Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Sorting out the Ballot

Like most of you, the Beautiful Wife and I make sure to vote. The federal and state races get plenty of attention but sorting through the down-ballot offices is often a puzzle. Who are these people? The ballot propositions, so numerous in California, also confuse. Our solution has been to meet with like-minded neighbors to combine information. We don’t always agree, but it helps us make well-informed votes so critical to a democracy. We just met; here’s what we learned.

We spent the most time on our city council discussing the best level of downtown development. Village Laguna has done a good job protecting our legacy. But some felt the town needs sprucing up. We linked Liberate Laguna, criticized in this paper for representing the interests of just three donors, with over-sized hotel developments like the Museum Hotel and Cleo Hotel (Holiday Inn) proposals. What will happen with the Hotel Laguna project? In a destination town, how do we balance commercial development projects with preserving our uniqueness?

My favorite Laguna projects have been the Pottery Shack update by Joe Hanauer, and the faithful restoration of the Heisler Building by Sam Goldstein. The Village Entrance is an improvement, but was it worth $13 million? Do we really want a $16 million parking structure? In the end, we didn’t agree on city council candidates. Some thought George Weiss and Ruben Flores would work for appropriate preservation; others felt Mayor Bob Whalen and Larry Nokes, who guided our view preservation law, would support reasonable development. You choose.

The school board, in our view, is overdue for some new blood. Board trustee Dee Perry advocates for needed transparency and reopening schools with health safeguards, but is often on the losing end of 4-to-1 votes. With different board members, Perry could be in a new 3-to-2 majority. We liked Amy Kramer and Sheri Morgan for a more responsive school board.

We leaned towards Mariann Tracy for city clerk; she currently assists John Pietig, city manager. Laura Parisi is unopposed for city treasurer. The community college board is difficult as the candidates are unknown. I like these candidates who focus on the basics, rather than education fads: District 1: Helen Locke, District 6: James Wright, and District 7: Sean Gawne. For the OC Municipal Water District, incumbent Megan Schneider is well qualified, but Debbie Neev is a Laguna Beach County Water District Commissioner. Take your pick.

California is unique in legislating by ballot propositions. But I’m wary of those that spend money we don’t have. Of the twelve propositions, we liked just one: Prop 22 restores the Uber business model allowing people to work as independent contractors in innovative app-based delivery and transportation services. Some supported Prop 20, stronger penalties for certain violent crimes. I’m not soft on crime, but couldn’t we find a better balance between reforming versus punishing criminals?

Be sure to vote. Our democracy needs you. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip.  He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.”  Email:  [email protected]

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