As Rohrabacher fights to revoke women’s healthcare, it’s time we fight to revoke his seat

The extremists alt-right movement made history this past week, but not the good kind.

 For the first time since Dick Cheney held office, the Vice President was called upon to push through legislation that failed to garner majority support in the Senate. Their dangerous motivation: gut and defund Planned Parenthood — the most trusted health provider for women, throughout America, since 1916.

Fanatic right-wingers tout this as a victory for their “pro-life” movement. But in reality — either they have chosen to ignore the facts, or they really are waging a callous war on our nation’s women.

Why? Because despite claims to the contrary, abortion-related procedures comprise a mere 3% of Planned Parenthood services. So if extremists really want to reduce abortions, as they claim, defunding Planned Parenthood makes no sense.

Not only does Planned Parenthood refuse to accept any federal dollars for abortion services which has been the case since 1976, Planned Parenthood’s proactive care and education programs actually prevent over 500,000 unintended pregnancies annually — leading to an estimated fewer 200,000 abortions each year. Given that funding for abortion services is separate, these proposed appropriation cuts (that will likely lead to an increase in abortions) exclusively decimate the remaining 97% of Planned Parenthood operations that consist of basic medical assistance for almost 3 million Americans. That’s flat out coldhearted and just plain wrong to increase unplanned pregnancies.

Republicans are essentially closing life-saving medical facilities by targeting women, particularly low-income women and their families. Based on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s analysis, within one year of defunding Planned Parenthood, 650,000 women will face reduced access to health care, and 390,000 women will lose all access.

As our country looks for ways to increase affordable medical services, we should be looking for ways to empower and expand Planned Parenthood’s footprint — not annihilate it. In fact, the organization ought to serve as a beacon when it comes to cutting waste and improving efficiencies in a massive healthcare bureaucracy. Serving as one of the most effective organizations within our health care infrastructure, their reimbursement model prevents fraud and reduces waste throughout all 50 states.

Most importantly, Planned Parenthood fills a void left by the shortcomings of our fragmented industry, directing 79% of their efforts towards patients at or below 150% of the poverty line.

While some of our representatives in Congress deny the benefits of Planned Parenthood, they also ignore the fact that for many Americans, Planned Parenthood acts as a supplement for primary care. Over 50% of Planned Parenthood health centers are located in areas with medical facility shortages, and almost all branches operate with extended hours, prioritizing access to care for underserved communities.

I have long supported and donated to Planned Parenthood, along with over 10 million people worldwide, because they offer a vital service to millions of women who desperately need it. Our government, charged with promoting the common welfare, should take steps to strengthen programs that benefit the general public. In fact, in many cases, Planned Parenthood addresses a healthcare market failure better than Congress can. The same CBO report estimated a net increase of $130 million to taxpayers if the government cuts off Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, fringe, alt-right extremists in Washington like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who claim the “only purpose for Planned Parenthood is abortion,” must stop ignoring the truth as they hold irresponsible hearings using taxpayer dollars.

The basis for these Congressional investigations into potential Planned Parenthood malfeasance: doctored videos that concoct an ungrounded narrative of evil. Not only were their claims of illegal activity debunked, the creators of the videos have since been charged with felony counts. Yet right-wing radicals trudge onward, stripping our vulnerable populations of vital services while perpetuating anti-abortion rhetoric.

We cannot afford to let these entrenched extremists in Washington sacrifice Planned Parenthood as a pawn in their game of political chess. We need members of Congress ready to stand up for women, and thus Planned Parenthood, by advocating for the equal protection under the law for all Americans. An attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on the American values I will defend in Congress.

While Rep. Rohrabacher fights a productive health care service, it’s time we make him fight to keep his seat.

Harley Rouda

Democratic challenger for Rep Rohrabacher’s Congressional seat

Laguna Beach


Rattlesnakes present a real danger

My name is Kasey Konkel and I have lived in Orange County for 48 years. I have always know that rattlesnakes present a real danger but I never realized just how serious that danger was until recently and I am hoping that you can assist me in alerting the public to take extra care in protecting themselves and their pets.

