Opinion: We Can’t Handle the Truth


We are in a post-truth era. I know this because Tucker Carlson can go on national television and sow doubt as to whether Russia is responsible for the mass carnage in Ukraine. We are in the post-truth era, because any skeptic of Sandy Hook, the 2020 elections, climate change, COVID-19, and a round earth can conjure their own truth based on the “experts” they consult in their echo chamber. By the way, did you know that chickens have lips? You could perhaps trot out some pesky science to dispute it. But trust me, I read it on the internet from someone with a Ph.D. in Poultrology.

This is the world we are in, with free speech activists maintaining that it’s up to the reader to parse the information with something called discernment. Not our strong suit. I’m not sure our Founding Fathers had destructive slander, violent threats, and malicious lying in their playbook when they wrote the First Amendment to protect religious and political freedoms.

But enough about the national scene. I’m here to talk about the weekly head fakes and truth trashing propagated in this paper in their editorial and letters sections.

There is a well-organized cabal out there trying to convince us that Laguna is on the precipice of ruin. That three of the five councilmembers are in the pocket of rapacious developers who are hellbent on eviscerating downtown and replacing our historic buildings with high-rises, parking garages, and, brace yourselves, food. And that those of us with tourist-facing businesses want more, more, more, even if we live here and have to suffer though the same traffic, defecation, and bad fashion sense.

Take the false narrative of the library purchase and Council’s intention to convert it into a parking garage. It all started on that website of gravitas and truth, Nextdoor. One of the frothers-in-residence click-baited to the highly discerning audience, in all caps, “PAVE THE LIBRARY, PUT UP A PARKING LOT.” He went on to describe the nefarious plot that Council was in secret negotiations to buy the library and replace our beloved landmark with a multi-story parking garage. It was disturbing enough that this lovely little repository of precious, tactile books was in peril, but my gosh they were going to bulldoze those fairies in the adjacent fairy garden into the ground! And then erect a parking garage in the stupidest, most ill-conceived location possible. The heat turned up to pizzagate levels, even though there were plenty of sane, rational comments debunking the whole notion with that boring anachronism known as truth. But they got mauled by the mass consciousness of outrage, anger and fear. Also known as social media.

Let’s be clear. The Council had never, ever put forth an intention to move the library. The reality was something called good governance. The city had a 50-year option to purchase the library from the county that was about to expire, and of course we would buy it, just as we should whenever we have the opportunity with any important landmark, road, or civic building. Now we can help steward some of the $2.8 million taxes we pay the county to maintain a building they only spend about $800,000 a year on. A library in need of upgrades and repair, as well as blighted adjacent parcels in need of significant improvement.

But then, never one to miss an opportunity to irresponsibly misrepresent the facts, throw his colleagues under the bus, and portray himself as some kind of whistleblower, censured Councilmember George Weiss sent an email out with the headline, “URGENT – HELP SAVE THE LIBRARY,” describing the situation as a “swirling controversy.” He then went on to impugn Mayor Sue Kempf and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen (the Parking Subcommittee) in a later email by asking, “Why is the city looking to buy the library site if not to build a parking structure?”

As if that wasn’t shameless enough, his supplicants fawned all over him in this paper, proclaiming George as the savior of the library, when all he actually did was turn something benign and bureaucratic into his own cause celebre. It was strangely like that moment when, with New Orleans underwater from Hurricane Katrina, that other George W (aka Bush) proudly told FEMA’s Michael Brown, “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie.”

So what’s next? What will happen when the city finally purchases Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road from CalTrans so we can steward our antiquated transportation grid? I can see the posts in Nextdoor now: “REMOVE THE ROADS, PUT IN BIKE PATHS.” And then Council will have to endure 50 raving people showing up on a Tuesday night and accusing them of pedalphilia.

It’s amazing that anything gets done in this carny show. But I’m thankful that the council is actually doing—in what is often a Sisyphean task—one heckuva job. We have more outdoor dining and pedestrian access than ever before. We are working to safeguard our burgeoning biking community. It’s easier to get approvals on home remodeling. We have a working infrastructure. There’s less traffic than many other popular tourist destinations. We are cash positive. And there’s not a single large-scale development anywhere on the horizon. Thank you!

Billy hosts Laguna Talks on Thursday nights on KXFM radio. He’s also the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an E-bike and ocean sports tour company. Email: [email protected].

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  1. Wow, Billy, it’s shocking to see how blind you are to your blindness.
    There was no false narrative about the library purchase. We all saw for ourselves the language in the City document that clearly illustrated that the library was only required to be operated at its present site for 3 years before either being eliminated altogether or moved out into everyone’s favorite dumping ground, Laguna Canyon. Your so-called false narrative is what led to the activating of our citizenry, in what you divisively refer to as “the mass conscienceness of outrage, anger, and fear,” to save our beloved library for the next 25 years.

    There was no “good governance” here. To say otherwise is downright laughable and dangerous. And given the numerous and repeated violations of the Brown Act by this Council, I would say that the citizens of Laguna Beach did not see this as something “benign,” and thus had every right to be outraged, angry, and fearful of what this Cabal of Kempf, Whelan, and Blake is doing, and is willing to do next.

    The right to Freedom of Speech doesn’t just go away because you or others do not like what is being said or simply disagree with it. And despite your disdain for Social Media, it is our nation’s current and most popular medium for communications and is not going away anytime soon.

