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Park Plaza torpedoed

It’s stunning that, while downtown retailers are looking to activate their streets and are using the word experience, City Council voted last Saturday to put Park Plaza on the back burner – the one no-brainer experience our community wants and needs. Back in March of last year, Council voted unanimously to move the concept of a pedestrian plaza forward in tandem with improvements to Coast Highway, with options for a permanent plaza to be presented within 18 months. Now, 11 months in, they decided to decouple it from the traffic improvements in progress and kick it down the road to other pie-in-the-sky discussions like traffic scrambles and making Ocean Ave one way. In other words, buh bye plaza.

Park Plaza was a fantastic win for everyone except a few people who use it as a shortcut. That’s why we were happy to wait until the left turn lane at Legion was extended, to help mitigate their inconvenience. Every box was checked: safety, shade, view, tranquility, entertainment, and, most importantly, community (with no adverse traffic impacts). Councilman Dicterow marveled at how many people he ran into, and how successful it was at bringing community together – in the dead of winter, no less. It’s already recommended in the Downtown Specific Plan. In other words, vetted and teed up.

The many volunteers who birthed this trial and donated hundreds of hours of their time to improve the community deserve better. It would be nice to see a public statement from the city assuring us the planning options for a plaza will continue in concert with Coast Highway improvements as voted on by our representative government. If you really want to know if it will work, here’s an idea: just install some hydraulic bollards immediately. Put them at Park, Forest, and Ocean. Raise them up when you want to close a street and test a pedestrian concept. Lower them when traffic flow is more important. Then start testing closures on different streets at different times and days of the year – with diverse concepts like art fairs, music, movies, and mid-week farmers’ markets. Let the community vote with their butts. Then, instead of talking about what might or might not work, we’ll know for sure. 

Billy Fried

Laguna Beach


School Board denies Dee Perry presidency

Dee Perry taught two of my children and ran for the school board to promote educational excellence for all Laguna Beach students while bringing openness to the deliberations of the board. She single handedly pushed to have board meetings videoed and streamed giving the residents a chance to see their school board in action. For her efforts to make this board more accountable she has twice been denied the presidency despite the bylaw of Clerk then President. Why? Because she views the students and their parents as her primary customers not some notion that uniformity of thought is the overriding goal?

Dee was the second highest vote getter in this past election with a total of 5,595 votes. Unfortunately this carried no weight with other members of the board and the superintendent, it appears, who seem to be trying to stop Dee regardless of how many votes she got. Do they view her as a “subversive” in trying to bring accountability to what the board was/is doing? What could they do to deny her what their own bylaws required namely that she serve a term as President? I believe they mounted a coup. Without changing the bylaws or noticing the public of their intent they elected someone else. Many including me believe that this sham “election” was illegal and worse, antidemocratic.

Justice Brandeis said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” It would seem this board prefers to work in darkness so somehow the meeting where this chicanery took place was not videoed. Allegedly there was a technical problem but was there really or was the technical problem a central part of a plan to keep the public in the dark about what was being done to disenfranchise those 5,595 citizens and deny Dee the presidency?

Why would they do that? Probably because only the president has the power to put items on the agenda. See BB 9006 No. 4. This is the type of tactic that dictatorships engage in. The LBUSB has managed to put itself in the company of people like Maduro in Venezuela. Is that really the model to emulate for Laguna Beach residence and students?

One of our best and most liberal newspapers, the Washington Post, has adopted a new motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” This is exactly what I feel the current board and superintendent are doing.

I call upon this board to immediately elect Dee Perry as the rightful president of the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board.

Emil Monda

Laguna Beach


Local teens will join climate strike on Friday

There’s a growing youth movement of climate strikes across the globe. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl, has been striking every Friday for about 26 weeks now. Her message for urgent climate action is compelling. 

Greta poignantly stated, “Imagine what we could all do together, if you wanted to.”

