Opinion: Musings from the Coast


The Great Idea Circus: A Comedy of Study and Stagnation 

 Ah, the Laguna Beach City Council, a place where great ideas go to be studied to death, only to end up resting peacefully in the graveyard of inaction. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the greatest show on earth! Grab your popcorn and join me as we navigate the whimsical world of the real “Lagunatics” comedy play. 

In the spotlight, we have the diligent members of the city council, who are ever so polite they collectively possess an awe-inspiring ability to transform even the simplest of proposals into epic sagas of paralysis by analysis. Their motto could very well be, “Why act today when we can study it for eternity?” They delve into the depths of every good idea, dissecting it with such surgical precision that the poor concept must wonder if it even had a life worth living. 

But wait! There’s more! Enter the scene-stealers, Village Laguna—a pressure group that has a love affair with the city doing nothing, forever and ever. These masters of filibustering grace every council meeting, armed with speeches that last for eons. They engage in verbal gymnastics, discussing everything except the matter at hand. Their aim seems to be to keep the city in a perpetual state of motionlessness, forever trapped in an otherworldly dimension of inactivity. 

Of course, that’s when they’re not shuffling one by one to the podium to espouse yet one more cockamamie conspiracy theory about the city manager, the chief of police, the city staff, or anyone else so as to harass them into screaming to the sky, “Oh why, why dear Great Surf God Kahuna, why are you tormenting me?” 

But back to the council chambers. It is overflowing with excitement, anticipation and the echoes of a potential great proposal, like the Forest Avenue Promenade. It is so popular city residents flock to it—even though it now is embryonically temporary—awaiting the final design from a well-respected firm, but which design is repeatedly subjected to “citizen participation.” Meaning there are large public meetings for normal citizens to provide input, but primarily manned by Village Laguna members ranting against any and all of it—and, true to their fashion, trying to kill it by claiming it is unapproved by the council (for the record, it is very much approved), demanding yet more studies, and attempting to exploit the cry of “We must save the trees” as a means to create yet another set of obstacles, circling round and round like the mad Red Queen, arrogant and demanding, coercing innocent bystanders to blindly agree with every word she says. 

Yet again, back to the council chambers. It is midnight or later. The council has been at it for six hours, bleary-eyed, tormented by the verbal onslaught, wanting only to go home, and finally (usually) bowing to the mad Red Queen, and in a monumental display of exhaustion, decides to…study it yet again. While at the back of the room, the mad Red Queen laughs in victory. Yet again. 

And so, my dear audience, we find ourselves in the whimsical world of Laguna Beach’s City Council. Where the art of doing nothing is perfected through the art of studying everything to death. 

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

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  1. Does Mr. Ray ever stray from his endless denigration of Village Laguna and complaining about the City Council’s slower-than-he-would-prefer decision making?

    I guess real-estate development heirs don’t have to succeed based on novel ideas or depth of intellect.

  2. Michael Ray can’t do much more than espouse his animosity again and again and over and over. Strange that he does not opine when his new found favorite city official the City Manager and her partners,the City Attorney, the Mayor and somewhat behind the scenes the Mayor pro tem shamefully in a total miscarriage of justice allowed Mo and his armed thugs (according to the legal owner of the properties) to illegally occupy and vandalize the two properties that are no longer Hornakar’s. Since the damage caused by Mo and his armed thugs was much more than the amount of $400, which would be a felony why isn’t he asking why Mo and his thugs were not arrested instead but instead called the whole shameful, criminal occupation a civil matter? Its a rhetorical question as this seems to be a continuation of the way Mo was allowed to run roughshod over the City regulations during his Hotel Laguna remodeling. Remember all those after the fact permits and the Community Development Director basically begging Mo to play by the rules because the City had “bent over backwards” for him?

    It’s a far cry from Ray”s clarion call to show support for the City Manager after her house was supposedly vandalized by, according to Ray, Village Laguna member(s) and/or their supporters. I guess he really believes that most Laguna residents are naive enough to believe that story. But upon reflection the Mayor, most of the city council and many residents who suddenly after hour years of bullying by his acolyte, Peter Blake, fell for that story and had an epiphany about the harm bullying can do. Someone should tell Mr. Ray May many are not buying his story about the “Fishy Feces Fiasco” and like myself think it is probable, much more probable, that it was done to burnish the, IMO, tarnished image, due to many missteps, of the City Manager. And absent an arrest which obviously is unlikely will continue to believe this scenario.

    In his zeal to diminish participation by those with whom he disagrees Mr. Ray even suggested to the council that there be only one person allowed to speak against an issue instead of allowing all to voice their opinion. Someone should inform Mr. Ray that is not how democracy works. Seems like he believes in that line from the song “If I were a Rich Man” which states “And When You’re Rich They Really Tihk you know”.

