Courtesy of Stu News
Story by Barbara Diamond
Actual article in the Stu News found here
Measure P was “shellacked,” as former President Obama described Democratic losses in the 2014 midterm election.
The hotly debated measure, if passed, would have increased the Laguna Beach sales tax from 7.75 to 8.75 percent to fund undergrounding utilities on key evacuation routes and related fire safety projects. The loss was a bitter pill for Councilman Bob Whalen, who wholeheartedly supported the measure and took the blame at Tuesday’s Council meeting for its defeat.
“With the election over, it’s appropriate for me to make some comments on Measure P,” said Whalen. “What we presented to the voters as a fire safety measure clearly did not resonate with them.
“As the primary person behind Measure P, I have to, and do, take responsibility for the outcome. We must respect the will of the voters and their message was clear on this measure.”
However, Whalen opined that the defeat leaves Laguna with a major problem: vulnerability to fire in general and specifically from by fires caused by overhead utilities.
“I find a bitter irony in the fact that two days after our voters rejected Measure P, the most destructive fire in California history, apparently caused once again by overhead utility lines, wiped out an entire town, destroying over 7,000 homes and businesses and to date (November 13) claiming 42 lives.”
The total number of lives lost is now 56 (with almost 300 still missing) as of Thursday.
Edison also has reported an incident with one of its lines just minutes before the Woolsey fire ignited, Whalen said.
Councilman Bob Whalen is committed to developing a robust fire safety plan for Laguna despite Measure P being voted down
“This follows on the heels of Southern California Edison admitting a couple of weeks ago that its equipment was responsible for the start of the 2017 Thompson Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, still the second largest fire in state history,” said Whalen.
Whalen said he is committed to developing a robust fire safety plan for Laguna that can be implemented in the near term to expedite utility undergrounding and other fire safety measures.
“We, as a community, must develop a sense of urgency around fire safety,” said Whalen. “To be complacent at this time is to ignore the reality that confronts us.
“Governor Brown, in addressing the Paradise disaster, said the risk of fire in our state has grown exponentially and will require major adaptations costing in the millions to keep communities fire safe.”
Whalen will be proposing steps he believes the City must take to elevate fire safety to the highest priority in policy discussions and financial planning, including reprioritizing some existing revenues and expenditures and looking for ways to generate new revenues.
“I look forward to working with my fellow Council members, our City staff and the public in this effort,” Whalen said.
He also expressed his gratitude to the City staff for their work in preparing Measure P for the ballot and the Council for agreeing to put it on the ballot.
Jennifer Zeiter, founder of Stop Taxing Our Property, which opposed Measure P, recommends that the City go back to the table with Edison and ask what the City can do to extend the undergrounding already planned by Caltrans for Laguna Canyon.
“The Council subcommittee of Whalen and [Rob] Zur Schmiede got impatient with the slow progress of discussions with SCE and sponsored that damn ordinance that any new construction or repairs had to be undergrounded,” said Zeiter. “The City got sued and we lost.”
Zeiter does support the City’s policy of buying Rule 20 credits, which cities that do not feel or have the need for underground, are willing to sell to Laguna Beach at half price.
“We are proud of defeating Measure P, not because we oppose undergrounding, but because it was a badly flawed tax measure,” said Zeiter, who twice debated Whalen during the campaign, once at a forum and once at a Laguna Canyon Conservancy dinner meeting.
“And they outspent us seven to one.”