How would you check out a rumor without spreading it?

I have to be a little vague about this—which I hate—to avoid spreading a rumor I now know to be false.

We received a phone call from a reader who was unhappy that we had not reported on something that supposedly happened in our town.

I went online, working on the assumption that since we only publish once a week it was possible some other organization had scooped us. I found some similarities between the local rumor and an incident in Florida.

This is where reporting gets tricky. If you ask about something that turns out to be false, your source wonders  if you’re ignorant or irresponsible. (Either way, the sources will be reluctant to communicate with you in the future.)

But if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. So you ask.

So I emailed Marine Safety Chief Joe Bailey to ask if he could confirm what we had heard.

I noted this was a rumor in my May 18 email.

Seal Beach Police Lt. Julia Clasby replied to my Bailey email on May 19:

“The rumor you shared is nothing more than a rumor, and completely untrue.

“Seal Beach Lifeguards were conducting training on Sunday morning 5/14/23 at approximately 10am when they observed about a dozen life vests abandoned on the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station jetty.

“Notifications were made to the MCC (Maritime Communications Center). Federal Partners were contacted and handled the matter.”

I followed with an email to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Public Affairs Officer Gregg Smith. He got back to me within minutes. Smith wrote: “You are correct about the life vests washing up by themselves.  Our security personnel did not report seeing anyone associated with the life vests, either on or off Navy property.”

A parking rate increase of 25 percent a year requires a Coastal Development Permit

On Monday, May 15, I emailed Seal Beach Finance Department Director Barbra Arenado a couple of questions about parking. I’d heard an assertion about limits on parking fee increases that apparently wasn’t spot-on. I also asked if the city had done a recent study comparing beach parking fees.

On Friday, May 19, I received a reply from Seal Beach Police Capt. Nick Nicholas:

“In 1993, the Coastal Commission Executive Director issued a memo to provide guidance on when Coastal Development Permits (CDPs) are needed for parking rate increases. The substantial rate increases that would require a CDP are:

“A rate increase of 25% or more in one year

“A rate increase of 50% or more in three years

“If the rate increase is less than that, it is not considered substantial and a CDP is not needed.

The Sun will report on the parking program next week.

Women currently command LA/OC military bases

On May 18, NWS Public Affairs Officer Gregg Smith wrote: “What IS true is that all of the military bases in LA/OC currently have female commanders (Seal Beach, JFTB Los Alamitos, Coast Guard Station LA/LB, LA Space Force Base, US Army Corps of Engineers LA District).”

I heard or misunderstood this bit of intriguing trivia while attending a Seal Beach Lions Club meeting. Even when I’m off the clock, I’m thinking about work.

Opinion: Don’t let any

government grind you down

I was talking with a local man outside Javatinis on Friday, May 12.

He was complaining about the city government in general and about a City Council member in particular.

I told him to write a letter to the editor. Or to write a letter to the city.

He said the only letters the city pays attention to is one with the words “attorney at law” at the top.

Ahem. I’ve been dealing with City Hall since 2005. (If I make it to 25 years, I’m taking a week off from asking questions and filing public records requests.) It can be exhausting.

Here’s how you deal with government:

• You keep asking questions.

• And asking.

• And asking.

• Until you get an answer.

• Or as I like to say:

If a door closes, throw yourself at the door until you force it back open. You can always crawl over the threshold.