With all of the heavy rain across the county, more snakes are slithering around. My dog was bitten by a rattlesnake 12 days ago while she was on leash at Top of the Word park in Laguna Beach. My dog, Gracie, was just three feet away from me when she stuck her head into a wild flower bush on the dirt trail and likely surprised a sleeping snake. The snake tried to sink its fangs into the bridge of her nose, but due to the boney structure of a pointer’s muzzle, the snake was unsuccessful and attacked her jaw line.  Gracie was rushed to the nearest vet within the hour, and despite biannual rattlesnake vaccines, Gracie suffered the horrific effects of the rattlesnake venom. Once the dog’s flesh is penetrated with the poison, it turns black and dies. The skin and fur slough off and the dog is left with raw, open wounds which are susceptible to infection. Gracie is being properly cared for and she will survive the attack.

However, many dogs do not live once they are bitten and some die en route to the animal hospital.

A Rattlesnake Avoidance Training for dogs and their owners has been organized by Laguna Beach native, Suzanne Thornton Parker and is hosting the event in San Juan Capistrano on May 13th, 2017 from 8 AM to 5 PM. She is very knowledgeable about canines and has partnered with a very experienced rattlesnake avoidance trainer. In the training, dogs learn to detect and avoid rattlesnakes by scent, sight and smell. The owners will learn how recognize when their dogs can sense the presence of a rattlesnake. The training is approximately 20 minutes long and cost is $125.

My intention is keep dogs and their owners safe with approaching warm weather.

Thank you so much for time and assistance.

Kasey Konkel


School Board needs adult supervision on safety

As the only 2016 School Board candidate who included campus security in my platform, it came as good news that School District staff finally proposed visitor screening and sex offender cross-check for our schools.  

While opposing excessive cost of outside consultants too often doing jobs senior district staff is paid to perform, I recognized we lack staff qualified to manage security issues.

Accordingly, I supported funding for a carefully selected expert to develop a serious emergency response program.

Like fences and gates, visitor screening is just one necessary but intermediate step in addressing security needs to protect our children. Instead of half-measures, I’ve advocated a strategic security plan for years.  

Not surprisingly, the School Board’s current President stated she “wasn’t really comfortable…” with enhanced security, “…because it’s hard to accept we are at this point in society…a shame we need to do it.” Too bad she didn’t think about the social impact when our School Board President voted in 2002 for the School District contract that resulted in the “Real Laguna Beach” reality television show.

Even after production that had begun on campus was shut down by parent protests, that School Board blunder made LBHS the most well known public school in the nation, along with Columbine and fictional Ridell High in the movie “Grease.” The show featuring LBHS students resulted in multiple threat evacuations and loitering by sexual predators at our high school. 

Because the show was syndicated for wide commercial distribution worldwide, LBHS is permanently at higher risk than almost any other high school in America. The only thing worse than over-reaction is under-reaction by our School Board for over a decade.  

Without drama or alarm I called for a comprehensive program of school employee training, emergency communications, and counter measures to protect students, school employees and campus visitors, especially between the onset of a man made or natural disaster and the arrival of first responders.

Obviously, some but not all plan elements should be made public. Thus, it has been utterly irresponsible for current staff repeatedly to talk publicly about the surveillance cameras installed after vandalism incidents as “active shooter” counter-measures monitored by local police. It is also reckless to announce that the schools are dependent on local police for all counter measures.  

That kind of incompetence is why some serious adult supervision is needed in our schools to make kids truly safe.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach


Super article on Tom Joliet

As a life long Lagunan I am so happy to read about the super teacher and mentor, Tom Joliet. I taught for 30+ years and recognize good teaching...Tom sure shows that in his uke classes at the Suzy Q. Nice man and a real Laguna person. Thanks for the article.

Judy Jameson

Laguna Beach


Bus schedule changes

As of this morning, the City has changed the local city bus schedule to once an hour, on the half-hour from the Depot.

No notice to the passengers nor the public; no printed schedules on board.

Barbara C Ring

Laguna Beach


Obituary

Victor Evon Opincar Jr.

1944-2017

Life of police/Susi Q volunteer celebrated

Family and friends of Victor Opincar Jr gathered on March 16 at Heisler Park to celebrate his life and the things he loved doing.

Vic died Feb 17 at home with his family at his side. He was 72.

A long-time member of the Laguna Beach Police Department’s volunteer Cops on Patrol, Vic was a familiar sight on foot or bicycle patrol. 

