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A new broom sweeps clean

I have heard, from the moment I decided to run for City Council, that I was too “new”. I dismissed the claim immediately, and pushed forward. I didn’t give it a second thought. I found it so peculiar and absurd.

I kept hearing it. A prominent businessman who agreed to have coffee with me said, “You’ve only been in Laguna Beach two years? You are too new.” I asked what that meant. “You don’t know the insiders. Get out before you make a fool of yourself. You will look like a silly woman.” That’s a direct quote. 

I carried on. I come from a long line of fiscally conservative Democrats. I fully subscribe to TR’s “Square Deal” policy and the “3 C’s”. Not steal from the rich, but give everyone a fair chance. A hand up, not a hand out. 

When I finally posed the question “Too New” on Nextdoor (a site where the most civil seem to lose all reason), there wasn’t any response. It was amazing. No one could tell me what that meant?

Was it the established Republicans? Village Laguna? Remarkably, Nextdoor had gone silent. But for one or two supporters who told me to carry on and stop worrying about it, I never did get an answer. 

So, after almost three years in Laguna Beach, and two years in San Clemente, when do I get to say, “I am no longer a newlywed?” I am in love with Laguna Beach and I am going nowhere. However this turns out, thank you. To all the wonderful people I have met, to the incredible groups doing amazing, mostly unrecognized work, and to those who weren’t in fear of “new eyes” on old topics, it has been my honor to get to know you. 

There was another Roosevelt who once said “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Rest assured dear Laguna Beach, I am not “winging it” as Billy Fried suggested while interviewing me. I have done my due diligence and have studied hard to understand what is at stake. I appreciate all who just might realize, “A new broom sweeps clean.” The unfortunate things about living in a bubble, is that bubbles tend to burst. It also clouds judgment. It is advisable to remain open minded and looking to the future. I am open to all questions and new ideas for Laguna Beach. 

Allison Mathews

Laguna Beach

Candidates’ responses not truthful at Susi Q Forum

Previous forums wouldn’t allow debate among candidates on audience questions. That changed for the better at the recent Susi Q Forum with Council incumbent Iseman, Planning Commissioner Kempf, and former Council member Christoph’s answers.

Question #1 to Toni Iseman: “Do you think the City Council should be allowed to usurp Measure P sales tax 1 percent intent and take away resident voter rights to vote on a 25-year bond?”

Iseman failed to answer question in first attempt saying that’s up to the voters to decide, then corrected herself when challenged as “this is not true” by candidate Lorene Laguna. Iseman added, “We’ll find experts that will make recommendations.” (Decide for you with Council vote, taking your right to vote away, usurping resident right to vote on bond funded by 1 percent sales tax Measure P.)

Question #2 to Sue Kempf: “What is your reaction to the news that our City Planning and Council members never informed residents or public agencies of the loss of 120 parking spaces, not their disclosure of just 10 spaces reported by the City for the last four years of meetings, and presentations of Village Entrance design plans?”

Kempf stated spaces lost were around 25, but Planning Commission was not responsible, and City Council was, and her role was just reviewing the landscape, lighting and fencing issues, and approval was left to Council.

This is false. The Planning Commission voted 5-0 approval on 12/13/17. This resolution authorized the project/provided the approval of C.U.P. 17-2506, Planning Commission D.R. 17-2659 and Coastal Development Permit 17-2507 (Village Entrance Project) – sent to the Coastal Commission – certified on 1/23/18 by the City. Kempf failed to accept responsibility for the plan, flawed design and second motion, of the approved VE project.

Question #3 to Ann Christoph: “Do you agree with the City promoting and advertising the message of fire and fear for evacuation routes in order to sway voters to approve undergrounding power lines with the Measure P sales tax?”

Former Council member Christoph (served 1990-1994) stated she wasn’t for Measure P and in her closing statement erred by saying Lot 10’s existing 67 parking spaces were “not supposed to be double-counted” bought as an offset for landscape, said not fair to include in lost parking count.

This is a false statement, as Lot 10’s 67 spaces are year-round City revenue earning spaces, with the lot including a pay station for the last four years. It was a valet paid parking lot for decades before for our Festivals’ 464 spaces existing in our City parking resources within project boundary, now reduced to 342, losing 122 existing car stall parking spaces we had access to.

Bryan Menne

Laguna Beach

20 years of Iseman is enough

Urban design experts show us building parking structures does not reduce traffic congestion. In 2013, the $65 million dollar parking garage was opposed by Let Laguna Vote on grounds of cost scale and size. Toni Iseman joined LLV to oppose the structure until she proposed a parking garage of her own design at less cost and smaller size. On July 25, 2017, Village Laguna proposed seven more possible sites around Laguna to accept a parking structure. The city agenda item was moved by Councilman Dicterow, seconded by Boyd, and approved 5-0 by City Council including Iseman. 

Year after year advocates for less auto congestion propose mobility solutions to Laguna’s City Council. At one point our efforts brought Joe Alcott, an OCTA Rep (September 13, 2016) to present a report for PCH bicycle safety provisions and consistency from Seal Beach to San Clemente. Toni Iseman sent Alcott packing – she would have no bicycles in her town. PCH and Laguna Canyon Road are managed and operated by Cal State Department of Transportation Caltrans. Iseman denied them a multi-modal traffic solution on their own road. 

In a City Council meeting Iseman reminded older members of the audience if they sold their homes the City would benefit by higher tax revenues from property reassessment. 

At the Susi Q Candidate Forum an audience member asked whether residents would vote for the bond to pay for the power utility underground project. Toni answered that Laguna residents would be given the opportunity to vote approval for the sales tax increase measure. In reality residents vote only for the measure; the bond is approved by proxy. The City Council will potentially vote to float the bonds up to $135 Million or more, not the residents. Toni Iseman benefits directly from Measure P’s proposed undergrounding of utility poles by increased property values and enhanced views on her street while residents pay for it. (LB Seniors Campaign Forum – October 8, 2018 at 6 p.m.)

Iseman also denied that she, as a vote of City Council, eliminated 120 parking spaces when the Village Entrance was approved. This was strongly refuted by a member of the audience who has the actual accounting for loss of parking spaces and filed a complaint with the California Coastal Commission over the City’s VE. A reduction of parking spaces was a goal of Village Laguna as recorded on their website. (LB Seniors Campaign Forum – October 8, 2018 at 6 p.m.)  

Councilwoman Iseman has given years of public service to Laguna residents, but to the extent she and Village Laguna participated in the aforementioned shenanigans, isn’t 20 years of Iseman and company enough? 


Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, still a great place to live

Rather than a long diatribe, I’ll keep this letter positive and short. I moved to Laguna Beach in 1987. I love and appreciate living here now as much as I did in ‘87. I give the former and current city council members as well as city agencies and their employees much of the credit for keeping Laguna great (imagine a green hat with the letters KLG.) Additionally, it is clearly apparent that some members of our community have an exceptionally strong bond with and love for our city demonstrated by their frequent participation in various civic activities that make Laguna a special place to live. All one needs to do to see actual evidence of this involvement is to look at photos in old and current issues of local publications. Who do you regularly see in group photos? None other than Ann Christoph and Toni Iseman – Ann a former council member and Toni a current long-serving council member. They have my vote in the upcoming election because I know they truly and selflessly care about Laguna.

Lenny Vincent
Laguna Beach

Laguna Dance Festival is an inspiring, world-class event

I feel the need to publicly express my experience of the performances at two consecutive nights of the Laguna Dance Festival. 

I attended two different shows, on Friday and Saturday nights. They were fabulous! The curating of performers and styles, the execution, costumes, variety, lighting, and music made for an exhilarating experience. During Friday night’s Complexions Contemporary Ballet show, I thought the dance piece was over and blurted a loud, audible “WOW!” – but it was a pause for applause. No disrespect or disruption was intended, but I simply couldn’t help myself. The culmination of all that preceded it and the joy of their performance brought an involuntary verbal reflection of the exhilaration I felt in the essence of my being.

I was expecting a letdown Saturday night after seeing my favorite dance troupe in the world, Complexions, on Friday night. To my surprise and delight, Saturday’s performances by various “Stars of Dance” were spectacular and emotionally rich. I was “wowed” both nights. Amazing!

