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Mailbag: Ideology overtaking civil debate in U.S.

This past weekend I was made aware that the Laguna Beach Unified School District would not allow our students to see the message from the president to the nation’s school children on the opening day of school, as a result of all the manufactured controversy surrounding it.

Apparently the board and superintendent had been inundated with letters of protest from “outraged" parents, despite the fact that the president was encouraging children to aim high and take responsibility for their education.

Last week I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and was accosted by petition gatherers armed with pictures of the president defaced with a Hitler mustache and exhorted shoppers to “help stop Obama’s Nazi health-care scheme."

Last month our own congressman, John Campbell, sponsored legislation challenging Obama’s legitimacy as president in the misguided insistence that he was not born in the United States and therefore was not the real president.

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What is going on here?

This very dangerous trend to marginalize and de-legitimize the elected president of the United States by suggesting to school children that his message is somehow “dangerous," “Socialist" or “fascist" is threatening our very democracy.

We are allowing, as Michael Hiltzik in The Los Angeles Times pointed out, ideology to reign over ideas.

I have great respect for Supt. Robert Fraisse and I believe that, in his decision to tape the president’s message, instead of showing it, and allow individual teachers to decide if they wanted to air the speech or not, he was doing what he thought was best for our children so that they would have a smooth and controversy-free commencement of the new school year.

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However, I am concerned that by allowing the shrieking voices of ideology to affect school policy, we are teaching our children not only to disrespect our elected leader, but to value political ideology over thoughtful reasoned debate.

ANNE COX

Laguna Beach

Who is running the schools anyway?

I was appalled to hear that the superintendent and Laguna Beach school board decided not to allow students to hear President Obama’s message Tuesday. How could this happen here?

Responses from three of the five board members to whom I sent e-mails did not include reasoned explanations, but rather pathetic excuses: not enough time in the school day, a burden on teachers, and a plan to record the speech and show later to students whose parents had not “opted out" of hearing a message from our president.

Hmmm, sounds like the way schools handle sex education. I fail to see the parallel here.

Both board members and Supt. Robert Fraisse have admitted directly and indirectly that the president’s address became an issue because of parents, with some threatening to keep their children home from school if the address were shown. Has Laguna really been taken over by a bunch of “Birthers," “Tea Party Goers" and people carrying guns to places visited by our president? Or, perhaps our schools are being taken over by right-wingers with deep pockets?

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Whatever the reason for the school district’s action, it appears to be based on ignorance and a deep sense of political polarization.

Neither belongs in the schools or serves our kids very well. Are we really living in Laguna Beach, or has someone played a nasty trick and transported us to Wasilla, Alaska?

LILLIAN REITER

Laguna Beach

Board should not buckle to extremism

Editor’s note: The following was addressed to the Laguna Beach Board of Education.

It’s true that the right wing is becoming more vociferous and threatening every day, to the point of (among many other things) accusing President Obama of being a traitor and showing up for anti-Obama rallies with weapons in hand.

Now, in the name of “ideology" (which looks to many of us like simple, blind racism) they are challenging schools to disallow the president’s appeal for kids to not quit, to stay in school and to graduate.

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I have several times wondered if there is anything the GOP (with their supporters who “pray for Obama failure") will not do to undermine this administration.

Please don’t cave in to this pressure from the know-nothings.

School boards are by their nature conservative, at all times and everywhere. But there is a distinction between following a cautious path and buckling under pressure from groups whose arguments you know very well to be specious.

Please rule on the side of education, this time and each time. Otherwise what are you doing in your position?

Now is the time to ask yourself this question. Now is the time to take a stand. Become known for something other than bending whichever way the wind blows.

JIM RUE

Laguna Beach

Homeless should not be living on beaches

Editor’s note: The following was sent to the City Council.

The greatest gift residents of Laguna Beach possess is the ability to be on our coastline within minutes of any neighborhood in town. I grew up in Laguna Beach, and to this day I am still overwhelmed by the beauty of our city. My wife and I live in North Laguna and walk our dog through Heisler Park a couple times a week.