“Vic was my bicycle patrol partner for 11 years,” said Nanci Nielsen. “What was so cool about him is he wasn’t just riding around. He loved helping people. If someone was taking photographs, he would offer to take their pictures. He would give visitors bits of trivia about where they were in town. He just loved to share the intricacies of Laguna.”

Knowledgeable about the streets of Laguna, Vic advocated the four-way stop at Third Street and Park Ave. He also supported Let Laguna Vote, and the Dark Sky initiative. 

Vic was a hiker and a dancer. He took weekly lesson in ballroom dancing at the Susi Q, where he also volunteered time.

“Vic was a former board member and he was our front desk ambassador,” said Nadia Babayi, Laguna Beach Seniors Inc executive director. “He helped seniors with their day-to-day affairs. The seniors benefitted from his working with them. Vic is tremendously missed.” 

Born into a military family, Vic spent his youth traveling the country and attending schools on the bases. He graduated from high school in Ankara, Turkey. He earned a civil engineering degree from Michigan Technology University. He later added a Master’s degree in civil engineering and a Master’s of Business Administration degree from Cal State Long Beach.

As an employee of Boyle Engineering Corp. in Newport Beach, Vic specialized in water treatment and resource management. While employed, he served as president of the Orange County Water Assn., the Institute of Advancement of Engineering and the Consulting Engineers and Land Surveyors of California.

Vic is survived by his wife, Ramona, daughters Jennifer and Tess, son Eric, stepdaughters Tara and Linda and 10 grandchildren. 

Donations may be made to the Cancer Research Institute, One Exchange Plaza, 55 Broadway, Suite 1802, New York, NY, 10006.

By Barbara Diamond


Win-win situation

It’s April, the month I renew my Laguna Art Museum membership, and I’d like to take this as an opportunity to share with Stu News readers a secret benefit: if you join at the Friend level ($125) or above you not only support LAM and get to attend special events at the museum, but you also become enrolled in the North American Reciprocal Museum Association (NARM). 

So what’s so great about that? It means that for just $125 you get free admission for two people to museums all over the country for an entire year!  My husband and I use this all the time, we just went to Palm Springs Art Museum (I went twice, he went once, savings of $37.50), we use it at the Balboa Park Museums, LA Museums, San Francisco and when we travel out of state. 

If you love art this donation really pays for itself in no time, and you help our local museum out. A no-brainer, but a secret not every one knows about, which is why I am sharing it with Stu News readers.

You can see a pdf of all the participating museums here: 

https://a1pir3oc6nm1k9qfq28au9qx-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/NARM_Condensed-Spring_2017.pdf

Hedy Buzan

Laguna Beach


Seniors need housing help

If you want to help a senior and have a room or small apartment to rent, call Martha Hernandez, the Care Manager at the Susi Q Senior Center, 715 8104. Some seniors looking for housing can help with light chores, including gardening, housekeeping, etc. 

Laguna has housing and urban development (HUD) housing. There are two ways to get HUD housing nation-wide. One is to apply for a section eight voucher. This enables the senior to get reduced price housing in any commercial or non-profit buildings associated with HUD but if you apply now, you may have to wait nine years for a voucher. 

The second way is to signup on a waiting list at various locations across the country. Vista Aliso, a 72 apartment complex on Wesley has a waiting list but it is a seven year wait & closed right now. Other complexes may have a shorter waiting list. 

There are seniors seeking housing right now. Some have lived in Laguna off and on for years. Call Ms Hernandez if you can help. 

Roger Carter


Who is the City’s safety officer?

It’s been over a month since the rainstorm eroded this section of Main Beach! What’s the problem? Waiting for some child to fall, get hurt and sue? Where are the priorities? Who’s in charge? Safety should [be] the “Top” of the list.

Danger! Danger! Where is the common sense?

Pat Galez

Laguna Beach


Some thoughts about the “trolley crisis”

I gather that due to under-funded pension liabilities, citizens will need to put up with reduced services including the subsidized trolleys. Perhaps street sweeping, garbage collection, park maintenance etc. I hope we’re not talking about EMT, Fire or Police coverage!

