Newport Beach, CA – A newly released Public Opinion Survey conducted over the past week by the Friends of the Fire Rings demonstrates overwhelming support for not removing the fire rings (89.0% vs. 7.4%), even with residents of Newport Beach, the ground-‐zero of the debate, also showing overwhelmingly support of not removing the fire rings by a similar lopsided margin (86% vs. 8.4%), directly undermining the Newport Beach City’s petition and case to the CA Coastal Commission, and Air Quality Management District (AQMD)-‐ on the eve of a crucial vote at the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) board meeting at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow in Diamond Bar, California.
“The survey is a devastating blow to the credibility of the petition and case put forward by the Newport Beach City staff to the Coastal Commission, and, subsequently, before the AQMD, as they have created an illusion for months now that Newport Beach residents are supportive of their petition,” explained Tom Sweatt, a long-‐time Newport Beach resident and one of the co-‐leaders of Friends of the Fire Rings.
“The survey proves just the opposite – Newport Beach voters disagree with their city’s position by a huge margin, and are willing to assume the miniscule health risks associated with the fire rings so that the public and visitors will be able to enjoy this American tradition that has become as important to our culture as Apple Pie! The City staff has an obligation now to make this point home at tomorrow’s AQMD hearing” declared Sweatt.
“Even the so-‐called ‘compromise’ idea involving possible replacement of the fire rings with experimental ‘gas’ fire rings – which is nothing more than a desperation maneuver -‐ has got to stop immediately too !-‐ Everyone sees through the city’s charade – which is being advanced with flawed and inconclusive science,” continued Sweatt, ‘The survey shows Newport Beach residents see the “gas alternative” as “silly and expensive” (80.4%) vs. those that think this is “fair” (7.8%).
“We should not allow a very small handful of disgruntled people in Newport Beach ruin what is an important part of our California culture and landscape, as fire rings are enjoyed by so many people throughout Orange County and California!” remarked Doug Swardstrom, an Irvine resident and one of the co-‐leaders of Friends of the Fire Rings.
“People of every age, ethnic, socio-‐economic group enjoy the fire rings,” continued Swardstrom, “whether it is girl scout or boy scout campfires, school field trips, birthday parties, a group of friends and family, church and religious organizations, AA groups, – there are countless purposes and immeasurable value for these fire rings as they are something that bring us closer together and unite us with other people,” explained Swardstrom.
“We hope the AQMD will do what is right and fair with no adoption of a new rule,” said Swardstrom.
The survey questions and results are posted on our website here.
Interestingly, when only Newport Beach residents were asked if this issue would affect how they might cast their ballot in next year’s Newport Beach city council elections (All seven Newport Beach City Council members voted to begin the process to remove the fire rings), a remarkable 36% of those responding said the issue was important enough that they would now be less likely to vote for councilmembers who voted for the removal, while only 6% said they would be more likely to vote for those councilmembers.
Of those surveyed, 82% believe the AQMD should allow all fire rings in Orange County to remain as they are today, while 9.6% believe only the Newport Beach fire rings should be removed, and 4% believe all fire rings in Orange County should be removed.
John Lewis, President of the polling firm of Lewis Consulting Group observed that the popularity of the fire rings is unparalleled. “The rings in Newport Beach and along the coast in Orange County are as popular of a community fixture as I have ever seen in my 30 years of polling. Not only are the fire rings popular across the board, but the passion to keep the fire rings is very high.” Referencing the results of questions asked of only Newport Beach residents where 82% of Newport Beach residents disapprove of the City Council action to start the process of removing the fire rings and results of similar questions asked to all Orange County residents, Lewis noted, “It is important to recognize that opinion amongst Newport Beach residents and Orange County residents at large at strikingly similar.”
Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who also sits on the AQMD Board of Directors said of the survey results, “It comes as no surprise. The effort to remove fire rings from the beach in Newport is and always was an effort to remove the public from the beach and provide an exclusive domain for a very select few. Health issues are not related to this effort and have merely provided a convenient diversion.”
State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, representing Newport Beach and other OC cities, and an outspoken leader in the fight for the fire rings said, “We’re on the right side of this fight. It’s the people of Orange County against government bureaucrats. No one wants to ban our beloved fire rings except for over-‐zealous politicians who are looking for a new problem to create, so they can pretend to fix it.”
This survey was conducted by the Orange County based polling firm of Lewis Consulting Group and was fielded July 2nd through July 9th among 250 Newport Beach residents and 250 Orange County residents living outside of Newport Beach. The 500 sample survey has an overall margin of error of +/-‐ 4.75%.
Friends of the Fire Rings is a coalition of individuals, small businesses, and families representing a variety of age, ethnic, political, and socio-‐economic groups, working together to save the fire rings in California. For more information about the battle for the fire rings, to see the results of the newly released survey click here, or to sign an online petition click the orange button on the right near the top of the page.