I’m thankful to be a full-time, professional newspaper journalist. Not everyone who studied the craft in college got to enter the industry or was able to stay.

I’m thankful to be living and working in Seal Beach. I like it here. I like the people. I get to tell a wide variety of stories.

I’m thankful that Dennis Kaiser is my editor. We make a great team. Few editors are a better fit with either their community or newspaper, much less both.

I’m thankful I’ve now been cancer free 14 years.

Happy Thanksgiving, Seal Beach

Last week, I looked at the lessons that may be draw from the Bubba the Pig story, also known as “The Great Pig Fiasco.”

This week, I’ll look at the unresolved issues that need to be addressed once Seal Beach closes the book on the Bubba the Pig story.

• If it takes three years to enforce a city code—or amend a city code so that it can be enforced—Seal Beach needs to look at resolving neighborhood conflicts more quickly. Because code issues are neighborhood conflicts.

Maybe the staff needs to automatically kick a protracted enforcement issue up to the city manager’s office so the city manager can determine whether code enforcement, a vendor or the language of the city code is not working as they should. The question is, how long does the issue have to drag on before such a review takes place? The courts tend to be sluggish, so maybe 18 months should be the point at which someone says, “Why is this taking so long?”

• Is the Long Beach Animal Care Services agency providing Seal Beach with effective animal control service? If so, how might that service be improved? If not—what alternatives are available within our budget?

• Did the city officials allow “mob rule” to influence their actions?

While I could have gone happily to my grave without hearing a chorus of “Don’t Send Bubba to Hog Heaven” at a council meeting, the fact remains that in our society the public has a right to express their views and government has an obligation to shut up and listen. Rule of law is important, but the public has got to have the right to petition the government to reconsider laws or we will be enslaved by the standards of centuries long past and the decisions of government officials whose bones have long ago turned to dust. If we have to endure a certain amount of absurdity—well, eternal silliness, like vigilance, is apparently part of the price of liberty.

And for those who feel the rule of law was overwhelmed by the “mob,” I must respectfully point out that one of our laws—found in our Bill of Rights—allows citizens to protest government actions. So instead of criticizing the other side for being a “mob,” try making your case instead.

Having said that, is there a way to promote discourse, even protest, without promoting emotionalism?

• Councilwoman Ellery Deaton said the city received three complaints about Bubba. Fair enough. But the fact remains that except for the barking dog ordinance, only a single complaint is enough to trigger city code enforcement. One complaint triggered the beach bench controversy. I once read a police log in which an individual complained about a man playing his guitar at 3 p.m. (Had it been a.m., the caller would have had my sympathy.) A city employee once told me about a woman who complained about the smell of the food her neighbors cooked. Shall we amend the Zoning Code to restrict what people cook in their kitchens? I personally despise hedges—should Seal Beach outlaw those things because I hate them?

The barking dog ordinance requires complaints from three separate individuals. Should Seal Beach consider adding the three-complaint requirement to other ordinances?

Personally, I think so—because the only thing worse than one-man rule or mob-rule would be 25,000 individuals taking turns being one-person dictators over the rest of us. And the alternative is not only allowing the city code to become a tool—or the cause of—a neighborhood dispute, but possibly allowing the city code to become the tool of a stalker.

I’m going to try to be serious about something that at first blush appears absurd: Bubba the pig.
There were in fact legitimate issues lurking in the background of what looked like a surreal comedy-drama.
The city had reportedly been trying to get rid of Bubba the pig for three years.
To the individuals who complained about the presence of the pig, code enforcement took far too long.
To the pig’s owners, the “enforcement” effort seemed like harassment.
The use of a word with multiple definitions in the Municipal Code only complicated matters.
Tweaking the code must have seemed like a good idea, but the political backlash—and the fact that Seal Beach became something of a national laughingstock—suggests the idea itself could have stood a bit of tweaking.
There are several reasons why this happened and they’re worth reviewing even though Councilwoman Ellery Deaton apparently found a compromise that ought to allow Bubba to remain in town. Confession: I’m impressed. I didn’t see where a compromise was possible. I frankly thought Bubba was headed for a ride to another town and Seal Beach was headed to an expensive courtroom battle following months of my adopted town being late-night stand-up comedy fodder. I actually didn’t mind rewriting the copy I’d prepared in advance.
So why did a single pig become the focus of so much passion?
• The original staff report said changing the definition would help code enforcement—but failed to mention that a specific code enforcement issue had dragged on for years. The city basically failed to argue its case in the court of public opinion.
• If someone considers a living creature to be their pet, expect them to fight ferociously. And expect animal lovers to charge into the fight without hesitation or thought.
• Nothing on this Earth is too silly for the news media to become obsessed with. I wish it weren’t true, but it is.
• Ever since a “man” murdered eight human beings in Seal Beach, the national and international news media has been aware of us. The e-cigarette ban put us at the center of a larger political controversy. (See my blog “A humble proposal.”) The press is going to be hyper-focused on this town for years.
• The issue first appeared on the Consent Calendar, to be voted on without council discussion. I don’t believe the council members or city staff tried to do anything underhanded—but it certainly came across that way. Maybe the Consent Calendar process needs to be refined. Maybe the council members should instead request to have items added to the Consent Calendar. Meetings would take a little longer, but the appearance of transparency might prove worth it.
• When Americans think of pigs, most of us city folk think of Arnold the pig on “Green Acres” or Wilbur from the animated film “Charlotte’s Web.” In the public’s imagination, it looked like Seal Beach officials were kicking a cute little thing in the nose.
• The fact Bubba’s “mom” has cancer added to the David-Goliath narrative and automatically cast the city in the villian’s role.
• Officials focused on the legalities, but failed to foresee the potential political implications of their actions. Repeat after me: Everything is political.
There are also remaining issues to be addressed once Seal Beach closes the book on the Bubba story.
I’ll address those issues in a future blog.

I never told him, but my father and I had a fundamental disagreement.

He believed the human race was beautiful. He maintained people were basically good.

Me, I’ve often doubted that the human race was really such a good idea.

Recently, a little girl I’ve never met did something that gave weight to my father’s side of the argument.

Weaver Elementary student and Junior Girl Scout Gwyneth Poetsch participated in the Million Misfit Sock March on Friday, Oct. 25, to stake a stand against bullying. As the Sun reported today in the Thursday, Nov. 7 issue, “She asked everyone to sport their misfit socks to celebrate what makes them different and take a stand against bullying.”

I wonder how many adults appreciate the courage this took. I guarantee you, there is at least one bully at Weaver Elementary. There is simply no group on Earth that does not have at least one of these … dreadfully flawed individuals among the members of their community.

I was born in 1961. I graduated high school in 1980. Not once in the years between those dates did I see or hear a single student speak out against bullying. When I was young, it was everyone for himself. That was what our teachers taught us.

It’s worth noting that Gwyneth Poetsch’s principal made Gwyneth’s message part of Red Ribbon Week. That’s as important, inspiring and radical a change as Gwyneth’s decision to denounce recreational cruelty. As I said, in my day the teachers made it clear that students had to solve the problem on their own.

Gwyneth Poetsch and her peers have shown me that, at least in one area, the new school kids have got it all over the old school kids. It is a sign that things are getting better.

Thank you, Gwyneth. I needed that.