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Mailbag: Homeless strategy harmful

I recently read a troublesome article titled “Camping Ordinances: A Legal Strategy to Force Legislative Solutions to Homelessness, " written by Nicholas May and available at tinyurl.com/yey2as8.

It is a strategy embraced by some homeless advocates to force local governments to adopt measures to end homelessness and poverty. The article discusses in detail how to overturn local anti-camping ordinances using the 4th and 8th Amendments. Once the ordinance is defeated, the problems associated with the influx of homeless will make the lives of local residents so unpleasant they will demand their city council take action to provide shelter for the homeless. No, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke.

To say the least, the strategy is flawed. The (hopefully) unintended result of such folly has been an increase in serious crime (rape, assault, theft) in and around Heisler Park. The victims of these crimes are Laguna’s residents, tourists, local business and the homeless they are trying to help (collateral damage in their war on homelessness). In addition, this strategy has intensified a negative view of the homeless by what I consider a generous, caring community.

I can’t help but wonder what could have been. Local advocates asked the ACLU for help in overturning camping ordinances and continue to attract homeless to Heisler Park with group feedings. Why should any one be surprised with the results? With more than 25,000 homeless in Orange County, the offer of free camping and food at Heisler Park is a powerful magnet for those looking for a better life.

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Imagine if advocates had simply come to the community asking for help with their cause? I would like to think that all of this could have been avoided.

MARK BOSKO

Laguna Beach

Supt. showed poor judgment with speech

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When hiring someone for a job, even if your due diligence of their qualifications, experience and references is very thorough, after you hire them, you still cross your fingers hoping that they will succeed. It isn’t until after they are in the job for a while that you can determine their “fit."

That’s because there is a significant intangible called judgment that can’t be predetermined. Judgment is a critical factor in a job and increases in importance as one gets higher positions and responsibilities.

Given that, I think the horrible judgment displayed by Supt. Robert Fraisse in blocking the president’s speech in Laguna schools should lead to his being dismissed.

He showed no respect for the president "” other presidents have done the same "” the Laguna teachers, the students, or even the Constitution.

JOHN SELECKY

Laguna Beach

School name should be voted on

There are generations of Artists, including students and teachers.

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Can anyone imagine the UCLA Bruins changing to another name because a few of the current students want it? Or the University of Oklahoma Sooners, the USC Trojans or the Berkeley Bears? Stanford changed from the Indians to the Cardinal (it’s the color, not the bird), and almost no one is happy about that.

In fact, the band always plays the Indian fight song at every game. I think the mascot should be what it was when I graduated: the “mighty, mighty, Artists."

Open the vote to grads, former teachers and current students, then let the chips fall where they may.

M.D. MOORE

Laguna Beach

Obama speech issue shows racism

We moved to Laguna in 1966 to build a house in a gated community in South Laguna. It was and is special, but Ralph [Tarzian] (a sculptor) needed to be nearer to the center of the art scene and we moved to Laguna proper. It was and is special.

We didn’t pay a lot of attention to politics but noticed big difference in the quality of our social life "” more art, less sports.

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Got the paper a bit late and read about the fiasco at the public schools this morning.

Could it be the conservatives in town are more recent citizens of our beach town and want their kids to learn to be racists?

NANCY TARZIAN

Laguna Beach

On homeless and pot dispensaries

It’s nice to see that some kind of progress is being made by the Advisory Committee on our homeless situation. The most important piece of any “solution" is the Orange County Behavioral Specialist, as this addresses the ultimate goal of rehabilitation, reintroduction to society, and/or helping to guide those who need mental health care to the proper resources.

In the meantime, having officers patrol and cite/arrest the troublemakers will send a signal that we won’t idly sit by and be intimidated.

The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want the homeless downtown, or anywhere else for that matter, but they can’t just disappear into the ether. Act V isn’t good not because “it’s cold out there," but due to the distance (homeless shuttle?) and potential for fire due to smoking and other sanitation issues. Being that we’re looking for a “year-round" nighttime shelter, and it’s agreed it needs to be supervised, I believe we should look closer at our churches.

