Earlier this year, President Trump’s EPA opted to keep a regulatory standard imposed by President Obama’s EPA that aims to reduce amount of particulate matter emitted by industry.
These National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, have become a lightning rod issue for activists seeking to capitalize on the national apprehension around the COVID/Wuhan Virus crisis.
Surprisingly, many of the same voices who championed the Obama EPA’s 2012 NAAQS standards are now vocally opposed to them since they are being extended by a political rival. Even the head of the EPA under Obama – a person who certainly had the opportunity to change the current rule herself – is criticizing this move by the current EPA administrator.
NAAQS standards are designed to regulate pollutants that are common in outdoor air and are considered harmful to public health and the environment.
Exposure to a large amount of particulate matter pollution, especially if it persisted over a long period of time, could damage your lungs. But in the 50 years since the Clean Air Act was first enacted, air standards have gotten tougher and tougher, and our air has become cleaner and cleaner.
Indeed, annual concentrations of fine particulate matter in our air have decreased nearly 40 percent in just the last 20 years. Americans pay for that increased regulation in with depressed employment and higher prices. Despite the economic impacts, many would argue that the trade-offs justify a cleaner, more healthy environment.
In this case, however, the majority of outside scientists advising EPA did not find sufficient justification for changing the current standard.
Why not lower the standard and make the air even cleaner? The problem is that regulations cost money and that means they cost jobs. Take away jobs and you take away the quality of life – the ability to hope for a better life.
Regulation in the United States is expensive – about $10,000 per employee. For small businesses, the cost is even higher. The manufacturing sector bears the brunt of this cost with small businesses absorbing costs of nearly $35,000 per employee every year. The vast majority of those costs were from federal environmental regulations. Those costs prevent businesses from hiring new employees and investing in new opportunities.
The newly minted opponents of the Obama EPA particulate rule are now touting a Harvard University study that the opponents claim provides a link between deaths due to the Wuhan Virus and increased particulate matter pollution. But the Harvard study itself only argues for “continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations,” which is exactly what EPA proposes to do here. Even if the study is later verified through a peer-review process, EPA is not proposing to loosen the standards for particulate emissions. Instead, the Obama-era rule will remain in effect.
Another factor that must be considered is the impact of the coronavirus. With state governments shutting down businesses for an extended period, what will the effect be of any new regulatory standard on the country as it struggles to recover from a massive economic disaster?
Because of the shutdown, more than 38 million Americans have lost their jobs. This does not include the self-employed or “gig-economy” workers. The unemployment rate is already the highest it has been since the Great Depression nearly a century ago. The current unemployment rate of nearly 15 percent is significantly higher than the great recession of 2007-2009. Nearly one-half of Americans are unemployed.
More regulation will not bring those jobs back. It will have the opposite effect. During its first 15 years that the Clean Air Act was in force, nearly 600,000 jobs were lost due to the new regulations. Those jobs were lost at a time we had a functioning economy. That is not the situation in which we currently find ourselves, however. The “stay-at-home” orders have hammered our nation’s economy, and nobody knows how long it will take to rebuild.
In December of 2019 we had an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent. Employers were having a difficult time finding employees to fill job openings. Today we have a complete reversal. Now people who want a job are having a hard time finding companies that are still in operation. More than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors. Many larger businesses have closed many of their locations and bankruptcy filings are on the rise.
Now is not the time to put more burdens on business. If anything, the federal government should be looking for ways to reduce the regulatory burden in order to get the economy moving again.
In this case, however, EPA is only proposing to maintain an Obama-era regulation that was lauded by environmental advocates at the time.
There is no new scientific consensus that the EPA under President Obama made a mistake in adopting the PM standards in 2012. EPA is right to reject calls to make those standards more stringent, particularly when the American economy is struggling to rebound from a historic calamity.
Anthony Caso is the director of the Claremont Institute’s Constitutional Jurisprudence Clinic at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law.
Perhaps all Californians can agree, after more than three months of living under a state of emergency that has devastated the state’s economy and treasury, that state constitutional provisions regarding emergency powers need a few tweaks.
Unfortunately, a proposed state constitutional amendment now under consideration in the Legislature would worsen what we have already seen is the risk of unaccountable and secretive government overreach in an emergency.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 25, authored by Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, would allow remote voting by lawmakers during a state of emergency and proxy voting if the state of emergency prevents the member from “safely attending the proceeding in person.”
