New Contenders in Crowded Council Race


By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent


Two more potential candidates for Laguna Beach City Council pulled papers in late July to join an increasingly crowded list of contenders vying for three council seats.

Paul Merritt
Paul Merritt

Paul Merritt, a financial manager and long-time resident, and artist Allison Mathews have picked up nomination papers, bringing the number of potential candidates to 10. Meanwhile, Lorene Laguna, a Laguna Canyon Conservancy board member, is the first and only candidate to have filed her paperwork with the City Clerk’s office.

Lorene Laguna

“It is the people of this community that make Laguna Beach a special place to live,” Laguna said. “I now understand the needs of the people and am committed to the ideal that City Council are public servants elected to be the voice of the people.”

At the top of her legislative agenda is reforming public comment at City Council meetings so council members can respond to residents’ questions and concerns. She’d also like to see a free parking permit issued to Laguna Beach residents, a year-round dog beach, and compas-sionate solutions to homelessness that reduce loitering.

Individuals seeking an office on the November ballot must collect signatures endorsing their candidacy and prove their Laguna Beach residency by Aug. 15.

Mathews said her time on Laguna Beach’s Affordable Housing Task Force opened her eyes to how rent hikes have forced students and business owners to move out of the city. “Laguna Beach supports artists, but I would like to see more,” she said. “Housing and art space for artists, affordable housing for LCAD students, and reasonable rent for shopkeepers who want to work and live near their businesses.” She added that the city’s proposed sales tax hike would be an unnecessary burden on business owners.

Before moving to Laguna Beach with her husband three years ago, Mathews owned a fitness training and physical therapy gym for 10 years in Providence, Rhode Island.

Allison Matthews
Allison Matthews

Merritt wants to see more traffic enforcement to stop cars and motorcycles from speeding on Coast Highway. The former Laguna Niguel council member is specifically concerned about cars making sharp right turns onto side streets and nearly missing pedestrians “The way to address it is to work with Caltrans effectively,” he said. “For some reason, the bureaucrats downtown don’t want to tinker with the laws that could address this. Although he supports undergrounding utility lines in Laguna Canyon, he would prefer that the city pays for projects as surplus money becomes available rather than asking the voters to ap-prove a bond measure.

The fact that 10 prospective candidates have pulled papers rather than just three or four motivated Merritt to run this election cycle. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the council in 2014. “I think the flavor I’m going to put out is independent thinking and an independent candidate,” he said.

Merritt’s 2016 campaign for U.S. Senate was complicated by Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s decision to change Merritt’s political party description on the ballot from “Independent” to “No Party Preference.” He unsuccessfully sought a temporary restraining order from a federal judge to block the distribution of voter guides.

Council members Toni Iseman and Robert Zur Schmiede are both up for reelection. Zur Schmiede has pulled his candidate paperwork but hadn’t filed it as of deadline Wednesday.

Iseman hasn’t pulled papers and said Wednesday that she would offer an update on candidacy next week.

A third council seat is up for grabs because of Mayor Kelly Boyd’s retirement from public life.

The other prospective candidates include animal activist Judie Mancuso, Planning Commission member Sue Kempf, former council member and accountant Cheryl Kinsman, real estate agent Elizabeth Bates, gallerist Peter Blake, and former council member Ann Christoph.

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  1. Looking forward to getting 3 NEW city council members come November. I hope we vote all the “Insiders” OUT, time to get some new people with fresh independent ideas, not beholden to any local groups.


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