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Wu: How 2 Newport activists got their starts

April 07, 2012|By Jack Wu

After the tragic passing of famed Newport Beach and Greenlight Initiative leader Phil Arst in 2008, I had a chance to sit down with now-Mayor Nancy Gardner over a cup of coffee to lament his passing and the seeming end of an era.

The initiative was a grassroots group of community activists who essentially changed the way the city is developed. Their influence was great; their impact immediate.

Like them or not, the City Council had to consider the Greenlight Law, Arst, Jan Vandersloot and many others whenever a development project was put before them.

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And with Arst's death, the first domino dropped in the decline of this political behemoth leading to the eventual disincorporation of the Greenlight Initiative group this year.

Gardner and I discussed community activists like Arst and how they get "created." She indicated that a little issue typically flares up all over the city, and how the council handled that issue, or person, would eventually determine whether another Arst would get created, or if they would go away happy.

I recently asked Gardner again, to which she responded:

"Process is very important, but process isn't outcome. The city must do its best to ensure that everyone has access to the process and that the process is as consistent as possible…"

And, she added, "So we have two people, John and Jack Doe. Both are unhappy with something in the city. They are told the process to try to change it is A, B and C. They do A, B and C. The outcome isn't what they want.

"John Doe says, 'OK, I had my day in court, my opportunity to make my case. For whatever reason I wasn't persuasive, and I lost; so be it.'

"Jack Doe cannot accept that there could be an interpretation other than his, so he decides the process must be flawed … he becomes a crusader, working to expose the darkness in the city."

So I asked two of Newport Beach's most prominent activists, Jim Mosher and Robert Rush, to describe the defining moment that got them involved.

Mosher has been at almost every single council meeting and committee meeting for almost three years and has focused primarily on procedure, reminding the council how to essentially follow its own directions when legislating. And he's been right most of the time.

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