This Ain’t Chicago
The more we open space we save, the more we preserve the character of our town—the more some are seeing unmined riches. To put it in real estate parlance, those quaint cottages and small unique shops are not producing income from “a highest and best use.” Enterprising opportunists not only see the possibility of fortunes to be made but they’re willing organize a big city type political machine to break down the controls at the city that so far have kept development somewhat in check.
Laguna Beach is a small, sweet city where typical council campaigns raise $50,000 from a few hundred donors. The campaigns use those funds to send out mailers and run ads, mostly talking about the qualifications of the candidates and their goals for the future. Hostile mailers are rare. But since 2018 that has changed. Liberate Laguna Political Action Committee (five major donors) raised $152,000, hired expensive consultants, and blanketed our mailboxes with mailers extolling the wonderful qualities of Peter Blake and Sue Kempf. I was running for city council in that election and at the very end Liberate Laguna let fly a hit piece on me. Did that deceptive mailer cost me the 250 votes I needed to gain a seat on the city council? This is what can happen to an unsuspecting candidate running a “normal” campaign.
Both their candidates won and in the last two years we’ve experienced how effective Liberate Laguna’s money and influence can be—with the diatribes of Blake and the supportive votes of Kempf upending design review and the heritage committee, and reducing parking requirements for developers in the downtown while preparing to spend city funds to build a parking garage to make up for those missing spaces to the tune of $14 million.
Now Liberate Laguna is doing their hits early—attacking all candidates who are running against their chosen ones—Bob Whalen and Larry Nokes.
Last week we all received a mailer with a terrible photo of Steve Dicterow and accusations about his insurance payments. Steve says he was threatened by leaders of Liberate Laguna.
“They said they would “ruin my life” if I ran for re-election.” Why? They wanted to control his votes and Steve wouldn’t agree. Now Liberate Laguna is in Dicterow ruination mode. That mailer may not be the last hit.
Candidate George Weiss and Ruben Flores are in their sights too. Liberate Laguna has the funds to do polling, so if any of the other candidates look like they may be pulling ahead, expect more hit pieces on whoever that perceived front runner may be.
Are the main principals of Liberate Laguna just concerned residents who are trying to uplift the “downtrodden community” that they think Laguna Beach is? No. they are not spending all that money just to help out. There is money to be made. When the City, under their influence, opens up the floodgates to national tenants, rents and real estate values will skyrocket—or at least that’s what they hope.
Meantime they are in the process of changing our nice, maybe too naïve town with their sordid manipulations. We don’t need Chicago-like machine politics. Too bad we can’t take all those hit mailers and “Return to sender” at 410 Broadway, Suite 200, Larry Nokes’s office, where apparently Liberate Laguna, and Kelly Boyd all get their mail.
Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor.Firebrand Media LLC wants comments that advance the discussion, and we need your help to accomplish this mission. Debate and disagreement are welcomed on our platforms but do it with respect. We won't censor comments we disagree with. Viewpoints from across the political spectrum are welcome here. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, our community is not obliged to host all comments shared on its website or social media pages, including:
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