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Opinion/Letters to the Editor September 2021

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Sept. 2 issue:

Guest commentary:

CCA student’s Zoom call with school in Kabul, Afghanistan: ‘We fear for our lives’

By Jack Shi

It was surreal to sit in class during the first week of school, listening to the terrifying events in Afghanistan. My history teacher, Mr. Timothy Stiven, had spent the last few weeks working day and night to get exit visas to coed students of a Kabul school. The students and teachers wanted someone to talk to, and my history class was at the exact time they could connect: 9:35 a.m. PST, or 9:05 p.m. GST in Kabul, the middle of their night to avoid internet traffic.

The classroom was still. We collectively turned our ears to the feeble voice floating from the phone propped up on the desk, connected to dial-in audio. The sullen faces of the Afghanistan girls painted a picture of sorrow on each of our computers. A teacher’s voice broke over. He was NY, (we are not using full names in this publication for their safety), the head professor of the Kabul school. His students are members of the oppressed Hazara ethnic group, a minority discriminated against even before the Taliban take-over. Their school was bombed in 2018, with more than 60 student casualties. As professor Y. explained in a matter-of-factly tone about the danger they were in, he said one thing that stuck in my mind: “We are stuck. We can only think of survival.”

Just from the first few days of history class, I had already learned enough to understand what he truly meant. History shows us that education is what keeps human society evolving, technologically and socially. I learned about the Agricultural Revolution, a turning point that mitigated the worry about food, shelter, and basic survival, therefore becoming the first driving motion for advances in human thinking. I concluded that sexism and class inequality are rooted in agriculture as well. As humans saved time not worrying about staying alive, those that had the most time to establish leadership rose to the top of their societies first. Those first were the men, who biologically had a slight advantage. Today, that advantage is irrelevant, but the mindset still endures in modern culture, especially in Afghanistan.

When Professor Y. said that survival was their only concern, it sent indescribable fear into my heart. The Taliban rule was halting education, the only opponent against sexism, racism, and all other inequities. The girls of the Kabul school explained fearfully how almost all Taliban fighters were uneducated, making them exponentially more dangerous. Only education had the power to prove that these injustices were pointless.

Only two weeks before, the older students had taken the Kankor, their equivalent of the SAT. They found out just days ago they would not be getting their results. The students were in emotional turmoil, many spending the night before crying. In addition, college students took involuntary leave, and teachers could not perform their jobs. Chemistry teacher M H J expressed his grief, “It feels empty to have so much to say, and have no one to listen”. They said they would see us in another two weeks, but the reality is that they do not know what will happen by then. When Professor Y. said in his calm, composed voice that they feared for their lives, that was exactly what he meant.

Despite these grim outlooks on the future of Afghanistan, there was still hope in their new generation of heroes. S. J. is a high school student whose Kankor results were lost, but that does not change that he worked on solar panel technology for his community for months. He is already fulfilling his dreams of becoming an engineer. Z. M. is another student who studied computer engineering at Kabul college. She is a sophomore in her fourth semester and loves math. F. M. is a student with a passion for history and literature and studied at the University of Afghanistan. She expresses her talent through her poems. “These students need someone to talk through their feelings and opinions”, teacher M. J. said. “We are extremely thankful and happy you can talk to us. We will never forget it”.

Just before the video ended, one of my classmates asked the Afghanistan school what they would like the students of America to know. They told us: to appreciate the opportunities we are privileged to have in a democratic country and use the fullest extent of our knowledge to help others. The Taliban might have the power to oppress these students for now, but they can never take away the knowledge they have worked for.

— Jack Shi is a sophomore student at Canyon Crest Academy

Letters:

Why the unanimous Del Mar council vote on Winston School’s lease?

The Winston School has been part of Del Mar for 30 years — first through a lease with the Del Mar Union School District, and then, since 2008, through a lease with the City of Del Mar. The lease went into effect when the City purchased the Shores Park property from the school district for $8 million. Winston raised $3 million of the purchase price.