Further, the measure would change the rules for a quorum. If one-fifth or more of the members of the Senate or Assembly could not attend because they are deceased, disabled or “missing,” bills could be passed by a simple majority of those members able to attend.
Because the terms “emergency” and “missing” are not narrowly defined, there is a concerning vulnerability to abusive practices. “State of emergency” is said to mean “the existence of conditions of disaster or of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within the State, or parts thereof.” That covers a lot of ground, from the fear of a possible global pandemic to a local flood. “Missing” could mean anything from lost in a natural disaster to visiting another state to get a haircut.
ACA 25 was prompted by legislative pique that Gov. Gavin Newsom was issuing dozens of executive orders during the coronavirus state of emergency and signing contracts that committed the state to hundreds of millions of dollars in spending, with no transparency or legislative oversight. These are valid concerns.
It certainly makes sense to allow lawmakers to vote remotely during an emergency when travel to the state Capitol in Sacramento may be difficult or impossible. Proxy voting is more problematic. The constituents of an elected representative have the right to expect that their interests will be actively represented by the person they elected, not by a person designated to cast votes on behalf of their representatives.
A form of unofficial proxy voting has caused problems before. Tim Anaya of Pacific Research Institute pointed out that in the Assembly, lawmakers sometimes reach over and press the voting button for a seatmate who is away from the desk, a practice that draws little attention unless the vote is cast in opposition to that member’s position on a bill. In 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that then-Assemblyman Kevin de Leon cast such a contrary “ghost” vote for Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi.
It’s not difficult to imagine that with a long list of bills to consider, the chaos of remote and proxy voting would decrease transparency to the point that the public was unable to determine what legislation was being passed and whether their representative supported or opposed it.
Any constitutional amendment revising emergency powers should include protections against abuse, including a precise definition of when an emergency has ended.
ACA 25 has already passed the Assembly and is under consideration in the Senate, where it would need a two-thirds vote to be placed on the ballot for voter approval. Lawmakers should slow down and consider more fully how best to revise emergency powers to maintain the operations of government during a disaster.
In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers promised, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We are to enjoy these rights via a government that derives its power from the “consent of the governed.” But what happens when the governed withdraw their consent?
Two words: repression or rebellion.
After last weekend’s “Beach Blanket Biohazard” in Orange County, California Gov. Gavin Newsom took the velvet glove off the iron fist of government. Newsom ordered all O.C. beaches closed. Worse still, the governor closed the parking lots, which is practically a hate crime in California.
Until now, most of the unprecedented stay-at-home orders have been voluntary. Newsom, Dr. Fauci, and even the president made the case for social-distancing and self-quarantining and the public overwhelmingly agreed. 50 days later, with typical Southern California sunshine and temps returning after a month of Seattle South, the “consent of the governed” is beginning to fray.
So, Newsom has put the COP in Coppertone.
The governor believes sun-worshipers flaunted social-distancing rules. He’s right, of course, because as every Beach Bum knows, it takes two to tan. Not even a Cirque du Soleil acrobat can smear SPF-50 on their own back. Sunbathers clumped together for selfies and sandcastles putting themselves and everyone else at risk.
Opponents of the governor pin the blame for last weekend’s crowds on the state itself, arguing if Newsom would open all the beaches, Californians would have 840-miles of coastline to social-distance in. This is great rhetoric; the only problem is we’ve seen what our beaches look like when there isn’t a quarantine. Californians go to the beach the way Germans went to France. It’s what we do. Unless Newsom is willing to arrest tens of thousands, the beaches will be full.
In free societies, citizens chose their leaders. If our government goes in a direction we don’t like, we have the right to elect new leaders. Gavin Newsom will be judged at the polls for the decisions he makes today. Donald Trump will face the voters in November.
In totalitarian societies, there is no mechanism for change; the jackboot comes down hard, crushing malcontents. From Tiananmen to Treblinka, history is littered with the corpses of those who dared stand up to abusive power. Closing the beaches in California during a pandemic is not setting up death camps; it’s the opposite, an attempt to save lives and restore normality to civic life. Still, even the most benign governments resort to coercive measures.