Laguna Beach families are working together to raise our children’s voices and create more awareness locally. The boys are organizing a strike on Friday that starts at Main Beach around 8 a.m., then walking to City Hall around 9 a.m. and wrapping up

Jane Goodall explained, “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, shall all be saved.”  We›re planning on signs to help people understand:

1. Last year was Earth’s 4th warmest year on record, coming in behind 2016, the planet’s warmest recorded year, as well as 2015 and 2017, according to information released earlier this month by NOAA, NASA and the U.K. Met Office.

“Nine of the 10 warmest years on record since reliable data began in 1880 have occurred since 2005. At the same time, greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels – as well as deforestation and intensive agriculture – have skyrocketed to levels not seen more than 800,000 years.” (Axios)

2. “The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt – in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA GISS. 

3. In August of last year, Scripps researchers logged the warmest sea-surface temperature at Scripps Pier since records began in August 1916. The record temp – 78.6 degrees – is the highest in 102 years of measurements. The entire ocean ecosystem is impacted by the warmer weather, and very relevant to us as a coastal community.

Greta’s TedEd talk:

www.ted.com/talks/greta_thunberg_the_disarming_case_to_act_right_now_on_climate?language=en

Greta’s World Economic Forum talk:

www.theguardian.com/science/video/2019/jan/25/i-want-you-to-panic-16-year-old-greta-thunberg-issues-climate-warning-at-davos-video

Nazish Mir

Laguna Beach


Good schools even better without petty politics

We often hear about the Brown Act that’s supposed to prevent backroom political deals. That state law mandates open meetings and a public record of all actions by city councils and school boards.

The Brown Act also prevents abuse of individual local elected officials by local government bodies. For example, Section 54960(a) gives state courts jurisdiction to determine if any local government “rule or action…to penalize or otherwise discourage the expression of one or more of its members is valid or invalid under the laws of this state or of the United States.”

That’s important because state and federal law prohibit action by the majority violating the right of free speech, freedom of association, due process or privacy of elected leaders in the minority on a local government body.

To ensure protection of minority voices on School Boards in particular, California Ed. Code Sec. 35010(b) declares any School Board action under a local rule to be legally invalid if it violates civil rights of minority members or otherwise conflicts with state or federal law.

Ironically, despite our history of very good local schools a disturbing pattern persists of School Board intolerance for diversity, debate, and criticism. It seems recent superintendents pander to the insecurities and worst political impulses of the Board majority.

Claiming to value civility as the currency of good public school governance, our Board has relied on a controversially applied manual seemingly being used to control and even penalize minority members. “LBUSD Adopted Governance Protocols 2018” is invoked by the Superintendent and Board majority more often than state law or the Board’s own rules and bylaws, it seems, to justify Board practices, policies, and actions.

These so-called “protocols” emphasize fine sounding sloganeering about “speaking with one voice” and “unity of purpose.” But the LBUSD “protocols” were not actually “adopted” at all, never voted on, just deemed to be accepted by “consensus.”

It’s fine to act by consensus, but only binding rules with clearly defined non-discriminatory standards of conduct are enforceable. Under state and federal law vague advisory “protocols” cannot be enforced by the majority to discipline minority members without due process, in an attempt to silence elected leaders.

Tolerance for diversity and pluralism allow majority and minority coalitions to constantly realign. Intolerance promotes entrenched majority pressure on a fixed minority, which must surrender or be punished. It’s political bullying.

The current Board and Superintendent recently chose intolerance and bullying, I feel, by aggressively attempting to enforce the anti-democratic and legally absurd “protocol” demands on Board member Dee Perry to “support decisions once made by the majority.”

You’re thinking that must mean respect policy you oppose while you seek to change it, right? That’s what Perry thought, it seems. Wrong.

That “protocol” is a demand for silence and tacit support of policy a member opposes and voted against, it seems. Perry compromises, perhaps too often, but serves more independently than any member in the last 25 years.

Perry draws the line at “protocols” limiting her fact-finding or research, constituent services that are in compliance with actual binding Board rules. That includes meeting to exchange non-privileged public information and ideas within the school community.

To punish Perry the Board appears to have deviated from past precedent under its own local bylaws by twice denying Perry her turn in rotation as Board President. Board member Peggy Wolff is now chanting the word “protocol” at Perry in Board meetings like a mantra warding off bad karma before we must be punished.

