Bag the Elephant and other thoughts

My Letter to the Editor was published in The Easy Reader this week!

FYI, this was originally one of my blogs in July and I decided to submit it to the papers to share my view on what's going on in the South Bay. This was printed this week in the Easy Reader and another shorter letter I wrote was published last week in the Beach Reporter.

I think the Easy Reader editors made it even better and I'm proud to have my name attached to this. Now hopefully more people will read this and realize it's time for a change.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend. Now here's my letter....

I haven't written something like this in a while, but I woke up and feel compelled to share this viewpoint in hopes maybe people will read it down here, see themselves and think maybe, just maybe we need to change... I'm referring to Manhattan Beach and those who live here. In fact all of the South Bay and especially Hermosa Beach. It deeply saddens me that when I invited a girlfriend to come down here to join me and some of my new friends for dinner one of the first things she shared with me was a girlfriend of hers who'd gone out down here five years ago was drugged and then raped in a parking lot of a bar.

Then, over lunch with my mom yesterday, when I told her I'm starting to socialize in Manhattan Beach, she said, “Well you know what they call that city don't you. Drunken Manhattan Beach.” That is so sad to me. Since when has alcohol become such a dominating force in a sleepy bedroom community that two separate people have such a bad impression of this beautiful seaside area? I grew up down here. I attended the local elementary schools, finished four years of high school and then after I left for college, not returning until now.

I don't want to come off as holier than thou or whatever because I'm not. I enjoy my mojito as much as the next person, but I want to ask those living in the South Bay to stop and think for a moment if the legacy we want to leave to generations to come is bigger than the fact this is a party town where the big focus is getting drunk.

I was surprised to learn an acquaintance mention that her daughter was turning 14 and she knew she'd have to provide alcohol at her birthday party, but she was concerned about how much to offer. Since when does serving alcohol to minors constitute a good party?

Are we going to continue to be a community that turns a blind eye and condones alcoholism for under-age children? Are we going to continue to teach our children that this is how we live - drinking all the time? Are the police going to continue to turn a blind eye to the rampant open containers on the beach during events like the 6-person volleyball tournament and events on major holidays?

It sickens me that everything else we do down here - the wonderful free outdoor summer concerts available in all the South Bay cities, the amazing fireworks displays available during the 4th of July, the creative, entrepreneurial minds and businesses that come out of here are completely overshadowed by alcohol and partying.

Maybe our International Surf Festival deserves national and international attention for the quality of our lifeguards. Maybe our art scene deserves national and international attention for the diverse, unique, art festivals. Maybe the wonderful sports associations that host numerous city-wide sports like volleyball, softball, and soccer should receive more attention.

Maybe the creative recreation department that offers such a wide variety of inexpensive activities for the community deserves attention. Maybe our multiple adult schools that are so inexpensive, yet so popular and offer such a wide array of classes, deserves attention. Or the classy Manhattan Open Tennis Tournament or the interesting accomplished people who live down here like our local newscaster, professional athletes or CEO's, or our many volunteers. What about our education system, our shopping, and of course our beautiful beaches and piers?

As a publicist interested in the image and reputation of where I grew up I don't want my hometown to be casually dismissed by guests I’ve invited to visit as, “Oh, that city? That's where you go to get drunk. You have to go visit there at least once to see the party scene and get wasted. “

I want the South Bay to be known for something other than alcohol and if it means hitting up the chambers to do publicity for them, then that's what I'll do. If it means starting a coalition of businesses, organizations, citizens, government officials, police and others interested in making a change, then I will. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

I pray my words bear fruit and sober up those of you who are using alcohol as the grease to promote your businesses, or score women (or men), or to avoid reality, or pain. Please stop. I know it's a disease, but let's not perpetuate it to future generations.

It’s time we as a community take back our beaches and our nightlife and create an environment where all are respected and protected. I’m sick of public drunkenness as a common occurrence. It’s time for a change!

We can make a difference in our community-- one activity, one business event, one story at a time.

Joy A. Kennelly

Manhattan Beach


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