LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Steadfast: Questions Remain

I drafted an op-ed about the “Steadfast” man statue in our new Palisades Village that, according to this newspaper, is the most commented upon letter of 2018. The piece continued to generate comments in the first paper of 2019 after a reprinting at the end of the year. The comments have been divided in support of patriotism some feel from the display and support of my position.

In my op-ed, I questioned the appropriateness of the giant statue steadfastly saluting the flag while a Black Lives Matter protest adopted kneeling before the flag in recognition of institutional prejudice that threaten the very lives of some Americans.

The timing of the statue and its plaque stating that saluting the flag is the American way is significant given the publicity of the Black Lives Matter protest, Donald Trump’s comments on kneeling football players and his calls for a nationalistic policy agenda that includes limiting immigration from Islamic and African nations, and building a wall to deter asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America.

There is no question that saluting the flag became a hot button issue in the current debate over what it means to be an American.

After I posted my comments about the statue on Facebook and it was published in this paper, the plaque at the base of “Steadfast” disappeared. It reappeared with slightly different wording on a post behind the statue.

The change in wording was minor but significant. I described the original wording in my opinion piece as follows:

“The plate at the feet of the ‘Steadfast’ man provides an interpretation for the viewer of the sculpture telling us how we should feel about the statue and about our country. ‘This imposing 9-foot, 800-pound bronze statue by sculptor Jim Rennart has been named ‘Steadfast’ and represents immovable and constant love for our country. It is a feeling that defines us as Americans. It is American Patriotism and it is put forth in the Declaration of Independence.’

The plate continues with a misquoting of The Declaration of Independence’s famous words about ‘All Men are Created Equal,’ which merges into these words: ‘We must always be steadfast in our love for the law, liberty, the common good and our country.’ Finally, the statue is described again: ‘A citizen patriot saluting the dream and promise that is still America.’” 

The new post adds that the flag represents diversity. This is a great idea, and many hope that this ideal will be realized.

Unfortunately, diversity is not being endorsed by Donald Trump, our current president. His rhetoric about the evils of Islamic people, people from countries like Africa and those from south of our border have caused great harm. Bullying in schools and hate crimes are up, and some attribute this to Trump’s rhetoric.

We are fortunate to live in a nation where we can still protest government policies and the actions of our police forces. We are lucky to live in a nation where we can freely express ourselves and have a press that is able to print freely, without fear of imprisonment or death, despite criticism from our president. We are blessed to live in a country where artists can express themselves and not be silenced by government censorship.

For all these reasons and more, I love America. Art should encourage different reactions, and the debate about “Steadfast” man is a healthy sign that we live in a free country.

The question remains, is this statue the best and most welcoming representation of our little village? Does it send a nationalistic message that steadfastly supporting our flag is the best way to “Make America Great Again?”

While I appreciate the addition of the word “diversity” in the new description of the statue, I wonder if this statue is truly art or is it propaganda that seeks to erase questioning our national agenda?

Do the words on the plaque imply that everything is as it should be, and we should simply stand in solidarity as we salute the flag while ignoring the pain of those being harmed at our border and within our boundaries by racial violence?

I hope that each of us can always make our own decisions about how to express our beliefs as Americans. And I hope this debate continues.

Lisa Boyle


Fire Plans

As a Pacific Palisades resident in the Highlands of 41 years, I recognize the critical need to review the ongoing threat to this community of forest fires. The Palisades location, and particularly, the Highlands, in proximity to LA City Santa Ynez Canyon Park and Topanga State Park, is vulnerable to the potential of forest fires.

The devastation of the recent fires in the cities of Paradise and Malibu prompted questions as to the adequacy of the current fire mitigation and evacuation plan for this area.

Just weeks prior to the Camp and Woolsey fires, LA City Recreation and Parks Board of Commissioners requested that department’s Forestry Unit to inspect the condition of Palisades Drive and Santa Ynez Canyon Park. The report reflected that the currently adopted forest fire mitigations required by the LA City Fire Department were being strictly maintained and the forest condition was dry as expected due to the paucity of rainfall.

The experience of the ensuing weeks demonstrated that the conventional mitigations proved to be inadequate and failed to control the recent devastating California fires. The flying cinders, extreme heat and the windstorm it created breached the established distance barriers from the forest growth, and failed to stop the progression of the fires.

Paradise city had an evacuation plan and had practice drills as well as a forest management plan. They failed to work due to the speed and intensity at which the fire progressed.

The Highlands has only a single, two-lane road through two-and-a-half miles of forested canyon walls to accommodate incoming fire fighting equipment and outgoing evacuation traffic in an emergency. The use of the designated fire road would be questionable for a night evacuation and has limited capacity.

I suggest the Department of Transportation and responsible fire officials review the adequacy of the Highlands evacuation plan as an early priority. The current plan, to my knowledge, is wholly untested and not known to many of the residents.

Topanga State Park surrounds this community as well. In view of the recent experience, the state, as well as the city, must reexamine their forest fire management practices. I would encourage the State Legislature to review the advisability of permitting future development in proximity to forested areas such as the Pacific Palisades Highlands.

This article is not meant to create anxieties in our community. I am aware of the attention this public safety issue is receiving at this time. I applaud the initiative of Councilmember Mike Bonin’s Field Deputy Lisa Cahill and Community Council Highlands Area Representative Steve Cron for making this issue a priority.

The State Legislature has appropriated one billion dollars over the next five years in the passage of Senate Bill 901 this past September in anticipation of the ongoing fire hazards. The bill is a comprehensive approach to address the threat of wildfires to include funding to reduce the fuel loads in vulnerable forest areas, as well as for research to determine best forest management practices.

The danger lies in the continuing pressures for development and complacency that comes with the passage of time.

Joe Halper


Trash

For the last three years, the Business Improvement District (BID), with the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce, has employed Chrysalis’ Clean Team to sweep sidewalks and empty trashcans in the Palisades business district.

In an effort to be community-oriented and neighborly, the Chamber also emptied trashcans at the library, high school perimeter, Marquez and on the Village Green.

Unfortunately because of the laws governing BIDs, the BID is not allowed to offer services outside its specific defined area. Therefore the BID must cease collecting trash in areas that are not within its perimeter.

This was effective January 1, so if you see trash piling up, this is why. Much as the BID would like to continue to serve a greater portion of the Palisades, the mandate under which it was established will not permit it to do so.

The BID Board