Cruisin’ the Milestones: ‘From the Summit to the Sea’ Rides Into Morro Bay Oct. 23rd

“From the Summit to the Sea” vintage-car caravan, Oct. 22-23, crosses the imaginary finish line in Morro Bay, but it all begins in Yosemite National Park, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and in Sacramento, where California State Parks is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the founding of Yosemite, the first State Park.

By ED OCHS

From the Summit to the Sea“From the Summit to the Sea” vintage-car caravan, Oct. 22-23, crosses the imaginary finish line in Morro Bay, but it all begins in Yosemite National Park, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and in Sacramento, where California State Parks is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the founding of Yosemite, the first State Park.

The 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant is a major benchmark, a big deal, and they’ve been getting ready for it for almost three years.

“We’ve been working with the National Park Service since January 2012 in preparation for the 150th anniversary year of the Yosemite Grant Act,” said Rhonda Salisbury, CEO, Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst, Calif.

“This has been a huge collaborative effort between all four Yosemite gateway communities, California State Parks, National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy and more,” Miss Salisbury said. “There are hundreds of events that have taken place or a still planned for the 150th anniversary beginning in September 2013 and continuing until December 31, 2014.

“The biggest events in our gateway—the south entrance, Highway 41—has been our Inaugural Yosemite Festival celebrating all that is Yosemite through art, history and education. This festival will continue to honor and bring awareness to Yosemite. Artists from all over Madera County displayed their Yosemite-themed art. Mono and Chukchansi tribes both were represented with booths about their culture.

“The south gate has had many ongoing events as well—the Sequoiascape Exhibit at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Yosemite ‘Rocks’ Artistic Learning series, Lure & Lore of Yosemite Exhibit at the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Oakhurst, ‘Tony Krizan—Yosemite’s Forgotten Trails’ hiking series, and more. We’ve had our local brewery, South Gate Brewing Company release a special 1864 Ale in October 2013 in honor of the anniversary. Two local wineries also bottled special labels and blends in honor of the Yosemite Grant.

“Sierra Art Trails, in October 2013, dedicated their open studio tour with over 100 artists of every medium to the Yosemite Grant and featured their artist tributes to Yosemite,” Miss Salisbury said.

Yosemite to Morro Bay

Summit to Sea logoWhen dozens of vintage-vehicle drivers start their engines on the morning of the 23rd in Yosemite they’ll find themselves at the summit of their journey headed for the sea, surrounded by arguably the most spectacular collection of scenery in America.

Said Miss Salisbury, “Just out of Oakhurst you’ll drive through the Sierra National Forest, see the Merced River run through the historic town of Wawona, witness the amazing cliffs and vistas along the road to Yosemite Valley and enter into the iconic world of Yosemite when you come out of the tunnel and see Tunnel View’s—one of the most photographed vistas in the World—the artwork of Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Half Dome and many more Yosemite landmarks. October offers an array of fall colors that will follow you along your journey.

“‘From the Summit to the Sea’ will bring the car enthusiasts back into Yosemite to remind them that there is so much to see and do. We are very excited for them to come in the ‘off season’ and see the beautiful fall colors.”

This panoramic event will certainly do its part to promote Yosemite tourism—an estimated 3.5 million visitors are expected this year—but it will do wonders to promote little Morro Bay, a proto 20th-century California fishing-village edging gingerly into the 21st century. In addition to being a naturalist’s seaside paradise, Morro Bay also happens to be a biking/kayaking/boating escape on some of the most dazzling, estuarine coastline and marine-life-rich ocean this side of Maui.

Compared to venerable Yosemite though, Morro Bay, 50 years a city, is the new kid on the block. Loosely midway between the Bay Area and L.A., off key Highways 1 and 101, Morro Bay is in a good spot for a lot of things that come down the highway these days.

“Morro Bay is ideally located for those classic car and motorcycle trips up the coast,” said Morro Bay’s Mayor, Jamie Irons. “This event takes advantage of a classic trip from the mountains to the sea, which is another amazing thing California has to offer, with Morro Bay being the finish line for that classic trip.

“The 50th celebration has been a full year and a lot of credit and recognition needs to go to the Morro Bay 50th Committee for working so hard to put it all together,” Mayor Irons said. “‘Summit to Sea’ is very cool and it’s always great to form partnerships. I’m happy to have two pinnacles be connected and promoted this way.”

