Opinion: The civility hypocrisy


Just to torture myself, I sometimes tune into City Council meeting videos.

Friends recommended that I tune into the meeting on November 21, 2023, and begin watching at the 2.25-hour mark.  

Reason: the sheer hypocrisy demonstrated by Village Laguna (VL) at the meeting over the methodology of selecting Mayor and Mayor Pro Temp positions. 

Currently, each is elected by the Council and serves for two years. If the Council wishes to vote the same two back into those positions the next time, it can. There is no automatic rotation. 

During former councilman Peter Blake’s term in office, he was not what one would call “civil.” In fact, he ran on the platform, “If you want civility, don’t vote for me.” And he wasn’t. He interrupted speakers, called out others, and so on. But he never cost the City any money, and he pushed through a series of long-needed reforms. 

Those reforms overturned many of VL’s suffocating rules (most prominent: the downtown Promenade, wildly popular yet opposed by VL, which had killed it for decades—and still is trying to kill it), and they disliked Blake for pushing the reforms through.  

So, they went after him with the viciousness of what they are: in my research, a registered Political Action Committee that had controlled Laguna for decades, used questionable tactics, and intimidated locals so thoroughly that no one wanted to oppose them. Until Blake ran. 

At almost every Council meeting during Blake’s term, VL members and acolytes appeared constantly to criticize him for whatever reason they could dream up, but one stuck: he was not civil.And it cost him his next election. 

Elected instead, among others, was VL aficionado George Weiss. When running, Weiss’ biggest campaign tactic was to hire a giant truck with photos of high-rise buildings in Huntington Beach and accuse his opponents of wanting to turn Laguna Beach into another Huntington Beach. This, of course, was a lie, but VL did not care and backed him to the hilt. It worked. He won. 

Before that, the City had hired a new City Manager, Shohreh Dupuis, who immediately set about doing her job: carrying out what the new city majority had voted as its new direction. VL and acolytes disliked her for it, wanted her out, and called in its political chits from Weiss. He responded with a campaign against her (Dupuis alleged name-calling, interruptions, false allegations, and more) that created what the lawyers call a “hostile working environment.” It cost the City $500,000 in an immediate cash settlement and much more later.   

Let me repeat: Weiss caused it. Village Laguna supported him.

Now Weiss wants to be mayor, and at the council meeting of November 21, 2023, proposed that the position be rotated so that he, unlike Blake, could become mayor.  

Approximately eleven VL supporters, the people who called Blake so uncivil, spoke in favor of Weiss. 

You could cut the hypocrisy with a dull knife. 

Anne Caenn, President of VL, stated they support Weiss. Of course, they do. All that talk about Blake’s civility, or lack of it, was a charade. They could care less about civility. 

As I stated before, in my exhaustive research, Village Laguna is a registered Political Action Committee that controlled this joint for forty years. Now, they don’t. They want their power back. Nothing else matters. 

Hypocrisy? So what.  

Michael co-founded Orange County School of the Arts, The Discovery Cube, Sage Hill School, Art Spaces Irvine and several other area nonprofit organizations. He is a business partner with Sanderson-J. Ray Development and has lived in Laguna Beach since the early 1980s. 

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  1. Talk about hypocrisy, Michael; Peter Blake owns an art gallery but yet called Phil Interlandi, a famous cartoonist known for his Playboy Cartoons, a pornographer! Phil Interland’s cartoons were seen in Better Homes and Gardens, and a lot of other magazines other than Playboy but Peter Blake called him a pornographer. Everyone knows Playboy was not a pornographic magazine. This information just proves that Peter Blake does not know what art is and is as much of a hypocrite as you are. You claim fame for The Sage High School in Newport which is built on an old dumpsite that you purchased for little or nothing because of being an old dumpsite. You must be so proud. Village Laguna has done more for Laguna Beach then you ever have, the height limit has saved our coastline from larger hotels. They help save neighborhoods from the larger houses being built because people like you want to purchase a small cottage and make it into large mansion stealing the views from all the homes effected by your large houses.
    You didn’t bring up the fact that Shohreh Dupuis had no training or background for being a City Manager, she did not have a master’s degree and other candidates did. Because Sue, Peter, and Bob voted in a closed meeting for her she became our worst city manager to date, costing the city much more problems and lawsuits than any other city manager on record.
    A person that runs on; “If you want civility, don’t vote for me.” Is the wrong person to be on Laguna Beach’s city council. Civility is what is needed now more than ever.

