March 22, 2023
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Baltimore takes meaningful step back after night of chaos


Tragedy and redemption is a theme that runs through American history.

A new chapter has just been written in Baltimore, the place that is home to our national anthem, itself a story of survival in the face of war and invasion.

The scene of race riots in the civil war and an industrial decline that lasted for decades after World War II, Baltimore rebuilt itself on tourism that celebrated its waterfront, world class health care facilities and Camden Yards, a baseball stadium that defined its urban revitalization.

But as reported in the New Yorker and elsewhere, the gains of the 1990s have been slipping away. After a night of violence and looting that reflects tensions built up amid an explosion in gang killings and protests after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25 year old who died after he was severely injured in the custody of police, Baltimore took a deep breath.

Civic leaders effectively told their citizens to behave and exhorted parents to keep young adults under control. Police, reinforced by National Guard troops, stood firm in enforcing a curfew, but did not escalate the tension when confronted with a small number of adults who remained on the streets.

Watching on several television networks, some in the national media seemed almost disappointed that Baltimore was able to keep it together, where the people of Ferguson, Missouri had failed so utterly.

With a report on the Gray incident due to be handed to prosecutors on May 1, our hope is that Baltimore can remain calm, repair the damage that was done and not endure a long, hot summer of violence and destruction.

But after more than 200 years, the cycle of tragedy and redemption remains. Race relations, poverty and the role of police in our cities remain a vast unresolved issues.

A new dimension is the role of the media and particularly social media, which tend to push the perspective of each of us into the channel that reinforces his or her beliefs.

That makes Baltimore’s redemption even more remarkable — we will have to see whether a single night of restraint will enable the city to get fully back on its feet.

Plans for Goleta Beach County Park moved a step closer to implementation when the staff of the Coastal Commission recommended approval of making permanent upgrades to the park’s rock wall that was installed after 2004 storms.

The recommendation sets the stage for permanent approval of other upgrades to the park, which is located just east of the UC Santa Barbara campus and counts itself the busiest park in the Santa Barbara County system.

Debates over the usefulness of the rock wall or revetment had raged for nearly a decade until a 2013 environmental report, the second prepared for review by Commission staff, showed the revetment was not harmful to the environment.

Putting the debate over the Goleta Beach County Park behind it would allow  county staff to move on to other urgent issues, including coping with the severe drought. The plan comes before the Coastal Commission when it meets in Santa Barbara on May 13.