. Stand up for what is right. To quote a movie, "Network," "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore." A complete cleaning of the political house is what is needed but it seems impossible. So use a voice, use a vote, use influence, but do something. It may be a last ditch effort but its all we have.

Eric McVey

Costa Mesa


Kelly Thomas beating should evoke outcry

Why is there so much interest in the alleged murder of a homeless man? I think it is because the public is genuinely alarmed at the mindless barbarity of our so-called protectors. I hope there is a measurable outcry for the proper punishment of the Fullerton cops, who are accused of being the perpetrators. Here is my own outrage, for however you want to use it.

Don Hull

Costa Mesa


Politicians need to race for us

Once again, we have a statewide race affecting our community (the 74th Assembly District) where the emphasis by the leading Republican candidates is not who can be the best problem-solver and representative for their constituents, but who can be the best partisan warrior in Sacramento ("Mansoor throws punches," May 17). It might mean something if the GOP controlled the state Legislature, but it doesn't. Instead, behind the Orange Curtain, we wind up with cardboard conservatives being elected who do next to nothing for the citizenry in their districts except rattle their sabers at opponents.

It's time we put parties to one side and elect effective representatives who can solve problems, address issues and deal with concerns on a local level. It's time we refuse to elect partisan puppets who are doctrinaire in their ideology and inflexible in their approach to governing. It's time we elect representatives who care more about their constituents than monied special interests and party bosses. Shouldn't that be the case?

Tim Geddes

Huntington Beach


When teens become adults

In just a few short months, graduating seniors will be heading off to college and living on their own. As a parent who has spent years keeping your child safe from trouble and danger, you may feel relieved to know your job as Supermom or -dad is almost done.

What many parents don't realize, however, is that protecting graduating seniors is just as important as protecting the child for whom you once bought car seats, cabinet locks and kneepads.

That's because in the eyes of the law, your baby is now a legal adult.

That means that if your teen is involved in a serious accident, strict HIPAA laws may prevent doctors and hospitals from communicating with you. Dealing with financial institutions is almost impossible and something as simple as changing flight plans over spring break can be a nightmare without permission.

So how can you legally stay involved in your teen's life and continue to maintain control? The first step is becoming your child's financial and medical power of attorney. This will ensure you are able to make decisions and call the shots for your child in an emergency. The second step is to have your teen pre-sign a HIPAA form so that you can access medical records and communicate with doctors on his or her behalf.

These three simple documents are easy to create and will make a world of difference for your family in a crisis. Talk to your trusted legal advisor and make sure your teen is protected before school starts next year.

Darlynn Morgan

Newport Beach

The writer is an attorney with the Morgan Law Group.


Let's drink to this legal victory

Despite serious constitutional and legal questions, the Board of Equalization in 2007 approved a 1,550% tax increase on flavored malt beverages, such as Mike's Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice.

For the purpose of taxation, in 2008 the board, on a party-line vote, changed the definition of these drinks, which the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control considers beer, to distilled spirits. Supporters said the change in definition could raise up to $41 million. It didn't.

Instead, it raised a lawsuit, Diageo-Guinness USA Inc., et al. v. California State Board of Equalization. The plaintiffs argued that the board had overstepped its legal authority in changing the definition of flavored malt beverages. They argued that only the ABC has jurisdiction to classify alcoholic beverages in California.

The California 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed. In a decision released April 30, the court reversed an earlier trial court decision upholding the regulation.

The court ruled that the Board of Equalization's attempt to change the definition of distilled spirits did not withstand even the relaxed scrutiny that a court gives to quasi-legislative actions such as regulations. It ordered the trial court to rule in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered board to pay the plaintiffs' costs on appeal.

Because of this regulation, flavored malt beverage makers were forced to reformulate their drinks to avoid paying increased taxes on formulas deemed by the board to be distilled spirits. The board had to hire staff to study each producer's formulas to check if they met the standard for higher taxation.

Business owners with licenses to sell only beer and wine were faced with the confusion and the cost of stocking and selling products that their licenser called beer but their tax collector called a distilled spirit — something they weren't legally allowed to sell.

It was a waste of time and money, and it led to even further complications for beverage makers and businesses.

Just last year, in a 4-1 decision, the board redefined some wines as distilled spirits, calling the move a clarification that would treat flavored wines just like flavored malt beverages. It was just another complication.

Though the wine regulation wasn't the subject of this most recent case, the two regulations are intimately related, and the wine regulation could be overturned as a result.

The legal battle isn't over, but this is an important step in stemming the tide of regulatory overreach that hurts businesses across this state and makes California an increasingly difficult state in which to live.

This decision will help the more than 35,000 small businesses in California with licenses to distribute beer and wine by making it easier for them to comply with the state's alcohol and tax laws. And it will provide a much-needed check to regulatory agencies and elected officials intent on increasing taxes by any means.

We are still a government of laws and not of men.

Michelle Steel


The writer is vice chairwoman of the California State Board of Equalization, District 3, which covers Orange County.

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