But now it may be Wolff, whose overzealousness as protocol police, seemingly could be at odds with legally binding Board rules.

I recently spoke publicly at a School Board meeting on video recording blackouts at meetings and denial of Perry’s turn as President. Afterwards I came into possession of what appears to be an official email from Wolff in her capacity as a Board member and under seal of the School District.

The email is a public communication that accuses Perry of misconduct under Board protocols and bylaws for meeting with constituents, the very people she is supposed to serve as an elected Board member. If real the document is replete with contrived insinuations and admonitions without any apparent legal basis.

To get at the truth I have submitted a public document request to obtain an authenticated copy of this email. The public needs to know who prepared it and approved it. 

None of this, of course, is “for the kids.” It’s petty political bullying of a decent woman denied her right to represent voters. The Superintendent and Board are already appealing court cases, never admitting losses. Denial of Perry’s turn as President and bullying by discriminatory punishment, it seems, may require further legal action to restore good order under state law. 

Maybe the Board subconsciously craves attention, likes drama. We don’t.

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach


Current LBUSD Board President should resign immediately, and a new election should be immediately called nominating and approving Dee Perry

I am appalled at the way the School Board is treating Dee Perry. Two of my sons had Dee as their second-grade teacher and her entire focus has always been what was best for the children. Nothing has changed in her attitude in the 25 years I have known her. Her reason for running for the school board was so that the students could have a voice. I was here when this board tried to shut down that lone voice when the high school students begged, yes begged, them to have a voice in their governing board and to rewrite a constitution that was relevant to today. The board wouldn’t even allow that as an agenda item. 

My understanding is that only the President can put an item on the agenda, not another member of the board. So, Dee patiently waited her turn first as Clerk with the assumption that she would be President. And then she was denied her rightful position not once but twice as President despite board bylaws saying that a board member is President after being Clerk. I want to know by what metric, what right, do they unilaterally have the authority to say that she is “Not presidential material”? What does that mean – do they have a policy to delineate what presidential material is? Are any of them that presidential material? How are they able to disregard their own policy of President after Clerk position? 

I am one of the residents who voted for Dee twice. The board has twice tried to take away my voice via Dee through this blatant power grab and total disregard for their own policies. What are they so afraid of with Dee? That she could actually be effective?  That she, as the second highest vote getter in the last election, might make a difference and let the students have a voice in their academic lives? Are their egos so large that they are convinced that only they are right? Why not follow board rules and see what happens? 

I ask, no demand, that the current President resign and a new election be immediately called nominating and approving Dee Perry as the rightful President according to School Board bylaws.

Michèle Monda

Laguna Beach


Community loses another tree: City should be taking the lead on preserving its trees not on removing them

The latest news on the tree-saving front is that two trees we have become accustomed to seeing at the Village Entrance site have been removed by the City as of February 7.

They are the mature Hollywood Junipers shown in the photo below. They are of the era of the historic digester building – they flanked the driveway to the original facility. Sculptural and beautiful touches of history, these trees were in an area planned for landscaping in the new Village Entrance plan. Preserving these trees was advocated as early as July of 2014 in a Village Entrance plan donated by our team of volunteers from the Laguna Beach Beautification Council and Village Laguna. 

Letter Christoph

Submitted photo

Click on photo for a larger image

Following up, we proposed that these Junipers be saved at public hearings including the last one at Council in July 2018. They fit into the landscape scheme – saving them did not seem to present a big problem.

Except in the end it did. In July 2018, City Public Works staff agreed to look into saving the trees. Months have passed since the contractor started work on the project. The trees were still remaining, so we felt optimistic even though we had no communication from Public Works about their status. Just to be sure, we requested a meeting with Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis on Monday, Feb 4. At that time she said Public Works had commissioned an arborist report on the trees and were taking them down the next day. We were shocked and disturbed that staff had not reached out to us in all these months about how they were dealing with these trees or given us an opportunity to be involved in finding a solution. We believe there were ways to preserve these trees and were very concerned that we hadn’t been given the arborist report and that the notice on removing those trees was so precipitous.

