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Dianne Russell’s “Death By Green” article

I loved this article and was excited to see St. Helena Island mentioned (even if it was in context of arsenic poisoning!). There were many accusations that the British were trying to poison Napoleon during his exile. In fact, after his death, books and articles were written claiming all kinds of appalling abuse. At least we know that it wasn’t intentional arsenic poisoning – the green was the fashion of the time!

My mother was from St. Helena, and the island is a beautiful gem in the middle of a vast ocean. Very remote, and until recently, only accessible by a 5-day boat journey from Cape Town. (There is now a small airport with a once-weekly flight from South Africa).

Thanks again for piquing my interest!

Suzi White

Laguna Beach

School Board’s Culture of Silence

The LBUSD School Board meeting March 12 was described to me by some present or online as “a new low,” “sour faces, poison tongues,” and “a mean girls soap opera,” which prompted a retort, “No, it was like those blended sequels, but this was Big Little Lies and Bad Moms Meet Mean Girls.”

But the most accurate description I heard was, “We just witnessed the selective silencing of an elected School Board member…so people who elected Dee Perry will not be heard equally…”

The community seems to like rotation of officers, so the Board first tried to keep the rule and just deny the benefits to Perry. The Board seemingly thought she would suffer in silence.

But she refused to be silenced without speaking up, and that stressed the culture of the Board.

One Board member asked seemingly middle school student council level questions about Board meeting procedures, directed to Legal Counsel brought in at taxpayer expense to defend the Board’s actions.

The lawyer did his best to treat the questions as adult level discussion, but in the end referred her to Robert’s Rules of Order rather than Board rules and legal issues the lawyer was being paid to explain.

Then the same Board member’s spouse complained that I was repeating myself and making his wife late to come home! Then he questioned my right to address legal issues because I am a lawyer in Washington DC and not in California.

Does California really need more lawyers? Was I there as a lawyer, and if so who was my client? Or was I citizen volunteer just like his wife?

If not illiterate about civics he would know I was using my three minutes on multiple agenda items to prevent the Board majority from silencing me, and each time I spoke augmented the official record with new and different facts about Board actions. 

That was called creating a record for future political and legal purposes, so stay tuned.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Disappointed in City Council for not hiring a historic preservation planner

It was disappointing to read that the majority of the City Council is not in favor of hiring a historic preservation planner, which has been supported both by the Task Force and the Heritage Committee. Many of the complaints heard before the City Council concerning historic preservation could have been mitigated by a more knowledgeable person at the counter in City Hall. The Heritage Committee does not see these applications.

I commend Toni Iseman for recognizing the resident serving aspect of this position. Having a knowledgeable person explain both the benefits and the responsibilities of owning an historic structure would make it possible for the applicant to make an informed decision. Ideally this position should be filled by someone with experience with historic preservation in other municipalities and also qualified to do historic assessments. Handing a resident with an historic structure a list of resources just doesn’t cut it.

One of the reasons people come to Laguna Beach is that we are not like our neighboring communities. Part of this is the historic nature of our downtown and our neighborhoods. Hiring someone experienced with historic preservation can help preserve one of our greatest assets, while giving residents the information they need to make informed decisions about their properties.

Anne Frank

Laguna Beach

Having a fenced yard should not be a requirement for adopting a local pup in need

I visited a local animal shelter for the sixth time in one week, trying to adopt a dog with my son. Sadly, we were unsuccessful, despite our best intentions to adopt. We were told that because we didn’t have a fenced yard, we were not qualified to adopt.

My 9-year-old son and I were disappointed that we were not considered “qualified candidates” to provide a loving home for a local dog in need. Our rescue dog of 13 years, who was blind, recently passed away, and we were looking to provide a forever home for a local pup in need.

As to the specific policy referenced, I don’t think under any circumstances in Laguna Beach it would be safe for a dog to be left unattended in a “fenced in backyard” …coyote bait? So, who is to say that a fenced yard is “preferred” to three times a day romping around the greenbelt on the other end of a loving leash?

It was also made clear that the shelter did not like the idea that I would be “crating” the dog at night. I have had a dog in the family since I was a young child, and I can tell you from our experience, the very best way to make a dog feel safe and loved is to create a “safe bedtime experience” that may include a crate. 

Every dog I have ever owned has been trained to “go to bed” in his crate...In my, and many other’s opinion, it’s perfectly acceptable as a loving place for the dog to sleep.

