After a contentious and crowded City Council race for three open seats, incumbent Toni Iseman came out on top Tuesday night and will serve a sixth term at the dais. Joining Iseman on the Council will be gallery owner Peter Blake and former Planning Commissioner Sue Kempf.
With all 16 precincts reporting, Iseman earned 3,346 votes, or 15.2 percent of the vote. Blake came in second with 3,173 votes (14.5 percent) and Kempf came in third with 3,022 votes (13.8 percent).
The rest of the votes broke down as follows: Ann Christoph (13.2 percent), Cheryl Kinsman (12.6 percent), Judie Mancuso (8.2 percent), Rob Zur Schmiede (7.1 percent), Paul Merritt (6.4 percent), Lorene Laguna (4 percent), Sue Marie Connolly (2 percent), Elizabeth Bates (1.5 percent) and Allison Mathews (1.5 percent).
Iseman said Tuesday night that she’s grateful to have the opportunity to return to the Council, adding that there’s a lot of work to be done.
“It’s worth stepping up to the plate and doing all the work that needs to be done, because Laguna is worth all of the effort that we’re going to put into it,” Iseman said.
“I think the most important piece of work this Council will have for the next several months is trying to put Laguna back together again,” she added. “It’s been a vicious campaign, and if we don’t change the tone and tenor of the way that we handle our elections, we won’t have any decent candidates. No one in their right mind would run when they see what just happened.”
Blake said Wednesday that he’s eager to start working on the issues that motivated him to branch into politics and run for Council.
“I want action and I want to make things happen,” Blake said. “I think the voters more than gave us the mandate last night that this community is looking for change.”
Blake’s first goal is moving the city towards adopting term limits for commission appointees, especially the Design Review Board. He wants to reform the design review process and streamline the building process, but clarified that he has no intentions of changing any codes or height limits. He also wants to start addressing how Laguna handles crime and its transient population.
“We need to determine what it’s going to take to clean up Main Beach and the canyon and start to return to the quality of life and the lack of petty crime that we were accustomed to before we started to take on criminal transients from all over the country,” Blake said.
Kempf said Wednesday that she’s satisfied with the positive, message-focused campaign she ran and is looking forward to hitting the ground running by meeting with City Manager John Pietig and her fellow Council members to talk about what’s going on in town, share ideas and concerns, and find some common ground.
Kempf said that while she was campaigning, the most frequent complaints she heard were about how long it takes to remodel or build a home in Laguna Beach, and how much that process costs—not just going before the Design Review Board, but also working with the city on plans before that review process even starts.
“It’s a lot of time, and it’s a lot of money. That was one of the chief complaints that I heard from residents, so I’d like to work on that,” Kempf said. “I’m also very interested in making sure the historic ordinance remains voluntary and incentive-based.”
Other Election Results:
City’s Measure P Fails to Pass
The city’s Measure P, a 1 percent sales tax hike billed by city officials as a necessary step to bury dangerous utility lines along evacuation routes, failed to pass Tuesday night, with 53.9 percent of voters in opposition (4,659 votes), and 46.2 percent in favor (3,994 votes). The measure would have bumped Laguna Beach’s sales tax to 8.75 percent for 25 years. Opponents claimed Measure P was a money grab that would have only benefited a few residents.
Incumbents Top School Board Race
In the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board race, incumbents Carol Normandin (22.6 percent) and Dee Namba Perry (21.9 percent) were the top two vote-getters in the race for three board seats. Retired college president James Kelly earned the third spot with 21.2 percent of the vote.