What Laguna can learn from Dublin

My wife and I recently returned from a visit to Dublin, Ireland. During our time there we observed several cultural differences from life here in Laguna. A few of the differences we would not hope to see here, but some we think would actually benefit our community. Sometimes great benefits to a community come from simply borrowing ideas that work elsewhere.

First, our compliments to all who supported the restrictions on smoking in public which recently went into effect.  Probably the most negative habit we observed in Dublin was the huge number of people standing to the side of walkways at building entries, smoking their cigarettes and subjecting anyone walking nearby to the displeasure of errant smoke.  One of our first impressions upon arriving back home and walking through Heisler Park and Main Beach Boardwalk was the absence of cigarette smoke encountered along our path. Thank you for that!

We would like to suggest a few observations from Dublin that could positively affect our life experience here in Paradise for your consideration:

1.    Free Local Museums:  All museums in Ireland are free to all residents (in fact, we were not charged either). It has always bothered us to think that in the US it costs money to have exposure to culture, whether museums of art, history, or whatever. It’s no wonder so many Americans are lacking in that area. In Ireland culture is promoted by making access to museums absolutely free. While your (city council) influence is strictly local, it would not seem far-fetched to make our local museums free, at least to residents of Laguna if not everyone.

2.    Exercise Equipment in Parks: In most of the parks we walked through in Dublin we observed outdoor exercise equipment similar to the types seen in for-profit gyms across our nation. We also observed similar equipment in Parks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Heisler Park would be an excellent venue for workout stations we residents could use along our walking paths. It would benefit especially local seniors whose main exercise is walking. I’m confident such equipment would be appreciated in other local parks as well.

3.    Crossing Streets on Red Lights:  While this seems potentially problematic on its surface, it works very well in Dublin.  It doesn’t really make sense to stand at a traffic light waiting for green when no cars are coming. People often don’t wait already. Ticketing people for jaywalking when entirely safe seems against the spirit of the law, and could easily be modified.

4.    All Police in Plain Clothes:  It was explained to us that police in Dublin all (except for SWAT teams) patrol in plain clothes, that is, not in uniform. The reason stated was that not knowing exactly where police are located makes crime less likely, because potential criminals don’t know if they are standing next to a police officer or not.  Our thought is that it certainly makes police officers less of a target.  Perhaps something to consider.

While there were other things about Dublin we thought would work well in the US, the four ideas listed above were the ones we considered to have the greatest value while being locally implementable. We encourage you to consider each to determine which might work to make Laguna even better.

Thanks for reading.

Russ and Raella Hill

Laguna Beach

Relevant Coastal Commission hearings should be held locally

I urge city council to encourage the CCC [California Coastal Commission] to hold hearings within county jurisdictions specific to [the county involved]; looking at the docket it seems bizarre if not purposefully limiting participation by those most affected.

I’ve sent my objections to the California Coastal Commission.

Leah Vasquez

Laguna Beach

What are they/we thinking?

Once again after years of public and local groups wrangling City Council against a massive parking structure, we are reintroducing the same outdated ideas to solve long-standing but intensified issues: Laguna›s traffic, parking and retail quandaries. And just as the Vision study, aka, «keep the people busy» was filed away in some back room, we are again ignoring history, well- tested models and citizen input.

Past efforts to “improve “Laguna Canyon Road to reduce accidents, mitigate congestion and habitat destruction failed as current statistics show the daily alerts.

City Council is not offering creative solutions based on fact or models that fit our unique city, rather, solutions seem mostly for short term and capitalization regardless of long term consequence.

Without a defined mission to guide decisions and develop goals we will continue to lose any resemblance to what Laguna was and made it fresh and wonderful… it was innovation and preservation of Its natural features.

The smell of sage, the silhouette of hills on its upper lakes, the dark night sky and croaking frogs, sea breezes and fresh air filtering through canyons and miles of coastal scrub and a town that respects and values both its natural and artistic heritage, now devolving and becoming hackneyed and frenetic.

The ill-begotten attempts to introduce downtown parklets, the public quarrel and final blow surrounding parking structures, then proposals to add parking meters, raise parking rates and suspend reliable public transportation; now it’s (NO) way-finding signs and street closures without a defined need or rational demand; it’s here today and more tomorrow-asphalt-um, exhaust-ion and trumped- up decisions for short term.

