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TO THE EDITOR:

I would like to take a minute to address a story posted in last Wednesday’s edition of the Artesia Daily Press (6-15-16). In her article, staff writer Elizabeth Lewis reported on a regularly-scheduled meeting held by the Artesia City Council. In said meeting, a request was made by a man named Paul Lopez, owner of SuperPride Athletics, to use MLK Park for a speed and agility camp this summer for our youth.

Many people in our community know Coach Lopez because of the numerous sports teams he has coached for his own children; teams in leagues run by the City of Artesia for which he took and passed background checks. Others know him as a teacher and coach in Carlsbad that resides in Artesia, while still others know him as the owner of the semipro football team in our area. Those that might now know him likely know his wife, Nichole Lopez, owner of Eternal Youth Skin & Wellness Spa located directly across the street from City Hall. She, too, has coached sports teams in our community. Suffice it to say, Coach Lopez and his family are well-known and well-respected in our community.

I say all of that to explain my frustration with a statement made by Mayor Phil Burch when he was explaining why he did not want to grant Coach Lopez permission to host the speed and agility camps at a city-owned park. His direct quote as stated in the paper read: “If we permit this, it is allowing an individual that is unknown in this community to deal with our children, and it’s somewhat accepting this activity.” He went on to say, “And the other thing is, in our own rec center, when the employees deal with our children, they’ve gone through a background check and they have gone through a drug screening before they’re hired to deal with our children.”

As someone reading those comments, if I did not know Coach Lopez, I would assume he was somewhat of a creep that was up to no good. Perhaps that was not the mayor’s intent, but that’s certainly how it came across. I do, however, know Coach Lopez and I know that’s FAR from the case. This is a man that has put in countless hours of his own time working with youth, not for the money (because we all know teachers and volunteers don’t get paid nearly what they should), but because he cares and wants to see our children succeed. Yes, he charged a nominal fee for the speed and agility camps he requested permission to host at a city-owned park, but in all honesty, the camps are not something he is getting rich off of. It’s supplemental income for a married father of four who lives on a teacher’s salary.

Just because the mayor doesn’t know someone in our community it doesn’t mean no one else does. Perhaps if he had younger children he might know the Lopez’s better, but he doesn’t and therefore made the blanket assumption that Coach Lopez is an “outsider,” and apparently that’s a bad thing.

Secondly, Mayor Burch made mention of background checks conducted on rec center staff. As I mentioned previously, Coach Lopez did, in fact, undergo a background check a few months ago when he coached his son’s city league football team and I’m fairly certain the school system in Carlsbad probably stays up-to-date on background checks as well… Be that as it may, I’m also fairly certain that if the city had simply asked, he would have been more than willing to undergo yet another background check for use of the park.

I am not writing this letter to bash the city or the mayor – they have an obligation to do their due diligence regarding the use of the facilities funded by our tax dollars. I get that. My intent is simply to assure the community that Coach Paul Lopez is not an “outsider,” and he is certainly not a creepy man swooping in to lure our kids with a “paid speed and agility camp.” He is simply a trained coach, a devoted father and husband and an upstanding member of our community that wants to give our youth something worthwhile to do this summer. And God knows we can use more of that!

Sincerely,
Staci Guy