Back to Top

Zur Schmiede suspends candidacy, family comes first


Mayor Pro Tem Rob Zur Schmiede announced his candidacy for a second term on the City Council at a well-attended kick-off on a sunny June 24. 

But dark clouds were hovering. 

Zur Schmiede’s younger brother, Tom, had been severely injured in a near fatal traffic accident just 10 days earlier in Louisville KY. He was in intensive care for a month and is still hospitalized. 

Zur Schmiede announced on Monday he is terminating his election campaign to allow him to deal with the complications related to the younger Zur Schmiede’s struggle with medical, legal and financial issues resulting from the accident.

“This is the hardest thing I have ever done,” said Zur Schmiede. “He is getting better. His mind and his personality are there – he is a wickedly funny guy – but it’s baby steps.”

After crisscrossing the country several times since announcing his candidacy, it became evident to the elder brother that it would be impossible for him to provide the necessary support for his sibling while trying to run a successful re-election campaign and still serving on the council.

Zur Schmiede’s brother’s needs took precedence 

“I slept in the same room with him for 17 years,” said Zur Schmiede. “I said to myself, ‘I know what I have to do’ and I am completely at peace with my decision. 

All I ask is for people to understand why I have to do this. Everyone has been so supportive.”

Zur Schmiede closeup

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Zur Schmiede suspends candidacy

Zur Schmiede said he would be contacting supporters within the next few days. He will not be advising them to switch support to another candidate.

“I do not want to take advantage of an emotional situation,” Zur Schmiede said. 

He plans to finish his term as Mayor Pro Tem and will continue to support the one-cent tax increase to fund undergrounding utilities along Laguna Canyon Rd.

Zur Schmiede was also active in the passage of Measure LL, on which nearly 80 percent of Laguna Beach voters approved an increase in bed taxes from 10 percent to 12 percent. The increase funds fire and police department protection and utility undergrounding. 

Among his accomplishments in his service to Laguna, Zur Schmiede is especially proud of the Leadership Laguna program created by him and Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson.

Before being elected to the council, Zur Schmiede served on the Planning Commission and on the Design Review Board, to which he brought a treasure trove of professional experience in planning.

That experience included employment as the Long Beach Deputy Director of Development, from which he retired in 2013. He subsequently held three interim appointments: Deputy Director of Community Development for San Clemente in 2015, followed by Deputy Director of Long Beach, and another position in Santa Ana which he just finished.

Colleagues and supporters have rallied around Zur Schmiede since he went public with his decision to withdraw from the council election, in order to cope with the complications that have arisen in the aftermath of his brother’s accident. 

Doing both was doing neither justice, said Zur Schmiede; his brother Tom comes first.

Rowan Reports: Stu News’ youngest columnist talks with Sylvia Fishman, a Holocaust survivor


What if your life was turning? If you felt like you had to hide yourself for the way you think and feel? Like in order to survive you had to put a barrier over your heart, and lose control of what is right. That is what I wonder about the word “surviving.” What if “surviving” means losing your soul in the process? By learning more and more about a survivor, I think maybe it’s the opposite; that maybe “surviving” is holding on to your soul and letting your body free. My survivor is Sylvia Fishman and she lived through the Holocaust. 

Sylvia’s eyes had sorrow in them, but were also full of hope. She looked like she was holding onto something bigger than her, something bigger than all of us. Sylvia is my great-cousin. We were at a wedding for my cousin when I met her. She told me how happy she was to see me, and I stood next to her for a while. 

Then my mom came up to us and pointed to a series of numbers tattooed on her arm. “Those are from the Holocaust,” she said. As soon as Mama said those words, tears welled up in Sylvia’s eyes. She looked at me and asked me to never forget her story. That moment I knew that she was going to be my next topic. 

Sylvia lived through something that most people couldn’t. She was stripped of her religion, family, and friends. But they never took away her passion to live. Sylvia lived a happy, carefree life before the Holocaust, but as soon as it started, they were forced to leave their home. They tried everything but couldn’t find a way to escape the Nazis. They were desperate for food, so Sylvia went to a farm when it was still legal to send food to the ghetto. 