From the beginning, Trolley service was touted as a fun way to get around but never totally functional or fully used by all neighborhoods and adjoining cities, nor cooperatively attracting and ferrying visitors from out of city parking hubs or offering interesting asides such as audible and printed historic information, about public art projects, using distal under-toll road or at the ends of the city or canyon for parking/trolley connections especially considering the coming impact from massive development to the north, east, and those along Newport Coast and south from Laguna Niguel and San Clemente.

Without an overarching vision, trolley routes that could fully serve residents and link communities may be stopped or at least curtailed.  Instead of enhancing and simplifying this year-round  service offering residents and tourists rates-wither free or minimal, public transit, just as the city’s web site, has been  continually tinkered with making use overly complicated  to the dismay of those who want to use it and wish it was better managed.

Trolleys, as many other issues now in crisis mode are following a similar path wasting staff time and public monies while destined to be resurrected in yet another cycle of crisis unless we ensure leaders pay attention and develop guiding principles, listen to their constituents, and serve their defined term with absolute limits.

Laguna’s future is on the chopping block with more urgency than ever before… soaring housing costs in another “bubble” will not be relieved by land intensification only increased. Destruction of places to exhibit new ideas, securing open space-all will give way to increased paving and density, overrunning nature and adding human impact without long-term benefits. The only way to avoid this is a mission to include preservation, restoration, capturing and recycling water, traffic calming design and replanting to offset human impact.


We are embroiled in lawsuits-another red flag as to why we don’t do due-diligence and research before decisions are made.

If the Longi/Dornin project is passed it paves the way for intense development of the canyon and elsewhere; the engine has been primed-it is chugging along and no engineer to pull the brake. There are no toxic chemical filters, no accurate measurements as to where the building and overhang affecting the land and blue line stream and the next flood carrying debris to the sea.

Whether it’s fire, flood or crime, what threatens everything is the rehatching of multi-level parking structures, intensification, increasing, widening, straightening or adding traffic lanes that never solved any of those issues, instead, added new ones, neither did butchering and removing trees, cluttering walking areas with more signage, more parking meters, hiring outside consultants proposing the preposterous or sometimes, when listening to the public, finding their recommendations tossed aside as was the public Vision study.

Meanwhile before another election cycle Council should be seeking a unifying vision with guiding principles; they need to say NO! No to canyon development in the name of art; what we want to be and how to get there.

Everything else confuses and will be disservice to the majority of residents and the city’s unique sense of place.  

Real data, follow-up and oversight are needed, instead we have edicts and scofflaws piled onto stopgap measures and piecemeal decisions-some that will set precedence.

Even the most generous and caring fail to lead, make inroads or resolve urgent issues; No, we don’t want to be kept busier than ever as we are already scrambling to understand why those we elect fail the vision test and made most obvious by Laguna creek that is not completely and correctly mapped, an identifiable asset, cleaned up, and the canyon’s property boundaries that remain mostly an enigma in the face of umpteen studies, meetings and plans for undergrounding. 

Except for election time, there is little movement to long-range thoughtful decisions, to address decades of hillside degradation and restoration and why Laguna has such poorly landscaped highways and no real efforts to restore and protect our unique resources.

Laguna’s ancient subterranean canyon with its natural lakes and winding road etched by years of travel remained through the 1980’s. It has been all but brokered away straightened and widened as a quasi-freeway increasing access, speed  and congestion. Distancing the traveler from the experience. Plans to add sidewalks, traffic lights, and monstrous new work/ live units instead of rehabbing existing small scale buildings and creating walkable, bike-able, permeable trails separating vehicles and planning for public transit instead of intensification of land use under the guise of “affordable” will obliterate the canyon’s rural mixed use neighborhoods as it did the once graceful Oaks and Eucalyptus, the curving road wending its way to the sea.  Now most asphalt and scraped land to be overbuilt. 

There are corollaries in the refurbished Festival of Arts with its promise of beauty now a massive canopied enclosure showcase that may challenge public use during non-festival times of year as well the lack of artist-inspired exhibit space now presented as ubiquitous packaging, as exchangeable and ordinary as any parking structure, our offering in Laguna and that which plagues our nation as to how we identify and market who we are. 

Are we thinking?

Leah Vasquez

Laguna Beach

People who made a difference in Laguna

The recent OC and Laguna LGBT pride events at West St. Beach, the Boom Boom and Main St. Cabaret reminded me of four friends from the past that made a difference in Laguna Beach. 