It has been disheartening to see the homeless population grow larger and larger. What used to be a few homeless discretely living in the shadows has now become many living in semi-permanent encampments.

While it will take many debates and lots of money to solve the homeless issue as a whole, I would appeal to the council to concentrate on the one aspect of the problem that defies common sense. This is allowing the homeless to live on our beaches and parks. The sanitary, health and safety issues should be enough to put an end to this situation. If we allow the homeless to live on our beaches and parks we should have the restrooms opened all night and law enforcement concentrating on these areas just as state and national campgrounds do.

The city doesn’t have enough resources to tend to our parks and beaches as if they were state parks.

A lawsuit against our city should not stand up if we are to sacrifice the citizens’ right to enjoy safe and sanitary public spaces.

If, after consultation with our best legal counsel, we determine the only way to avoid damages from the ACLU lawsuit is to give the homeless a place to sleep at night, then that is what we need to do. But we need to do only what is required by law.

A homeless center should be a way station for people to get back on their feet in a safe environment. It cannot be a permanent place of residence.

As a city we can’t be responsible for single handedly solving the homeless problem. We can only be responsible for giving our residents a safe and sanitary city.

BILL ROBERTSON

Laguna Beach

Let homeless sleep on hiring lot

I read with interest the letters from the Aug. 28 Mailbag concerning the homeless and “the Complex." As a 28-year resident of Laguna Beach, not until recently have I felt truly uncomfortable walking through Heisler Park or on the boardwalk, both of which are very near my home. I concur completely with Paul Merritt, a fellow Lagunan, and our San Carlos visitor, Ed Peverell. The situation has become completely out of control. The homeless have taken over our beaches.

I wish no one ill fortune and realize the homeless need support. However, is it really appropriate to offer them the most pristine areas of our city as a sanctuary?

It is no longer comfortable or safe to use the park’s public restrooms; it is unhealthy and unsightly to have the area littered with dirty sleeping bags and trash, not to mention all of their personal belongings.

We now need a permit to have a picnic, but can’t find a clean table at which to sit. Residents can’t drink or smoke (I don’t smoke anyway) at the park or beach, but the homeless do on a regular basis.

It seems that the new laws enacted to help deal with the effects of the homeless on the beach are affecting mostly the residents, as the homeless simply continue to ignore the laws.

It is probably not useful to criticize the current situation unless offering a solution. Well, I think I have a possibility for our City Council to consider.

We already have a plot of land within the city limits designated for day workers. I would like to suggest that we take that area and make it a duel-use facility. Provide one-way bus service to the center from downtown for the homeless. They can camp there undisturbed.

By the time they awake, the day workers have mostly gone off to work; by 5 p.m. the day workers have gone home. The homeless could have a “place of their own" where they would not create animosity with Laguna’s tax-paying citizens. The beaches and parks would be suitable for residents and tourists to visit.

An alternate solution, should the council not like my first proposition, would be for all of us to buy tents and move to the beach and park, side by side with our homeless brothers and sisters.

Perhaps we could all live harmoniously, like a new millennium Woodstock. That’s probably the only way for me to get an oceanfront parcel anyway.

Something must be done to preserve our beaches and parks. Homelessness is unfortunate when forced, but many of these people are homeless by choice.

Why not choose homelessness when your beach-front home is better than anything you could ever afford to buy?

RUSS HILL

Laguna Beach

Homeopathy class is for all adults

Thank you very much for printing the announcement about my new “Health through Homeopathy" class being offered through the Laguna Beach Community Services Department, beginning Thursday. Perhaps because the class will be at the Community & Susi Q Center, it was posted under the heading, “Senior Notes."

As the instructor, I want to clarify that the class is by no means relevant only to seniors, but rather is intended for all adults who want to empower themselves, improve their overall health and well-being (or that of their family), and save money doing it!

I’m hoping adults of all ages will sign up by contacting the Community Services Department at (949) 497-0716, ext. 6, or visiting lagunabeachcity.net.

BARA WATERS

Laguna Beach



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