The notoriously corrupt and dissembling CalPers pension fund idiotically promises 7% return, and our city idiotically sends in dollars! A dangerous place for our retirees’ lifeblood. I suggest someone at City Hall look up the definition of “fiduciary”. What’s that line about ‘a fool and his money’?

And if we are in a crisis, it may be time to utilize the 10’s perhaps 100’s of millions of previously collected and invested tax dollars the City has squirelled away. I’d like an honest audit of those funds by an outside firm. I’m not happy being told not to look at that man behind the green curtain. A full and completely audited Balance Sheet, not a Cash Flow statement.

Back to the trolleys.

Those silly little trolleys are and have been a Godsend and a visible asset for the citizens and visitors to our city. Forcing us to dial up Uber or Lyft when we’re stranded due to a cutback is going to piss off some already ticked-offover-taxed, over-Design Reviewed, over-DUI checkpointed, over-sewaged at the beach voters and taxpayers.

Perhaps some efficiencies can be found, like returning to the routes and schedules we had before! Everything’s changed now, and no one’s explained it. And what would happen if we added Sunday service and added evening service so that locals can go to dinner and a show or a gallery, perhaps sip some wine, and ride home safely after the last bus now shuts down at 6 pm. I realize DUI’s are big business in this town, but safety and common sense with available trolley service down to the Village at night and on Sundays (for Christ’s sake) might be a better idea. Not to mention the parking problem thus alleviated.

Just Sayin’

Matt Smith

Laguna Beach


Obituary

Vernon R Spitaleri

1922 - 2017

Click on photo for a larger image

Cherry and Vern Spitaleri are pictured here during a recent European trip

Memorial to be held April 29 for civic and cultural leader

Vernon Spitaleri’s fingerprints are all over Laguna Beach; in the arts, in service organizations and in the business community. His death in January marks the passing of another of Laguna’s “greatest generation”. He was 94. 

A native of New York, Vern entered college at 16 and graduated with a degree in engineering; later studied voice at Julliard and performed under the name of Francoise Chardonnay; served his country in time of war; and married in 1952, before moving to Laguna Beach in the late 1950s.  

Cherry and Vern Spitaleri raised three sons and one daughter in their Emerald Bay home. 

Among his chief contributions to Laguna and closest to his heart, according to the family, was the merger in the mid-1960s of two local papers to create the Laguna News Post. Family members said he was proud of his practice of including pro and con editorials. 

“If you don’t lose a few subscribers over an editorial, you are not doing a good job,” he is quoted as saying.

He also began the custom of the News Post paying for the eggs at the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Laguna Beach High School. 

There were few organizations in town that Vern failed to at least influence, his family said.  

He was in the forefront of the effort to raise funds to build South Coast Medical Center and served on the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce board for several years. 

As President of the Boys Club, Vern led the move to the current facility in Laguna Canyon. He was a founding president of the Friends of the Laguna Beach Library, spearheading the construction of the library.

Vern was a co-creator of Main Beach Park Foundation and a key player in convincing the Festival of Arts to guarantee a revenue stream to pay off the bonds used to purchase what became known as the Window to the Sea.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the burning of the bonds after the final payment.

Vern organized the expansion of the Laguna Playhouse, while serving as the president of the board. He was honored by the Playhouse in the 90th anniversary celebration.

“Anyone who sat in the balcony tonight should say a word of thanks to Vern,” said then General Manager Karen Wood. 

While president of Opera Pacific, he helped negotiate a performance by tenor Luciano Pavarotti to help raise funds for Segerstrom Performing Arts Center. 

Vern served as president of Motivated Museum Members, which successfully fought off the hijacking of Laguna Art Museum, and later, as a board member. He was also president of the Laguna Beach Historical Society and the Emerald Bay Association.

The Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade Committee selected him as Patriot of the Year in 1998, recognizing his service during World War II, as a commander of six LCIs that landed troops on the beaches on DDay. His participation earned him a Presidential Unit Citation and three purple hearts. 

“Most military historians would agree that the opposed (shot at) amphibious assaults are among the most dangerous forms of warfare,” said retired Marine Corp Pilot Charles Quilter. “They are completely vulnerable under hostile fire in a slow moving boat.

“As I recall, Vern made three landings and was wounded at least once. I have the greatest admiration for the boys who landed those boats.”

Vern referred to his experience as “The Hottest Show of ‘em all.”