Art Frink and Harry Moon opened the Cottage restaurant in the 1960’s. It had been a breakfast place and originally a residence built in the early 1900’s at Coast Hwy and Aster St. Harry found the original front door (still here in the Urth Café) in the old garage on the alley behind the home and inside, rooms had been walled off for living spaces. They installed the door, opened the rooms inside, made improvements and opened the Cottage. It became so popular that on some weekends it was open until late at night and without a patio, served 900+ patrons each Saturday and Sunday. 

In 1970, it had 24 refrigerators and freezers, the original small kitchen and on weekends served complimentary coffee to waiting crowds. Omelets by the hundreds were served and often the tiny kitchen had a hard time keeping up. There was no wine or beer because Art and Harry felt it would slow down the turnover of tables. The actor Richard Benjamin and comedian Paul Lynde and other “stars” ate there and later the kitchen was enlarged and a patio was added. It was a fabulous place and destination point for many.

Rick and Shannon, a young couple from Seattle established Dizz’s As Is in the 1970’s, at Coast Hwy and Nyes Place. Rick looked over the dining room and Shannon managed the kitchen. A bowl of Italian fish soup was $5.95. Complimentary liver pate and vermouth were served with dinner. In the early days, they had limited funds so bought silver ware and china at garage sales. Friends loaned or donated pieces from the thirties and forties. From time to time they had wonderful parties at their modest apartment for all of their customers, rich and poor. Shannon loved baking two feet and longer salmon along with racks of lamb. The ambiance was real, especially later in the evenings when even O.J. Simpson could be heard above the roar of the crowd. We have them to thank for today’s Dizz’s, still going strong.

From before the days of Richard Halliburton, who built his concrete house 400 feet above the ocean and Aliso Canyon – “gays” have made a difference in Laguna Beach and they still do – today!

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

To sign or not to sign

The City Council led movement to spend taxpayer’s money on directional signs is the usual misguided, consultant driven project that will fail. It will come with a price. Hundreds of thousand dollars spent, added clutter to our sidewalks, and a minimum return on investment. There is an elephant in the room, which we will get to in a moment. First, let us talk about the Laguna Beach market

There are basically four categories of potential customers:

Teens-The free bus ride policy might be viewed as an offset to motor vehicle traffic, parking, and safety. This group is more disruptive than constructive, but most important they don’t spend $$! They fill up the buses, and beaches, sidewalks, and jails but not our retail stores. What do they read? Cell phones!

Residents-In the summer they abandon the squalor of downtown. Most of the time they only spend money on groceries, liquor, and restaurants. For example only 50% of resident monies go to purchasing grocery items, the other 50% is spent on—well can we say Costco and Wal-Mart? What do they use for shopping? Cell phones and our largest group of resident serving businesses---UPS, FedX, and USPS!

Day-Trippers-These are the people who on any day take all of our parking places, crowd our streets and sidewalks, and fill our trash containers. They bring their own food and refreshments and are not in Laguna for the shopping (they have better shopping where they live), it’s for the last part of their destination - beach! Data from the Visitor’s Bureau says they spend much less than $5.00 per visit. And, many can’t read English, so how is a sign going to sway them to shop? One of their kids cell phones got them here!

Tourists-Finally, we get to the spenders. They are our smallest group, and have their idiosyncrasies. They use the town as an unorganized shopping center. Focus remains on the hotel where they reside for a couple of weeks. When they need directions, they have the hotel personnel and their cell phones.

What do these four groups have in common? Well they do spend money on restaurant food and hotels (80% of retail sales), leaving only a pitiful amount of their budget for what the retailors want to sell them. This is what the City Council wants to roll the taxpayer’s dice for by using mechanical signs? Right!

Wake up! The only thing that all have in common are cell phones. That is how you can reach all the prospective buyers. 

If you want to really get results, spend the money on a good retailer’s guild on the internet. Customize it to our meager retailing population and call it a day. Oh, yes. Fire the sign painters and consultants. They are the only ones making money on this boondoggle.

Dennis Myers

Laguna Beach

Parking structures protest

A few years ago the residents of Laguna Beach stormed city hall to successfully protest the proposed building of a 3 story Parking Structure at the Village Entrance site. 

City Council has taken a step backwards by making a unanimous decision that residents will be served by going into debt to build a 3 story Parking Structure a mere stone’s throw from the previously protested location. City Council unanimously approved destroying an established art venue in the Civic Art District where local artist display their work during the summer season. City Council members claim that they support the arts and artists and our identity as an Artist Community and have even paid a consultant to entertain building a Cultural Arts Center.  

