A Message from Councilman Weiss

For more News and updates from Councilmember Weiss can be found regularly on his website at https://www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org/. Check back weekly.

Hello Fellow Residents,

The March 9th City Council Meeting considered a full agenda of items affecting residents. Here’s a summary; For more details these items go to my homepage:

Laguna Beach Neighborhood And Environmental Protection Plan Passes 5-0
This wide-ranging piece of legislation provides solid programs for improving the quality of life for residents and the community.

Proclamation Recognizes Arnold Hanno’s 99th Birthday;
Mr. Hanno sponsored one of the first ballot initiatives in California history.

Laguna Canyon Foundation Request For Naming Rights Agreement Passes 5-0
To acknowledge a one million dollar donation, the Council voted unanimously to approve naming the Laguna Canyon Foundation headquarters site “The Michael and Tricia Berns Preserve.”

Trolley Service To Return, 2021 Summer Parking Management Plan Passes 5-0
Good news: The trolleys are likely to be back in operation along Coast Highway and into Laguna Canyon Road starting on June 25.

City Council Censures Peter Blake – Vote 4-0
The City Council voted 4-0 (Councilman Blake abstaining) to censure Mr. Blake for violations of the City’s Rules of Decorum and Civility.

Thanks and feel free to email me or call me to discuss anything that migjt be on your mind,

George
949-295-0832

Hello Fellow Residents,

I am posting legislation being considered and decisions made by City Council on my new website. www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org

It’s worth taking a look at for a quick recap of some of the key issues currently being discussed at City Council meetings and for my position on those topics. It also has some quick links to City Government website pages and a current events story on the proposed Rivian Theater.

Open Letter On Councilmember Blake’s Conduct To Residents

Dear City Council,
RE: City Council Agenda Item #18; March 9, 2021

VIEW VIDEO EVIDENCE; SEE ATTACHED
I support Agenda Item #18 to vote in favor of the censorship of Council member Peter Blake to enforce civility policy adopted in 2019. The City Council & City Manager must enforce a reasonable Code of Conduct to restore a professional tone of respect & civility in Laguna Beach City Council chambers. The continued reprehensible conduct and vile outbursts by Council Member Peter Blake often heard interrupting speakers has become intolerable & wholly disrespectful conduct directed toward members of the public. View video below.

It is important to revisit to witness the attitude & reaction by Peter Blake after he listened to his own recorded voicemail. Note that Peter Blake begins to interrupt speaker and then smiles & laughs, appearing to take great pleasure and pride after hearing his infamous vile profanity & threats made directly by Council Member Peter Blake that was left on the voicemail of resident after he took office.

As a matter of public record, the threatening comment & vile profanity left on the voicemail recording was played to City Council during Public Comment in LB City Council chambers.

Unfortunately, Mr Blake does not appear the least bit ashamed of his conduct. Blake appears to have become emboldened over time and his conduct has become increasingly worse for the public to endure.

Mr Peter Blake has demonstrated on multiple occasions that he lacks the character and is unfit to serve in public office. Peter Blake has regularly bullied & intimidated women who speak to oppose his views. Members of the public, especially women, fear being threatened, denigrated and ridiculed by City Council member Peter Blake.

Please restore civility to City Council Chambers and censor the disrespectful language by enforcing the LB Code of Conduct during Public Meetings.

Lorene Laguna

Council Moves To Censure Councilman Peter Blake

Resident Peter Blake was elected to the LB City Council in the November 2018 election. He took office in January, 2019. Since that time, friction began to develop between Councilman Blake and LB constituents over his verbal outbursts including professional and personal insults and overall aggressive behavior towards residents when they spoke publicly during city council meetings. The city council, city manager and the city attorney began to receive numerous complaints from residents who expressed fear of being verbally attacked by Councilmember Blake during meetings and shared their feelings that our Council Chambers now felt like a hostile government environment. Some residents stated that they felt as though they were also being insulted and harassed by Councilman Blake in emails from their communications sent directly to other council members.

