Recipe for Unifying
When I ran for City Council last fall, my main goal was uniting our city—I wanted to bring people together inspired by lofty goals, listen to residents’ concerns, and work together to solve common problems.
There is another way to bring us together—maybe an easier one: don’t listen to public input and keep charging toward your own targets. Make decisions with council subcommittees meeting privately, bring items to the public for brief review, ignore public comment and adopt the “recommended action.” Speak harshly and make unfair accusations to members of the public who dare to speak. Tell them that those who testify at public meetings are irrelevant, that council members are acting in response to the wishes of the silent majority, those mysterious people who do not attend public meetings.
This makes both the left and right-leaning members of the public angry and resentful, uniting them against a common enemy—the council and city government in general. A simple formula. Why did it take so long to figure this out?
Two weeks ago, Michele Monda, a conservative voice balancing what may be considered more liberal viewpoints of some of the Indy’s other columnists, wrote a column with the same message as mine. “Listening and responding to the public is an important part of governing.”
No, we did not plan this. Rather, frustrations with not being heard seem to be characteristic of our present political condition in Laguna Beach—so it’s not surprising we are both drawing attention to the same problem.
The current object of that frustration is the Mark Fornes’ mushroom-like pavilion being considered by the Arts Commission for the Village Entrance. Objections to it have united people with a broad range of interests and concerns—people who love the rustic feel of the canyon and who think the proposed pavilion detracts from that; those who love the park atmosphere that has just been created and don’t want to fill it with a structure; residents who say that this entrance to the city is the front yard for all of us, it’s a statement of who we are—and they think the Fornes structure won’t represent what we feel about our town. Then there are those who have practical concerns—the cost, speculated to exceed $1 million; the difficulties and cost of maintenance; and need to remove the trees and landscaping that we have just installed and paid for. Another group expressed those concerns at the Arts Commission follow-up meeting on Monday evening. United. Yet the Commission is moving ahead with the project, saying they are in communication with many people who support the project, but who don’t come to the meetings.
Thank you, city, for bringing us together, even though it is in response to things not going well.
We are together in so many ways. We can achieve so many wonderful things in our community, by seeing what needs to be done, moving forward and working hard to make dreams come true. Our nonprofit organizations are our strength, our opportunities to directly make change.
Within the next few weeks we will be having events that support their community improvement missions—The Boys & Girls Club will present a “Night at the Ranch” Sept. 13, the South Laguna Community Garden Park will “Celebrate 10 Years of Garden Magic” on Sept. 28, and the Chamber of Commerce and KX 93.5 will offer “Taste of Laguna” Oct. 3.
Here is where community lives. Here is where the lofty goals come to life.
Ann Christoph is a landscape architect and former mayor and member of the City Council.