Letters to the Editor 1/15/99

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I enjoy reporting with a 'tude, which is why I read your rag, but a 'tude doesn't become reporting just because you mix in a couple of new facts and slam the reporter who got there first. So my take on R. Scott Moxley's “Newport City Haul” (Feature, Jan. 8) is: (1) amusing and (2) wrong. How can I tell? Because it took the Newport Beach City Council two full weeks to discover that a bare majority of the board was in favor of dropping the [city manager]. If what Moxley suggests-Murphy cooked up a deal with greedy developers to throw Newport a nickel now and then from the pots of money said developers were going to make off the city's bayfront dirt-was even close to true, it wouldn't have been two weeks, and it wouldn't have been a split vote. The council would have called an emergency closed session the next afternoon and fired him outright on a 7-0 vote with about four minutes of deliberation. There would have been no resignation option. They would have just thrown the sorry SOB under the first passing bus. Indictments would have followed.

[Daily Pilot reporter] Jenifer Ragland's version is persuasive because it reads exactly like a confidence-busting, tell-all piece of the sort that reporters write when they want to spill the beans but have promised their sources they won't. You guys know full well (though most of your readers don't) that a traditional way to violate confidences in reporting is to wait a decent period of time and then write an overview piece in which, via quasi-logical extrapolation from a few known or likely facts, you come to conclusions that are-mirabile dictu-identical to what you have been told under the rose.

So here's the upshot: the Lido Marina deal may have been contributory to Murphy's departure, but it wasn't by a long shot the sole reason for it. It would pay to remember the old distinction between necessary and sufficient condition.

Yours for better ink,
-David Wilson
Laguna Beach

R. Scott Moxley responds: On Nov. 21, Daily Pilot editor Bill Lobdell described his paper's investigative strategy on the Murphy story this way: “we waited and hoped”-and ultimately concluded (with the Newport Beach business establishment) that there was “no good reason” for the city manager's forced resignation. Our investigation (in which we had no compromising loyalties) reached a far different conclusion. Despite Wilson's claim to the contrary, this is what we said: “What role the proposed lease played in his departure remains unclear. . . . But for all those citizens who were wondering if their council had had a good reason to dump Murphy, the [proposed sweetheart deal between Murphy and a developer at Lido Marina Village] suggests the answer is an unqualified yes.” Wilson's entire letter of unsupported assertions built on a bedrock of hunch is best characterized by his admission that he found the Pilot's version of the scandal “persuasive” because it was a “quasi-logical extrapolation from a few known or likely facts.” “Quasi-logical extrapolation”? “Likely facts”? That's funny.


Your article on Marvin Chavez (“Man of the Year,” Jan. 1) didn't mention that David Herrick has sat in custody for two and a half years and still sits in prison today for “aiding and abetting” Chavez in providing marijuana to the seriously ill. Herrick also refused to take a deal. His case is currently under appeal, with the attorney general's response due this month. Supporters are urged to write to Attorney General Bill Lockyer (P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550), asking him to review the case (#G023837) and instruct his office to reflect his stated intention to follow the will of the people in implementing Proposition 215.

-Ellen Komp
215 Reporter
Grover Beach


We're glad Joel Beers regarded our production of The Last Session as “powerful and entertaining” and that he appreciated the risk we took in producing it. However, in his year-end summary (“The Year in Floodlights and Grease Paint,” Jan. 1), he stated that we “intentionally downplayed the AIDS angle in advertising and promotion because [we] feared alienating the white-haired core audience.” This is just not true.

Our spring-season subscription promotions included mention of the AIDS theme (and it didn't hurt sales, since subscriptions are up this season). However, when the writers saw this, they urged us to discontinue doing so because they felt the play's multiple themes were more universal than just AIDS. You really can't blame artists for not wanting their work pigeonholed in any category-no less one that might limit its audience reach. We complied, but only in part: we continued mentioning the AIDS theme in the ads we placed in Southern California gay publications. We also worked closely with AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County in promoting the show and educating the Laguna Playhouse audience about the AIDS epidemic locally.


Since we encouraged the media to focus on the composer's own narrow escape from death by AIDS in all the advance publicity for the show, one can hardly say (as Beers did) that we “soft-pedaled” the show's content. Moreover, a religion piece by Hieu Tran Phan in The Orange County Register about The Last Session focused on the compatibility of homosexuality and Christianity -a key theme in the play. That piece prompted some letters, as the issue of whether or not you can be gay and a good Christian is more controversial as a theatrical subject matter than whether the main character has AIDS.

Our audience embraced the show; The Last Session received a joyous standing ovation at every one of its 31 performances here-unprecedented in the history of the Laguna Playhouse. So, perhaps our theatergoers are a little more hip than Beers gives us credit for. We're extremely pleased that The Last Session received significant enough positive attention from critics like Beers and from audiences that we were able to assist in its transfer to the Tiffany Theatre in Los Angeles, where it is now playing.

-Richard Stein
Executive Director
The Laguna Playhouse

Joel Beers responds: Based on the fact that the show played to 87 percent capacity-not bad at all but much less than some recent productions that were much inferior-I'd argue that OC still ain't West Hollywood, or even west Pacoima, which was the real point of the piece. In fact, perhaps keeping the AIDS angle in the mainstream ads might have generated more audience excitement. Of course, said audiences would have been blood-crazed, Bible-thumping fundies armed with school district reading lists and pipe bombs, but hey, that's entertainment.


A few weeks ago, you ran an article ripping the Orange County Transportation Authority's (OCTA) light-rail planning efforts (Jon Hall's “The Warm Fuzzies,” Dec. 11) and since have included another jab at them in your year-end issue (Matt Coker's “1998: The Year of Living Undangerously,” Jan. 1). In your effort to slam any OC government entity you can, you have decided to side with a group whose sole effort is to PAVE the entire county! The so-called Drivers for Highway Safety (DHS) is a group of Libertarians who not only loathe urban rail projects but also hate any transportation-planning measure that does not include widening freeways while removing all carpool lanes.

At an OCTA board meeting I attended in August regarding plans to put carpool lanes on the Garden Grove Freeway, one DHS member closed his spiteful remarks with wishing for Beach Boulevard to be turned into a FREEWAY.

The OC Weekly turning to DHS to attack a common foe reeks of the Hitler-Stalin pact!

-John Koos


So how come every time I open your otherwise excellent OC Weekly, I'm inundated with a bunch of self-serving, tedious, teenage drivel from that dope Commie Girl? The poor woman has nothing to say of any real interest to anyone, so we are treated to a bunch of meaningless verbiage about her pathetic social life.

Why? Can't you find anyone to cover the OC social scene who can at least make it sound interesting? Anyone from outside OC who reads her stuff would be fully convinced that Orange County is so boring that the only place to go for a good time is Disneyland.

-Jeanne Edwards
Rancho Santa Margarita
The editors respond: The answers to your questions, in order, are: 1) market research shows that 87.2 percent of our readers LOVE self-serving, tedious, teenage drivel; 2) “Would you please treat us to a bunch of meaningless verbiage about a young, attractive, intelligent Bolshevik's pathetic social life?” was the No. 1 request from participants of several focus groups we held before launching Commie Girl; and 3) yes, we did.


In “No Free Ride” (The County, Jan. 8), the wrong name was given for the Superior Court judge who threw out Jim Toledano's case against the Transportation Corridor Agencies. It was Judge William F. McDonald who handled the case.

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