Response to Ganka Brown’s letter

I support William Kail’s original letter and appreciated what feels like his intelligent, logical, and common sense approach in his response. 

After reading Ganka Brown’s letter, I had to respond. Firstly, statistics are greatly suspect without context or further explanation. A quick internet search shows that there are many different stats floating around as there is no aclegal definition for the term “mass shooting.” 

Secondly, it is a fact that both the Senate and the House had Democratic majorities in Obama’s first two years in office (from 2009 to 2011) so, in my opinion, he had ample time to sign gun control legislation if the majority of Congress wanted to enact such legislation. Even after that, the Senate had a Democratic majority until 2015 (almost the entire eight years that Obama was President. Bringing up the NRA doesn’t much matter, in my opinion, unless both political parties owe them their allegiance in some manner and that isn’t a political party or Presidential issue.

Thirdly, Trump ran for President on a platform of voting out a lot of the legislation that Obama signed while he was President so that shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. In my opinion, that’s why so many people voted for him as they weren’t happy with how the previous Administration handled things.

Fourthly, many people, including myself, saw Obama as being weak, ineffectual, and constantly apologizing for and blaming the United States for all the global problems instead of being a strong leader who loved America and wanted to do what was best for our Country and our people.

Lastly, in my opinion, mass shootings are not the fault of the President any more than drunk driving collisions, burglaries, or any other crimes are. In my opinion, we will always have evil and mentally ill people in the world no matter what legislation is done. If you blame President Trump, you’d also have to blame Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush Sr. and every other President we’ve ever had who has had a mass shooting while he’s been in office. In my opinion, that would be rather ludicrous. Maybe we should do a better job of preventing evil or mentally ill people from being able to harm others by allowing more law-abiding, sane people to carry weapons and eliminating gun free zones where, in my opinion, most of these mass shootings occur.

Gary Zaremba

Mission Viejo

Toni Morrison – A Nobel lesson for all

Remembering those who shine light on being vigilant, have courage to call out injustices and stand up for the good that gives meaning and purpose to life, Toni Morrison, in her Nobel Prize in Literature 1993 speaks eloquently, fully knowing what weight words have, a reminder of what a life well-earned means. Her message is ours to remember and carry forward and stand against those who are not representing the public, rather pandering to power brokers using their position to bully and demean others to enhance their own power.

On August 6, it seemed to happen (again) here, during the Joint Council/DRB meeting and later (on video) as a councilman pointed at the public, spewing out that they were “obstructionists” for expressing an opinion that differs from his. The rants continued without a timeout, or a gavel brought down on inappropriate behavior.

No one, Council or public, should tolerate this without speaking up for what, in my opinion, it is: inappropriate and beneath the dignity of public office. What Toni Morrison writes applies as much to the capital as Laguna, wherever what is said or action apply reverberates and reflects who we are individually and collectively: 

“Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; it does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.”

Regardless of political or social alignments, the public and its representatives deserve mutual respect. It is not necessary to agree, but the ability to encourage dialog builds and holds a community together, not in one voice, but through many voices, creating understanding and displaying what representation means. It is incumbent on those who hold public office, elected or appointed, be held accountable. 

Leah Vasquez

Laguna Beach

Will Mo Honarkar’s architecture be visionary?

Recently, a person I highly respect, Tyler Russell of KX 93.5 radio station, highlighted the social media criticism Mo Honarkar has received regarding his six major real estate projects in Laguna. Over the past 60 years, I’ve seen many creative developers add to the charm of our village. Could Mo be our new Jack Eschbach, visionary behind Peppertree Lane, or Joe Hanauer, creator of The Old Pottery Place, or John Mansour and Alan Fuerstman, leaders of the Montage Resort – three of the most commercially successful and charming developments in our wonderful village? Perhaps that kind of unique Laguna vision and imagination will, over time, be included in Mo’s architecture, which is currently in preliminary stages, but vastly overbuilt and architecturally banal, in my opinion. Let’s hope so. I think it’s only fair to give him a chance. He may succeed for us all, not just himself!

Greg MacGillivray

Laguna Beach

Proposed pavilion (public art installation) at new Village Entrance to Laguna Beach

The Laguna Canyon Conservancy supports the concerns we feel were presented logically and succinctly by longtime Laguna Beach resident and landscape architect Bob Borthwick about the proposed pavilion (public art installation) for the new Village Entrance. In sum, he believes the proposal “is not a good fit for the location.” (Mr. Borthwick presented his letter to the Laguna Beach Arts Commission at their last meeting.)