My son and I have found our forever pup, and she is happy to be a safe “inside dog,” that will always be accompanied outside, on a leash, with love. 

Caroldean Ross

Laguna Beach

School Board represents community not education bureaucracy

We were hoping for some original thinking and new ideas from our newest School Board member, James Kelly, but my wife and I were disappointed by “Positive Outcomes” (March 4, Stu News).

Instead of enlarging the community/school’s narrative he’s seemingly fallen lockstep with the same old shrill chorus trying to silence open and fair discussion that addresses both strengths and weaknesses, positives and negatives, in School Board governance practices.

Those of us who went to school here, whose children and grandchildren attend local schools, don’t need to be told our public education system is excellent. We’re tired of apologists for the Board hiding behind the success of teachers, students, and parents while pontificating against those who know the Board can do even better for students.

We put students first by advocating more competent oversight representing our town’s diversity. The Board should not practice denial about serious District policy and program failures.

Mr. Kelly insists he’s seen nothing but civility, good morale. He needs to take off his apparent education bureaucracy blinders and spend enough time in Laguna to know a lot of parents with kids in school won’t even come to Board meetings or speak in public about school experiences for fear of retaliation.

Unfortunately, there’s more. Kelly was less than candid claiming “I was not sworn in as a board member until January and therefore did not attend the organizing meeting at which the board president was chosen.

He did not need to defend himself, but when he chose to it was wrong to use “therefore” to reverse actual cause and effect of his absence. His inauspicious choice of words seemingly mean he was precluded from attending December’s organizing meeting and voting on election of the President because he was not sworn in.

An accurate statement would candidly inform the public he didn’t attend the December meeting where he would have been sworn in and voted on election of the President, and “therefore” wasn’t sworn in until attending his first meeting in January.  

Not trust-engendering and a bad example for students expected not to make excuses for skipping class, to me. Claiming prior business commitment with more than a month of notice about an official meeting also reflects unwillingness to adjust priorities to meet responsibilities he asked to be entrusted to him, I believe.

Since he was a no-show for the election of presiding officers, his vote on the repeal of the equal Board member participation rule, broken for purposes of exclusion rather than inclusion it seems, will show Kelly’s true colors.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach


Dr. Paul Prewitt 

Obituary Paul family

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Dr. Paul Prewitt and his family

Dr. Paul Prewitt passed away on February 26, 2019, at the age of 73, due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. Paul was in the loving presence of his immediate family at the time. Paul was born in New York to Millard and Hortense Prewitt, where he spent his childhood as the youngest of four children. 

Paul was a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, doctor, veteran, and the kindest and most ethical of human beings, who will always be remembered and never forgotten. 

Dr. Prewitt received his Bachelor’s Degree from Yale University, prior to completing his Medical Doctorate at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York. Dr. Prewitt served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, where he was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. After his military service, Dr. Prewitt maintained a successful private medical practice in internal medicine at South Coast Medical Center (Mission Hospital) for over 33 years, where he served as Chief of Staff and was greatly respected by his colleagues and patients alike.

Paul met the love of his life during college on a blind date. Paul and Lucinda (Cindy) were married in 1967 and had two children. Paul enjoyed many passions including traveling the world, taking photographs and entering photo contests. Most important to him was the quality time spent with family and loved ones. During the last several years, Paul negated the obstacles of his disease with the loving experiences he frequently shared with his grandchildren and family. 

Paul was predeceased by his father, mother, and brother Eric. He is survived by his wife Cindy of 51 years, his daughter Jenn, his son Sean and wife Thanya and three grandchildren, in addition to his oldest brother Richard and sister Anne. 

A private memorial will be held at sea for his immediate family on March 26, 2019, followed by a celebration of life from 5 to 7 p.m.  Please contact the family for more information. 

Being mindful of his dedication to medicine and helping others, the family requests any donations be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation ( for the fight against Parkinson’s in lieu of any flowers.

Laguna Beach Lifeguard Tryouts 2019

 Saturday morning at approximately 9 a.m., close to 30 young men and women charged into the Pacific Ocean (57-degree water temperature) to begin the first challenge to become a Laguna Beach Lifeguard candidate. Without any body protection of any kind they are instructed to swim out to an offshore buoy, round it and turn south towards another buoy located some 600 meters away, then make the return trip through wind ripping, raging storm surf to complete the 1,500 meter swim (without fins) in under 20 minutes to qualify for the next two sprint trials. Those participants that cannot complete this endurance swim or complete it under the 20-minute deadline are disqualified from this year’s class of candidates.

