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Local Currents

War on Skateboards

“I sat there with SNAG. This has nothing to do with children’s safety anymore. They are only concerned about winning a war.” Chad Gibbs, Facebook, Feb. 14, 2011.

Unfortunately, I was in Japan when the City Council held the meeting on skateboarding last week. From all accounts that I’ve read and from first hand accounts, political freedom in Laguna Beach is in jeopardy.

Arbitrary leadership causes great turmoil in communities. When Toni Iseman, Elizabeth Pearson and their neighborhood cronies decide to hijack the political policy process of careful review and expert consideration, we teach our kids a horrible lesson in local civics.

SNAG (Speedboard Neighborhood Action Group) supporters aren’t hard to spot. Some of them have intentionally run our kids off the road with their cars and battle cries, “You’re a menace to society!” They’re terrorists.

Skateboarders showed up early to get front row seats and gave up those chairs for older folks opposed to skating. They weren’t thanked, and they weren’t given civil treatment. They were glared at, insulted and ramrodded.

Last year the city arranged a process for a panel of police and citizens that form the Parking and Transportation Committee (PTC) to review the skateboarding issue and provide the city council with a recommendation. That process enabled citizens on both sides of the issue to provide data, suggestions and other input. The skateboarders showed up and impressed the committee with their data and progress. SNAG was represented by one person who simply called the kids’ names.

The PTC recommended helmets for kids under 18, following the traffic laws, skating with traffic on hills and no banned hills. Smart, simple and it included a six-month review.

The Laguna Beach Police Department made follow-up recommendations to ban four large hills in town.

Toni Iseman and Elizabeth Pearson decided to ignore all of the advice of city experts and review committees in favor of their neighbors and contributors. That’s the town we live in. Will to power.

Now SNAG is pushing the envelope. In a follow up meeting organized by Kelly Boyd, where pro-skateboard supporters proposed testing the PTC and police recommendations for six months, SNAG representatives said they will not be happy unless skateboarding is banned on all hills over a five percent grade (most of Laguna Beach). They’re happy to go after bikes too if necessary.

The mayor demonstrated that following our local process is a waste of time. The elderly are setting a terrible example of self-interest and uncivil behavior. Bernstein, Iseman and Pearson have declared war on personal freedom in favor of personal interests. Is this Laguna Beach or Laguna Woods?

David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected].

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Comments (5)

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  1. Thank you, Dave! We love Laguna Beach and want to keep our town a place where families love to live and have their children grow up with freedom to be kids.

  2. Hey Dave- Howard from Sydney Australia. Our local counsel solved this problem to a degree by buildding skate board ramps etc in local parks. This area is now used for skate board comps, also scooter kids and push bikes. (Maybe great place for XS event next comp I agree however that roads and pavements ( sidewalks in US) are no place for active boarders, but they still deserve to be safe. Cheers

  3. Vicki High says:

    David, thank you for articulating so clearly the big picture of this situation. Hopefully our community will come to a rational compromise.

  4. Mitch Kent says:

    Hey Dave, I’m not informed enough to have an opinion on the details of how skating privileges should be enforced in our community, but I couldn’t agree more on the subject of civility. For us to succeed in teaching our children to respect our citys leaders, they should first be respectable. By ignoring the voices and opinions of the people they are supposed to be serving, they teach us to be suspicious and cynical. How disappointing it must be for these young people who invest their time and do what they can to become involved properly, only to watch our citys “leaders” simply do what seems like is in their own best intrest without regard for the general public. Thank you for your efforts.

  5. Thanks for the comments, all. I had a very interesting email interchange with someone who disagreed with my column and after letting me respond with more than the 460 words above, at least agreed that skateboarders have a valid position (even if he continues to disagree). What I appreciated the most was his civil exchange of ideas, particularly when we disagree. That’s what living in community is about.

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