After months of public turmoil, in September 2019, it became necessary for the LB City Council to create and adopt the City Decorum & Civility Policy. Councilman Blake voted for the D&C Policy but since has refused to abide by it and any other governmental conduct order including Roberts Rules of Order relevant to public official conduct.

Blake has rejected all attempts to address the issue and offer city council members and residents relief from such unruly official behavior has prompted an official censure action based upon the guidelines of City Decorum Policy by newly elected City Councilmember George Weiss. This censure resolution will be heard on March 9, 2021.

Note: The March 9, 2021 agenda item, meeting video footage, all constituent written censure related communications and attachments and the final City Council votes and decision will be added to this site following the meeting.

View Censure item #18 video here.

Media coverage on call for Censure of CC Peter Blake

LA TIMES

VOICE OF OC

STUNEWS

DAILY PILOT

OC REGISTER

VOICE OF OC 

LB INDY

STU NEWS

STU NEWS

One example of the disrespect Peter Blake shows for Laguna’s elected officials and residents taken from one of the the above interviews states,

“I’m the only one in a spineless group of council people that stands up and fights back. And yes, I have fought back. And yes, I have at times been brash and I’m proud of it. I have no issues with it whatsoever,” Blake said. “The silent majority in this community, they support me.”

The public pushback about Peter Blake’s behavior has been ongoing for well over two years. Volumes of local public outcry at city council meetings, in local print media and social media platforms exists from various resources such as The Laguna Beach Indy, Stunews, LB/SL Nextdoor, YouTubea, FB and individual private accounts. Other sources will be added to this site as they become available.

LB resident Michael Morris is often a target of Councilman Peter Blake because of his high-level involvement in Laguna Beach civics and his outspoken position on Blake’s behavior. Mr. Morris regularly offers input to the city council on finance and other important issues and is well respected by the community. Mr. Morris is also a founder of Laguna Resident First (LRF), a political action committee formed to give residents a voice regarding major developments and other city impact issues. Video footage on multiple examples of Blake’s in sessions conduct to residents can be viewed here

View an open letter to City Council from Resident Lorene Laguna with video footage of Councilmember Peter Blake’s comments during a council session here

Peter Blake “Mr. Monster” city council vides footage can be viewed here

Here is just a sampling of CC Peter Blake public newspaper exchanges with constituents who have spoken out about his intimidating and behavior.
2019-2021

We are finding that what Laguna Beach constituents are going through with a public official who is a self-proclaimed bully may not be unique. But how it gets handled and resolved is.

What are your thoughts about elected’s behavior? Should they be allowed to degrade voters they have differences with in public and private? Please share your experiences with us.

LB Chat Publisher’s Open Letter To 2021 City Council

January 19, 2021

Dear Mayor Whalen and City Council Members:

Happy New Year. As the council moves forward in appointing a new city manager this
year, I ask that a professional recruitment firm be hired to conduct an open and extensive
recruitment to fill this important leadership position. Based upon city records, in
2010, Murray & Associates was hired to handle the recruitment process when CM John
Pietig was appointed. In 2012, this same firm contributed to the recruitment guideline
document below. It’s well worth a read.

https://icma.org/sites/default/files/303514 – Recruitment Guidelines for Selecting a Local Government Administrator.pdf

As a longtime resident, I am not convinced that we currently have an internal successor
pool to fill this position that would be supported by the majority of residents. We have
the opportunity to find a city manager with the type of leadership, interpersonal skills
and personality that city employees, residents and businesses desire and deserve. In fact,I would like to suggest that the council ask for some public input on the important attributes of a new city manager to use in their decision making and conduct an outsourced confidential city employee satisfaction survey to identify internal cultural issues that might exist that could provide valuable insight to the incoming administrator. Here’s an example of an employee survey that I found quite impressive. https://www.cityofpensacola.com/CivicSend/ViewMessage/Message/122077

I have personally participated in government employee surveys of this type and the results often surprise city leaders. Also, below is an article titled “It Starts With Civility: Elected Officials’ Role in attracting and Retaining Employees” that speaks to government recruitments, civility and leadership within council chambers. I believe this information critical to achieving positive engagement between public officials and constituents for a healthy and harmonious community.