These tryouts have always been held in the winter months during the coldest conditions. In my opinion, these are not tryouts…this is abusive hazing from a sports club that has continued without any consciousness for 50 years. There is absolutely no reason to hold the tryouts in the dead of winter conditions, or to require the participants to have no protection from the severe cold burn on their bodies let alone the possible bacteria contamination from the direct contact of the polluted waters from the storms. In my opinion, this isn’t a test for the participants…it is a jealous moniker for the guards-past who had to endure such physical abuse. The time for this right-of-passage needs to stop now. I believe this is untainted human cruelty disguised as a civic honor.

This year, many witnessed a young woman, pushed to her limits, collapse while still in the water nearing the shoreline, and if not for the quick reaction of a veteran lifeguard present (in full wetsuit and fins), I believe we might have witnessed our first death in these trials. You heard me right. Emergency services were called to respond (paramedics and the Fire Department) and although the young woman recovered consciousness, her ordeal was orchestrated by the Laguna Beach Lifeguard Department.

What will it take before the City Manager, City Council, and Lifeguard Chief wake up to the reality that their actions may bring a lawsuit to the City and the dishonorable firing of the Chief for what many believe is this continued cruelty? Exposing a talent of swimmers to hyperthermia and the damage it brings oneself is not badge of honor. Stop this practice of insanity now.

John Slowsky

Laguna Beach Lifeguard 1968-1973

LBUSD: Cooperation and excellence lead to positive outcomes

In the midst of discouraging back-and-forth regarding the School Board’s presidency, I’d like shift gears to shine a light on our teachers, students, staff, superintendent, and all of the board members that I have met in my short time on the board. Their hard work and expertise led, for example, to Thurston Middle School achieving 2019 California Distinguished School designation. In December 2018, LBUSD was placed on the College Board’s 9th Annual AP® District Honor Roll for Significant Gains in Student Access and Success. These are just two of many concrete examples of cooperation and excellence leading to positive outcomes.

I was not sworn in as a board member until January and therefore did not attend the organizing meeting at which the board president was chosen. That being said, I have nothing but respect for each current board member as I have consistently witnessed kindness and courtesy during board deliberations. Not only have I appreciated the respect and honesty afforded to all participants and attendees, but I have also enjoyed recognizing our splendid PTA-sponsored student artist, meeting our outstanding male cross country team and hearing of their academic and sports achievements, and learning about the exceptional programs offered to students and the commitment and involvement of our educators.

I have met with the majority of administrators and principals of our schools, and have been impressed with their interaction with students, faculty, and staff. Morale is high.

All data I have seen verifies the great job being done by our teachers, staff, and administrators. In addition, LBUSD is fiscally sound and there are no grievances with staff and faculty.

I see and appreciate that parents and the community-at-large care deeply about student success. I hope that civility can prevail and we can move on to continue making our district great while concentrating on our elected responsibilities.

James J. Kelly

LBUSD Member

Got facts on School Board...if you want ‘em

As if accurate news reports and a diverse cross section of citizens calling for School Board compliance with its own rules was the cause of the latest episode of seemingly substandard School Board performance, local civic leader Marshall Ininns writes that annual election of the Board’s presiding officers,

“…is a majority decision, just like City Council’s appointment of Mayor...seems to me Dee Perry not being chosen to be board chair has to do with her personal feelings and nothing to do with policy or students...” (Stu News Laguna, March 1).

Marshall is an admired neighbor and friend. But that statement is just so wrong it cries out for rectification.

The significant difference between City Council and School Board is that the Council never adopted an ordinance institutionalizing its tradition of sequenced rotation of members willing to serve as Mayor Pro Tem followed by a year as Mayor. 

In contrast, our School Board exercised its authority under state law to adopt a binding local rule creating a presumption of sequenced rotation for all members willing to serve in the presiding officer roles of Clerk and President.

As long as local rules do not prevent the election of a presiding officer by majority vote, the state education code authorizes the School Board to adopt binding rules governing annual succession of members in leadership roles.  If the School Board wants to end its institutionalized practice of sequenced rotation all it needs to do is act by majority vote to repeal the rotation rule it adopted by majority rule in the Board Bylaws.