The lease terms included reimbursement of the $3 million at the rate of about $200,000 per year as rent credit from 2008 through a date in 2023. After that, they will have to start paying rent again going forward. About $2.6 million has been repaid to date with two years to go.

The lease also included Winston school’s commitment to redevelop all of the buildings on their leasehold property and bring them up to current building code.

The first milestone deadline listed in the lease for the required redevelopment was in December 2019, which Winston did not meet. Since then, the City has given many extensions over the past two years for Winston to complete their application fully. The deadline was first extended to October 2020, and then to January 2021, then April, then June, and finally July 23, 2021.

The Planning Staff to date has always found each plan submitted by Winston to be incomplete and therefore unable to be approved. In February of this year, they were given notice that the lease would be terminated effective in 2023 if they did not meet their redevelopment milestone. When July 23 arrived and their plans were still incomplete, the Council had no other choice than to terminate, and that is why the Council vote on August 11 was unanimous.

Terry Gaasterland

Mayor, City of Del Mar

Tracy Martinez

Council member, City of Del Mar

This letter was submitted by Terry Gaasterland and Tracy Martinez on behalf of themselves, not on behalf of the City or the Council.

The house next door?

Taking away housing oversight from our elected city representatives and discarding public hearings where we can voice any concerns is an unexpected betrayal. It’s the reverse of democracy.

SB9 and SB10, bills likely to soon become state law, allow building developers rather than locally-elected officials to make housing decisions. You will have no voice.

SB9 removes checks and balances that protect our interests, leaving us no recourse if the single family home next door morphs into housing for four or five families instead of one.

Up to five housing units can be created per single family lot. Where there’s now a house with an internal (JADU), and external apartment (ADU), a duplex can be added.

Infrastructure planning? None. Roads, schools, water, utility services, public safety resources, recreation? Funding for new infrastructure as traffic builds and schools become overloaded? None. Solutions for increased pollution, noise, disputes, crime? No. Will cities collect enough revenue from the increased housing to cover these costs? Imagine the consequences.

Emergency evacuation planning for increased numbers of people squeezing in to flee a fire? Not the state’s concern. Not funded, not even addressed.

Affordable housing requirements? None. Focus on residential housing vs. vacation rentals? Barely. Up to 11 occupant changes a year, every 31 days. Why, in a bill focused on residential housing, is the serious loss in our state of residential housing inventory to vacation rentals and unoccupied homes being ignored? Why is the focus on construction and so little focus on use?

What are the forces at play? I don’t know but I’m concerned.

SB 10 is also troubling, actually allowing city councils to over-rule local voter initiatives by a two-thirds vote.

This is not about partisan politics. These bills have support on both sides of the aisle. This is about Sacramento mandating housing policies for all California cities and silencing local input.

In 1978, Californians voted to protected our homes through Prop 13. If Governor Newsom fails to veto SB9 and SB10, perhaps we must again protect our homes and neighborhoods by voter action. Sacramento appears intent on usurping local input and regulation through state mandates. Should we allow the state to silence our voices and remove our control over our neighborhoods? Imagine the result.

Marjory Williams

Solana Beach

‘County joins coalition to move nuclear waste from San Onofre’

It’s always gratifying to see the San Onofre Generating Station get play in the press (title of last week’s story above) and reading that some local and state officials are finally becoming involved. Finding, funding and opening a consent-based, permanent repository is a must.

However, forming this coalition doesn’t mean Edison is now dedicated to doing all it needs to do to ensure the safety of the 3.6 million lbs. of nuclear waste, stranded on the beach indefinitely. In fact, they have been doing just the opposite, by applying and receiving waivers and exemptions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and permitted by the CA Coastal Commission which continues to allow them to put profit above safety.

These waivers and exemptions extremely weaken the NRC regulations and allow for a nominal monitoring system, less inspections and practically eliminate inspectors onsite. There are no armed guards or security in place to deter terrorists. Edison has been allowed to remove the warning sirens from San Clemente and the emergency plan is now nonexistent.

I see this coalition as a PR stunt and fundraiser for Edison. They received a donation of $100,000 of our taxpayer money from the County Board of Supervisors on Aug 17.

