Competent leadership is hard to define, but we know it when we see it. Mostly, competence means listening until you think you know what’s right, and then doing it. No abdication of duty until it’s safe to take credit or shift blame.
Last week Mayor Iseman got that phone call that tests a leader. Outside groups seeking confrontation sounded the call to battle in our town. Our mayor made an informed command decision to let freedom ring in our public common on Sunday, but on terms she defined to protect the freedom of one and all.
She did that by personally putting all concerned on notice the police would be ready to use lawful force to prevent unlawful violence. She did not hesitate, rely on a spokesman, or wait for consultants to coach her. Her calm, confident, timely and unequivocal “Don’t tread on Laguna” message went out loud and clear.
That done she called on locals to deny anyone exploiting our town for self-aggrandizing media attention a local audience. Instead of a counter demonstration in which locals would be undifferentiated from whoever might come on Sunday, our mayor put a call out for a demonstration of local character and conscience on Saturday.
Many of us became aware of anti-Semitic defamation targeting the mayor and credibly attributed to outside groups coming on Sunday. It was clear this was now about standing with our mayor and our neighbors in a defining moment for our town.
A robust but positive narrative at the Saturday gathering allowed a unifying community spirit to prevail. There were Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, left and right, and everything in between.
Hate speech is hard to define, but we know it when we hear it, from the left or the right. I heard none on Saturday. I was so proud of my town, and so proud of our mayor. She called us all to a deeper commitment to community that transcends partisan politics when it matters most.
I disagree with Toni Iseman on many issues, and I am a member of a different political party. But the office of mayor is non-partisan, and when the stakes were highest she did her duties in a nonpartisan way. I believe she is the most competent mayor we have had in a long, long time.
Finally, as a former U.S. armed forces law enforcement officer I observed police operations from a distance on Sunday. Chief Laura Farinella’s integration of LBPD with visiting law enforcement units was exemplary. Three arrests and peaceful orderly crowd dispersal; well done!
Our community is truly fortunate to have these two women serving and leading at a high standard of competence and excellence.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach