I have not paid as much attention to local politics as I should have until recently when I became familiar with the proposed Social Host Ordinance. Whatever your opinion on whether a “SHO” is right for our community, we should all be greatly concerned about the process in which it has been brought to the City Council and our school board’s involvement in it.
Few residents had heard of this proposed ordinance at its first hearing in June, and the petition opposing SHO which was circulated at the beginning of October (over 320 signatures were obtained in less than one week) shows that few still know about its implications on our kids’ safety, our constitutional rights, and the city’s budget. Yet Councilwoman Toni Iseman is the only one on the council that has expressed an interest in hearing opposing points of view before the planned Nov. 13 hearing.
The school board says they endorsed a “concept” of a SHO. I have searched the board agendas and meeting minutes and have not found a record of any public discussion of the ordinance. The Laguna Community Coalition has now stepped up as the proponent of SHO, yet the coalition lacks representation from Laguna residents and parents.
While trying to uncover the board history on the SHO, I found claims that challengers for the school board are “highly funded single issue candidates” whose “…primary goal is to take control for [sic] the board and push through agenda spending increases for their own financial benefit.” After asking for an explanation, I was told that the “single” issue refers to the Thurston outdoor classroom and teaching garden, a waste of tax-payer money. I have since found out that no district money was to be used for implementation of this project, and that the plans for this facility were developed by a parent who spent many hours – pro-bono – incorporating teacher and PTA input in the design, before the project was abruptly dropped by the district (though I could not find reference of this project on the district website, either).
More telling, however, is that neither of the two challengers running for school board – Tammy Keces nor Dee Perry – appears to have involvement in this “single” issue and would have no financial gain from its implementation, and neither has received “heavy funding” as implied in the statement above.
Unfounded claims against board candidates, general lack of public discussion and record, and unwillingness to move forward with innovative projects sponsored by the community raise serious questions about the current school board’s transparency, their ability to be progressive and to adapt to our kids’ needs. The SHO process exposes the willingness of our council, without much understanding of potential consequences, to adopt a law which is being directed with very little public scrutiny or input, even though it will affect the entire community.
I have concluded that decisions in Laguna are being made by an insular group of people on our council and school board, who represent a myopic viewpoint on any given issue. Input from the community is sought only after someone “on the outside” exposes an issue to be controversial. Candidates are endorsed by school board and council incumbents to promulgate the same old ideas and to minimize discourse.
Wouldn’t we and our children be better served by school board and council members who welcome community dialogue, are challenged by new ideas, and consider all aspects of a given issue to determine what is right for Laguna? The opportunity to strengthen our community is ours. Vote for a change at both the school district and council level on Nov. 6.
Tijana Hamilton, Laguna Beach