scattered clouds


Laguna Beach

This has been on my mind for a while

The Laguna Beach Police and the City have adopted a low noise policy – that means loud cars can be cited and have been according to some statistics I was provided recently. This helps those who live closer to PCH as many drivers of such cars come in groups, especially on weekends. Some live in Laguna and drive around town or in our neighborhoods with these cars.

This really hit home with me because I recently read that veterans commit suicide at the rate of 22 per day. Many of whom suffer from PTSD. Now with the advent of so many shootings at schools, churches, malls, and other gathering places, there has been an increase in the number of those suffering from PTSD. According to many specialists of this area of mental health, sudden loud noises can trigger a negative reaction with these sufferers, often resulting in suicide. The loud noises can emanate from many sources – especially the backfire of cars. Some cars are specifically made to sound like race cars by the manufacturer, others are set by mechanics specializing in sporty cars to achieve that noise level.

I would hate to think that someone who is driving into our town or anywhere with one of these vehicles could set an adult or child on the path to suicide because they suffered from this syndrome and were not expecting a loud almost gunshot sound to trigger an episode. With that in mind my friend and I have written to the Porsche Club of American, the BMW Club, the Ferrari Club, the Maserati Club, and a few others asking them to open this line of discussion with their members: Is it really important that your car makes all this noise especially given the consequences, least of which is a citation by our police department? So far we have received a reply from the Porsche club that they would so.

As a previous owner of a Targa 911S 5-speed Porsche, which I loved to drive fast (it is fun to drive such cars) – I made sure mine was never adjusted to make loud noises, and it was still fun to drive it (although I found that I hardly used the fifth gear anymore). I have driven other fast cars and it is easy to get into the drama of doing so. But those who love to do so can you take a moment and realize that there may be consequences to your fun. Especially as there has been such a dramatic increase in shootings in the last three years and we are still in war zones with our military. They deserve more. 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Sanitary Sewer System Overflow was totally avoidable

Look for Cal/EPA to pursue an enforcement action against Laguna Beach: Deterrence drives compliance, not phony, empty promises going back 20 years. In my professional opinion, this was self-inflicted and totally avoidable – the city knew of our deficiencies for decades but can’t seem to find a pen to put the money where their respective lip service mouths are. Obviously, our image as cutting-edge green, ecologically progressive and enviro-protection folks is a false flag.

The dominant majority of Sanitary Sewer System Overflow (SSSO) volumes are guesstimates. Gotta wonder how much really hit that creek, what with the lag time before detected and response/containment delays?

I’ve lived here for nearly 50 years, am a professional enviro-analyst specializing in water-related fields myself. My CV is posted at LinkedIn. Statements made by our officials, that we’ve been aggressively pursuing rehabilitation of the SSS, seem to be contradicted by the facts – the city only fixes things as they break, putting Band-Aids on them, in my opinion; it doesn’t allocate the funds to perform high quality maintenance and has been a chronic violator of the federal Clean Water and state Porter-Cologne Acts, in my opinion.

Kudos to the emergency personnel who lost several days with their families, faced very cold, rainy, and yes repugnant conditions, and responded as responsible employees. The city’s flat out lucky: It went from light to heavy rain, thus sloughing off the residue on The Ranch property – which was in no way at fault for the leak – diluting the discharged sewage in the stream, then dissipating rapidly in the ocean. So cold and rainy that no one was going to the beach anyway, plus by now everyone knows not to go in when we have these storm events.

As for the city’s apparent gaslighting by “Pinocchio staff,” my NGO (Clean Water Now – CWN) worked with USEPA and the San Diego Regional Board (Region-9, Cal/EPA) in June of 2000, yes, CWN got our own town fined $240,000: The city had caused on average a spill every three weeks for several years in the late 90s that reached the ocean, a knees-bent promise of zero tolerance at hearings, increased monitoring, private lateral inspections, and enforcement for scofflaws. CWN helped negotiate a mitigation plan: The environmental compliance inspector was hired, plus the Water Quality Department launched.

Contemporaneously, USEPA for their part sent a type of serious warning directive that only two deadbeats received in SoCal: Santa Monica and Laguna Beach. CWN, the city, USEPA, and Cal/EPA attorneys met and mapped out a future, which the city seemed to immediately renege on.

