few clouds


Newport Beach

Volume 6, Issue 16  | February 23, 2021

Fair Game


TIMBER! Trees fall at Ensign and people are upset

Tom Johnson Fair Game 2I am sick. No, it’s not the coronavirus. Actually, it might be worse. It’s community “badwill,” as opposed to goodwill. And, once again, it comes from our Newport-Mesa School District leadership. And frankly, I’m sick of it!

Many of you know that the District has been planning to remove a number of mature trees at Ensign Intermediate School for months now. Some of them as old as 50 years. And why? For a parking lot bordering the school on the Cliff Drive side.

Why they need more parking is anyone’s guess. After all, the kids going to intermediate school don’t drive, and the size of the school hasn’t grown.

But it seems like the District leadership doesn’t care.

When the idea first came up, the District did a half-hearted outreach last September. Only 10-12 people showed up because their communication was so poor. Months later the District, after being challenged, responded by holding a “ThoughtExchange,” where parents and residents could log in and offer feedback.

Most people said that that exercise was just the District going through the motions and that the feedback would never even be considered.

In my opinion, not listening and approving issues outside the board room have pretty much been the standard operating procedure for this Board. In fact, rumor has it that the two relatively new board members are regularly getting “ganged up” on when they offer suggestions or differ from the reigning majority.

It’s sad, not to mention wrong.

Fair Game crane removing tree

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Lana Johnson

A 50-year-old Tipuana tree being cut down on Cliff Drive

Anyway, here’s what happened yesterday. Rumblings started that the District was going to start removing some trees. Local attorney Phil Greer, representing the community side, including neighbors, SPON and others, contacted the District’s attorney, as required, to advise them he was giving them 24 hours’ notice to seek an injunction to stop any cutting or removal.

It’s called professional courtesy.

However, the District doesn’t play that way. They quickly brought in tractors and cranes in an attempt to circumvent any coming injunction and began removing the trees. 

Fair Game Phil Greer and others

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Lana Johnson

(L-R) Phil Greer, the attorney representing SPON; Nancy Scarbrough, a SPON board member and Nancy Barfield, a local resident residing on Kings Road

The District wanted an Encroachment Permit to allow them to go over the sidewalk and through the fence to make things easier, but that was stopped by Mayor Pro Tem Brad Avery until a City hearing could take place. No problem, the District’s workforce simply entered through a back gate and went to work, basically thumbing their nose at the surrounding community.

When the cutting started, many nesting birds began frantically screaming and flying about. Animal and wildlife officials were called. But, the work continued on.

It was like they were on a mission.

The callousness of this Board of Education and leadership at the District is beyond acceptable. One report said that because of concerns that they might not be able to get all trees removed by their 6 p.m. deadline that workers were taking chainsaws to trees to damage their integrity, so they’d eventually have to be removed.


The Newport Beach City Council has called a Special Meeting Thursday to discuss Mayor Pro Tem Avery’s concern.

Unfortunately, the damage appears to have been done. We mustn’t forget. This November, three Board of Education members are facing expiring terms. President Martha Fluor has been serving the Board since 1991, yes, you read that right, and Dana Black has been serving since 1994. Both, way, way, too long.

To me, they are completely out of touch, their arrogance is appalling and they need to be voted out.

We need to thank them for their service but find new candidates, now, to replace them. Fluor represents Trustee Area 3 (think Back Bay) and Black reps Trustee Area 6 (primarily eastside Costa Mesa and the Dover Shores/Westcliff area).

We need engaged people who will be responsive to the community. 

It’s also vitally important because the next Board will select the next Superintendent of Schools.

Someone please, raise your hand and let’s get this started.

• • •

You know, I receive a lot of nice notes. One last week pointed out that “Stu News is great about thanking the first responders, police, firemen, restaurant workers, etc., and it is really well deserved.” They then went on to say, “What about Newport Beach Public Library employees?” 

Good point, thanks! Our library personnel have been working through the pandemic providing our community with books, DVDs, magazines, call-in reference questions and the number of other things they normally do. Let’s not forget that they also take care of the hundreds of residents who come to the library each day waiting for their curbside pick-ups of thousands of books and more. Those books don’t just magically appear, the library staff has to chase and find each one.

So here goes, thank you for our “essential workers” at our library for the job they do.

• • •

Every year since 1976 when wide receiver Kelvin Kirk was selected by the Pittsburg Steelers with pic #487, Irrelevant Week has honored the last draft pick of the NFL here in Newport Beach. This year though, like everything else, has brought a new set of challenges.

I checked in with Irrelevant Week CEO Melanie Salata last week to see what is planned this summer for New York Giant linebacker Tae Crowder, out of the University of Georgia, who was this year’s final pick.

“Irrelevant Week has been in a ‘holding pattern’ to see what happens with allowing people to gather,” said Melanie. “I think the longer we wait the better are our chances of celebrating Mr. Irrelevant XLV. I am focused on the timing to be right before the NY Giants first game (this fall). Having said that, all things are subject to change and we may have to micro-size his celebration, but we think that he still should be honored and celebrated.”

Can you imagine being the only Mr. Irrelevant not honored? Talk about the definition of irrelevant.

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