Laguna Beach City Council: A Classic Case Of Tyranny Of The Majority?

The Promenade, Term Limits, Mayors, City Managers, Needless Parking Structures: Will Council Stifle Any Opposition To Its Orwellian Vision?

Courtesy of the Laguna Beach Patch – view article here
By Roger Bütow

Tyranny Of The Majority: Laguna Beach City Council Is A Classic Case
“The tyranny of the majority (or tyranny of the masses) is an inherent weakness to majority rule in which the majority of an electorate pursues exclusively its own objectives at the expense of those of the minority factions. This results in oppression of minority groups comparable to that of a tyrant or despot.” John Stuart Mill (ON LIBERTY—1859).

Although the phrase “tyranny of the majority” is commonly attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville as he pondered the emerging democracy in America in the mid-1800s, Founding Father John Adams had expressed a similar concern nearly 75 years earlier.

In fact, many of the arguments opposing “uni-cameral sovereignty” (singular body rule) led to our 3 Branches of governance, an attempt at ensuring that type of oppression and suppression of dissenting, minority voices did not ever evolve.

Check and balances that lasted until the general election in 2000. As the OC Grand Jury has no dispositive power, barring OC DA or California AG investigations or indictments, locally we’re pretty much stuck with Laguna voter’s bad choices.

Find out what’s happening in Laguna Beachwith free, real-time updates from Patch.
Perhaps Edmund Burke, a contemporary of our Founding Fathers, stated it more succinctly: “The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.”

In Laguna, many angry community watchdogs are outraged because they feel themselves to be a unique resistance movement, previously inured to the centralized excesses of power and corruption rampant elsewhere. Which we weren’t, we aren’t, and we won’t ever be.

Like typical cities having only 1 body, there’s nothing to moderate or buffer council dictatorship eras and regimes. Outcomes are inevitable, so yes, tyranny has, is and will happen here.

De Tocqueville rang the alarm bell, the core of this tyranny making decisions for an entire population bases its claim to rule upon majority numbers, not upon ethical correctness or democratic, rational excellence.

One need not go far to find this form of entitled mob rule in City Council Chambers. Personified by the dominance of gavel-hoarders BobySue Whalen and SueyBob Kempf, everything from committee, board and commission citizen appointments, to temporary committees on through delegated City Council member liaisons to said entities reflects despotism.

Which creates, actually guarantees a systemically compromised future.

By themselves, both Whalen and Kempf are pretty much gruel or grits—–bland, colorless and lack any pizzazz unless dosed with a condiment. Which is why they’re not the problem in and of themselves, they’re the pimply symptoms of a festering municipal malaise.

Orgill never did get beyond his developer-friendly mindset, i.e., his real estate roots self. Severing his Mo Money Honarkar relationship was in fact only a superficial not substantial sacrifice, didn’t change or alter him genetically. Look for Orgill to launch his own branded foundation or trust.

He fooled a lot of people who now distance themselves or keep praying that he can be lobbied into being a different guy due to electoral buyer’s remorse. He can’t and won’t.

Rounaghi was a glyph or cipherous gamble, intentionally unreadable, elected on some kind of vague hope for youthful invigorating change and had little scrutiny. You know, a child shall lead them. Instead, he’s the same old bossy personality type who concealed himself, cloaked in younger skin, that got us here via older candidates.

He’s neither new or phresh. He looks more like a lost kid who should be asking if you want to supersize that Mac with fries or produce his CDL to buy booze. His Ivy League schooling plus apprenticeships taught him to be manipulative, superficially appear reasonably neutral. Which he’s not.

The Promenade ad hoc is a prime example: Having appointed the Planning Commissioners who’d preside over possibilities or variations, i.e., a foregone conclusion, a pre-disposed bias has been in place these past 4 years. Who cares if the need is not there, if our dictatorial Council says it is?

Those hundreds of millions of dollars for multi-level parking structures? Ditto, first Planning Commission stops, then bogus, flaccid deliberation masquerading as oversight, then Council majority affirmation. Keep interviewing advisors (and spending OUR money) until the subsequent messenger brings back THE pre-ordained message.

