Last Minute Tricks
Laguna Beach has had its share of last minute political dirty tricks. Perpetrators know that even when they are found to have spread erroneous information the tricks can leave impressions on voters that are negative and lasting.
I have experienced some of them myself. When I was mayor and running for re-election to the city council I received an anonymous phone call. “There are campaign signs that have been posted along Coast Highway at Fred Lang Park, just thought you should know,” the furtive caller told me.
Without asking whose signs they were, I immediately called the city manager to take care of it, since it is not permitted to post political signs on public property.
I thought nothing more of it until I was contacted by a reporter from KABC, Los Angeles. They were going to do an exposé on the evening news. “The mayor had used her political power to have city staff remove competitor’s signs,” they would allege. Amazingly they had sent a camera crew down to Laguna to film the signs at Fred Lang Park being removed by city workers.
The late Steve Esslinger, who owned the Laguna Terrace Mobile Home Park nearby and whose family at one time owned all of the property north of Aliso Circle to St. Catherine’s school, maintained there was a small strip of land between the boundary of Fred Lang Park and Coast Highway that his family still owned. Therefore the signs in question were really on private property, and were legitimately placed there. It had all been a set up and indeed the story ran on the evening news, leaving at least questions in voter’s minds.
That was followed up by a last minute postcard alleging that I had blocked access to my neighbors’ garages. Untrue, of course, but hurtful just the same and there was no time to refute any of it.
On another earlier campaign one candidate was a victim of a whisper campaign alleging child abuse.
Another effort almost doesn’t measure up to the standard of a dirty trick—it was more just mean silliness, with photos of the candidate’s trash cans supposedly improperly placed and accusations about not liking goats and the city’s fire prevention programs.
These last few weeks before election day anything can happen. While most of us have been focused on the dramatic and outrageous goings on in the national election, our local council, school board and city treasurer campaigns have been marching along, perhaps in the background for many. The forums are over. Literature from the campaigns has been mailed. Now is the time for the quirky accusations to surface, when there is no time or means to set things right.
Fortunately our town is small enough to know our candidates directly. We can call them and ask if there is any question, and we can get feedback from neighbors we trust. These most important positions are where decisions are made that most directly affect us. We can be amused by last minute attempts to sway our opinion with odd allegations, but let’s focus on record, accomplishment, qualifications, and selfless dedication.
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former city council member.