City Council members continue to ignore community activists who regularly speak at council meetings.  Council members focus efforts to appease campaign contributors, private investors and developer special interests in a pending election season. They appear to have forgotten that they are public servants and are elected to serve residents first.  This demonstrates how out of touch our city council is with serving the resident needs first.  Hotel guests support our economic vitality, not day-trippers.  

Improvements to creating pedestrian spaces and to encourage pedestrian friendly mobility measures through the creation of safe attractive multi use pathways would do much to improve the community for residents. The petrol automobile is not the future of transportation. To expect residents to go into debt to serve the aging automobile transportation industry is not a progressive value.  Elected officials must be forward thinking in mobility planning measures for our city.

Thank goodness, we have an election coming soon before these council members destroy our small village and what we stand together for as a community.  

Parking garages do not benefit residents, they burden the city with unnecessary debt to support day trippers. 

Lorene Laguna

Laguna Beach

Citywide Wayfinding Sign Program (CWSP)

The CWSP alleges that it will help guide shoppers to their desired destinations. Residents and regular visitors already know their way around town so it’s obvious that this program is intended to primarily benefit merchants, not residents. No measurable, scientific or evidence- based evaluation of the program’s success or failure has been proffered. 

Members and supporters of LBC will be soliciting signatures for a Petition opposing the CWSP outside of the Farmer’s Market on Forest Ave. starting this Saturday, July 29.

The CWSP is the brainchild of the Chamber of Commerce, Visit Laguna and City staff, with an initial budget of approximately $365,000. Its real purpose, as the LB Planning Commission pointed out, is to (a) Redirect downtown shoppers to other business districts, and (b) Hope that the CWSP will “spread the wealth,” disperse potential customers...who will then spend their money at shops and restaurants in areas outside of the downtown central business district. 

For the pilot program phase, 7-8 new signs will be installed from Broadway to Legion Street along Coast Highway. No prior, scientific evaluation or survey has been performed, to adequately measure, to assess the success or failure of the CWSP. 

The City’s staff report says the signs will “...reduce driver, pedestrian and bicyclist frustration, and improve traffic flow and safety. The signs would be located on all major corridors...” Laguna Beach Chat believes the signs, if successful, may significantly impact neighborhoods outside of downtown as the signs would encourage drivers to park in neighborhoods adjacent to, and inland of, the five identified CWSP business districts. 

Our petition reads: We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our City officials to reject the Citywide Wayfinding Sign Program being proposed. 

We believe the signs would be a form of visual blight, and that mobile applications will provide the same directional benefits for all. 

Please join us outside of the Farmer’s Market, next to LB City Hall, this Saturday. Don’t allow our City to continue to ignore the interests of residents.

Mike Morris

Laguna Beach

1199 Lewellyn Drive purchase

Your piece on the City backing out of its deal to purchase 1199 Lewellyn Drive missed a lot, as does the staff report for the item to be heard on Tuesday. Back in December 2016, the City approved the purchase of the property, allocated $1,632,000 for the purchase, and directed the City Manager to execute the purchase and sale agreement. This approval and direction was unambiguous. Nothing in the staff report or the minutes indicate that the purchase was “conditional” or “contingent” on further due diligence. In fact, the City had already had an environmental assessment completed for the property.  

Instead of purchasing the property as directed, City staff instead conducted additional studies on the property, which recommended improvements even to leave it in an undeveloped state.  Accordingly, the City Council allocated an additional $668,000 to the acquisition and improvement of the property, for a total of $2,300,000.  But the staff report for the item to be heard on Tuesday tells a different story. It claims, incorrectly, that the City Council’s direction back in December was conditional and contingent on further due diligence.  It cites attempts to renegotiate the price, but fails to mention the additional $668,000 that the City Council allocated last month.  How did estimated restoration and remediation costs go from $668,000, as stated to the City Council last month, to “$800,000 to $1 million”?  

Again, the City Council has already allocated $2,300,000 towards the acquisition and improvement of 1199 Lewellyn Drive.  Why is staff now recommending backing out of the deal?  What’s the point of coming to an agreement in good faith, only to back out?  The alternative is to go to trial on August 28, when the City will have to defend the property owner’s claims of $6 million in takings damages.

James M. Lawson

Laguna Beach

Thanks to Shaena and Lynette

Thank you Shaena for your uplifting words about our beloved Laguna.  Despite the frustration of coming in the canyon at times, paying $50 at Nix for lunch, the noise of construction everywhere, even ‘rudies’ on the back country trails, all this is more than compensated by every word you wrote in this morning’s StuNews… Still grieving for the loss of your beloved Stu every day is all the more remarkable that you are able to reach out to us all with your cheerful upbeat message – Stu would be so proud of you!  Cheers to you ladies. 