The George Weiss transition of power scuffle and flawed passing of the mayoral gavel fiasco is another. Our Mayor Whalen and Mayor Pro Tem Kempf insulted us, refused to let go of the wheel. They gathered support from the other 2 willing accomplices (Orgill and Rounaghi), both with an eye to THEIR future, not ours, and made sure that Weiss’ path was blocked.

Which not only defied traditionally benign gavel-sharing but ignored the thousands who voted him into office to begin with—he was openly viewed and socialized as a long-awaited, ethical reformer. Which meant silencing or at minimum suppressing any empowerment—–possibly burying the audacious, grass roots, barbarians-at-the-gate rebellion indefinitely.

Being in such a 4-1 minority after Toni Iseman left, he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of even becoming Pro Tem. They held the perfunctory hearing with a pre-determined endgame—but insult to injury, all used that venue, couldn’t resist denigrating Weiss as unfit/inappropriate to hold either office, thus nullifying thousands of voters support.

Piling on was pro forma that night, as if any of them was more worthy. Face it, the current council cabal of 4 are “least or lowest common denominator” career politico types and not very bright either. Cunning people get that far gone, not really smart, morally purposed people.

Also arrogant and narcissistic (apparently required traits for politicians), they seem unable to believe that we’re not more accepting and pacifistic.

It might irritate many, but Weiss DOES represent something, he got 5,665 votes…..and that threatening something unnerves and jeopardizes, is a clear and present danger. They let Peter Blake openly excoriate anyone and everyone he chose, but in Weiss’ case they chose to punish him via unworthiness, open denigration and diminishment.

The eventual consequences if Weiss decides to run in 2024? He’ll be portrayed as such a blatant malcontent, a counter-productive extremist and leader of a small vocal group of saboteurs, that he’d be lucky to get re-seated.

The agenda is clear: Regardless if Whalen finally sits down, the fiscal puppeteers behind the rest will try to rotate in more malleable candidates. Kempf, Rounaghi and Orgill will still be tyrants.

Then too, not many first term council people hit the ground running for their first year or so as they observe, orient, decide and then act up, trying to fulfill empty campaign promises they knew were only manipulative tools to get in the door. A newbie will be a marginally not majorly effective agent of change.

“No one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of power is power.” ― George Orwell, 1984

That the Big 4 forced us to witness their heavy handedness barely disguised as democratic, reasonable deliberation was just a sleight-of-hand ruse, for show. Fact is, many of us already knew the outcome: SueyBob as Mayor, replacing BobySue, with waiting-in-the-wings Alex The Man Child as Pro Tem.

A forgone conclusion foolishness which only an imbecile or supremely naive local media would swallow. Which the lazy media not only ingested but promulgated by repeating inflammatory insinuations without even cursory criticism or questions.

Allowing City Hall propagandists preferred, free column space to spew the kool-aid is injury hidden as community, public square dialogue and local outlets are guilty guilty guilty.

The OC Register and Daily Pilot reporters just mail it in, so they barely count. Excepting Voice of OC, investigative journalism has been dead for quite some time in SOC.

Things like those big ticket parking structures, along with term limits, reflect high levels of serious concern by residents. Who cares about these impertinent “Inner Circle Interlopers” as long as they’re in the political will short end?

The point is that like The Promendade, for those taking the WE, THE PEOPLE position, they should be allowed the dignity of some self-determination: By refusing to place these things on City ballots, power is sustained and extended.

Keeping these kinds topics off of Council agendas in the first place is preemptively working for the same power mongers. The majority turn these things into zero sum, winner-take-all scams, disenfranchising the thousands who would resist if they understood the insidious nature of the game.

Ex.: The August 2, 2022 Resolution No. 22.066 repealed Resolution No. 68.88 (passed in 1968) is revealing. Though this too was on the late February 2024 docket to be amended, it gives little with the left hand and takes lots from the right: Two (2) LBCC members needed to get a topic on the agenda but unless a 3 member majority supports that, there’ll be no staff report.

We went 54 years and this never came up, once Shohreh Dupuis & her tyrannical masters and flunkies seized power, something that was never broken suddenly needed fixing?

