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Re: R. Scott Moxley and Victor Infante's "Merrill Lynch Mob: The firm's Laguna Beach project backers are paving a little piece of paradise" (The County, April 23):

Comparing the Treasure Island story with Charles Keating's antics is provocative but hardly informative. Keating went to jail. We were debating a resort, not scamming seniors. Obviously, such differences seem to be minor to you, but to me, they are well-worth noting.

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Characterizing those pushing the resort, including my supporters, as among the "most vociferous arch-conservative Republicans" in Laguna Beach is ironic. The opposition campaign used as hired guns none other than Mollrich-Forde, John Birch champions and advocates of eliminating gay teachers in the public schools. I suppose that mentioning this fact in your story would have undercut your thematic approach.

I'd hate to confuse you with more facts, but no City Council member has ever received donations from Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch and others did make independent expenditures to oust Ann Christoph from office. Under California law, such expenditures must be allocated to someone's campaign and were reported in support of certain council members-through no fault of their own and completely beyond their control. I myself received nothing from Merrill Lynch, and no related independent expenditures were made on my behalf.

Feel free to make me out to be a right-wing reactionary if that's what floats your boat. But among my supporters in 1994 and 1998 (in addition to many Republican leaders) were the Democratic Party, organized labor, the Elections Committee of the County of Orange, many members of Village Laguna, and some-but not all-of the Laguna Greenbelt leadership, whom I first met when I negotiated the Laguna Canyon purchase and ran the bond campaign. The "yes" side won because of this very sort of broad-based community support. The support was there because the project is solid and, in fact, absolutely guarantees a beautiful park that you dismissed as "fantasy."

I suppose it's easier to write loud headlines and rely on clichs than to do homework and explore the nuances of an issue that has so divided our community, including some of our most progressive local groups. As journalism, however, it's way cheesy. Shame on you.

-Paul Freeman, Laguna Beach City Council member

R. Scott Moxley responds: Last week, my colleague Matt Coker wrote about 100,000 toilet flushes of sewage that poured into the Pacific in Laguna. Freeman's letter offers powerful evidence of a likely source of this effluent. We can dismiss his arguments, which he had made in every conceivable medium and which fall into three categories-wrong, irrelevant or both. Freeman would have you believe, for example, that we styled him a "right-wing reactionary." In truth, we pointed out a rarely mentioned but enlightening fact about the councilman: though a self-professed environment-friendly Democrat, his key behind-the-scenes backers include Laguna's most vociferous arch conservatives. But the real point of our story was that Freeman posed as a guardian of the public interest in city negotiations with Merrill Lynch et al. A developer's lobbyist (for Segerstrom & Sons), Freeman surprised few of his critics when he emerged from those negotiations with a mere pimple of a public park, a bumper crop of unwanted new houses, and a humilating promise to pay the Manhattan investment firm $2.4 million in taxpayer subsidies. Some negotiator. If talks with Merrill Lynch had taken any longer, one fears Mr. Freeman would have lost his pants.


Re: Matt Coker's transcendental meditation article (A Clockwork Orange, April 30):

I am disappointed that Coker took such a tongue-in-cheek approach to transcendental meditation (TM) and its project to establish world peace. It's a new approach to solving world problems and one that-when taken seriously-has great merit. I've been practicing TM for more than 30 years and am a successful businesswoman. I have experienced depths within my mind that I would have never thought possible due to the simple TM technique. I have become more creative, balanced, happy, peaceful, energetic and fulfilled-really!

Violence is due to emotional and intellectual bankruptcy. TM allows for the natural expansion of the mind, leading to greater individual fulfillment, which eliminates the need to act out in violent, non-life-supporting ways. A world is made up of individuals, so the more people who are using their full potential, the more peaceful and successful life will be. Peaceful solutions to differences are more easily found. It does sound very simplistic, but I have seen in my life and in many, many others that TM does work. Why not give this proposition for world peace a closer look? Nothing else seems to be better at this point, does it?

-Emily Kelly, via e-mail

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