Measure P Rejected By Voters, What’s Next?

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.”

Laguna Beach City Manager Recruitment 2021

This year, the City of Laguna Beach will hire a new city manager to replace City Manager John Pietig slated to retire in June of 2021. Laguna Beach is a beautiful coastal city with a great reputation and is considered to be a highly sought after place of employment. The City should be able to attract the highest qualified candidates.

The City Council chooses the city manager. After receiving public input regarding the qualities desired for this critical position and considering new management, they agreed to hold an open executive search. The issue became somewhat controversial among city leaders and constituents. This was resolved on Saturday, January 30, 2020 when the City Council voted 4-1 to hire Bob Murray & Associates to conduct an executive search and include constituents input in the process.

Interesting to note that City Councilman Peter Blake publicly opposed the public’s request to do an outside search, voted no on the open recruitment, and stated he wanted to hire internally and had selected Assistant City Manager, Shoreh Dupuis. In interviews, CC Blake expressed his bias and favoritism of Ms. Dupuis. In fact, in a STUNEWS story, he stated that he felt that if she didn’t get the job, she would leave our city. He used this same threatening approach in 2019 to secure ACM Dupuis a $25,000 salary increase for “future” work. Residents objecting to the salary increase requested proof that a position had been offered to Ms. Dupuis at the time but none was ever provided. It was disappointing to hear since Ms. Dupuis is paid a top salary and benefit package and taxpayers subsidized her Laguna Beach Beach $1.6 M home when she was hired in 2016 with primarily government public works and some transit related experience. In various polls on social media, residents support open recruitment for the replacement of the top-notch city manager rather than promoting from within.

Local Media Coverage:

Laguna Beach City Council under pressure to open recruitment for next city manager – LB Indy

Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig Announces Retirement – LB Indy

Letters To The Editor: City Manager Recruitment – Stu News

Find more letters in Stu News Archives here

Letter: Why Are City Employees Leaving Laguna Beach? LB Indy

Letter: Is Our City Tuned into its Employees? LB Indy

Opportunity for Public Input on city manager position press release – LB

City Welcomes New Police Chief

A message from the new LBPD Chief Robert Thompson:

On behalf of my family and myself, I want to thank the people of Laguna Beach for
a warm welcome. As a frequent visitor to the city, we have been amazed at the
kindness of the people we’ve met, the spectacular beach and dining. It was this
experience as visitors which led us to embracing the exciting opportunity to join the
team as a member of the police department. Laguna Beach is a special place, a
place people choose to be, and one we are humbled to be a small part of.

I remain committed to helping provide accurate and timely information, being
accessible to the community, and listening and learning as policing in America
evolves in this new era. The men and women of the Laguna Beach Police
Department and dedicated and committed to the safety and welfare of all residents
and guests. With the support of the community, I am confident we are wellpositioned
to continue to provide the service the people of Laguna Beach deserve
and expect.

Thank you all for the kindness you’ve shown my family as we settle in Orange
County, and I look forward to serving this outstanding community.

Looking for the latest data on Crime and Safety in Laguna Beach – Click Here

To Learn more on the city’s new Police Chief’s background view the article in Public CEO here.