Jet Packs and Fire Rings

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Team Newport is definitely taking the city in new directions as they change and study issues that the community was either upset with (dock taxes, city hall expenditures, and fire rings), or not yet decided upon like the Jet Packs in the Harbor.

They began their council terms at the first meeting laying out agenda items to be discussed and are moving forward with significant changes.

I have never seen a council or school board move that fast as newly elected officials, and that is both a good thing and something I hope they will slow down on.

The new council members are moving on campaign issues they ran on unlike so many others in past elections who quickly forget what the community has voiced as things they would like them to consider.

What many community members would like them to remember, however, is that while people wanted some leadership changes, not everyone agrees on what should be changed nor feel all issues are as pressing as council members may believe.

The two issues that most Newport residents are clear about are transparency and the process by which council goes about making decisions. And of course they want the council to spend Newport tax dollars wisely.

People want to be treated with respect and to have their research and ideas valued so that better decisions are made before the recommendation goes to vote. One study session and three minutes to present a position for or against something at council meeting is not enough time for some decisions.

This community is full of people who love their city, are well informed, bright, and have good ideas that need to be considered. They may not have time to sit on a commission or even be selected because they are not in the political loop that promotes them. They are people though that gives much of their time participating in grass roots groups in the city that does a great deal of research on the environment and quality of life issues.

We need to listen when these groups present their ideas and ask us to rethink or continue to study issues until we find solutions, which benefit most of our community if not all.

Two things that are paramount now that need continued study and thought are the fire rings and jet pack issues.

In my last column, I explained my case for why the fire ring decision needs much more discussion. Citizens are still expressing their ideas about it in various newspapers, neighborhood associations and town hall meetings. This needs much more consideration on the part of the council before a final decision.

The jet pack business being expanded in the Harbor is another safety and quality of life issue that is definitely going to affect homes on the bay, increase noise, affect boating, paddle boarders, swimmers, the rowing teams, marine life, and other recreational sports such as rafting, kayaking, sailing, and others.

I am surprised that this is being considered as a business that should be expanded in Newport Beach. When this was discussed over a year ago, I thought surely the council will see that this activity is too dangerous to consider having in the bay. The Harbor Commission has even stated that the waterways are too narrow for water jetpack use. While I do not swim, kayak, paddle board or use a raft in the water, some of my friends and doctors use the bay for these purposes as well as former Mayor Nancy Gardner and many of our children.

I love being on the water in a Duffy boat quietly floating around with friends at sunset. Jetpacks are going to jeopardize the safety and enjoyment of the bay for a few thrill seekers.

Jetpacks are something I think of as being used in the Caribbean out in the ocean not in a busy harbor. As a jetpack participant do I want to land on a boat, dock, or people using sports equipment in a harbor?

Please council, let’s give this decision more thought than a couple of regulations you directed staff to come up with such as not allowing people to use their own jetpacks. How about thinking about at least limiting a part of the bay where this takes place so the rest of the people can use the bay without thinking a jet packer is going to land on them or land so hard it knocks them off their water equipment.

Or, go back to the idea that jetpack operators are welcome to use the ocean.


That is My Take

Dr. Gloria J. Alkire

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