As some of you know, I am the vice-chairman of Costa Mesa’s Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee (FPCAC). For those who may not be aware of Fairview Park, it is approximately 200 acres of relatively untouched land that sits on a bluff overlooking Huntington Beach and the ocean. The park is divided in two by Placentia Ave. Fairview Park has been called “the jewel of the city,” which is an understatement.
The committee has been meeting for 18 months to recommend changes – or not – to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, which then make recommendations to the city council, which votes on them. Though our committee has reviewed and voted on many recommendations, the elephant in the room has been whether to add athletic fields to the southeast section of the park. The public comments and correspondence we have received indicate overwhelming opposition to fields.
The southeast section is fairly flat and is the location of the miniature trains that offer public rides every third weekend of every month. If you have not taken a train ride, do so, even if you don’t have kids.
In one of the more audacious moves in recent memory, the school board, represented by superintendent Fred Navarro and board president Martha Fluor, has just sent a letter to the committee recommending the addition of fields to the park.
The letter states that the school district “has taken on additional costs to support the overreliance on school fields and they are being degraded for their primary use, that of supporting the educational program of the community schools.”
Then, in a poor attempt to support fields at the park without stating that they support fields at the park, the letter states, “We urge the committee to develop a long-term solution for more sports fields that doesn’t rely solely on using school district property.”
First, the small stuff: I checked two reliable sources and “overreliance” is not a word.
Now for big stuff:
1) If the district doesn’t have enough money to maintain fields, how about eliminating some of the wasteful spending I’ve been writing about for years?
2) The FPCAC is not charged with finding solutions for more sports fields. That is the responsibility of the partnership between the school board and the city council, whose representatives meet regularly to discuss such issues. Perhaps at one of those meetings they should actually get something done about the fields instead of kicking the problem down the street year after year.
3) In an extreme moment of arrogance, the board forgot that those fields they are trying to protect are not “school district property.” They belong to the taxpayers of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach and the board would do well to remember that. We own those fields – we pay for them – and if we want more access to them, we’ll let the board know.
4) The FPCAC has been meeting for 18 months. 18 months! But now, one day before the crucial vote on the fields, the board decides they’d better let us know how they feel. Where have they been all this time? They’ve been hiding, that’s where. They could have told us a year ago that they supported fields, during which time, a beneficial discussion may have taken place. Instead, they waited until after the November election to take this unpopular position.
The school board has officially politicized a sensitive issue, one that the FPCAC has gone out of its way to investigate in a thorough and thoughtful manner. I would say “shame on the school board” but this letter supports what I’ve been claiming for years: They have no shame.