While the Laguna BeachChamber of Commerce is a vital part of our community, it is notrepresentative of the majority of Laguna’s residents.In fact, the Chamber represents a small share of our total resident population.
Why is it then that the “State of the City” address is given as part of a fundraiser for the Chamber of Commerce? This may be tradition, but makes it sound as if Chamber members and their guests are more important than the rest of Laguna’s residents.For example, the city has prioritized new development projects at the top of its Strategic Projects with the support of the Chamber. I’m guessing that the majority of residents would not share fast-trackingdevelopment as the most important strategic goal of City Council.
A large number of residents feel that local government isn’t responsive to their needs.We heard from residents at past Council meetings of how they’ve become frustrated by their experiences with Design Review.There’s a perception that the city moves large development projects out of the normal planning and design review process, such as the Coast Inn project being reviewed by the City Council instead of the Planning Commission,or Mr. Honarkar’s projects beingout of the normal review process.
There’s the painful fact that the city spent millions of dollars as a result of mistakes on projects like the Llewellyn property, likely to be mirrored with the future liability from building permit approvals of the Katz project.A level playing field is made askew when former city employees or former city commissioners use their connections for the benefit of clients and themselves acting as consultants
Here’s a suggestion: “Town Hall” meetings held by elected officials to share ideas, answer questions and solicit the views of residents during hours when voters can attend.These meetings can be held at the Artist Theater or other venues at low cost.
City Council might be surprised to learn that residents of diverse political views want the same thing from Council: direct communication with residents,greater transparency,andaccountability.
It has to start with setting a level playing field, which takes allresident’s views into account instead of marginalizing them.That only contributes to the incivility we have recently seen. Let’s work to keep all residents involved and informed.It is all of ourcommunity.
George Weiss, Laguna Beach