Local Briefs

City Prepares for Riots That Don’t Happen

A jury convicted Derek Chauvin last Tuesday for the death of George Floyd. In an abundance of caution, Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrook delivered a message addressing concerns of possible civil unrest. A handful of local business boarded up, but most did not. And nothing much happened, in contrast to the events of May 31, 2020.

"There have been no threats or any activities specifically targeting our community," Seabrook wrote although she acknowledged "concerns happening in the broader environment." Apparently because of those concerns (and possibly keeping in mind the way unrest from Minneapolis spread across the country following George Floyd's death), Seabrook announced that the Santa Monica Police Department would "begin a gradual increase in its field-based staffing" beginning April 16. "You will see our enhanced presence throughout our community," Seabrook explained.

Seabrook's message did its best to straddle a commitment to First Amendment rights to free speech and outrage over Floyd's death on the one hand and a readiness to counter looting and violence on the other. "Our general sensitivities continue to be affected by the senseless deaths of Mr. George Floyd, and more recently, Mr. Daunte Wright," Seabrook wrote, saying she recognized "that peaceful assembly is essential to promote systemic change." At the same time, she said, "The women and men of your police department are steadfastly commited to you and your safety" and the department is coordinating with other law enforcement agencies. The cover letter for Seabrook's message added that "We will not tolerate violence, looting or any other form of criminal activity.”

Recall Disclosure Measure Pulled

State Senator Josh Newman (D) pulled his proposal to allow the objects of a recall petition access to the names and contact information of those who signed the petition.

Newman, reelected in 2020, was himself the victim of a recall election in 2018 - which he lost. He says the present system of privacy for those who sign a recall petition allows for potential fraud. Those who sign the recall petition may not realize what they are signing, he said. The target of the recall should have a way to contact petition signers to make sure they understand what they have signed and to have the opportunity to persuade the signers to rescind their signature.

Newman claims he pulled the bill due to pressure from supporters of the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom. According to AP News, Newman said, "The environment is so charged around the recall that it made it hard to have a thoughtful discussion around this bill."

Orrin Heatlie, who is leading the recall drive against Governor Newsom told the AP, "This is an outright attack on people's right to privacy and serves only to intimidate those would be petitioners from signing or goad people who signed to rescind their signatures in fear of retaliation or retribution.”

LAUSD Chief Resigns

Austin Beutner resigned as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, he announced April 21.

“I believe that it is fitting that a new superintendent should have the privilege of welcoming students back to school in the fall. I respectfully request that my contract end as planned on June 30,” Beutner said in a letter to the Board of Education.

“In the meantime, I will remain focused on the task of ensuring that schools reopen in the safest way possible while helping in a seamless leadership transition,” he wrote.

The school board issued a statement praising Beutner’s “unwavering leadership during the extraordinary challenges” faced during the pandemic, when most students were restricted to remote learning.

The board said Beutner was instrumental in providing school district services, including COVID-19 tests and vaccinations to employees, distributing computers to provide Internet connectivity to virtually all students and giving away more than 120 million meals to students and families in need in the community.

Beutner, 61, didn’t indicate why he planned to resign.

His departure will mean LAUSD must search for a new leader while struggling to deal with campus re-openings. The board didn’t indicate who would temporarily replace him or when or how it would select a replacement, a process that can take months.

However, Beutner recommended choosing someone from within district administrative ranks.

Beutner, who had no direct school management experience, was appointed superintendent in May 2018.

His tenure was marked by a 2019 teachers strike. About 30,000 teachers walked out for six days, which ended in a contract that reduced class sizes and increased staffing of nurses and other staff.

School Enrollment Down Statewide

California’s Department of Education has announced that despite the arrival of migrant children, enrollment in the nation’s largest State is down.

“Overall enrollment is down from 6,163,001 in 2019–2020 to 6,002,523 in 2020–2021, a decrease of more than 160,000 students and 2.6 percent from the prior year. This follows a modest, steady decline in public school enrollment statewide since 2014–15.”

The annual snapshot of fall enrollment shows a sharp one-year decline as the state and nation grappled with a deadly pandemic that disrupted all aspects of public education, said the CDE in an email.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond wrote “the CDE will redouble its efforts to work with school leaders to gain a deeper understanding of the myriad of reasons behind the drop, while helping school districts bolster effective student and family engagement strategies in the weeks and months ahead.”

Bowling Alley Demolition

The only bowling alley in Santa Monica has closed forever. Bowlmor was located across from City Hall on Pico Blvd.

“We're sorry to say that Bowlmor Santa Monica has permanently closed,” says Bowlmor.com. “We have deeply appreciated your patronage and support over the years. We've made great bowling memories together, and we would like to continue to do so by inviting you to bowl with us at Bowlero Mar Vista!”

The developer who purchased the property at 216-234 Pico Boulevard, plans to raze all existing structures in May. The company intends to construct a 3-story building containing 105 apartments - including 8 affordable units - and 10,800 square feet of ground-floor commercial space above a two-level, 231-car basement garage.

Local Churches and Synagogues Resume

With Covid numbers in decline, some local churches and synagogues have resumed in person services.

“As benchmarks trend in positive directions and different sectors begin to slowly re-open” writes Kate Flanagan, executive director of Kehilaat Maarav synagogue in Santa Monica, “our Clergy, Staff, and our COVID Facilities Committee has been building a plan that allows for us to come together and celebrate Shabbat in our beloved Sanctuary. Because we must still adhere to County directives, our reopening plan allows for limited seating.”

The email goes on to explain that seating beginning May 1 will be by reservation, and at only 25% of capacity.


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