Most people are not wrestling with the philosophic or constitutional implications of coronavirus; they simply don’t want to get sick or see their moms or dads die because some guy somewhere wants his mullet trimmed. Still, there are serious legal and philosophical issues at stake here. What happens next time or the time after that?
It’s up to each of us to decide how much authority we’re willing to cede to government in order to fight COVID-19. 100 years ago, we gave up a lot. During the Spanish Flu pandemic, theaters closed, large public gatherings were banned, you couldn’t leave or enter New York without a travel permit issued by the mayor, and 50 million plus still died. We’re trying not to have history repeat itself.
We humans are social animals. We need to eat. That means we need jobs to buy groceries and pay rent because landlords need tenets to cover their mortgages. Mayors and governors need taxpayers to pay for services. And we need room to play outdoors.
We need concerts and theater and sports and a day at the beach. Everyone wants this disaster to go away yesterday. Yet, nobody knows with certainty when that will be. The cost of this shutdown has been staggering. The cost of opening prematurely and triggering a second wave will be worse. For this reason, I’m willing to trust the experts, to follow their guidelines, to wear a mask and avoid unnecessary trips, and do all the things I’ve been asked to do in order to flatten the curve. You will do what you chose to do.
In Ireland, they shut down the pubs on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. They may not reopen until 2021. Can you imagine? The pub is an Irishman’s beach. It ain’t just us.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.
The Great Recession that hit California 13 years ago had a devastating effect on the state budget.
General fund revenues — principally personal income taxes paid by affluent Californians — dropped by about 20% and to maintain basic services, the Legislature and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran up deficits and covered them with borrowed money.
They shifted money from special funds, such as highway construction and maintenance, to prop up the general fund portion of the budget, and they triggered temporary cuts in state aid to schools, among other tactics.
When Jerry Brown returned to the governorship in 2011 he confronted what he called a “wall of debt” more than $30 billion high. Eventually, all of the borrowed money was repaid.
This history frames what is about to happen to the state budget because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Countless businesses have been shut down to battle the spread of the coronavirus, millions of jobs have been erased at least temporarily and countless billions of dollars have been wiped from stock market accounts and other investments.
The $222.2 billion 2020-21 budget that Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed in January, containing substantial increases in spending on education, health care and social services, has now been set aside. Newsom’s staff is working on a revised version to be unveiled in mid-May.
“The economic disruption from the pandemic is expected to result in a recession and have significant negative effects on state revenues,” Newsom’s Department of Finance said in a preliminary overview in mid-April. “Concurrently, the drop in the stock market may cause further revenue declines.
“This impact is expected to be immediate, affecting fiscal year 2019-20, and will continue into fiscal year 2020-21 and additional years depending on the pace of recovery of local, state and national economies.”
How bad will the “significant negative effects” be? A passage in the back pages of the budget says that a moderate recession would likely reduce general revenues by $25 billion a year. This recession isn’t moderate and could easily surpass the Great Recession in severity.
Moreover, the state is now markedly more dependent on personal income taxes than it was during the Great Recession, especially levies on the highest-income Californians whose taxable incomes are the most volatile.
The Legislature’s budget analyst, Gabriel Petek, has told lawmakers, “The state now faces a budget problem, potentially a significant one” and estimated a near-term deficit as high as $35 billion, eventually reaching $85 billion.
A $35 billion drop would be 23% of the revenue previously estimated for the 2020-21 general fund and it might be a conservative figure, given the budget’s estimate of a $25 billion impact from a moderate recession. Even so, $35 billion is twice what the state has squirreled away in its emergency reserve accounts.
State officials estimate that fighting the pandemic will cost about $7 billion, most of which will likely be reimbursed by the federal government, albeit with borrowed money. Nevertheless, the state would still see a heavy hit on non-pandemic spending — unless Congress and President Donald Trump give state and local governments substantial no-strings relief.
The revised budget that Newsom will propose this month, and the one the Legislature will enact by June 15, will be nothing more than preliminary guesses, since the fuller extent of the fiscal crisis won’t emerge until after the July 15 income tax filing deadline.
The budget will be revised more or less continuously thereafter as both the pandemic and the economy evolve. It will be bad, but until it happens we won’t know the depth of the fiscal damage.
CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary
USA Water Polo and the CIF-Southern Section have discussed the revised schedule for the Junior Olympics, which for girls in the older age divisions in Southern California will conflict with their high school season in December.
The U.S. federation moved its Junior Olympics to November and December from its regular summer spot because of the coronavirus crisis.
The 16 and 18-and-under divisions for the boys and girls have been re-booked for Dec. 27-30 in Irvine and throughout Orange County. The date conflicts with the girls high school season in the Southern, San Diego and Los Angeles sections, where girls play from about mid-November through most of February.
“We’ve begun discussions (with the CIF-SS),” USA Water Polo CEO Chris Ramsey said this week. “It was very cordial. It was a great appreciation of how we have traditionally worked together and been great partners and we were going to approach this challenge in the same light.
“There’s been fair and frank discussions but it’s not resolved yet. I think part of that is we just need to see a little bit more, and they to see a little bit more, about what’s going to happen in the fall.”
The start of the fall sports season — which includes boys water polo — remains a hot topic in high school sports. The spring sports season was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and schools physically closed for the remainder of the academic year to focus on on-line or distance learning.
The boys water polo season ends in late November.
But the schedule conflict for the girls also appears to bring CIF State bylaw 600 into play. The rule prohibits athletes from playing for an outside team in the same sport during their current high school season.
CIF-SS assistant commissioner Thom Simmons said this week that the section is working with USA Water Polo and the CIF State office on the scheduling conflict, which he added will have an “extremely negative impact” on the high school water polo season.
“It is our hope that the decision made by USA Water Polo will be reconsidered in the best interests of student-athletes, coaches and our high school water polo programs,” Simmons said.
Ramsey said in rescheduling the Junior Olympics, USA Water Polo responded to the desire of its clubs that the Junior Olympics be played. Financial reasons weren’t the driving factor for the revised schedule, he said.
The younger age divisions for boys and girls — 10, 12 and 14-and-under — have been moved to Nov. 21-24 at Stanford.
Ramsey acknowledged that clubs and federations across the nation could face hurdles with the dates, travel and regulations.
“The overwhelming message we got was please try to have Junior Olympics,” he said. “We recognize that it may be a different participation matrix than we’re used to but we’re still hopeful that everyone who wants to participate will be able to participate.”
Ramsey added that the Junior Olympics will also feel different simply because of the coronavirus crisis, which could cancel the event if health conditions don’t improve in Southern California.
“I actually believe even if it’s significantly lower participation at these new dates (for Junior Olympics), this can fulfill very meaningful community purpose,” he said. “More of a festival purpose for us. A bringing the sport and everyone back together again to remind themselves the value of the sport in their lives.”
Kobe Bryant represented different things to millions of people around the world.
To Orange County’s small and close-knit girls basketball community, he symbolized inspiration, friendship, mentorship, hope and pure wonder that they could literally touch.
The Lakers’ legend was one of them.
So it was with heavy hearts and after shedding tears that players and coaches remembered Bryant after he and his daughter Gianna were among nine people who died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.
“Kobe Bryant was an inspiration and someone who I looked up to,” Tustin junior guard Alyssa Norada said. “Growing up, I used to watch his highlights before bed or watch them before games, trying to learn how to perfect a signature move.”
Like so many in Orange County girls basketball, Norada also spent time with Bryant, 41, in person. He coached Gianna, 13, on the Orange County-based Mambas, an elite travel basketball team consisting of eighth graders.
The team also included Alyssa Altobelli, another 13-year-old who died in the crash along with her parents, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and Keri.
Christina Mauser, Bryant’s top assistant on the Mambas and a former standout at Edison, also died in the crash along with Sarah and Payton Chester and the pilot.
“It’s tragic,” said a shaken Dave White, who coached Mauser in basketball at Edison under maiden last name, Patterson. “I’m devastated.”
The Mambas played throughout Orange County, which means there were numerous Kobe sightings.
From American Sports Center in Anaheim to Santiago High School to Vanguard University to Mater Dei, Bryant attracted crowds to games that usually didn’t garner much attention. He posed for photos with young players, some of whom just rushed him for a hug.
“He was so generous with his team,” Mater Dei girls basketball coach Kevin Kiernan said. “He was just amazing.”
