Wu: I hope the state keeps CdM fire pits burning

Most Newport Beach City Council members usually don't react to my columns, at least to me or to my editor.

I write, I poke, and I criticize the "republicans" (small r), and I mostly get called a bad writer, a bad person and someone who needs to visit the library more by the commenters on the website.

But I cannot disagree with the criticisms of me and my writing, so no harm, no foul.

But my March column about the council's desire to remove the fire pits in Corona del Mar drew a curious response from two friendly council members. I implied that some Corona del Mar residents who wanted the fire pits removed didn't like out-of-towners, and also pointed out that plenty of those folks were minorities. I felt that these folks would be unfairly impacted by a council vote, even though the rings are on a state beach that belong to everyone.

The council members complained to me, saying that my statements inferred that racism played a role in their decision making. That was not my intent.

I actually blasted the council for being populists and cowards (I kid, dear council).

Anyway, the column angered not only the council, but the residents, who said they didn't care who used the fire pits, only that that the smoke from the rings blew smoke into their homes, which could be a health risk.

It was me who was burned for what I wrote.

Well, maybe I wasn't too far off because, as Amy Senk from Corona del Mar Today explains, the California Coastal Commission threw the city's application to remove the CdM fire pits back at them requesting, "information includes data on who uses the fire rings and when, what alternatives to removal that the city considered, the history of the rings and whether the city had conducted any air quality studies about the dangers of smoke from the fires."

And "the city's application states that 'fire rings clearly present a health and safety impact to the public … Has the city conducted an air-quality study supporting removal of the fire rings, as suggested by two members of the Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission?"

If so, please provide that information. If not, please explain why such a study was not conducted?

Has the city documented the air-quality impacts of smoke from the fire rings?

Is the city relying chiefly on the anecdotal testimony of residents at the two public meetings for evidence of health effects of the fire rings in Newport Beach?"

The Coastal Commission then asks the best question of all. Big Corona State Beach doesn't belong to the city; it belongs to the state. Newport Beach only manages the beach on behalf of the state, so does the city have the right to remove things they don't own?

Let's go through those questions through my rose-colored glasses. The Coastal Commission wants data on who uses the fire rings and when. Should the city and complaining CdM residents say the "truth," that they are concerned about the non-residents using the pits?

What alternatives did the city consider? OK, truth again? None.

What about the history of the rings? Yup, they've been there since the early 1960s, and it wasn't until 50 years later that getting them removed by our Magnificent Seven was accomplished after a few very influential CdM residents stepped up the pressure on a couple of council members.

Did the city conduct any air-quality studies or did they only rely on (my favorite part of the letter) "anecdotal testimony of residents at the two public meetings for evidence of health effects of the fire rings in Newport Beach?"

According to Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commissioner Tom Anderson, who at a PB&R; Commission meeting suggested that scientific studies be conducted to prove that the smoke was dangerous, no prior studies were done.

So I cannot help but wonder, speculate and ask. Since the council approved the ban on fire pits with no discussion by just collectively sticking their fingers up in the air to gauge public opinion, did they know they were sending up an application for the Coastal Commission knowing that it would be kicked back down with such basic questions or requests just to appease those wealthy, influential residents of Corona del Mar?

Council members can now say, "You see, we did what you wanted and banned the fire pits. The state then kicks some sand in our face requesting some basic answers, and by the way, can you host another fundraiser for me at your business?"

Now to be fair, the city says that they are gathering up answers to the Coastal Commission's questions and "They hope to resubmit the application in the next couple of weeks," more than two months after the commission's letter was dated.

I wonder if the Coastal Commission will get the real answers or just another attempt to appease the CdM influentials.

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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