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Adults more stressed than students?

Count me among many who admire PTA and SchoolPower leader Tammy Skenderian. Her public endorsement of a proposed LBUSD school calendar change invites a respectful dialogue on our town’s political values.

With refreshing candor Skenderian discloses past opposition to a mid-August back-to-school schedule. Now, with students at LBHS, a return to classrooms in summer best meets her personal needs.

Fine, except Skenderian admonishes parents who disagree to “put their personal agenda aside” for kids and community. Not her intent perhaps, but that logic suggests her personal agenda is civic minded but not so the personal agenda of opposing parents.

She also gives in – as we all can at times – to some gratuitous civic scolding, e.g. “disappointed and saddened by behavior of some parents,” “personal attacks on our administrators and volunteer school board members,” “voice opinions appropriately,” “let’s not lose our minds.”

Many parents would tell a counter narrative of “personal attacks” by politically immature school officials aimed at moms and dads daring to openly challenge school policy. Examples include a dozen parents in math professions publicly vilified for respectfully opposing trendy unproven math curriculum.

Our elected school board used public school staff and funds to co-produce with SchoolPower social media ridiculing parents advocating for children. Targeted parents were graphically portrayed “losing their minds” and hiring a biker hitman to kill the school superintendent. That so-called “satire” was posted on LBUSD’s website and screened at SchoolPower’s gala.

BTW turns out parents challenging math curriculum were right. LBHS underperformance in math compared to schools spending half per student is no laughing matter.

The larger lesson is that school officials demeaning parents as irrational, “crazy” or selfishly opposed to greater good poisons our public school civic culture. The chilling effect on robust public debate breeds toxic social intolerance we all channel at times, until too many well-meaning parents feel not only stressed, but ambushed and “personally attacked” for speaking up.

It’s not just supporters or opponents of school calendar change or any single issue who define civic culture. We all need to work on listening more before we speak, disagree when it matters, and do so respectfully.

High performing school boards promote real diversity by creating a strong public record on the merits with full and fair participation, and then stand by decisions without taking sides in divisive public or private civic shaming.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

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First anniversary of the Mueller investigation

Last week was the first anniversary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s historic investigation. President Trump claims it is the biggest witch-hunt in American history. I say it is American justice at its finest.

I clearly understand why the president wants to bury what he believes is more than a pebble in his shoe. As of now, the Mueller team has indicted 19 individuals and three business entities. Heading into its second year, there is no sense the investigation is anywhere near finished and, frankly, that is as it should be.  

I like the fact the special counsel continues to quietly go about his business despite all the public distractions Mr. Trump and his advisors throw at him daily. In the end, no matter when that occurs, I have faith the American people will be well served. Too bad the President of the United States does not believe that.  

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Democrats need to unite behind Harley Rouda for the 48th District

In a time when small district congressional elections are making news on the national scene, we here in the 48thdistrict (which encompasses Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach as well as a small part of Laguna Niguel) had better pay attention to what’s going on in our own backyard. In this  “jungle primary,” which has 16 candidates listed on the ballot for United States Representative 48th District, only the two top vote getters will proceed to the November election. But did you know that three of the names listed on the ballot have withdrawn from the race? That’s right. For example, if you had planned to vote for a female Democrat, the two women who fit this description on the ballot have since withdrawn from the race, so think again.

Ballots are confusing enough with so many seemingly obscure roles to fill. But this congressional seat is major. If we elect the right person for this office, great strides can be made. While the candidates’ websites can be helpful, offering information regarding key issues and endorsements (as well as indicating their level of sophistication and engagement), personal recommendation from friends, neighbors, local business leaders and grassroots organizations can speak volumes. 

I don’t know about most of you, but I do not trust the California Democratic Party endorsement for this position – I’ve read that the guy they picked wined and dined each and every one of the delegates, however he did not win a single debate.  

We all need to take an interest in this. Our future, and our children’s future hinges on it. The current political climate is a disaster exacerbated by Trump’s ineptitude and his dismantling of many key programs that benefit all individuals, our state, our country and our planet. We absolutely need, each and every one of us, to take an active role and unite behind one good candidate. I believe that candidate is Harley Rouda. 

Harley Rouda jumped in early – he declared his candidacy shortly after Trump was elected, compelled to put himself in the ring as a positive and active driver for better outcomes in our nation. That means clean energy, equal rights for all, an end to gun violence, fair immigration policies, healthcare for all and more.

Harley is articulate, committed, and engaged. He is a well-educated people person who has already made frequent trips to Washington and is cultivating relationships so that when he arrives, he’ll spring right into action. Harley is the one who can really win it in November and also do a great job once in office. 

Don’t wait until you’re in the voting booth to decide. This decision is too important. Make your decision now. Vote Harley Rouda. Harley Rouda for United States Representative, 48th District.

Melissa Cavanaugh

Laguna Beach

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Penny Susan Steris

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Penny Susan Steris, known to many as “Coach Penny,” passed away on May 5, 2018, at the age of 67 years. A California native, she lived in South Laguna for 50 years and had a positive impact on the community.

