Letter: Who Are You Going To Believe?


The world’s most dangerous propagandist once deluded an entire nation by stating that if you dominate the media and tell a big lie often enough, people will believe it. Well Laguna residents got a double dose of big lies last week with two more factless columns by the profiteering tag team of Billy Fried and Michael Ray.

What both fail to disclose is that they see Laguna as nothing more than a cash cow based on overtourism and overdevelopment. Fried ekes out a living renting E-bikes and paddleboards to the visiting hoards. Yes, let’s build a parking structure so we can jam more tourists into town and feed Billy’s businesses. Apparently, 6 million visitors annually just aren’t enough.

Ray, a developer, who with Cindy Shopoff (another developer of mega complexes), and local commercial property owner, Sam Goldstein, formed Liberate Laguna, a political action committee that’s “donated” over $250,000 to get its pro-tourism and pro-development city councilmembers elected—including Peter Blake and Sue Kempf.

Their vice-like grip on city government has created an autocratic regime that repeatedly belittles or ignores residents and consistently favors business profits over residents’ needs. For instance, Goldstein’s Heisler Building exceeds the 36-foot height limit and has had all 170 of its required parking spaces waived.

Ray touts his group’s great accomplishments but blatantly lies by omission. He neglects mentioning the promenade was not created for residents—it was created to increase business for downtown restaurants and bars. It was driven through City Council by Kempf and City Manager Shohreh Dupuis, with absolutely no prior resident notification, input, discussion or examination.

He doesn’t mention those “rational people” being selected for City committees are cherry-picked by the City Council and City Manager to push their pro-growth agenda. He exclaims that their all-business Downtown Specific Plan was approved by the Coastal Commission… but doesn’t say only if 22 modifications are yet to be made. Besides, the Commission’s primary focus is on tourist beach parking, not on the plan as a whole.

Lastly, he refers to himself, Shopoff and Goldstein (aka, Liberate Laguna/Laguna Forward) as non-voting emeritus board members. They’ve brought on a full-time chair to run the organization. Who’s paying her? Who’s giving her marching orders? And who’s footing the bill for the expensive fundraising and political strategy organization NEP Services that they’ve brought in to kill the Laguna Residents First’s grassroots ballot initiative that would rein in overdevelopment?

Wake up, Laguna, it’s your town to lose.

Jerome Pudwill, Laguna Beach

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  1. Thank you for your letter Jerome. It’s encouraging that a knowledgeable and tuned-in resident will take the time to inform and educate Laguna stakeholders about what’s really going on. It’s all about the money. Look no further than the Liberate Laguna Forward PAC website developed by NEP Services who provides full service political campaign management including messaging, outreach and fundraising. While they appear as grassroots – they aren’t locals for locals. They are countrywide expert influencers prepared to convince and sway voters.

    And when certain individuals get to use our local media resources like the INDY and local radio shows as their free political platforms to create and control the narrative, agenda collusion activities become obvious. Hopefully if more residents who care about our city speak up to expose it, it will help create more awareness. Thank you again.

  2. Well, after my last column entitled “Goodbye Liberate Laguna,” I was attacked by the usuals. But I will not comment on each, so let the following suffice.

    Let me see, the usuals said the downtown Promenade is NOT wildly popular? Guys, go visit it on any sunny day or non-winter night: it is jammed.

    Us Big Developers profiting off changes in Laguna? How? Sam Goldstein finished his downtown Heisler building years ago. And that is it. We ain’t doing, nor gonna do, nothing else. So hey, please retire that lie instead of repeating it ad nauseam. You’ve become boring.

    Paying/controlling Sally Ann Sheridan? That one takes the cake. Before making accusations, please do your homework and look her up on Google.

    Guys, your main complaint is that after forty years, you no longer own the joint. You lost and you continue to lose. Get used to it.


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