Charlotte Masarik

Laguna Beach

Temporary signage on wheels is tacky

If the council wants to eliminate eyesores in the form of portable signs, I’d suggest they start with those large, ugly lighted signs on wheels that are installed at each end of town on PCH (blocking the bike lanes, too).  Unless there is a good reason to have these out (to announce a road closure due to a parade, for example), I’d recommend that they keep these out of sight.  They are really tacky looking and not fitting with our beautiful town’s character. I, for one, don’t have a problem with local businesses displaying temporary signs outside as long as they are tastefully done.

Christobel Selecky

Laguna Beach

Chaotic trolley ride

Yesterday I got on a blue “coastal route” trolley at the bus terminal that stops at all regular stops but ends at Mission Hospital. It was crowded and as is the case with many trolleys, the loudspeaker system didn’t work. I believe the driver announced before leaving that she was going to the hospital and not to the Ritz Carlton, which is one of the most popular destinations since it is adjacent to Salt Creek Park and connects with Dana Point trolleys. If she did make the announcement, because of the crowd and noise, few probably heard her. At Wesley, the last stop the red “limited stop” trolley makes before it stops at Three Arch Bay, (south of the hospital) Crown Valley and the Ritz, our driver again announced to a packed crowd that if anyone wanted to go south of the hospital, they should get off and catch the limited stop trolley. Fifteen people got off the standing room only blue trolley. By the time we got to the hospital, five more riders said they thought the blue trolley went to the Ritz. The driver frantically called a red trolley which was not far behind us and asked if it could pick up the five people at the bus stop across from the hospital.

The speaker systems on the trolleys need to be fixed, especially in light of the changes in trolley destinations and stops. Every day hundreds of people get on a blue or red trolley and are not exactly ready when they find out where it is really going.

The red trolleys have huge graphic signs showing where they make limited stops. The blue trolleys have 9 X 10 announcements in the front and side windows indicating they do not go to the Ritz. At the very least, the drivers deserve to have a public address system that works. 

This would make for a much happier summer for all trolley riders. 

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Dennis is on fire

Just had to say Dennis has been on fire of late. Maybe not with his predictions but his columns have been fantastic to read!!

Keep up the great work!!

Wes Correll

Laguna Beach

What Trump and Putin talked about at the G20 summit

I have found that conversations during happy hour at Mozambique, or any other restaurant in town, typically run the gamut from traffic woes in Laguna to how our kids are doing, and from vacation plans this fall to politics.  On this last point, there seems to be quite a bit of interest in the handshake seen ‘round the world last week between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.  

More to the point, my friends and I want to know what the two talked about in Germany when the cameras were turned off.  Both made some general comments to the press, but that’s about it. That is until now. I haven’t been able to confirm the authenticity of the following exchange between the two world leaders, but I’m relatively confident this is what they said in private.

Donald Trump (DT):  Wonderful to finally meet you, Vladimir. It’s OK to call you that, right?  

Vladimir Putin (VP):  Yes, so nice to meet you too, Donald. Is your wife with you in Hamburg?

DT:  Melania is off with the wives of the other G20 leaders now. Would you like to meet her later?

VP:  You betcha I would. So, tell me this:  How did we do last November?  If it hadn’t been for my hackers, I doubt you would have won the election.

DT:  It was close. I wasn’t sure your people were going to come through for me or not. Thankfully they did.

VP:  I’m so glad it worked out.  I wouldn’t have liked it much having to meet with Hillary Clinton this week.

DT:  Now there’s something we both agree on one hundred and ten percent.  She wouldn’t know how to make America great again if her life depended on it.

VP:  I know. I know. In my country, I’m the only one who knows how to make Russia great.

DT:  Which reminds me. The United States Senate may have to slap additional sanctions on you.

VP:  Are you kidding to me  I thought we had all this worked out during the campaign. Nyet!  I won’t stand for it.

DT:   You’re right. You and I did have an understanding, but I’m not the only one who has a voice in this matter.

VP:  That is ... how you say ... BS.  Are you telling me you can’t fix this?

DT:  I’m clearly indebted to you, but no. I can’t just wave a magic wand and make the sanctions go away.