  3. Everyone, please read Chris’s screed. It is yet another series of concocted paranoid conspiracy theories that have zero basis in reality. As usual

  4. Michael, spoken as the “true developer” that You are. I have seen multiple instances where our CC has been fully ready, willing and able to enact “development” that is not appropriate for the city of Laguna. Case in point, if not for resident opposition we would already have broken ground on the debacle that would be the MUSEUM HOTEL. We would have monolithic structures from Legion St. to Laguna Ave.

    The former “Pro Development CC” spearheaded by Peter Blake, Bob Whalen, and CC person Sue Kemph with the full support of the City manager Dupuis would have their Golden Shovels crammed into the bluff just in front of the bulldozers.

    IMO most residents of Laguna are not against “thoughtful development”. In fact the “Residents” are the only reason that development projects that are clearly incompatible in this City have been halted. The proposed Parking Structure on 3RD Street comes to mind, a total “boondoggle” by anyone’s view.

    In closing Michael, we the “Residents” of Laguna do not need or want new “Parking Structures” We the “Residents” of Laguna do not need or want monolithic structures built out to the bluff face.

    So, please once again I ask that you contain “Musings From the Coast” column to cute little stories of life near the beach.

    Quit demonizing residents, Village Laguna, and “thoughtful development proponents”. The majority that You enjoyed when the “Pro Development” CC was in place has been disbanded. The City is going in another direction, one that does not succumb to “developers Interests” and money. Please tell us more about “surf culture”, at least you will not insult anyone.

  5. Michael, please elaborate? What in my statements is “concocted”? What in my statements is “paranoid”? What part of my statement is “misinformation”? Please be specific, I do not see it.

    Michael, all your column is “usually” about is your “contempt” (Your word not mine) for Village Laguna and or anyone that is an advocate of “thoughtful development”. IMO it is You that is “paranoid”, it is You that spreads “misinformation”. Please revisit your PAC’s political “Hit Pieces” from the last election. Talk about “misinformation”!

    Your “Pro Development Majority” is gone, time to get used to it.

  6. Hi Michael, in absence of a response from You… I wanted to take a walk down memory lane and I thought the INDY READERS would find the following interesting.
    From the LAGUNA BEACH INDEPENDENT * July 16, 2021.

    Laguna Forward is the new name of PAC largely funded by local developers

    A political action committee largely funded by Laguna Beach real Estate Developers has officially changed its name ahead of the 2022 City Election.
    In a June 7 report filed with the City Clerk, Laguna Forward PAC listed committee officers as three Laguna Residents: Michael Ray a partner at Sanderson – J Ray Development; Samuel Goldstein, agent at Redford Ventures, LLC and Cindy Shopoff a principal at Shopoff Realty Investments. The trio were also officers of the Liberate Laguna PAC

    Since its creation, Liberate Laguna has been the topic of numerous letters to the editor and public comments at City Council meetings characterizing it as the mouthpiece of a few wealthy households supporting developer-friendly candidates.
    Michael these are not my words, but they speak volumes about “who” You are and “what” You represent. The article does go on to list the financial contributions made by Your PAC to Pro-Development candidates, Peter Blake, Larry Nokes, and Bob Whalen as well as others.

    I only bring this up as You continuously slam anyone with an opinion that does not align with your own vision of our city.

    I just think it appropriate to remind the residents of Laguna as to the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHY of this “LAGUNA FORWARD PAC” which is nothing more than a soapbox for your agenda of “indiscriminate” development in Laguna.

    HAPPY 2 YEAR ANNIVERSIARY of Your Name Change!

  7. Mike, For the last time, Your article and character is paranoid and very concocted..So tired of your lamenting the Blake mantra “Village Laguna”, is to blame for everything, seriously very liberal diatribe, your colors are showing, calling people in our city “normal Members”, like we should be bowing to those that spend our money and effect our lives and just accept it. Nah that won’t work with free thinkers and movers..you ought to think about moving your little comments out of the local paper, most don’t appreciate your whining and bad loser attitude.

  8. Here is my opinion to all of you in this chain. Write 600 word Guest Columns specifying exactly what you believe should happen in Laguna (columns for approval, of course, by the editor). For example, what to do with the Forest Avenue promenade, outdoor dining, dealing with increased tourists as Irvine adds around 50,000 residents and so on. Be precise. Be truthful. Subject yourself to public opinion. Please

  9. Dear Lord…how much longer are the INDY Editors going to subject readers to such obsessive, stale and ridiculous topic banter from this columnist? Stop already. Thank you.


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