City Council candidates answer this week’s questions IV


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We have asked our readers to submit questions to be put before the seven Laguna Beach City Council candidates. This week we continue with the candidate’s responses to three of our submitted questions, including one from our editorial staff.

We will continue in our Friday editions until the election.

All seven candidates responded. (The candidate’s answers are in random order this week)


Michael asked: 

 The ocean is what defines Laguna Beach and is central to our health and economy. Isn’t the ocean every bit as important (or even more important) as the arts, planning, and traffic commissions?

Would you support a Laguna Beach Ocean Commission?


Jon Madison-

I would support a Laguna Beach Ocean Commission – as long as the commission has clear and defined duties and procedures.

I would first have to check with the City to see if there are any other committees or commissions that exist or have similar duties.

If not, I say we need to develop an Ocean Commission.


Kelly Boyd-

I’m not sure what an ocean commission would do. We presently work with Fish & Game. We are also constantly working to improve run-off to the ocean, and we have a full-time person assigned to the tide pools along our coastline to educate people and stop them from taking anything off of our reefs and rocks.


Paul Merritt-

 The Paul Merritt campaign totally agrees that our City needs much stronger support for the Ocean. A commission, or a special semi-annual report will help focus on our Laguna “beach” and its Sea.  I also support a formal liaison by Laguna with the State and County agencies to co-ordinate protection and enhancement of the Ocean.

As a former L.N. Councilman I led the battle against offshore drilling.

We should also consider flexibility for “family” on-shore fishing as we continue to grow back the depleted ocean fisheries.  Our city council needs new direction and vigor on this vital aspect that makes Laguna a special environment.


Toni Iseman-

Many safeguards are in place. Dry weather diversions send street water to our sewer treatment plant, keeping toxins from the ocean. Tidewater Docents educate beach-goers and protect our tide pools. The MLPA--Marine Life Protection Act--made our coastline a no-take zone. Our ocean is now rich with fish and lobsters that grow to maturity. The San Diego Regional Water Board monitors any ocean spills and fines violators. The California Coastal Commission works to prevent developments that threaten our bluffs and shoreline. Laguna employs a full-time marine protection officer. We have the Surfriders Foundation and OC Coastkeepers working for our waters. We recognize the value of our ocean.


Michele Hall- 

Laguna Beach is the only city in the US with a contiguous bluebelt and greenbelt. We are so fortunate that we have such an active community in regards to citizen involvement and participation in preserving our natural resources. The Laguna Ocean Foundation, The Surfrider Foundation, The Laguna Bluebelt and our Marine Safety Department all do an excellent job of protecting our ocean. I would not oppose an Ocean Commission, per say, but without knowing the scope/definition of such a board, I cannot say yes or no definitively.


Rob Zur Schmiede-

 Given the importance of ocean resources to our community, the question of whether an Ocean Commission should be established certainly warrants a public conversation and thoughtful consideration at the Council level. I would want to understand the role and responsibilities of the proposed new Commission versus the City’s existing Environmental Sustainability Committee, city marine safety staff, and the work of the many non-profits involved with management and enhancement of all of our natural resources (i.e. the Laguna Ocean Foundation, Laguna Bluebelt, Surfrider Foundation, Laguna Greenbelt, the Laguna Canyon Foundation, and the Laguna Canyon Conservancy).


Eli Grossman- 

Sorry for my ignorance Michael, but I have not heard of the Laguna Beach Ocean Commission. As a very liberal Democrat, I see the environment, ecology, and climate change in your group’s name. My small imagination has Republicans seeing No EPA, Business knows best, and only GD has an influence on weather.

 Too many unknowns to currently support your Hypothetical Commission. I googled your commission name and found Nada!  Unlike Professional politicians, I can't comment on things I don't know about. It's called Character.


Anne asked:

What will you do for our many [growing to 40%] seniors who live in Laguna Beach?