VP:  Listen to me very closely, Donald. You either convince Congress to turn the other cheek, or I’ll make sure no one gets reelected.

DT:  You mean rig the 2018 elections?

VP:  Ha!  Russian hackers already are working on ‘18.  No, I mean the 2020 election.

DT:  Just so I’m clear, you’re prepared to work against my friends and me three years from now?

VP:  If Jeff Bezos and Amazon can buy Whole Foods for nearly $14 billion, I figure I can buy an entire election for half that.

After a long, awkward pause in the conversation, Melania Trump enters the room.

DT:  Oh, look who’s here.  Melania, I’d like you to meet Vladimir Putin.  He’s been asking about you.

VP:  So very nice to meet you.  Your husband and I were just talking about shopping.  

DT:  It’s a long story, dear. I’ll tell you about it later. Vladimir, I’ll be in touch soon. Do you like to tweet?

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Laguna doesn’t need another CVS Store

Do we need another CVS location in Downtown Laguna Beach when there are 25 stores within 10 miles? There are other local options for Pharmacy services. Pavilions is open on Sunday or drive 2.3 miles to the CVS on Coast Highway.

A 2nd CVS store in Downtown will have negative impacts on Broadway Liquor and Whole Foods (beverage and food), on Ace Laguna Hardware, (beach items and gifts), on Supercolor Imaging (photo services), on Copy and Print Center and My Laguna Office (office supplies), on Laguna Beach Toys, and on Bushards. These are all small businesses with established roots in our town. Do we want to see them hurt by a 2nd CVS store?

I read CVS’s 12 point appeal stating that the Planning Commission and City Staff misapplied the General Plan and Downtown Specific Plan. CVS’s appeal is an insult to the Planning Commission and City Staff.

The appeal seemed to be written by a corporate attorney with no direct involvement with the City’s GP or DSP or this project.  Does the appeal foreshadow litigation if it is rejected? CVS has little to lose and much to gain if our City Council gives in to fear. CVS does this in other cities and towns. Using intimidation gives CVS an opportunity to recoup the cost of work of their agents and staff. Unfortunately it often works.

NO to a 2nd CVS. One is plenty.

George Weiss

Laguna Beach

*Letter has been shortened based on Stu News Laguna Letters policy, see above)

America is uncertain first and divided second

I have been a student of politics for more than 40 years.  So have my Laguna friends Michael, Richard and Bill.  Except for the Johnson and Nixon years, none of us has seen the country as conflicted as it is today.

Some say Americans are more divided now than ever before.  (I’m guessing that doesn’t count the Civil War.)  Suffice it to say you either love Donald Trump or you don’t.  There seems to be little common ground between the two camps.

I prefer to think of our current state of affairs as “uncertain.”  Just like when my 18 year-old went off to college or I got divorced.  Neither of us really knew what to expect back then except that (a) his time living at home was about to end and (b) I needed to reinvent myself.  Stretching far beyond my family, I believe the nation, as a whole, is facing similar forks in the road.

If they are being honest with themselves, neither the Republican nor Democratic party elite believed Trump would win last November.  That said, both were in shock when he did.  In years past, new presidents have tried to heal election wounds by moving toward the center of the political spectrum.  But not The Donald.  His early morning tweets have more than ruffled feathers.  They have pushed people further to the right or left (ergo, why some say we are more divided than ever before).

My theory is the uncertainty of a Trump presidency -- whether it is his picks for cabinet secretaries, relations with Russia or North Korea, or calls for repealing and replacing ObamaCare -- makes Americans anxious, even jumpy.  Because he never served in any elected office prior to winning the presidency, no one knows how Mr. Trump will act if truly tested.  According to the First Lady, her husband’s long-standing M.O. is to hit back 10 times harder than when initially attacked; but, will that behavior be on display during an international crisis?  

When I asked former Secretary of Defense William Perry last year whom he thought Trump might pick to run the Pentagon, he responded this way:  “I don’t know what to say.  Trump’s statements on national security to this point have been so off the wall, I think the primary characteristic needed of his Defense Secretary is the guts to stand his ground and tell the new president when he is wrong.  I don’t have a name to suggest.  In fact several names would be needed because if the new secretary follows my advice, he or she may have a short tenure.”  

Again, not much certainty in Perry’s answer (although it appears Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis seems to be a very solid choice now).