The city started out proactive, but once things settled down, rolled over and went back to SSS sleep. Then, about 2010, the constantly problematic pump station at Bluebird near PCH went kablooey, discharging thousands of gallons onto PCH and the beach. Soon afterwards, who can forget the section of the same SSS force main that caused last week’s catastrophe right on PCH, discharging raw sewage to the surface asphalt, from Diamond to Pearl Streets? I was notified, walked down there and it was scene from a dystopic futuristic movie.

Fast forward to about 2014. Knowing that the city was backsliding and hadn’t performed as agreed upon, CWN joined a Cal River Watch federal lawsuit heard by Judge David O. Carter, centered around (you guessed it) “chronic sewage spills” the previous seven years.

Once again, back to that proven-to-be-false zero tolerance policy. The city, as part of the judgment (2015?) promised to spend $3.5 million per year for 10 years on Capitol Improvement Projects (CIPs) to rehab our sewer system, in addition to regular water quality department budgeting. Plus pursue a $10 million bond. Now we know that our officials have led us to whistling through the graveyard, hold our breaths (and noses) until the next big spill. Out of sight, out of mind, everybody got their raises and bonuses while the SSS continued to deteriorate beneath our collective feet.

Where’d the money go? Anybody know? Can the city prove that it’s spent the $17.5 million these past 5 years? Whatever happened to the bonds or other mechanisms?

Ask anyone around PCH in Victoria Beach, from McAulay down to The Montage. The reek, the stench of hydrogen sulfide (SSS) along PCH has plagued our area for the entire 14 years that I’ve lived in this part of town.
Ditto for the Bluebird Lift Station, just one block up from PCH near the Surf and Sand hotel.

We overpay officials, have given or subsidized millions for their Laguna homes, those ridiculous unearned performance bonuses, and we get this? If you added up the unnecessary, delayed or diverted expenditures (about $2 million per year) since 2000 that would equal $40 million – well, there’s where most of the funding went, in my opinion – other pet projects, not our SSS.

So known, antiquated, and crumbling infrastructure gets back-burnered while the city blows our taxes elsewhere.

Great promotion for local businesses at such a critical holiday shopping time too. This city can’t get its priorities right, maybe a fine (called an Assessed Civil Liability) of a million or two will “motivate” our bureaucrats?

How will the city, responsible for this Thanksgiving SSSO, apply that severe zero tolerance policy to itself? Do as I say, not as I do?

Roger E. Bütow is Founder and Executive Director of Clean Water Now (est. in 1998).

Roger E. Bütow

Laguna Beach

“Ukrainegate” is the global version of Watergate

During a recent appearance on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said that Donald Trump’s effort last July to dig up dirt on a political rival is the global version of Richard Nixon’s domestic desire in 1972, which I agree with. Both presidents used their office for personal gain, it seems. To make matters worse, aides to both presidents served or are serving time in jail for participating in, or covering up, illegal activities stemming from what appears the campaign trail or Oval Office. 

Former White House counsel John Dean’s testimony helped members of Congress understand the extent of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal. Two weeks ago, several ambassadors and White House staff laid out compelling testimony of Trump’s alleged involvement in what is quickly becoming known as the Ukrainegate scandal.

The smoking gun that convinced Republicans Nixon had to resign was the discovery of a recording device in the White House. When asked to produce taped conversations between NIxon and his top aides Bob Haldeman or John Erlichman, as well as conversations the president had with his Attorney General John Mitchell, congressional committee members were told 18-plus minutes of tape had been erased.

Today, Trump is refusing to allow his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security advisor John Bolton, and secretary of state Mike Pompeo from testifying. I can only surmise that the smoke these three insiders might generate would set off fire alarms from one end of Capitol Hill to the other and, thus, be devastating to Trump.

So, hats off to Sen. Klobuchar for making a direct link from Watergate to Ukrainegate. In my opinion, the desire of Presidents Nixon and Trump to dig up dirt on their political rivals was just too tempting to overlook. Trouble is, their green light to White House aides was illegal, it seems. If Trump truly cares about the welfare of our nation, he will resign. To paraphrase what President Jerry Ford said after his predecessor abruptly left office, let’s end this long, national nightmare.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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