  2. I wonder why the Indy continues to give space to this guy who’s view of goings-on in Laguna are completely at odds with reality. IMO his only interest is in profiting (and promoting profits of his like-minded) via development/re-development of Laguna; and once it loses what’s left of its small-town charm, he’ll be moving off.

    I track the rapid acceleration of incivility and emboldened developers to Mr. Ray’s co-founding (and heavily funding to the tune of $22k in 2018 alone) of Liberate Laguna…its sole intent was to remake City Hall/City Council. And of course, he/they are responsible for foisting Mr. Monster/Mr Blake upon all of us – the horrors of his tenure still reverberate at City Council meetings. He thinks new-comers or busy professionals will be persuaded that Village Laguna is the cause of all that ails Laguna. So he spends endless columns promulgating half-truths, distortions and knee-slappers in the hopes that they’ll stick in the electorates’ mind. In my opinion, his constant distortions of the record of one of the groups most responsible for keeping Laguna as unspoilt and beautiful as it is, reflects only the blackness of his soul and the greed that it feeds upon.

  3. Ah Mikey – how does the Indy keep allowing you to print such inaccuracies??? How do they not make you state that you were a founder of Liberate Laguna that funded and supported Peter Blake’s campaign – self interest much – and were a major supporter of his failed bid at reelection? And that the reason you started Liberate Laguna was to get the porch on your girlfriend’s house that DRB kept refusing you. I was in a meeting where you stated that.
    How can you conflate residents asking for a mayor/pro tem rotation with incivility??? If you really were listening you would have heard me state that I was in favor of the democratic way that Laguna has previously selected Mayor/Pro Tem with each getting a turn. And to that end I said that even Peter the Bully should have had his turn as Mayor or at least Pro Tem. He would have been a laughingstock and the worst mayor we’ve ever had but the Bob/Sue cabal shut him out like they shut out Toni Iseman and George Weiss.
    It’s laughable that you accuse George of costing the city $500K. From the dias Mayor Bob said that they settled with Shohreh BEFORE getting the final report from the very biased (city paid for) outside counsel and that it had NO bearing on why they paid her off. And George never got to defend himself before she left. Oh maybe it’s because they were the ones WITH PETER who voted for her as CM and they just wanted to get rid of the worst City Manager Laguna has ever had because they could no longer cover for her. Or maybe it was because of threatened litigation over her many bad decisions that would have indeed cost the city millions. I guess you didn’t listen to that City Council meeting. Shohreh, with Bob/Sue/Peter’s backing, cost the city so so so much money in bad decisions, endless consultant’s reports and lost staff. I guess you didn’t listen to those City Council meetings either.
    I beg you. Stop writing. You are so full of non truths and state things with no facts to back you up. You need to be fact checked because you write nonsense most of the time. Or are you thinking that Laguna residents are so stupid that if you say something enough times they will believe you??? Residents – ask him to back up his ridiculous statements with facts and evidence. Because he can’t – he writes fiction. Indy staff – please make him back up his columns with facts.

  4. Michael, I had written a response to Your latest tirade against Village Laguna, George Weiss, and Your embrace of the “Great Laguna Beach Gavel Toss.” However, by the time I was ready to hit “Post Comment” four Laguna Residents had already stolen my thunder and called You out for the bilge that the INDY continues to print in Your column.

    Us the Residents are knowledgeable of “who” You are and “what” You represent for our community. (Unchecked Development, Parking Structures (we do not need) Removal of the 25 foot “Bluff Easement”, not to mention the “reboot” of Your political pit bull Peter Blake)

    I do however have a question to ask of You, one that only You can provide the answer for…
    Do You sit and read Your prior fictitious fantasies until You just cannot help but repeat Yourself once again?

    Even as Sue, Bob, and now Alex continue to strangle the will of the residents in their effort to maintain political “control” in Laguna Beach. The INDY acts as Your “aide-de-camp” in getting out Your “fact free” column, shameful.

    Us the Residents are here, and we are going to call You out on Your lies. You could use the column provided for something positive instead of a rehash of Your disdain for Village Laguna, George Weiss, and Your Love affair with the development proponents Whalen, Kempf, and now Rounaghi, < The Kinder Gentler Peter Blake.