As stewards of Laguna Canyon, our objections as a board have little to do with the artistic quality of the proposed art installation. However, we are concerned that given its relatively large size, scale and height, as well as what we feel is an overly loud style, it would not enhance the natural beauty and rustic vibe of Laguna Canyon, and would not complement the organic, understated, and spacious feel of the newly completed Village Entrance. 

We also agree with Mr. Borthwick in that what we feel is such a large and showy structure would compete with the new, visually busy Festival of Arts façade on one side, and the historic Digester building on the other side. Given the visual intensity and existing volume of art concentrated in this end of Laguna Canyon, we support the objective of the new Village Entrance to create a “calm respite.”

The idea of using the significant funds for this proposed installation to instead restore and repurpose the Digester building as the entrance’s focal point, and construct future pavilion-like structures or gathering spots around this landmark, is more consistent we feel with sound urban planning, sustainable design, responsible use of local funds, and public enjoyment, all of which support the role of Laguna Canyon as the defining portal to our coastal city.

Lastly, the demolition of much of the newly landscaped entrance, including a dozen trees, bike racks, and benches would be a needless waste of public resources, in our opinion.

Our city spent decades and millions of dollars to create the new Village Entrance in Laguna Canyon. It concerns us that we have only had the opportunity to offer public input in the last couple days – especially for a permanent feature in one of the most high-profile spaces in Laguna Canyon and our city.

We need to do better with this project and would encourage other options that would be a better fit for the canyon.

(The Laguna Canyon Conservancy (LCC) is a volunteer environmental group dedicated to save Laguna Canyon and preserve it as natural.)

Harry Huggins

President, Laguna Canyon Conservancy

Laguna Beach

Politicized back-to-school “news”?

At the August 13 meeting of our School Board, what seems to me and many others to be the increasing politicization of public school governance was arguably escalated by the majority of Board members and senior staff. Many of us find it disturbing and even menacing that what seems an uncivil political trend continues even though state law mandates that school governance is non-partisan.

A new agenda item at the end of meetings has been added seemingly to give the majority and superintendent the last word at the end of each meeting for what have become in the opinion of many self-serving political pronouncements. Tuesday night that included seemingly orchestrated, highly defensive ideological argumentation and inflammatory accusations against Board minority members and public critics.   

In my opinion and that of many others who commented on social media, bizarre cult-like pronouncements were made promoting provably illegitimate interpretations of the state education code defining the role of the School Board. What we regard as misconceptions can and will be rebutted.

But more urgently, it is my opinion as well of that of many I spoke with that School District officials are shamelessly and misleadingly touting and hiding behind a ranking of LBUSD by Niche, a private revenue driven website which monetizes rankings to which public schools subscribe seemingly at a cost to taxpayers.

Board President Vickers touted the report in the press and at the School Board meeting, joined by members who invited the Superintendent to report on the Niche rankings. As a member of the audience present I understood his report to extol the timing of the report as school convened, for the fist time under the new early calendar year. That also brought to mind Board Member Kelly’s recent commentary in local media that the School District was “turning the page” and moving on.

Somehow no one at the Board meeting noted that LBUSD’s “No. 1 in OC” ranking by Niche was seemingly based on augmentation of ranking protocols with intangible and subjective non-academic criteria that inflated overall ratings, thereby arguably masking real campus-by-campus ratings cited by Niche

The apparently more meaningful underlying rankings put LBHS at 18th in OC and 118th statewide (CDM and five Irvine high schools ranked higher than LBHS in both OC and state). Thurston was ranked No. 7 in the OC middle school category, El Morro No. 6, and TOW No. 7 in OC, but each was ranked much further down the rankings statewide.

If one Googles “Niche ranking reliability,” multiple education advocacy and media sources describe how search engine optimization and what they allege to be manipulation of website metrics used by Niche, in the opinion of many in the industry and education fields, are procured to enhance school district image and reputation.

Those of us with children or grandchildren relying on local public schools in the years ahead do not need what seems a taxpayer funded School District public relations campaign to know strengths and weaknesses of our schools. 

