I never had kids. My fading memories of Halloween are of my own adventures. I remember collecting candy for me and money for something called UNICEF, whatever that was, when I was small. And for March of Dimes, whatever that was.

In later years, I decorated my Long Beach house with scary headlines from newspaper front pages.

Now I watch co-workers pass out candy to children on Main Street while I try to think of something profound to say about the holiday that I will always associate with Charles M. Schultz’s implied lament over the commercialization of the holiday season.

And I smile, knowing that the best part of Halloween comes after the trick-or-treaters have gone home and the decorations have come down:

The 50 percent or more off after-Halloween candy clearance sales.

The thought almost makes me want to do the Snoopy dance.

Arnie Wilkins of College Park East believes Seal Beach should get out of the tennis club business.

Wilkins contacted me after the Sun print edition published a “My Turn” column called “Parks plan on the Tennis Center and an aquatics park,” which was based on my blog on the same subject.

Basically, the Seal Beach Parks Master Plan recommended that the city hire a professional park design service to perform a community outreach and design a specific plan to merge the Seal Beach Tennis Center with Blue Bell Park. According to the Master Plan, as I reported in my original blog, the city’s park consultant, Richard Fischer Associates, hired another consulting firm, the Behavior Research Center, to conduct a survey of 300 individuals about Seal Beach’s park and recreation facilities. The survey found that about half of the individuals surveyed knew something about the Tennis Center, but only 17 percent actually used it.

I originally argued that a one problem with the Tennis Center is that the membership fee was too high at $95 a month. There, Wilkins disagrees with me. He came by the Sun to talk and the rest of this blog is based either on the interview or on a follow-up email he sent me.

“Some years back Old Ranch Tennis Club had over 400 paying members ($100 + a month). And at one time a membership fee just to join, plus a required recommendation from a current member. That’s all gone or fallen off now as well as the interest in tennis itself,” Wilkins wrote in an email “Check the sport sections of any newspaper. ”

“Young people joining could make a difference and that should be within a strategic plan in future use of the facility. Note: The City will have a very tough time growing (SBTC) memberships unless they start thinking outside the box,” Wilkins wrote.

“Maybe the SBTC might try it free for a while in order to measure what kind of increased participation will come. My bet will be of it not changing at all, as well as losing the current paying membership who’ll still come for free….So maybe the cost or no cost has nothing to do with it. Maybe it has to do with what’s to use,” Wilkins wrote.

That might explain the lack of local members. As I reported in a news story earlier this year, an April presentation to the City Council said 43 Seal Beach residents belong to the Tennis Club. Wilkins said in the 1960s, 400 locals were members.

In our interview, Wilkins said that somebody has to come up with a better use for the property or take government out of running it. Wilkins doesn’t believe government can run a business. He said he would prefer seeing the city lease the property to a private company.

I didn’t tell him that Seal Beach has tried variations of that model in the past. The city hired a company to run the city jail, but lost money on the deal. I won’t go into the convoluted story of the Ruby’s Diner that used to be at the end of the Seal Beach Pier. So far as I know, the River’s End Cafe, which also leases city property, is doing well. The Tennis Center has passed through several private managers, so I’d say Seal Beach has one success out of three to date for hybrid government/business operations.

One point on which the consultant and Wilkins seem to be in agreement is that the Tennis Center should be remodeled.

Perhaps the most important thing is this: the city is putting effort and money into a Tennis Center at a time when interest in tennis is low. Perhaps expanding the offerings would be more productive. So in that sense, Wilkins is very much correct.

And I’ll concede that I might have been wrong about the cost of membership being part of the problem with the Tennis Center. One thing no one can deny, though, is that what we as a community are doing at that Tennis Center isn’t working to the community’s benefit. If it’s broke, fix it. And doing what we’ve always done before doesn’t appear to be a winning strategy.

The Seal Beach City Council recently extended the urgency ordinance banning e-cigarette-only stores, even as liquor, convenience and other stores continue to sell e-cigarettes. One argument advanced by city staff in favor of the ordinance is that the products sold at e-cigarettes specialty stores could be used for illegal purposes.

Let’s put aside the debate about e-cigarettes for now and focus on whether Seal Beach should ban those things that could be used by criminals.

Bicycles can be used by terrorists

During the Anglo-Irish War (1918-1921), the Irish Republican Army’s favorite method of transportation was the bicycle. In fact, bicycling IRA terror cells became known as “flying columns” because they were highly mobile. The bikes required no fuel, were silent, and could be carried over particularly rugged terrain—making it easier for them to escape pursuers.

