Guest Column


Intolerance Be Gone!


By Kimberly O’Brien-Young

Last week the Indy published an article titled “Groms be Gone!” in which columnist Christine Fugate describes an annoying encounter with three skateboarders. She took pen to paper in a diatribe that ended up taking out (at the knee caps) all skateboarders in this town. She also took a wide sweep at the parents of skateboarders describing us as permissive “yes” parents. ..Ironically, my kids wish I was a “yes” parent!

Sadly, the author felt it best to relay her message via condescension and sarcasm, rather than make a credible argument. It was obvious to most readers that her real ire flamed from the inconvenience she experienced having to be aware of skateboarders on the roadway, thus hampering her ability to “rush around” town for her carpooling duties. I wonder if she would have been as annoyed at the delay had it been a cyclist or a jogger? The column repeats a theme permeating the fabric of Laguna Beach: Intolerance.

I understand everyone’s time is precious, but many drivers navigate this town like they’re delivering a kidney ready for transplant. No one wants to slow down and, God forbid, “share the road” with skateboarders.  Somehow sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers, and moms with strollers is an acceptable speed reducer.  However, many drivers clearly draw the line at skateboarders, making their voices heard in Letters to the Editor, at City Council meetings and often in “on the street” confrontations.  The obvious discrimination against a large portion of the city’s youth is shameful and unacceptable.

Why has intolerance become the new norm? Why is it okay for kids to be openly and sarcastically referenced in the local newspaper? Why is it acceptable for a motorist to stop his car, roll down the window and scream at my 12-year-old son (walking up the street with a skateboard under his arm) to “get out of here, we don’t want you here! I am calling the cops on you!”  Why is it acceptable for drivers to intentionally swerve into skateboarders to “make a point?” – a felony, mind you, that has occurred more than once, and actually happened to my son last year on Nestall. This is the lunacy initiated by the Speedboarding Neighborhood Action Group (SNAG), and perpetuated by every adult that feels he or she has the right to malign kids whom don’t meet their criteria for existence. For whatever their personal reasons, they don’t like skateboarders. They have made it their mission to eradicate what these skateboarder kids are passionate about, and they are going about it with a “throw out the baby with the bath water” mentality.

The Laguna Beach Police Department reports that although skateboarding is legal on all but eight streets, they often get phone calls from residents who complain about a skateboarder. The Police Department has to waste precious manpower responding to the call and then informing the resident that the skateboarder on their street is allowed to be there.

As the mother of three groms (two of which skateboard), I take umbrage to Fugate’s article, as well as the intolerant attitudes directed at skateboarders.

As in any walk of life, skateboarding has a few kids who behave inappropriately, repeatedly ignoring the rules and ordinances set forth by our city. That said…the skateboarding itself IS NOT the issue! Ironically, the majority of Laguna skateboarders are the same kids you see winning surf contests, hitting homeruns at Riddle Field, kicking goals at AYSO games, and scoring touchdowns at LBHS.  They also play in the band, take AP and Honors classes, are on the honor roll at school, volunteer, take martial arts, and work at part-time jobs.

It’s cliché, but don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

I understand the valid safety concerns associated with skateboarders on the roadways. However, the exact same safety issues apply to the presence of cyclists, pedestrians, joggers, etc.  In fact, city statistics indicate there is a higher rate of serious injury and death where cyclists and pedestrians are concerned than skateboarders. Why isn’t there a fervent effort to ban cyclists or pedestrians from our roadways and hills? When is the last time you saw a motorist roll down their window and shout at a cyclist or a pedestrian?

No one wants to hurt, maim or kill a kid.  It’s the refrain heard across town.  And since we all seem to agree we’d like to keep Laguna youth safe, let’s all slow the heck down, be mindful of our driving, be patient with inconvenience, and remember that just because someone doesn’t fit our standards of acceptability it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve our tolerance.

Intolerance be gone!

Kimberly O’Brien-Young is the mother of three sons between the ages of 5 and 13, married to a wonderful guy, and a local resident and business owner.

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  1. There’s one pretty big difference between cyclists and pedestrians, and skateboarders. In an emergency cyclists and pedestrians can stop – skateboarders can either keep rolling or fall off. I’m also not confident in the ability of a 10 year olds ability to judge a car’s speed, their speed, the gap in the traffic, the traffic flowing in the opposite direction and their less than Tony Hawk-like skateboarding ability as they zoom across the road. That said, there’s probably no need to ban skateboarding but there’s also no need need to vilify someone as intolerant just because they don’t want to kill or injure someone else’s kid.
    Ms O’Brien-Young claims Ms Fugate “relay(s) her message via condescension and sarcasm, rather than make a credible argument”. Maybe Ms O’Brien-Young could lead by example and tone down her own hyperbole. Screaming at kids and swerving into them is considered unacceptable by everyone – except for a few nut jobs. Trying to paint Ms Fugate with that brush is extremely disingenuous.

  2. “Somehow sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers, and moms with strollers is an acceptable speed reducer.” Unfortunately these don’t slow people down either. Come to Bluebird Canyon and watch as people take a 25mph speed zone at 45mph with children present.

  3. Charlie Brooks, you erroneously claim that skateboarders have only two ways to stop: “falling off, or keep rolling”. You obviously don’t skateboard, nor have you watched as downhill boarders skid out and stop on a dime. I’ll even bet they can slow and stop quicker than a cyclist. Your letter and others like it, demonstrate the ignorance most people have towards skateboarding. But it really boils down to three simple issue: The city needs to be more proactive, kids needs to be more careful, and drivers need to be more tolerant.

  4. You’re right, Jeff Brooks, I don’t skateboard. And even though some skateboarders can stop on a dime, I wonder what proportion of kids have that ability. However, I agree with your final sentence whole-heartedly.


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