Letters to the Editor June 25, 2020
Clarification: Student pier to pier walk
Last week’s Easy Reader cover story about the Mira Costa High School Class of 2020 celebrating graduation with a walk from the Hermosa Beach pier to the Manhattan Beach pier generated a widespread, social media backlash against the students and against the Erin Condren company, which makes day planners. The company’s namesake founder’s children helped organize the walk.
Some of the social media criticism addresses the failure of the majority of the students to wear masks and socially distance during the walk. That criticism is supported by photos of the event, which accompanied the story.
The widespread accusations that the walk was s racist event is not supported by the facts. The racism charge appears to be based on the fact that a Black Lives Matter walk from the Manhattan Pier to the Hermosa Pier occurred two weeks previous to the graduation walk. From this, an inference appears to have been drawn that the students’ walk was a mockery of the Black Lives Matter walk. But as noted in the story, local pier to pier walks are commonplace as fundraisers, as celebrations and simply as exercise.
I interviewed many of the student walk participants and race did not come up in any of the reporting I did about the walk. Anyone who draws the conclusion from last week’s story that the walk was a racist event has misread the story. Nor is there any other basis I am aware of for a charge of racism against the walk participants. — Kevin Cody, Publisher
Another Presidential racial slur?
Well, the City of Manhattan Beach just fired their fire chief because at a staff meeting he said they were “holding a boot to the neck” of a vendor who was apparently not satisfying a contract requirement. I have always recognized this as a colloquial term for putting pressure on a person to do what they are supposed to do. It has never previously had a racial connotation to me, though I can now see that it might in view of recent events. President Barack Obama’s own spokesperson himself suggested the government needed to keep “to keep a boot on the neck of British Petroleum” to fulfill their responsibility related to their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bruce’s Beach revisited
Black Lives Matter to the residents of Manhattan Beach. I am proud to say that’s my sense of the vast majority of our community’s residents. Bruce’s Beach is the story of the racist, discriminatory actions of prior City Councils, long ago. As a community, we can’t ignore this shameful past. It took over a century for Bruce’s Beach to get its name back. Yet, even then, it was only a 3-2 vote by our City Council in 2006 that approved the name change to Bruce’s Beach. Current Manhattan Beach Mayor Montgomery opposed the name change to Bruce’s Beach. Well, Montgomery will have an opportunity to do the right thing, not secretly but publicly. Long time Manhattan Beach resident Kaitlyn McQuown has created a petition entitled “Address the Full History of Bruce’s Beach” (Change.org). She implores Mayor Montgomery and Council to address the full history of Bruce’s Beach. The petition calls for, among other things, a “public statement from the City of Manhattan Beach” to address the history of Bruce’s Beach Park. The petition states, “This is an opportunity for our city to demonstrate leadership. Our citizens are looking to our officials for courage in guiding conversations about race that might be challenging but are imperative. Owning our history is a simple first step on a committed and tireless journey to address injustice for the rest of our future.”
As Mark Burton continues his series of personal attacks in Letters to The Editor, it is obvious that yet again he will be running for a Manhattan Beach City Council seat. He was defeated in 2017 when he sought reelection and was defeated two years later in 2019 when he tried to regain that seat. I do not intend to respond in detail to every charge and misrepresentation Burton makes in his letters. Generally, Manhattan Beach voters have not responded favorably to negativity and personal attacks. They look at voting records and platforms. I look forward to the upcoming campaign and the candidate forums where the voters will examine past voting records and actual facts in depth.
Richard P. Montgomery
City of Manhattan Beach
Street fare fair
It is important to support our local businesses, especially now (“Beach street fare,” ER June 18, 2020). However, are people safe sitting at tables on the sidewalk with masks off, six feet away from people running and walking on the sidewalk safe? I think the safety of our citizens is still important.
