Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided cannot stand.” And I thought I was the only one with a bad house. I know. I know. He didn’t mean that. He was referring instead to Mary Todd Lincoln’s insatiable appetite to decorate. “I can’t find my Stove Pipe hat amongst all this construction. I can’t lead the nation hatless. No one will follow me, when they see I’m only 4 feet 6 inches tall.”
Laguna’s mayor made a similar appeal during his recent State of the City address at the Montage resort. Several hundred people attended. He told the audience the city is divided into pro-development and anti-development camps, which are attacking each other instead of the issues that divide them. “This is not an all or nothing choice, it’s about finding the right mix,” he said. Murmurs erupted. An attendee stood and pointed, “Don’t listen to him. He’s not that tall.”
Order was restored when the mayor resumed speaking with his Stove Pipe hat on. He alluded to measuring up in the face of a divided city. “I’m concerned about what I see as the unprecedented nature of personal attacks by some to embarrass or intimidate either an elected official or members of the public who don’t share their particular point of view. In my opinion, we spend too much time attacking one another and not enough time attacking our issues or problems in town.” The mayor stopped speaking and took a moment to remove his Stove Pipe hat to wipe his brow. A heckler pointed and shouted, “Don’t listen to him. He’s short again.” The room erupted. People unhappy with the seating arrangement sought to find seating next to their pro- or anti-development brethren. Montage staff quickly intervened to make sure cutlery and half-eaten entrees followed the diners to their new divided seating. A Montage staffer explained, “I really hate these political gatherings. They’re out of control. Give me a bar mitzvah full of teenagers any day over these child acting adults.”
When everyone was settled in, hotel management warned the mayor that they would not rearrange the table settings, again. The mayor took a deep breath and pursued calmer topics of interest. He informed the audience that he is optimistic in working with elected partners at the county, state and federal levels to underground utility lines. A recently introduced bill will require utility companies to fund a program that would share 50 percent of the cost to underground. The state would pay 15 percent and local government would pay the remaining 35 percent. Quiet ensued, while the audience considered the mayor’s math. One pro- and one anti-development diner rose as one, united together, to denounce Laguna’s 35 percent share. “No. Utilities must pay 100 percent.”
The lights were turned off in protest. The meal was finished in the dark. Diners inadvertently ate from each other’s plates. Fish, steak and vegetarian orders got mixed up and later sorted out at Mission Hospital.
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