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Shutting Down Residents’ Voices

By Michèle Monda

There are many ways to fight opposition to your point of view. At the July 23 City Council meeting, we saw the City Council and staff ignoring taxpaying residents.

The first way you shut someone down is you don’t give them time to read what you are proposing, and you do it on a summer weekend when people aren’t paying attention or are on vacation. After seven months of secretive work, Councilwoman Sue Kempf and Mayor Bob Whalen’s Fire Safety Report was posted on the city website. It was silently posted for two weeks before it was announced on the agenda that in three days the City Council would be voting on it. Residents and the other city councilmembers had three days total to analyze 123 pages. Both Councilwoman Toni Iseman and Councilman Steve Dicterow wanted more time to prioritize the items or get more details. Not that night.

Another way to shut down opposition is to trot out the “experts,” as Councilman Peter Blake has pronounced city staff to be, who I believe present their version of the facts through their prism of self-interest. In my experience with other issues, the staff takes direction from the top—how do you want the report to come out? Selective use of statistics and facts—forget if they apply to Laguna Beach. Does anyone really think we look like Paradise, a forest-locked town spread out over 18 square miles, far from neighboring towns for help, with residents who refused to leave their land? These same “experts” needed to justify why we still have on payroll two Undergrounding Managers at over $200,000 each and are adding a Defensible Space Inspector at $200,000.

To really shut down opposing voices, you can yell at them from the dais and intimidate them. One of our councilmembers has perfected that technique, calling residents liars and peppering questions and statements at them during their measly three minutes of speech. What is baffling is why the mayor doesn’t get that behavior under control, because that councilmember is out of order.

The strongest evidence at the July 23 meeting of ignoring residents was the actual agenda item itself. Backing up seven months from when the committee started working on this gets us to right after the November election when the residents resoundingly rejected Measure P (undergrounding). How to get it past the residents who clearly are wrong? Ah, we’ll call it Wildfire Mitigation, but we will still underground for free two of our councilmembers’ homes. Residents can’t vote on it because it’s done by City Council vote. And if we hold community meetings telling Bluebird Canyon residents that they don’t have to pay, and that all residents will pay for it, I’ll bet they will all come to the meeting and speak glowingly of this plan. Then we can say, see, the people are for it—these residents know what they’re talking about. But, of course, the residents who are opposed don’t know what they’re talking about. Or to quote Blake, “We have residents here who know what they’re talking about and this is the way to go.”

But by far, the boldest and most egregious way to shut someone down is to discount other councilmembers, count votes, and stop discussion. Blake, in response to Iseman saying, “[So you want] the council to just say yes?” said, “Let’s do that. There are three here. Let’s vote.” To which Iseman responded, “I think we also have to respect the public.” That didn’t happen, as the vote was ramrodded through despite reasoned objections and analysis from residents all over the political and ideological spectrum. Only the ones standing to gain from this were listened to.

What I understood from this meeting is that as long as you have three votes on the City Council, you don’t have to listen to residents. You can go through the motions of Public Comment, but in the end, just vote. This shouldn’t be how city government works. I have been insulted, called names and threatened by an elected official in an effort to silence me. I hope others haven’t had to endure that in the act of trying to get their voices heard.

Michèle Monda has lived in Laguna Beach for 15 years with her husband, Emil, and three sons. She is secretary of Laguna Beach Republicans and treasurer of Laguna Beach Sister Cities.

 

 

 

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Michelle, my heart bleeds for you! You must be devastated that you can’t run roughshod over elected officials and City Staff. Sorry that you can’t have your way on any issue you feel obliged to win. Why would anyone consider the disenfranchised residents of Laguna who for years have had to have their city’s policy dictated by politicized activists like yourself? You’re just another gadfly who shows up at every Council meeting with their self-serving agendas in hand. If anyone would know about “yelling and intimidating” it’s you! You take to the podium frothing at the mouth and start screaming disparaging comments at Council and staff. Who do you think you are? Michelle lets face it, you use your husband’s position with the Republican party as a crutch. Please, leave your antics to people who are actually intimidated by you. I’m NOT your punching bag! And yes, I get my facts from experts who actually run this city and unlike you, value the safety of the residents in this community over your purported “fiscal conservancy” Unfortunately, they don’t live a three-home compound behind gates that can afford their own fire truck if needed. They rely on me and others to make sure they’re safe when a disaster strikes.

    Looking forward to seeing you at the next Council meeting!

    Peter Blake

  2. I grew up in Chicago Politics and thought I’d seen EVERYTHING until I read P.B.’s rant against Michelle & Emil Monda. Who the hell in their right mind would berate a voting constiuent with an amalgam of misplaced theories insulting the success of a local tax-payer. A high school educated art-agent bullying a woman with a Wharton Masters? So much for the hopes we had for positive changes. No one who acts like this can be trusted to know what quality decision making is.

  3. Thanks Dorothy! This “high school educated art-agent” was getting bullied by a woman “with a Wharton Masters” and I fought back! Sorry, but I actually run a highly respected business that brings value to this community. This “voting constituent” only runs her mouth. I’ll berate anyone who chooses to write a fact-free, bullshit ridden column like the one above. You’re kidding yourself if you think getting attacked by a political operative like Michelle Monda doesn’t deserve a response back. Go back to Chicago where the friendlier politicians cower to dirty trick activists. I’m sure they “can be trusted to know what quality decision making is”

  4. “Go back where you came from.” OK sure, Trump. Did the “bullying” hurt your ego? “I’m a fantastic businessman. Run a highly respected business. I’ll fight anyone who dares to criticize me.” Just another Friday morning in Trump – I mean Blake-land.” And don’t forget to call out Village Laguna as left wing extremists and hippies who destroyed our town.

  5. The Liberate Laguna PAC of developers sure got what they paid for with Peter Blake. A bully who will verbally abuse, belittle and personally insult anyone who dares question or thwart their agenda—and a new City Council that enables him by keeping its head down. Is anyone representing the residents who live here? BTW Peter loves to call anyone who dares to speak up a “political operative.” Lol.

  6. Did I miss it or was there no denial about the covert plan to underground the wires where the officials live? That says all we need to know. #kickbacks

  7. Look who surfaced! Janine, the lying machine! Haven’t heard much from you since I won the election. Don’t worry Janine, I’ll never forget how much effort you put into making sure I didn’t get elected. In the end, the voters saw you for what you are. A nobody living in the past with no vision for the future! Keep writing your bullshit. It means nothing to me and my constituents.

    So you mean the residents of Laguna Beach that elected me got what they voted for. A Councilman that fights for them and makes sure that “political operatives” like yourself never interfere in their future. The residents of Laguna are moving forward and will not be looking back towards the past where you and others live. The little hippy town that you act like you knew and loved, ended years ago. Village Laguna is on its way to being history and people like yourself can’t believe it’s happening. For 50 years they consolidated power and now it’s finally coming to an end. So keep making your hypocritical statements and I’ll keep moving Laguna towards becoming the sophisticated, quaint and cultured town it will be without your worthless input.

    Janine, I don’t plan on wasting any time responding to you after this post. You’re yesterday’s news.

    Peter Blake

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