City Council Candidates Talk Top Priorities


Correction: In the Indy’s initial report, candidate Liz Bates was listed as withdrawn from the City Council race. While the city clerk has her listed as “no longer running,” she has stated that she is “still very much in the race” and would like to serve on the Council if elected.


By Allison Jarrell | LB Indy

In the final days leading up to the Nov. 6 election, the Laguna Beach Independent asked 11 Laguna Beach City Council candidates to answer the following prompt:

What issues facing Laguna Beach are most important to you? How do you plan to address those issues if elected?

The candidates’ 300-word responses are listed below. Their names are in the order they’ll appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Also on the ballot are Council incumbent Rob Zur Schmiede and realtor Liz Bates. Zur Schmiede withdrew from the race to help take care of a family member. Bates is listed as “no longer running” with the city clerk, but she has stated that she is “still very much in the race.”

Artist Jorg Dubin is a write-in candidate.


Ann Christoph

Ann Christoph

Will we look at this election as Laguna’s finest hour?

The moment when we voted to put aside the politics of discord and work together again as Lagunans did to:

Form the art colony (20s -30s)

Create Main Beach Park (1960s)

Limit building height (1970s)

Preserve the Greenbelt (1990)

With enthusiasm, not discord, we can keep building a generous, creative and beautiful community—one we will love even more.

I stand ready to lead this effort as your council member. Your vote will make the difference.

On the campaign circuit Lagunans have raised concerns: parking, traffic—especially the Laguna Canyon Road crossing light, homelessness, fire prevention and public safety, downtown business–especially the closed theater and hotel, difficulties with processing building plans, and the need to complete long-delayed city projects.

I will work on all of these, from the details involved in engaging Caltrans and managing parking, to broader policy efforts such as assuring neighboring agencies to do their part in improving regional conditions like traffic and homelessness, finishing the downtown plan that facilitates business applications, consulting with contractors, architects and staff to expedite processing, and involving citizens in the development of major projects from the beginning.

The effort to resolve and improve these problems/sources of frustration will in itself foster community and enhance our appreciation for each other and our lovely setting.

Bringing us together, and maintaining and enhancing the small town qualities we treasure about Laguna Beach are overarching goals that should guide all our efforts.

Thank you for being so engaged in the campaign process—eleven well-attended forums say a lot about our public concern and desire to be involved in our government.

I look forward to keeping that spirit going as we work together on community issues.

For more information go to


Sue Marie Connolly

Sue Marie Connolly

I am a local Laguna Beach business owner of over 30 years. My passion is for the future of this beautiful compassionate city which I have been so fortunate to call my home and place of business. With pressing issues for my beloved community rising I feel that I have the local knowledge, business acumen, and dedication to move our community forward toward solutions.

My strong business background offers experience to revise the current Design & Review board processes. Streamlining a fair and community centric perspective for this now daunting process would be a top priority.


Supporting the exemplary work the Friendship Shelter has made in its efforts to eliminate homelessness in our community is of great importance. I will wholeheartedly add my complete person to further their goals.

The Village Entrance project is vital to our tourist based economy. Moving it forward while tripling parking and adding needed restrooms is crucial for retaining both business and residents corresponding, albeit, sometimes at odds interest. A balance can be negotiated.

I support a environmentally progressive future including solar, advanced recycling efforts and Measure P.

The future of Laguna Beach is at stake and I will dedicate myself earnestly to move our beloved community forward without deference to these issues.

Thank you, Sue Marie Connolly


Lorene Laguna

Lorene Laguna

The stakes are high and thoughtful preparation is necessary to assume the duties of an elected official. My extensive record of proven leadership brings highly skilled experience from service within our community. Businesses thrive when infrastructure encourages pedestrian & multi modal public transportation experience. My background as a creative designer will help to shape the future vision of our city. My former work as a high school teacher crafted a strong foundation to serve as a patient listener, open to various viewpoints, while remaining diplomatic.

Accountability: A democracy must communicate through accountable healthy dialog. Town Hall Meetings, Q&A, will ease the frustration and disappointment since many residents feel they have no voice. Resident stakeholders must be welcomed to participate and become part of the city decision making process, before item is placed on Agenda, to prevent misguided city decisions. Unintended consequences may adversely affect entire neighborhoods and our daily quality of life.

Controlling Interest: No special interest group PAC organization, endorsing candidate(s), are remotely qualified to represent the future vision or values of Laguna Beach because NO PAC holds a majority stakeholder position of resident members. Government must become resident serving, not resident overregulating.

Term Limits for committees, commissions and City Council.

Homeless Crisis: ASL must remain open 24/7, job skills training, social programs not drop @ bus depot downtown, without purpose.

Parking, Traffic and Circulation: Smart Parking Meter Wireless Technology will decrease traffic, ease congestion and remove visual blight of parking meters. Congestion Toll Pricing represents the single most viable and sustainable approach to reducing traffic congestion on LCR and provides incentive to make transit and ride share more attractive to commuters.

