Musings on the Coast: Thoughts on the Elections 


By Michael Ray

Since the Great Depression, there have only been a few elections in which the political party that won the Presidential election did not face calamity in the ensuing biennial elections. The election last Tuesday was one of them. Despite predictions of a Red Wave, the Dems kept power in the U.S. Senate and may have kept a majority in the House. By the time this column appears, we will know about the House.

I think it is because Americans got plain tired of rock-hard division, politicians openly lying, and, most important, brutish behavior.

The same can be said of the Laguna Beach elections in which incumbent Peter Blake was soundly spanked. Blake never lied, but his loud rhetoric became intolerable. I write this even though he is a great friend, who I supported both in 2018 and this year. After the election, he said he felt relieved. He has a temper, and once he gets going, it is not pretty. It has cost him too many friends. Further, his major goals going into 2018 had been accomplished: clearing our beaches and streets of “criminal transients;” creating a new and business-friendly Downtown Specific Plan; and through a variety of means too long for this column, preserving private property rights for homeowners. Major kudos for all that. Major.

As for the anti-do-anything measure Proposition Q, it took a huge beating, losing 64 percent to 36 percent.

The major players opposing Q were hotelier Mo Honakar, and a committee put together by local property owner Joe Hanauer. Mo’s campaign was generic. Joe’s campaign featured short videos of small business owners stating Q would destroy their futures. In my opinion, neither spoke to the wants of regular citizens; for example, if Q had passed, both the Promenade and outdoor dining would be toast.

Whatever, Q lost.

The “NO” result also was a major setback for Village Laguna (VL), a PAC that helped create it and was the major support behind it. Having lost their City Council majority in 2018 and failing to reclaim it in the 2020 election, Q was VL’s last-ditch measure to bypass the City Council instead. VL’s campaign appealed directly to voters by claiming big developers want to take over and destroy the city. That this was nonsense did not matter. It sounded good and was easy to explain.

This also puts into question whether VL has so lost touch with residents that its primary political reason for existence, to fight anything new, may have had some currency in the past, but that past is past.

Joe Hanauer is a mild-mannered guy, but in a statement quoted by this newspaper, he said a “NO” vote on Q” is a no vote for holding Laguna hostage to the past, a no vote on nasty electioneering, and a no vote on Village Laguna if it continues as a barrier to progress.”

For a mild-mannered guy, damn harsh.

So, Village Laguna, what now?

Of the new City Council, I support Bob Whalen, Sue Kempf, and Alex Rounaghi. With Blake gone, Councilman George Weiss becomes the Council clown. Let me correct that; Blake was never a clown. He was an incendiary. Weiss is a plain clown. I don’t have an opinion on Mark Orgill because he is a political cipher. He was against Q, but was supported by Village Laguna. Hm. I don’t know what that means, and in the election, Mark didn’t clarify himself.

There you have it. Whether you agree or disagree, write a Letter to the Editor. The more, the merrier.

Michael is a Laguna Beach resident and principal officer emeritus of Laguna Forward PAC

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  1. Thanks Mr. Ray for on your insights on this recent election. I sat thru last Tuesday’s City Council meeting that lasted 7 hours & 22 minutes! The last item on the agenda was the appeal to the City’s approval of house at 337 Hawthorne Road! 1 hour and 42 minutes on just this one item. I jotted down on my note pad 3-2 against the appeal when it was initially announced. Everyone who was awake & paying attention already knew the result, and that a CEQA LAWSUIT was the next step !
    Just like the Kirby’s Hawthorne Road approved remodel!
    As I sat there and watched this waste of City resources, I had an epiphany: Let’s get an initiative that’s just one paragraph long stating that only properties that are eligible for either the National or State Register are automatically deemed a “ historic resources” . All others have to apply to the City to be considered a historic resource! Using CEQA to restrict property rights is the latest weapon of the Historic Preservation Coalition . This group was created by Preserve Orange County, VILLAGE LAGUNA and others to filed these lawsuits!
    Property owners & residents need to be aware of this threat to their rights!
    Awareness is the 1st step to change!
    Yes, Mr.Ray is the owner of “ this old house with character “ on Hawthorne Road! So fellow Laguna residents go to the City’s website,go to City Council meeting Nov. 15th , go to last agenda item! Every enlightening!

