Small Town Memories

By Natalie Hills


I watched the City Council candidates on TV. Mr. Whalen talked about how hard it is to raise kids in Laguna, keep them positively engaged at school, because of the party scene.

To show how much he cares about teen drinking, Whalen supports the proposed Social Host Ordinance (SHO), which the police chief admits adds nothing to existing laws on serving minors. But it does add danger of selective enforcement to satisfy local political impulses. Inevitably, it will be vulnerable families that are not politically connected who get the boom lowered on them for teen drinking.

Whalen’s cohorts in the crusade to make an example of some single working mom or dad, who may need help with parenting skills instead of criminal charges, are none other than school board members Jan Vickers and Betsy Jenkins. I have fond memories of me and my little sister going to school with their kids, but let’s be honest, when Whalen, Vickers and Jenkins had kids at LBHS, what did they do about teen drinking?

Whalen took the lead for school board regarding its secret negotiations to bring MTV to LBHS and our town, and both Vickers and Jenkins joined Whalen in voting for the MTV contract. The MTV fiasco ended up doing more to promote partying, drinking and high-risk behavior by teens than any other single phenomenon in our town’s history.

Now to inoculate themselves politically, Whalen, Vickers and Jenkins want to put younger parents struggling with the party scene in jail. Weird, because the behavior they want to punish is still being modeled for our Thurston and LBHS kids by reruns of “The Real Laguna Beach” on MTV that would not have been a local sensation if not for Whalen, Vickers and Jenkins.

Good thing ex post facto laws are unconstitutional, otherwise the adults who aided and abetted teen drinking at MTV filming locations in homes all around Laguna Beach could be busted under the SHO.

My parents never served alcohol to minors, but without enabling bad choices they made our home a safe house for refugees from the party scene.  They usually called parents to get permission for kids to spend the night.

If there had been a locally imposed SHO micro-managed by City Hall my parents would not have been able to take the risks they did to keep kids safe. Yet, I see some of the parents loudly seeking to impose a local SHO are the same people whose kids often came home with me instead of going to their own homes.

When the party scene got too crazy for me and my parents, I went to a boarding school in rural Southern Virginia, and had the high school experience every one should, at a time when that was harder to do at LBHS in significant ways because of the MTV influence ushered in by Whalen, Vickers and Jenkins.

Whalen also defended the school board’s scheme to change the LBHS name, even after the League of Women Voters issued a report concluding it was not legitimate. Several students were victims of disciplinary and academic retaliation for protesting the school board’s actions. Whalen was presented with evidence of the abuse and used the information to help cover it up instead of protecting student rights.

Want to know more about Bob? Go to www.thereallb.com.  Concerned about teens? Whalen was at the Boys & Girls Club for years. Where’s the skateboard park, teen center?

Instead of making amends, Bob Whalen waited 10 years to run for City Council, assuming people would forget… I guess 10 years was not long enough.


Natalie Hills, 26, a fourth generation Laguna Beach native, graduated in 2008 from Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. She works in fashion industry finance in Los Angeles.

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  1. Mark T

    Great read, Natalie rules!!

  2. Natalie

    Thanks Mark!

  3. LB '92

    Well said!

  4. Catharine Cooper

    Right on target : ‘Back in the days,’ when innocence seemed more prevalent, the police would shut down parties and give kids rides home. But that was before MTV and the elevated scene of movie star teenagers who changed the bar for partying and publicizing outrageous behavior. Hard to be grow up in Laguna without wanting to be cool and part of the ‘in-crowd’ … But jail time for parents who already struggle to corral teens? I was once out of town for the weekend, had arranged for care for my teenage son, and came home to the obvious beer-covered floor. The next day i received an ANONYMOUS letter from MADD – that i was a horrid parent and responsible for teen drinking and driving. I wasn’t even there! And why not put a name on the letter and stand up and have a conversation instead of pointing fingers and blaming? I suppose with the proposed SOH ordinance, I could have been jailed for something I was unable to prevent. Hardly an appropriate direction to take. Thanks Ms. Hills for being eloquent and precise in your discussion of Whalen, the other Board members and the impact of SOH.

  5. Dee Perry

    Natalie, I admire your courage writing this article. Your younger point of view and perspective is much needed right now. Well written!

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