Uncertainty breeds distrust and division. Neither is good for the country.  Donald Trump’s key campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again.” It wasn’t to make a few loyal Trump supporters rich again. My friends and I hope President Trump uses the power of his office to bring Americans together -- and soon.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

LBPD policy regarding use of firearms should be published

Hopefully the Laguna Beach Police Department will do a full and complete public investigation into why their officer fired two shots at the escaping car thief on Thalia & PCH. Needless to say the use of a firearm should be a last resort, utilized only when a citizen or officer is undisputedly in mortal danger. 

The video of the Thalia incident clearly shows that the officer was not in danger and that he fired two shots without consideration of the dangers involved in where those bullets might end up. This is not a condemnation of the police department. I believe the citizens of Laguna universally appreciate the hard work of the police department in doing a their job to protect the community. Situations like the Thalia incident are an extreme test of a police officer’s training and instant comprehension of all of the dangers involved; in my opinion the officer acted inappropriately and needlessly exposed the public to the danger of his bullets going astray and possibly killing an innocent bystander. 

I believe it would be reassuring to the citizens and visitors of Laguna Beach if the Police Chief would publish the Police Department’s policy regarding its officer’s use of firearms and that the public be able to critique that policy. 

Norm Marshall

Laguna Beach

Really? A $2,500 housing stipend for lawmakers?

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s call for a $2,500 per month housing allowance for members of Congress. Granted, the last time I looked was two years ago, but I doubt much has changed since then. Here are the facts about our poor lawmakers:

First, the median net worth of a member of Congress is more than $1 million, compared to an average American household’s median net worth of about $60,000. And second, the majority of members in Congress are millionaires.  

People who run for the House and Senate know ahead of time how much it takes to live in Washington. This is why some lawmakers ask their colleagues to be roommates. Why would taxpayers need to underwrite their representative’s monthly living expenses? We already help pay for their staff, travel, mailings and district offices to the tune of $1 million a year.

It’s an honor to serve in Congress. It’s dishonorable to ask hard working Americans to pay for their monthly rent. I wonder what our own Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has to say about this?

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

The LGBT Heritage & Culture Committee is thankful for community support

On behalf of the LGBT Heritage & Culture Committee, I want to express our gratitude for the support and cooperation of Visit Laguna Beach, the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Laguna Beach for all their support during our first LGBT Heritage & Culture Month. We couldn’t be more proud of our city.

This last Sunday, Visit Laguna Beach and the Chamber of Commerce hosted the largest LGBT party Laguna Beach has seen in decades. An estimated 1,000 people attended the epic event on the sand at West Street Beach put together by promoter Rich Flores. 

Organized by Craig Cooley, the highly anticipated party at the legendary former Boom Boom Room was an amazing success. Again, more than 1,000 guests were counted. The lines were over two hours long at some points. Main Street Bar & Cabaret skyrocketed past its best day of revenues on record ever. Restaurants and hotels in the surrounding areas were packed with attendees. 

Given this was the first time an event of this magnitude was ever created to celebrate the LGBT community in Laguna, we weren’t sure exactly what to expect. We opened the door, and clearly there were thousands of people wanting to participate. The LGBT community was looking for this and hundreds and hundreds stepped through that door. We couldn’t be happier to provide this experience for so many residents and visitors.

It was especially gratifying for me to see such a range of inspiring moments, for example, elderly seniors walking with canes through those front doors, tears in their eyes, seeing old friends they had not seen in decades, never imagining this would ever happen again in their lifetime. 

I am especially proud that this movement has been able to honor our senior community in ways I never expected.

Then there were the LGBT young people, high-schoolers, on the beach and near the clubs, finding a sense of belonging and freedom to be who they are in a way they never had before. For them, I sensed such joy and optimism.

We offer special recognition to the Laguna Beach Fire Marshal, Laguna Beach Police Department, Laguna Beach Building Department and Public Works, OC Parks and Lifeguards, Dornin Investment Group, Main Street Bar & Cabaret and Susi Q Senior Center. They have all worked so cooperatively and respectfully to ensure these events were safe and enjoyable as possible for everyone.

Thank you also to all of the local businesses that displayed posters and hung rainbow flags. It actually means a lot to the LGBT community to see that a business embraces them.

And finally to Mayor Toni Iseman: thank you for your stand for the LGBT community. We hope you can relish in the difference you have made for so many.

Bottom line: LGBT Heritage & Culture Month in Laguna Beach as resolved last May has been fulfilled. The LGBT community has been thoroughly reflected, honored and celebrated within the City of Laguna Beach. A future of possibility has been created. We have never been prouder of our community.