Since 2018, we have documentation that clearly reflects our city having respect and civility issues that has consumed our civic environment and continues to divide us.
Much time and money has been lost due to a high level of discourse between certain
council members and the public. This is a good article written by two California city
managers who understand the intricacies involved in government recruitment and retention
and the importance of finding a strong administrator who listens and can implement
and execute ideas with the support of council members and the public.

https://www.westerncity.com/article/it-starts-civility-elected-officials-role-attracting-and-retaining-employees

Thank you for your time and consideration. You all have a big responsibility to the
community and I trust that you will take the utmost care in finding the right city manager
to unite and move us forward. Thank you for all that you do for Laguna.

Respectfully,
MJ Abraham
LB Resident

Note: Here’s a copy of my first LTE on this subject. It has been distributed to local media
and will be posted on social media outlets as well. It was published today January
19, 2021 in Stunews.

Include Residents in the Process How disappointing to discover that meetings regarding upcoming CalTrans work in South Laguna were not (until now) publicly held. I hope that the city will not make this mistake when it comes to recruiting a new city manager. An open recruitment process will boost confidence and trust in our local government.

Combined, Ken Frank and John Pietig will have served Laguna for 51 years. This powerful
position is pivotal for the city budget, overseeing projects of all types, coordinating with all outside agencies, and working well with staff and council. I encourage residents to get involved in this next chapter of a city manager and start generating ideas of the type of person we would like to see as our next city manager. The position requires strong leadership and management skills to navigate the often politically charged decisions that inevitably arise.

Laguna has a great climate, attractive compensation and beneCits like Fridays off. For a city its size, this job will be a compelling opportunity, likely generating inquiries from some of the best-run cities in the country. I hope that the council will take its time, include residents and choose carefully.

MJ Abraham
Founder lagunabeachchat.com
Laguna Beach Resident

LB City Elections November 3, 2020

2020 Election Results: (view full results here)
City Council: Incumbent Bob Whalen and newly elected resident George Weiss
City Clerk: Ann Marie McKay

Candidates’ information and statements Here
PACs and Local Organizations Campaign Support Here
Candidate Financial Support Recap-Here

GET TO KNOW LB CANDIDATES BEFORE YOU VOTE THEM INTO PUBLIC OFFICE TO REPRESENT YOU!

Thank you for being an informed voter. Our city’s health and future depends on it!

Laguna Beach Residents – our local leaders affect our daily lives.

Our elected officials represent US.They represent our values, our lifestyle, our space and place within our city, county, state and country. They become our face and our voice.

A council position is the most important, influential and powerful position in our City. It is critical that we understand the broad range of experience and expertise needed for this position and that we select the right individuals to work together to lead.

As we consider the candidate choices in this 2020 election, it is important that we take the time to learn all we can about each candidate before considering them as a top-level public office representative for our City.

Elected Officials Roles and Responsibilities

The responsibilities of our local elected officials include dictating local laws, policies and budgets. This person(s) will make decisions about our money, ocean, properties, roads, trees, traffic, businesses, safety, and quality of life in everything that we see, live and breathe every day.

As important as this responsibility is, local individuals are often elected by voters who know very little about their personal lives, professional occupation experience, successes or failures, interpersonal skills, visionary and leadership skills, and most important their ability to oversee a complicated city government’s operations, assets, multimillion dollar annual budget and other financial and legal activities.

