Letter to the Editor:

When exercising our right to vote invokes threats of violence, something is deeply wrong

I don’t know if this letter should be a “Letter to the Editor” or the front-page top news story of the day, none the less, the word needs to get out to the residents of Newport Beach – Be very wary of several thugs around town who are trying to stop you from signing a local petition! I have lived in Newport Beach for more 18 years and I have never, ever experienced anything like what I experienced on Tuesday night. While walking into the Ralph’s at East Bluff shopping center, I stopped by a table to review a local petition. While trying to engage in a conversation with the two people at the table about the petition, three young men in the background intervened, were talking over my conversation, insulting me, were making assertive remarks and overtures. This was a very uncomfortable situation, so I confronted them on their bullying and thug tactics. At that moment, I became very afraid of the encounter and I feared the situation could escalate into a violent encounter.

Immediately afterwards I called the Newport Beach Police Department to report the incident, but the police said they cannot do anything as these tactics are not illegal.  Make no mistake while these tactics may not be illegal they are tantamount to obstructing my right to exercise my democratic right to vote – and that is morally wrong. I urge the citizens of Newport Beach to be on guard for these people, but most importantly do not let them intimidate you if you chose to sign the petition.

After the encounter, I learned these people have been employing these bullying tactics city wide for several days. It was even reported these young men are harassing our senior citizens, women and children and there was even one violent punching encounter reported. It’s shocking and shameful that proponents of one side of an initiative have hired numerous outside people to interfere and try to stop our right to exercise our right to vote in our City – we are better than that in Newport Beach.

But the most important question I had to ask was, what it is really that these people are seeking to accomplish that they go to such extremes? What is their hidden agenda?  As I understand it, the Museum House is a watershed issue for the residents of Newport Beach. Aside from the new museum funding that may result from the City’s first major high-rise residential building, the residents of Newport Beach need to wake up to the fact that we are at a fundamental crossroad as to the vison of what we want Newport Beach to be. Will we retain our more historical, residential, recreational character and way of life, or do we take the first and likely the precedent setting step to a community with more high rise buildings, greater density and traffic? And while the City Council and the Planning Commission have decided in favor of the high rise (…no doubt since they want the additional revenue for the City), and while the supporters of the new museum (most of whom are not even residents of Newport Beach) want us to harbor the building, the residents of Newport Beach have not yet had an opportunity to weigh in whether or not an almost 300-foot high rise is acceptable to us.

All this petition is proposing is that the residents of Newport Beach be allowed to exercise our right to weigh in, to decide the community vision and direction of our City that we want for many years to come.

With the bullying tactics of the Museum House supporters, I can only assume that the developers, the countywide supporters of the new museum and Museum House believe the residents of Newport Beach will vote the high rise down and will vote to retain our unique world-class character. Since the highrise supporters fear a vote, they have proven they will spend any amount of money and use any tactics necessary to stop the vote.

It’s a very sad day for the residents of Newport Beach not because of the thinly vailed threats of the thugs with their anything goes tactics, but that the supporters of the Museum House are trying to suppress the residents’ of Newport Beach fundamental right to vote.

Robert Mortenson

Newport Beach resident