Chris Tebbutt

Laguna Beach

Laguna’s gay community is alive and well

Laguna’s internationally listed gay friendly West St. Beach, Boom Boom and Main St [Bar and] Cabaret Sunday, June 25 parties were a huge success with crowds outside the Coast Inn at 6 p.m. exceeding crowds inside the “Boom.” 

Thanks to the work of many and the graphic, bright colored umbrella posters created by Bill Atkins, hundreds of LGBT people showed up and began what a newly formed committee and the city council believes could be a future filled with more gay visitors and good energy within gays who live locally and regionally. 

visitlagunabeach.com has a LGBT title listed under its menu and provided information about the three locations for the June 25 festivities. Police Chief Laura Farinella provided discreet police officers who walked the festivity areas and provided a sense of safety in these days when big gatherings are under possible threats. Colorful balloons and bright gay flags were seen here and there and attendance proved that the gays have not disappeared, as some believe, but instead find Laguna Beach a important destination as they travel and spend their free time.

Laguna has been a destination for gays for decades and the success of the June 25 gatherings should encourage all to continue to develop plans to expand our services for LGBT people, from around the world.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Time for more trash barrels on the beach

Now that it is summer the litter left on the beach has multiplied.  Our beautiful beaches do not deserve to be trashed. I wish to thank all of the people that walk along and pick up left-over bottles and cans and deposit them in the trash barrels.  I also wish to thank the hotels, such as Capri Laguna, which has now placed an extra trash barrel on the beach level.  

Surf and Sand should take note – there are NO trash cans anywhere on their huge expanse of beach.

Julie Ross

Laguna Beach

Three cheers for Mayor Toni Iseman

Three cheers for Mayor Toni Iseman for reportedly putting an update on the Climate Protection Action Plan on the Council agenda for July 25.  That item will include information on the Paris climate accord, from which the United States is withdrawing. 

In the absence of federal action on climate change the states and especially cities have had to step up and confront the peril about which the vast majority of climate scientists have been warning us for decades. Mayor Iseman, in putting this matter on our Council agenda, is showing needed and wise leadership.

Tom Osborne

Laguna Beach

Wayfinding signs in Laguna Beach

Our city’s commercial-friendly groupthink has made it official: Welcome to Laguna Beach, THE Disneyland of OC beach communities, whether residents like it or not.

Take that Huntington and Newport, yes, we can: We can out-gaudy you, we can deface and clutter our sidewalks better, we can monetize what was once funky, charming and aesthetically unique by homogenizing ourselves with urban blight pennants and poles.

These “make commerce great again” forces have convinced City Hall that theme park type signs and benches, color-coded for carved out, metaphorical districts, MIGHT theoretically solve many of the traffic circulation and parking problems.

Branding each district is the equivalent of Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and obviously, this nonsense is Fantasyland. It’s about efficiently propping back up merchandising to the diminishment, to the degradation of formerly quiet neighborhoods.

Within each “land” (aka district) there’ll be theme park type indicators, hopefully directing pedestrians towards “attractions,” otherwise known as rides at amusement destinations. No jive, the planners have termed the sign elements as “attractions.”

A buried, stealthy workup, little or no public input, let alone stakeholder transparency, didn’t anyone assess it as a hazardous visual distraction for vehicle operators if THEY try to read while navigating?

Locals are being marginalized, have fallen in city priorities: A stealthy process, hundreds of thousands of dollars being considered for eventual, built-out funding, without extensive oversight consideration.

Locals and veteran visitors alike already know the migrational WHEREs and HOWs, so the City should drop the pretense of any enhancement, any benefits we’ll experience.

This Wayfinding proposal only helps merchants via increased numbers: Overwhelmed now, if this does work it’ll be for first time tourists, and increasingly more will try to stuff themselves into an already cramped, confined space.  

Signs will purportedly spread, distribute those seeking parking, hence inevitable urban bulging impacts, spilling voyagers into historically lightly impacted zones.

Soon, way upstream, into the residential neighborhoods above PCH, the parking permit programs will become a common municipal necessity, extend from Boat Canyon to Diamond Street.

Ask residents around Mozambique, hostages in their own dwellings. Imagine needing a placard to park overnight in front of your own residence, whattya know, surprise, like living near Disneyland!

Disruption and distress because City Hall has a solution in search of a problem.

“Laguna Residents First” no longer resonates during decisions: City Hall is definitely OPEN FOR BUSINESS, the commerce flag flying above the common welfare pennant.

Roger E. Bütow

Laguna Beach

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