Yes, moving the fuel is essential, but Edison keeping it safe while it is stranded here is even more vital.

Edison only wants to see the waste moved, so they can wash their hands of it.

Alice McNally

Del Mar

Sept. 9 issue:

The Winston School deserves to remain on its site

On September 2, 2021, City of Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland and Councilmember Tracy Martinez, The Winston School City Council liaisons, published a letter to the editor that compels me to respond.

First, it is important to remember, without The Winston School, the City would not own the Shores Park. Not only did the School raise $3 million for the purchase, but we also worked with The Friends of Del Mar Parks to raise another $2.5 million and fulfilled the deed restriction that the property remains a school.

As the Mayor’s letter demonstrates, the Council has chosen to manipulate and omit information critical to the discussion.

The lease agreement requires the School to update the campus, providing us with specific rights and protections. The Council has arbitrarily chosen to deny the School its rights by ignoring several important lease sections. The lease very clearly extends redevelopment deadlines for acts of God such as a pandemic. The Council has taken the inexplicable stance that the pandemic, which shut schools nationwide, has had no impact. Ironically, the Council’s action as a landlord to evict Winston violates their own urgency ordinance barring tenant evictions due to the pandemic.

Mayor Gaasterland stated in a recent interview that the Council was forced to terminate the 55-year lease because “over time they just didn’t get it done.” Her comment implies incompetence that has no basis whatsoever. The School has been working with industry leaders such as Domus Studio, Hughes Marino, and Dempsey Construction, who have extensive experience in Del Mar.

The School has met the development requirements as defined in the lease and standard planning protocol.

However, the Council has set new standards for the School’s renovation that exceed those of the City’s planning department practices. In an apparent conflict of interest, the Council has used these additional requirements to delay the School’s plans from moving forward, then attempted to hold the School accountable for their arbitrary deadline.

The most recent demands were requested after the July 23 cutoff date, and the School provided them in time for the August 11 Special City Council meeting. Despite this, the Council ignored the responses and continued forward with their predetermined vote.

Furthermore, the City rejected the School’s call for mediation to interpret lease terms and instead chose this highly inflammatory and unnecessary action.

The Council did have a choice on August 11 - they had every reason to approve our plans if they wanted to. The remaining minor issues, like the placement of the trash cans, could have been quickly resolved during the DRB process. Despite this, the City Council chose to unanimously terminate the lease. Why is that?

The Winston School deserves to remain on this site.

Laura Cunitz

The Winston School Board President

Ethnic studies issue demands more attention and nuance

Re: Marsha Sutton’s “Education Matters: Why is Critical Race Theory so divisive?” column published August 12, 2021

I can appreciate the desire to illuminate the controversial topic of CRT in K-12 education, but it was painfully clear that this analysis used one-sided sources, thus failing to provide a balanced view, ironically feeding into the divisiveness it attempted to explain.

This misleading analysis will prevent parents from seeing how the original intent of teaching K-12 students to celebrate diversity, multiculturalism, and respect for differing points of view has been hijacked by a well-funded, militant, subversive mandate with a hostile and divisive political agenda.

This issue clearly demands a more critical analysis as we navigate what the new California State mandated requirements for ethnic studies mean for our children’s immediate educational needs and our country’s ideological future.

Yes, CRT itself is just a theory. However, its focus on race, anti-capitalism, and “oppressed vs oppressors” has turned our society, organizations, corporate America, government, and of course: the entire internet into #CancelCulture zones policed by woke mobs where free speech is denied, merit is condemned, diverse perspectives are forbidden, and differing opinions are prohibited.

And now it’s infiltrated our K-12 schools as well. “Equity” has been redefined as “equal outcome for all”...and lessons on the “oppressed vs oppressor” train kids to aspire to communism, where everyone has/is/gets the same: equity.

But how did we end up here? How did our supposedly democratic, liberal, and free-thinking society fall prey by allowing (inviting even) an age-old communist ideology to creep into our K-12 schools?

Was it because it was packaged up in the form of a struggle to attain “racial diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI programs) and those terms have a nice ring to them, but we’re all far too busy to look a little deeper? Is this a gross and inaccurate exaggeration?