He completed his naval career in the South Pacific with the rank of Lt. Commander.  

An art lover, Vern tried unsuccessfully to build an artist-live work complex in Laguna Canyon to help keep struggling artists in town. 

One bit of his advice to his children was “Do the best you can – no one is perfect – except your mother.”

Vern is survived by his wife of almost 70 years; sons Marc, Eric and Kris; daughter, Lynn, nine grandchildren; three great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.

Family and friends will gather Saturday, April 29 to celebration a life fully lived. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information, to attend or to send personal stories about Vern.  

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to a cause of personal choice or to the Laguna Beach Historical Society, St. Labre Indian School, Pacific Wildlife Project or the Idyllwild Arts Foundation.


Obituary

Isabella Jacqueline Chavez

February 15, 1992 – March 12, 2017

Isabella Jacqueline Chavez passed away at Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). She will forever be in our hearts and our memories of her will always be with us. Her spirit is bright, her friendships so warm, her song so lovely, her acting real. Her life was fearless and full of love. Her outgoing personality attracted and befriended everyone. Isabella’s bravery and courage will be remembered by all. She attended Monte Vista High School; OCC and South Coast Repertory. She was an aspiring actress for 14 years and a Mezzo Soprano singer. As a keynote speaker for CHOC events, notably the Gala for he Mental Inpatient Center, it was a magical eveninging where she sang with Keith Urban. Isabella is survived by Michael and Stephanie Chavez (Mama and Papa) and her humongous loving family. The family requests donations to CHOC Mental Health Initiative in her memory.


More about the Trump/Ryan health care proposal

Turns out the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) doesn’t agree much with the current Trump/Ryan health care proposal.  Under their joint plan, the CBO estimates 24 million Americans could lose their coverage by 2026. That’s such a big number, many moderate Republicans in the House and Senate are beginning to rethink their support.  

Funny, this is exactly what former Speaker John Boehner predicted several weeks ago (per my Feb. 28 letter in Stu News).

For the last several years, most Republicans, including President Trump, have repeated this phrase as a laugh line and underlying reason to repeal and replace Obamacare:  “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  And, if you like your health care plan you can keep your plan.”  

Turns out this may be the GOP’s undoing. That’s because, “If you like your Representative or Senator, you can keep him or her,” easily could come back to bite them at the ballot box. With millions more voters becoming uninsured, it’s possible these same lawmakers might be recalled and/or replaced sooner rather than later.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


What exactly is going on at our City Hall?

The blue and white city bus that goes south to the Ritz Carlton and Salt Creek Parksix days a week also stops at Gelson’s, CVS and other shops & restaurants saving seniors and others a long walk from Blue Lagoon’sbus stop (a quarter of a mile walk) or up the stairway at Wesley in addition to dropping off seniors at the back entrance on Wesley who may live in the 70+ apartments at Vista Aliso. 

This bus also stops at the front door of Mission Hospital, saving seniors and others the walk up the steep hill to the front door of the hospital. On its way back to downtown it stops at the Community Center and Susi Q, which saves participants at the center a walk from Laguna Avenue or the bus terminal. High students ride this bus, but so do workers, visitors, locals and seniors. It is an important service of the OCTA subsidized Laguna Beach transit system. 

The Sally’s van picks up many residents who live at Vista Aliso senior housing and takes them to the Susi Q senior center. In addition it picks up other seniors all over town and takes them to classes, movies, bingo, senior lunch, ping pong, etc. etc. at the center and goes each week to Trader Joe’s, the 99 cent store, Target and Walmart. These seniors are not getting younger. Using Uber is a joke. The city’s taxi voucher program didn’t work and neither will an Uber program. 

It is preposterous to think the City would cut back trolley or bus service to the Ritz Carltonand Salt Creek Park because too many people want to go and return to Laguna Beach from that destination. Some people want to get out of town, visit a beautiful county beach, connect with trolleys going to San Juan and Dana Point or visit and possibly stay overnight at the Ritz.

The three trolleys running up to Top of the World, Bluebird Canyon and Arch Beach Heights are running empty or with one or two people on many “loops.” 

If any service is cut back, it should be this service.Most people who live inthese neighborhoods think it›s an expensive joke and a waste of the City andOCTA›S measure M money which people voted in favor of in 2005. 

