MBCG Says Bay News Distorts Facts, Sensationalizes

Manhattan Beachs private security forces are hampered by economy, selfishness, and politics (Photo courtesy of davidsonscott15 via Flickr)
Source: davidsonscott15/Flickr

Manhattan Beach Community Group President Ira Zalcman published on the group’s website a screed against Courier-Life’s (Bay News) reporting of their latest meeting, which oversimplified a long, complicated division with the neighborhood’s private security force – Beachside Patrol – and threw fuel onto the supposed rivalry between the MBCG and the newer Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association. In it, Zalcman bashed the paper for misrepresenting or distorting facts, erroneous statements and sensationalism.

Zalcman writes:

Every article about Manhattan Beach in the Bay News (yournabe.com) uses violent references to compare the two differing MB groups. The Officers of the MBCG were not interviewed in last weeks article “Manhattan Beach Security Battle”. In fact MBCG went so far to have a closed door meeting the night before our open meeting to discuss security for fear that the Bay News would distort the facts. And they didn’t disappoint us.
At the open June 15th meeting the Bay News reporter was in attendance. Somehow she stated “the patrol is mishandling its financing”. That was never said. That has never been said. She even goes on to compare the two groups as the Jets and the Sharks. We, by the way, are the Sharks. We loved West Side Story especially the original play and movie but there isn’t going to be a rumble tonight.
Other facts were either plain wrong or distorted. But MBCG doesn’t have a press secretary. MBCG doesn’t have a Minister of Propaganda. MBCG has never called anyone names. But in high literary fashion, Pulitzer like writing, our young cub reporter does get a quote from the press secretary of the other group.

Whoa, that’s a pretty harsh critique. So what’s that all about, eh? Well let me tell you…

The report in question, “Manhattan Beach Security Battle, Rivals Feud Over Fake Police” by Bay News’ Alex Rush, covers the events of the June 15 meeting, which she sums up with the following:

The Manhattan Beach Community Group says it wants to create a second unarmed neighborhood security force to work alongside the 40-year-old Beachside Neighborhood Patrol, claiming that patrol is mishandling its financing — which includes a voluntary $400 per household from neighbors who want to pitch in.

Well, close, but that’s not quite what we witnessed at the June 15 meeting. That night, the MBCG’s board voted to form an exploratory committee to research neighborhood security options. They did this in the presence of Ted Kleynerman, director of the Beachside Patrol. Kleynerman has been turning heads in recent months with his attempts to give monthly reports before the group – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we’ll get to that.

The crux of the problem here, for the MBCG anyway, is that Bay News’ Rush does two things: 1) misrepresents that motion, as explained above, and 2) conflates the battle with Beachside with the battle with the so-called rival Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association.

The disagreements with Beachside are entirely different than the disagreements with the MBNA. Whereas the MBNA split off from the MBCG in 2007 due to an election dispute, Beachside was later taken independent by then-director Albert Hasson, who sought funding from both groups. Beachside had previously been a committee within the MBCG, and the civic financed their insurance to the tune of thousands of dollars a year. To hear the MBCG tell the story, Hasson took the paperwork and split without approval from the MBCG board. Without knowing where their money was going, the MBCG was uncomfortable funding the venture, and requests to access the paperwork were denied. The MBCG passed a motion requesting information from Hasson, and issued a letter to him stating that Beachside would be barred from presenting at meetings until the questions were answered to their satisfaction. The MBCG has never publicly stated that they suspected financial mismanagement.

Enter Ted Kleynerman, a Manhattan Beach resident who walked into this mess almost entirely unaware of the backstory. Hasson handed off the patrol to Kleynerman, who appears to be making a good-faith effort to improve the patrol and seek support from both groups. Kleynerman said he has answered the requested questions – but MBCG does not find his answers satisfactory. He has made several quiet attempts to have Beachside present monthly reports before the group, to no avail.

Over the last few months, however, Kleynerman has turned up the heat. Beachside leadership has been attempting various parliamentary maneuvers to turn over the existing motion, often causing the end of MBCG meetings to fall into disarray as Kleynerman, reps from MBCG, and others quibble over parliamentary process. Really, in terms of “sensational reporting,” it takes a wizard to make this stuff sound exciting to the general public, so kudos to Bay News’ Rush.

But, indeed, the parliamentary sneak attacks appear to have succeeded in at least annoying the MBCG leadership, to the point of the June 15 vote to research supplementary – or alternative – or competing – or whatever – security solutions. It was a strange move by any standard, but it’s more like saying, “I want to think about possibly making additional security provisions, perhaps… maybe,” as opposed to, “We’re going to form another patrol.” But, to be fair to the Bay News, the intent does seem to be to send a message to Beachside – that message being, “Back off, or we’ll form our own security patrol.” Such an action could be devastating to Beachside, which is already strapped for cash and nearly shuttered last year. Regardless, the MBCG’s actual motion was just to research options, not to do anything concrete – a point Zalcman made clear after the motion passed.

So that, in a nutshell, is the story of what’s been going on with the MBCG in regards to Beachside Patrol. It’s not an easy story to tell, nor a particularly exciting one. And, for clarity’s sake, let me point out that this entire report is based on what I’ve witnessed over the past two years of covering Manhattan Beach nonstop and attending almost every meeting. It’s the view of a guy with no vested interest who stands quietly in the front, recording everything – and sharing coffee and conversation with the neighbors involved. It’s also the observations of someone who doesn’t like seeing neighbors fight neighbors just so the publication can make a more entertaining story.

Which brings me to the part that alarms me, as a resident and reporter, the most: the Bay News’ subheader, “Rival Civics Feud Over Fake Police.” The rivals weren’t feuding over this issue. At least they weren’t until Rush solicited a quote from MBNA spokesperson Edmond Dweck, who called MBCG’s action “childish and selfish.” That kind of irresponsible reporting – calling up a party involved in a separate dispute, and who is unlikely to give an unbiased opinion, to comment on a motion in which they have no involvement – is how a news report can quickly exacerbate community division.

Oh, and since we’re on the topic of correcting the record when it comes to the Bay News and Alex Rush’s reporting: It’s Edmond Dweck, not Edmund. And it’s Theresa Scavo, not Teresa.