The City should be taking the lead on preserving its own trees, but instead the City is taking the lead on removing them. It should not be this hard to preserve trees and it shouldn’t require such persistent efforts on the part of community volunteers. All for naught. It seems that all the volunteers end up doing is letting the public know about the next tree our community will be losing or has lost.

Ann Christoph, Johanna Felder, Ruben Flores, Barbara Metzger, Leah Vasquez, George Weiss

Laguna Beach


School Board follies not funny

Once again our School Board and Superintendent are spending inordinate time and resources defending unfair and divisive governance practices, it seems. While extolling best practices and openness, even constructive criticism of the Board’s governing culture seems to be met with predictable intolerance, toward people seeking to support not impede success of our schools. Many give up, too often for fear of retaliation. Sadly, that too often is a realistic fear.

For example, under state law our School Board annually elects a President and Clerk, just as the City Council annually elects a Mayor and Mayor Pro Tempore. Unless a member declines, it’s established practice that the Mayor Pro Tem serves as the next Mayor, and School Board Clerk becomes President. 

For the School Board there is a presumption against deviation from that practice under LBUSD Board Bylaw 9100: 

“After serving one year as clerk, the elected member may serve one year as president of the Board. It is the intent of the Board that all board members will rotate through the sequence of clerk and president.” 

This ensures each elected member has a turn as presiding officer managing meeting agenda content and proceedings. Denying any member equal opportunity as a Board officer denies equal representation in Board policy and rule making for voters who cast ballots in favor of the excluded member.

Yet, current Board member Dee Perry, who twice has been judged fit and elected by voters, and twice was elected Clerk by the Board, also twice has been passed over for President by the Board. 

Passing over Perry was perceived by many familiar with Board history as veiled retaliation for Perry’s independent fact-finding, research and daring occasionally to openly disagree and vote against actions by the Board majority. On January 15, 2019, the Board majority accused Perry of “violating” so-called “protocols to promote unity” that have no legal basis and are used by educational bureaucrats to silence dissenting voices on School Boards and school communities.

Political nullification of Perry’s election became overt on November 15, 2017, when she was Clerk, and next in line for President. An early morning ad hoc special meeting convened on short notice under Bylaw 9320 included closed and open sessions, including an open session agenda item on Board bylaws and “protocols.” Multiple School District officials, staff and employees were present, but no members of the public. 

Two participants confirm Board member Ketta Brown initiated a discussion on election of Board officers, not scheduled until the December meeting of the Board. Those two sources (unidentified for obvious reasons) confirmed the Superintendent was present when Brown expressed concern about Perry’s readiness to manage Board proceedings, and proposed outgoing President Jan Vickers be elected to a consecutive second term in 2018.

Discussing and agreeing on who will be elected as Board officers is “action taken” under CA Gov. Code Sec. 54952.6 and LBUSD Bylaw 9323.2 (1)(2). If reports by school officials present are correct, under CA Gov. Code Sec. 54954.2(3), a question arises whether Brown’s proposal could lawfully be on the agenda for Board action before the December meeting.

Members Brown, Peggy Wolff and Vickers – constituting a majority with quorum present – reportedly agreed Vickers should serve another term as President, and Perry was told she could serve another term as Clerk. Perry was not given any choice in the matter, but stated she was not giving up her turn to rotate in sequence under Bylaw 9100. Ironically, Perry’s term was up in 2018, so passing her over but letting her be Clerk again meant she would be in line to serve as President in 2019 only if re-elected. 

Turned out Perry was number two top vote getter in the 2018 election, but Vickers, Normandin and Wolff refused to follow Bylaw 9100 or their own agreement regarding Perry. Instead, Wolff and Normandin joined Vickers in approving a third consecutive term for 30-year incumbent Vickers, and Normandin became Clerk. This means Perry goes to the end of the line behind Normandin, Wolff and new member James Hall (absent on business trip for annual organizing meeting). 

School District officials present when Perry was passed over after her 2018 re-election described member Peggy Wolff telling Perry, “Some people are just not presidential material.” If that is true, one wonders by what standard Wolff disqualifies someone elected by voters? If new members don’t get their turn, there is no deep bench ready to serve, hence Bylaw 9100.