Budget: Limit Capital $$ Expenditures to resident vote. Underground Main Routes, LCR & PCH, utilize Rule 20A credits. No bond debt liability. No unnecessary increase in taxes.


Sue Kempf

We all live here because Laguna, among many other things, is beautiful city. The problem is: everyone else has figured it out as well. As we look to the future, we need to adapt a bit to ensure our city functions well for our residents. For example, we could build a parking structure, tucked away from view, at ACT V. We can employ small shuttles that move people every seven minutes or so. We can aggressively promote ACT V on social media as the best place to park in Laguna. This plan would attract new businesses that residents would frequent because we have solved the current parking restrictions preventing new and interesting businesses from coming into town with the advent of the ACT V lot. And it will discourage visitors from trolling for parking, particularly in our downtown core. Let’s try to discourage vacant storefronts and keep our town vital, interesting and fun for our residents. Parking solutions are one way to achieve this goal.

There is a highly expressed desire for re-vamping the process required to modify or build a new home in Laguna. I would employ successful business practices to streamline the end-to-end process, focusing particularly on cost, time and efficiencies.

Although the City Council has recently voted unanimously to support voluntary historic preservation, the final ordinance has yet to be written and adopted. I encourage all residents to continue to monitor this issue to conclusion.

As the election season comes to a close, it is my hope and expectation that we return to civility and respect for one another. While we may differ on issues, it is my fervent belief that we all have the best interest of Laguna Beach in the forefront of our minds. Let’s figure it out together.


Cheryl Kinsman

Cheryl Kinsman

I am a certified public accountant. I’m running for City Council because I don’t like the way the taxpayers’ money is being spent. Taxpayers have to live within their means and so should the city. Our city budget is nearly $100,000,000 annually. We need to allocate money to the things that we should be doing such as public safety and infrastructure. We can do this without increasing debt or raising taxes.

The city already has an unfunded pension debt of $58,000,000 at seven percent interest. In addition, the city proposes a 30-year $130,000,000 bond to be funded by a sales tax increase. In reality, the sales tax will only cover the interest on the bond. This puts the burden on future generations. For example, my son is 24, he will be paying off this debt until he is 54.

Our aging infrastructure poses a danger to our ocean. All the sewage from Laguna Beach is transported by a 41-year-old pipeline that runs under Coast Highway to the sewage treatment plant in Dana Point. If the pipeline breaks, we have a disaster. We need to have a parallel line to divert the sewage.

Laguna has become a destination resort for the homeless. We need more boots on the ground, at least two more foot patrol officers. Also, it is time that other cities in Orange County begin taking responsibility for a fair proportion of the homeless.

I’ve done this job before. I know how to do it. There is no learning curve for me. The money that belongs to the taxpayers is entrusted to the City Council to spend wisely. I know we can do that without raising taxes and without borrowing any more money.


Judie Mancuso

Judie Mancuso

I am a 23-year resident and homeowner in Laguna Beach, and as I did in 2016, I am running for city council. Many critical issues identified then still exist today. Many have grown. They include my concerns regarding wasteful and excessive spending and ultimately the overall financial security of our city. We must reign in unnecessary spending. Public safety has become an issue in need of urgent attention; between the increase in homeless populations, transient criminal activity, and sober living homes, our city has changed immensely, and we must have adequate police and fire staff to keep us safe. With these issues and millions of visitors entering our city each year, we must make safety our top priority regardless of the time of year.

Prioritizing safety includes implementing responsible fire prevention measures. I will see to it that we have the proper resources in place. This will start with immediately allocating funds where they are most urgently needed. Residents often feel like prisoners in their own city due to traffic; this is not acceptable. We must better manage our transportation corridors and our tourism to alleviate the toll it has taken on us. I believe this can be done. Finally, I am 100% committed to ensuring that Laguna sparkles as the greenest and bluest coastal city, no more dumping in our ocean. Our ocean and open space must be protected.

I am a leader. In my 20 years in Information technology and the last 12 years in political non-profit work, I have developed a unique skill set that will lend itself to be a productive city council member starting on day one. I have the temperament and proven ability to bring all sides together to drive creative solutions that get implemented. I kindly ask for your vote on November 6th.


Allison Mathews

Allison Mathews

I was elected to the Affordable Housing Task Force by City Hall here in Laguna Beach and went undercover for two nights as a homeless person to see what was really going on at the ASL, a subsidiary of the Friendship Shelter. It was eye opening. My platform is:

  1. Affordable Housing-mandated by Governor Brown
  2. No on Measure P
  3. Traffic- parking lots, not structures, for south and north Laguna, encouraging people, especially during tourist season, to park on the fringes of town and give incentives for trolleys, shuttles and even vouchers given out by businesses for Uber and Lyft to their stores.
  4. Pro small business
  5. Homelessness-multifaceted. Check website

I think the Design Review Board and Village Laguna wheel too much power and that the City Council should be on equal footing with residents of Laguna Beach by forming a Citizens Task Force meeting with The City Council once or twice a month, not with dais and podium and buzzer, but face to face with tables, blackboard and secretary taking minutes. A good old fashion “think tank.” This helps get rid of cronyism.