Without that critical element, by refusing to fund staff or 3rd party, independent consultant research, those 2 minority members are handcuffed and hobbled, hindered right out of the gate.

It’s all being hidden behind smoke and mirrors, false allegations that topics would unjustly require funding the City can’t afford. Public stakeholders expressing frustration at microphones won’t supersede or veto the Tyranny of the Majority.

Several million $$$ in surplus each year and the present tyrants claim lack of funds for deep dives and independent peer reviews of critical projects, policies, protocols, procedures or strategies?

These same tyrants are also trying to manipulate the council meeting consent calendar dynamics. A long standing tradition at all levels of governance here in California, of only placing “non-controversial” on that portion of the hearing was important. In the report from the City Manager at the February 27th hearing he describes these as “routine items.”

16 items (WOW!) were on that consent calendar docket. And about 1/2 were pulled, lending credence to the sense that the calendar is another realm subject to mischief. SueyBob and the CM decided to stack the consent calendar deck, clear the field and limit discussion, an anomaly that obviously for once failed.

The tyranny will continue for at least 2 more years: In December Rounaghi will move into the Mayor slot, Orgill into Pro Tem (classic “positioning”) and regardless of the 2024 election, with SueyBob, a majority will remain intact as a voting bloc.

Wunderkind Rounaghi obviously feels particularly entitled, and will probably be a “one off,” i.e., move on, run for higher office. Typical entitled Laguna-bred brat, his narcissism and sense of self importance is there for all to see.

I’ve sat with him casually, he’s a legend in his own mind already, I didn’t find him especially bright, but then let’s face facts: We’re just the first, the lowest rung on his political career ladder. Writing blank checks, supporting bonds or gross expenditures doesn’t faze him because he’ll be gone.

By 2026 some other pro-acquisition, pro-development, pro-commerce candidate will take his place. By then the majority Council tyrants will have buried us in even more irreversible debt: Purchasing the 133 (Laguna Canyon Road) and Pacific Coast Highway should pretty much drown us.

OTOH, we will have our own “Red Sea” of debt, the majority won’t let those pesky operation and maintenance costs, the additional burdens on our community service departments (more personnel, more $$$), or the insurance premiums for such monolithic, greatly expanded elements hinder or deter.

Oh, and of course the inevitable expenditures for litigation: Between the 133 and PCH, we’ll have not only our city attorney’s busy busy busy but probably outsourced firms to defend against ambulance-chasing personal injury/negligent death lawsuits.

Once the “table is set,” it’s not unreasonable to see several million $$$/year spent on that front.

By December of 2026 the building blocks of our house-of-cards, Ponzi Scheme demise will be in place: Now owning everything within our city limits, our LBPD will be “encouraged” to issue more traffic violation citations, parking enforcement more tickets, and of course those greedy little bastards, our parking meter’s rates will go up.

I’m sure there’s more I’m unaware of, all to pay for the additional encumbrances many of us never wanted.

The tyrants will choose the next City Manager very soon, look for that to close any vulnerability loopholes, any challenges proactively. He/she will be made to understand in advance who holds the whip hand, after all, they only need to be able to count to 3.

With assists come liabilities like the acquisition of South Laguna’s beaches and parks, but the tyrants never consider that it’s our future signing those IOUs. They like large dramatic gestures to ensure their immortality, hold some more ribbon-cuttings featuring their faces, place a few more plaques bearing their imperious names.

The biggest surprise of all? That the reformation-minded locals believe themselves capable of literally blocking the existing regime’s agenda, that they are shocked at the past 12 years of increasing majority oppression….It’ll be 2026 before the window of that counter-insurgency can possibly open again.

Seeing oneself as a martyr, a revolutionary or righteous mutineer, effectively triggering a general population uprising to overthrow despots seems ennobling. Any game plan by locals that isn’t a 3 year commitment will stand little chance of succeeding.

Harsh, highly publicized litigation could have effected this outcome, including here, but no one seems to be able to find the gumption or money for attorneys though the city has been constantly vulnerable via OC Superior Court.

