I read with great interest last week’s letter by Village Laguna board member Cindalee Penney-Hall comparing me to Stalin for pointing out gross irregularities in the voting process for the Design Review Board (“Academic Interference,” Letters, Nov. 5). The letter is an important political document because it reveals three basic truths that every city resident who embraces moderate politics needs to understand.
First, Penney-Hall finally expresses what has thus far been unspoken: It is the official policy of Village Laguna to prevent architects and other design professionals from serving on the Design Review Board. In taking this position, Village Laguna clearly reveals its extreme nature. Anyone familiar with this design review process knows that it is a critical part of the fabric of our city. Given the complexity of proper design review, having one or more design professionals on the DRB greatly enhances the process.
Second, in leaping to the defense of Verna Rollinger’s vote-rigging, Penney-Hall likewise reveals the political control Village Laguna has over a City Council member they often boast “they elected.” Memo to Village Laguna: Laguna Beach voters like their council members to be independent and to serve the broad interests of the city, not special-interest groups. With Rollinger up for reelection in 2012, it’s useful for voters to know that she has aligned yourself with a group that is neither left or right of center but simply far out of the mainstream.
Third, when anyone has to resort to the Stalin card, clearly they feel they cannot win the argument on its merits. The fact remains that by refusing to follow the direction of the mayor in her voting for DRB, Verna Rollinger strategically gamed the system and thereby did harm to the process, and no amount of red-baiting by Penney-Hall can alter that fact.
The one thing that Penney-Hall and I agree on is that the DRB voting process needs to be clarified by the City Council. Right now, current rules allow groups like Village Laguna to exert undue influence on the process through vote rigging conducted by council members they help reelect.
We deserve better in a city like this. So does every applicant that comes before the Design Review Board and gets judged not by the city zoning and building codes but rather by the arbitrary and capricious extreme views of Village Laguna-sanctioned board members. It’s time for the City Council and city attorney to clean this up, not perpetuate it through flawed elections.