    Billy, it also did not get by any of us that while you have willingly chosen to defame Councilman Weiss, and claim that the facts are being irresponsibly misrepresented, you provide no facts to prove your premise. And by the way, Billy, the DA’s office, after reviewing the facts surrounding the whistleblower case, has said that the Brown Act was indeed violated. As such, Councilman Weiss did not throw his colleagues under the bus. Instead, he did what an ethical and moral individual with actual integrity should and would do as a matter of civic duty and allegiance to the oath he took when he was sworn in as a Councilmember. And what the citizens of Laguna Beach expect from our public servants. As such, the censure on Councilmember Weiss should be rescinded immediately, and a formal apology issued to him by the City Council at large.

    And yes, it was the three developer-bought and paid-for Councilmember Cabal who did come up, with the objections of Councilmembers Iseman and Weiss, with a very ill-conceived plan to build a parking garage at one of the most ill-conceived locations possible. But not the worst possible location.

    And that’s because the Cabal brain trust has upped their idiocy again. This time, negotiating for a lease of the Presbyterian Church’s parking lot, upon which they want to build a City-paid parking garage structure. And did you know that Mayor Pro-Temp Whelan is close friends with Ed Sauls, the man representing the church in their negotiations? Ed Sauls, Whelan’s long-time friend, and skiing buddy. A clear conflict of interest. And Mayor Kempf and City Manager Shohreh Dupuis knew about this conflict of interest, and they chose to say and do nothing about it, willingly keeping this obvious conflict of interest a secret from the public. No wonder they intentionally chose to discuss all of this in closed sessions. And again over the objections of Councilmembers Iseman and Weiss. Closed session negotiations that once again, likely violate the Brown Act by violating its Real Estate Negotiation exception.

    And yes, this negotiation stinks to high heaven. But not just because it’s a huge conflict of interest for Councilmembers Whelan and Blake, who should immediately recuse themselves from any further negotiations, conversations, and communications, and especially any council votes about this matter.
    But because it makes no economic sense for the citizens of Laguna Beach to build and pay for a parking structure on land owned by others. It is borderline fiscally irresponsible to the taxpayers who have not even been shown the terms of the lease, along with the intent of having Laguna taxpayers foot the bill of more than $10.6 million in unnecessary lease expenses, which benefits, you know who, Ed Sauls and the Presbyterian Church. And perhaps even Mayor Pro-Temp Whelan?

    In my humble opinion, based on the actions and results thus far from Mayor Kempf, Mayor Pro-Temp Whelan, and City Manager Shohreh Dupuis, they are either wolves in sheep’s clothing or are just completely incompetent.

    The citizens of Laguna Beach can decide that for themselves.

    Either way, Councilmembers Kempf, Blake, and Whelan continue to represent special interest groups and have chosen NOT to represent the majority of Laguna Beach residents.

    But you are right on one thing Billy, the Council has become a carny show. And many of their actions are Sisyphean as you say, a word whose actual definition is “requiring continual and often ineffective effort.” Yes, if left to its vices and volitions, many of the Cabal’s endeavors are and will continue to be ineffective (and wasteful) efforts.

  2. Leave it to Billy Fried to throw a tantrum because the library
    is guaranteed a home for another 25 years.

  3. Billy, oh Billy. You are the one who can’t handle the truth. I’d like to express my greatest thanks to Councilman George Weiss for catching the buried information regarding the attempted sneaky purchase of the library site. This purchase would have slipped by residents and been automatically triggered and approved as a Consent Item without a vote or any notorious public notification unless Councilman Weiss spoke out and questioned it.

    He uncovered buried in the fine print (the preliminary lease agreement attached to the publicly posted Staff Report, Clauses #9 and #14 )– that this item would have opened the potential for the replacement of the library with a possible parking lot in just three years. Contrary to what others may intentionally and falsely claim, this is specifically and explicitly so stated in the purchase agreement.

    Thanks to Councilman Weiss’ notification to the public and the 50 concerned citizens who pushed back on the three Council members and City Manager who we’re caught red-handed trying to sneak this $4.2M deal past the public without proper notification or public debate, the library will remain as a community builder in the center of town for the next 25 years. A decided win for residents – thanks to Mr. Weiss. Now that Billy is the truth. Try telling it for a change.

  4. B Fried statement: “This is the world we are in, with free speech activists maintaining that it’s up to the reader to parse the information with something called discernment. Not our strong suit.”

    IMO – yet another Blake-ish style slam on Laguna Beach residents intelligence and judgement, more name-calling (fake heads) of locals and more biased/false information offered by B Fried.

    Personally, I think LB readers are quite capable of parsing information for facts vs opinion and discerning what’s behind the accusations and criticism in some INDY columns. And I don’t think LB Voters are influenced by corrosive messages like this one meant to promote the current leadership at any cost that clearly isn’t representing and acting in the best interest of Laguna Beach residents. Vote incumbents out in November!

  5. Billy,

    What say you to the public documents from City Council in which Peter Blake said outright that keeping the library in place was not a given? I feel like you start these columns with some little idea you want to noodle on and then refuse to edit them when you realize that they aren’t true. Because the idea that the idea to move the library was never put forth is certainly untrue. We the “frothers” certainly heard it.

    Also, is no one here to edit these columns and weed out the loaded language meant to insult the populace they’re meant to insult? How is the “Go go Mo!” column aging these days? https://www.lagunabeachindy.com/honarkar-properties-ordered-back-to-receivership/


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