Village Matters


Hostile Word Takeover

ann christoph
By Ann Christoph

Have you noticed how advertisers are turning nouns into verbs? “That’s why we science,” says Bayer. They’re using common verbs as nouns. Mazda urges us to “Find a more inspired drive.” Apple uses an adjective instead of an adverb, in their slogan, “Think different.”

These twists in usage get your attention, which is, of course, what the advertising designer has in mind. And they’re memorable.

But there’s a more sinister manipulation of words—the process of turning perfectly good, serviceable and clear descriptions into undesirable ones through pejorative campaigns.

“Liberal” became the horrible “L” word. Being liberal was made to be so dreadful that liberals abandoned the term and started calling themselves “progressives” instead.

Here in Laguna, apparently the words “village character” are in the process of being similarly treated. New planning commissioner Jorge Dubin wanted those words removed from the Downtown Specific Plan, saying the term “village character” was vague and couldn’t be defined. Since “village character” is the distinctive quality most of us love about Laguna, perhaps the council should ask applicants for the planning commission if they can describe “village character” to qualify for the job. A follow up question might be, “Do you think Laguna’s village character should be preserved?”

But then, even “preserve” is falling from favor these days, along with “protect” and “save.” Those who advocate them are accused of being afraid of change and against progress. Can’t preserving, protecting and saving be a part of progress? Is it so unwarranted to be skeptical of proposed changes when we see the unfortunate results of development in neighboring cities to which little skepticism seems to have been applied?

Then there’s Village Laguna, an organization that some blame for everything that’s wrong at City Hall. According to local mythology, Village Laguna is all powerful and bent on subjecting Lagunans to all manner of miseries. The last time we had a council with a majority of Village Laguna-recommended members was 1994. It would seem that in the 25 years since then, the non-Village Laguna councilmembers could have changed things substantially and to the critics’ satisfaction. That is assuming they really needed to be changed and that the council’s achievements back then—like negotiating the Laguna Canyon purchase and saving the Greenbelt—were really so terrible.

Some are trying to turn the public against the “activists.” As if keeping an eye on city hall and speaking out are evil endeavors. So much better are those in the “silent majority” who stay at home and whose opinions can be assumed to be whatever the anti-activist people in charge want them to be.

We can’t let our favorite descriptive words be taken over. That is a first step in losing control of our destiny.

Have you driven through Dana Point lately? Just seeing those new gigantic buildings lumbering through their downtown, block after block, makes me even more committed to being a Village Laguna activist, defending our village character, working to preserve, protect and save the Laguna Beach we love.

Ann Christoph is a landscape architect and former mayor and member of the City Council.









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  1. Thank you Ann Christophe for shedding light on this. It is so important that residents continue to engage in local civics regardless of the efforts by some to silence them. And thanks to Village Laguna for being caretakers (not dictators) of our town for so many decades. Like other activist organizations in our City, they have made a difference. Laguna residents, you are “The City” and it’s future is in your hands. Don’t let anyone, particularly an elected official, take your voice away. Get Active! Stay Active!

  2. An “activist” is someone who is seeking to bring about political or other change. For example, activist-developers who were having a hard time getting their projects through city hall banded together and formed a PAC to get chosen candidates elected to city council in an effort to bring about change.

    A conservative is someone who holds traditional values and is cautious about change. The example in this case would be the conservative position of Village Laguna in preserving the status quo and being suspicious of changes sought by activist developers and their political cohorts.

  3. I could be wrong (it happens), but I am pretty sure when you both say that “some people” are trying to silence local activists, you mean one person. I am no fan of Peter Blake, and I consider his demonizing of Village Laguna to be churlish and unwarranted. It’s also counterproductive. Is there is any evidence that he has silenced anyone in this town? If anything, we are an increasingly noisy and more contentious community that has

    Demonizing Peter Blake, Mo Honarkar, and Liberate Laguna may be “tit for tat” but they are only doing what Village Laguna has been doing, if not for nearly as long or as effectively: advocating for the vision of Laguna that appeals to them. I get that this vision is anathema to the folks at Village Laguna and its offshoots. My free, unsolicited advice for both sides: stop clutching your pearls, can the hyperbole, and focus on making your case to the rest of us.

  4. Whoops. Post in haste syndrome: I failed to finish the last sentence in the first paragraph. I meant to add “…that has taken to shouting at one another as its preferred means of communication.”

  5. Let’s Live Life As It’s Meant To Be Lived: Money Talks, B.S. walks.. We need development capital to improve Everything. dana point? it’s FANTASTIC!


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