Regarding the ban on local marijuana dispensaries, I’d like to ask the Laguna Beach Unified School District and individual members of the administration and board just how much alcohol their children witness them consume on a daily/weekly basis?

Though legal, alcohol has no health benefits whatsoever, and as we all know contributes to liver and kidney damage (for starters) as well as countless deaths from DUI, aggressive and violent behavior, and on and on. So what kind of “message" does this send to young people?

Legalization of marijuana would go a long way to help revamp not only our health-care situation, but the long-term financial stability of our nation, our dependence on fossil fuels (and that’s just hemp, not the herb that gets one “high"), and on a local level, dispensaries pay taxes.

By denying these services you are forcing law-abiding citizens to pursue illegal activity.

Marijuana is all over our country, it’s in all our schools, it’s in our homes, and it was on this earth from the beginning of time.

Any adult who believes dispensaries are contributing to the “delinquency" of our youth must be smoking something.

KURT MAHONEY

Laguna Beach

Laguna not immune to urban crime

Laguna Beach, like a lot of communities across the U.S., screams in confused outrage when incidents like the recent homeless stabbing in Heisler Park occur. As if where we live is in a protected bubble, a sanctuary sheltered from harm forever.

You see and hear this disbelief every night on the TV news or read it in the papers. You only need fill in the name of the city, but the rhetoric is eerily familiar: “Here in (blank) these things just don’t happen." Or: “I moved here to (blank) because this type of violence wasn’t supposed to be possible."

Well, if that knife fight in a downtown city park already being patrolled by our police, known for its complex problems even before we had droves of homeless, doesn’t convince you, then you must be extremely naïve. It has, can and will happen here.

Why? Because, around the time that folksy sounding group Village Laguna formed (1971) we were already a city.

Their mission statement, to conserve the unique village character as they saw it, was ironically antiquated before the ink was dry.

Laguna as a funky beach town sadly went the way of the dodo bird around the late ‘60s but Village Laguna wasn’t going to admit it.

A Southern California native, I moved here in the fall of 1972 from Newport Beach and could already see the symptoms, things like gridlock traffic on weekdays, noise in our canyon neighborhoods, increasingly compressed living space due to development of the last vacant residential and commercial parcels of land.

Plus those building “renovations" or humongous remodels that doubled and trebled density, especially the commercial ones the city basically facilitated without any increased public parking spaces or traffic circulation mitigations.

Anyone who utters “controlled growth" or “low income housing" today in Laguna is really fooling themselves.

When the parking meters started springing up like weeds after a spring rain, anyone with half of a brain knew that urban “difficulties" were just around any corner.

Now (surprise) we’ve got rampant burglaries, broad daylight armed robberies, and a city full of strangers who moved here to milk the increased property values for their personal lifestyle revenue model. Scam artists, grifters and corporate thieves always follow the fattened herd, and we’ve had a few doozies in our business community.

The taxicabs appeared in profound numbers around 2000, and the illusion that we weren’t an extension of the Los Angeles-San Diego urbanized octopus should have ceased.

Exacerbating the situation is a perennial mind-set reflected in our city staff and elected officials: Parochial and reactionary thinkers, they presently refuse to litigate, defend or fight anyone to protect us.

Bullies like the Inn at Laguna just show up and rattle their attorneys like sabres then wait a few seconds for the white flag of capitulation. They should stop letting any fool who can afford a lawyer push us around.

Go ahead Lagunans, be nostalgic, be sentimental, hold on to a PC image, a fantasy that no longer exists when you should instead be realistic. We’ve been circling the urban drain for decades but can still proudly salvage some crumbs and vestiges of the way we were.

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Ours is that we need to grow up and address these complex issues maturely.

Accept it, we’re now an urbanized city with the attendant negative trappings but unfortunately down at City Hall those “Village Idiots" are still in the denial phase.

They stupidly seem to think that passing more ordinances eliminates urban chaos and mandates societal order.

These things are not going away by simply putting them off or wishing them gone, whether we swallow City Hall’s Kool-aid or not.

In 2010, elect gutsy, abstract-thinking representatives, not spineless jellyfish lacking a cerebral cortex who still believe it’s 1968.