 As an avid seamstress during the seventies and eighties, she made custom bikinis under the Perfect Casuals label. She also worked at El Morro Elementary School in Laguna Beach from 1988-1996 and Our Lady of Fatima in San Clemente from 1996-2001. She played a major role developing the Laguna Beach Unified School District Disaster Preparedness Program following the 1993 fires. After retiring from the school districts she returned to her creative passion and started making children’s products under the Pineapple Kid label. These products were retailed at the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, which was a fulfilling time in her life. Penny was a creative, kind soul and she loved working with children. 

Her greatest joy in life was family and she was always present. The Steris family home was open to all and she was a second mother to many generations of kids.

Undoubtedly she dedicated her entire adult life to her children and was a caring and loving mother. Whether it was coaching little league for her son or LBHS softball for her daughter, she was hands-on and very active. One of her favorite times of the year was during the Brooks St. Contest. She was a pillar volunteer for morning sign-ups and loved watching the kid’s rip, a Surf Mom at heart who loved the ocean and warm sunshine.

The motto she valued and lived by was “Live by the Sun and love by the Moon”.

Her physical presence will be greatly missed but Penny’s Aloha spirit will always be with us.  

She is survived by her Husband of 50 years, Daryl Steris, children Jason and Malena, and grandchildren, Ava, Ollie, Colter and Cannon. 

A Hui Ho Penny (until we meet again).

A memorial followed by a paddle out to celebrate Penny’s life will be held Sunday, June 3 at 10 a.m. at Treasure Island Point in Laguna Beach.

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Laguna Beach Pride is more than just a party

The month of June is officially LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Month in Laguna Beach, as proclaimed by Mayor Toni Iseman and City Council over a year ago. It is the time of year when our wonderful city celebrates and honors the rich contributions of the gay community to Laguna Beach.

Part of this month-long celebration is Laguna Beach Pride, which takes place this year over the weekend of June 1 - 3. A true partnership between the City of Laguna Beach, Visit Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Committee, Laguna Beach Pride welcomes both visitors and residents alike to participate in the annual festivities, from dancing the night away at Main Street Bar & Cabaret and the legendary Boom Boom Room to Aloha Drag Bingo Brunch at Royal Hawaiian to soaking up the sun at the West Street Beach Party. 

It is important to say that Pride is more than just a party. Pride creates a sense of belonging for people who may not feel it. Pride opens its arms to everyone who finds it comforting, uplifting and empowering. Pride gives hope to those who feel that life may never get better. Pride provides the freedom to be who you are. Pride is about the possibility of love.

Everyone is invited. The West Street Beach Party is open to all ages and families. The Pride Pavilion at Mountain Street is also open to everyone, although guests under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Laguna Beach Pride strives to ensure that our young LGBTQ residents and visitors also have the experience of finding themselves reflected and honored in our community.

The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce encourages our local business community to participate as well. Showing your Pride is simply good for business. Ways to participate include optimizing your merchandising and window displays, running an ad or promotion such as a specialty cocktail or hotel room package, becoming a Laguna Beach Pride advertising sponsor, flying a rainbow flag and hanging the official Laguna Beach Pride poster in your window.  

As previously stated by Toni Iseman: Laguna Beach does not merely tolerate the gay community. Laguna Beach embraces the gay community.

For more information, visit

Chris Tebbutt

Co-Founder, Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Committee

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“Prepare Laguna Beach” campaign needs residents to sign up

Local issues like traffic, crowded beaches, parking and parties at summer rentals often are the focus of resident complaints as summer gets under way. But another issue lurks behind the scenes year-round: resident readiness for emergencies. Some of us ignore the issue; some might fall into the ‘doomsday-prepper’ category. But there’s no question that every single resident of this city should make sure they are ready to hit the road if a fire, earthquake, landslide, high tide flooding, gas leak or other emergency occurs in Laguna Beach.

This October 27 will be the 25th anniversary of the devastating 1993 fire that destroyed hundreds of homes and briefly threatened downtown and beyond. Those who lived here in 1993 will never forget – and many of us have had go-bags and family emergency plans ever since. But there are always procrastinators who never quite get to that item on their to-do lists. And newer residents may be unaware of what happened a generation ago, much less the dangers we face in a coastal town with just two roads in and out. 

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Submitted photo

Devastating reminder of the 1993 fires

With that in mind, Laguna Beach CERT (coordinating through the Emergency Operations Coordinator/Police Department) launched a “Prepare Laguna Beach” effort last month to raise awareness by asking residents to sign a pledge to be more prepared for emergencies. The City Council also supported the effort and it was officially launched May 1. The goal is to be the Most Prepared City in Orange County. And it only takes about a minute to pledge online at

No one will call you or ask for donations or keep your name in a database. You only are required to enter your street name (not house number) and closest cross street, then click on two buttons that say you agree to have a family/household plan and to create or buy a 72-hour emergency kit. Click ‘ok’ and you are done! (There is a field for your last name only if you don’t mind adding it.) 