Educating through public comments portions of hearings, via columns, emails, SM or whatnot have obviously been ineffectual as nothing has changed City Council’s mindset, their goals and objectives as “big money meat puppets” dominant.

Podiums and media instruments are now the equivalent of psychotherapy, for venting but not change. The revolutionaries can’t even agree upon a common, coherent agenda among themselves, lacking keen focus hence guerrilla, asymmetrical warfare efficiency. Movements need both clearly delineated planks and strong vibrant leadership, I don’t see either in place at present.

The Tyranny of the Majority has always been here in Laguna like everywhere else, expecting benign or benevolent dictatorships always a highly unlikely scenario. Like the movie “Network,” unless the insurrectionists can overcome both ignorance and apathy, stir up widespread righteous anger with folks manning the barricades at Council, then it’s game-set-match.

If the Council isn’t flipped by November 2026’s election, including tapping the brakes on development (slow growth) and the cessation of traitorous perks plus special benefits for commerce (both highly unlikely due to inertia), then residents will have become full-fledged train wreck spectators.

A crossed-fingers, frustration-laden attitude, praying through the graveyard of broken dreams, wishing for “deus ex-machina” criminal indictments of Council and staff (present & former) over the Mo Money Honarkar dispute is unlikely to occur.

And has everyone considered that we might have to pay to defend those corrupt officials? All so that we could become our worst selves: Homogenized, just like Huntington Beach or Dana Point.

Council hearings will go on featuring the tyranny of “Let’s Pimp Laguna,” and their enabler sycophants as they glamorize upscale bar and restaurant businesses, more wealthy visitors, quickening the demise and death of a once-upon-a-time special place.

Res ipsa loquitur and RIP.

LB Indy Letter To The Editor: Promenade Committee – Residents, Business owners

Promenade Committee Should Include Residents, Business Owners
LB Indy Letter To The Editor by Jerome Pudwill, Laguna Beach

Is the City Council majority tone-deaf? Or do they just not care about what residents want?

Mayor Sue Kempf has promoted the promenade since 2020 without giving residents an opportunity to provide meaningful input. This was repeatedly pointed out at the Jan. 23 city council meeting when 20 residents and business owners blasted councilmembers and railed against the two permanent city-defining promenade plans the council majority hoped to approve. Both plans called for removing virtually all existing Forest Avenue trees.

The promenade was imposed on residents, originally advanced without required public notification by Kempf and then-Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis as a temporary fix for four restaurants during Covid.

Part of their justification was based on a survey they took of Forest Avenue businesses (no residents) – a survey never revealed. No mention of how many businesses were surveyed, whether interviewees were landlords, business owners or salespeople, or what questions were asked. In short, no data, proof or evidence – just their word.

Two public planning workshops were eventually conducted. The first consisted of condescending questions such as, “Which style of garbage cans do you prefer?” That workshop ended in infuriated chaos. In the second session, the consultants basically said, “Here are two plans – pick one.” This approach has resulted in wasting a quarter of a million dollars on two unacceptable plans rejected in part by the overpowering public rebuke at the council meeting. Please see those comments at the 3:15 point of the Jan. 23 meeting, which can be found on the City of Laguna Beach website.

Despite having mismanaged the process, the council majority has appointed Kempf to head a new committee to review future promenade development with direction that’s supposed to include residents and promenade retail business owners. Yet Kempf is already espousing her plans and denying others when the idea of the committee is to solicit all possible solutions.

For instance, in the OC Register, Kempf stated, “We want the whole street designated for (liquor sales), where restaurants can serve alcohol without having to rope areas off.” Do residents truly want to turn the promenade into one big bar?

Councilman Weiss said, “The promenade has been in place for three years, yet we have no truly independent data on how many residents versus visitors use it, how long they stay, and what they do – much less its impact on sales.” (So much for data-driven councilmember talk.)

There is no way this “committee” should exist without independent residents and promenade retailers permanently serving on it – not just pro-business councilmembers and cherry-picked city staff designees.

Contact all councilmembers at and tell them what you think.

Silence only encourages them to ignore you.

