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Sounding Off: Columnist went too far at mesa meeting

March 23, 2011|By Julie Bixby

At the Bolsa Chica Land Trust town hall meeting on the Community Promoted Restoration, or CPR, plan, Independent columnist Lou Murray crossed the line from environmental defender to self-serving personal vendetta.

An overflow crowd of 150-plus came to hear about the plans to restore the lower bench of the Bolsa Chica mesa, demonstrating once again how much the community cares for its environment. After a presentation of the major highlights of the plan and a short break, there was a question-and-answer session.

Practically every issue Murray had brought up in her columns was inquired about, with explanations from either Land Trust representatives or a Department of Fish and Game official. Several times, it was mentioned that the plans still have to be approved by the California Coastal Commission, which means that they are not yet final. The respondents also stated several times that the plan is purposely flexible and adjustable to minimize potential impacts to wildlife, that there would be regular monitoring by DFG and outside consultants, and that they want the community involved because it is the community that saved the mesa — hence the moniker "Community Promoted Restoration" (emphasis added).

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The topic of Murray's most recent column, previous destruction of the sensitive species tarplant, was brought up. Kim Kolpin, director of the Bolsa Chica Stewards, admitted that volunteers may sometimes make mistakes, but that that was the price to pay for encouraging public participation, and also that mistakes can serve as learning experiences. Kolpin also said that a large part of the CPR plan was based upon how to best handle the mesa's tarplant as recommended by a tarplant expert.

At the end of the Q&A, Murray attempted to usurp the evening by again bringing up the tarplant destruction issue — and by theatrically holding up a plastic bag containing the dead tarplant in question. Rather than make the Land Trust look bad, however, I think she really ended up making the Independent look bad (she noted her Independent affiliation before speaking). Several people booed.

Murray easily could have approached DFG officials before, during or after the meeting with her concerns, but instead of (or in addition to) that, she chose to make a spectacle as an Independent employee. The Independent's editors really need to examine whether or not it's in the paper's best interests to continue to affiliate with someone who uses them — and their good name — as a bully pulpit to pursue a personal vendetta.

JULIE BIXBY is a Huntington Beach resident and a board member of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.

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