The folks we elect are game-changers. It is up to us to determine if they are the right fit by evaluating their ability to meet our needs. We must explore their qualifications and history with every bit of scrutiny we would give to anyone holding our destiny in their hands because the consequences are great. Their education, experience and success will move us forward, or quite possible risk us becoming stagnant or going backwards.

We must keep in mind that this isn’t a volunteer position or a social membership. It is a paid position with benefits and the person hired to fill it will be in a decision making capacity that will impact our futures. 

Click here for CC compensation/benefits.

Like many of us, individuals who run for CC will be our friends and/or acquaintances. For some, this poses a loyalty issue. We encourage you dig deep this election and ask yourself objective questions such as;

  • Do I continue the status quo in every election? 
  • Do I take the time to find representatives that have proven their value to the community? 
  • Do I elect individuals that have proven they can make sound and logical decisions on my behalf? 
  • Am I pleased with the position and direction my City is going in?
  • Have I reviewed the incumbents voting records?  Do I agree with them a reasonable percentage of time?
  • Have the incumbents listened to the majority of constituents?
  • Do the incumbents lean towards special interest groups?   
  • Do I elect an individual based upon professional eligibility and proven performance ad success or do I elect only friends I know? 

Sounds so simple, right? It’s not. It’s time consuming and often confusing.

Sadly, local voter numbers are in decline. This is hard to understand since local elections give voters the greatest voice and opportunity to be heard. Our local officials are elected to represent the majority, and when a large fraction chooses not to vote, small groups rule and thus bias is prevalent. This hurts us all.

Get Involved. Local elections take place every year and they have long lasting implications.

By choosing the most experienced, trustworthy and transparent representatives, voters can help create and pass laws reflective of how we feel. Local politicians play a major role in all of the decisions that have a direct influence on our day-to-day lives. Our laws, streets, safety, education, thriving and healthy communities are influenced by their ability to leverage our tax dollars and make good financial decisions for us.

Our local elected officials decide how our public safety is managed. They have input as to how our police officers are trained and ensure that self-policing is in place and monitored. Sometimes local citizens take action to make their voices heard as well as keeping the check and balances needed so the majority of interests do not take over.

They’re involved in guiding voters to pass bills that can take precedence over national law. A perfect example of local power overriding national laws can be witnessed in the reform in the use of marijuana in California when voters chose to make marijuana legal for medical or recreational purposes. Supported by local voters, this has had substantial local impacts in each state creating long-lasting effects on economies, legal systems and more. 

Our local politics can shape federal policy. When you elect officials who support the causes you believe in, you become part of making a change at a state level. As states address issues and revise their laws some eventually are adopted at the federal level. The Federal government often waits to see how the new law evolves at the state level to determine its value. They may also nullify state laws if they choose. Our elected officials become our voice at all levels of government.

This election year, we have 5 City Council candidates – 2 are incumbents.  LBCHAT has included individual candidate information and any/all public information documents the may provide you with more insight into each candidate.

Candidate Public Forums:
Stu News Article – Laguna Beach Candidate Forums available here
August 24, 2020 Village Laguna and Laguna Summit Candidate Forum here
September 24, 2020 Canyon Alliance of Neighborhoods Defense Organization(CANDO) Candidate Form here
Laguna Beach Arts Alliance on September 26. For their Forum please request information directly from their website here
Greater Laguna Beach GOP candidates’ forum online on September 30. For their Forum please request information directly from their website here
The South Laguna Civic Association candidates’ forum online on October 5 here
Radio station KX FM 104.7 and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce will present a virtual forum at 5:30 p.m. on October 9. For their Forum please request information directly from their website here

City Council Candidates:
Bob Whalen / Incumbent* SOQ and Disclosure Forms
Steve Dicterow / Incumbent* SOQ and Disclosure Forms
Ruben Flores SOQ and Disclosure Forms
George Weiss SOQ and Disclosure Forms
Larry Nokes SOQ and Disclosure Forms