But Kiernan said the wonder extended beyond the photos. He gave young players from other teams pep talks and pats on the back.
Bryant did just that in January 2019 when he brought the Mambas to watch Mater Dei play and spoke to the Monarchs afterward. He gave the players a few tips but more than anything, encouragement.
“It’s the words behind the pictures,” Kiernan said. “That’s huge.”
Esperanza girls basketball coach Jimmy Valverde struck up a friendship with Bryant after interacting with him about two years while coaching with the O.C. Rhythm travel team.
Bryant shared with Valverde that he had a scheduling conflict at a tournament and asked if Valverde’s team could play the Mambas earlier than expected and without rest. Valverde agreed and the coaches shared a laugh.
The next time Valverde saw Bryant, the legendary player called the him over for a chat, much to amazement of Valverde’s parents in the gym.
“I feel like a lost a friend,” Valverde said Sunday. “He was just a nice guy. … There was no ego. He was just there for his daughter and the kids.”
But Bryant’s Mambas weren’t entirely like other teams.
Rhythm coach Vernon Henderson said the Mambas were not strong when they initially formed but followed Bryant’s tenacity to develop into a powerhouse. The trained seven days a week, played against older teams and expertly ran the triangle offense, which the opposition often had no answer for.
“They were seasoned,” Henderson said.
Henderson also noticed Bryant doing something different than many coaches. He hardly yelled at his players.
“He was always teaching,” Henderson said.
Henderson said Bryant’s example and a discussion with the five-time NBA champion made him a better coach.
“I can’t stop crying,” Henderson said.
Bryant enjoyed coaching so much, he planned to coach Gianna and other players off the Mambas at Sage Hill.
Sage Hill coach Kerwin Walters was too upset Sunday to talk.
“They had a plan,” Henderson said. “They were going to be 1-2 in the county by their freshmen year.”
But the hope wasn’t limited to one school. The Bryants’ arrival on the county girls basketball scene was going to be bring a new-level of exposure that would benefit the sport, coaches said.
And more players would be inspired.
“Kobe was the definition of someone who was born ready,” Norada said. “He prepared, he worked and went after his goals and didn’t stop until he achieved them. He will always be one of my biggest inspirations and role models.”
Quarterback Isiah Del Toro threw six touchdowns Friday, including a 9-yard score to Caine Savage in overtime, to help lift Western past host Laguna Beach 56-49 for at least a share of the Pac 4 League title.
Western (8-1, 2-0), ranked seventh on Division 10, scored on its second play on the opening possession of overtime and then held on defense against the Breakers (5-4, 1-1).
Del Toro also rushed for a touchdown for Western, which plays host to Godinez next week.
A level playing field. That’s all I’ve ever asked for. When my friends, typically cocky chefs, bragged about their Michelin star restaurants in New York, Chicago and Paris, all I could do was roll my eyes and say, “When Michelin comes to Southern California, then it’s on.” And, I was right. On June 3, Michelin presented its first all-state guide at a sunlit ceremony at Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach. During that idyllic Orange County evening, 90 restaurants were celebrated as Michelin star recipients.
Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama of n/naka in Los Angeles stole the show. The duo had a big week. Netflix had just released Ali Wong’s celebrity chef-inspired romcom “Always Be My Maybe,” which utilized the kaiseki chefs’ talents as culinary consultants for the movie. Then on that evening, the couple stood on a male-dominated stage and took home two Michelin stars. “This could only happen in Southern California,” said Nakayama as tears streamed down her cheeks, her wife, Carole, standing beside her, arms intertwined and holding her close. “We have 20 people in our restaurant – 13 of them are women. We’re so proud of that,” added Carole. “The ingredients. The freedom – we could only do it here,” said Nakayama.
Carlos Salgado titillated the Michelin inspectors at Taco Maria. “The enticing scent of meat cooking over the fire and house-made heirloom masa tortillas on the griddle set the tone for an amazing experience,” stated Michelin inspectors. Taco Maria was one of two OC restaurants to receive Michelin star nods. Hana re at the Lab took home a star for chef Atsushi Yokoyama‘s refined Spartan take on sushi reverence. In total, the 2019 Michelin Guide California features 27 new restaurants with a one-star distinction, many of which have been featured in the pages of Coast. The new guide also revealed dishes to try such as pancit noodles at Irenia, paella at Vaca and Amelia’s salad at Marché Moderne. Five local spots – chef Ross Pangilinan’s Mix Mix Kitchen and Bar, Garlic & Chives, Hiro Nori Ramen, Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, and LSXO received Bib Gourmand recognition. The evening revealed what we’ve known all along. California is a culinary hotspot. Now, we have a nifty red guide to prove it.