When “Summit to Sea” participants conclude their journey at 565-foot-high Morro Rock  around sunset on that sparkling October day they’ll experience another classic race that’s unbeatable—sunset on the Pacific—and a warm reception in Morro Bay.

“October is one of Morro Bay’s most beautiful seasons,” said the Mayor. “I hope that the participants are greeted with October’s crisp, clear days, where the temperature has a subtle drop creating that clear horizon full of spectacular color as the sun is setting.”

Connecting the pinnacles

“From the Summit to the Sea” is the brainchild of Karin Moss of Moss Marketing Group, based in Morro Bay. Miss Moss attended some of the early planning meetings of Morro Bay’s 50th Anniversary Committee during her tenure as Director of Tourism in Morro Bay and shared some of her ideas and experiences with legacy events.

Miss Moss, who honed her marketing and promotional skills in the upper echelons of the music business, had previously been on the steering committee of the 25th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and recently produced the 10th anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt in conjunction with the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

To reach the broadest possible audience for “From the Summit to the Sea,” Miss Moss suggested partnering with California State Parks, with whom she had a previous relationship in the late ’90s when she was Executive Director of the California Sesquicentennial Foundation.

“Not only were they enthusiastic about partnering with Morro Bay but they appointed me to their statewide event committee,” Miss Moss said.

“I later realized that it was also the 150th Anniversary of Yosemite, and envisioned that creating an event linking Morro Bay to Yosemite via Highway 41 would resonate with the over 5 million tourists and visitors to the Yosemite website. It seemed like a natural partnership, and the theme ‘From the Summit to the Sea’ was launched.”

It wasn’t terribly hard getting the partners involved, she said, “because every one of them saw the vision from the beginning and wanted to be involved…

“I envision participants would have the same spirit of adventure that I do and could embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Just the other day a woman registered from Pasadena and when I asked her how she found out about it she said, ‘at the beauty shop.’ I’m thrilled to know that our message is getting out there.”

Early on Moss saw the stars aligning for “From the Summit to the Sea,” because it’s all about California at its best, the California of classic cars, endless summers, rock music, surfing, beaches and grand State Parks.

“This partnership just seems like a natural one to promote Morro Bay, State Parks and Yosemite,” Miss Moss said, “and I feel confident that others will feel the same way by participating or, at the very least, joining us at sunset at The Rock on October 23 to welcome the many car aficionados and be part of the welcoming festivities.”

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Sources and Resources:

Official Yosemite Grant 150th Anniversary website: http://www.nps.gov/yose/anniversary.

“From the Summit to the Sea” website: http://www.fromthesummittothesea.com

Official California State Park 150th Anniversary website: http://www.150.parks.ca.gov

Morro Bay 50th Anniversary: http://morrobay50th.com/


A Visitor’s Guide to Preserving Yosemite

What park visitors need to know that will help maintain and sustain the health and well-being of the park for visitors into the future.

  • Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures (not including the wonderful souvenirs you can buy in the gift shops).
  • Be aware of animals. Speeding kills bears, and feeding animals is not healthy for the animal (or you).
  • Teach your children about wilderness—the beauty and danger. Follow rules and read signs–they are for your protection and Yosemite’s preservation.
  • Talk to the rangers. They are a wealth of knowledge and can find answers to almost any question!
  • Read the Yosemite Guide handed out at the park entrance and see the exhibits. There is so much history and important sustainability information. The more you know the better your vacation will be and the healthier the park will be.

(Source: Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau)

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Morro Bay Recall Fails

The Morro Bay mayoral recall, which aimed to unseat mayor Jamie Irons immediately after the June elections, failed to collect enough signatures to make it to the ballot.

The Morro Bay mayoral recall, which aimed to unseat mayor Jamie Irons immediately after the June elections, failed to collect enough signatures to make it to the ballot.