It is as much about integrity and fairness as the binding nature of Board rules. Instead of honoring its binding commitment equally for all members the Board chose to enforce the rotation bylaw selectively when deemed to serve political interests of the majority.

Dee Perry did not seek special rights, but rather equal rights. To attribute her decision to stand up and speak out for the right to be treated equally according to the Board’s own rules to “personal feelings…nothing to do with policy or students” trivializes and seems to disdain equal civic rights for a woman seeking the same rights other Board members have to represent voters and constituents. 

Dee Perry was a teacher in local schools for 35 years and now has been elected to the School Board twice. She knows each Board member serving as President for a year brings forward different priorities reflecting the diversity of our community. This ensures pluralism so a full spectrum of voices are heard in managing the Board agenda, chairing meetings, and performing other duties under state law and local rules.

Perry knows sequenced rotation promotes transparency, fairness, and respectful dialogue that enhances the Board’s decision-making on policies that directly impact the quality of classroom learning for students. 

The President serves subject not to collective action by all five members but rather majority vote by any three individual members. 

Asserting sequenced rotation has “nothing to do with policy or students” ignores a nonpartisan model allowing majority vote alliances to shift based on merits of policy and budget issues impacting efficacy of curriculum and quality of classroom experience.   

We also are told Verna Rollinger behaved herself and there was “no uprising” when the City Council suspended its rotation tradition and she was passed over. If there was a city ordinance creating a presumption of rotation would she have surrendered to exclusionary treatment? 

Maybe so, but in 2014 when a motion was made to pass over Jan Vickers she threatened not only an uprising but retribution if the Board deviated from the rotation bylaw.

That was Vickers’ adamant position when it was her equal rights in jeopardy.  Vickers flip flopped in 2017 when Dee Perry was given no choice by the majority except being passed over. The majority allowed Perry to remain as Clerk to hold her place in the rotation sequence until after she stood for re-election in 2018.

That created comparative disadvantage in seeking re-election, but voters who want Perry’s courteous, experienced and independent voice heard more not less judged her qualified for all duties as an equal Board member. Instead the Board acted against its own rules to disqualify and silence her, essentially nullifying the results of the 2018 election because the majority didn’t like the outcome.

Denied her turn as President under the bylaws a second time after being re-elected in 2018, all Dee Perry asked was that the Board follow its rule or act by majority rule to change it. Instead the Board decided to retain the rule, discriminate against Perry, it seems, and without authorization under its own binding rules improperly install Vickers for a third consecutive term.  Many believe that was precisely the kind of politically manipulated scenario the rotation bylaw was intended to prevent.

In the view of the increasing number of citizens taking time to follow School District affairs, for daring to speak up Perry is being harassed and bullied by the Board and Superintendent. 

So far Perry has been too professional and circumspect to seek redress of unproven public accusations dropped without investigation but not retracted, selective belligerence targeting Perry in meetings, and administrative red tape protocols not applied to other Board members.

In the meantime, repealing the rotation bylaw after it was breached arguably confirms the Board acted contrary to its rules. That matters because modeling fairness among adults in civic affairs is also one important way we put education of students first.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Dolphin deaths

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center has declared recent dolphin deaths and strandings “drastic and unexpected” yet new City Council priorities omit mention of any plans to improve local ocean water quality.

According to recent research by Nick Pyenson and others, many massive historical whale and dolphin strandings were likely caused by Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs). As Laguna Beach continues to discharge secondary sewage offshore, we are feeding more future HABs during routine ocean upwelling events.

New legislation (SB 332 - Hertzberg) will eventually prohibit ocean discharges. Laguna Beach should step up now and rehab the 50-year-old, deteriorating Coastal Treatment Plant and “upcycle” all wasted wastewater. The Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall discharges 10 million gallons of secondary sewage each day (over 1 billion gallons every 3 years) just 1.5 miles offshore. Laguna’s share of these discharges is 1.67 million gallons per day, according to SOCWA billing statements. Laguna Beach remains the only South County city without recycled water capable of reducing ocean discharges while increasing local water reliability for wildfire prevention and suppression.

Informed leaders must take action before more dolphins die and humans suffer illnesses from ocean water toxins. A massive HAB event in Laguna Beach will also kill the economy.

Growing up in California, we were trained, for safety sake, to never turn your back to the ocean. Let’s not turn our back on the ocean now when we have the chance to improve ocean water quality with smarter, sustainable wastewater management.

Mike Beanan

Laguna Beach

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