City Clerk Candidates:
Ann Marie McKay SOQ and Disclosure Forms
Mariann Tracy SOQ and Disclosure Forms

Political Action Committees (PAC): Disclosure Forms
Laguna Residents First (LRF) PAC
Liberate Laguna (LL) PAC
Village Laguna (VL) PAC
LB FIrefighter’s Association PAC
LB Police Employee Association PAC
Laguna Public Recreational Facilities Conservancy (LPRFC)(PAC)

OTHER: Individual Reported 2020 Campaign Contributions
Sam Goldstein – 2020 campaign contribution 24 hour report Disclosure Forms

CC Candidate Public Background Records – ELECTION 2020
LBChat provides candidate personal and professional information to assist voters in
vetting individuals seeking public office in Laguna Beach.

LBCHAT will publish all public documents related to public office campaigning including:
candidate qualification statements, campaign finance disclosure forms and related
financial information, websites/podcasts, candidate forums, news articles and personal
and professional public information obtained from candidates and through public
information sources. In addition, a Laguna Beach Police contact report listing: arrests,
restraining orders, repossessions and other violations will be obtained in accordance
with the California Public Record Act. Code# 6253 (CPRA)

_______________

LBCHAT Election Archives
2018 Election link Includes incumbent Toni Iseman election candidate information.
2016 Election link Includes incumbents Whalen and Dicterow election candidate information.

LAGUNABEACHCHAT.COM
CHAT stands for City Hall Accountability and Transparency. Our Mission: Laguna Beach
CHAT desires to advance accountability and transparency. We serve residents by
providing them with an open and honest platform to gain knowledge about City officials,
functions and decisions that impact our quality of life and our local community.
We welcome resident/voters opinions and feedback. Please share them with us.
Send to: contact@lagunabeachchat.com.

Thank You. Was this helpful? Please send us your feedback (click here)

Liberate Laguna Backers File Campaign Finance Complaint

Update – Laguna – Quaint, Charming and Uncivil?

Civility Policy Update – “Blake reprimanded for online comments but not apologetic” – Stu News – Click here

Much like the rest of the country, quaint and charming Laguna Beach is faced with the growing concern over respect and civility among city leaders and constituents.
Recently, the City adopted a Civility and Decorum Policy to address the issue, the first in its history.

Laguna Beach’s newly adopted Rules of Decorum and Civility Policy, click here

The media has covered the issue of Laguna’s need for a civility policy.
Local Media’s Comments on City’s Civility issues:

Stu News: Council passes a resolution to reset the button on decorum and civility at public meetings – Click here
Laguna Beach Independent: Council Considers Tighter Code of Conduct – Click here
Orange County Register: Laguna Beach adopts rules of civility applying to leaders and community members at city meetings after months of discord – Click here
Voice of OC: One City Councilman and His Critics Have Laguna Beach in Uproar – Click here

Residents Comments on City’s Civility issues:

Howard Hill comments on Citywide Civility issues – Click here
Mike Morris comments on Peter Blake’s in-office behavior – Click here

Please tell us what you think: leave a comments below!

FPPC Issues Warning Letter To Mr. Dicterow

On April 24, 2017 the FPPC issued a Warning Letter to Mr. Dicterow as a result of the sworn complaints filed against him in October and November of 2016.  Broadly, the FPPC found that Mr. Dicterow had failed to properly disclose his ownership of non-primary-residence income property he owns within his area of influence; going back to at least 2012. However, since he immediately filed an amended 2016 Candidate Form 700 once the complaint was filed they believed this multi-year snafu was a mere oversight, sloppiness or failure to understand the filing rules.  As for the second complaint, that Mr. Dicterow had failed to disclose income received from a business with current, past, or future operations in Laguna Beach, they failed to find evidence of such operation, and hence reaffirmed that he needn’t disclose such income.

