Mailbag: Festival 'is a regional art show'

In spite of Imran Vittachi's international credentials, his critique of our Festival of the Arts reflects a misunderstanding of both local context and mission.

First of all, Laguna Beach is still its own quirky, little town. During the summer, our neighbors and friends participate in our summer festivals both as artists and as visitors from all over the world.

Secondly, our Festival of the Arts is a regional art show, and regional is the operative word. We do not aspire to be London, Paris, or even Hong Kong. Our artists are our friends, neighbors and family members. As their careers grow and change and their talents take them in different directions, we have an opportunity to grow with them. Their work enhances our vision of our world; they, in turn, continue our heritage as an arts community.

Along with the many galleries in our town, our Festival of the Arts, the Sawdust, and the Art-a-Fair also make it possible for our artists to remain in our area.

Finally I would advise Mr. Vittachi to come down and hang out here in town. After 10 years or so, he may begin to "get" Laguna Beach and what it is all about.

Much of what we are about is embodied in our three summer festivals and the artists who exhibit and serve as our regional translators.

Anne Johnson

Laguna Beach


Losing Animal Crackers is a 'true travesty'

Animal Crackers Pet Rescue is indeed the soul of Laguna Beach, as stated by Ellen Witt.

Gina Kantzanbedian, our own St. Francis of Laguna, is the "go to" person for animal rescue, with her rescue group often times being the last resort for pets and owners in dire straits.

With the loss of it's lease, the store will no longer be, and this will be a true travesty. If you want to help, please support Animal Crackers any way you can: shop at the store, get your pet groomed, take a dog or two for a walk, drop a couple of bucks in the donation jar, every little bit helps.

With the loss of Animal Crackers, Laguna Beach will most definitely lose a diamond in her crown.

Suzi Scallon

Laguna Beach


What are the city's standards for complete streets?

The Complete Streets Act requires that cities plan and provide for a balanced, multi-modal transportation network that meets the needs of all street users for safe and convenient travel. The users of these streets include bicyclists, children, seniors, persons with disabilities, motorists, movers of commercial goods, pedestrians, and users of public transportation. Mandates in the Complete Streets Act were effective January 2011.

Laguna Beach anticipates capital improvements around the city in a 10 Year Capital Improvement Plan available from the city website.

In the first-year plan for 2011-2012, Section V cites 15 projects for total funding of $6.39 million. Four of those projects have implications under Complete Streets mandates and total $1.74 million. The projects now completed do not offer routine accommodation of all roadway users and show Complete Streets mandates were disregarded by city officials.

Cal Trans holds jurisdiction over Laguna Canyon Road and is held to a separate but equivalent complete streets mandate via Deputy Directive 64 from the California Department of Transportation.

This directive specifies that routine accommodation of road users should be met. It means full consideration and accommodation of all road users.

This directive mandates that all Cal Trans employees are to "[m]aximize bicycle, pedestrian, and transit safety and mobility through each project's life cycle." Furthermore, Deputy Directive 64 plainly states, "the Department and local agencies have the duty to provide for the safety and mobility needs of all who have legal access to the transportation system."

Roadway users on Laguna Canyon Road and Coast Highway routinely include hundreds of cyclists, pedestrians, non-motorized vehicles, buses, the Laguna Beach trolley and private automobiles. Routine accommodation means providing reasonably safe and convenient travel through city planning, design, construction, reconstruction and operation of roads for this diverse mix of road users.

For Cal Trans, Complete Streets compliance is an integral part of enabling people to safely and conveniently navigate the transportation system. They set high standards for our infrastructure.

What are Laguna's standards? No one seems to know.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach


Superintendent should have stayed to ask questions

I was dismayed by the July 27 Coastline Pilot article "Superintendent Not In Support Of Speaker's Ideas," in which Sherine Smith, Laguna Beach Unified School District superintendent, explained why she left the Michael Gurian's Coffee Break talk before it was over.

Firstly, the article said Ms. Smith called Mr. Gurian a "social philosopher who is proliferating stereotypes about how children socialize and learn." I'm not clear what she meant by the term philosopher, but it implies that Gurian's material is purely theoretical.

I would like to invite anyone interested in reading some solid research on this topic to the website maintained by the National Association for Single Sex Education, They have an entire section on research which is carefully quoted and attributed by study, author, institution and date. This is not a philosophy but a body of research conducted over years by reputable institutions like the National Institute of Health.

Secondly, Ms. Smith said she left during the presentation because "I didn't want my presence there to be taken as support for his point of view."

It is specifically stated by Coffee Break chairwoman Cindy Newman-Jacobs at the outset of each Coffee Break presentation that the views expressed are not necessarily those of either the PTA or the district.

We would of course hope that if there are doubts brewing among our audience members, particularly those whose primary responsibility is in educating our children, they would stay until the conclusion to fully hear the entire presentation, and indeed, ask questions if something seems off. This would be of far greater service to the parents present than leaving prematurely.

Thirdly, the American Psychological Assn.'s meta-analysis Ms. Smith found on her iPhone stated "one's sex has little or no bearing on personality, cognition and leadership." We were addressing learning styles and developmental brain differences, not "personality, cognition and leadership."

It should be noted again that there is solid research demonstrating very real differences in the brain development of boys and girls. For example, from the National Assn. for Single Sex Education website:

"The world's largest study of brain development in children — an ongoing longitudinal study conducted at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. — clearly demonstrates dramatic differences in the trajectories of brain development in girls and boys, with more than two standard deviations of difference separating girls from boys at age 11."

I am truly disappointed that Ms. Smith views the data as "inflammatory stereotypes." I would have hoped for a more open-minded reception for these ideas, even if some of the material causes personal discomfort.

How are we going to move forward in improving our education processes if we can't engage in open discussion? And, while we all know we have excellent schools and results for many of the children in this district, we all know that there is always, always room to improve our offering.

Kate Rogers

Laguna Beach

Editor's note: The author writes the PTA Coffee Break column for the Coastline Pilot.

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