As a third-generation resident of Laguna Beach with a five-generation family history in local government and public schools, I’ve been an active stakeholder in important and sometimes controversial civic affairs in our hometown.
But no one ever threatened to criminalize my sincere, if sometimes imperfect, civic activism.
It was controversial—especially for some Republican friends—when I supported then-liberal Democrat mayor Toni Iseman’s strong law and order leadership, preventing outside political extremists—left or right—from making our town a battleground for political mobs.
My grandmother planted shade trees around her cottage here in the 1930s, and we always chose trees over air conditioners. That didn’t inoculate me from controversy for supporting the quixotic endeavors of Larry Nokes to craft a more neighbor-friendly ordinance protecting views from unwanted encroachment.
In 1968, Jim Dilley appointed me youth representative on the original Greenbelt committee, a radical, even controversial, idea at the time. Forty-four years later, I helped defeat the City Hall-favored 2012 parcel tax ballot initiative for city acquired “open space” in residential neighborhoods, which Dilley would have opposed.
There has been some discrimination and retaliation typical of small-town politics, but city and school district officials never resorted to threatening me with prosecution for crimes against public order.
Property rights and public safety crusader Peter Blake has not been so lucky. After local political action networks accused popularly-elected Councilman Blake of a criminal violation under the state’s open meetings law, the City Attorney issued a gratuitous legal memo on City Council compliance with the “Brown Act.”
Only when challenged by the press did the City Attorney concede Blake clearly hadn’t violated the law. This was a public shaming stunt to appease local political special interests opposing Blake that backfired.
The inconvenient truth is Blake’s doing what he promised voters—opposing policies failing to sustain order in the public commons, putting Laguna at risk of becoming another Venice Beach (as graphically described in a recent Hollywood Reporter story).
Blake also represents those who believe City Hall intentionally makes homebuilding costlier and more time-consuming as a selectively applied de facto restraint on development arbitrarily denying property rights.
Whether one agrees with Blake is not the point. He’s part of the diversity and pluralism Laguna has always tolerated.
Without criminalizing the message or demonizing the messenger, let votes by the Council decide issues, and let the Council answer to the voters.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach