My Oct. 10 column about keeping the debate on the future of Santa Monica Airport civil (“Flying high and nasty,” My Write) generated some lively discussion.

I received an e-mail from an airport supporter who wrote, “We thought it was very well balanced and remarkably free of rhetoric and rancor. We agree wholeheartedly that all sides would be best served by stepping back and having a civil discussion of the issues.”


But, emotions are running high on the subject. The majority of responses I received were from neighbors against the airport who thought I was accusing them of being boorish and trying to usurp their right to express themselves because I “secretly want to save the airport.” No; just asking all parties to keep it civil, stick to the facts and stop acting rude. That’s all.

One gung-ho airport supporter sent an abusive e-mail to the Friends of Sunset Park neighborhood group (most of their members live near the airport) and to the editor of this newspaper. Calling airport opponents “complaining old (& young) rich hags” he suggested, “move your leftist, communist, freedom hatin’ ass outa(sic) town.”

Continuing, he wrote, “Your phony cocerns(sic) of health and danger are just that PHONY… Yur(sic) illusion of safety is a fantasy.”

He then added some profanities and accused airport opponents of trying to “weaken this country.and your attempts to make it substandard. the(sic) noise is a constant reminder of freedom and strength of this country for many of us.”

After praising World War II airmen who flew planes made by Douglas Aircraft adjacent to the airport, he wrote, “just turn up the volume on your iPods you leftist commie lemming droids if you don’t like the sound of the beautiful airport.” Classy, huh? And, so intelligent.

Lori Emerson wrote a letter to this paper (“Shopping elsewhere,” Oct. 11) about many of the same things I often write about in this space — expensive shopping, poor service, inconvenience (in providing your own grocery bags), panhandlers at stores and mini-malls, parking and traffic. She preferred Ventura County where shopping is easy, cheaper and less stressful.

There’s nothing wrong with commenting about poor experiences here. Maybe businesses and City Hall will take the hint and make improvements.

Of course, a couple of the brighter light bulbs in the community marquee wrote in and suggested that Ms. Emerson should move to Ventura. I’ve often been advised to leave town if I don’t like Santa Monica.

The price of freedom of speech is enduring insults from those whose opinions are more important than yours. It’s why they want to shut you up. Keep on writing, Ms. Emerson.

Homeless efforts

The City Council will hold a public hearing and entertain public comment on the annual review of City Hall’s plan for homeless services for the 2010/2011 fiscal year, tomorrow night. The review serves as the annual “report card” on City Hall’s vaunted homeless service system as required by city ordinance.

The annual review also describes services offered and provides statistics as to how many people are in programs (including housing), the costs of these services and a rundown of programs and suppliers. The bottom line is whether City Hall’s strategy for dealing with homelessness is working and that in part is determined by how many “homeless” people are now in the city compared with previous years.

The average number of homeless people in Santa Monica on any given night has been holding steady at around 740 people for the last two years. The current figure is based on City Hall’s annual homeless count held this year on Feb. 28.

When 2011 count results were made public, City Hall’s Human Services Division stated that the count showed “no change” in the number of homeless individuals living in Santa Monica over the past year and was down from previous years. In 2011 the actual count was 740. In 2010 the count was 742. In 2009 the count was 915 and in 2007 the count was 999 people.

Of the 740 counted this year, 263 people were spending the night on the streets, 426 individuals were in a shelter and/or other institutions and 51 people were counted in cars and encampments. A combination of federal funds and the Eviction Prevention and Rehousing Assistance Program (EPRA) have been instrumental in holding the numbers of homeless in the city steady.

Local homeless service providers can also share the success of holding the line in the face of continuing economic problems and high unemployment.

I’d like to point out that West Coast Care, an independent nonprofit that works through the Santa Monica Police Department’s Homeless Liaison Program (HLP Team), has been instrumental in sending hundreds of homeless individuals back home to family and friends annually. WCC’s success rate is over 95 percent, with very few returning to Santa Monica streets.

The public hearing is Tuesday, Oct. 25, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers in City Hall.

Bill can be reached at

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