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Mailbag: Roses memorial for COVID-19 victims begs a larger question

Orange County Rose River Memorial is an art installation made of 4000 handmade felt roses.
The Rose River Memorial is an art installation made of 4,000 handmade felt roses, each one representing someone in Orange County who has died from COVID-19.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Re: “Art recognizing Orange County COVID-19 deaths unveiled as U.S. memorial efforts take root,” March 2.

Artist Marcos Lutyens is onto something big. His installation of velvet red roses dramatically pays tribute to the the nearly 4,000 men, women and children who have died from COVID here in Orange County. Lutyens’s art work makes me wonder: Will there ever be a national memorial honoring those who contracted the coronavirus or died?

In past years, we have honored those who lost their lives in war. Today, there are World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and other memorials in our nation’s capitol, as well as the endless cascade of water at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

Now that the deadly coronavirus is responsible for killing more than 500,000 Americans, it’s time to start planning a memorial to remember those who have died during the war on COVID. This will be especially important for closure since so many have passed away without loved ones by their side.

Coast to coast, thankful neighbors applaud doctors and nurses every day, buglers play “Taps” at sunset and entertainers host virtual fundraisers to help feed hungry families. Clearly, these and other activities shine a bright light on America’s goodness and generosity.

With this spirit in mind, I am now proposing building a memorial to honor those felled by the coronavirus. I realize the number of people who already have died could double before the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines put an end to this silent killer; but, no matter how many end up passing away, we must never forget those who have been lost.

If families and friends can honor fallen troops in Washington, then the rest of us should be able to mourn the loss of so many due to the horrific pandemic. I hope artist Marcos Lutyens would agree.

Denny Freidenrich
Laguna Beach

Questions about Ortiz’s election

Is this what it’s come to? Tito Ortiz, a third-tier celebrity, twice divorced (once from an adult film performer) and a Trump-styled right-winger has parlayed his modicum of fame to become a Huntington Beach City Council member. What’s next? Garfield the cat for Surf City dog catcher?

Ben Miles
Huntington Beach

‘Hazard’ pay idea could hurt C.M.

Sometimes it feels like we are living in the Twilight Zone.

On Tuesday, the Costa Mesa City Council voted 6-1 to direct city staff to write a new ordinance forcing about 12 local grocery stores to give employees “hazard” pay.

The vote was 6-1 with Councilman Don Harper voting “no.” Thank you, Councilman Harper, for showing common sense and representing many of us who think this is an absurd idea.

Mandating a $4-an-hour raise, council members reasoned grocery workers were being underpaid and at a greater risk of catching the coronavirus while the corporations they worked for were raking in the dough. There was no data given to support this accusation.

What happened to the old-fashioned idea that union bosses are supposed to represent employees and negotiate raises? The city has no jurisdiction to tell local businesses to offer “hazard” pay. The city is exposing taxpayers to lawsuits.

Everyone has a personal responsibility to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other diseases. All workers may stop working and collect unemployment benefits if the risk is too great at work. Or workers may find another job.

Trader Joe’s recently increased its “thank you” pay by $2 hour in addition to an earlier $2 raise and expanded health benefits. It’s up to the employer to reward employees. Mine did with a generous debit card.

There are many heroes in the pandemic. We cannot go down this path to recognize one group. Where does it end? This dangerous idea is the tip of the spear toward more government control by somehow equating “hazard” pay with “economic justice.”

This idea is anathema to the American free enterprise system and creeps us toward socialism.

We elected the mayor and City Council to work for Costa Mesans.  I helped elect some of these council members because I believed they would vote for what is best for Costa Mesa. This ordinance is government overreach.

The ordinance will come back to the Council for a vote at a future meeting. Please let the City Council hear from you.

The Council must focus on ways to save money at City Hall and ways to bring in more businesses to Costa Mesa.
Let private businesses decide what employees should earn. That is the American way.

Wendy Leece
Costa Mesa
Note: The writer is a former Costa Mesa City Council member and NMUSD board trustee.

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