If you want to find out quick how bungled the transit management is, try calling the city’s transit # 497 0746. Like much of City Hall, the transit department has seen a constant turnover of managers the past few years. What exactly is going on at our City Hall?

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


Phone on the Wind

In Japan a mourning resident of Otsuchi placed a disconnected phone booth on the perch of a hill. The rotary phone inside serves pilgrims to this site a call on the wind to reach family members lost in the Tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukushima. With more introspection our curation by jury (Rethink Art - Michael Magrutsche) would offer better design options than Superwoman from a comic book. 

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach


The radio is your friend during critical situations

Tyler Russell here, founder of your friendly, neighborhood radio station KX 93.5. 

I want to say thank you to the City of Laguna Beach, The Laguna Beach Police Department, and our listeners for relying on us during the storms a couple weeks ago. When power went out in most parts of town, we were operating on backup batteries and a generator (previously funded by a grant from The City), updating residents with information on the weather, road conditions, and hazards. 

A crucial part of our mission is to provide instantaneous, potentially life-saving information during a disaster, and I’m happy to report that our equipment worked perfectly when put to the test. As a reminder, if you don’t have a crank-operated radio in your home, please do purchase one, and tune into 93.5 FM to receive updates during a critical situation. 

If you haven’t listened to our station in a while (or maybe you swear by your satellite radio), then give us a shot. We feature tons of local and independent bands, hourly news, surf reports, local traffic reports, dozens of community-hosted shows ranging in genre from jazz to bluegrass, and, of course, “Jason Sings the Police Blotter.” 

It’s uncommon to have a radio station that broadcasts exclusively to a town of 24,000 people, and it’s important that we receive local support to continue to flourish. If you can’t pick us up on 93.5 FM where you are in town, then download our iPhone or Android app or listen at www.KX935.com

As Lynette Brasfield put it in her Stu News editorial last month, “It’s a rare and wonderful thing for a community as small as ours to have a radio station so dedicated to its residents. KX 93.5 FM truly represents the spirit of Laguna.” 

Tyler Russell

Laguna Beach


Mayoral bias and lack of due process is an issue in Laguna

Ever felt like you weren’t getting a fair shake at city hall, that inherent biases and predetermined outcomes were the rule not the exception, and that your own tax dollars were being used against you in fighting for your rights?  The post-midnight agenda item on last week’s city council meeting proves you are not crazy for feeling that way.  At a December hearing, Greg Pfost, community development director, revoked Karen Petty’s AUP on the basis of an alleged violation of her AUP, despite no evidence being presented by the City at that hearing.  At considerable expense (several thousand dollars in attorneys fees and a $650 appeal fee), Ms. Petty appealed the revocation to the city council.  

Now it’s pretty clear that this city council is anti-short term rentals, and the City is currently being sued for the ordinance it passed banning them in residential areas, which knowingly violated the Coastal Act and the City’s Local Coastal Program.  The City will eventually be forced to rescind or amend that ordinance to eliminate the ban.  But, in Ms. Petty’s case, the appeal was supposed to be a “de novo” review, meaning the city council was supposed to review the permit revocation in an impartial and unbiased manner reviewing all the evidence.  Well, blatant bias reared its ugly head when Mayor Iseman inadvertently copied Ms. Petty on an email that exhibited egregious bias and predetermination on this “de novo” hearing.  No spin could change the obvious intent of this email.  So just maybe we aren’t crazy to think this happens more frequently than one would hope, and maybe this is why most people hold government in low esteem.

But the real stunner that night was not even Mayor Iseman’s errant email, it was the egregious lack of due process and trampling on a resident’s rights that the city council almost got away with after midnight. You see, Ms. Petty’s attorney, Stephane’ Quinn, made an excellent case as to why the revocation of Ms. Petty’s AUP was wrongful as not one scintilla of evidence was presented as to the alleged violation which was the justification for the revocation.  Further, the City blatantly failed to respond to requests for records concerning the violation and witnesses, which it is required to do by law. Imagine being charged with a crime, and then the court just skips over the trial and goes directly to the sentencing phase.  

