Save Hueneme lifeguards

Hueneme almost lost its lifeguards on Monday, March 21. If not for a packed council chamber and massive public opposition, the city of Port Hueneme would have ended its lifeguard program. With only a 72-hour notice and no input from the community, the city recommended eliminating its program, which has rescued thousands of lives over the years.

Port Hueneme’s magnificent beach keeps a secret from most everyone. That secret is that just below the surface of its ideal Southern California vibe lies a very dangerous stretch of ocean. Its south-by-southwest-facing beach is a magnet for powerful southern hemisphere swells. These long-period swells often lure inexperienced swimmers into the calm-appearing conditions where they soon find themselves staring up the face of huge waves barreling toward them. It is also a direct bull’s-eye for powerful hurricane swells originating off the coast of Baja California. Many of us remember Hurricane Marie that damaged the Hueneme pier with 15-foot waves, as an example.

The only people willing to stand (or swim for that matter) between these dangerous conditions and the public at large are a dedicated group of men and women who proudly wear the Port Hueneme Lifeguard uniform for little pay and nearly no recognition of their efforts.

A quick look at the United States Lifesaving Association’s (USLA) website shows statistics for this agency. Last year alone, Port Hueneme Lifeguards rescued 239 people from the ocean, 239 people whose lives were saved. In fact, there has never been a drowning while lifeguards were on duty in Port Hueneme since the agency’s inception in 1968. Never! Now, in 2016, the city wants to leave the lives of those who recreate on Hueneme’s beach to fate, in the hopes that “no lifeguard on duty” signs will be enough to prevent a catastrophe.

The USLA and the Centers for Disease Control state that the chances of drowning at a beach protected by lifeguards is 1 in 18 million. They go on to further state that the economic impact to a community that suffers a drowning in the ocean is a staggering $2.7 million (http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/lifeguard.html). The leadership in Hueneme was choosing to gamble with millions of dollars in economic loss to save $170,000now. It just does not add up. This is, of course, only taken into consideration long after the emotional toll to the families and friends of those who have drowned has been calculated, a sum that can never be measured.

An argument has been made that the liability exposure for the city of Port Hueneme would be reduced if lifeguards were not present and warning signs were placed on the beach instead. Nothing could be further from the truth. The California legislature put that issue to rest years ago, which can be seen at California Government Code 832.21 (a) (www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=gov&group=00001-01000&file=830-831.8). Public entities have no more liability exposure with lifeguards present on their beaches than without. The only question the city should be asking is whether or not it has an ethical obligation to provide a minimum level of safety for a beach under its jurisdiction where people are encouraged to recreate. Any reasonable person would answer that question with a simple “yes.”

A good community is a safe community. Only a staff of professionally trained lifeguards can mitigate the risks of Port Hueneme’s beach and keep people there safe. The statistics prove this. I am looking forward once again to taking my family to the beach in Port Hueneme, as long as there are lifeguards when I get there.

Dan Nahmias
Concerned Ventura County Resident

The anger and ego

I would like to share my concern on the presidential race underway and the role that ego and anger are playing. I hope to do so while avoiding commenting on the character or faith of any of the candidates.

I will caution on embracing and encouraging and multiplying anger. Especially under the impression that this is righteous anger.

Righteous anger does exist. Per Wikipedia — Righteous anger is typically a reactive emotion of anger over mistreatment, insult or malice. It is akin to what is called the sense of injustice.

Still, I think back over my own life. On times when I myself was filled with what I imagined was righteous anger — and then, upon further reflection discovering, in some instances, that anger was manifested in my own ego and prejudices.

I will pose the question — do we have a much huger problem? Does what we see happening mirror present-day America? Perhaps we should take this as a wake-up call — a canary in the coal mine moment — and respond by better reflecting the sacredness of others, besides oneself. Perhaps we can take a cue from the lyrics to the Tim McGraw song, “Always be humble and kind.” As an individual or as a nation, we cannot possibly be great without first being humble. While I am not capable of altering the anger and ego that exist in the presidential campaign, I can, in my daily actions, let others know, be they neighbors or co-workers or family or strangers or the person taking my morning coffee order, that their lives are sacred and precious.

John Sanders Jones
Ventura