I believe more than ever we need dance, music, and art as a diversion from the day-to-day political craziness and chaos. This weekend’s dance performances were great medicine for my soul.

My wife and I attend many theatre, music, and dance performances, but each year, the Laguna Dance Festival has been one of the entertainment highlights of my year. It continues to inspire and fill me like no other. 

I want to offer my appreciation to executive director Joy Dittberner, founder and artistic director Jodie Gates, board chair Karen Wilson, and the rest of the festival team for bringing us this world-class event to our beloved Laguna Beach. I feel blessed to witness and be a part of this great festival.

Stuart Bloom

Laguna Beach

Small town, big money politics

Special interest groups raise money and establish a PAC to endorse candidates, among other things. During an election, a PAC often conducts interviews and then chooses a candidate(s) to endorse.

PAC money is often put towards influencing the outcome of an election, in order to have candidates on City Council that best represent their interests. Feels like Washington style politics in our small Laguna Beach town to me.

This year in Laguna, of the three organizations that have openly offered endorsements (Village Laguna, Liberate Laguna, and the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association – LBPEA), only LBPEA conducted personal interviews equally with all City Council candidates.

Political party endorsements for a non-partisan office like City Council also trouble me. Why would a political entity seek to influence the voice and narrative on a local level?

The Laguna Beach Democratic Club endorsed three candidates. The Democratic Party of Orange County endorsed two candidates.

The Republic Party has not endorsed nor are they funding any candidate for City Council, a non-partisan elected position, to my knowledge.

Will the residents of Laguna Beach allow a PAC or political party to influence our city government or will our intelligent, self-driven voters remain neutral and independent, including considering “outside” candidates?

Resident voters will receive the government we elect and have the opportunity this election to vote in a new, independent, “outside” leadership.

A PAC does not require nor need to consent of a candidate it is endorsing to spend tens of thousands of dollars in advertisements on their behalf that fill our mailboxes with expensive, glossy mailers that ultimately benefit the PAC and its endorsed candidates.

Make no mistake, PACs are formed with political motives (hence the name “Political Action Committee”), and do give certain candidates an edge over others with their endorsements. PACs will often (though not always) ask a candidate, after their interview, if the candidate will accept their endorsement if offered. PACs are unlikely to throw good money at a bad investment.

Independent grassroots candidates are strapped by an individual donor campaign maximum amount set at $360. Candidates are told it takes money to win elections and to buy advertising but it is a challenge to raise sufficient funds to pay the tens of thousands needed to put together a large advertising campaign.

Local PAC Liberate Laguna sent a questionnaire to candidates and met with some for an interview. After meeting, the PAC members decided which candidate(s) would best serve their political interests, Kempf and Blake.

Village Laguna (VL) also met with candidates. VL then held a vote of their members to decide which candidate(s) to endorse, requiring a 2/3 vote. Iseman and Christoph were selected to best serve to fulfill the goals and further advance the objectives of VL.

Kempf is a three-term Planning Commissioner, elected by City Council and thus is an “insider” candidate, I believe, that is backed by the establishment and status quo.

Blake is an “outsider” maverick candidate who admitted he has not attended a City Council meeting in the past year, nor has he written a letter to the editor before deciding to run for City Council.

Residents have the opportunity to take money out of politics in our city. We have three City Council seats open to elect new leadership.

The candidates below are not endorsed by Liberate Laguna, Village Laguna, LBPEA or any political party, which I believe gives them a benefit because they are not receiving (wanted or unwanted) advertising support from special interest groups:

Lorene Laguna

Paul Merritt

Allison Mathews

I intend to be the voice of the underserved, under-represented, individual, independent resident of our community. Government was meant to be of the people, for the people and by the people to serve the people equally without special privilege or favor.

Candidates Bates and Zur Schmiede announced their resignation, as reported in Stu News. Dubin is a write-in candidate and Connelly has been on an extended vacation during this campaign.

Dedicated candidates like myself have been hard at work for you, to serve residents first, not political noise.

I suggest voters keep money out of local city politics and vote without influence.

I encourage residents to vote to elect new leadership…outsiders in, insiders out!