“We were very close,” wrote Morro Bay Forward secretary Bill Peirce, who stated that the group collected about 1,600 signatures. They needed only 154 signatures to qualify for the June ballot. However, in a prepared statement that was published on the Morro Bay Forward website, Peirce claimed that more than 3,500 Morro Bay residents were “universally upset” at the mayor for never disclosing any reasons for terminating former City Attorney Robert Schultz and former City Manager Andrea Lueker. Peirce barely touched on the city’s efforts to build a new water reclamation family except to write that voters had “no interest in paying a premium to reclaim sewer water, to be provided to farmers, with residents picking up the tab.”

Instead of conceding defeat to The Tribune editorial board or efforts by recall opponents, Peirce blamed the short signature count on the inability to knock on doors of residents for the 90-day signature collection period.

“The shorter daylight hours this time of the year and holiday travel made it difficult to find enough registered voters at home,” wrote Peirce. “We are confident that if we had attempted the recall in the spring we would have been successful.”

Sources involved in collecting signatures for the recall were displeased with Peirce’s reasoning, saying that residents were unable to find any petitions to sign. About a month into the recall, The ROCK learned that some of the petitions were improperly filled out by the petitioners. This caused friction within Morro Bay Forward, and the group scrambled to collect signatures from residents who signed the flawed petition forms. Sources explained that the group lost its cohesiveness about two months into the signature collection after experiencing a gradual drop of optimism.

Mayor Irons has defended the council’s decision to terminate the city’s two top employees, stating that the initiative to do so came from consensus of the council majority. Councilmembers Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson have consistently supported the mayor. Councilmembers George Leage and Nancy Johnson have strongly opposed the council majority. Both have been outspoken in their opposition to the terminations and the council majority’s efforts to move the sewer from its current location on Atascadero Road.

The California Coastal Commission has long opposed the current project for its failure to comply with the Coastal Act and Morro Bay’s Local Coastal Program. The commission lauded the council for their decision to deny the permit for the project and pursue alternative locations. In addition to the council receiving support from commission staff, former commission chair Mary Shallenberger penned a letter to The Tribune on Dec. 16, stating her words were mischaracterized and misconstrued by recall supporters. In their flyer, Morro Bay Forward accurately quoted Shallenberger as criticizing Irons — appearing before the commission on Jan. 10, 2013 as the city’s representative — for forcing the commission to deny their own project. However, Shallenberger clarified that her criticism was not directed at Irons personally. Rather, the criticism was based on decisions made by the previous council majority.

“That hurt us,” admitted one volunteer who helped circulate the recall petitions. “It really was a misunderstanding.”

Irons has dismissed additional claims made by recall supporters, including the claim that he edited staff reports after presentation to the council. Instead of aggressively defending his record, Irons expressed his desire to continue his focus on city business. The mayor plans to run for re-election in June.

Morro Bay Forward has remained mum on plans to challenge Irons in the upcoming election.

EDITORIAL: Morro Bay Must Show Civil Restraint

The Morro Bay mayoral recall is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial topics to hit the North Coast since the Los Osos Community Services District recall in 2005.

Andrea Lueker and Rob Schultz
Morro Bay City Manager Andrea Lueker (left) and City Attorney Rob Schultz

The Morro Bay mayoral recall is, without a doubt, one of the most controversial topics to hit the North Coast since the Los Osos Community Services District recall in 2005. Unfortunately, there are a lot of similarities between the two recall movements that we prefer not to see.

Let’s face it: recalls result in community division. After the recall was successful in Los Osos, stopping the midtown sewer project, there was sharp division between community members and leaders over three LOCSD board members being replaced with a fresh new majority. Similarly, at the June 2012 primary election in Morro Bay a new majority was brought in to, essentially, move the new wastewater project out of town. In Los Osos, the County government ultimately assumed authority over the wastewater project after legislation was passed to facilitate that transition. In Morro Bay, the new majority initiated the public process on their project that Los Osos struggled to pursue without County intervention.

In Los Osos, district meetings at the South Bay Community Center were rife with gossip, rumor and innuendo. Sides were chosen. Opinionated citizens were judged as liars, thugs and criminals by other opinionated citizens. Menacing eyes were cast around the room, waiting for someone to approach the podium for public comment. The eyes sent a clear message: Unless you’re one of us, you’re nothing. Even though residents knew each other for decades, growing hatred overwhelmed years of cordiality and courtesy. Between salacious smearing in hushed tones, citizens with diametrically opposing viewpoints smiled and waved at each other. It was fake when it wasn’t forced, superficial when it wasn’t sarcastic.

