By Jennifer Erickson | LB Indy
In one of his first actions as the newly selected mayor of Laguna Beach, Bob Whalen pushed for a formal city resolution opposing the nuclear waste storage conditions at the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station during the City Council meeting Tuesday.
Since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission set a Dec. 20 deadline for public comments about decommissioning the plant, proposed that a resolution be prepared for the next meeting on Dec. 16.
The meeting also served to honor outgoing Mayor Elizabeth Pearson. Colleague Kelly Boyd delivered heartfelt remarks, expressing the pleasure he took from working with her and his personal appreciation for her community accomplishments. “Elizabeth, God bless you and I love you,” he said, before reading a two-page commendation enumerating Pearson’s contributions during 12 years as an elected official and six years serving on the Planning Commission before that.
“I really appreciate all of the support I’ve gotten from all of you over the years,” responded Pearson, adding that, “without the support and cooperation and ideas from everyone in the community, things wouldn’t get done.” Nor would anything have happened without the hard work and commitment of the city’s “wonderful” staff, she said.
“I come from humble beginnings, from a share cropper farm family, and all I wanted to do is make a difference and get something done,” concluded a visibly moved Pearson as tears nearly rendered her speechless. “I feel like I’ve done that in my life, and I thank you all for being a part of it.”
“You, my friend, have made a difference and you do make a difference,” said Larry Nokes, one of 10 people who commented on Pearson’s tenure.
Ann Wareham, artistic director at Laguna Playhouse, thanked Pearson for opening her “arms and home and friendships and relationships to me” when she was new in town, helping her to become a better leader. “It all started with you, and I thank you for your incredible leadership and what a real tutor and mentor you’ve been to so many of us in town who have had to find a way in a new place,” she said.
“We can all agree we are better off as people and we are better off as a community because of you,” said Cary Glenn, in an apt summary of the comments that followed that cited Pearson’s assistance helping businesses after the 2010 flood, supporting residents during the 2005 Bluebird landslide, working to keep the hospital in town and championing of the disaster preparedness committee.
In other housekeeping, Council member Steve Dicterow was selected as mayor pro tem and returning Council members Boyd and Toni Iseman were sworn in alongside newly elected member Rob Zur Schmiede.
Among the first to address the newly reshuffled group, Rita Conn, who chairs the grassroots group Let Laguna Vote, called on the Council to examine the “1,632 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste being left at San Onofre.” Laguna Beach is just outside the 10-mile radius of the plant.
Let Laguna Vote proved their mettle as a public action group when they successfully organized broad community opposition to the construction of a parking garage behind city hall in 2013. With a steering committee of 15 and an extensive e-mail list, the group has refocused on safety concerns surrounding San Onofre’s nuclear waste, said Conn, interviewed earlier this week. “We want Laguna to be the leaders in this,” she said, suggesting that a strong resolution from Laguna’s City Council can “serve as a model for the other cities to latch onto.”
Southern California Edison has applied to the NRC for permission to leave the radioactive waste in casks at the site, surrounded only by a chain link fence with minimal security, said Conn. Should an accident or attack compromise the site, “We may escape with our lives, but we will never be able to return to our property,” Let Laguna Vote asserts.
While the federal government has yet to find a permanent location for storing the nation’s nuclear waste, the casks might at least be moved to a more secure inland location out of the earthquake and tsunami zone, suggested Conn. Following the same reasoning, resident Ben Simon is now urging residents to sign an on line petition to Thomas Wengert and Gov. Jerry Brown asking that Edison find a secure interim location for their waste.
For her part, Conn asked the City Council to send a strong resolution to the NRC and the governor to let them know that the status quo “is not okay with us.”
In the meantime, Let Laguna Vote’s website offers residents the opportunity to sign a petition to that effect, and they will also be gathering signatures and passing out fliers at the farmers’ market on Saturday, said Conn.
“We are in a ring of fire…,” said resident Marni Magda, who has pressed the issue in meetings with regulatory officials. “Everyone said Fukushima was safe,” before that 2011 catastrophe unfolded, she pointed out. “We can’t afford the risk of a wrong model.”
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