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Lightner plan worth consideration

First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner may be on the right path to finding a way to solve the seal dilemma. And she’s right on the money when she says in a new memo that “the problem the city has at the Children’s Pool is not a seal problem. It is a people problem.”

She noted on Monday that police have never had a report of a seal being hurt, but there have been incidents of people “hurt by other people.” Yet since the new state law took effect, the number of reported incidents has dropped and there’s been a “difference in behavior,” she said.

Lightner cites the costs of litigation and police enforcement and says she wants to find a way to “do no harm to our city” that will also have the best chance of “gaining widespread support ... in the community most affected by this issue.”

On Monday, when the council’s natural resources committee holds a second hearing on how to manage the seals, she’ll get a chance to argue for a 90-day window to air a plan in the community and with city staff that does two things:

  • Seeks private funding for a ranger or lifeguard to patrol the Children’s Pool, working in consultation with police and lifeguards, and
  • Sets up a volunteer docent program under parks and rec or lifeguard auspices that would “enlist civic-minded citizens to inform and instruct the public on the city’s joint-use policy.”

The council panel will also get a look at a report from the city attorney’s office about five options for changing the status at Casa Beach. It concludes that “any change to the current use would be subject to further discretionary approvals and environmental review.”
What it doesn’t say is that more lawsuits would likely follow.

While the idea of more studies and more debate seems as if we’re just pushing the problem out of our way again, Lightner’s expressed desire not to create unneeded rules when the pupping season rope is already part of the process and when the council’s 2004 policy of joint use is in place makes a lot of sense.

Let’s hope the two sides and her council colleagues can take a deep breath and discuss her proposals without screaming at each other.