Their leaders recalled, the new minority in Los Osos shouted, screamed and cursed at the newly elected majority board members. Residents — both for and against the recall — were harassed and threatened by neighbors-turned-adversaries. It was all very troubling. There seemed to be no end to the discord, no solution to the torn fabric. The lack of respect and decorum viciously tore the town in half. Many County residents outside of Los Osos, including Morro Bay residents, shook their heads and asked: What was Los Osos thinking?

Some Morro Bay residents have said over the years, “We’re not like Los Osos. There’s no comparison. What happened in Los Osos will never happen here.”

Look again.

In Morro Bay, the recall controversy is really no different than Los Osos. There are two warring factions, clustered in a city bustling with tourists and residents who recognize that life is best spent on less-than-stressful endeavors. Residents are left to sift through speculation, accusations, personal attacks and inconsequential bursts of hubris that yield little substance. Then there’s blame. Then there are the letters to the editor, the scathing viewpoints that portray the Morro Bay politics as black and white, sore losers and tyrannical winners. It’s us versus them. No exceptions.

We find that ridiculous and harmful.

Maybe residents have a right to be angry: two top city employees were suddenly on the chopping block without much warning or discussion. Mayor Jamie Irons was the primary force behind the move, a move to change the way business is done in Morro Bay. Some residents decided that firing the long-serving city attorney was unacceptable and initiated the recall. It’s their right to pursue one. Similarly, residents have a right to oppose the recall.

So we pose the twin questions: What are the reasons for supporting the mayor? What are the reasons for not supporting the mayor? Either way, before answering, abandon the invectives disguised as reasons. The reasons to recall Mayor Irons are subject to debate. There’s the linchpin issue of confidentiality versus transparency. Acknowledge the delicate balance and the overriding legalities involved that have shaped events thus far.

More importantly, let’s learn from past mistakes. Many of the critics involved in the debate in Morro Bay have made the same mistakes that tore apart Los Osos, gleefully, hypocritically resorting to threats and taunting as ways to embarrass and ostracize their detractors. But the debate should not dwell on the overreactions of both sides. To avoid what happened in Los Osos, Morro Bay residents must be vigilant in elevating civil discourse above the negative din. They must stand up for mutual respect as common ground to move forward as one. They must reject and denounce hostility as offering any kind of unifying solution, and argue for and against the recall with objective and legal rationale, working toward solutions that the majority of the town can agree on.

It’s time for Morro Bay residents to ask, “What are we thinking?” before Morro Bay becomes another Los Osos. That’s something no one in Morro Bay, no matter how upset, should ever want to see.

UPDATE: Citizens Launch Morro Bay Mayor Recall

irons2
Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons

09/27: Mayor Irons issued a statement to The ROCK regarding the recall. “My actions through this are driven by my responsibility and duty. I have requested outside legal counsel to ensure that City Council has legal representation through this personnel matter to protect the City and employees. I will not let the threat of recall sway my decision to move forward or distract me from my duties as Mayor.”

Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons is the subject of a recall petition that is being circulated around the community.

Residents initiated the recall after the mayor hastily arranged a closed session meeting on Sept. 12 to discuss the termination of City Manager Andrea Lueker and City Attorney Robert Schultz. Two weeks after the very contentious meeting took place, former City Council member William Peirce delivered a “Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition” to Irons at Tuesday’s meeting. The notice wasn’t officially certified until Thursday by the city clerk’s office, when the notice reached the 30 signature threshold that is required.

The recall takes aim at Irons for what recall supporters say is a lack of transparency from Irons. They also sharply criticized Irons for reportedly failing to take into the account the financial and ethical repercussions. The Tribune calculated that the move to terminate Lueker and Schultz would cost the City approximately $300,000 while recall supporters claim the cost would be higher. At the Sept. 24 meeting, the Council voted to take $12,500 from excess in the risk management fund to hire independent legal counsel and help facilitate the termination. Irons stated that the $12,500 would be the maximum cost for the contract.