My dog Sam, asked me to write this letter. For the last few weeks (months it feels like) fireworks have gone off every night for most of the night in South Redondo. Sam cannot be consoled; he panics; he’s being tortured through his ears. Please stop shooting off fireworks and explosives. Animals don’t understand.
The Beach Cities Health District, instead of being intent on real estate and money to be made or lost there, would do well to focus on what’s been called the Village Movement for seniors. This has been adopted in other parts of the world to tremendous success. Neighborhood organizations are formed and homeowners pay yearly dues to hire a small staff that helps with everything from in-home help, to shopping for the elderly to organizing social activities. Such a plan in the South Bay would be just what BCHD should coordinate. It would help the elderly maintain connections they’ve made over a lifetime in their own neighborhoods, and still receive services, without having to move into assisted living.
The reduction in size of the Beach Cities Health District’s Health Campus from 420 units to 220 is still outside of the public intent of what is allowed on the site, which is zoned P-CF (Public-Community Facility) (“BCHD Healthy Campus reduces footprint, 200 fewer units,” ER June 18, 2020). What in the first version looked like the Mothership from the 1970s movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” remains in the new plan, but tilted on its side — six stories high, sticking up like an architectural middle finger to the surrounding residential neighborhoods. This proposal should be on an RH zone–residential high density. While the folks at BCHD are marching forward with their Draft EIR believing their proposal is allowed outright on this site, it is not. RCFEs (Residential Care Facility for the Elderly) are not allowed without the Redondo Beach City Council and the Redondo Beach Planning Commission’s approval. This is why it’s important that we let our Redondo representatives know why they must not approve this proposal. Since it’s impacting Torrance neighborhoods too, Torrance residents should contact their representatives, and insist they work with Redondo reps.
Let it be
BCHD has been misrepresenting the need to retrofit its 514 N. Prospect Avenue building for seismic use. In Community Work Group meetings, after repeated questioning, the BCHD consultant was clear, there is no obligation to retrofit the building except for use as an emergency hospital. South Bay Hospital District and BCHD failed with the 514 building as a public and a private hospital, so a return to emergency hospital use is out of the question. With regard to BCHD CEO Tom Bakaly’s usual talking point that the building doesn’t meet current code, neither do most of our homes, and we’re not tearing them down either. Neither do most of our cars conform to current safety standards, yet we don’t abandon them. Neither do the 510 and 520 buildings, but BCHD isn’t worried about them collapsing on the local citizenry. Mark Nelson
BCHD CWG Member
Cut from the top
In recent years, corporations have come under attack for out-of-balance pay structures, with executives making excessively more than the average. The Manhattan Beach Unified School District’s superintendent had pay and benefits of $298,400 for 2018. While seemingly a large compensation amount but not necessarily excessive, it is over $50,000 (23 percent) more than the second highest paid employee, the deputy superintendent making $242,100, and over $100,000 (60 percent) more than the third highest, assistant superintendent at $186,700. In an era when CEO compensation is criticized for being excessively higher than the average employee, perhaps it is time to rein these salaries back. A 20 percent reduction in the superintendent’s compensation along with 15 percent for the deputy and 10 percent for the three assistant superintendents would save $151,500.
The assistant superintendent for educational services has a staff of six. Four of them are TOSAs (teachers on special assignments), which the superintendent and school board have already identified for elimination, leaving an executive assistant ($79,500) and a department administrative assistant ($62,700). If the department is downsizing 80 percent of the professional staff, shouldn’t it also be downsizing its administrative staff? Further, if the department is downsized to one professional, couldn’t the department be absorbed within another function and eliminate this position completely for additional savings? If absorbed by another function and allowing for that function to add a person to assist with the workload, MBUSD could still achieve a savings of approximately $250,000. That’s $400,000 in total.