Lorene Laguna
Laguna Beach

Judie Mancuso responds to recent letter

Recently a letter was received by you from an individual questioning my professional background. In response to this individual criticizing me as well as other candidates on Nextdoor, I reached out to speak to her about her concerns but was declined. One would imagine if this individual was genuinely concerned about my background she would have accepted the chance to speak to me in person, or on the phone and get answers. Instead she declined to speak to me, showing in fact that her criticisms are nothing more than political theater. 

Furthermore, a simple Google search of my name returns 49,400 results. The results include stories in which my work and I are featured, including in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, CNN, HLN, Fox News, BBC, NPR, NY Times, NY Post, SF Gate, Sacramento Bee, The Laguna Beach Independent, Stu News Laguna, and many other periodicals, radio shows, online news sources, and all national and local major network stations: ABC, NBC, and CBS. I am tremendously proud of the work for animals I have done, which has reverberated across the globe with bills I have led, and my nonprofit has sponsored in California being copied in other jurisdictions. In fact, Senators, Mayors, and Assemblymembers have been quoted as saying my group, Social Compassion in Legislation, is the premier animal welfare organization in the state, and refer to me as a “force of nature.” 

Lastly, this individual questioned the legitimacy of my over 20 years’ experience in Information Technology. I worked as a systems development manager and project manager for companies such as E-Trade, Toshiba, and other fortune 500 companies. While my work in IT was decades ago, the business management experience I gained laid the foundation for my success in environmental and animal advocacy, serving on a state board, and will serve me well as a councilmember. 

As a candidate for political office, I welcome questions about my work, background and qualifications. The public deserves to understand who will be representing them in office. With that said, this individual is clearly not interested in getting answers to her “concerns,” but rather chose to send a letter trying to disparage me. Next time, maybe this individual should call me. I’m an open book. 

Judie Mancuso

Laguna Beach

Did we really need one more ABC liquor license in Laguna?

The last item on the October 9, 2018, City Council agenda, heard by an empty room, was an appeal of a unanimous denial by the Planning Commission of an application for a conditional use permit to allow the sale of alcohol at the Circle K at 885 Glenneyre. It already is permitted to sell beer and wine. 

Of the four City Council members at the meeting, the three who are not running for election in November voted to overturn the Planning Commission denial and allow another liquor license. The only vote to look out for residents was Councilmember Toni Iseman.

After hearing from staff that the Planning Commission had voted 5-0 to deny the appeal because the area seems oversaturated with alcohol related businesses and because it believed that allowing additional alcohol related activities was not in the best interests of the community or the neighborhood, Councilmember Dicterow led off the discussion by saying that he couldn’t assess the safety issues and went on, joined by two other councilmembers to approve the appeal allowing the city’s 126th ABC liquor license to be issued. 

Laguna simply does not need one more liquor license.

--If Laguna Beach followed the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) guidelines, Laguna would have about 37 ABC licenses.   

--Instead, Laguna has 125 ABC licenses, which is a number far greater that the guidelines issued by the state for concentration of ABC licenses. 

--Laguna has between three and four times the number of State Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) licenses that would be allowed under ABC guidelines.

--Compared to neighboring beach communities, Laguna has nearly four times the number of DUIs per resident.

--So, it is little surprise that having nearly four times the number of ABC licenses that we have nearly four times the DUIs.

So, explain again what it was about safety that was hard to assess.

--Of 97 California cities in our population range, Laguna Beach has the highest number of annual DUI arrests according to the State of California Office of Traffic Safety. 

--Compared to nearby beach communities (Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente) Laguna Beach has the smallest population, but by far the highest number of ABC licenses and DUIs per resident.

--Laguna’s police and other public safety services report spending an inordinate amount of time and effort on alcohol related issues.

--And the City government share of sales tax revenue from sale of alcohol falls far short of covering the costs to the City attributable to sale of alcohol. 

--While revenue to the City government from alcohol sales is under $1,600,000 per year, public safety costs are over $35,000,000 per year. 

--It appears the revenue from sale of alcohol does not cover the cost to the City attributable to sale of alcohol.

--Police departments in San Diego and other cities are now commonly protesting new liquor licenses where warranted by issues like over-saturation.   

