When I read the Pasadena Weekly’s story last week about the “feud” brewing in Altadena over who can use the town’s unofficial slogan, I was extremely disturbed.
Not about the emotion, intentions behind or details of the so-called fight, which is about a single issue involving a trademark. As a member of the community and the Altadena Town Council, I have no jurisdiction, experience, or legal opinions about trademark law, nor will I take a side. This is between the parties involved.
What bothered me about this article, and what we see way too much of in the media today, is that we did not hear from all sides. We did not hear from the people the story was about: Michael and Meredith Miller, owners of Webster’s Community Pharmacy.
Not only was this a breach of journalistic protocol, the absence of their voice in the story exposes what I believe to be the real underlying issue in this debate: The question of who deserves to be considered a respected member, and therefore a respected stakeholder, of the community.
Is someone qualified by birthright, residence or longevity? What about the landlord who owns property in town but lives, votes and shops elsewhere? Or the newcomer who rents the landlord’s house, shops locally and uses local services?
Is it a matter of investment or money? How about a resident who has a business elsewhere? Or someone who lives a few miles out of town but has spent time and money building local businesses that employ local residents and generates local sales taxes?
The truth is that they all deserve standing in the community and should be heard. And, that certainly applies to the Millers, who have contributed much to Altadena and deserve better than what they received.
I personally believe that if it weren’t for the Millers, Webster’s would have gone out of business and the entire complex would now be empty. Their investment in the pharmacy saved a local institution and prevented the spread of empty store fronts.
After the 2008 recession, I was happy to see the pharmacy not just survive but flourish. Today it employs 23 people. When a space became available next door, the Millers rented it and opened “Meredith M,” which quickly became a popular store for affordable trendy women’s apparel.
I got to know the Millers well after Meredith joined the Altadena Chamber of Commerce in 2011, where we both served on the board. She contributed much energy and enthusiasm. During her time on the board, and two years as president, many positive things happened.
Chamber membership tripled, we established relationships with many of our local elected officials and addressed Altadena-specific issues via the Power Breakfast series. We also reinstated and increased the Marion Lee Wullschlager Scholarship fund for college-bound Altadena students.
The Millers have used their store to bring the community together.
They regularly open their stores for book signings and special events. After the school shooting in Florida this year, they hosted a free “Stay Strong Parkland” event where my daughter and I, along with scores of other Altadena residents, wrote and signed letters and cards of support to the students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Then there are the Millers’ quiet deeds that few know about.
They are a soft touch for sponsorships of local teams and school events. Their pharmacy was the first commercial partner of the beautiful MonteCedro Senior Living Community on the southern edge of town.
They regularly give clothing, gifts and money to a range of local charities. On a more personal note, as I deal with my family’s health issues, they’ve been supportive professionally and personally in ways you could not imagine.
My point is the Millers are valued and respected members of the community. And just like other members of the community, they have earned the right to be heard, as well as our collective respect and, on this issue, the benefit of the community’s doubt.
Reasonable people can disagree about trademark rights. But it isn’t reasonable to minimize or demonize people with whom you disagree, especially when they have contributed so much to the public good.
Billy Malone is an Altadena Town Council member and past president of the Altadena Chamber of Commerce.