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Residents Tackle Safety Concerns at Community Forum

City officials and residents gather at a forum hosted by the Corona del Mar Residents Association to discuss community safety and politics.

Safety topped the agenda Wednesday night at a community forum held in Corona del Mar.

More than 50 residents joined city officials at the OASIS Senior Center for the forum, hosted by the Corona del Mar Residents Association. The meeting addressed quality-of-life issues directly impacting CDM residents. Notable concerns centered on cyclists running red lights, motorists rolling through stop signs and pedestrians jaywalking on East Coast Highway.

Newport Beach police Chief Jay Johnson told residents the department is trying to address the issues by increasing motor officer presence in the community and identifying problem areas through the use of radar trailers.

"What we have found is that when we put traffic officers at hotspots on the streets, it also deters crime in those areas," Johnson explained.

Crime in Corona del Mar and across the city is down, added Johnson.

"We have one of the safest cities in the state,” he said.

The death of 47-year-old resident Donald Lee, who died following a house fire in CDM on Sept. 10, was also briefly mentioned at the meeting. Newport Beach Fire Marshal Kevin Kitch reminded residents about the importance of functioning smoke alarms and the need to have two exit routes in case of a fire.

"Early alert and being able to get out has a huge impact on fire-related deaths," Kitch said.

In regards to Lee's death, Johnson said he wanted to let residents know that emergency responders arrived quickly on scene.

"The response time for that tragic incident was two minutes and 18 seconds―that's pretty fast," Johnson said. "Between police and fire we got there pretty quick, and I hope you take comfort in that."

The forum shifted gears when Sean Matsler, a member of the city's bike safety committee, addressed the bike safety issue and said sharrows, or shared lane markers, will be installed along Coast Highway, between MacArthur and Poppy avenues, before the end of the month.

Matsler says residents should know the only things sharrows do is enforce existing law.

"Cyclists are allowed to travel in the motor travel lane when there is no bike lane," Matsler explained. "Sharrows will alert motorists that cyclists can be here."

Also at the meeting

In Newport Beach, the race for open seats on the Newport Beach City Council will be uncontested, therefore a candidates forum was not held. However Councilman Ed Selich, the incumbent for District 5, briefly spoke to residents to express his excitement for another four years on the council.

"I hope that's a statement of confidence," Selich said of the uncontested race. "I am looking forward to a vibrant and fruitful four years."

Tony Petros, who is running unopposed on Nov. 2 for the District 2 seat on the City Council, also introduced himself to the crowd saying he is looking forward to joining the council.

"We live in a great city, we need to remain vigilant," Petros said. "We shouldn't be resting on our laurels now. We need to look ahead."

Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry, incumbent for Newport Coast's District 7, was unable to attend the community forum.

The community briefly debated the city's one ballot measure in the upcoming election Measure EE, which  would amend the city's charter. Mayor Nancy Gardner urged residents to support the measure, which would make 38 changes to the city's charter if approved. The measures include banning the use of red-light cameras and incorporating protections against class-action lawsuits against the city.

"The changes will make city government more efficient without weakening any of our protections," Gardner said.

Robert Hawkins, who opposes Measure EE, encouraged residents to vote against it.

"Thirty-eight changes with one vote―that's enough to reject it. You don't even have to think about anything else," Hawkins said.

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