The little one was in a floral dress on a warm spring evening, led on a leash and reaching for the dollar bills thrust into her face. People gathered around her on Third Street Promenade, ohhing and ahhing, giggling and laughing and snapping pictures with their cell phones. They applauded in delight and the little one’s “guardian” looked hungrily at the dollar bills. Because the little one was a monkey, somehow her small audience seemed to think this freak show was appropriate, presumably because she is “an animal” (unlike them, of course) and because they are above her, great and noble human beings, while she is a thing, inferior, beneath them, serving to fulfill their whims and appetites.
As I gazed upon this barbaric show, I couldn’t quite figure out what was more disturbing: the sight of the monkey on a leash, held by her “owner,” used as a trained slave, or the reactions of the people – ecstasy rather than outrage, amusement rather than distress.
I wondered how they would like it if they were forced to stand there with a leash around their neck, grabbing dollar bills, or how they’d like it if their little daughter or son solicited funds for them by doing little tricks for a public crowd. And I wondered, as well, how it could be legal to openly exploit and abuse animals in a city which professes to be among the most progressive in the land, with enviable social services, the first “green” library, and a sustainable public transportation system. That sight was a sad reminder of just how far we have yet to go – of how a culture of dominance, oppression, and violence reigns and how so many collude, themselves becoming the man holding the leash.
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Fast food restaurants should have a sign by the beverage dispenser that says, “Dining in? Do you really need the lid and straw? Together we can use less plastic and cut back on garbage.”
I honestly think that a lot of people will reconsider. The restaurant saves money both in overhead and in how much garbage they have hauled away. People start to realize how little choices can add up.
I’d never considered it until yesterday. I dined at the Hungry Pocket on Pico. My Coke came without a lid or a straw. I was about to ask for both when I realized that I didn’t need either.
P.S. Encouraging biodegradable bamboo disposable cutlery is a good idea too…
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Open Letter to the Santa Monica City Council:
I would like to thank you for having the courage and the leadership to withhold City monies until the Board of Education of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District had an independent audit of its Special Education Department’s policies and procedures. I am a 14-year resident of Santa Monica, with a daughter currently in 10th grade at Samohi and a son in 7th grade at JAMS. I have been involved in their educations at the classroom level, at the site level, and at the District level. For the most part, they have had more than adequate experiences, are receiving good educations, and I personally have almost always been dealt with respectfully.
However, I have several friends who have children with special needs who have not had the same experience or benefits that my family has had. So, it was with great anticipation that I read the Barber Report and attended the BOE meeting of April 3 and saw most of last evening’s (April 17) meeting on TV. I was stunned by what the report uncovered and by the Board of Education’s initial lackluster response to it. I am somewhat heartened by comments made last evening by Rebecca Kennerly of the PTA Council and by Board Members Pye and Escarce – they seem to be finally “getting it.”
BUT, I do not trust the BOE or the administrative leadership of SMMUSD and urge you to continue to hold the purse strings until concrete changes have been made as recommended in the Barber report. Specifically:
That the terms of these “secret deals” be put into the student’s IEP (Recommendation #25);
That the District create a supportive environment (Recommendation #17) – the email that one parent read last night from a teacher was inexcusable and should not be tolerated;
That all staff and parents be treated with civility and respect (Recommendation #18);
That the authority to address special ed issues be decentralized (translation for a layperson = get rid of the boss or bosses who are abusing their power) (Recommendation #26). Let’s get real here – if the so-called mastermind of these secret deals went ahead and kept doing them even after the BOE ordered a moratorium on them, what else is happening that no one knows about?
I wouldn’t normally ask my city government to oversee what my school district does; but this is an extremely abnormal circumstance that deserves your continued attention. I do not believe that some of the school board members or SMMUSD administrators will be swayed into action without you continuing to withhold monies until they do something about this tragic situation.
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At the City Hall last night, supporters of the Third Street Neighborhood Historic District stayed late to address the City Council on the subject of the 2617 Third Street project. By midnight there were five council members remaining on the dais: Robert Holbrook was out of town and Bobby Shriver had to leave. A quorum of four council members is needed for an appeal (such as that of Mark Woollen, owner of 2617 Third Street) to win approval.
By his aggressive questioning of Third Street supporters and sweet demeanor towards the individuals there to speak on behalf of Mark Woollen, Herb Katz had signaled his support of the project. This, despite the presence of Landmarks Commissioners Margaret Bach, Roger Genser, and Chairperson Nina Fresco and a letter from Landmarks Commissioner Ruthann Lehrer, sidelined by illness, that made it abundantly clear that a majority of Landmarks Commissioners are opposed to the project. On the other hand, questions asked by Ken Genser and Kevin McKeown had made clear their sympathy for the residents of the District.
Those present in the Council Chamber waited eagerly for a vote. Clearly the appeal would not win because it did not have the necessary support among council members.
However, life is not so simple. Mayor Katz, over the objections of both Ken Genser and Kevin McKeown, refused to allow the item to go to vote there and then. He knew the appeal would not succeed because it would not get four votes in favor. He has the power as mayor to overrule objections and so he insisted on continuing the item to another date. (It will likely be heard again next Tuesday, April 29, early on that evening’s agenda.) This postpones any defeat of the project and, by such manipulation, gives the appellant the advantage of effectively, a second hearing. It’s as though Mayor Katz was saying, “I didn’t like the outcome of this hearing so we’re going to do it over.”
Should the mayor be manipulating the outcome in this fashion? What is the mayor’s interest in this project? Is this a democratic way of doing things? I would suggest that it is not!