We must keep bikes out of the hands of terrorists. As a Navy town, Seal Beach is a prime target for a modern flying column.

Seal Beach should pass an urgency ordinance that bans new bike shops from opening in Seal Beach until staff can research how to regulate the sale of these deadly instruments. Law abiding bike riders will still have access to the vehicles at pre-existing bike shops, sporting goods and department stores.

Jump ropes can be used by burglars

A jump rope may be used to scale a fence and facilitate a burglary.

Seal Beach needs an urgency ordinance that bans jump rope shops from opening in town until staff can determine how to regulate jump ropes in order to protect our property.

Human limbs can be used to commit crimes

Human limbs, particularly arms, are quite deadly. One person can strangle another with their arm. Shoplifters use fingers to pick up merchandise they haven’t paid for and steal it. Drug dealers use their hands to place narcotics into the hands of desperate addicts. Drunk drivers use their arms and hands to operate the vehicles they drive.

Clearly, limbs are deadly dangerous appendages.

Clearly, Seal Beach needs to ban hands and arms.

Such an ordinance would pass Constitutional muster. The Second Amendment of the Constitution clearly says we have a “right to keep and bear arms,” but that refers to the right to keep and bear firearms, not the arms you are born with. Just as you have no right to have an ocean view, you have no Constitutional right to keep the arms and legs you were born with.

Seal Beach needs an urgency ordinance that bans people with natural arms from entering the city limits in order to protect the public. People with artificial limbs seldom break the law, so a ban on artificial limbs isn’t needed and would probably conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It’s common sense: Outlaw the sale of dangerous things by specialty shops, but allow them to be available by other means, and no object will ever be used for a nefarious purpose.

Next week, I’ll revisit the subject of the Seal Beach Tennis Center and share one reader’s thoughts.

To call utility boxes ugly is to assign them more character than they deserve. They are simply dull, drab and a bit depressing to look at.

But getting rid of the utility boxes isn’t really the answer. Undergrounding them makes sense, but costs money. And what do we do with the existing boxes in the meantime?

Several cities have opted to paint their utility boxes. I don’t mean that cities just slap a goat of red, blue or pink over a gray slab, but that cities actually recruit artists (paid or volunteer) to paint works of art on the boxes.

According to the blog Not Fade Away, the Oceanside, Calif., Arts Commission used volunteer artists to turn utility boxes into outdoor paintings. Other cities charge a development fee. Given Seal Beach’s deeply entrenched anti-development activists, I don’t think funding a utility box beautification program with developer fees would accomplish anything.

Compare the Seal Beach utility box that appears in the photo at the top of this blog with the following utility boxes that may be found in a city over the border in Los Angeles County.



The nature of the utility box artwork varies from place to place. I’m partial to the idea of painting art that reflects the area immediately surrounding or adjacent to individual utility boxes. However, other Seal Beach residents might have other ideas.

This is far from being the most important issue in town, but it seems to me it is an idea worth considering. Seal Beach doesn’t have to sacrifice utility—but our town could do well without drab and ugly things. Ugliness drives tourists away and tourists are important to our economy—especially during the off season.

I was on deadline at the Sun office on Seal Beach Main Street when I heard what turned out to be a car colliding with a store. At the time I wondered what it was and then guessed that two cars had collided.

I hit command save on the fire I was working on, grabbed my camera and ran out. Sun Editor Dennis Kaiser was already ahead of me. A crowd had already gathered. I overheard people say things that turned out to be imprecise at best or just plan wrong.

“Someone drove into the store.”

Someone accidentally backed into a flower shop. Fortunately, no one suffered life threatening injuries.

“Someone’s trapped under the car.”

That wasn’t true, but I feared it might be as I pressed forward to take pictures for the Sun. I remember thinking I didn’t want to see someone hurt. Does that count as prayer? I was relieved to see the vehicle was empty.

Dennis and our customer service rep Courtney Pettijohn gathered details as I went inside to call the police, add photos to the website and compose a couple of paragraphs for the online Sun.

This sort of thing is not the reason I got into community journalism. Some journalists say “If it bleeds, it leads.” Not my style, at least not anymore. (When I was young, I was a jerk.) But in our line of work, we have to be able to put aside our own feelings—and sometimes other people’s—and gather information. And stay out of the way of the emergency responders while we’re doing it.

And hope that it is a long time before I have to rush once more to the scene of an unknown event with a camera, bracing myself for the possibility that I’m going to be gathering news about someone being hurt. I’ll do it. That’s part of the job. But I’m here to chronicle the life of a community, not the spilling of someone’s life’s blood.