ROGER VON BÃœTOW

Laguna Beach

Obama speech was censored

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Robert Fraisse, superintendent of the Laguna Beach Unified School District.

Dear Dr. Fraisse:

It is important to me that I put forth my best effort in this letter to you today, so that I may attempt to express my concerns as a Laguna Beach Unified School District parent, a fellow educator, and a citizen of the United States regarding the district’s reaction to and subsequent silencing of President Obama’s speech to America’s school children Sept. 8.

I will begin with a personal story. It comes right from my experience as a developmental reading teacher in the community college classroom. It is my hope that my story will illustrate to you the importance of sharing a multitude of ideas.

As an adjunct professor of reading, I have had the good fortune of teaching at several community colleges. And although I am currently teaching closer to home at Saddleback and Irvine Valley colleges, my classroom experiences on campuses in north Orange County and Los Angeles County are poignant reminders of my responsibilities as an educator, and not because these experiences were somehow more important than my current experience, but they were my first.

In other words, my interactions in the classroom with students in these communities helped to shape the teaching foundation I continue to stand upon.

There is a color line that separates north from south in Orange County, and, unfortunately, there is a lot of baggage that goes hand-in-hand with the demarcation.

You could probably safely trace many elements of this baggage back to the vagaries and all-too-unfortunate consequences of socioeconomics.

On the north side, my students went to jail, were parolees, got shot at, stabbed and watched their brothers and male cousins get killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is the background knowledge my students brought with them to my classroom where I would speak to them about reading and language and its inherent power to change the course of their lives.

Despite my diligence, I felt entirely unqualified. I would come home night after night and say to my husband, “I don’t know how to teach them."

Every day I returned and learned something new. For example, I learned how to debate with one of my students the ethics involved in his decision to sell drugs to other communities so that the money earned from these sales could be brought back to the ghetto to help the youngest children there.

What I ultimately began to learn from all of the experiences I felt unprepared for was how much easier it was to keep judgment at bay when I was providing information and keeping true to my commitment to honor my students’ knowledge and desire for an education.

The basis of my philosophy about reading and writing, which I include on my syllabus every semester, is all about getting my students to think about what they are reading and writing. I want to hear what they have to say about the myriad ideas presented in the readings assigned throughout the semester.

The idea behind this philosophy is that these acts of thinking will directly translate into more acts of thinking and reflecting about the larger issues of my students’ lives so that when they take up the mantle of their responsibilities as reflective members of this democracy, they have some experience identifying an idea that is their own.

Many of my students do not understand that knowledge and information work this way, or, rather, that information and knowledge should work this way.

Rather, my students are most familiar and comfortable with being told what to do and how to think. Semester after semester, I find that many of my students are paralyzed by the notion that I want to know what they think. Granted, I expect them to work hard to figure that out.

At the end of the semester, it is my hope that my students leave with an understanding that knowledge is not something someone is going to give to them, and not to confuse it as such. Knowledge is something students construct, and they need access to the widest range of ideas in order to do this.

Censorship has no place in education. And yet, after considerable thought and discussion on my part among many of my reflective friends, this is what the district’s decision to ignore President Obama’s address Sept. 8 feels like.

The district’s decision and current message to the students and parents that teachers are now more prepared to discuss the speech leaves me feeling as though this is a Band-Aid (or olive branch) and not a genuine lesson plan.

If our students learn anything, I hope they learn the importance of thinking for themselves. They are, after all, our future leaders.

I hope they learn that sometimes we learn best when we suddenly discover that we no longer hold to the beliefs we were raised with.

I tell my students, and my own children, that we have to learn to question the thread of our assumptions so that we may one day recognize our truest convictions.

The decision to ignore our president’s address was certainly a choice, but it was a choice not made in our best interests.

We have a duty to question our leadership, maybe more so when we really agree with the direction that leadership is taking.

We are best prepared to question that leadership when we have more information, not less. We do not live in a bubble.

We live in a wonderfully messy, beautiful, sometimes painful world. We should be wary of those who wish to have us believe we should prefer the bubble.

SARAH E. VOGEL



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