Election of officers is typically the first item of annual meeting business, but on December 11, 2018, oddly it was moved to the end of the agenda. Mysteriously, the video live stream feed and archiving system crashed for the first time anyone I know can recall.

The next time Perry will be in line to serve as President is 2023, but her current term ends in 2022. So she will have to run for a third term to be back at the front of the line, or leave after eight years without being allowed fully and equally to represent those who elected her and ensure their issues are placed before the Board and other elected members are able to do. 

If the Board does not want to follow its own procedure, all it needs to do is repeal Bylaw 9100. But it appears Board members who passed over Dee Perry did not want to change the bylaw and risk being passed over in purely random political process every year.

If a member is to be passed over, Bylaw 9100 should be repealed before that action is taken, not after. Instead, the Board has acted in a discriminatory manner, it seems, to exclude one member who dares to speak up and stand up when her independent fact-finding and research lead her to cast a dissenting vote.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach


Recycle your worn or soiled clothing via H&M

For those who like to recycle, repurpose, and renew, I just learned that H&M, a worldwide purveyor of women’s clothing, has joined the march to provide us with another way to practice The Three R’s. All of their stores in CA and elsewhere have drop-off bins for all clothing, towels, and sheets for the sole purpose of recycling – cotton can be reconstituted to make the best paper. So we can still donate to our favorite organizations but those clothes that are a bit more worn or soiled (just not toys or shoes please) don’t have to go to the landfill. Plus, if you donate to them, H&M will give you a 15 percent off coupon.

Some may recall that in the late 1800s and early 1900s, rag pickers, esp. on the East Coast, would push their carts though neighborhoods looking for fabric castoffs. Here is another way we can save trees – bring your fabric goods to one of their six stores in Orange County – South Coast Plaza, Irvine, Mission Viejo, Brea, Santa Ana, and Huntington Beach. (I don’t know about their two outlets in Orange and San Clemente.) Happy donating/shopping.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach


Obituary

Lynn Kubasek 

Obituary Lynn with mother

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Lynn Kubasek with her mother Gail

The beautiful life of Lynn Kubasek of Laguna Beach ended peacefully in the quiet morning hours of January 24, 2019 after a brief yet courageous battle against pancreatic cancer. She was 60 years old.

She is survived by three children, Michael, Paul, and Dianna; her mother Gail and father Peter; four grandchildren; and numerous loving family members. She is also affectionately remembered by hundreds of her beloved swim family from all over the world. The number of lives she touched thoughout her life is immeasurable. 

Lynn was a pillar of the Laguna Beach community, both in and out of the water. Her art is still recognized all over the city, and her contributions to the ocean swimming community are immeasurable. Many of her works have been showcased at BC Space, along with numerous other galleries. Lynn’s collaborations included a showcase of over 3,000 suspended paper cranes, among other thought-provoking pieces. Her contributions to the city didn’t end with her art – she also was a staunch advocate for ocean water quality. So much so, her day job as a Stormwater Specialist with FUSCOE Engineering brought her limitless joy in being able to combine her love of art and the ocean. Her artistry led an especially helpful hand during Halloween, when the entire company would break into themed groups, with her group winning more often than not. 

She was also well known for her Random Acts of Soap™, handmade soap that she gave out for events or even just on a Tuesday. Her soap has touched all parts of the world and became a common bond to those who remember her. Her soaps became a staple whenever she traveled, and they would take on the theme of what she was experiencing at the time. One of her favorites, “Clown Farts,” was a mix of rainbow leftovers from various batches, brought together with a clown label covered in bubbles. Lynn found ways to utilize anything left over in her art – whether it was mannequin parts found in dumpsters or plastic containers washed onto the shores – she found a spot for everything in her work.

