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Could the Judge Order Trial by Combat?

By Frank Gruber

"It seems he wants to try the case in the press."

That was Council Member Ken Genser, as reported in The Lookout on Monday, speaking of lawyer Chris Harding and the press conference Harding and his partner Tom Larmore conducted last week to publicize filings their firm was making in the "Levy playhouse" litigation.

As one member of the Santa Monica press corps -- but one who has never written about the playhouse case -- I want to thank Ken Genser for acknowledging that there is a press in Santa Monica worth trying a case in.

The Pulitzer Prize board may not be sending observers to the Promenade, but the news staffs at The Lookout and all its competitors should take some pride in the fact that both the City and its discontents believe it's worth trying to manipulate them.

As for the recent sound and fury in the playhouse case, based on the rule of thumb in litigation that a party's confidence in its case is inversely proportional to the number of ancillary motions and affidavits the party files, the amount of sarcasm in its briefs, and the number of press conferences it conducts, it would seem that both sides are in trouble.

I mean, if the City were confident would it be filing motions to dismiss based on what Laurie Lieberman may have said to Ken Genser eleven years ago, or contending that one resident's suit against the City inhibits another's right to complain long after she has made her complaint?

If Chris Harding is confident I don't see why he is releasing affidavits to the press on a Friday afternoon.

Pity the judge.

* * *

Santa Monicans and Malibuans have a chance to shore up Social Security on March 5, when we can vote for Proposition U, Santa Monica College's $160 million bond issue.

Huh? What does Social Security have to do with SMC's need to upgrade its physical plant?

Social Security, contrary to general belief, is not an investment program, but instead a pay-as-we go mutual support system. Workers today pay for the retirements of pensioners, and in turn, when they retire, future workers will pay their benefits.

The whole system depends on the increasing productivity and earning power of successive generations of workers. The more productive they are, the more money they earn, and there is more money to pay benefits.

This is important to remember when considering all expenditures for education, but especially long-term investments in educational institutions, like Santa Monica College, that provide continuing education to both young people entering the work force and current workers. Aside from the intrinsic benefits of education, education increases earning power.

People who are no longer in school or who no longer have children in school sometimes believe that they are being altruistic when they pay taxes for education, but this is not true. As they approach retirement, they have a direct interest in what money younger workers make. The more money flowing into the Social Security system, the more benefits the system can pay.

There is a lot of talk in Washington about what will happen to Social Security as the baby boom generation retires. This is not the place to analyze this complex policy question, but it is safe to say that the best security for Social Security is continued investment in people.

Although no one submitted official opposition to Prop. U -- the shame would probably be too great even for the city officials who like to mutter darkly about SMC -- there is opposition on the web.

While the underlying theme of the opposition is yet more yammering about traffic (always the lowest common denominator of local political discourse), the opponents make the particularly noisome argument that Santa Monica College does not deserve our support because only a fraction of its students live in Santa Monica and Malibu.

Are we supposed to believe that Santa Monica and Malibu somehow stand alone, independent and self-sufficient when it comes to education?

While many Santa Monica students take courses at SMC, many more go outside the district for their higher educations, and many who start at SMC move on to other institutions to complete their educations. Our children benefit from investments made in other jurisdictions just as out of district students at SMC benefit from our investments in SMC.

And we all benefit from being a better educated people.

Vote Yes on Prop. U.

The views expressed in this column are those of Frank Gruber
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Lookout.
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