Rowan Reports Sylvia

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted photo

Rowan’s great-cousin Sylvia Fishman

Soon after they banned it. Sylvia got a letter from her father that said to not come back to the ghetto and to find safety. So she cared for the cows at a farm. She pretended that the was just a Polish girl and had to watch the Jewish people getting sent to camps every day. She knew she had to go back and see her family. But when she got there, her family was gone. She got caught in the ghetto and sent to a camp. Life was hard in this camp. Every day was a struggle but she made it through. She survived. 

After the wedding, I started studying the Holocaust more closely. I wondered if anything that I can read online was true. I knew telling Sylvia’s story was going to be difficult, but this was more than expected. I have always written from my heart, and since Sylvia’s son had already written down what had happened, I thought it best to write about what I feel and give you, the readers, something that will make you see Sylvia’s life through different eyes. And maybe it will give me some courage to write my life through the eyes of my heart. 

What if you could change history? If you could go back in time and change one thing in anybody’s mind. What would I do? To me, that’s a hard question.

After learning so much about different people’s life stories over the years, I think, this was such a horrible and inhumane thing to happen, but we can’t deny that it did, so we must remember it, even if it’s very painful.

What if that’s the only way to make sure it never happens again?

Statement from Mayor pro tem Rob Zur Schmiede

It is with disappointment and great reluctance that I must announce that I am no longer able to seek re-election to the City Council seat that I have proudly held these past four years and am immediately suspending my re-election campaign.

My younger brother Tom was involved in a near fatal vehicle collision in Louisville, KY on June 16th. He was rear-ended at high speed, is still hospitalized, and struggling with the medical, legal and financial after-effects of that life-changing incident.

As his legal representative and the only immediate family member with the skills needed to assist him with many of his needs, I have had to wrestle with the demands of ensuring that Tom has the care and resources he’ll need for the remainder of his life and have come to recognize that it is impossible for me to commit to another four years of service on the City Council at this time.

Just a short while ago, when I submitted my re-election signature petition, I thought I would be able to manage assisting my brother, while also running a successful re-election campaign and continuing to serve our community on the City Council.  Over the last few weeks, however, my brother’s situation has become more complicated than I ever could have anticipated, to the extent that I can no longer sustain all of these commitments with the level of engagement I believe they deserve. My attention now must be focused on doing everything I can to support Tom and ensure that his recovery is the best possible – both medically and financially. As I hope everyone will understand, I have to be able to sustain the work of caregiver and advocate for as long as my brother needs me.

I am profoundly grateful for the efforts of my campaign team, for the encouragement and collaboration I have enjoyed from my colleagues on the Council, and from the enthusiastic support of residents throughout Laguna. It has been my honor to serve Laguna Beach as Mayor pro tem, as a Council Member, as a Planning Commissioner, and as a Design Review Board member. I remain as passionate as ever about the unique City we all love and will serve out the balance of my term on the Council to the best of my ability.

Surf was up at Brooks Street Classic

Surf was up 1

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Click on photo for larger image

Surf was up 2

Photo by Scott Brashier

Click on photo for larger image

Surf was up 3

Photo by Scott Brashier

Click on photo for larger image

Surf was up 4

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Click on photo for larger image

See results and more photos from the 55th Annual Brooks St Surfing Classic on our Front Page I

City Council candidate forum at Susi Q on Oct 8 to focus on senior issues

Laguna Beach Seniors in conjunction with the League of Women Voters Orange Coast (LWVOC) invites the public to a nonpartisan City Council candidate forum on Monday, Oct 8 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Susi Q Senior Center. The LWVOC’s Armida Brashears will moderate the Forum.

City Counil Candidate Susi

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Candidate Forum at Susi Q to focus on issues such as senior housing and traffic and transportation 

Nine of ten City Council hopefuls will come together on the same stage giving residents another chance to get to know more about the candidates running and to ask questions prior to the November 6 election.

As part of the agenda, questions will focus on issues such as senior housing, aging in place, traffic and transportation, and local initiatives.