    Good luck peddling Your latest abuse of truth.

  5. Jezz, so much criticism from yet the same people. Again. And still with the same old bullying tactics.

    Here is the truth: Laguna, thank God, is still a democracy. However, the folks who used to be in power—-no longer are, and cannot stand it.

    The attacks on Blake, Alex, Bob, Sue, Dupuis, the Police Chief, other staff members or me are the acts of bullies. AND ATTACKING THE INDY is an attempt at intimidation: silence the media. It is a Trump tactic, and shame on you for copycatting him.

  6. Dear Indy Publisher and Editor: It is one thing to let Michael Ray beat his dead horse. It is another to permit him to lie repeatedly without either requiring him to correct his facts pre-publication or to correct his fabrications at the end of each column. That is simply irresponsible.

    Commenters: Please send your responses as LETTERS TO THE EDITOR to ensure that your responses are printed and read!

    George Weiss was elected in 2020, the cycle AFTER the dreadful Peter Blake who Michael Ray’s PAC got elected in 2018. Weiss has served honorably and with great civility. The greatest damage Blake did was getting Dupuis hired with the collaboration of Whalen and Kempf. The Orange County DA found unequivocally that the City Council violated the Brown Act and they were required to adopt new protocols for closed sessions to be in compliance on Nov. 2, 2021.

    Worse yet: NO EVIDENCE OF HOSTILE WORKING ENVIRONMENT WAS EVER PRESENTED so the then-City Attorney advised and the majority of the Council, not George Weiss, WASTED, to my mind NEGLIGENTLY, some $500,000 of tax-payer funds buying out Dupuis for some imagined lawsuit that had no basis in fact.

    Incompetence? Bias? Negligence? PREVARICATION? These are all terms that should be leveled at Michael Ray. Most importantly: The Indy should FACT CHECK WHAT IT ALLOWS TO BE PRINTED.

  7. January 10,2024 the Supreme Court of the State of California denied the Laguna Beach Historic Preservation Coalition and the Historic Architecture Alliance’s Petition for Review and Request for Depublication( of the Appellate Court’s ruling in favor of the City of Laguna Beach & Kirby’s).
    So ,after going through the process to get DRB approval 4-1 on the 1st. attempt September 2020 , Case Closed! Justice Prevails!
    40 months! $100,000.00 ‘s later!
    Members of Village Laguna , LBHP Coalition ( created by Village Laguna , Preserve Orange County & others ) and Historic Preservation Alliance ( only known member is the adjacent neighbor) were vocally against the City’s approval. Should these people be held accountable for their actions??
    Who financed these lawsuits?
    The Chief Assistant City Attorney from the City of Glendale wrote:
    “This case is important because it is the first published decision to provide an extensive and clear explanation of the Public Resources Code and the CEQA Guidelines that set forth local agency responsibility when considering projects that are alleged to adversely affect historic resources.Importantly,the Court’s Opinion clarifies the standard of judicial review and burden of proof to be used when an authorized categorical exemption is invoked to approve such projects.This clarity provides are an important public benefit.”
    I haven’t found any comments on this “ win for the property owners of Laguna Beach “ by our city attorney yet!
    In my opinion these lawsuits are a prefect examples of CEQA abuse!

  8. Ha Ha!!! This shtick from Michael Ray is really wearing thin. He spent so much money on Blake’s two elections only to see Laguna Voters reject the scorched earth politics of Blake/Ray. This voter repudiation must still be sticking in his throat so much that he feels obligated to repeat every week the same vitriol against our leading civic organization.

    Now there are rumors Ray and his developer buddies are thinking of funding another Blake campaign next november. If true, this opinion piece makes more sense.

  9. Michael Ray projecting Trumpism onto others is so crazy its almost funny. Freud called it Transference. Or perhaps projection. Mr Ray, you and your friend Blake oughta have a look in a mirror.

  10. Thank you for the suggestion Kiku T. “Commenters: Please send your responses as LETTERS TO THE EDITOR to ensure that your responses are printed and read!”

    It’s becoming clear that the best way to address false accusations, name-calling and insult messaging flung at Laguna Beach’s residents by regular Indy columnists M. Ray and B. Fried is to send letters directly to media editors. I’ll add: share important misinformation issues on local social media networks like Nextdoor. ND has become such an important communication tool now that even the City uses it to communicate directly with LB residents. Thanks.


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