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Dubious Distinctions

December 30, 2002

JANUARY

Costa Mesa is the first city to have a library with no books. The

Orange County Public Library opened its pilot technological branch in

a small city shopping center just blocks away from South Coast Plaza.

The small venue lacks aisles of bookshelves. Instead, it has tables

full of computers.

Newport Beach's most wanted: They are legged and dangerous -- to

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paved surfaces, planters, benches and railings. Their weapon of

choice is a piece of timber fixed firmly on four wheels. The Newport

Beach City Council has launched a battle to save the city from these

outlaws and the damage they bring. Council members voted to further

restrict skateboarding from city parks, saying the popular sport was

destructive and attracted miscreants.

It's bad enough that residents have to pay for TV reception that

is supposed to be free, but when they can't get through to cable

representatives about poor reception, it adds insult to injury. AT&T

Broadband came under increased scrutiny when Costa Mesa officials

gave them an ultimatum: provide some customer service or start

looking for another contract.

Corona del Mar claimed the title of booby headquarters, but not

for the reasons one might suppose. A rare bird from the Galapagos

Island, the masked booby, limped onto the Corona del Mar coast with a

fishing hook in her stomach. The blue-footed booby enjoys long

plunges from 40 feet and is fond of flying fish and small squid.

FEBRUARY

Controversial teaching methods brought Orange Coast College

political science professor Ken Hearlson back in the limelight after

a colleague nominated him for teacher of the year. Hearlson had

survived the flurry of media scrutiny surrounding his alleged

harassment of Muslim students after the infamous Sept. 11 attacks,

only to have the controversy revived by being named a nominee for

Faculty Member of the Year Award. Fellow professor Susan Smith said

she suggested Hearlson for the award because it brought the issue of

academic freedom to the forefront.

Newport Beach officials were harder on themselves than

environmental regulators when they realized the city sewage treatment

practices were out of step with federal law. City officials

apologized profusely and worried that the 12-year impropriety of

sending sewage to local landfills without testing for heavy metals

would tarnish their otherwise spectacular environmental record. Local

environmentalists were forgiving and said the city's prompt action to

correct its mistake fell in line with the city's environment-friendly

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