What is an FPPC “Warning Letter” and how serious is it?  From the FPPC’s website:

  • Warning Letters – A Warning Letter is issued if a violation of the Act is found but the seriousness of the offense is low, public harm is minimal, and/or other mitigation is found so that a monetary fine is not warranted. Since no administrative penalty is imposed, these letters are issued by the Enforcement Division and do not require approval by the Commissioners. A warning letter can be considered a prior action by the Enforcement Division when considering a future penalty.

 

LagunaBeachCHAT is satisfied with the decision.  This author (who made the sworn complaints against Mr. Dicterow) believes too, that Mr. Dicterow probably did not materially gain advantage through his position on the City Council with regards to his property in Laguna Woods. But he might have or might in the future and citizens of Laguna Beach deserve to know about his economic interests in this property.  As for the second complaint, this author realizes that he failed to ‘connect the dots’ well-enough for the FPPC to find for that complaint. We still believe that Mr. Dicterow’s ‘unusual’ legal-retainer income for American Computer Optics Inc., owned by a  Laguna Beach resident with occasional business coming before the council, should have been disclosed.  Although the FPPC could not find that ACO conducted business in Laguna Beach (thereby requiring any income derived from this company to be disclosed by Mr. Dicterow), I strongly believe Mr. Dicterow has an obligation to reveal this income arrangement to Laguna Beach’s citizens as long as it continues.

In the end analysis, LagunaBeachCHAT remains concerned and perplexed at how a (now) 5-term City Council member who is by profession, an attorney could have been filing Form 700s for 16 years and fail to understand or worse, feel that accurate disclosures were so trivial, so as not to have understood the filing guidelines and minimum requirements. Rest assured that if we come into additional information with regards to ACO’s operations, or indeed discover any other unreported material economic interest of any of our City council members, we will investigate, and where warranted, file future sworn complaints with the FPPC.

We provide the reader with the FPPC Warning Letter here.

To read the original posting about the complaints here on this site, click here.

Dana Point City-Sponsored Ballot Initiative Fined by State Ethics Watchdog

By THY VO April 13, 2017
Courtesy of The Voice of OC

The campaign committee for Measure I, a ballot initiative sponsored by the city of Dana Point on the June 2016 ballot, will be fined by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to include funding disclosures on campaign banners and printing the disclosures too small on yard signs.

Measure I was one of two competing ballot measures on the June 2016 ballot regarding development in the city’s town center area. It lost.

It’s campaign committee, Save Public Parking: No on H, Yes on I will be fined $3,500, pending approval by the Commission at its April 20 meeting. The committee was appointed by the Dana Point City Council to run the campaign.

According to the FPPC, the committee purchased five large vinyl banners that said “No on H, Yes on I” and included the Committee’s website, but didn’t include a statement describing who paid for the banners.

For more on this story click here

Big money convinces Council to support continued mansionization of coastline

Last night’s (18April17) relatively brief city council meeting spent a lot of time on Public Hearing item #2, which was an appeal against the Design Review Board’s denial of a variance to tear-down & replace a ‘possibly’ historical bluff-top home in South Laguna (31987 Coast Highway).  As is so often the case with items that are brought to the City Council after having been ‘decided’ by a City board or committee, this was a De Novo hearing, meaning the evidence for both sides was to be heard as if nothing had been presented before…all new.

The home in question was never officially on the historic registry, but once plans were proposed by the new owner to raise the house & replace it with an enormous glass & steel modern structure, the city balked and claimed (somewhat ambiguously) that the home might be of historic significance.  Different studies by different ‘historic registry’ consultancies came to different conclusions.  What was not disputed, however, was that this home was the 1st to sit atop the ocean bluff near 1000 steps, and had become iconic to those who frequented the beaches in that area.

