Speakers’ Corner

Howard Hills

Truth and Reconciliation Honor Dilley’s Legacy

“No legacy is so rich as honesty” – Shakespeare, “All’s Well That Ends Well”

Upholding a high standard of journalistic integrity, the Laguna Beach Independent published a formal correction of its coverage of the debate over Measure CC (Indy, Nov. 9, p. 6), informing readers it had “inaccurately reported that the measure specified the size of parcels that could potentially be acquired as open space should the initiative pass.”

It is not a merely technical point, but rather goes to the heart of the LBTA’s opposition to Measure CC on grounds it was too vague for voters to know the size, location and cost of parcels to be purchased.   The Indy’s correction confirmed that any assertion that Measure CC had lot selection limits “…came from proponents…Lot size is not specified in the measure…Indy regrets the error.” This definitively refutes aggressive accusations by Measure CC sponsors that an LBTA mailer to voters incorrectly targeted potential for random small parcel purchases that could disrupt neighborhood cohesiveness.

Supporters of the parcel tax told the press on election night that despite out-spending LBTA 10-to-1 sponsors of Measure CC never recovered from the impact of the LBTA mailer and public advocacy of opposition activists. Perhaps that explains why sponsors began disseminating pro-parcel-tax campaign material substituting their own subjective interpretations of Measure CC for the actual ballot language, in order to “fill in the blanks” identified in the LBTA mailer.

Although only the Indy has corrected the record, other news and information sources uncritically relied on claims by supporters that Measure CC included not only parcel selection criteria but also incorporated maps of parcel plots that had no official or legal relevance. Supporters also disseminated misleadingly simplistic descriptions of new City Hall bureaucracy that develop open space policy under Measure CC.

In conjunction with these bait-and-switch tactics, the Committee for Measure CC, Laguna Greenbelt Inc. and Laguna Canyon Conservancy also publicly accused LBTA of being intentionally “untruthful,” “making stuff up” and “scare tactics.”   In response to this disinformation campaign, LBTA President, Martha Lydick urged voters to read Measure CC for themselves. LBTA members also fought back in the social media with email blasts and blogging at lagunabeachtaxpayers.net.

When all was said and done, Measure CC was overwhelmingly defeated because its sponsors chose ballot language that did not identify the location, size or cost of parcels to be purchased.  Nor did it include standards for protection of taxpayer and adjacent property owner rights in connection with a variety of public uses allowed by Measure CC upon conversion of privately owned open space in our neighborhoods to public ownership.

The moral to the story is that bad open space policy is bad tax policy, and vice versa.  Yet, its sponsors tried to make support for Measure CC a litmus test to prove loyalty to the legacy of Jim Dilley and those who pioneered our open space movement.

In a way that was divisive and did a disservice to our shared open space values, supporters tried to define opposition to Measure CC as betrayal of that legacy. LBTA members who did more to create and sustain the Greenbelt and Canyon Conservancy than many Measure CC sponsors were not amused.

The way we now truly can honor Dilley’s legacy is to affirm community support for open space preservation. One possibility – convene a truth and reconciliation session so LBTA, Laguna Greenbelt Inc. and Laguna Canyon Conservancy can bring the Measure CC narrative to closure and identify common goals for enhancement of the city’s existing program to protect valued open space.

Perhaps our two newest City Council members could provide leadership in sponsoring such a truth and reconciliation forum.

Laguna Beach resident Howard Hills is a member of the Taxpayers’ Assoc.


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  1. I am grateful for CC’s defeat especially after such incisive remarks like opponents were “making stuff up”. The victory is almost miraculous after such repartee. Thanks to all for all your hard work.


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