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Disclaimer: Letters to the Editor do not necessarily represent the opinions of Stu News Laguna but rather the opinions of the letter writer.


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

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