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Commentary: Pro-fire ring side just blowing smoke

April 03, 2013|By Frank Peters

A battle is raging here in Southern California over wood burning in beach fire rings.

Newport Beach decided to remove its 60 fire rings for health reasons, but Huntington Beach was caught napping.

Do H.B. officials think that now that a regional agency is proposing to ban all beach burning that they can show up late, with a cute slogan, and win the day? I'm in favor of removing the fire rings, and I recently spoke at the South Coast Air Quality Management District public hearing, where I got to hear H.B.'s arguments.

So, Huntington Beach officials, you want to keep your fire rings? You're gonna need better arguments than you've made so far.

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May I offer some strategic advice?

First, you're going nowhere by attacking the AQMD. You look like kooks when you rant about loss of freedom, or FREEDOM, as you would put it.

To win this contest you must treat the AQMD with respect. Its mission is to protect public health. To many this is a "motherhood" issue; no one can make an effective case against public health. Harmonize with the agency's authority, not to mention the science.

Learn our counterarguments. If you know what we are going to argue, prepare your rebuttals. You're bound to come off a lot better, not to mention look good in front of the TV cameras.

For starters, drop these trite comebacks. These pathetic zingers don't help to make your case:

•If you don't like the smoke, sell your house.

•You knew they were there — the rings have been here for 60 years.

•Isn't this like someone who moves near the airport and then complains about the noise?

Likewise, lose the petty critiques. You need more sophisticated arguments. None of these references move the needle in your favor:

•Those Newport Beach people are a bunch of rich snobs.

•Class warfare, private beaches, ulterior motives

•Hints of racial xenophobia

OK, as we wrap up this discussion of your nutty commentary, let's get past:

•Your petition.

It doesn't carry the clout you thought it would. Petitions are about popularity; this decision will be based on scientific evidence. Forget this.

•Letters from your elected officials. Ditto.

Their equally uninformed comments do nothing to address the AQMD's concerns about public health or increase your chance of success. Everyone knows the fire rings are popular, so don't rely so heavily on this argument.

•"Next they're gonna ban my wood-burning fireplace!"

They already have. You can't build a new house or remodel an old one and install a wood-burning fireplace — indoors or out. Now you know.

FRANK PETERS lives in Corona del Mar.

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