Irons defended his actions by stating that the move was legally necessary. Because Lueker and Schultz are at-will employees, they can be terminated without complaint or stated cause. Stating an opinion about personnel matters would result in potential litigation, said Irons, at the Sept. 24 meeting. Irons declined to speculate or entertain speculation about his intent to terminate the city’s top employees, who received above-average performance evaluations since he was sworn into office. Councilmembers Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson have not made any statements to the media about reasons to terminate Lueker and Schultz. Councilmembers George Leage and Nancy Johnson, who are staunchly opposed to terminating Lueker and Schultz, claim that Irons has not yet elaborated to them about his decision. However, Irons invited the two dissenting councilmembers to participate in discussions with a law firm that he will choose to work with. 

Calling the circumstances “unusual” for the City of Morro Bay, Councilmember Christine Johnson said the move to hire independent counsel was necessary. Smukler agreed, noting that his vote was completely apolitical and not indicative of any future political ambitions. Both Smukler and Johnson have declined to comment to the media about the recall effort.

Supporters of the recall movement have also backed renovations for current wastewater project and keeping it at the same location. Irons and the majority of the Council voted to move the project due to clear and consistent objections made by the California Coastal Commission, which included — but not included to — flooding and tsunami concerns. The recall petition criticizes Irons for wasting eight years of staff time and labor by seeking a denial of the permit to rebuild the wastewater project at its current location. The Coastal Commission unanimously turned down the proposal.

The recall petition mentions that Irons supposedly edited staff reports after presentations to the Council and has raised taxes.

Irons will have a week to formulate a response to the recall notice.

Residents are already going door-to-door, soliciting signatures for the recall petition, which need support from 25% of the city’s registered voters. The Tribune notes that about 1,700 signatures would be needed to put a recall vote on the ballot. If the recall is successful, this would be the first recall of an elected official in Morro Bay since the city was incorporated in July 1964.

The recall effort is reminiscent of the contentious 2005 Los Osos recall. At that time, the recall was successful, but only by a hairline-slim margin.

Recall supporters will face an uphill battle to get the necessary signatures. For the June 5, 2012 election, 59.9% of registered voters elected Irons by 53.17% (2,089 votes). Former City Council member Carla Wixom received 20.90% (821 votes) and former Mayor William Yates received 20.21% (794 votes). Both Wixom and Yates are supportive of the recall and have spoken publicly in opposition to Irons’ intent to fire the city’s two top employees.

Morro Bay City Council Votes for Independent Legal Counsel

irons
Mayor Jamie Irons. Councilman Nancy Johnson (right), who argued against Irons’ and his intent to terminate the City’s two top employees, was absent from the Sept. 24 meeting

The Morro Bay City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24 remained contentious, but tensions at the podium simmered down as they voted 3-1 to hire an independent attorney. The attorney, who would be contracted for $12,500 — funds taken from from the city’s risk management budget — would advise the council on how to proceed with the termination of City Manager Andrea Lueker and and City Attorney Robert Schultz.

According to Mayor Jamie Irons, the request to seek independent legal counsel was meant to prevent conflict of interest, which would have Schultz providing counsel on his own personnel issue.

The vote allows Irons to seek an independent attorney with advice and recommendations from the rest of the Council. Irons voted with Councilmembers Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson. Councilwoman Nancy Johnson was absent from the meeting. Unsatisfied with the explanations from Mayor Irons regarding the questions he asked, Councilman George Leage cast the lone dissenting vote.

More than 200 people arrived at the meeting with a recall petition for Mayor Irons and yellow-colored protest signs that demanded the Council opt out of seeking outside legal advice, which Council dissidents say would cost up to $500,000 in additional post-termination expenses including — but not limited to — severance pay and paid administrative leave. On Sept. 20, The Tribune calculated that the terminations could cost the City at least $305,000.

The turnout was similar to the meeting that two place two weeks earlier on Sept. 12, except there was applause instead of cheering and jeering. At this meeting, half of residents who spoke were supportive of the council’s decisions while others expressed strong disapproval over Irons alleged lack of transparency. Unlike the meeting that took place on Sept. 12, the Council decided to take action on the controversial agenda item.

The Council declined to offer any explanation for attempting to terminate Lueker and Schultz. Some supporters of the Council levied accusations about Schultz with the intent to substantiate Irons’ efforts, but none of the accusations were revisited by the Council.

The article will be updated if or when City officials comment on the story.