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Undemocratic Meeting on Street Issue

September 06, 1989

While driving my daughter to what was anticipated to be a town hall public meeting at an elementary school, I found myself expounding to her the virtues of democracy, the Constitution and freedom in America.

I told her how she should be thankful for the opportunity to hear her councilman speak about issues that involved our community, and to see her neighbors carrying placards both for and against a road through Caballero Canyon.

Maybe it's not important in the scheme of world events, but to those who subscribe to the views of the Friends of Caballero Canyon, the building of a road threatens the immediate destruction of the local canyons and increases the possibility of having a garbage dump in their community.

A group called the Encino Hillside Traffic Safety Organization, in conjunction with the Encino Property Owners Assn., advocates the road, believing it will ease the traffic flow. They made arrangements for Councilman Marvin Braude to address this issue at Lanai Road Elementary School on Aug. 17.

Although the two groups differ on the Reseda extension, I told my daughter that our forefathers fought to preserve that very right. I was excited for her to experience the democratic process firsthand.

We arrived early in hopes of getting a good seat. Although the auditorium was mostly empty, two guards at the door stopped us from entering. They said we had to have a ticket, which only Encino residents could obtain. People were massing at the door, and those who showed driver's licenses indicating they were from Tarzana were pushed back by the so-called "guards."

The crowd became tense as the numbers kept increasing outside the door. The people were shouting that the school was a public place, the issue was of public concern, the speaker was a public official and they wanted in!

The two "guards" stood firm, grabbing and shoving both men, women and teen-agers backward. Make no mistake about it. I was there. The auditorium was still only partially filled. Only Encino residents were allowed in. Tarzana residents were excluded.

Seeing the "Friends" signs destroyed and stomped upon and watching as a whole community was systematically excluded by guards of their right to hear their elected official speak in a public forum brought memories of another time in history that I thought would never occur in the United States.

Undaunted, I held my daughter's hand and patiently waited outside the auditorium with about 150 others, all hoping that our councilman would later address us.

He left without a word.

The people silently departed.

My daughter looked up at me and said, "Daddy, was that democracy?"

GARY A. WALDMAN, Tarzana

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