New LEAD organization opposes RIFT (Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic)

To the Editor:

I, along with Laurie Lieberman, am the co-chair of LEAD, a new education advocacy group focused on Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Direction for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Our organization has added our name to the growing list of Santa Monicans who oppose the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic [RIFT] in Santa Monica. [See “New coalition formed to oppose Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic” in the July 31st issue of The Argonaut.]

LEAD is an advocate for transparent public decision-making processes, especially with regard to education policy. Contrary to the Land Use and Circu- lation Element [LUCE], the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic was developed by a small private group and was never publicly reviewed before it was filed.

LEAD has given serious thought to our decision to oppose the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic measure. The biggest issue for LEAD is the impact on school funding. Independent analysis projects the City of Santa Monica losing up to $11 million a year in 2008 dollars, by year 16 of this measure.

There are several areas of revenue that will affect local schools, including developer fees and property taxes.

The City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District have a historic agreement that helps keep our schools strong and better funded than our state provides for.

The Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic will put this funding agreement in jeopardy from day one. With state budget cuts constantly nipping at our heels, we cannot afford to put this city funding at risk.

Additionally, the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic does not exempt youth-serving nonprofit organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club and the Pico Youth and Family Center. These organizations would be hard-pressed to compete for square footage with a major developer under the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic measure.

Finally, we are concerned about the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic’s lack of exemption for medical services that support our hospitals. These issues are too great to the health and welfare of our children to disregard.

LEAD feels that the unintended consequences of the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic are simply too large for us to ignore.

Our schools will be hurt financially by this measure and, as we all know, strong schools give us strong communities. That is why LEAD opposes the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic.

Debbie Mulvaney, Santa Monica Co-chair, LEAD

Column captured quality and gentle personality of late friend

To the Editor:

Geoff Maleman’s comments in his column [The Argonaut, July 17th] on the Westchester High School scholarship that has been established in the late Marjorie Eisen’s name so captured the quality and gentle personality of a woman I knew for 50 years that I feel deeply grateful.

Her talented and devoted husband and children designed the “Kindness in Action” scholarship, a characteristically generous and creative way for the family to memorialize Marjorie. Westchester and countless young students in the future will continue to benefit from her life.

Those of us who knew and loved Marge Eisen especially appreciate the article. So thank you, Geoff, and thank you, Argonaut — another example of the reason we continue to read you so faithfully.

Mary Ellen Cassman, Westchester

‘No amount of carbon offsets’ will help the airport’s neighbors

To the Editor:

Regarding the story in the July 31st issue of The Argonaut, “City offering ‘carbon offsets’ to users of Santa Monica Airport,” I’m glad Santa Monica Airport (SMO) is thinking globally, and I’m all for fighting global warming.

However, Santa Monica Airport needs to be thinking more locally. Letting pilots buy carbon offsets instead of curtailing their flights is a slap in the face to the thousands of residents around the airport who are suffering daily from the fumes.

The best carbon offset is not to fly. Santa Monica Airport needs mandatory tug usages instead of permitting aircraft to taxi up and down the runway spewing their toxic emissions.

Air quality and health risk studies need to be completed instead of thwarted. Large C and D Aircraft need to be banned from Santa Monica Airport. No amount of carbon offsets bought by the rich will help the neighbors of the airport deal with the daily onslaught of fumes.

Susan J. Hartley, airport neighbor and vice chair of Santa Monica Airport Commission

Contractors can save time and money if they go to the community and follow the law

To the Editor:

Today everyone understands that contractors are caught in a double squeeze. Current economic conditions dry up funding, while environmental requirements and special conditions add to the costs.

Yet some contractors continue to increase their costs by their failure to understand that agreements reached with Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils are obligations that the community expects to be honored and that Specific Plans are part of the laws of the City of Los Angeles.

Like other communities on the Westside, Venice suffers from developers and building contractors who are unable or unwilling to recognize that it is better, and certainly less costly, to do the job right in the first place.

Reaching such agreements requires many meetings with neighbors to determine what is acceptable. Then the neighbors must attend their local planning committee to present their case when the developer asks for consideration of the project.

Next, the planning committee votes and prepares a report for the Neighborhood Council board, which hears the case, votes and forwards findings, to be made available for any other hearings about the project.

Neighbors may have to attend several more hearings, all the way up to the Los Angeles City Council. This is a lot of work to do to offset the threat to quality of life that new construction brings — dirt and noise from trucks, more traffic, loss of parking space, inappropriate lighting, obstruction of view, etc.