Laguna Beach City Transparency Items

City of Laguna Beach Transparency Items

CLB Transparency & Compensation – Here

CLB MOU’s/Contracts (City employee organization contracts) – Here

FORM 802: Free Pageant of Ticket Distributions Reporting – Ticket Policy – Here

2023 Reporting Forms

Public Input/ Media Coverage

Former City Manager Shohreh Dupuis – Gone But Not Forgotten

Dupuis leaves behind a trail of city government internal and external controversies. Not to mention reaping a retirement package many taxpayers do not support. Lots of questions still exist. An example is the public attention that continues to appear.

CLB Next City Manager Update. Its been reported that the Council starts City Manager interviews in mid-January.

Stay tuned. The public is watching closely to see if Council members Bob Whalen and Sue Kempf attempt to influence or control other members like they did in 2020.

Local Media Relevent to Shohreh Dupuis:
City of Laguna Beach City Manager Announces retirement
LB Indy – Retirement Details
Voice of OC – Retirement Details

City Government

The City of Laguna Beach (CLB) is a general law city. This means the city operates
under the laws of the State of California and has a Council-Manager form of

Elected’s – The Council consists of five members elected by the public and a Mayor
selected to serve annually by the Council. Council sets policy and directs the City
Manager. Municipal governing elections are held in November of even-numbered years.
Follow the upcoming Election 2024

Appointed’s – Part of the Council legislative power includes appointing citizens to
boards and commissions that serve as advisory bodies. Some like the Planning
Commission and Design Review Board also have overarching decision-making and
approval authorities. B&C Link.

City News – CLB issues a regular city newsletter. The City Manager’s Office issues a
weekly “The Week that Was” city business report available to the Council and the
public. City Council member George Weiss issues recaps of items covered at City
Council meetings.

City Government

The City of Laguna Beach (CLB) is a general law city. This means the city operates
under the laws of the State of California and has a Council-Manager form of

Elected’s – The Council consists of five members elected by the public and a Mayor
selected to serve annually by the Council. Council sets policy and directs the City
Manager. Municipal governing elections are held in November of even-numbered years.
Follow the upcoming Election 2024

Appointed’s – Part of the Council legislative power includes appointing citizens to
boards and commissions that serve as advisory bodies. Some like the Planning
Commission and Design Review Board also have overarching decision-making and
approval authorities. B&C Link.

City News – CLB issues a regular city newsletter. The City Manager’s Office issues a
weekly “The Week that Was” city business report available to the Council and the
public. City Council member George Weiss issues recaps of items covered at City
Council meetings.

Lightning Fast Action By Public Works

Public Works can really get its act together when properly motivated. At last week’s (11July17) Council meeting, there was a pulled consent calendar item relating to a resolution establishing two loading zone parking spaces located on Laguna Avenue.

Lo and behold, while walking my pooches by that spot yesterday (17July17), the loading zone spaces have already been created, with the curb properly painted to indicate the hours that the loading zone restriction is in force. I’m not sure when the changes were made, but certainly within 4 working days. Between the hours of 18:00 to 03:00, the metered spaces become un-metered, 3-minute loading zone spaces to accommodate cars/taxi’s/Uber’s dropping or picking-up passengers. There were already 2 “loading zone” spaces, so together with the 2 new ones, there are 4.

Here’s the language of the pulled consent item:

Moved by Councilmember Zur Schmiede seconded by Councilmember Whalen and carried unanimously 5/0 to:

Adopt Resolution No.17.044 entitled “A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA, ESTABLISHING TWO LOADING ZONE PARKING SPACES LOCATED ON LAGUNA AVENUE” on the south side of Laguna Avenue between South Coast Highway and Ramona Avenue;

* amend the hours of the two spaces already established as passenger loading and the two new spaces (total of 4 spaces) from 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.;

* direct staff to amend the Ordinance that was approved to list the hours of the (4) passenger loading spaces from 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.;

* and modify the signage to reflect “tow away zone.”

Such quick action must be the result of a serious public-safety issue or a big hue & cry from the public.