The boozy S’mores Milkshake from Slater’s 50/50 combines nostalgic flavors of camping spiked with marshmallow vodka. The adult-only concoction melds vanilla ice cream, toasted marshmallow syrup, chocolate, whipped cream, marshmallow fluff and finely crushed graham crackers into one lovely glass. If you don’t get a buzz from the booze, you’ll definitely succumb to the inevitable sugar high.
6362 E. Santa Ana Canyon Road, Anaheim Hills17071 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach::slaters5050.com
Food Field Trip
This year Terranea celebrated its 10th anniversary and unveiled Solviva, a new wellness-driven restaurant. Chef RJ Dela Merced developed a plant-forward menu with resident nutritionist Navil Lorenzana. The dishes honor Terranea’s bounty: produce grown onsite, the surrounding kelp forest and honey by resident bees. Think: sweet potato toast topped with avocado and sprouts, seasonal crudite dipped in housemade hummus along with heartier hand-cut pappardelle covered in almond pesto and grass-fed lamb with fresh fava beans.
Breakfast at Solviva boasts the resort’s bounty. Terranea kelp-cured smoked salmon topped with tomato and onion jam, whipped cream cheese on half of a whole wheat bagel is so tasty, you’ll order two for yourself. The kelp is harvested in the wild marine forest that encircles the resort. The kelp serves two purposes. Bernard Ibarra, vice president of culinary experiences and executive chef, harvests sea salt from these waters. He gathers buckets of water and lets it evaporate in special beds; the result is local sea salt. The kelp imparts oceanic terroir while simultaneously purifying the water and improving the salt’s quality. The jams are made with fruit from the resort’s garden. Eggs from the on-site coop have psychedelic orange yolks.
The honey harvested from Terranea’s bees is served in many ways. My favorite was the Bee’s Knees cocktail, which combines artisanal gin with sweet honey. It’s the perfect way to toast the resort’s 10th anniversary.
Black Tiger shrimp ceviche with taro chips. (photography by Terranea)
Soliviva dining room. (photography by Terranea)
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Terranea kelp-cured smoked salmon topped with tomato and onion jam, whipped cream cheese on half of a whole wheat bagel. (photography by Jenn Tanaka)
Seeing the mandible tips of the 100-foot-long Millennium Falcon poking into view in the open backstage elephant doors nearly made my heart skip a beat as I stepped into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for a preview tour of Disneyland’s highly anticipated newest themed land.
“Pretty cool, huh?” said Disneyland vice president Kris Theiler.
Pretty cool doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of seeing the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy standing before me in all its battle-scarred glory. Try somewhere between hyper-ventilating and cardiac arrest. Thank goodness most people entering Galaxy’s Edge will have to make their way through a warren of winding walkways before coming face-to-face with Han Solo’s famed starship. Otherwise Disneyland might have to install defibrillators at the entrances of Galaxy’s Edge.
Earlier this week, Theiler took a small group of local media on an exclusive tour of Black Spire Outpost on the Star Wars planet of Batuu, the setting for the 14-acre Galaxy’s Edge themed land set to debut May 31 at the Anaheim theme park.
The Millennium Falcon sat in front of Ohnaka Transport Solutions, a shady interstellar shipping company that serves as a front operation for a clandestine smuggling operation. Towering 135-foot-tall spires formed a dramatic backdrop behind the ship, which serves as the marquee to the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run flight simulator attraction. An E-ticket ride so advanced that it may require Disney to come up with a new F-ticket classification. F as in Falcon.
“Obviously this is the Falcon and this is the Smugglers Run attraction,” Theiler said. “The cast are doing ride testing right now.”
The Millennium Falcon plays the role of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Galaxy’s Edge. What Walt Disney would have called a “wienie” designed to draw you deeper into the land. Galaxy’s Edge visitors will have to hunt awhile before they come upon the famed Corellian YT-1300 light freighter at the back of the land. And hunt they will because they know it has to be somewhere in Galaxy’s Edge. But the Falcon doesn’t reveal herself right away.
