Criticizes openness of Santa Monica Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force meetings

To the Editor:

Santa Monica’s Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force has been meeting for seven months. There has been conflict concerning everything from a nearly successful effort by city staff (in contradiction to the three-year-old unanimous recommendation of the Planning Commission) to exclude private trees from our forest master plan, to the almost complete control over task force time, as well as the monopolization of its agenda, by city staff. But there has been no press.

Recently, there have been two carefully structured, and minimally advertised, community meetings within which very limited public input was allowed. Before this however, the public input process for the task force has been deliberately, arrogantly, and obviously designed to actually minimize public input.

There does not appear to have been any advertising of their meetings. A bizarre set-up of public comments has been used: members of the public were dispensed all in one lump regardless of which agenda item a speaker was trying to comment on; comments were taken only prior to each meeting’s agenda; and no public comment was allowed after any staff reports or presentations.

The task force has been virtually excluded from city Web site systems, and there has been no information available under the task force listing with city commissions. The task force agenda and its creation have both been very restrictive.

The task force has allegedly been intentionally run in a way that has allowed very little possibility for real review of our master plan or of current forest management.

In its seven months of existence, Santa Monica’s Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force has yet to complete work on their mission statement. They have not even begun collectively reviewing our current 11-year-old forest plan. They have not been given access to the individual who will actually be writing the plan update.

There is certainly a well-meaning vocal minority of task force members trapped in this dog and pony show. So far they have been mostly sitting there getting “educated” by the city staff they are supposed to be directing, and it appears they will later be expected to rubber-stamp what the staff is eventually willing to give them from the staff-run outside consultant.

This perfunctory approval of a “master plan” for our urban forest is expected after a short, formal, quite restricted discussion at a task force meeting this summer. What debate occurs will have been tightly controlled by staff and task force chair, Judy Abdo.

In the wake of what has become known as the “ficus fiasco,” Treesavers and quite a number of others requested an independent forest commission. Instead we’ve got city staff updating and advising themselves, for themselves, more or less by themselves.

While it is unlikely city staff or the task force will make use of a new report on the state of Santa Monica’s forest prepared for them by Treesavers, it is public and available to anyone at Will there ever be a vehicle for a fair hearing of public concerns about our city’s forest?

Cosmo Bua, Treesavers board president, Santa Monica

Says money used to fund Measure A special election belongs to education

To the Editor:

With no organized opposition to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Measure A, it failed because the school board, with extreme arrogance, spent $360,000 to finance a special election two weeks prior to the regularly scheduled election June 8th that would have been free.

That $360,000 belongs to the education of students, not to finance an end run.

Furthermore with a budget of half a billion dollars, shouldn’t the City of Santa Monica pony up $12 million for its students? Maybe the City of Malibu could toss in a few bucks?

John McManamy, Venice

Takes exception to statement that no witnesses came forward in fatal Venice crash

To the Editor:

In the May 20th edition of The Argonaut in the article on “Crash victim’s family files suit…” there is a reference that I must comment on: “an assistant city attorney

rejected any accusations that the police car was speeding, saying no witness had publicly come forward.”

Being one of the three primary witnesses who observed the tragic accident, in my case from the front porch of my house as I was leaving right before midnight, and knowing that all three of us were interviewed by the LAPD on the night of the accident, I have to take exception to the assistant city attorney’s statement.

Besides myself, who witnessed the accident from the north side of Venice Boulevard, there was a couple who were driving behind the police car as it headed east on Venice who reported observing the police turn their lights on to run the red light at Lincoln Boulevard and then turn them all the way off after crossing the intersection.

A few days after the accident I was brought in by the LAPD for an additional statement where they asked me “how did I know the police cars lights were off?” When I answered “the lack of illumination from the headlights” I realized from the interviewer’s body language that this second interview was allegedly another attempt to manipulate the reports to cover up the fact that the police officers were speeding in the lane closest to the curb without any lights on.

On the night in question the officer who took my report did his best with leading questions/statements to allegedly implant into my statement that the officers were going the speed limit when I stated that they were accelerating at the time of the accident.

The police car also allegedly swerved to the right into the victim’s car at the last moment, which may have caused the fatality, when staying straight would still have been a terrible collusion, but perhaps not a fatal one.

So, I have to comment on the brazen manipulation of this witness’ statement by the LAPD, who appear to more concerned with covering up misbehavior by their officers than objectively reporting the events of the day, however unpleasant they were.

This alleged knowingly and willful manipulation of reports to avoid responsibility for tragic but true events does not sit well with this citizen, calling into question who is being protected and who is being served by the LAPD.

Lastly, from the instantaneous appearance of numerous police vehicles in the fastest response time to any police event I have ever witnessed, and the comments I heard that night from the officers, it appears that the police officers involved in this accident were about to engage in a drug raid.

Treatment and rehabilitation of drug users is a far better approach then the “gangsterization” of police officers to fight off drug gangs.

Will Yeager, Venice

Says Santa Monica Airport test flight pattern has made improvements for Venice area

To the Editor:

I just loved when a letter urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to abandon its current test pattern and return to its “pre-test route” — that is, over the Rose Avenue area of Venice, where I live (Argonaut, June 3rd).

For a moment, I thought the letter writer meant the flight path in effect before that one — that is, the “fan pattern” implemented by Santa Monica and Los Angeles in the 1980s.

The “fan pattern,” which is actually quite similar to the current test pattern, was intended to more equitably share the noise between Santa Monica and Venice. Apparently, Santa Monica quietly shelved the fan pattern in later years.

No surprise, since for decades, the game in Santa Monica has been to dump the departure noise outside its borders — into Venice.

So Santa Monica residents mount campaigns, citing the unbearable noise and the health and safety dangers, especially to “the children.”

Those concerns always evaporate once the burden is shoved across the border into Venice.

Apparently, the Rose Avenue area, which is more densely populated and heavily visited than Sunset Park, has no children, and those of us who live here just love putting up with Santa Monica’s noise and pollution.

So far, the test pattern has resulted in a noticeable improvement in airport noise in the Rose Avenue area. Consideration should be given to making it permanent.

Venice residents should voice their opinions to the FAA. Voice your opinions also to Councilman Bill Rosendahl and our Congress member at this writing, Jane Harman.

Edward McQueeny, Venice