Letter to the Editor: Free Spirit Not Suited for City Council

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I have been observing the Noah Blum phenomenon for several weeks now and it is with a bit of reticence that I attempt to describe my feelings about this young man.

I understand the attraction that he holds for many people now during these difficult times. Noah appears as a “free spirit” and who would not want to be that right now?

I witnessed Noah at the CDM public debates, and have read every piece of literature I could find on him, including numerous letters from residents of Newport Beach. When Noah speaks, he is totally spontaneous, driven at times by hyperbole.

Noah is truly an artist, a conclusion I come to after having seen photos of his cooking online. His dishes are beautiful creations that take me back to when I was a young woman studying and living in Paris, spending much of my time in the Latin Quarter.   And from my personal interest in the culinary arts, I predict that some day Noah may become even more famous as a chef than he is now.

Unfortunately though, we are living in perilous times with a pandemic ravaging our country. Our only protection right now is to practice the few guidelines we have available. This is a time when “science” trumps “art” in providing us with the best possible defense against the pandemic. These simple little COVID rules seem foreign to us, but in desperation we need to hold onto them as they are the only ones we have.

And Noah, free spirit and artist that he is, cannot seem to  find room for these “restrictions” in his philosophy, but more importantly in his work life. And because he is in a field which directly affects the public in one of the most invasive ways, it is extremely important that he embrace these COVID guidelines, in order to protect his customers’ health.

In my opinion, he cannot morally or physically afford to impose his “free spirited “ philosophy on his customers, particularly those innocently unaware of this free- wheeling style.

One of the greatest ironies that I see in Noah’s bid for Council member in the 5th district of Newport Beach is that he and his two slate partners, incumbents  Brad Avery and Will O’ Neill, are using their endorsement by the Associations of the Newport Beach Police and the Newport Firefighters, to announce on their flyers, “Elect the Leaders who Stand Up for Newport Beach Public Safety.”

In my opinion, if you are not consistently advocating or adhering to COVID guidelines as a leader, you are not standing up for public safety.

If you look at many of the customer reviews in “The Butcher and the Baker,” Noah’s restaurant  in Newport Beach, you will see that many customers rave about the food but many also give the restaurant the lowest rating possible because of the failure to follow COVID guidelines. As a result, Noah should post the following sign at both of his restaurants, “Dine here at your own risk. We do not observe COVID guidelines.” But he is certainly not alone.

Costa Mesa, who has stricter COVID laws, is the home of Noah’s Arc Restaurant which has been open approximately seven years. It is the photographs of his creations in this restaurant that I find so enticing. Anytime prior to the arrival of COVID in the winter of last year would have been a good time to dine at the Arc. And just maybe by now, Noah has learned that he needs to put those COVID guidelines in place.

What I ran across and found particularly interesting was a relational article in the Register written by Brad A Johnson, a James Beard award- winning restaurant critic for over 20 years. He recently took a trip up to the central coast to observe how Orange County restaurants compared to those that he found along the way, highlighting how these restaurants were complying with “safe reopening guidelines established by state health officials and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policies.”

To make a long story somewhat shorter, Mr. Johnson discovered that the restaurants in L.A., Los Alamos, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles take the pandemic far more seriously than most in Orange County, including wineries.

In response to being asked by readers where it is safe to eat out in Orange County, Mr. Johnson instituted a new “COVID 19 Comfort Rating System, A-F.” Arc, with its attractively arrayed dishes, did not fare well in this rating.

He opines: “They operate the indoor dining room and bar as if the pandemic had never happened.”

Here are the specific guidelines that Johnson used in July of this year to rate the Arc: “no temperature checks at door, no masked enforcement for customers, no masks worn by staff, no gloves worn by staff, no hand sanitizer available, outside dining not distanced, inside dining allowed despite current guidelines, dining at the bar allowed despite current guidelines, tables more or less sanitized, chairs not sanitized, seating not properly distanced, no touch-less menus. In short, “Arc does not appear to embrace any COVID-19 safety protocols.”

The restaurant received the lowest grade, an F. In all fairness to Noah Blum, it should be added that several other restaurants in Orange County received grades of D. There were not many that received high scores in Orange County other than Benchmark, Sushi Ii, and Taco Maria in the same cluster of buildings as the Arc.

Mr. Johnson made some more visits to restaurants in early October, but the Arc Restaurant grade had not appeared to change. Other letter writers have mentioned interactions that Noah Blum has had with other Orange County Health Inspectors, but that is not uncommon for even gourmet restaurants.

There is no job more demanding than running a gourmet restaurant, and Noah is running two. How could he ever find time to be a good Council member and run those two restaurants? He is running against an incumbent who is retired and devotes most of his time performing his many duties on Council.

To close on a semi-positive note, let me add that Noah is such a talented and

gregarious artist, that once the pandemic threat has been removed, he will undoubtedly thrive as a chef. He certainly is earning fame with his current bid for Council member of District 5.

But right now we have Jeff Herdman, one of the hardest working, most articulate and productive Council members on the entire Newport Beach Council up for re- election in District 5. He definitely deserves to be re- elected.

Lynn Lorenz / Newport Beach

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