Fortunately, there’s a little thing called “due process” that got in the way, that little right guaranteed by the US Constitution that safeguards ordinary folks like you and me, and Ms. Petty, from the arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government.  In other words, government can’t just trample on people’s rights, it has to follow the law. This seemed quite clear, but it didn’t jive with the anti short term rental bias, so City Manager John Pietig suggested that the City should just get a re-do on the initial hearing, another bite at the apple, you know, give the City another chance to prove its case since it did such a poor job the first time.   Phil Kohn, the City Attorney, then weighed in saying oh yes, the City should get a re-do.  Imagine, going through a trial, the court fails to convict you, and then you are put you on trial again because they didn’t get it “right” the first time.  Doesn’t seem right does it?

Well fortunately for Ms. Petty, her attorney, and several other attorneys and other members in the audience who also stayed late that night, spoke up and said that is a blatant miscarriage of justice, and exposed the obvious bias.  Being left no choice, the city council reluctantly upheld Ms. Petty’s appeal and rescinded the denial of her AUP.  So in the end, in fact it was very pretty for Petty, but not so pretty for the city council.  Upset in being exposed, several council members then made some snide comments from the dais. 

Moral of the story is, sometimes you have to stand up and fight for your rights on unpopular issues like short-term rentals or hedge height/view claims, or over-reaching historical ordinances.  And sometimes you have to be very vigilant against a biased city council, city manager and city attorney.  This city has a history of trampling on people’s rights and forcing residents to spend thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, to defend their rights and fight city hall, where their own tax dollars are being spent against them.  

Most of the time the City succeeds or settlement is reached, not because the City is right, but because it buries the resident in legal fees and costs, and sometimes it costs them their marriage as in the case of _________ .   City Attorney firm Ruttan & Tucker is notorious for this type behavior, and is handsomely paid with tax dollars funded by me and you.  Few know that the City paid just under $3 Million to R&T over the past 3 years ending in July 2016.  Is there a conflict of interest in the City Attorney giving advice to the City and then being paid to defend the City when they are sued based on that advice?  Seems fishy to me, but that’s another article altogether.

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach


A new pool is needed

A new 108’ by 75’ city and school district swimming pool and a shallow teaching pool in Lang Park is a great idea. Our pool on Park Avenue would continue to operate, but at last our high school’s championship water polo teams would finally have a pool large enough and deep enough to compete in, and practices could be scheduled at hours other than early mornings and late evenings.

In addition any age adults and our growing senior population, the Lang Park Girls and Boys Club group and Anneliese’s School at Lang Park could use the pool not to forget the seventy residents next door in Vista Aliso’s senior apartments.

Every young person in Laguna should have the opportunity to learn to swim along with our older citizens and a new pool would offer the opportunity for exercise the year round. Let’s hope it happens.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


President Trump’s comments about winning wars

Like many in town, I watched the Academy Awards ceremony with several Laguna friends. Maybe President Trump still was confused about what happened last Sunday night when he said Monday morning, “We have to start winning wars again ... When I was young in high school and college, we never lost a war ... America never lost ... Now, we never win a war. We don’t fight to win.”

I don’t know what planet Mr. Trump grew up on, but when I was in high school and college -- which, by the way, was the same time as the president -- America was fighting in Vietnam. The same Vietnam that Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon tried, unsuccessfully, to manage. The same Vietnam that dispelled the myth that the U.S. military was invincible. The same Vietnam, complete with its attendant domino theory, where 58,000 American troops died and millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians and others throughout Southeast Asia were killed or wounded. The same Vietnam that pitted WWII-era fathers against their Baby Boomer sons. And yes, the same Vietnam that ultimately fractured America’s psyche.

Donald Trump may have attended military school when he was a teenager, but when he makes statements about America winning wars like it did when he was young, it’s clear the lessons he learned in the 1960s have been totally lost on him today. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Long term financial plan needs to address imbalance of revenue

The City will be holding a Long Term Financial Plan presentation March 6.

That’s a good thing. 

Presumably a Long Tern Financial Plan includes a discussion of future revenues to the City and future costs to the City, a discussion of the sources of funds and the uses of funds. 

I am convinced that the revenue to the City government from visitors and the sector of local commercial businesses dependent upon visitors does not cover the costs incurred by the City that are attributable to the visitors and those businesses. 

