The LookOut Letters to the Editor
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Protect Women, not Decorations and Tipping the Balance on JJ

November 16, 2002

Dear Editor,

Your recent article "Protecting Winter" (11 November 2002) informed your readers that the Bayside District plans to pay $25,500 to hire unarmed "monitors" to "dissuade vandalism" against holiday decorations and to "lend comfort to the shoppers" on the Third Street Promenade.

The news last night (Friday 15 November 2002) featured a story on areas in Los Angeles where there is a history of a high incidence of rape and other sexual assault. Among the areas featured in the story was the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade, where the sexual assault rate is up 36 percent from last year.

It seems to me that the money proposed to "monitor" holiday decorations might be better spent actually protecting women employees and shoppers from sexual assault, or in making available to these women useful information and training in what they can do to protect themselves and to avoid attacks.

It is difficult to believe that an unarmed "decorations monitor" will be much use in making women and children safe on the Promenade during the holiday season or at any other time.

Polly Benson-Brown
Santa Monica

November 15, 2002

Dear Editor.

I don't think you should necessarily dismiss Seth Jacobsen's extending of an olive branch to the living wage forces, as you did in your post-election column (WHAT I SAY: "Happy in the Aggregate," November 11).

Hotels and restaurants don't dislike their employees, and would like to see them do better -- that's why the smart employers offer ESL and other programs for self-improvement.

The killer flaw in JJ was the blanket spreading of the ordinance to tipped employees as well as hourly. It makes much more sense to have a service charge collected on every check, and re-distribute it back to the employees more equitably. Chez Panisse in Berkeley has been doing this for almost 20 years, and they have the highest-paid chefs in the country.

When I was a cook in Berkeley, I made $75 for a shift in which a waiter (who came in three hours after I did) would get $400-700 for the same meal. I would argue that my preparing fantastic food quickly was a prime component of their being able to make so much money.

Now, if you propose to SERVERS that their wages go from $100 or more per hour to, say $30, they will go nuts. At Chez Panisse they all quit, but replacements were easily found.

It has to be handled carefully. In Europe the service charge is routinely included, but, then again, Europe is synonymous with horrendous service -- there is no financial consequence to being a slow or incompetent waiter. I believe that an owner and manager needs to have
total discretion to dismiss employees who are rude to guests and come to treat their jobs as an entitlement -- you know, like union employees.

Trashing the independent owners of Santa Monica restaurants isn't helpful. (Pollin claimed that 36 jobs would be lost -- what a ridiculous thing to say, as if such precision were even possible! Teasers has already closed, and Paragon Restaurants just passed on leasing a space in the living wage death zone-- that's many more than 100 jobs right there.)

Margins are thinner in the food business than Santa Monicans seem to assume, and Pollin passed up the chance to estimate the effect on PROFITS, even though he works at UMass, which has an excellent Hotel School, which could have explained cost margins to him.

Michael Sieverts
Santa Monica

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