Mayor Asks for Civility at State of the City

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By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent

Mayor Bob Whalen expressed his concern about the lack of civility exhibited at recent City Council meetings, speaking to about 220 people during the 2019 State of the City luncheon, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at the Montage Laguna Beach resort on May 2.

Whalen added that nobody should feel attacked or intimidated for sharing their opinions in the City Council chambers. As the person in charge of Council meetings, Whalen said he tries to prevent this and plans to redouble his efforts. 

“I’m concerned about what I see as the unprecedented nature of personal attacks by some to embarrass or intimidate either an elected official or members of the public who don’t share their particular point of view,” he said. “In my opinion, we spend too much time attacking one another and not enough time attacking our issues and problems in town. I believe we can do better.”

City Manager John Pietig recently told the City Council that Laguna Beach is seeing more interest in development than any other time since the construction of the Montage resort. With pro-development and anti-development activists gearing up for a fight, Whalen urged residents to get the facts on upcoming applications and have an open debate that is appropriate and smart for the community.

“This is not an all or nothing choice, it’s about finding the right mix,” he said.

In the coming year, Whalen is optimistic that working with elected partners at the county, state, and federal level will be fruitful on issues important to residents.

For example, State Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) introduced S.B. 584, which would require utility companies to fund a program by July 2020 that would share 50 percent of the cost to underground utility lines. Local government would be responsible for 35 percent and state agencies would fund the remaining 15 percent.

Laguna Beach is also seeking funds to clear more overgrown vegetation near residential neighborhoods to limit the risk from wildfires and new legislation that would allow cities to regulate sober living homes.

Police Chief Laura Farinella also gave a short presentation on the state of public safety in Laguna Bach, saying the city continues to experience record-low violent and property crimes. She attributes this partially to the addition of full-time beach patrol officers at Main Beach and the police information booth manned during weekends at Heisler Park. Within the last year, the department has also hired a full-time school resource officer and jailer.

“I’ve also been given the ability to over-hire personnel so when people retire through natural attrition, we’re not filling a need a when those people walk out the door, we already have those people in place,” Farinella said.

Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Works Shohreh Dupuis also updated attendees about the city’s plans to improve traffic flow in downtown Laguna Beach. Among these projects is the conversion of Ocean Avenue to a one-way street between South Coast Highway and Beach Street. The city has also been preparing to install pedestrian scrambles to allow people to simultaneously cross South Coast Highway in different directions at Forest and Laguna avenues.

After consulting with the Laguna College of Art and Design, city staffers also plan to install a new traffic signal on Laguna Canyon Road within one to two years to allow students and staff to cross safely. Dupuis said the existing pedestrian crossing light has unintentionally created confusion for some drivers.

In addition, to improve the reliability of the trolley tracker smartphone app, city staffers recently added a new GPS system to its fleet of trolleys that’s generally accurate within two to three seconds, Dupuis said.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Republicans and Democrats in LB Share a Common Enemy

    Yes, too many of those who are in charge enjoy that power at your expense…

    What seems to be happening, and happening for some time, with our local politics, is in fact what has been happening for a long time with our national politics. And on both playing fields it seems things are at last being exposed.

    The ruling elites are now and have always been opposed to a government by the people, for the people. And the people are becoming restless and angry.

    The ruling elites would love nothing more than to see us turn on each other, rather than to band together and petition the “leaders” with our grievances.

    Why else would the Toni Iseman crowd hold a “by invitation only” summit to discuss conservation and exclude the minority political party? And was that summit really about what it was about – or was it a big show to throw as much support behind Bob Whalen and Toni Iseman?

    Conservatives and Liberals and all other reasonable people within that spectrum wish for and are demanding the same thing. We demand that those whom we elect reflect and fight for our interests, above their own or the shady figures who back them.

    We share a common enemy and that enemy is coming at us from within, pretending to be one of us. But they are in fact a far cry from that. They will always look out for their own and do so at our expense.

    The majority of the residents of Laguna Beach are good, kind and reasonable people. But the same cannot be said for many members of our elected governing body. And perhaps even more distressing are those nameless and faceless figures who operate from within un-elected governing bodies.

    The marco and the micro are nearly one in the same. Our community is in many ways a microcosm of America, at this point in history. And maybe it is indeed true that all politics is local. Therefore we must band together locally and force certain robber barons who claim to be our voice in government to be loyal to the will of the people, or else be replaced.

    The time for a shake up is long past due. As Republicans and Democrats and Independents, we should be looking for ways to build bridges – without the arrogant “adult supervision” of those who see us only as their useful idiots.

    The money that is wasted is your money. The resources mis-managed are your resources. And the future squandered is your future and the future of your children and grandchildren.

    The time has come to find the courage and the will to call our enemies by their name – and then to replace their names with those who truly represent us – all of us.

  2. And the precious resource that is and always has been, Laguna Beach, will be lost if this kind of erratic thinking takes root.

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