The Smugglers Run ride will be the only operating attraction in Galaxy’s Edge on opening day. In order to manage crowds and expectations, Disneyland will require reservations to enter the Star Wars land between May 31 and June 23. FastPasses won’t be used for Smugglers Run during that period, but the park plans to employ a single rider line starting on opening day. Expect the reservation-period queue to stretch backstage as fans rush to be the first to add their names to list of pilots who have flown the Millennium Falcon. Han, Chewie, Lando, Rey and now you. Disney really ought to sell t-shirts that proclaim, “I flew the Millennium Falcon.” No need to send me royalty checks. I’ll take an extra large.
I was fortunate to visit Galaxy’s Edge in February during a construction tour for a small group of media. At that time, the place was a hive of hundreds of construction workers climbing scaffolding, operating cranes and pouring cement. On Monday, it looked like Galaxy’s Edge could open at a moment’s notice. There was merchandise on shop shelves. Cast members, Disney speak for employees, were busy training in the build-your-own droid and lightsaber shops. And Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative arm of the company, was putting the finishing touches on audio-animatronic characters and stage-setting props throughout the land.
“We’re really in the punch list mode, just finalizing all of the details,” Theiler said. “We have WDI crews in here still doing the final finishes.”
A full-size Sienar-Chall Utilipede-Transport ship sat atop the cylindrical-shaped Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo quick-service restaurant. The food freighter serves as an intergalactic food truck that makes regular deliveries of alien delicacies to the food hall-style restaurant.
“I’m excited about the menu,” Theiler said. “Our chefs did a great job trying to think of traditional comfort foods in a Galaxy’s Edge way. You’ll see something unique and different with every single dish.”
Galaxy’s Edge is about exploration and discovery. It’s like an onion. You have to peel back the layers. The more you look, the more you find. And like peeling an onion, it’s not always easy. Many of the shops won’t have signs out front. At least not in English. It helps if you know a bit of Aurebesh and Huttese. The signs carved into the facades over the shop entrances will need to be translated using the Galaxy’s Edge Data Pad found within the Disneyland mobile app. Unless you happen to be fluent in the Star Wars languages.
Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities is just such a place. From the outside, you’d never know what to expect when you walk through the arched doorway. Inside, visitors will find an animatronic hammerhead alien who deals in black market goods. You can even barter with the dangerous 245-year-old Ithorian if you feel brave enough. Just don’t expect a discount.
“He’s been creating a collection for years and years and years,” Theiler said. “You can come in and get lots of different and unique offerings from the galaxy.”
A group of costumed cast members poured out of a Batuu building on a tour of their own. The walkways were empty except for the occasional cast member dressed in Black Spire villager garb. The vast land is designed to envelop visitors in an immersive atmosphere from a galaxy far, far away.
A team of Imagineers was busy adjusting an animatronic droid who has the thankless and tireless job of turning a spit of “space meat” at Ronto Roasters. The food stand sells sausage wraps and turkey jerky prepared by a smelter droid named 8D-J8 who labors endlessly over a fire stoked by a massive podracing engine. A caged meat locker stood nearby filled with alien delicacies collected from throughout the Star Wars galaxy.
The open-air Ronto Roasters leads directly into the Black Spire Souk, which draws inspiration from the outdoor marketplaces of Istanbul, Turkey and Marrakesh, Morocco. Lanterns hung from the open-air rooftop shaded by what looked like air conditioning coils. A stall at the end of the marketplace displayed a collection of Star Wars blasters. Imagineers huddled under a black pop-up tent poring over plans for the land
“There’s villagers that are living up above,” Theiler said. “This is going to be a busy marketplace down below.”
A short queue weaved inside Kat Saka’s Kettle, a space popcorn stand that will serve a savory and spicy take on the theme park staple.
Plush dolls of Ahsoka Tano, Lando Calrissian and Jabba the Hutt lined the shelves of the Toydarian Toymaker. A silhouette of a winged alien named Zabaka will flit around the back of her workshop amid toys, dolls, games and musical instruments inspired by the Star Wars universe.