Oh, wait. The loading zone changes were requested by none other than Sam Goldstein, restaurateur/saloon-keep of the Skyloft and owner of the Heisler Building (through his Radford Ventures LLC), where the Skyloft is located. Let’s look at some reportable campaign donation data for recent city elections:

Year Candidate Reportable Donation Amt Total Reportable Donation
2014 Zur Schmiede $360 (Sam & Spouse) $720.00
2016 Whalen $240 (Sam & Spouse) $480.00
2016 Dicterow $240 (Sam & Spouse) $480.00

How long have South Laguna residents been waiting for <fill-in-the-blank>? Perhaps over the years South Laguna activists have just not tried hard enough to exercise their influence and make their case to the Council. Or perhaps nature/tree-lovers might do well to fear for the fate of the ficus trees in Heisler Park which block the rooftop ocean views from Sam’s place.

Laguna Canyon Residents vs. Developers

Laguna Canyon Residents Take On Developers With No Help From City Council

A huge victory for Laguna Canyon residents who fought the city staff, planning commission and City Council to uphold our existing governing document of Laguna Canyon Area Annexation Area Specific Plan~

It should be noted this massive size & scale urban development project was approved by CIty Staff, Planning Commission and appealed to City Council who then voted to approve a large scale development project despite canyon resident objections!

Excerpts condensed version taken from the 21 page public court document.

Civil Complex Center 751 W. Santa Ana Blvd Santa Ana, CA 92701
SHORT TITLE: Friends of the Canyon vs. California Coastal Commission

Pg 13
Significantly, the Coastal Commission, like the City Council before it, never determined whether it was proper to leave Laguna Canyon Creek off the MWDC Map. Just as the Coastal Commission determined the City Council’s finding on this point was inadequate, this court determines no substantial evidence supports the Coastal Commission’s identical finding.

Without question, Laguna Canyon Creek is a “Blue-line stream” and a “significant watercourse” in Laguna Canyon. Nothing in the Administrative Record suggests any Blue-line stream or significant watercourse in Laguna Canyon has ever been omitted from the MWDC Map.

Pg 15 The Coastal Commission, like the City Council before it, did not determine whether Laguna Canyon Creek was in fact on the map or omitted from the map. In any event, the Coastal Commission’s finding that Laguna Canyon Creek is “not identifiable” on the MWDC Map, besides being irrelevant as an incorrect standard, is not supported by substantial evidence.

Pg 17
2. Does substantial evidence support the finding that the Project is rural and small-scale? No.
The Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan Policies (LCAASP) identify a series of “goals” to “[p]reserve and enhance the rural character of the Laguna Canyon Properties area.” (AR 1099-1100.)

Policy 10 requires “that any development be of small-scale in order to maintain the rural character of the Canyon. The Project is not consistent with this policy.

This court takes judicial notice that there are 43,560 square feet in one acre. At 36,750 square feet, the Project site equals .84 of an acre. With 30 residential units, plus work space, plus retail space, plus a 47-stall parking garage, all on a parcel smaller than one acre, the Project does not qualify as small-scale or rural. It would be a stretch to label the Project suburban, but easy to label it urban.

It is of no moment the words “rural” and “small scale” are not defined in any document in the Administrative Record. The words “rural” and “small scale” are not generally considered terms of art; they have common meanings. In any event, the Administrative Record universally acknowledges the Project is neither rural nor small- scale. (See, e.g., AR 168, 171, 2979.)

Yes, rustic architecture and landscaping contribute to rural character, but aesthetics do not override the Project’s size, scale, and density. A project with a housing density of more than 30 units per acre simply does not qualify as rural or small- scale. There are 47 parking spaces for the 30 planned residential units, more than many suburban condo developments. It should also be remembered that although this is a two-story project, the housing elements are to be elevated at least five feet above grade, making the 36400t height more in line with a three-story building — again, not a rural structure.

There is no evidence, much less substantial evidence, to support the commission’s conclusion that the Project is rural and small-scale.

Pg 21 If there were nothing else, the violation of Public Resources Code section 30328 would entitle petitioner to a writ of mandate “requiring the commission to revoke its action and rehear the matter.” However, a rehearing would appear to be an idle act in this instance; the Commission’s finding that the Project is consistent with the applicable LCP is not supported by substantial evidence as to the setback and rural/small-scale issues. For the foregoing reasons, the petition for writ of administrative mandate is granted.

