Opinion: Regarding ‘Here Comes the Stampede’


By Toni Iseman

Dear Billy. You’re a great writer. We have many gifted columnists in town, but you bring a different angle.   

I haven’t responded to your misinformation lately. But facts matter. Truth matters. So today I must reply.

It’s one thing for you to be confused, but it’s not right to confuse your readers.   

A few of your myths:

Traffic on Coast Highway will improve by cutting down to two lanes: Were you in town for the three-month Caltrans closure? Two lanes? How did that work out?

Roundabouts on Glenneyre for bike safety: Roundabouts take more area than is available anywhere on Glenneyre. Most importantly, pedestrian safety would be compromised.   

Remove parking on Coast Highway for bike lanes: Did you ask the merchants who rely on parking for their customers? We owe allegiance to our small business owners.   

Suggesting that the Greeter be at the Greeter’s Corner makes sense. Eiler Larsen stood at a safe location. He waved his long arms and bellowed “hello” for those lucky enough to drive by at the right time. My suggestion was not to malign Michael. Perhaps you haven’t seen the near misses at the Sapphire corner. Safety is the issue.

Anti-fun crusader No. 1. Council Nanny, Toni Iseman. Killjoy of Laguna.

Come on, Billy. You’re creating a strawman here. This isn’t about fun. This is about public safety—which is a primary concern of mine.   

Last Friday, I spoke with a friend who brought up a personal concern. His 14-year old son has an E-Bike—as so many teenagers in town have.  Parents are aware of the dangers of these high-powered bikes; they worry and want help to make things safer for our kids. I believe your business rents out E-bikes, so you must be aware of the concerns yourself. 

Council receives many emails from worried residents. Their concern is that today’s near-misses will be tomorrow’s fatalities. Do you consider them “Nannies” or “Killjoys” as well? But significantly, do you honestly believe that my responsibility as a Councilperson is “fun” over public safety? I am thankful our police department is working on ways to make E-Bikes less dangerous.   

Isn’t Laguna better off because we have Rules to live by?

Cigarettes: Do you miss our sidewalks littered with cigarette butts? Do you remember finding the perfect spot at the beach and then someone nearby lights up? 

Vaping: Laguna Beach High School students came to a Council meeting to voice concerns because vaping became so popular on campus. Leave it to Big Tobacco to try to hook another generation.   

Mountain bikes aren’t a problem but mountain bikers who overrun hikers on trails are. It has happened. Now we have the help of cyclers who ask other bikers to police themselves. 

Motorcycles: Already loud vehicles are illegally modified. They roar through town while visitors and residents brace themselves for the assault. Residents celebrate when bikers are held to our decibel rules.   

Laguna’s future is at stake. A pleasant and safe Coastal town or your Fun Zone?


  1. OMG, what were you thinking Toni?
    BF isn’t a great or gifted writer: He’s prolific, i.e., posts his scrivenings in over-abundance, over-exposed constantly——-so why the ersatz Marc Antony redux column (“For Brutus is an honorable man…”)?
    If BF is great/gifted writer, I must be on par with a neo-Dostoevsky, will you nominate me for a Nobel Prize in Literature next time?
    THE coach John Wooden said: “Never mistake activity for achievement.” Why even respond to Laguna’s self-crowned Pope, who uses volumes of verbiage to bury opposition or champion his latest pipe dream……and you’ve taken the bait!
    And that Le Ponseur (The Thinker) head shot of his? As if a guy lost on his way to Burning Man, by looking pensive, affecting a pose of deep thought and cerebral intellectualism, like others, you actually take him seriously?
    They say that if you keep picking up a crying baby that child will evolve accordingly, always crave attention, praised or pilloried is irrelevant.

  2. Dear Toni,
    Thanks for the complement and taking time to compose a response. You and I have always been friends and I hope it continues. But as a public official who sees the world through a very different lens than me (one that threatens the many freedoms I cherish as an American and a Lagunan), I felt compelled to express what I strongly believe are your policy shortcomings that are damaging this town’s remarkable heritage. The best public servants don’t recoil in fear over change but instead embrace it. Yes, I am a proponent of all kinds of 2 wheeled transportation because of their environmental, health, traffic and circulation benefits. You and I have had long conversations about safe biking infrastructure, and you’ve systematically opposed all of it. I remember when we proposed the current signage for the north / south bike route, and you tried to shut it down – saying Laguna was simply not a biking town. You especially didn’t want it through your neighborhood on southern Glenneyre – claiming the streets were too narrow. You always base it on some anecdotal tale of knowing someone who knew someone who had a scare (the very Trumpian “people are saying” tactic). Hardly empirical. But here’s empiricism: in the 8 years since we posted those signs, we’ve had not a single biking fatality. And now the use of bikes as alternative transportation is growing exponentially throughout the world. As for the danger of eBikes, perhaps you missed my earlier column when I was the first to go public with the emerging danger of kids riding these high powered bikes recklessly. https://www.lagunabeachindy.com/opinion-flirting-with-disaster/. Your response to the problem was the draconian proposal of confiscating their bikes. Just like you told me you wanted to make mountain bikers register and wear numbered jerseys so they could be monitored. This sounds more like Russia than America. You’ve long been an opponent of pedestrian plazas, and when Council voted to make Park Plaza permanent, you found a back room maneuver to kick it down the road into obscurity. You were a supporter of a garage at the Village Entrance – in fact you were championing your own deign – until Council voted to support Elizabeth Pearson’s version. Oh how quickly you turned against it. And only recently did you support Forest Promenade (after years of opposition) when you recognized the train had left the station. As for the Greeter, where are the statistics that the “Greeters Corner” is safer than Brooks St? Where are the accidents caused by Michael? As for cigarettes, I hate being anywhere near them. And i don’t want them on our beaches. But I believe in a free country, and until they outlaw them altogether, people who smoke should have designated places to do so instead of being marginalized and persecuted. Sadly, nicotine is highly addictive. I’ve seen Europeans on vacation in disbelief when told they could not smoke anywhere in town. As for your assertions about roundabouts endangering pedestrians, that’s certainly a first. Show me the research. And since when are Glenneyre intersections too small for roundabouts? I’ll gladly show you smaller ones. It just takes engineering, creativity, and the will to say yes to move our antiquated transportation system forward by trying new things instead of falling back on the same tired, dogma of no. I’m personally excited that our new city manager has the experience and creativity to try some of these things. As Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg once said, “test things, evaluate them, and if it works make it permanent. If it doesn’t, take it out. It’s cheap ~ just paint and planters.” NY’s merciless transportation grid is radically better because if it. There are ways to reduce congestion in our town, but fear is the greatest inhibitor to progress. Anyway, I still love and respect your countless years of service, Toni. And I know you can take my critique. You’ve taken far worse from others. You have remarkable armor and tenacity for what you believe in. And we all want the same things at the end of the day. A better Laguna.

  3. Oh and hey Roger,
    I see you write about me a lot. Thank you for the publicity. But to use your words, “Why even respond to Laguna’s self-crowned Pope, who uses volumes of verbiage to bury opposition or champion his latest pipe dream……and you’ve taken the bait!” Hook, line and sinker!

    And by the way, how is my biography coming along?


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