Obituary Lynn in group

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Lynn with her swimming group

Lynn’s accomplishments on land didn’t stop in the water. She has completed many notable swims. Lynn was the first person to cross from Santa Cruz Island to Anacapa Island in 2013, as well as swimming the Santa Barbara Channel from Anacapa Island to the mainland (2011) and the Catalina Channel from Catalina Island to the mainland (2009). She has also circumnavigated the 28-mile stretch around Manhattan Island in NYC less than three weeks before her diagnosis in September of 2018. She also participated in numerous relays over the years, most notably a 50-mile triple relay around Catalina Island, a week before her diagnosis. One of Lynn’s favorite pastimes were the invitation only “secret naked” relays, many of which she swam on. 

Her fire for life and adventure was matched by her kind smile and willingness to help everyone. She never forgot a name and would stop at nothing to help out a friend in need. If a swimmer was in need, Lynn would stop at nothing to make sure every need was covered. Whether it was for a crew chief or just moral support, Lynn was always there with a smile and a bar of soap. The number of swimmers she has supported is in the hundreds, as well as swims she has been a part of. There isn’t a swimmer in the world that isn’t connected to Lynn in some way. 

Although her battle with pancreatic was short, her strength and passion to help others never wavered. Even in extreme pain, she still managed to attend numerous award banquets, family gatherings, and even swim with her pod between treatments. Lynn showed that nothing is impossible – when you decide to do something, you can do anything as long as you keep smiling through the pain. 

In lieu of flowers or gifts in memory of this wonderful soul, she has requested that donations be made to the Ronald McDonald House, at www.rmhc.org. 

Lynn’s Celebration of Life will be on Saturday, Feb 23 at Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, from 3 -7 p.m. On Sunday, Feb 24, there will be a swim/paddle out at Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach at 9 a.m. All are welcome, as this was Lynn’s way. 

More information can be found on her GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/fundraiser-for-lynn-kubasek, or at the Facebook event page at www.facebook.com/events/835905273415192/.


More on eucalyptus trees

By the way, folks who are followers of a certain leader of a very vocal group in Laguna – I love trees, I have eight on my property, but they don’t block anyone’s view, they provide me with fragrance (love the smell of citrus blooms and of course all the bees that enjoy buzzing around them) during blooming season, and beautiful blossoms in spring (pit fruit trees), which stops people on my street to photograph and admire. The trees also provide some shade, habitat for birds, and exercise since I do all of my own gardening. I often have to clean my property from debris from other people’s trees (mainly eucalyptus) and I also sweep the street since the folks that own these trees don’t. They don’t even apologize when my driveway is covered obviously with their debris.

I, along with many other people in town, have no problem with having trees in our downtown area either, but let’s be smart about it. Why create situations where people/property are at risk and we are liable? I notice that many tree advocates no longer use the word “eucalyptus” – probably because it’s a touchy word – and now use the generic “trees.” I applaud them in trying to bring greenery to our town but let’s be honest. The followers of the vocal group have touted eucalyptus as critical in our history and to our town – especially in artwork. Does that mean that we cannot be smart and plant appropriate plants? Our forefathers have done some dumb things (like putting cocaine in coca cola, making medicines in their kitchens and peddled them to victims, the list goes on) – so does that mean we have to continue to do some things that are clearly inappropriate, and not pay attention to what we plant? That is what worries me – if people really want to implement the Downtown Specific Plan as designed years ago, I am afraid that eucalyptus trees will put us in peril. Yes, some trees draw people into our town – but basically many come to use the beach, not to shop (hence many stores going out of business), or they come to the different art festivals we have. People want to be able to walk to their cars and put their purchases away so they can shop some more, eat, or walk. Yes, we should make our village wonderful, but if you can’t find any parking then what? But then a parking structure has never been on the negotiating table by this group.

I am planning to leave some of my estate to causes that are trying to save the Amazon rainforest (having spent a week navigating through some areas several years ago) and wildlife in Africa. Trees are vital and as we seem to be zooming into “climate” change it is important that we pay attention to what we are doing. We can continue to admire artwork – and by the way many wonderful pieces do not feature eucalyptus trees and instead focus on the dramatic hillsides and ocean scape. We need to focus on saving the planet as well as our town.

I often wonder if these folks who are so adamant about forestation of our town have view envy? 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

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