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Grand Jury is Wrong on the Airport

By Keith Curry

In more than eight years on the Newport Beach City Council, the lesson I have learned is that effective governance involves a continual search for balance between unfettered growth and protection of the quality of life in the community. Too much emphasis on uncontrolled growth leads to traffic, excess density, noise and ultimately to falling property values. Too much focus on control leads to a shrinking tax base, loss of essential services, community decline and also to falling property values.

In Newport Beach, I believe the council has found the right balance to keep our community one of the very best places to live, while also promoting rising property values (ours went up overall 5.3% last year, the highest rate of assessed valuation growth in Orange County) and continued economic growth. One of the best examples of this is our landmark Airport Settlement Agreement that restricts commercial air operations between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on Sundays), and restricts the growth in passenger air operations based on total passengers. Nothing impacts the enjoyment of our homes more than the continual loud interruptions of overhead aircraft.

Newport’s Settlement Agreement conditions are unique and they work. We recently negotiated an extension of our curfews to 2035, a fully 20 years more of protection for our community as well as nearby Irvine, Tustin, Costa Mesa and Laguna Beach. Getting to this landmark Settlement Agreement extension involved extensive negotiation and consensus building with neighborhood groups, neighboring cities, airline interests and Orange County. In the end, we arrived at an option that continues our protections with modest increases in passenger traffic. The Environmental Impact Analysis of this extension is currently underway.

It is unfortunate that despite this extensive consensus building that the Orange County Grand Jury has decided to produce a “report” calling for late night flights, extension of the runways (potentially to the edge of the 405 freeway), and a massive increase in passenger traffic. The Orange County Board of Supervisors has been critical in the past of the grand jury issuing reports with little or no factual support. The grand jury’s report is another example of government showing outright contempt for the residents and distain for the quality of life factors that make our communities such great places to live in the first place. I completely reject the grand jury’s call to have late night flights, expand the runway and grossly increase passenger traffic. I have no doubt that our adjoining cities, community groups and the county itself will join me in this rejection.

This is not the first example of government arrogance. State policies to force group homes and massage parlors on local communities, state bureaucrats that seek to dictate fire ring policy to local cities, and opportunistic politicians who demagogue local issues when they don’t impact their own communities are all too common. The grand jury needs to learn the lesson that high quality communities result from a carefully determined balance and protection of quality of life must always be a high priority.

Keith Curry is a Newport Beach Councilmember and candidate for the 74th Assembly District.

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