Given generous investment by residents paying taxes, extracurricular activity fees, SchoolPower donations, and private tutoring to raise GPA and test scores, we appreciate great schools. 

It’s our civic duty to elect and hold accountable a School Board that governs as well as our teachers teach. That means basic civic literacy and competence, due process, fairness, respect for diversity and dissent, respecting all.

Niche seemingly missed those criteria for ranking LBUSD.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Woodstock of the West

The Woodstock festival in New York in 1969 may be getting all of the press but there was as good or an even better pop festival here called Newport ‘69 in Northridge at Devonshire Downs in the San Fernando Valley earlier that same summer that didn’t have all that rain and mud but had as many great rock groups or more. It was also peaceful, set in a large park, and seemed to be better organized. It was also a three-day festival on Friday, June 20 through Sunday, June 22, 1969 in Northridge. You can find a copy of the original poster on the internet. The following groups played there and it only cost $6/day or $15 for the three days:

Jim Hendrix

Buddy Miles

Eric Burdon

The Byrds

Chambers Brothers 

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Joe Cocker

Johnny Winter

Friends of Distinction

Grass Roots

Ike & Tina Turner

Jethro Tull 

Taj Majal

Lee Michaels


Marvin Gaye

Mother Earth 


Booker T and the MG’s

Albert King

Albert Collins

The Rascals 




Three Dog Night

I had the pleasure of attending this event along with its sister event, Newport ‘68 at the OC Fairgrounds the previous summer (although it paled in comparison). Let’s give a shout out to our local pop festivals on this 50th Anniversary too!

Gary Zaremba

Mission Viejo

Support for Bluebird Farms

The owners of Bluebird Farms, Scott and Mariella Tenney, have shown great appreciation for the environment through adaption of a rundown property to a highly functional and environmentally progressive farm that serves our community as a model for sustainability.

Under the Tenney’s investment and hands-on oversight, the following have been implemented adding unique offerings, expanding Laguna’s diversity, maintenance, and use of larger parcels by:

1. Operating an authentic urban organic farm where children and families can still be exposed to and involved with environmentally sound practices.

2. Expanding its apiary up to 30 beehives to include pollinating plant sources that encourage other beneficial insects for crops.

3. Providing the Growing Skills Education Program for At-Risk Youth – a community outreach program exposing youth to the environment and development of life skills.

4. Continuing to offer educational workshops to members of the community including the arts (the parcel was a temporary long-term home to a former Sawdust artist, Roger Van De Vanter, creator of Rainbow Sandals and Asian-inspired ceramics).

5. Hosting educational social events – necessary to support programs compatible with neighborhood values and zoning.

6. Potential: There are few private parcels being improved and operating for community benefit as this. As land and development impacts continue, precious parcels of land must find sustainable ways to remain intact and operate as a good neighbor.

It is incumbent on city representatives to help encourage and guide the bravely creative who are improving our city and environment for mutual benefit by ensuring habitat health, neighborhood beautification, and safety while continuing Laguna’s uniquely creative legacy.

Visionaries vary: James Dilly, Fred Lang, John Gardiner – poet and Shakespearean actor – Mark Chamberlain of BC Space gallery and the Tell/Legacy Project whose efforts helped save Laguna Canyon, and the generations of authors, environmentalists, and educators – including Steinbeck, Margaret Meade, and those who amaze – Pancho Barnes, Olympians, movie makers and luminaries – all continue making and keeping Laguna’s identity unique.

Opportunities to highlight and protect Laguna are still here, though not always obvious or affordable; by working together and through wise planning, Laguna can retain its identity and unique sense of place.

Bluebird Farms is one of the few remaining special places and is reliant on thoughtful decisions to survive.

Leah Vasquez

Laguna Beach

Response to William Kail’s letter

I am the letter writer William Kail referred to last Friday. I am not interested in blaming President Trump for the recent mass shootings. What does interest me is the president taking action to prevent future shootings (thus my call for a gun summit at Camp David). And since Mr. Kail asked, I did urge President Obama to do the same thing after the Sandy Hook massacre. If I’m not mistaken, one or two papers published my call for a gun summit back then. Despite appearances, I don’t believe the two of us are far apart on this critical issue.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

In response to William Kail’s recent letter

I can’t help myself – I have to answer the questions posed by William Kail in the August 9 issue. First, let me say there were only 32 mass shootings during the two-term administration of Obama; there have been 251 so far in 2019 alone under Trump’s administration. You can do the research.

