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Statewide fires are a reminder to be vigilant about local fire safety measures

I want to thank the Laguna Beach Fire Department and especially Ray Lardie – he has removed an incredible amount of dry vegetation not only in public areas but he has diligently worked with many homeowners to remove dead/dying vegetation from their property. I don’t know how he did it but he worked with some pretty reluctant folks who preferred to keep their yards “wild” and, well, a fire hazard. He has been removing Arundo and pampas grass, both listed as bad plants on the LB Fire Department’s website (a good way to check what is good to plant and not to plant). Caltrans has also played an important part is clearing out the Canyon. 

Unfortunately the threat is not over and neither should our vigilance. Hopefully this City Council will be able to draft a plan to take down the poles and provide some measure of safety not only for those living in the canyon but for those who commute through the canyon whether they be residents of our town or visitors. As we are seeing first hand how many power poles have come down, how much they have added to the destruction the fire has played and of course power outages as a result, let’s rethink our responsibility to keep our city safe. I hope we can be more visionary and remove this threat from our town we often call Paradise. Perhaps some people will look twice at their eucalyptus and palm trees as it seems that these trees played a crucial role in spreading the fire – it seems that tall trees did not catch embers and keep them from landing on houses as some folks in our town have claimed would happen. I also think of all the animals, domesticated or not, and wonder about how they will survive or have survived during this and its aftermath. I voted yes for P and would so again. 

We still have some Santa Anas in the weeks to come, let’s keep vigilant and think what we can do to mitigate replicating this horror our State is going through and help those who are in the midst of sorting out their lives.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

School Board election: Do the math

After declaring candidacy for re-election to City Council, incumbent Rob Zur Schmiede put illness in family first, ending his campaign. Changing his mind, and already on the official ballot, Rob re-entered the race. 

Many were surprised when he garnered 1,739 votes, less than 7 percent.  Rob finished in 7th place, with fewer votes than unsuccessful candidates Christoph, Kinsman and Mancuso.

As a School Board candidate in 2016 who got 5,281 votes, I was encouraged to run again in 2018.  But I thought Michele Hall did the right thing choosing family and professional career over often petty local politics. I admired Zur Schmiede’s priorities as well.

Unlike adversity Zur Schmiede faced, our 8th and 9th grandkids and growth in my law practice led to a decision to sit this one out. But when the official ballot was published, 349 supporters on my 2016 campaign email list sent messages asking for the choice to vote for me again.

I owed them that much and agreed to be a write-in candidate. First, we had to meet same qualifications as ballot candidates and register under state law.

Far as I knew no write-in candidate had ever won, so expectations were well under control. Still, we ran a serious issues-focused campaign, including newspaper ads, mailers and participation in the only School Board candidate forum. 

We asked press for equal time with a City Council write-in candidate getting extensive, repeated in-depth coverage in local media. Answer we got was local media is too understaffed for coverage of School Board race.

Voting machines make write-in votes a hassle, so we were grateful for every single vote. To his credit the City Council write-in candidate touted by media earned 180 votes the hard way, and our little insurgency also worked for 560 votes – without being on the ballot. That’s a respectable 30 percent of what incumbent Zur Schmiede got with his name on the ballot! 

The real efficacy of our campaign, however, is in the math. For example, if 4th place losing candidate Christine de Bretteville had received just 134 of the 560 votes cast for me, she would have defeated 3rd place winning candidate James Kelly.

If de Bretteville had picked up 262 of the 560 votes I was honored to receive, she would have defeated incumbent 2nd place winner Dee Perry. And if 4th place de Bretteville had attracted just 353 of the votes 560 votes I got she would have defeated incumbent and 1st place winner Carol Normandin. 

In contrast, even if unsuccessful 5th place candidate Mark Nelson had received all 560 of the votes I got, he still would have lost to unsuccessful 4th place candidate de Bretteville.

We think the success of one winning candidate was best, and hope another surprises us in a positive way. But we would not have wanted any votes by our campaign’s committed supporters to go to any other candidates who we did not actively support. 

Thus, what the math teaches is that citizens with a serious purpose and sense of civic responsibility who run for office give voters greater range of choices. As such, sincere candidates do a public service by promoting real diversity and pluralism in our civic culture.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

We need to open our eyes to fire dangers in our community

As we all have seen the devastation that is occurring in cities much like ours, I hope everyone can open their eyes and see how urgent it is that we really start to make brush clearance an extreme priority. Goats are not enough! Why are we not seeing clearance in the canyons and trails? Why are we allowing residents to have dead trees at an alarming height neighbor us? My family backs up to open space that is filled with brush. When we receive our weed abatement letters, they are not taken seriously by at least half of my neighborhood. Citations are not made; extreme leniency in time is given. Maybe instead of our community development employees driving around looking to cite residents for an unpermitted paint color or another insignificant change made to their home, we can have them or even the fire department personnel looking for possible dangers as they are everywhere I look in this town. If we do not have funds for this (which I believe unimaginable) perhaps we can outsource. This is completely unacceptable. I realize that our community decided against Measure P, but please, just because P didn’t pass, doesn’t mean we can’t be proactive as of today to make these imminent precautions happen fast. To our City Council members, Fire Department officials and the Disaster Preparedness Committee that are reading this, please prepare our town better than you have.

Jasmin Niederberger

Laguna Beach

Harley Rouda and Mike Levin ride the blue wave

It wasn’t the tsunami some pundits predicted, but OC locals Harley Rouda and Mike Levin rode last Tuesday’s blue wave to victory. I expect both of them to serve with distinction in the House of Representatives.

As for their GOP counterparts who were swept away by the wave’s undertow, they had a chance to reject what many feel has been hateful, anti-immigration campaign rhetoric coming from President Trump but they did not do so.

The Republicans have no one to blame but themselves for their loss of control in the House. Now it’s up to Democrats like Harley and Mike to lead the way. Good luck. We are all counting on you. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Thank you to our local, independent news organizations

Before the election is in the distant past, I want to commend both Stu News and the LB Indy for their fair and even-handed treatment of local election issues over the past few weeks. In a national climate where election issues are hotly contested and the news media is vilified by some as “the enemy of the people”, we in Laguna are fortunate to have two local, independent news organizations staffed with hard working people dedicated to upholding the best traditions of the industry.

John Thomas

Laguna Beach

Saturday’s Shoreline event was what Laguna is about

A tale of alchemy during divisive diatribes: We were all dressed in black from neck to toe, waiting for our umbrellas in lines that twisted from multiple sites on Main Beach. Some of us came from town, and some from afar – each clutching our release waivers and hoping for one of the thousand umbrellas etched with seashell X-ray mandalas. We heeded instructions – wait for the signal, then open and click on, stay on the sand, no flash photography.

There were clusters of friends, neighbors, families, dancers; and, as many individuals – all ages, genders, shapes and heights. The drums started and a wide oval formed around a dance troupe that performed as the sun started to set. The sky darkened, the signal came, and the umbrellas went up. One click to light the ribs, a second click to light the pole. My white umbrella with the charcoal shell etching unfurled to my smile, the laugh of others caught by the wonder of theirs, and we started to whirl to the drum dance. Some marched. Some twirled their umbrellas. Others opened and closed theirs. A disorganized order of individuals creating a pattern like blown dandelion puff balls or coral polyp fronds emerging from their skeletons to feed. Pure joy, participation as we eddied from one side of the beach to the other – performing together free of partisan politics and campaigning feuds.

Elizabeth Turk’s Shoreline Project brought Laguna locals and our visitors to play. This is what Laguna is about. Thanks to Laguna Art Museum, the donors, and the participants who made the magic happen.

C. Deborah Laughton

Laguna Beach


Alan Sedoff 

January 5, 1945 - October 19, 2018 

Alan Sedoff with sister

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Alan came to Laguna Beach in 1958 from Michigan with his parents and two siblings.  He was funny, charming and a handsome devil! He loved spearfishing and body surfing. Alan was an excellent artist and had a deep love for animals. He attended Laguna Beach High School and was good friends with Chip Harrell and Kelly Boyd and more of the local Laguna Beach rascals. 

Alan was drafted into the Army right out of high school and did a two-year tour in Vietnam. He came back and met his first wife with whom he had two sons, Bayne and Barrett. 

Later, he was an excellent caretaker to our parents until our Mother Louise passed, and then he moved to Montana. He fell in love with Montana and lived there the rest of his life with his wife Helen and three cats. He is survived by his wife Helen, son Bayne and two grandchildren, Gabby and Ethan, brother Greg Sedoff and sister Alexis Cunningham.


Ann Richardson 

May 1, 1937 - October 30, 2018

Ann Richardson closeup

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Ann Caroline Grover Richardson passed away peacefully on October 30, 2018, in the company of her loving husband John and her adoring children, at her home in Laguna Beach, California.

Ann was born on May 1, 1937, in Silver Spring, Maryland, to Esther and Wayne Grover. After attending college at Miami University in Ohio, she moved to California to become an elementary school teacher. She met John while living on Balboa Island, they married in 1960, and they raised their family in the cities of Redlands and Upland. They moved to Laguna Beach in 1997.