Your pledge to be more prepared will be counted only for the purpose of counting the total number of signers. Our goal is to get 2,800 households to ‘sign the pledge’. We hope you will embrace this effort so that we can be the Most Prepared City in Orange County with residents in every age group ready to ‘get outta Dodge’ when the situation arises. 

There is no political agenda – just a big motivation to make sure our residents know how to stay safe and know when it’s time to go. Please be among them. You’ll find CERT members at ‘pop-up’ booths around town throughout the summer who will help you sign up on the spot, give you a preparedness item for your kit and send you off with thanks and good wishes! 

Sandi Cain

Laguna Beach CERT Outreach Chief

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Harley Rouda shares appreciation of his supporters

Since we started this campaign together almost a year and a half ago, we have accomplished so much. From the tremendous grassroots support we have had since the beginning, our campaign has received endorsements from every facet of the Democratic Party – from local elected officials such as Toni Iseman, Katrina Foley, and Gina Clayton-Tarvin, to national leaders such as the entire Democratic Congressional Delegation from Orange County as well as many other members of Congress; from environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club to progressive organizations such as the California Nurses Association and the Progressive Democrats of America; from organizations fighting gun violence like Moms Demand Action and Pride Fund Against Gun Violence to LGBTQ organizations like Equality California. 

And most recently the DCCC has put us on Red to Blue – just one of three campaigns in all of California.

It’s our time to move Orange County forward. I’ll fight for common sense change in Washington. Together we are the only campaign that can beat Dana Rohrabacher. I hope I can earn your vote on June 5th and together we will Flip the 48th.

Harley Rouda

Laguna Beach

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This “granny flat” poem should set the tone

Important tone for the present controversy – here’s a “granny flat” poem by Marcy Wingard – see below.

Walker Reed



Planted in sunshine paradise

came forty years ago and more

California’s Gold Coast suited

then and does today


Older now, finished with work

choice is mine  escape to other climes

leave this idyllic home

costly to care for  hard to maintain


Resources dwindling   fewer needs

downsizing has its subtle charms

but   leave my garden

good friends  fellowship


Sunshine pouring in, I watch the day

outside the kitchen door, my garden

past wrought iron fence

that borders my domain


Here, I am home  I know my way

my habits long entrenched

the world an ordered place

so hard to start anew


Precious brown hills

fresh green after springtime rain

ocean close enough to see

from top of winding grade


Feast of fruit and other fare

a wondrous mix grown here

so many things to lose

if I choose flight to smaller space


Besides   my partner of many years

sleeps peacefully below the hill

could I desert him   leave him alone

with no one left to bring him flowers


So here I am and here I’ll stay

until the choice no longer mine

then leave these hills but they’ll remain

in memory ‘til mine have fled.

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Trump’s view of NFL players taking a knee

What is happening to our beloved country?  Donald Trump’s comment yesterday about NFL players taking a knee is wrong on so many levels I really don’t know where to begin.  

I graduated from USC in 1970, so I lived through the tumultuous days of “love it or leave it” during the Vietnam War. Since when is it a crime to peacefully protest at Main Beach or at a football game? Suffice it to say that if the president believes players “shouldn’t be in the country if they can’t stand proudly for the anthem” then maybe he shouldn’t be in the White House.  

Clearly, Mr. Trump doesn’t understand the first thing about what the Constitution truly stands for (including allowing me the right to take a knee and pen this letter).

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Reasons for concerns about proposed trees on Ocean Ave

Stu News reported on the discussion that took place at the Council meeting of May 8 regarding the choice of trees to be planted at four vacant tree wells on Ocean Avenue. The article reflected the comments from Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis that we (Ruben Flores, horticulturist, Bob Borthwick and Ann Christoph, landscape architects), had had four weeks to make our recommendations known to staff in advance of the public meeting. This left the impression that either we were negligent in not responding sooner, that we were trying to delay the process or that our comments were ill-considered and should be discounted. None of these impressions is correct.

In reality we had no knowledge of the types of trees being proposed until the agenda bill was out at the end of the previous week. Because of this short time frame the public forum was the only venue available to bring our recommendations forward regarding the most appropriate trees to be planted.  

We are concerned that the Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ trees being proposed will be too small and shrubby to provide canopies under which the public can walk.  We are recommending a larger growing Magnolia with a canopy, ‘Samuel Sommer’.

We are also concerned about the proposed Chinese Pistache tree, which is a deciduous tree that grows “30-60’ tall with nearly equal spread” according to Sunset. Adding a large deciduous tree to the evergreen tree palette of the downtown will be a change to the area’s visual character, and so we recommend continuing with the present mix of trees which includes the Magnolia and the staff-proposed Metrosideros, New Zealand Christmas tree.

We are grateful to Barbara and Greg MacGillivray for donating the additional amounts needed to augment the City’s tree budget, and to councilmember Bob Whalen who has been facilitating a tree decision-making process for the downtown trees. 

As professionals who have been contributing to landscape decisions for our town for many years, we are happy to continue working with these and other dedicated citizens to beautify our environment.

Ann Christoph

Bob Borthwick

Ruben Flores

Laguna Beach

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