THESE ARE TRYING TIMES

I’m trying to get a column done and the news keeps interrupting.

There has been a lot of news lately and it’s pretty riveting. Mostly really bad, and scary. And since I’m writing this on Monday, God only knows what will have happened by the time you read it on Wednesday. Why, the U.S. government could be overthrown, or the President of the United States might even have been impeached… again.

Really, that’s still several impeachments short, for all the laws he’s broken, and sedition committed. The recent call to Georgia election officials should have been one all by itself, an ironclad conviction… in normal times, with a “normal” GOP.

“May you live in interesting times” — I have! I saw Elvis his first time on TV, I saw men walk on the moon, I survived until the Lakers became a great team again (twice) and I witnessed glorious Greta trying so hard to save us from ourselves. For the most part I‘ve relished it. But this is now way over the “interesting” line. That English expression from the 16th century is said to have been taken from a Chinese curse. Curse you, China!

TWO THINGS WEIGH HEAVY RIGHT NOW

Well, lots more than two but these bubble up first.

(Note: I did NOT say they are the MOST important. Getting a killer global pandemic under control is, and the economic and social wreckage that has accompanied it. Not to mention climate change, racism, fact and science denial, voting rights, gun violence and more. Trust me, if I did not write this, I would hear from some very upset people who don’t read very carefully. I probably still will.)

LOCALLY

It’s the prospect of the iconic History Building at Samohi being demolished, SOON, when it doesn’t have to be. Along with other proposed changes being rammed through by the district and the school board with very little public exposure or input and a lot of flim flam, that would leave 50,000 Samohi alumni, and anyone else who has ever visited the campus in the last 85 years, wondering, as they look around — where did my school go?

Not to mention the millions who have reveled in “Rebel Without A Cause,” the 1955 landmark film with SMHS standing in for the fictional Dawson High School. Remember new kid James Dean unknowingly stepping on the school seal at the top of the stairs to the History Building? Let’s go see where that was! Oh. Nevermind.

NATIONALLY

It’s one part of the unthinkable Trump coup attempt of Jan. 6 that could turn out to be the most dangerous: the lack of police preparedness and response that seems more and more to be tied to connections between violent white nationalist organizations and sympathetic and cooperative members of law enforcement. That problem could be our democracy’s undoing, even in the next week.

THE HISTORY BUILDING

Yes, it’s “just a building.” So is the Vatican, Big Ben, the Taj Mahal and the U.S. Capitol. As CA Gov. Ronnie Ray-gun once famously intoned, when advocating for harvesting forests rather than conserving them, “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.”

Frank Gruber, a former Planning Commissioner, went after me recently when I posted my previous column about the pending destruction of the historic History Building: “We’re not talking about an issue, the fate of this building, on which the fate of the world depends.” Is that his benchmark for preservation, or anyone’s?

Of course it’s more important to cure cancer and feed the poor. But if you don’t have to throw our history and heritage and significant architecture in the dumpster, why do it? For resume-polishing master plans by some bureaucrats (who may not even live here)? That include other questionable proposals for spending almost $100M of our bond money needlessly, foolishly? Like new pre-schools on every grade school campus (putting commercial ones out of business and significantly reducing precious open space that has been utilized by the community), as school age and state populations decrease? We’re “importing” students from outside SM right now, and we’re paying for their education. Going all out on an unproven Project Based Learning high school, big money commitment, when it has been proven that smaller class sizes do significantly improve learning?

THE COMMUNITY SHOULD WEIGH IN

On these and other important issues. Instead, few knew of the plans. And no, there were not extensive notifications, for years, as they have claimed. In fact, much of all this was on the consent calendar last school board meeting (no discussion, yes or no vote on the whole calendar) until someone noticed it, and the board was forced to move it to tomorrow night’s meeting.

It’s a complicated set of issues, but it’s also very simple. Just pause. Until plans and actions that will affect all of Santa Monica for… ever, can get more discussion, of possible alternatives.

The school board zoom meeting is tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 14, 5:30. But you have only until 3:00 that day to write the board to express your thoughts and suggestions. Just copy to all these interested parties: brd@smmusd.org, bdrati@smmusd.org, samohialumni@gmail.com, advocacy@smconservancy.org, fixsmmusd@gmail.com, council@smgov.net, senator.allen@senate.ca.gov, adding: Please include this in the public comments for the 1/14/2021 School Board meeting.

POLICE

I’ve been pondering their role for a long time, but what is slowly coming out about this mob assault on the Capitol is stunning.

When some police take sides against democracy, as some individuals did, we’re screwed; the military is all we have left. Not a good way to go forward into history. It’s so important that we have police we can trust, and that is going to now take some national soul searching. I support the police (philosophically) and think “defunding” is a stupid way to label an important and complicated process, no way to reframe such an important issue.

The information we’re getting is shocking and thought provoking, but must be dealt with. I hope I can make the space in a future column to offer my thoughts on this crucial issue. Before I get strung up as an Enemy of the People.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 35 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com