“Our seniors like to be informed about the candidates and the issues on the ballot, and are clearly one of the most active voter segments of the community,” says Laguna Beach Seniors’ Board President, Kris Thalman.

The forum is free, open to the public and will be live streamed on the Laguna Beach Seniors Facebook page at Information about the candidates will be available on tables outside the forum. Campaign literature, buttons, signs, or any other campaign-related items will not be allowed in the room where the forum is taking place.

League of Women Voters of the United States encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Laguna Beach Seniors has been enhancing the lives of seniors for over 40 years. Mental health support, care management, recreational and educational classes are available and designed for local seniors to promote independence, wellness and community. The Susi Q also is the heart of an ambitious vision called Lifelong Laguna: a community and a nonprofit working together to make the town we love a better place for the rest of our lives.

For more information, contact Kris Thalman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

Susi Q is located at 380 Third St. Free parking is available in the underground structure.

Health in Balance hosts Community Appreciation Day this Thursday, Sept 20

Health in Balance is offering free treatments all afternoon this September 20, expressing gratitude for their patients and the community. For their annual Community Appreciation Day, the group opens up its practice and offers free treatment all day, and raises money for local charities.

Health in Balance Arthur

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Chiropractor Dr Gary Arthur works on a patient

There will be complimentary: Chiropractic Adjustments, Therapy Massage Treatments, B-12 Shots, and Consultations for new guests, plus 50 percent off IVs and Detox Foot Baths. Guests will receive goodie bags and healthy food, provided from local sources.

Health in Balance will have health stations with information on Mind-Body Health, Genetic Weight Loss, Allergy Testing, Nutrition and Immunity, Flexibility and Home Care, Essential Oil Living, and more.

Health in Balance Team

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

The Health in Balance Integrative Medicine team

Community Appreciation Day will raise money for the Friendship Shelter, and the Dominguez Roth Integrative Medical Foundation.

Spread the healing to your loved ones. Anyone new to the facility will receive a complimentary consultation with one of the doctors along with their treatment.

Schedule your treatment time at or call (949) 497-2553. Walk-ins also welcome, but RSVP is recommended.

Health in Balance is located at 330 Park Ave Suite #3.

Colleagues praise Zur Schmiede


Mayor Pro Tem announced on Monday that he could not devote the appropriate time to his brother’s recovery in Kentucky from a severe injury and to his re-election campaign and was canceling his bid for a second term on the City Council.

The announcement drew praise from colleagues for his contributions to the city and devotion to his brother. 

Comments are listed in order of seniority on the council and city appointments:

Mayor Kelly Boyd: “I told Rob that family is the most important thing. I’ve lost two brothers since 2011 and I know how important family is. 

“I think he is doing the right thing. The most important thing for Rob is his brother, his family and the [great] distance between Laguna and Kentucky.

“I told him sometimes you just lay everything aside and family comes first. Rob was

very concerned that he couldn’t do a lot of the forums in his situation. 

“I didn’t always agree with Rob, but I respect him.”

Councilwoman Toni Iseman: “His professional background gave us someone we [council] could always count on. He was always meticulously prepared. I regret his decision – family comes first – but this is a loss for the community.”

Colleagues praise Dicterow and Zur

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Steve Dicterow and Rob Zur Schmiede share good times

Councilman Steve Dicterow: “This is a leave of absence. I believe at some point things will square with his brother and I would hope he would run in two or four years. A guy like Rob should have two or three terms.

“To me, this is not retirement, he’s way too young and he had only one term.

The most important thing for me when deciding who to vote for isn’t their ideology or their philosophy. It’s about their ability to make good judgments and decisions. 

“One of the most noteworthy things about Rob is he sits back and listens, listens to staff and listens to colleagues before making a decision. I love him as a councilmember.

“I will miss serving with Rob and when I spoke to him, I encouraged him that when his family matters are less pressing and he’s able to commit to being here full time, I would like him to consider running again.”

Councilman Bob Whalen: “Rob’s withdrawal from the Council race is a real loss for the City but the right decision for Rob and his family. He will be greatly missed. 