When builders and contractors misunderstand the agreements reached in the community or make end runs around Specific Plans, neighbors who are affected have to initiate repeated and lengthy phone and e-mail exchanges in order to get the projects constructed in conformity with agreements and the law.

Those most affected will begin calling the Council District 11 office with complaints. Since keeping peace in the neighborhood is a prime goal for district staff, they will try to mend the problem. And more time and effort is lost.

Residents who have been active in setting up the requirements will receive dirty looks from neighbors and resolve never, ever again to engage in community affairs.

It may be that managers of some projects look forward to this state of affairs in the hope that residents will tire of the effort required. Sending crews two, three and more times to “adjust” matters that could have been done right the first time just escalates costs.

I sure hope that more investors will look at the issue. Time is money. And projects done in agreement with the community will save time and money for everyone.

DeDe Audet, Venice

Headline and story on LMU were misleading

To the Editor:

The headline and content of an article in the August 7th Argonaut is very misleading. You state LMU “was ranked 16th in the Princeton Review’s 2009 edition of The Best 368 Colleges, which features the top 15 percent of U.S. and Canadian colleges.”

The clear implication is that LMU had an overall ranking of 16th out of these 368 colleges. I assume this article is the result of a press release from LMU, and not the result of your own research. If you had done just a bit of research, say by going to www.princetonre, you would have learned that Princeton Review ranks the top 368 colleges in 62 different categories, and then lists the top 20 colleges in each of these categories. The 16th place ranking for LMU is in the category “Most Beautiful Campus.” This is the only category, out of 62 categories, in which LMU placed in the top 20. Having an attractive campus is certainly nice, but this says nothing about LMU’s academics, student/faculty ratio, or other arguably more substantive categories.

This letter isn’t meant to disparage LMU, only to set the record straight as to just what its 16th place ranking means.

Ed Schoch, Westchester

We are fortunate to have Marina del Rey Summer Symphony at Burton Chace Park

To the Editor:

The Marina del Rey area is fortunate to have many free entertainment offerings, and on Thursday, the Marina del Rey Summer Symphony performed at Burton Chace Park.

I placed a red blanket on the grass, front and center among clusters of picnickers. Dogs sniffed at pungent plates of barbecued chicken, and children rollicked while the harps and piano were being tuned.

Sailboats glided by on shimmering water, breezes whipping their jibs in the dreamy stillness of California sunshine. People continued to arrive, lugging chairs and baskets, staking out their spots on the lawn among the blankets fitted together like puzzle pieces.

The musicians wandered over to assemble beneath a white canopy. Unpacking their instruments and warming up, they filled the air with a cacophony of conflicting sounds reminding one of a splattered Jackson Pollock canvas.

Rich Capparela of KUSC humorously emceed before the entrance of Frank Fetta, the charismatic conductor, with his silver ponytail trailing down a white jacket festooned with a maroon handkerchief.

With fluttering scores held down by clothespins, the musicians tuned to the oboe’s moaning “A.” As Fetta’s baton rose, music enveloped the park with wild, revolutionary Shostakovich, the dreamy arpeggios of Debussy, and the booming drums and crashing cymbals of Respighi.

The setting sun smeared pink and orange streaks across the sky, lights blinked around the Marina, a half-moon floated above, and music filled my soul.

Three more concerts remain this season. Come early and bring a warm jacket.

Bettina Gantsweg, Marina del Rey

We need Ballona Institute to continue to lead wetlands tours and educate the public

To the Editor:

We need Ballona Institute to continue to lead tours and educate the public about the nature of the Ballona Wetlands and its surrounding areas. I have been on these tours and am always astounded by what I learn from Roy van de Hoek about how everything is linked to something else.

This is also true in our lives. As we learn about the natural world around us, we learn to use these lessons in our own human lives.

Rescinding the Ballona Institute’s access to our wetlands is disastrous [see “Plastic tarp in Ballona Wetlands is source of controversy between state, environmentalists,” The Argonaut, August 7th.] Do we really want developers to be the driving force in this so called restoration?

We need the Ballona Institute to be the gentle hand and heart in this. They are not at the mercy of affluent groups whose aims are not in the best interest of wetland preservation or the sustenance of the wildlife that lives in these wetlands.

Our community has come together under the institute and we need and want them to have access to the wetlands.

So I am asking the public to support the Ballona Institute and its efforts to protect the Ballona Wetlands and other threatened natural areas.

Wendy Rennert

Playa del Rey