To Steve Stajich:Thank you for being a voice in the wilderness concerning guns and America.Here are some sobering statistics: Vietnam (1964-1972) 58,000 lives lost.U.S. (1999) 30,000 lives lost to guns.Every two years we experience the same loss as Vietnam, and the numbers are rising.Where is the outrage?Ruth Rosen* * *Along with my 11-year-old son, Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) members, community members and over 700 Samohi students, I marched to call for peace on the streets on Friday, March 11. We consoled the family and remembered Eddie Lopez who was fatally shot by neighboring youth on February 28, 2006. Marches also consolidate community around ideas, so I am writing at a crossroads to clarify that very different agendas were present and mark divergent directions.I propose that we do not need to look too far away to see critical solutions, and that “getting tough” on crime is not one of them and, in fact, contributes to violent outcomes. As in Iraq, I do not believe we need to police and attack suspects. City leaders do. The Pico neighborhood has the only Santa Monica park with a police sub-station; and has no library. The city council last week proposed to change the color of police cars to “black and white” to resemble the more notorious LAPD.At the same time City leaders have actively worked to exclude the PYFC from Virginia Park, explaining that the park “needs to be inclusive” to outsiders and will not grant the PYFC “permanent presence.” No one is given “exclusive use” of the park except police. Gentrification comes with a police escort.In January, a packed meeting of the Virginia Park Advisory Committee overwhelmingly advocated for the presence of the PYFC at the park. They wanted transfer of PYFC programs from its present location on a busy 9th and Pico corner to the neighborhood park. City officials, namely the Cultural Affairs director Barbara Stinchfield and elements of the SMPD, have made it a point to exclude the PYFC mainly through miscommunication, delay and criminalization. Creating a climate of fear, they accuse the center of associating with “gang members.”At the end of the meeting, the advisory board decided to meet in committee to reword a recommendation to the Parks and Recreation as to the “urgency in the need for programming for older youth at the park.” From my own experience as an English teacher at Samohi four years ago, Black and Latino educators were hampered by administrative neglect of their unique and important skills. Instead of valuing indigenous connections to the community (as former principal Rousseau had done), these teachers and staff were expected to be “good Mexicans” or “good Blacks” — employees who follow the leadership of authority. Community connections and insights continue, in fact, to be perceived by these authorities as “political” and a threat to their control.While PYFC staff busy themselves running programs, the center’s director Oscar de la Torre stated recently, “People are playing politics with the lives of youth.”In the larger picture – not only Santa Monica, but the nation and world – established leaders need to be more inclusive and (if the word has not completely lost its meaning) democratic. We need to abandon old patterns and behaviors of exclusion, and understand that marginalized voices and ideas from the street level contain insights and genuine answers to urgent problems.By supporting unique and effective organizations such as the PYFC (as opposed to outside or state agencies and their often rigid, imposed and token solutions), we not only give a voice to local residents, we also empower one of our own home-grown institutions that is involved in building necessary “ways of life” for a world that crucially needs new social visions.Elias SernaSanta Monica* * *To City Manager Ewell:On behalf of our members, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) would like to thank you for choosing to implement a humane plan to assist in controlling the squirrel population in Santa Monica.spcaLA believes that the plan which integrates a no-feed education program along with non-hormonal birth control is the most appropriate option.In the future, spcaLA would be glad to assist Santa Monica in the treatment of animal overpopulation issues.Sincerely,Madeline BernsteinSPCA LA President* * *Last night’s council meeting was such a disappointment….Well, our beautiful white police cars with the carefully chosen three shades of blue and “Santa Monica” in large letters across their sides will soon be replaced by copies of Los Angeles’ black and white police cars. One will soon have to look closely to find the words “Santa Monica” on our police cars.Why? Is this part of a campaign to strengthen an unjustified image of Santa Monica as a gang-ridden city? Changing our police cars to an aggressive, and from the pictures presented at the council meeting, ugly black and white with “POLICE” printed in foot-high letters across the side doors will not reduce access to guns by unruly young people. Why this sudden and little debated change? I have heard no complaints from citizens about our beautiful and easily identifiable police cars. And none were cited. Santa Monica’s police cars convey an image of approachability and service to the public. Whoever long ago designed the present blue graphics on a field of white gave some though to that. Why the sudden change? Apparently the City asked a graphic design company to advise on how to replace the City seal now on our police cars with the “City image” used throughout the City on our street signs, etc. (The circle with a sun and a streak of ocean and mountains.) Covering the present City seal now on the cars would have done the job. But after talking with members of the police department, the consultant came to the council meeting with a proposal to repaint all our police cars with black hoods and rears, cover all of the beautiful blue graphics, including “Santa Monica” and paint a very large black “POLICE” on the sides of the cars. After little discussion and only one real reason offered (tourists will be able to recognize a police car) our City Council authorized the change.Chief Butts had argued that most police cars are black and white. Well, New York City and Chicago both seem to do just fine with white and blue squad cars (I called each of those police departments to verify).Councilmember Katz mentioned how aggressive the black and white image will be, and suggested having the foot-high “POLICE” be painted blue rather than black, “To soften the image.” But he voted for black and white cars as did Councilmembers Shriver, O’Connor and Bloom. Thoughtful Councilmember McKeown voted “no” to this radical change; Mayor Holbrook and Council member Genser were absent. Betty S. MullerSanta Monica
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