Councilmembers’ Campaign Donations – How much did each receive from Development Interests

Using the definition of “Development Interests” provided in the article analyzing reportable donations to the 2016 City Council elections (i.e., Developers, Construction firms, Architects, Landscape architects, Realtors & brokers, Property Management and spouses) , LagunaBeachCHAT analyzed the form460 declarations for all of our current City Council (covering each councilperson’s most recent election campaign). The picture that emerges is that, save for Councilperson Iseman, development interests contribute the LARGEST SHARE of reportable (i.e., those > $100) campaign donations.

Click here for searchable spreadsheets of donors:

2014 Election

2016 Election

While “development interests” certainly are entitled to engage in the political process and are allowed to use their money to endorse candidates that they favor, we find it worrisome that 4 of our 5 City Council members are taking such a large amount of money from this special interest group. We would encourage our readers to consider every development-related vote cast by councilpersons Dicterow, Whalen, Zur Schmiede and Boyd in light of the significant money that each has taken from this special interest group. We would furthermore encourage all councilpersons to pledge to limit their acceptance of ‘development interest’ campaign donations in the future.

LagunaBeachCHAT also analyzed the non-reportable (i.e. < $100) campaign donations each current City Councilperson received in their most recent election campaign. These donations are reported as a ‘lump sum’, with no individual donor names.  We believe that these smaller donations reflect broader ‘grass-roots’ support for each candidate and are a healthier way for candidates to fund their campaigns and for Laguna Beach residents to show support for candidates of their choice.  We would encourage future City Council candidates to pledge a $100 campaign donation limit, as a way to ensure that more voices get to contribute to the political discussion in Laguna Beach, and so that commercial/development interests cannot sway the process with their checkbooks.

Campaign 2016 – City Organization Forums Avoid Substantive Questions

Voters relied on Laguna Beach’s leading civic organizations to hold public forums to provide information on the 2016 City Council candidates’ views, priorities and vision. After attending a majority of the forums, LagunaBeachCHAT came away questioning the value of this entire process and what appeared to be forums held for narrow and organization-exclusive purposes. Incumbents were rarely (if ever) asked to defend their voting records from the previous years.  Too little was done to try to match past experience/accomplishments with current promises.

Are the civic organizations too polite to ask tough questions about voting records?  Are they too focused on only their pet issues to care about the bigger picture?  This writer found that overall, the forums had very little value, with some asking downright embarrassing questions.  An exception to the mediocrity was the 1st forum held by the Laguna Beach Taxpayers’ Association; an attendee could have come away from that forum with a good idea about each candidate’s views on taxation, budgeting, prudent use of surpluses, etc.  However, it would have been very useful if the incumbents’ answers were checked against past votes, as a means of “keeping ’em honest”.

A primary mission of LagunaBeachCHAT is to provide voters with the DATA to easily determine how their elected officials have acted in the past.  If we are successful, come 2018, it will be easy to determine how an incumbent voted, took donations, discussed, etc. during their time on the City Council, and to ask them direct questions.  No more fluffy, softball questions, no more “tell ’em what they want to hear” answers.  Click below to see a transcript of the questions asked at 5 of the 8 public forums.

2016LB City Council Forum Questions

What do you think?  If you attended the forums below, please share your experience with us and rank these organizations on value to the voter.  Rank 1-5:  (5 being the most valuable and informative forums)

8 Organizations held Candidate Forums 2016:
Laguna Beach Taxpayers Association
Arts Alliance
South Laguna Civic Association (members endorsed Candidate Verna Rollinger)
LB Chamber of Commerce
Village Laguna (ex-board member V. Rollinger running for CC & funded/endorsed by same)
LB Board of Realtors/Laguna Beach Indy
Canyon Alliance of Neighborhoods Defense Organization (CANDO)
KX93.5 (city funded radio station)

Listen to Mayor Steven Dicterow blame Riverside residents for our unmanaged tourist problems at City Council Chambers during one of the forums.