When Obama was president both the Senate and House were Republican dominated, also NRA dominated one might say. These folks made sure that very little of Obama’s effort to put gun control into effect happened, even when he used Executive Order (which I am sure Trump could and should be happy to use now that he is so good at it). In fact, since Trump has been in office he has negated many key legislations that Obama put in place – emissions control, healthcare, tax equality, environmental issues, and even banking regulations to avoid another horrific financial crisis.

By the way, Congress has not been successful in passing any gun control efforts in the last 25 years – thanks in large part to the efforts of the NRA. Speaking of the NRA – Trump was reportedly on the phone with the head of NRA several times while in Dayton. Wonder what they discussed and shouldn’t he have been paying 100 percent attention to the victims and being the comforter-in-chief instead of hiding and bragging on the crowd size?

Obama was a diplomat and is still respected worldwide by many – our current leader, in my opinion, is not too respected worldwide and uses very divisive language, is not shy about name calling, belittling people, especially those that don’t agree with him. Why doesn’t he try some of these tactics on NRA folks if he has that much power in this country and really wants to end gun violence and leave a legacy? Money talks I guess and elections are coming up.

What amazes me is how many people try to justify and shield Trump’s actions – he is the one responsible for his actions. No one is forcing him or is someone forcing him? Also – why not compare him to Regan, Bush, even Putin or anyone else – why always Obama?

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Laguna bashing

Along with the decline of civility in civic discourse, there has been, in my opinion, a rise in what I term “Laguna Bashing” – portraying Laguna as in decline – this rhetoric often comes from business owners or property developers. This appears to be a misguided attempt to muster sympathy for a private agenda.

The latest example is from an article in a local news publication in which an investor with a number of ambitious projects in the pipeline in Laguna describes the downtown as “flagging.”

And in what may have been an attempt at humor, said (quote) “It’s becoming a ghost town.”

Seriously? A ghost town? When I’m stuck in traffic on Coast Highway, it doesn’t feel like a ghost town.

And why in the world would millions of people travel all this way just to see a downtown that is flagging?

Then there was a recent letter in the paper from a local business owner a couple of weeks ago complaining about declining traffic to her shops and blaming decrepit buildings, vacant lots, streets strewn with trash, and “dead zones.” 

That sounds pretty grim.

And it makes me wonder if those people paying over $1,000 per night to stay at the Montage realize what a mistake they have made to have come here.

We hear this type of Laguna bashing from time to time, and I’m puzzled by how things can be so bad and yet 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 people a year visit.

I’m a businessman. I’m all for business. But I’m for businesses that are in the best interest of the people who live here, the people with the biggest stake in the community. The investor talks about a $1 billion investment, which is a lot of money, but he ought to appreciate that the 23,000 residents have a much bigger stake in the community collectively.

I’m for businesses that will stand on their own two feet. I’m not for businesses that spend their time at the public trough asking for special treatment or handouts.

My entire career has been working with developers. I’ve seen this show before. Over the years I’ve seen the smarter and more successful developers come up with projects that have widespread community support rather than projects that reach for the moon and fight opposition for eons. This also makes the job of those with approval authority easier.

I hear the frustration, but if a business is having problems, take a look at the business. Does it make sense? Is it well run? It’s too easy to blame others for our problems.

We hear complaints about businesses turning over. Then we hear people wanting change. They need to talk to each other, but they are often the same people saying both things. Change requires turnover. No turnover, no change.

If the stores are vacant, could it be that the rents are too high? Or the building owners aren’t very motivated? Some of Laguna’s commercial buildings have been owned by the same absentee owners for years, who pay little tax, have little or no debt, and simply may not care very much about the community.

I don’t see why the residents of Laguna are supposed to somehow make up for that. And listening to people bash Laguna doesn’t do much to get me to to change my mind.

If you have a business idea or an idea for a project and you want support, an idea that is a “win-win” will have support. An approach that is “I win, you lose” will have a rougher path.

Here are three simple guidelines:

--Put the interests of the residents first

--Minimize negative impacts

--Fully mitigate all impacts

And then ask the question: Will the residents be better off with the project or without it?

John Thomas

Laguna Beach

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