The Bell Curve: What has wings, flies and is a problem?

August 04, 2010|By Joseph N. Bell

What's the biggest problem facing Newport Beach today? I mean for the people who live here. You and me.

C'mon, give me a straight answer. I'm taking a poll. Think about it for a while if you must. It's a little disheartening — even for deaf people like me — if the answer doesn't leap out at you.

So let me give you some clues. This is the sort of man-made disaster that we can prevent from happening. We can't prevent tidal waves or typhoons or hurricanes or earthquakes. We can only try as best we can to prepare for them if fate sends them our way. But what I'm fishing for here is preventable. And we can, and are, watching it happen — and not seeing it. That's the biggest problem facing Newport Beach.


Still puzzled? OK, here's one last clue.

It has wings and its natural habitat is in the air. It causes problems only when it runs afoul of mortals on the ground. This started to happen here when our Orange County Airport took on the name of a Hollywood cowboy and set its sights on turning a fine regional airport into one with inadequate space and inappropriate surroundings for its ambitions.

All that came to a head when the Marine Corps offered to sell their abandoned airfield at El Toro — which was far better suited to the growth agenda of the regional airport. That had to be approved by the vote of local citizens, and it was. Twice.

Then the city of Irvine raised a pot of money to hire away the PR team that had won the first two elections. Irvine won the third, and the good guys had to settle on negotiating a set of restrictions on the aircraft using what had by then become John Wayne Airport. The restrictions run out in 2015.

That's where we are now, and we aren't nearly as concerned as a lot of us think we should be.

This came to my attention last week when I received the current newsletter from the Airport Working Group of Orange County, an organization that has looked out for our interests throughout these events and still is as we come precariously close to the date when it all goes up for grabs once more. In the same mail was a Newport Beach newsletter updating the city's activities. It didn't help to ease our concern that half of the city's four pages were devoted to the new City Hall and the remainder to small items where the airport was deemed worthy of a few paragraphs, mostly about a new navigation system.

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