The Kibitzer: It’s Carnival Time

By Billy Fried
By Billy Fried

Besides the prospect of flipping our 48th district in November, as well as the House, we also have a chance to flip our own City Council, with possibly three new members

It’s a crowded field, with a record 13 candidates, so the vexing question is how to distinguish between them? Everyone proclaims to put residents first, which is a wise strategy since visitors don’t vote. They also aim to ensure our safety, protect our community and environment. Tent stakes.

But with little over two months to go, I went looking for real, actionable ideas for our traffic issues, growth, affordability, food security, water and cultural life on the candidates’ websites, social media and public statements. Here’s what I learned:

Incumbent Rob Zur Schmiede’s goal is to bring more voices to the process, to “broaden participation in civic deliberations.” He is “committed to courtesy, transparency, and collegiality.” And in a brief video, he tells us that his main attribute for continuing on Council is that he “has the time.”

IncumbentToni Iseman’s ads vow to keep Laguna from being “loved to death.” Two specific ideas she offered on my radio interview were to install parking meters in South Laguna and require mountain bikers to don numbered bibs so we can track their “reckless” behavior.

Like Zur Schmiede, Ann Christoff’’s platform is to get the community more involved in big decisions. But aren’t they involved enough already? It’s part of what causes our chronic gridlock.

Former councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman’s websiteis chock full of ideas. Problem is, they’re from July 2008.  Literally. I guess that demonstrates her fiscal restraint. The issues are all the same though – solve parking and circulation, expand the tram, protect the ocean, and implement the Vision 2030 Plan. Since that plan was ignored and a new one is on the way, Cheryl only needs to change the name.

Paul Merritt is a past candidate (heran for Council in 2014), who hasn’t updated his Facebook campaign page since then. Hey Paul, your last policy post was in 2014! Help us help you.

Judie Mancuso tells us she has “leadership, experience and integrity,” and will be a “voice for our community and preserve and enhance our quality of life, focusing on safety, traffic, and tourist growth.” Nothing like broad proclamations devoid of specifics.

Sue Kempf is a current Planning Commissioner (the longtime feeder system to Council). Her website is short on policy goals, but long on background. One insight is that she “loves teaming with great people to accomplish great things.”

Liz Bates wants to ease restrictions by revamping Design Review, reduce our carbon footprint, help our youth with outreach programs, get more use out of the Irvine Bowl, and yes, build a skate park (the idea that has died a hundred deaths). If that’s the only thing we do in four years, she gets my vote.

Lorene Laguna wants to “decouple parking and rezone areas to create a master vision plan to enhance our community in an environmentally sensitive and responsible manner.” Say what? But she is the only candidate who has cited the “Complete Streets and Enhanced Mobility Plan” as her template. She also wants a dog beach. Can we combine the dog beach with the skate park and call it “Dogtown Park?”

Sue Marie Connolly, a last-minute entry, has posted little about her position, other than she owns a day spa in town.

Allison Mathews is a Laguna newcomer, but her political pedigree runs deep. Her father was a diplomat, as well as her cousin, Daniel Ellsberg. Political service is in her DNA, and after living here for two years, she wants to tackle housing affordability. Now that’s a “New Deal.”

Then there’sPeter Blake, who has blown up decorum with his candor and pique. He wants to sweep the downtown of homeless, restore property rights by making historic designation voluntary, protect views against tree huggers, and somehow make our downtown more Beverly Hills than Coney Island. Not sure how you do any of that, but he seems to be garnering support from a significant segment of the population.

Overall, not much meat on the bone. Just a simmering broth of sameness. And with so many candidates, the debates promise to be torpid affairs. I encourage you to tune in to my Thursday night radio show on KX93.5, “Laguna Talks,” where I will be asking in-depth questions of the new candidates in the coming weeks.

But wait! Just this week in late-breaking news, the irascible artist Jorg Dubin declared his write-in candidacy with a stunning billboard on Laguna Canyon Road, touting endorsements by “the world’s bestest leaders.” Calling himself “Comrade Dubin,” he would certainly be a virile presence on the dais. He pledges to make Newport Beach, Irvine, Aliso Viejo and Dana Point pay for our peripheral parking, to de-annex the Canyon and make it the “Arts District,” and to charge every visitor a toll when entering town. Hey, Aspen had Hunter Thompson, Minnesota had Jesse Ventura, and America has Trump. I’d say Comrade Dubin has as good a chance as any.

Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on KX93.5 and can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. It IS difficult to choose, with such a large field and lack of specifics from most candidates. We have two incumbents and three to be elected who’ll have to work together, if they want to accomplish anything.


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