When employment positions are available at the City of Manhattan Beach there is no shortage of qualified professionals to fill them. The City Council hires an outside recruitment firm to review applications for city manager, police chief, fire chief and city attorney. The recruiting system must be flawed because the last two fire chiefs and the last three city managers have been fired: Fire chiefs Daryn Drum (accused of racist remarks) and Robert Espinosa (firefighters gave him a vote of “no confidence”); city managers Geoff Dolan (allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior), David Carmany (alleged sexual misconduct, misuse of funds and intimidating behavior) and Mark Danaj (overuse of outside consultants, newly created management positions and a low-interest home loan to his assistant.
As a parent of a Mira Costa graduating senior, I am saddened by this article. I personally think this article was unfair to Erin Condren and especially to student body president Kate Condren (“Mira Costa High Class of 2020 forges new tradition from pandemic,” Easy Reader June 18, 2020). As a person of color and someone married to a physician who works for LA County Public Health, I choose not to vilify these kids or parents during this difficult and emotional time in our lives. A majority of the kids did not participate in this graduation walk, including my daughter and her friends. She knew in advance that the mask and social distancing recommendations would not be followed, thus she skipped it. That being said, please don’t let this lapse in judgment of some tarnish your opinion of all and in the long term. The intentions were good but the execution was flawed and in hindsight so very tone deaf.
Janice Lucas Volk
What’s in the heart
As a parent of one of the students who participated in last week’s graduation walk down The strand, I read with much interest and sadness all of the comments and reactions to the event and to the Easy Reader article (“Mira Costa High Class of 2020 forges new tradition from pandemic,” Easy Reader June 18, 2020). Let me admit that I am one of the parents who chose to let my student participate. I have taken a few days to think about whether my decision was wrong, and whether their walk was a mistake. My final answer remains the same: No. Here’s why. First, you may find it helpful to understand that these kids have walked up and down that strand dozens and dozens of times throughout their lives, often for causes, but most often because this is where we live. Most cities have a central strip and this is it for us. We take pride in it. The idea to do this was not to honor BLM or to try to use the BLM movement as an excuse to skirt any laws. But I am sure that the previous week’s BLM walk down that same strand was one of many inspirations for it, as it helped these kids recognize the power and sense of community such a walk can bring. There is no shame in wanting to bring a piece of that into their graduation. For those families who felt that the drive-thru graduation was a great experience, I am truly very happy for you. But it was not for us. The school did the best it could, and I thank them for that. But after months of being sequestered during a school year that is supposed to be the graduating student’s shining moment, forgive students and parents for wanting something more fulfilling. For what it’s worth, the plan was to wear masks, but most did not. Within 15 minutes of the start of the walk, our son texted that he had lost his mask. I know that sounds convenient for him and for me, but that’s what happened. My wife and I could have ordered him home, but we did not. When we arrived at The Strand to watch, we did notice that most of the spectators did not have masks, but that is not what struck us. What struck us was how our local towns, Manhattan and Hermosa, rallied around their kids. People in the houses and along The Strand were cheering. There were balloons everywhere. It was one of the first times in months where I was at a place where everyone was smiling. Personally, I was moved by the speeches, and the moment the kids threw their caps in the air, it was like the kids had seized back a small part of their lives. Erin Condren, I do not know who you are, but in my view, you and your children have been unfairly vilified. I will buy your products, whatever they are. Thank you to you and your family for help bringing joy to my family’s lives. Look, I know many of those reading this will disagree with me on all fronts. I applaud that too. This is an issue with room for debate. What I don’t understand is the holier-than-thou approach to many of the posts. As a community and a nation, we need to remind ourselves that there is a difference between criticism and critique, and that the best way to have a fruitful debate is to tone down the accusations. When I grew up, my mom would not allow us to accuse another person of being a liar. She would say, “You do not know what is in their heart.” That applies to issues of race and sexism as well.
by Kevin Cody
Kevin is the publisher of Easy Reader and Beach. Share your news tips. 310 372-4611 ext. 110 or kevin[at]easyreadernews[dot]com