Fair minded, fiscally conservative, yet Liberal to new ideas. Love of both history and progress.


Paul Merritt

Paul Merritt

Greetings Fellow Lagunans,

As I go door-to-door speaking to voters I am glad to offer my service and experience to solve problems for our beloved LAGUNA Beach. Many citizens feel a huge disconnect between folks and our current city council.

For example, Design Review is called a ”disaster” and ”41 years to plan the Village entrance project” are a few of the deep concerns often expressed by voters. We have a council that bans smoking and yet lets cars and motorcycles tear into our residential areas with reckless speed. Six years ago we had 4 traffic patrol police, now just one. Our City Council agenda is in chaos. Our merchant business is decaying with empty ventures, our artist colony of creative souls is vanishing. The current council is merely reactive. The current council has failed to get ahead of serious issues with real solutions.

This summer our Council wrote to Sacramento State government and indicated Permanent Homeless apartments could be funded inside our South Orange County area. Laguna Council has made our village a magnet for vagrants and dangerous criminals. I stood up and spoke against this bad resolution.

On a positive note, I will listen to all ideas for a better and a balanced Laguna. I want to work as a team council-member to enhance our past ”village values”; and recognize we live in a changed Orange County. I offer a new voice, and new solutions for our wonderful Laguna Beach.

Paul Merritt

Candidate 2018 Laguna City Council


Peter Blake

Peter Blake

Dear fellow resident of Laguna,

For thirty years I have been blessed to call Laguna Beach my hometown. In 1993, with a small amount of savings and a backup job at Romeo Cucina, I opened the Peter Blake Gallery. By 1995, I had re-established the historic Gallery Row. Soon after, Bill DeBilzan and I started the Art Walk which continues to engage both residents and visitors culturally to this day. In 2001 my former wife and I opened Fetneh Blake, a clothing boutique, which, like the gallery, enjoys an internationally renowned reputation for excellence.

This fall, I will ask the residents of Laguna Beach to vote on my candidacy for City Council. I am not a politician and have never aspired to hold public office. I love Laguna Beach and am requesting the privilege of serving you, my fellow residents. My priorities will be to reduce crime, restore property rights and reform the despised Design Review. I will recreate our downtown to reflect the charm and sophistication levels that we, the residents aspire to and deserve.


My website has all of my issues clearly stated, and I can always be reached on my cell at (949) 584 1224. I look forward to hearing from all of you regarding your concerns for our community.

Thank you, Peter Blake

Toni Iseman

Toni Iseman

Next year will be one of problem solving. Complex issues ahead require team work. Not just the council, but council staff, residents and developers. Decisions must be fair and beneficial to our town, respect our past, and protect our neighborhoods. Council cannot be a rubber stamp and should not be a barrier, but a place for negotiation. The Planning Commission and Design Review and thorough staff reports will give residents the opportunity to weigh in on projects. Decisions have unintended consequences. We need a calm, rational approach to make good choices.

Homeless: The Alternative Sleeping Location will remain open during the day. Our police need additional legal support to ensure that violators are prosecuted. We must have rapid response to anti-social behavior with immediate consequences.

Historic Homes: Historic designation will be the homeowner’s choice. Many will choose to be listed when benefits are explained.

Affordable Housing: Housing is not the issue. Affordability is. City land will be needed to ensure affordability for our seniors and artists.

Traffic: Refine Trolley routes to maximize efficiency. Capture cars before they enter town. Work with CALTRANS to improvement the intersection of El Toro and Laguna Canyon Road.

Our Future: This election will determine the direction of our town. Five wealthy land developers are trying control Laguna under the name Liberate Laguna. Their changes would permanently alter Laguna, increase congestion thorough out town and the Canyon. First they take control of the council, then change height limits, density and zoning. Then we have lost the Laguna we love. Their consultant usually runs statewide campaigns. Why hire Mollrich for our small town? Millions will be made while altering the soul of Laguna. Read the small print. Check at the bottom of an ad or mailer. Beware of Liberate Laguna.


Jorg Dubin

Jorg Dubin

Cultural heritage. Short term: Open up the FOA grounds to art events, concerts, dance performances, readings, film nights. Long term: Multi level parking structure at act five with affordable housing on top for artists and others.

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  1. Iseman: “I shop online at Christmas. Why? It’s easier. Make shopping in town easier and residents will shop here. Wrapped and ready to mail in town would make it easier to get over the Amazon habit.”

    Remember Iseman doesn’t support local artists and businesses. Instead she orders cheap Chinese crap for gifts. And lastly don’t forget the $45 million dollar parking structure she supported at village entrance that would have removed all the tennis courts, not exactly residents first. Toni loves development as long as she is heavily involved and donations come her way.

    It’s sad that after 20 years of control she can’t even shop downtown, obviously the village she created doesn’t even serve her needs.

  2. Toni Iseman is an awesome city council member who can always be counted on to protect Laguna Beach’s precious assets, step up to new and positive ideas and changes, while being amazingly pleasant in the process. That’s a winning combination!


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