Here are some suggestions for the City Council:

How about trying this next time –

--”I’ll agree to another ABC license as soon as we get DUIs down to below the average for a city with our population?” 

--Or “I’ll approve another ABC license as soon as we have fewer ABC licenses than the ABC guidelines?”

--Or – Ask the applicant what the economic difference would be to his store if he could sell alcohol. Then offer to give him the CUP if he would turn over half that to the police department to reimburse them and the city for the extra cost of having one more liquor license.

As you consider your choices in the coming election, Toni Iseman was trying to protect the residents. She needs some company on the City Council who will be more interested in helping the residents than helping Circle K.

(Sources – Click here for Page 1, Page 2, and Page 3)

John Thomas

Laguna Beach

“False fact” on Measure P door hangers and campaign literature

Door hangers and campaign literature from the local PAC known as “Yes on P” pushing the sales tax increase are being distributed to residents with a blatantly false statement, which is misleading to residents. The false statement is “Overhead Electrical Utilities #1 Cause of California Fires”, which is absolutely 100 percent false. Overhead utilities are not the top cause of fires in California, not at all (Source: CalFire). The PAC was notified of this falseness and was given an opportunity to retract this false statement from their literature, but they refused, preferring instead to continue to mislead residents with this “false fact”. 

Letter Zeiter

Referencing an LA Times article by an * does not absolve the Measure P PAC from spewing a falsity. It’s disingenuous, and reeks of a “fear and fire” approach. Unfortunately, with the PAC’s deep pockets (with at least 5x the money raised as our truly grassroots opposition campaign), there will likely be more such propaganda that plays fast and loose with the facts as we approach November 6.

Is there any wonder there is so little trust in government these days, even on a local City of Laguna Beach level? This “win at any cost”, the “ends justify the means”, and “facts be damned” mentality destroys trust in our elected officials and those trying to shove this tax measure on residents, robbing Peter to benefit Paul. Before you vote on Measure P, the sales tax increase, ask yourself why the three city council member PAC organizers felt it is necessary to mislead residents with this false statement? If they are willing to mislead voters in this way, what else do they have up their sleeves if Measure P passes and they get their hands on all that tax money? 

Just one more reason to Vote No on P. Join other Laguna residents voting NO on Measure P. Enough is enough.


Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach

Comments on recent forum: Peter Blake and Sue Kempf

If you did not attend the Stu News and KX 93.5 forum on Tuesday night, you missed a very interesting council candidate forum. Most candidates came across knowledgeable, confident and enthusiastic.

Unfortunately there was one failed candidate in the group, in my opinion. To me, Liberate Laguna’s endorsed candidate, Peter Blake, showed with his emotional performance he is not suited for a civic leadership role. In my opinion, he was mean, insulting and displayed a failed sense of civic affairs. Some examples:

--Disclosed that he never attended even one council meeting last year! Could this explain why civic participation by residents irritates him so much?

--Called our charming and historic structures “shacks” and implied they be torn down. 

--Thinks Laguna is “frumpy” and boring and wants to change that. 

--Seems to want to have our police proactively search the homeless and confiscate any contraband found.

--Supports efforts to encourage upscale downtown shops, build multi-level parking structures and channel more traffic into the central business district.

---Did not seem interested in reviewing Laguna government’s budgets but stated that, as a businessman, he lets his company’s CFO do that. If elected, will he rely on the City Manager for the city’s financial affairs, never questioning how our money is being spent? I was shocked!

Then we come to Liberate Laguna’s other endorsed candidate, Sue Kempf. She impresses me with her experience and devotion to civic affairs. However, I have been wondering why she was endorsed along with Peter Blake by the Liberate Laguna PAC. I do believe her when she says that she neither sought nor welcomed their endorsement. But why does Liberate Laguna endorse her?

At the forum I heard her advocate for the construction of multi stories on downtown buildings but with little detail. How would this redevelopment be done? Would we allow developers to demolish some of our historic downtown structures to support multi stories? What would downtown look and feel like with steel and glass facades on our rebuilt structures? Or covered with fake craftsman style designs? Would this new construction destroy the only small scale, walkable coastal downtown in southern Orange County?

I wonder if this is why Liberate Laguna made the unsolicited endorsement. I am very concerned. 

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

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