Oinking Puffer Pigs, tongue-flicking Worrts and vibrating Rathtars collected from across the Star Wars galaxy stuffed an alien pet store in the marketplace. The Creature Stall was crammed to the rafters with cute and cuddly animatronic beasts that filled hanging cages.
The marketplace souk spilled into a secret rebel base camp in a wooded area on the edge of the Black Spire village, where the heroic Resistance was hiding from the villainous First Order. Imagineering crews were testing the sounds of starship engines spooling up before takeoff during our tour of the land. Every once in awhile you could hear the distinct sound of a X-wing streaking overhead. The newly planted trees are so lush I couldn’t see the massive Rise of the Resistance that boasts four rides in one attraction. Disney calls the trackless dark ride its most ambitious to date.
At a clearing in the forest, a military outpost will sell merchandise to Resistance loyalists. The shelves were already filled with fighter pilot helmets and the distinctive orange and white flight gear of the rebel forces. Beverage stands selling the distinctive “thermal detonator” Coca-Cola bottles exclusive to Galaxy’s Edge had yet to installed.
Deeper into the forest, a rebel gun turret stood at the entrance to the Rise of the Resistance attraction. The dark ride, which won’t open until later in the year, will take riders on a journey to outer space where they will be imprisoned on a Star Destroyer and have to figure out how to escape.
A full-size X-Wing and A-Wing sat docked across from the Rise of the Resistance entrance.
“We’re going to activate this space with entertainment and characters,” Theiler said.
Down around the bend stood the Critter Country entrance to the land. I couldn’t see even a hint of Disneyland in any direction I looked. In fact, Galaxy’s Edge is a hermetically sealed space bubble that doesn’t let in any whisper of the real world, let alone the Happiest Place on Earth.
Heading back into the Black Spire village, a collection of astromechs stood sentinel in front of the droid-building shop near the Frontierland entrance to Galaxy’s Edge. A broad-shouldered yellow and red droid looked like a short but stout body builder. The sad EG-series power droid seen in the belly of the Jawa Sandcrawler in the original 1977 “Star Wars” film joined the lineup in front of the Droid Depot shop.
Across the way, a trio of landspeeders sat in a garage awaiting repairs. A Tatooine landspeeder similar to the one used by Luke Skywalker was parked next to a Jakuu Raider model seen in “The Force Awakens.”
“It’s a location for all the space vehicles that are coming in and need work on them,” Theiler said.
Following a set of droid tracks in the cement took us into an intimate courtyard covered by a sail-like canopy. A red R5 and a yellow R2 were getting an oil bath behind the Droid Depot shop. Across from a well-labeled restroom, a worker tinkered with a drinking fountain with a glass cistern attached that will occasionally be populated by an animatronic dianoga beast. The one-eyed garbage squid that nearly drowned Luke Skywalker dwells in the pipes of Galaxy’s Edge, according to the backstory for the land.
A menacing full-sized TIE Echelon starfighter lurked near the Galaxy’s Edge entrance from Fantasyland. Talk about a dramatic transition. The Red Fury flags of the First Order’s 709 Legion hung from the Galaxy’s Edge buildings. First Order stormtroopers will patrol the sector of Black Spire village that lays just a few steps away from the genteel Dumbo the flying elephant ride and the regal Sleeping Beauty Castle.
“This is really a big First Order statement right here,” Theiler said. “We’ve got a First Order shop over there. They are really trying to sign up recruits and make sure they know they’re going to bring order to the land and help everybody live a more disciplined life.”
The last stop on the tour took us to Oga’s Cantina, the wretched hive of scum and villainy that will be the first public location in Disneyland to serve alcohol. The copper dome-topped cylindrical building was built into one of the many petrified tree spires dotting the village. A double take revealed “cantina” spelled out in a futuristic font above the arched doorway. The bar menu will include a Jedi Mind Trick cocktail, Bad Motivator IPA beer and Imperial Guard red wine.
“It’s highly themed and very immersive,” Theiler said. “There’s a lot of neat little touches by our Imagineering team.”
Off in the distance, the Millennium Falcon came into view again beyond a curved archway.
“The long shots in the land are really beautiful,” Theiler said.
The sight of the Falcon’s cockpit once again quickened my pulse. The heart palpitations returned. As I said farewell to the Falcon and Galaxy’s Edge.
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