As my husband, Emil, did in his first column for “Common Sense,” I too would like to thank the Indy in my first column for giving us both the opportunity to discuss issues of interest to the “other side” of usually liberal Laguna. We both have different issues that we want to follow. Mine are local.
“All politics is local.” Tip O’Neill, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Reagan years, spoke these words in his first political campaign in 1935. I have always found that to be true. Perhaps it’s because in the end, people want to know how their daily lives will be affected. Perhaps it’s because as a resident, it is the one political sphere in which you could have a say. Perhaps it’s because you could actually get to know your elected officials personally. Perhaps it’s because people see that they could have an effect on the outcome of a local issue.
This is going to be a column about local politics and issues. I have many friends who are not of the same political persuasion as myself, yet we hold many values and beliefs in common. What disturbs me in the current national political climate is that we are losing the art of compromise and coming together to solve problems. Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan compromised on what they wanted but, in the end, they made it work. This is what we need to do now.
Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening in the near future nationally. But I do see that we can work together in Laguna Beach to make this a better community. I am a fiscal conservative and social liberal. I am all about letting people have the right to do what they want as long as it doesn’t harm someone else. I am all about making sure that my tax dollars are spent wisely by officials who should be asking, “If this was my money, am I spending it wisely?” The issues of transparency and accountability cut across party lines—is there really anyone who is against that for our local government?
I think for too long we have had a local government that has not had proper oversight. Did you know that as of now, there is not a qualified oversight committee on the city budget with CPAs? The Measure LL citizen’s oversight committee (which is simply a rubber stamp verifying that the city spent the LL money how they said they were going to spend it) was asked by the city manager to be the budget oversight committee with no formal approval from anyone. When citizens at that meeting asked for their qualifications, they were ignored and not responded to by the city manager. Where’s the accountability?
Dovetailing with accountability is transparency. Can someone please tell me why we still have two city undergrounding employees (an undergrounding manager at over $200,000 per year salary and benefits, and an assistant undergrounding manager at well over $100,000 per year), when Measure P was defeated? Prior to 2017, Laguna undergrounded many neighborhoods and areas of Laguna, without a single dedicated employee to that undertaking. There is no reason to have one, let alone two, full-time employees. Why does the city only post the City Council agendas on Friday (especially on the Fridays that they don’t work), giving residents only two days to get information from them? And, like what just happened when they had a Monday off, we only got part of Tuesday to get information. The city uses the consent calendar to rush through things that should be discussed, like the $48,000 to replace one Bluebird park slide, which I understand could have been obtained at half that cost. Do we really need to replace a slide when there are eight others there? We have to be constantly vigilant—I truly believe the city management is not asking the question, “If this was my money, am I spending it wisely?”
So that’s what this column will be about—exploring issues, fiscal accountability and finding common sense answers upon which residents, no matter what their political persuasion, can agree and make Laguna a resident-serving town again.
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.