I served four years with Rob on Planning Commission and now four years on Council.  I have the utmost respect for Rob and the integrity with which he approached his role. He was always prepared on the issues and open to listening to all viewpoints before making a decision. He also would work hard to balance competing interests and make the best decision possible for the City. 

“We all owe Rob a heartfelt thank you for his years of hard work and dedication to the City. Rob can exit proudly knowing that he made significant contributions in his years of service and made this city a better place for all of us to live in.” 

Colleagues praise ribbon cutting

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Ribbon Cutting at Agate Street

City Manager John Pietig: “I have appreciated Councilmember Zur Schmiede’s dedication to the community for many years, not only as a Councilmember, but as a Planning Commissioner and former Design Review Board member. I wish Rob and his family the best during this difficult time.” 

Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson: “The breadth and depth of Rob’s knowledge and his strong commitment to service will be a huge loss to our city, especially at a time when we face so many critical issues.

“On a more personal note: My husband Marv and I have known him as a neighbor, a friend and a colleague. In all of his dealings, I have never known Rob to do anything halfway.

“I know he feels strongly that he could not do the job as councilmember the way he wanted at this time.”

Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee Chair Matt Lawson: “I served with Rob for more than five years on the Design Review Task Force and for the past four years on the EDPC, to which he has been council liaison. 

“Rob proudly served Laguna Beach for the past two decades as Mayor Pro Tem, council member, planning commissioner and Design Review Board member.

“He always brought to his public service a keen intellect, a civil disposition and a great willingness to listen impartially to all sides of an issue before rendering an informed, independent judgment in what he believed to be the in the best interest of our community.

“All of us who serve the city, in whatever capacity, or just aspire to, would do well to learn from and follow Rob’s example.”

Aragon the cat named “Kindness Cat” for the City in honor of World Kindness Day USA

Last Tuesday at the Council meeting, the City announced that it is officially participating in World Kindness Day USA and named Aragon the cat “Kindness Cat” for Laguna Beach.

City Council Aragon

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted photo

(L-R) Bill Levin, Michael Lloyd White, Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson, Shadi Pourkashef, Sandy Thornton, Sande St. John, Ernest Hackmon, Ce Ce Card and Aragon the cat

The Golden Hour

Photo by Scott Brashier

The Golden girl dancing

Click on photo for larger image

Dancer from Utah celebrates a Laguna sunset

YMCA of OC encourages Laguna Beach residents to live healthy during Childhood Obesity Month

The YMCA of Orange County is a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving healthy living countywide. Its Laguna Niguel branch, which serves 224 Laguna Beach residents as members, encourages local families to understand the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through improved eating habits and increased physical activity. 

YMCA of OC run

Submitted photo

YMCA youth programs help reverse the course of childhood obesity through improved eating habits and increased physical activity

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well chronicled, many families need support changing their families’ habits with the goal of overweight and obese children obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity has remained stable at about 17 percent and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents. Today, obesity affects one in six children and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers. Here in Orange County, one in five fifth grade students are obese and more likely to develop health related issues like diabetes.

YMCA of OC group

Submitted photo

YMCA of OC offers youth swim, volleyball, basketball, dance, track, soccer and even more programs for kids to stay active

“The YMCA values helping all youth reach their full potential in life and amid the dangers of childhood obesity, real progress can be made by helping families make the necessary lifestyle changes,” said Jeff McBride, president and CEO at YMCA of Orange County. “Together we can learn healthy behaviors, and encourage youth to foster an excitement and passion for healthy activities to help them gain new skills, develop a sense of community and connect with positive role models.”

In just one year, 14,205 kids participated in active YMCA outdoor programs like: sports, swim, day camps, and resident camps. YMCA of Orange County is helping families improve their health and potentially reduce the impact of childhood obesity through youth sports and fitness programs, including basketball, dance, gymnastics, martial arts, soccer, track and field, volleyball, water polo, yoga and swim programming.

For more information about the YMCA of Orange County, visit

Page 4 of 481