Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

Museum House team continues with community deception

Saturday afternoon my mobile phone began ringing off the hook. I didn’t recognize the numbers, but answered anyway. Each call would start something like this, “Mr. Johnson, I’m disappointed with a door hanger left at my house today showing your support for the developer side of the Museum House project.”

I’d politely interrupt at the first opportunity and tell the callers that I was the latest victim of Dave Ellis and Patrick Strader and their attempts to sabotage the signature gathering effort of Line in the Sand, a respected local group trying to organize a referendum requiring a public vote on the Museum House.

They decided they’d take a quote I had made previously in StuNewsNewport, use it out of context, slap it prominently in the middle of their door hanger supporting the Museum House and then deliver it around Newport Beach.

Sorry guys, it didn’t really work. First off, the people calling my house were great – I spoke with everyone. Once they understood who was behind the lies, they understood. 

Ellis and Strader are trying everything to block all efforts against the Museum House, including fake petitions, fake petition signature representatives, confusing ads and promotional material, fake news stories, lying, unethical campaign signs and more. They appear panicked.

It’s nothing new. Everyone expects these shenanigans from Ellis. But with Strader, I guess I was personally surprised. I’ve tried to work with Patrick to keep him abreast of some of my activities involving Line in the Sand. I thought it was a fair attempt to be ethical. I realized during this process, however, that being fair only went one way.

Now, the group against the developer is growing and appears to be gaining momentum. Signatures are coming in and Line in the Sand representatives are confident that the goal of 5,800 approved signatures will be attained in the required time period.

We mentioned last week that the Irvine Company is also opposed to the Museum House. This week the Irvine Company stepped-up their game by filing suit against the Related Companies of California, LLC (developers of the Museum House) citing trespassing, and nuisance and at the same time requesting a temporary restraining order and a preliminary and permanent injunction.

A media statement released by the Irvine Company said: “Those wishing to engage in free speech exercises such as signature gathering at Irvine Company retail properties must follow the shopping centers’ content-neutral rules for that type of activity.

‘Line in the Sand signature gatherers have conducted their activities accordingly, receiving permission from the Irvine Company to set up tables at several of its Newport Beach shopping centers.

‘This week, Museum House proponents have been at some of those same centers without permission, trying to disrupt Line in the Sand’s signature-gathering effort and creating a hostile environment for our guests.

‘We were forced to take legal action today (Friday, Dec 9) against the Museum House developer in order to ensure that our retail centers’ free-speech rules – which follow state and federal law – are followed, and our guests enjoy a pleasant shopping experience.”

Two weeks ago at the council meeting where the Museum House was approved, Line in the Sand activist Nancy Skinner asked council: “Why not just put the issue on the ballot and let the community decide?”

It sounded so simple and so easy.

Well, the council didn’t listen and now is probably facing a referendum to do just that in the near future. 

Ellis and Strader, the idea to create organized confusion for the signature gatherers appeared brilliant at first coming out of the gate, but now that plan has run its course and is now apparently backfiring. I don’t think the community will forget your ill-conceived efforts come ballot time.

If and when this thing comes to a vote, there’s going to be a lot of mud to sling in their direction. 

And to think, I was just recently considering the upsides of this project, that’s right, their side…and now this. I just don’t like the dishonesty. Bring on the vote.