By Cassandra Reinhart, Special to the Independent
Toni Iseman has served on the Laguna Beach City Council for so long, she can’t even remember how many times she’s been mayor.
“You’ll have to call the City Clerk’s office,” Iseman said with a laugh. “I’m not sure.”
Iseman has been mayor three times: first in 2003, then 2007, and 2011. After next week’s Dec. 13 meeting, she will take on the ceremonial role for the fourth time. This is her 18th year on City Council.
“I have a list of things to accomplish. Our plate is more than full. We need to cross them off and say done,” Iseman said.
Iseman will succeed current Mayor Steve Dicterow, whose year tenure as mayor ends next week. Dicterow won re-election to a four-year term along with incumbent Bob Whalen in the November election. Laguna Beach mayors are not elected to the post, but appointed to the position by fellow council members to serve in one-year increments.
Iseman’s vision for 2017 can be summed up with this: public safety, quality of life and environmental awareness. The Indy sat down with Iseman to ask her about what lies ahead for the city in 2017 under her watch.
INDY: What is the first thing you want to tackle as mayor?
TI: “There is an incredible amount of construction going on and just from the standpoint of how that impacts a neighborhood, with the traffic, noise and air-quality issues. I am not talking about a person’s right to remodel their home; there is something else going on. For some people, Laguna is a profit center. They see an opportunity to make money to maximize a house so they can sell it. We have to take a look at the mass and scale of the approvals and how this is impacting neighborhoods. My number one priority is public safety and quality of life for residents of Laguna.”
INDY: When you talk about quality of life, what are you hearing from residents?
TI: “We welcome visitors but we want them to tread lightly. That means leaving things as they found them. Respect the beaches, the ocean, respect our open space, respect our neighborhoods by not leaving trash or blocking driveways. The sidewalks in town, there is no excuse for how they look. They look like subways of New York. They are filthy. We had a case of someone starting a bonfire to stay warm. If you consider the fire risk with something like that, you have to wonder how we can protect ourselves.
We are seeing a war on trees. What happened at the Montage is an example. I hope we put the full effort of our police department to figure out who did this. We are going to have to look at the consequence of taking down trees.”
INDY: Where will the money be spent from the passage of the bed tax hike, Measure LL?
TI: “We are grateful the community said yes to creating more revenue. Right off the top of my head is public safety issues; increasing paramedics, police officers, additional lifeguards, particularly in South Laguna. I think those are all priorities tying in with public safety. Undergrounding (power poles) is so much more expensive than LL can ever provide. We need to look at resources to offset that cost.”
INDY: What are you hearing from business owners?
Ti: “We are facing the struggle of brick and mortar vs. online shopping and we need to do all we can to support our local businesses and remind our locals to shop here. Disposable income is here, we just need to have the people shop here who live here. I challenge the residents of Laguna to get their holiday presents in town. We have so many unique things that they could be sending to their relatives in Ohio or wherever.”
INDY: This is your 18th year on the council, and fourth term as mayor. Will you run again?
TI: “At 71 I am feeling pretty blessed. I think all of us need to figure out how to best spend our time. This term will be my last. I need to pass the baton to someone who shares my values. Protecting the environment, honoring the charm and community with the historic houses, respecting trees, and putting residents first. I want to find a person to hand the baton to.”
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