The new owner, Mr. Andy Dimitri (CEO of Eximware, a vendor in the cloud-based commodity trading software area) pulled out all the stops. He had a vast array of guns-for-hire (who all got 3 minutes to speak in favor of the project), in addition to his lead gun-fighter, Mr. Larry Nokes (local attorney and involved in all 3 agenda items for tonight’s meeting) who started things off with a 5 minute presentation. I counted 7 people (in addition to Mr. Dimitri himself) who spoke in favor of the appeal. Nokes, Mr. Tom Davis (Davis Law, who represented the seller’s estate in the sale to Mr. Dimitri), Brian Genette (architect), Structural engineer, historical preservationist, CEQA consultant, geological consultant, & 1 neighbor who would benefit from the new building’s setback, all spoke in favor of the appeal because:

a) existing structure is unstable & would have to be partially demolished to stabilize it anyway,

b) existing structure was never revealed to be historic and even so, it doesn’t merit that classification because its quite plain

In support of keeping the structure & denying the appeal were 2 neighbors, and Ann Christoph (representing So Laguna Civic Assoc) who each got 3 minutes to speak.  They were completely and totally outgunned, as you would imagine.

In the end, it was Mr. Dicterow, who famously ran his most recent re-election campaign on several themes, including “Keep the Charm and Character” of Laguna Beach, who boldly stated that he didn’t see clear evidence that the structure in question had any historic value. Hence he was inclined to grant the appeal (thus allowing for the destruction of the existing home).  Mr. Boyd agreed with him. Ultimately, Mr. Dicterow made the motion (Boyd seconding) which carried with a 3/2 vote in favor of granting the appeal and thus allowing the destruction.  Yes, Ms. Iseman voted to grant this appeal; we believe her vote was influenced by the fact that bringing the existing structure up to code would require inserting numerous 86′ deep caissons into the bluff top and partially demolishing the structure. The vote :

Ayes-Dicterow, Boyd, Iseman

Noes: Whalen, Zur Schmiede

The approval did not, however, approve the current proposed design of the vast new building.  That battle will continue.

I was struck how someone who tried to cast himself as a ‘keeper of the character and charm’ could lead the charge to bulldoze Laguna’s past. But in the end, Mr. Dicterow has always been a staunch supporter of ‘property rights’. He is very consistent with that philosophy.  But think about it;  believing in strong property rights is entirely incompatible with ‘keeping the character and charm’ of a place. That circle can’t be squared.

As usual, we must analyze the campaign donations:

ACLU Threatens to Sue OC Supervisors Over Alleged Free Speech Violations

Orange County supervisors (from left): Michelle Steel, Shawn Nelson, Lisa Bartlett, Todd Spitzer, and Andrew Do. (Photos by Nick Gerda/Voice of OC and Katlin Washburn for Voice of OC)

In recent months, Orange County supervisors have been putting tighter and tighter restrictions on speakers who try to address them at public board meetings.

And now, say attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), supervisors have gone too far.  It’s a warning that’s leading county officials to consider policy changes. 

In a letter earlier this week, the ACLU of Southern California claims the supervisors are violating numerous free speech rights guaranteed by state law and the U.S. Constitution. And they threatened legal action if supervisors don’t fix the alleged violations.

“Instead of acknowledging its role as servants of the community…over the last several years, the Board [of Supervisors] has treated the community as an impediment to conducting its own business and has systematically restricted members of the community’s ability to bring their concerns before the Board,” states the letter, signed by ACLU staff attorney Brendan Hamme and sent Monday to County Counsel Leon Page.

“Listening to your constituents is not an inconvenience to be endured; it is your job.”

Among issues cited in the letter are shorter time limits supervisors placed on public speakers, requiring speakers to give their names, refusing to let speakers address supervisors by name, and a policy blocking the release of security videos.

The supervisors’ actions violate the First Amendment and the state’s open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, the ACLU charges in its letter.

“If you do not agree to rescind your illegal rules and implement legal rules and policies, the ACLU of Southern California will consider all legal means to respond to your refusal,” the ACLU letter said.

