Editor’s Note: Due to a production problem. Curious City was delayed a day.
I’VE HAD IT WITH THAT MURAL!
And I’m sure my editor, and publisher, the steamed School Board, and a some of you would be happy if this was my last column about it. Well, it is. At least for a good while. Believe me, I’ve got other fish to fry. This is Santa Monica, after all.
What more do you want from me? For six years I’ve been writing about it, and working tirelessly with Jerry and Marissa Rubin, my co-founders of Save the Muir Woods Mural (SMWM), to get the point across that the Santa Monica community at large has, in that time, declared its strong attachment to the environmental painting, and its desire to see it continue at that location without unnecessary changes. In very large numbers.
It’s on a school building and therefore under the purview of SMMUSD and the School Board, but even the Board agrees that in these four decades that wall has become a part of the community.
Many organizations, like the Sierra Club, have given their support. And many prominent Santa Monicans, like State Sen. Ben Allen (and his mother), City Council member Sue Himmelrich, nearly every ex-mayor who isn’t still on Council, four of seven School Board members, ministers, other newspaper columnists, Derek Smalls and many more.
But our School Board continues to plow ahead as if those residents and their expressed desires don’t exist. And the local media continues to mostly ignore them too.
NOT ALWAYS INTENTIONALLY
Some headlines have been worded somewhat misleadingly. Some photo captions have been just plain wrong. Most news stories go straight to the School Board for comment and ignore those who have for years opposed their intended, and recent, destruction of the 41-year-old mural.
I know, it’s not good form to criticize your “competitors” (we all fight for our piece of the same shrinking advertising pie). But media coverage clearly affects public opinion. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. The end is near and I fear that the stacked deck is about to be played out. If I don’t write about “the rest of the story,” who will?
CONSIDER MY DILEMMA
To try to convince the School Board to vote to repaint this iconic, environmental message for the 21st Century (prescient in 1978 when it was painted), this realistic, transportive sylvan sanctuary in our tense, urban midst. While being as gentle as possible in pointing out the ways they have skewed the process unfairly to get the result they want. The people have a right to know.
Here’s an ungentle comparison. You remember that impeachment so-called trial we had recently in the U.S. Senate? Where Senators took a sacred oath to be impartial and examine the evidence. Declared they already had their minds made up. And then wouldn’t allow any evidence?
The seven School Board members promised last October to make a decision based on what the community wanted for that mural. Then some of them showed up at those three days of meetings that they said would decide that, but they didn’t just observe, they added their personal two cents in, with scowls and head shakes at any expression of preserving it with a repainting, and smiling and nodding at any suggestion to trash it.
I was told by one participant that at the table meetings that Saturday his comment in favor of that exact mural was not allowed to be entered into the record, and he was pretty sure that person preventing it was associated with the school district.
When a Board member was reported to have sourly remarked to his tablemates, “John Muir was a racist,” that hardly seems to me like neutral observation to ascertain community opinion.
A well-respected neighborhood leader was at that table, got mad and went home, did some homework and wrote a scorching many-page email refuting that prejudicial assertion, that was sent to all the Board members, the Superintendent, and others. It should be required reading in school. But what effect did that remark, especially from a Board member, have?
A Board member referred to a smaller group that was “all or nothing.” Troublemakers, right? But that “smaller” group included not only most who spoke or had their words recorded Saturday, but also SMWM, which represents hundreds who sent emails, the support of many respected civic groups and many, many prominent Santa Monicans. But neither the School Board nor the media reporting on this have acknowledged that widespread support.
The School Board declared it wants to hear from as many community members as possible, and they will be open to any and all ways of reaching them,.
Really? Try contacting the Save the Muir Woods Mural group. Because in six years, you have never done that.
Elections do have consequences, don’t they?
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org