My estimate is that revenue from visitors and visitor dependent local businesses represents about 25% of City government revenue, while the costs attributable to those sources represent about 50% of City operating costs.  

I believe that amounts to a mismatch of approximately $20,000,000 per year with the residents subsidizing the visitors by that amount.  

It doesn’t have to be this way – (see the quote below.) 

This discussion of a Long Term Financial Plan is an excellent opportunity for the City Council to address that imbalance of revenue from visitors versus costs attributable to visitors, and to consider remedies. 

If the City could increase revenue from visitors to the point where it covers the incremental costs to the City attributable to the visitors, the City and its residents would benefit substantially and the increase in funds made available could be used to cover the costs of those fundamental items that to date have not been addressed due to lack of funds. 

Specifically, I encourage the City Council to direct the staff and the City Attorney to look into ways to correct this imbalance. 

Quote From the Beverly Hills 2015-2016 Budget: “Revenues generated from the business sector represent about 65 - 80% of total General Fund revenues. This allows the City to provide residents with the finest of residential living environments: clearly the City Council’s first objective.”

John Thomas

Laguna Beach


Boehner’s prediction about Obamacare

Now that the constraints of elective office have been lifted from his shoulders, former Speaker of the House John Boehner is publicly predicting Obamacare will not be repealed.  

This news isn’t sitting well with my GOP friends in town, nor with Republicans who attended last weekend’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland.    

When I asked 70 of my conservative USC fraternity brothers last fall why they were supporting Donald Trump, most of them answered, “Because he is a businessman who has pledged to replace Obamacare.”  

With all due respect, Obamacare works in California so I am confident it can work in other states. Is it perfect? No. Does it need tweaking? Yes. Is it the end of modern civilization as the GOP predicts? Of course not.  

Mr. Boehner didn’t say it, but he knows it’s time congressional Republicans give up their lies and distortions about this breakthrough legislation. If only my friends in Laguna, or those who attended CPAC, believed him.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


In response to Letter to the Editor from Mr. Lawson, Chairman of EDPC  (Emergency Access We can Live With):

This City has long ignored the Access Issues of the Safety Element in the General Plan as adopted in June 1995. Tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent creating a plan which identified about 16 neighborhoods or groups of streets throughout the city with impaired access for emergency vehicles.

Three neighborhoods; Canyon Acres, Bluebird Canyon and Diamond Crestview were identified as the most seriously access impaired. 

Upon adoption of the Safety Element, the City was to undertake a comprehensive emergency access evaluation and upgrade program that evaluates each public and private road and neighborhood in terms of providing emergency vehicle access and evacuation routes, including pedestrian accessways or trails.

However, some twenty years later, a late evening ride through several neighborhoods with fire department personnel and bureaucrats led to the conclusion that the Alta Vista neighborhood would be the ideal candidate since, as the Fire Chief stated last week, “this area was selected because it would affect the least number of houses”. This approach to the path of least resistance does not serve our community’s safety issues well. 

When asked about the Safety Element of the General Plan at the December meeting of the EDPC, no committee members recalled having read the Safety Element or seen the detailed neighborhood map until we concerned citizens brought it to their attention.

In an attempt to be transparent, a community meeting was held last August and no presenter representing the City could answer the question…How many incidents of blocked access of emergency vehicles occurred by neighborhood or by street in the past one, five or ten year period? So where is the comprehensive access evaluation for all public and private roads in the City?

Furthermore, what is the criteria to measure this so-called pilot program? Permanently remove 100 resident’s parking spaces from the smallest residential neighborhood and it’s a success?

Trending throughout the country is a movement to manufacture emergency vehicles to best fit the location where used. After a several year campaign led by SF Supervisor Scott Weiner, now a CA State Senator, the San Francisco Fire Department has placed equipment orders configured to address their narrow winding streets. To quote Weiner, “our fire trucks should be designed around the needs of our city, not vice versa “. So when we hear our Fire Chief state “we can’t decrease the size (of engines) from what we have,” I think they have to be willing to think outside their big red box.

What is “immediate” is the course change the EDPC needs to make; and what is “dire” is the need for a comprehensive solution the City can live with and not another failed bureaucratic program as was the “red flag” pilot program.

Mark Sommerfield and Sam Dawson

Concerned Citizens, Laguna Beach

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