Ann dedicated her life to being a caring, Christ-like servant to her family members, her fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and everyone in the community. She was a Cub Scout leader, served over 20 years on the Laguna Beach Interfaith Council and was an active volunteer at the Laguna Beach ASL Emergency Shelter, Cafe Pacifica, Laguna Beach Friendship Shelter, and Laguna Pantry. She was a conscientious citizen and voter who researched candidates and issues with great care. Everything she did was in the service of others, in order to “make the world a better place.” She accepted as a friend every person that she met.

Ann’s family and faith were at the center of her life. She taught through word and example to always “have an attitude of gratitude” for the blessings and experiences in our lives. She absolutely loved supporting and listening to her 11 grandchildren as they shared their experiences with her. She talked and texted constantly with her daughters, son, and other relatives and friends. She absolutely loved spending time with John, particularly during their daily walks near the beach and when sharing meals together each day.

She leaves a legacy of selfless service and will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by her husband John; her sisters Jane Brown and Victoria Grover; her children Sue Coe (Dave), Peter Richardson (Heather), Carrie Hall (Matt); and her 11 grandchildren Kenzie, Abbie, Aubrye, Jack, Harriet, Bryson, Porter, Henry, Jed, Zach and Taylor. She is preceded in passing by her son Grant, her sister Mary Blumenthal, and her parents Wayne and Esther Grover.

In lieu of flowers or donations, Ann asks that you take your family and loved ones out to dinner to make memories and enjoy each other’s company.

All who wish to attend a memorial service in honor of Ann are invited to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 3, at 682 Park Avenue in Laguna Beach.

Leadership testimonials for Judie Mancuso

A testament of just how well Judie Mancuso interacts and works effectively with others for the better good is her recent candidacy endorsement by her 2016 city council rival Councilman Steve Dicterow. Councilman Dicterow’s support of Judie to serve as our next city council member has come after two years of observation and scrutiny, that only a city council person can offer from being in the position and understanding its nuances and high-level requirements. 

His endorsement quote reads: “Over the last two years I have watched Judie grow into a leader who listens to all sides and all perspectives before coming to a conclusion. She knows how to work with everyone in a consensus building way. These are the characteristics which are necessary to serve effectively on the Laguna Beach City Council.” -Steve Dicterow, Council member.

I agree, and I support Councilman Dicterow’s choice of dynamo Judie Mancuso as our next city council person. I respect him for stepping up on our behalf to ensure that we get the best and brightest leader to intelligently and effectively represent us. It’s encouraging to see two leaders from different political backgrounds working together and committed to making the best decisions possible to protect and enhance our town. Thank you both for your efforts. 

As a city government watchdog, I offer my own leadership testament, “I have been very impressed at Councilman Dicterow’s effort to improve city government transparency. In fact, it is because of his objectiveness and persistence that residents opposing the city undergrounding proposal had the opportunity to formally address the council with their concerns about the suggested general fund tax vs a designated tax approach. This support for residents to have a major say in the issue of taxing to underground utilities resulted in Measure P that voters will vote on November 6th. To me his actions spoke volumes as to taking steps to move towards constituent voices being heard and improving city relations and transparency.” 

We have the opportunity right now to choose new capable and qualified leaders. With Councilman Dicterow’s support, and Judie’s ability to hit the ground running, it will be the beginning of a new era in Laguna Beach with more positive testaments on the horizon. 

MJ Abraham

Laguna Beach

Don’t be fooled again!

In 1994, after a successful four-year term on the Laguna Beach City Council, Ann Christoph ran for a second term. This was one year following the 1993 Laguna Beach firestorm. At election time, the Treasure Island investors were negotiating with the city for what would become the Montage Resort. The investors did not want Ann to be re-elected to the council for a second term, so they initiated a political smear campaign to claim that Ann was “responsible” for the fire because the proposed Alta Laguna reservoir had not been approved. In truth, Ann was part of the consultant team that designed Alta Laguna Park prior to her election in 1990, and therefore was not allowed to vote on the adjacent proposed reservoir. But the actual facts didn’t matter to the investors. Their character assassination worked and she lost the election.

“Deja vu all over again”. It’s now 2018, 24 years later, and the Political Action Committee “Liberate Laguna” is dusting off the old playbook of lies and deception. Ann’s character and competence are backed by community leaders, business owners, and past mayors. Liberate Laguna PAC’s primary financial backer, Shopoff Realty Investments, states in their website that their “total commitment is to the success of their investors”. 

There are good developers and good projects, to be sure. But there are others who are misguided and would do our community harm. Ann Christoph will look out for our town and watch our collective backs. Please vote for her to protect the Laguna Beach we love.

Bob Borthwick

Laguna Beach

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