Parents: I urge you to do your own research. Check out these links to learn about the Communist Party of the USA (cpusa.org/party_info/party-program/#WorkingClass) and CRT (wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory) and then ask to see your school’s ethnic studies curriculum. If you find lessons that remind you of Communist China, Nazi Germany, Marxist Russia, or Communist Cuba (ie. divisive, destructive, demoralizing, and deadly) you’ll know you need to get involved to ensure our Del Mar and San Diego schools protect true ethnic studies by promoting diversity of thoughts and ideas, as well as celebrating diversity in heritage and cultures.

Nicole Bernstein

Carmel Valley

Sept. 16 issue:

Misinformation in letter about San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

It is unfortunate that the readers of the Del Mar Times were so misinformed by the recent letter submitted by resident Alice McNally about the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

In the letter, several assertions are completely untethered from the truth. For instance, McNally claims “There are no armed guards or security in place to deter terrorists.” Our current security plan, put in place after all the spent nuclear fuel was placed in dry cask storage last year, goes above and beyond what is required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and it includes security officers who are equipped and trained to neutralize threats to the facility.

McNally claims the “emergency plan is now nonexistent.” The same week her letter appeared we were performing a dry run for one of our regularly scheduled emergency preparedness drills that are part of our very real emergency plan. The plan includes written agreements with offsite emergency responders, including Camp Pendleton, and meets NRC requirements.

Regarding waivers and exemptions, nuclear plants that are retired and in decommissioning are much different from operating plants. The NRC regulations are geared toward operating plants, so decommissioning plants apply for certain exemptions to regulations that are no longer applicable. Think of it this way: should electric vehicle owners be mandated to get smog checks like cars with combustion engines or should they be exempted? Reasonable people recognize the differences.

Southern California Edison is dedicated to the safe storage of spent fuel at San Onofre, while working to relocate the fuel to a federally licensed facility, a goal generally shared by the community. Misinformation only makes the task that much harder.

John Dobken

Public Information Officer

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

SCE

The Winston School, an outstanding educational institution

One of the major highlights of our 56 years’ residency in Del Mar was in 1988 when The Winston School was overwhelmingly welcomed to Del Mar by citizens, as well as the powers that be. They brought the necessary financing, acquired the Shores Park property on behalf of the city, with the help of many citizen donors. They established an outstanding institution of learning, for otherwise neglected students.

The presence of such an institution in our unique city was not only financially beneficial but also provided much-needed education and a feeling of good will toward our special needs children. This benefits more than Del Mar — our society itself.

The present city council has demonstrated a lack of leadership in its recent dealings with the school. Instead of practicing management by objectives, they are practicing managing by bureaucratic policies. A proper leadership role on the part of the city council would be to acknowledge and preserve The Winston School and not confuse that issue with bureaucratic policy discrepancies. Even if The Winston School were in violation of certain rules like dumpster location and parking spaces, the termination of the lease is like sentencing a jaywalker with the death penalty.

Opposed to such a drastic step, as removing The Winston School from Del Mar, there is still the possibility of mediation. With proper leadership this issue can be resolved amicably.

Put the welfare of children first!

Harriet and Maneck Wadia

Del Mar

Kudos to Carmel Valley Planning Board for speaking truth to power

I read with interest the Sept. 2 article on the seemingly eternal issue of the 18-years -and-counting Hamid Bagheri proposal to build on the north slope of Via De La Valle. (Article was titled “Planning board reviews homes proposed on Via De La Valle slope”.)

Huge, massive kudos go to Carmel Valley Community Planning Board members Barry Schultz and Michelle Strauss for speaking the truth about the proposed development. The fact the 22-acre slope was zoned for that kind of density needs to be checked into.

I know my neighbors at Santa Fe Downs share my views on this very short-sighted proposal, and we agree that it’s a very poor site for such a congested development. Power to the people, not short-sighted developers.

Thank you, Carmel Planning Board for speaking truth to power.

Charlotte Quicker

Del Mar


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