Today is the 4th of July. It’s the day we celebrate America’s independence from England. Angered by the Stamp Act, the Intolerable Acts and the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence, American patriots fought for freedom.
At that time, England was ruled by arguably the most powerful and wealthy man in history: King George III. He had the most powerful military force on earth in 1776. Comparing the patriot’s manpower and military strength on July 4, 1776, victory was not at all certain. We celebrate and benefit from their commitment to freedom 238 years ago in the Declaration of Independence: “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Unfortunately, on a day we should be celebrating freedom each year, the city of Newport Beach has not always lived up to the founding father’s ideals of freedom. At times, the city’s lack of respect for civil and property rights has marred those celebratory days.
PROHIBITION OF FIREWORKS
Founding Father John Adams advocated celebrating the 4th of July with “illuminations” (fireworks). Americans celebrate our freedom and independence with fireworks.
Until the mid-1980s, there were no restrictions enforced on fireworks (or beverages) at the state beach between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.
Costa Mesa has a conservative city council majority and Costa Mesa allows sales of the “safe and sane” fireworks. Local non-profit groups such as little leagues and youth sports teams have booths and earn money for their teams from the profits of selling fireworks.
Sand and ocean water can’t burn. Newport Beach’s waterfront is great right place for fireworks. John Adams would not approve of Newport Beach’s fireworks ban.
Possession and use of fireworks are freedom issues. I don’t trust a government that tells us they don’t trust us with fireworks.
City council candidate Scott Peotter said he would let the residents of Newport Coast decide if they wanted fireworks in their part of town because of the proximity to brush land, but said that at minimum fireworks should be legal for sale and use in the other parts of Newport Beach that don’t have the higher fire risks.
PROPERTY RIGHTS OF PENINSULA RESIDENTS
For many years, street closures prevented peninsula residents from getting back home after about noon on July 4 and infringed on residents’ property rights.
One year in the late 1990s, after going to the inconvenience of leaving town to see fireworks because of the fireworks ban, I came back to the peninsula near 11 p.m. to go home and get to sleep. The next day was a weekday and taxpayers like me needed to work to pay the confiscatory taxes charged by our overspending state and federal governments.
The streets looked empty when I arrived at some law enforcement checkpoint. There were officers from other jurisdictions that blocked entrance to my home. One of these angry officers told me I couldn’t go home. I informed him that I wasn’t interested in partying and just wanted to go home and get to sleep so I could be alert for work the next day. I indicated I was sorry he had a bad day, but that I hadn’t done anything wrong and was just trying to exercise my property and civil rights. He threatened to arrest me if I didn’t drive away. This disrespect and open hostility toward residents and our rights was totally unjustified.
I was so annoyed by these infringements of my rights that I went to a city council meeting at that time to complain during public comments. I could see the disdain on the faces of a couple of the council members who appeared to have no regard whatsoever for my concerns or these issues. They seemed dismissive that a citizen would dare to express an opinion or critique their failures. They showed no interest in fixing the problem at the time.
It was aggravating to be forced to plan around the city’s arbitrary actions that denied residents access to their homes and basic property rights. But like many peninsula residents, as the years went on it became easier to plan to spend the 4th of July outside Newport Beach because the city didn’t respect the rights of peninsula residents.
WILL PROPERTY RIGHTS BE OBSERVED THIS YEAR?
I wasn’t the only peninsula resident complaining about access. Newport Beach Police Lieutenant Evan Sailor confirmed, “In years past, there were many closures which prohibited ANYONE from attempting to drive into certain parts of the Peninsula. That angered many full time residents. That is one of the reasons we attempt to leave the majority of the roads open.”
On the city’s web site, it states that streets on the peninsula will be open on the 4th, “however, the Newport Beach Police Department will be monitoring traffic conditions throughout the day and will facilitate additional street closures should the need arise.” Peninsula residents are left to wonder if they will be able to enjoy their property rights this July 4th.