Board shows lack of commitment to children

Air Pollution Control District board’s vote against Children’s Bill of Rights is shameful

June 5, 2013 

  • The 12 rights are:
    • Live in a stable, comfortable home surrounded by parents, family and other caring adults who nurture us throughout childhood.
    • Eat healthy and plentiful meals every day.
    • Have the basic for our daily lives – clothing, transportation and supplies for school, outside interests and activities.
    • Be and feel safe everywhere we go.
    • Enjoy daily physical activity and time outdoors.
    • Visit a doctor, dentist or counselor when needed to help us stay physically and mentally healthy.
    • Learn and master ideas and skills in and out of school that inspire us, help us understand and be ready for our place in the world.
    • Explore a variety of experiences that illuminate the world’s natural beauty, richness and humane creativity — arts, nature, culture, music.
    • Make and keep healthy relationships with friends.
    • Know that adults and peers listen, respect and support us as individuals while we grow our diverse backgrounds, circumstances, talents, sparks and passions.
    • Have opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways to our community by voicing our ideas, sharing in decisions and offering service to others.
    • Be encouraged to dream big, to grow through challenges and mistakes, and to always live with hope and aspiration.

Government agencies routinely approve proclamations and resolutions — so why the hysteria over the Children’s Bill of Rights? To hear the critics talk, this is some modern-day Communist Manifesto that will instantly turn children into wards of the state.

That’s ridiculous. The Children’s Bill of Rights is a list of 12 common-sense goals — not a legislative agenda.

Here are a few of the items it contains:

• Eat healthy and plentiful meals every day.

• Enjoy daily physical activity and time outdoors.

• Visit a doctor, dentist or counselor when needed to help us stay physically and mentally healthy.

• Be encouraged to dream big, to grow through challenges and mistakes, and to always live with hope and aspiration.

That’s it. There are no teeth in the document — nothing that would force parents to do anything, really.

Several local agencies — including the county Board of Supervisors, the county Health Commission and the Lucia Mar school board — already have endorsed the document, which was developed by the county’s First 5 Commission.

Yet as Supervisor Bruce Gibson describes in today’s Viewpoint, last week the Air Pollution Control District board declined to support it.

The vote came after speakers warned that the document will somehow usurp parents’ rights.

That should not have come as a surprise; similar claims were made when the Board of Supervisors discussed the document a few months ago.

At least the Board of Supervisors had the good sense to unanimously endorse the document. Yet when it came before the APCD board, two supervisors — Debbie Arnold and Frank Mecham — voted no this time. Paul Teixeira was absent, and Gibson and Adam Hill voted in favor.

Also voting no were Mayor Roberta Fonzi of Atascadero, Councilman John Hamon of Paso Robles, Mayor Debbie Peterson of Grover Beach and Councilman Ed Waage of Pismo Beach. San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx voted yes, as did Morro Bay Councilman Noah Smukler and Arroyo Grande Councilman Joe Costello.

We can see no good reason to vote against what Gibson accurately describes as a “heartfelt, if ceremonial, expression of commitment to care and advocate for the children of this county.” And please, don’t try to argue that it’s too much of a stretch for the Air Pollution Control District to take a stand on children’s rights. Clean air is fundamental to children’s health — and that is very much under the purview of the APCD.

That our elected officials would decline to stand up for children’s rights in this way is an embarrassment. We can only hope that our children show more courage, common sense and leadership when it’s their turn to make decisions.

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