Local Currents: Beware the Jabberwock


“”Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

— from the Lewis Carroll poem “Jabberwocky.”


By David Vanderveen.

Local political races in small towns are not usually where you find the hot action during a presidential campaign year. But it’s gotten a bit crazy in Laguna Beach during the final week of the election.

What bothers me most are the mythical beasts being drummed up by incumbents and special interests to sell us protection.

Larry Bammer, the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association president, claims we have a “proliferation” of prescription drug use and overdoses by teens here in Laguna Beach. Although there is no evidence of this epidemic or an increase in abuse, our police association is proposing that we add a full-time cop on school campuses. The justification? “We’re the only city that doesn’t have one.”

How does a cop on all our school campuses change prescription drug use? How does a confrontational approach improve teen behavior?

Candidates Bob Whalen and Verna Rollinger couldn’t support the increased spending and police expansion fast enough to get the police endorsement.

The Laguna Beach Community Coalition, which has almost no actual Laguna Beach residents—it’s a list of paid local and state employees who are lobbying for their bosses on the school board and city council—are proposing a Social Host Ordinance or SHO. The reason for this? One question posed to ninth graders in the California Healthy Kids Survey: 74% said it’s easy or very easy to get alcohol.

I assume the answer would be 100%. Can’t any ninth grader get access to alcohol at their own home or someone else’s? Hint: It’s in the booze cabinet.

Why are these outsiders claiming to be us and why are they forcing their opinions on Laguna Beach residents?

In our home, we don’t have locks on our bedroom doors, wine cellar or booze cabinet. I don’t want a relationship with my kids based on locks and keys. I certainly don’t need the school board or city council threatening or confronting me about problems that don’t exist.

At this week’s school board meeting, board member Betsy Jenkins reported that Police Chief Paul Workman has been taking a beating from the community over SHO but that he is committed to see this through with his heart and soul. Jenkins also claims that despite vocal community opposition, she believed there is consensus to go “full steam ahead” and pass the SHO.

The self-righteous find consensus because they don’t need to hear anyone but themselves.

In the words of school board member Teresa O’Hare, “The center of everything good that goes on in this community happens right here.”

If you don’t believe her, just ask her.

Unfortunately, we have too much insider politics in Laguna for a town of our size.

Almost two years ago, a group of very concerned parents worked with school Superintendent Sherine Smith and the school board to develop a plan to fix our failing tennis courts. We created a plan, got bids, found money…and the school board and superintendent simply dropped the ball. No vision. No plan. No response to the city’s request to pay two-thirds of the bill to fix the shared use courts.

“Negligent” is maybe the nicest term I can think of to describe how this school board behaves towards the public.

No one attends school board meetings because the school board has no interest in public input or attendance. It’s insiders talking to insiders about what insiders want.

Mostly, the wild claims of problems unseen and indefensible give rise to more aggressive confrontation of parents and students while the actual education and prevention measures go unimplemented.

We have an activist school board that would rather slay mythical Jabberwockys and claim victory than deal with proactive solutions. Confrontation through power seems to be the focus of our school board rather than working with the community to engage and change behavior.

Laguna Beach desperately needs change. We need a city council and school board that are prepared to deliver a real vision for a very real future.


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

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