The letter to the editor that has just appeared in the Daily Pilot was submitted as a column/commentary, but was heavily edited and converted to a letter.

Here is the commentary in its entirety:

If any Newport Beach or Costa Mesa resident needed an insight into the collective minds of the school board, they need look no further than a recent letter to the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee (FPCAC), of which I am acting chairman.

The Jan. 6 letter was sent in anticipation of the committee’s Jan. 7 vote on whether to recommend to the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission that athletic fields be considered for the southeast section of the park.

The letter was a contorted effort to recommend fields at Fairview Park without actually stating that they’d like to see fields at Fairview Park. The letter include the sentence, “We urge the committee to develop a long-term solution for more sports fields in Costa Mesa that doesn’t rely solely on using school district property,” which is code for supporting fields at the park. Realizing that they may have gone too far, the board sent rookie member Vicki Snell to the Jan. 7 FPCAC meeting to clarify that the board was not necessarily supporting fields at Fairview Park.

But the real “tell” in the letter, the aforementioned insight, is the belief that the fields attached to schools are “school district property.” They are not. Those fields are the property of the taxpayers of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, and if the citizens of both cities believe that our kids are better served by allowing more school field access, that is what must happen.

The claim that fields are “school district property” is yet another attempt by the board to distance itself from its responsibility to taxpayers. Another recent example of their arrogance was during the Nov. 12 meeting at Adams Elementary School, which was called to explain the new security fencing that would surround the school.

Several weeks prior to the meeting, approximately 300 taxpayers signed a petition requesting that new fence avoid surrounding the grass field adjacent to the school, and the board approved that design. At the Adams meeting, however, the plan for the new fence showed the field surrounded in 8’ steel. When asked about the about face, Susan Astarita, Asst. Supt. for Elementary Education, responded, “Yes, we changed our minds.” The ensuing uproar was so great that board member Martha Fluor threatened to stop the meeting unless the audience calmed down.

Athletic fields at Fairview Park can be avoided if residents express to the school board that they allow more access to school fields. Despite several of my online invitations to express this sentiment prior to the board meeting of Jan. 13, only one person spoke on the subject of fields. That must change.

Both sides of the field debate agree on one major point: Costa Mesa needs more field time for the kids in youth sports. The challenge is not that Costa Mesa does not have enough fields, the challenge is that the city does not have enough fields under its direct control. Instead, everyone involved in youth sports is at the mercy of a stingy and indifferent school board that recognizes both the problem and the easiest solution but refuses to respond to the pleas of the community.

Why should they? After all, those are their fields.

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