Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

 

Vulgar comments make City Council meeting ugly and cancel proceedings for regrouping

Tuesday evening’s Laguna Beach City Council meeting came to an abrupt end after a group of individuals invaded the meeting over Zoom that was connected to the broadcast of the meeting. The individuals reportedly made “extremely vulgar comments,” according to one attendee, during the Consent Calendar portion of the meeting.”

Shortly thereafter, Laguna Beach City Attorney Megan Garibaldi recommended staff mute the meeting until the offensive comments were completed, but unfortunately the comments continued on.

Stu News Laguna City Hall reporter Sara Hall said, “The council took a short break and when they returned, they trailed the first two items (including those recognizing February as Black History Month and the Promenade Ad Hoc Committee) until the end of the meeting.

“Council then went to the Item listed as Committee Appointments, but people were still making awful comments, so (Mayor Sue) Kempf adjourned the meeting and said they would re-notice the items for a future meeting.”

A short time later, the following statement was issued by Interim City Manager Sean Joyce’s office:

The City of Laguna Beach encountered a disturbing incident of “Zoom bombing” during its February 13, 2024, City Council meeting, wherein individuals disrupted the public forum with offensive content and hateful rhetoric.

“Zoom bombing” refers to the unwelcome intrusion into a public meeting through a video-conferencing platform, often involving offensive material aimed at disrupting proceedings. In this instance, hackers shared highly offensive content including racial epithets, homophobic remarks and antisemitic sentiments. Not only does it disrupt the City’s business and public meetings, but it also exposes officials, staff and attendees to unwarranted hateful language, which has no place in the community.

Over the past four years, the City of Laguna Beach, like many others, has adapted to incorporating teleconferencing technology into public meetings. However, this also means vulnerability to Zoom bombing incidents. The City will continue to adjust its protocols to protect meetings and allow residents to engage in the democratic process.

“On behalf of my City Council colleagues, I regret the distressing incident of ‘Zoom bombing’ that disrupted our meeting. Our community’s dedication to civic engagement is commendable, and we are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment. Together, we will continue to uphold our values of inclusivity, respect and integrity,” said Mayor Sue Kempf. “We extend our gratitude to the dedicated staff and officials who handled the situation with professionalism and commend those who attended the meeting. Our community deserves a safe, respectful and professional environment in all public meetings.”

Yesterday (Thursday, Feb. 15), Mayor Kempf said, “Per the Acting City Manager Sean Joyce regarding future meetings on Zoom: We will have a cooling off period which includes, at a minimum, the February 27 and February 29 City Council meetings. Included in the February 27 agenda will be an item for discussion pertaining to the utilization of Zoom going forward.”

It will certainly be a difficult decision to maneuver through as councilmembers deal with their concerns of protecting citizens’ free speech, while also dealing with newfound access to public meetings through platforms such as Zoom.

• • •

When we think about high school sports what comes to mind? Football, sure, basketball, right, both girls and boys, baseball and softball, soccer, again boys and girls, tennis, golf and swimming to name just some of them. One sport probably not on most lists is rugby. But, would you believe that Laguna Beach has one of the top rugby programs in all of Southern California high school sports?

First, a little clarification, rugby is a club sport and not a CIF-recognized sport. Also, there are two different types of rugby programs – Rugby Sevens and Rugby Tens…each is determined by the number of players competing at one time on each team. Laguna Beach plays sevens.

So, when did the program start here in Laguna and how was that done?

Just go back a few years ago on the Laguna Beach High School campus; a student named Euan Latimer sat at a table with a sign and registration sheet hoping and inviting others to join, in order to organize a program. Guess what, other kids responded and shortly thereafter (three years ago) they began fielding a team.

It didn’t take long for the program to gel. Two years ago, the team here finished second in SoCal, before moving up to win the championship last year.

(That’s huge…according to SOCAL Youth Rugby, there are 38 schools participating this year that are now finishing up the December to February season.)

This Saturday (Feb. 17) is when all the marbles are on the table for this season and Laguna Beach, as defending champs, is right in the thick of the action. Play takes place pretty much all day at JSerra in San Juan Capistrano.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

The Laguna Beach High School rugby “club” team huddles up in anticipation of playing a series of matches this Saturday, while attempting to defend their SoCal championship

Laguna Beach, seeded fourth, begins play at 9:40 a.m. against Santa Fe Christian; they’ll then return for a second game at 11 a.m. versus Serra Gardena.

You’re probably saying, “Boy, that’s a lot of action.” Just wait! If Laguna Beach wins both of those contests, and they should be favored in both, they’ll then continue on to the semifinals that same afternoon. That match would come up at 12:40 p.m. and could feature #1 ranked and undefeated St. Anthony as a potential opponent.

For Laguna Beach, if they can make it that far, it would be like déjà vu all over again. Laguna Beach, who has lost twice to St. Anthony already this year, did that exact same thing a year ago, before moving on and beating them in last year’s championship.

Sure…you’ve gotta believe!

Whoever wins that match would then continue on for another one that same day, playing for the championship. That’s commitment and toughness!

How successful has the program been – remember my mentioning of Euan Latimer up above? Well, Euan now is the starting #10 at UCLA. And five or six other players from last year’s squad have also moved on to other college action or potential programs.

Kudos to Bobby Impson, the athletic strength trainer at LBHS, who has stepped up to coach this program; and to Craig Dawson, a parent and Kiwi (hence the love for rugby), who has joined on as an assistant coach.

B-t-w, the season doesn’t necessarily end here…this team has their sights set on more action following Saturday’s play. The hope is to travel to Tampa for a huge national tournament at the end of March…and then they’d love to continue and play next summer at the National Championships in Utah.

But, as my coach used to tell me at a young age, “it’s one game at a time.”

And, as Assistant Coach “Daws” would add, “Good luck mates!”


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