Read More here – ACLU Threatens County Supervisors

South Laguna Resident Speaks Up In Community Forum

Local South Laguna Resident posted letter in the South Laguna Neighborhood Nextdoor forum.

Posting October 2016:

Steve Dictorow’s financial situation is sad and personal – leave him alone about that.  Why do you think that involves his commitments to the City Council?  If there were dubious issues regarding the City, then okay but there doesn’t seem to be so let him deal with it.  He has shown to be a dedicated public servant and I think that is very good.

However, as MJ Abraham said, us residents (and taxpayers – yes, we own our homes) have complained to the City and then demanded police presence and trash cans when the crowds got out of control down here and nothing was done.

I actually called Mr. Dictorow’s cell phone at the height of the madness and he answered!  And he was driving through South Laguna at the time.  His words to me were “Gee, I have not been down here for a long long time, where did all of these people come from?  Oh wow, they’re running across PCH. This used to be such a sleepy little section of town.”

I told him about the parking debacles, people using our yards as urinals and worse, drunk drivers.  He promised that he would look into it and then nothing was done.

I have completely lost my confidence in our City Council, the City Manager, the Laguna Beach police department (who we have called many times for help), the County of Orange and their Supervisors.  What does it take to get this part of Laguna Beach on their radar. Sure, they love the tax dollars but they don’t give a shit about the residents.  that’s why I made my own “No Parking Signs” (signmeupparking.com).

We live on a private street and the Parking Patrol lady told me that I had to have the City’s towing code number on my signs, even on a private road. I told her to go fish. But in an effort to keep the peace, I grabbed a pencil and in the smallest type I could write, I wrote it out and then asked her if she was satisfied that I complied with her ridiculous request. She just scowled at me. I told her that the next time some stranger from the IE pulls over, throws out their Taco Bell bag and takes a dump in your flower bed, you will know what I am going through.

We need somebody who cares about this section of town.

Dicterow Taps His Home For Cash

A recent letter to the editor in the LB Indy addressing the Bankruptcy Filing of Mayor Steven Dicterow. Find the original letter here.

Editor,

Last month several people came to a City Council meeting voicing concerns about Steve Dicterow’s financial difficulties. The response from the public was compassion, “everyone has tough times.” Laguna has a history of caring for one another. That’s who we are. But it can’t be left at that. How did Mayor Dicterow get there?

Mayor Dicterow bought his home in 1988 for $340,000. Since that time he refinanced his mortgage seven times: $368,000 in 1995, $440,000 in 1999, $547,000 in 2003 with an additional $50,000 second, $500,000 additional borrowed in late 2003, $1 million in 2006, and $271,000 in 2007 as a second.

Granted, many people refinanced to reduce their mortgage rate during the roaring housing bubble of pre-2008. It was tempting to pull out ready money as the value of a home increased during this period.

However, it was always a gamble to risk the family home particularly as Mayor Dicterow did to finance new business ventures, such as a motorcycle circuit venture and a mold and water restoration venture, both of which unfortunately failed. Since he had accumulated another $281,000 in unsecured debts by 2014, he used the bankruptcy option to protect his home. The bankruptcy option seems reasonable in this set of circumstances, but the multiple refinancings of the family home at such a level seems unwise.

We can (and should) feel compassion for anyone in danger of losing their home. It is a tough and sad situation for anyone to experience, and thank the government that there is a bankruptcy option for protection of the home.

The real question is the soundness of Mayor Dicterow’s decision to refinance at increasingly larger amounts. It makes one wonder about his abilities to make sound decisions over Laguna’s $70 million budget.

When Mayor Dicterow supported building a four-story garage at the village entrance, which was eventually blocked by a residents’ revolt, he stated at the City Council that a $65 million dollar bond is like a mortgage, “you never expect to pay off your mortgage”. For him that’s unfortunately true.

George Weiss, Laguna Beach