  2. Mr. Ray I do get a kick out of your column! I just finished reading your latest installment in which you say the following, “Blake was never a clown. He was incendiary, Weiss is a clown”. I thought that the sophomoric rhetoric was leaving with the exit of “former” City Councilman Peter Blake, apparently not. Mr. Ray YOUR PAC supported Peter Blake. YOUR PAC is responsible for the Political (TRASH) Flyers that smeared City Council Candidate Ruben Flores.
    Mr. Ray, YOU accuse Village Laguna of using “SCARE TACTICS” and then YOUR PAC puts out a Political Flyer asking Laguna Voters “DO YOU WANT TO HEAR A SCARY STORY”! I assume that YOUR almost $ 20,000.00 contribution to “former” City Councilman Blake was not “money well spent”. The voters saw through “former” City Councilman Blake and correctly removed him from elected office. Please go back to telling cute stories about Laguna in “Musings on the Coast”, and quit insulting Council Members on behalf of YOUR defeated candidate. Thank God that the hideous signs YOU probably paid for have come down forever.

  3. The only “clown” here appears to be you, Mr. Ray. Fact: Both Sue Kempf and Peter Blake did not want your Liberate Laguna endorsement in 2018. They won despite that kiss of death.

    Nobody wanted your endorsement this year either. Both Sue and Alex turned you down. Well, perhaps Peter Blake did because he was so desperate for another term and told everyone what a lock he was.

    And perhaps he was, until your sophomoric attack ad about Ruben Flores being shirtless on social media turned everyone who was on the fence about Peter solidly against him.

    And yet, Peter had nothing to do with it. That was your handiwork. Well done. You put the nail in his coffin. I wonder if he has unleashed his temper on you yet? That might be the one time its justified.

    Note to self: if you want to destroy someone’s campaign, make sure they seek the endorsement of Michael Ray, the candidate killer.

  4. When I first moved to Laguna in 2008, I was moved by the stunning environment. Then, I had a booth at Sawdust and experienced the true hate and petty competition that ‘the locals’ have for anyone new. One artist threatened me because “I didn’t get approval to sell Plein Air’. (!?) Jealous competitors vilified me when I raised $10k for LCAD and got Wyland his Ph.D. Continously, over the next six years, day after day all I heard was petty bickering from pushy neighbors, including one with the license plate “O2Relax”! When I moved to New Mexico, I felt huge relief. And reading this column focusses me on the fact that I have had 1,000 times more freedom, than when I left. I don’t even miss the beach, for all the crap parking, and not having concessions. In short, Laguna Beach people live in a permanent state of envy, and your knashing and wailing about change-agent Blake is pathetic.

  5. Mr. Ray has a great talent for putting lipstick on pig lips. The repudiation of the bullying tactics was not only local but also national. Now we have two new members that will not be slavishly giving the developers everything they desire. Alex has stated, and I believe him, that he will be data driven in his decisions. His first test will be to help stop the friendly giveaway to the Presbyterian Church whose chief negotiator is a decades old friend and skiing buddy (I have been told) of a current member of the council. While nothing untoward may have occurred this friendship, I believe, should have been made public when the Memorandum of Understanding between the Church and the City was discussed. I hope that Alex will go over the financial justification that was developed under the leadership of Mr. Ray’s star council member, Peter Blake, and the City Manager Dupuis and ask the obvious question. “Why are we going to spend $20 to $30 million dollars on an air lease lasting 50 years and then hand over to the Church a structure worth $50 million dollars when we own property that is much more suitable for a parking structure?” Mark Orgill surely that this makes no financial sense to the city and hence to the residents but a great deal for the Church. He has, I am sure, seen tawdry dealings in Laguna Beach. I am looking forward to having a city council that is not an automatic 3-2 vote for the developers and which will reinstate an atmosphere conducive to participation by residents without fear of denigration and harassment. Four four years Blake was like a dull toothache which had now disappeared, hopefully permanently.


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