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Letters to the Editor

Memo to our next governor: Name a Water Czar

I applaud Newport’s Mayor Brad Avery for rallying his residents to be “water wise” and prudent. 

Because California’s hopes for a wet March did not materialize, we are on the cusp of another drought only a few years after a devastating 60-month dry spell that left water wells empty, and farmers idled. 

Which brings me to topic Number One in my book: No matter how the current recall effort turns out, my hope is the next governor will make naming a Water Czar a top priority.

What powers would a Water Czar have? He or she needs to be able to make decisions that transcend geographic boundaries, water district politics and partisan gridlock. Think of him or her like the director of the FBI or Homeland Security, only for water. Appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, these crime and terrorist fighters operate at a unique level in Washington.

With the appropriate checks and balances in place, California’s Water Czar could be given similar powers in Sacramento. Yes, he or she would consider scientific, environmental, legal and political arguments before making decisions impacting the state. But once those decisions are made, the czar would rely on local leaders and agencies to quickly implement them. Not unlike the way governors, judges and police chiefs have to react after receiving news from the FBI or Homeland Security.

Fighting crime or terrorism is not the same as fighting Mother Nature. Still, we have a model in place that allows certain, key people to operate on a level unlike most everyone else. It is time California finds that person.

Mayor Avery knows water is key to our survival. The way I see it, a state Water Czar will play a critical role in being part of the solution to California’s water woes and not the problem.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

City asked to pause Housing Element process and seek more education

In two weeks, the Newport Beach City Council will be asked to submit a draft of the Housing Element to the State Housing and Community Development Department. The real due date is early in 2022. This submittal should be slowed down to give the Council time to get more education about what they are being asked to approve.

This undertaking began in 2019 when Diane Dixon was Mayor, and she formed a Housing Committee to begin the General Plan update. In 2020 Will O’Neill took over as Mayor and reformed the committee to focus on meeting the 4,845 RHNA housing mandate. Along with several residents, we have participated in every meeting to date. 

When this began in 2019 none of us had any education about this or the real ramifications of it. We were largely unaware of the impending State laws that would be signed and how they would affect all California cities. 

Since that time all of us have been learning. We have been seeking knowledge anywhere we could get it. Believing that other communities had the same desires and values as Newport Beach, we began to seek out other activist groups who may be looking for solutions to the same challenges we were facing. We found many groups grappling with the same challenges. We now have a greater understanding of the ramifications of the draft the Council is being asked to submit. 

We are deeply concerned about the direction the City is taking with the Housing Element of our General Plan. We are not sure that the full Council is aware of the ramifications of the path they are on. With COVID this has been a challenging learning curve for all of us. However, we think the residents are beginning to take notice and if we continue this trajectory the City is in store for a devastating outcome. 

Today we ask residents to ask the Council to pause this process and seek some education. We believe a study session should be held as soon as possible. There are affordable housing experts that can speak to us and give us some alternate ideas about how we can meet the state mandate without devastating our precious city. We believe there is a compromise that is challenging to implement but can be embraced by the residents. We don’t believe any of us could have known this before now. 

Nancy Scarbrough submitted a list of suggestions for study session topics to the City Council on Monday, April 12, 2021. We believe if the full council, along with the public, are made aware of other approaches then they can make a more informed decision about this critical component of our General Plan.

If you want your opinion heard, please call or attend the City Council meeting tonight or write to them at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Nancy Scarbrough

Jean Watt

Charles Klobe

Newport Beach

 

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