Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

Up and at ‘em…Fair Game is back…from sick bed to feet back on the ground…let’s get going!

Gosh, do I feel out of the loop. Having a medical issue that knocks you on your keister for an extended period of time is challenging. But thankfully, because of family, the great Hoag team and the encouragement of friends, life is definitely improving.

All that being said, this week I’m fully returning to the fray. I’ve already booked coffees with our mayor to help get my finger back on the pulse.

I also need to make it a point to get with “old friend” and recently named City Manager Dave Kiff, and councilmembers Alex Rounaghi and Mark Orgill. Anyone else with a burning desire to catch up, let’s do it! Shoot me a suggested time and date, along with a location. Then, I’ll confirm back with you.

Soon, beginning Monday, July 15 at 8 a.m., on the election front we’ll begin seeing anyone interested in running for council go through the filing process. The period will remain open until Friday, Aug. 9 at 5 p.m.

Two potentials being watched are incumbents Bob Whalen and George Weiss, with residents wondering if either or both will re-up, and then who else will formally jump in.

• • •

Speaking of politics, a couple of interesting, unrelated items came into Stu News in recent days…from two groups that often don’t see eye to eye.

The first was a letter submitted by Sam Goldstein of Liberate Laguna, accompanied by one signed from the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

The (FPPC) letter was in response to a complaint filed six years ago by Cindy Shopoff, Mike Ray and Sam. They had complained of alleged wrongdoings by Village Laguna related to a failure to “notify customers of their annual Charm House Tours that contributions to the effort were reportedly going for political campaigns.”

The FPPC’s determination was that various violations on Village Laguna’s behalf were found. Specifically, in the “matter of Village Laguna and Mary Ives (their committee treasurer), it was determined that Village Laguna and Ives failed to report independent expenditures on campaign statements, in violation of Government Code Section 84211, subdivision (k)(5) (5 counts).

“Additionally, Village Laguna and Ives failed to timely file an independent expenditure report, in violation of Government Codes Section 84204 (1 count).”

Village Laguna received a Tier One penalty of $1,817.

According to Goldstein, “the FPPC has a fine policy that includes a streamlined fine structure that goes light on those who violate the laws for the first time, where the violations are not considered to be extremely serious. If Village Laguna were to continue to break the law in the future, the FPPC fines would likely be greater.”

• • •

Completely separate, Village Laguna was also in the news with a press release submitted taking issue with a proposed increase in the fee amount to appeal decisions made by the Community Development Department, Design Review Board and Planning Commission. The appeal fee would move from $2,000 to $12,200.

Yikes!

Just two years ago, that fee moved from $748 to the $2,000 amount, which was considered a healthy increase back then.

Why the proposed increase? “City staff’s rationale is that the number of appeals has gone up. And the city should recover the full costs of defending itself against appeals of community development decisions.”

Of the $12,200, $5,700 would be non-refundable, while the other $6,500 would be a “deposit to cover the costs of consultants.” If the city doesn’t spend all of that on city attorneys and other outside experts, the person appealing would then receive a refund.

Village Laguna’s take is that “residents have the right to appeal decisions that affect their well-being and their property values.”

They claim the $12,200 would negatively impact too many people.

They’re asking those similarly concerned to email comments to all City Councilmembers at citycouncil@lagunabeachcity.net.

The item will be on tonight’s City Council agenda.

• • •

Also on tonight’s agenda for the Council meeting that begins at 5 p.m. are a number of different items. However, a couple that caught my attention were Item 10 that includes a presentation for the proposed Commercial District Beautification/Property Maintenance Program and Ordinance and direction to staff; and then Item 11, which is the all-important adoption of the Police and Fire budgets.

For a complete look at the budget, go here.

• • •

Well, it’s great to be back! Look forward to seeing you all around town…and getting my hands dirty again!


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