Toni Iseman- 

Our Senior Center, the Susi Q, provides many opportunities for Seniors.  It’s a clearinghouse for services that address senior needs. Isolation, loss of loved ones, limited mobility and financial challenges are issues that need our attention. We have senior housing, but the spaces are limited. More housing for Seniors is a priority. We have Sally’s Fund that provides transportation for medical needs. Baby Boomers approach aging with goals of remaining active.  Laguna has an abundance of cultural events to keep our population stimulated. We have a compassionate community.  We need to encourage volunteering and reaching out to help one another.


Paul Merritt-

I am a member of AARP and have lunched and attended programs at our Senior Center. Seniors have earned respect and continue to be a vital fabric of the Laguna Beach community.

 As a councilperson I will monitor Police enforcement to protect Seniors from white collar financial scams and crimes.

 Additionally, Laguna can do better in providing bus and taxi transportation for our deserving Senior population.


Michele Hall-

Affordable housing and access to reliable transportation are the two big issues I want to focus on. I would like to encourage group living facilities in private homes as well as actively seek out land for the construction of affordable senior housing. I like the parcel of land behind the hospital for a potential site and promise to work with the neighborhood in order to achieve a win/win solution to this idea. We also need to ensure that our seniors have access to reliable transportation so that they are able to stay active and involved in our community.


Kelly Boyd

We are working on the issue of senior housing and finding that land is limited for building such housing. The property above Mission Hospital has been talked about for years for Senior Housing. It is my hope that that property would be a real possibility.


Rob Zur Schmiede-

The City should support creation and expansion of age-in-place programs, which would allow our aging residents to remain in their homes. Many communities have helped create a “virtual village” of services for seniors. This effort should be supported. Following the City’s approved Housing Element and the recent work of the Senior Housing Task Force, the City should continue to search out opportunities for more senior housing and assisted living arrangements. Given the anticipated growth in our senior population, the City should also consider additional financial support for the Senior Center and its programs.


Jon Madison- 

Tough question- with no simple answer.  Laguna definitely needs to address the seniors in our community.

Whether it be for more affordable housing, transportation, or services that reach out to the seniors, we need a plan that works!

One idea would be to have seniors live with families within the community – we could set up a mix and match program that would pair the right senior with the right family.

Remember – most seniors are very active and want to contribute!


Eli Grossman-

A City Budget is a Moral statement for what that City considers it’s primary concerns, and where its values lie.  How our City Council chooses to dispense it shows its priorities.

Replacing our Police Department with the OCSD will be both a financial savings, and an upgrade of our unethical Police Department.

Laguna Beach will now have less Public Safety costs than it currently does, and I will try to guide these savings towards areas we currently underfund, including our seniors, our Arts Community, and the homeless, who need more empathy, Not Sympathy!

I believe in All over Some!


Stu News Laguna editorial staff question:

Would you support the construction of a parking structure in the Act V lot?


Michele Hall-

Yes, but it has to make financial sense. I opposed the village entrance project due to the financial burden it was going to place on the city and the fact that when all was said and done, did not add enough parking to make it financially feasible. I want to make sure that if we build a parking structure, it is cost effective and modern, meaning possibly including mechanical lifts. I am, and have always been, a proponent of peripheral parking and using public transportation in to the city center as a way of alleviating parking congestion.


Rob Zur Schmiede-

Additional parking at Act V should be on the table as we implement the recommendations of the Downtown Parking Management Plan and evaluate peripheral parking options. Any structure proposed for Act V should not impact canyon views.


Eli Grossman-

I support the idea of using Car Lifts in the Act V parking lot, plus any other lots that can be fitted.
Parking Structures are expensive: Approximately $13,000  per space, and above.  I have done initial research on Car Lifts,
and see a cost payback of under four years. There will be additional labor costs for operators.

I see the local businesses paying for these lifts. Every lift space is an extra space for Public Parking, and businesses will “rent” lift spaces to fulfill parking requirements, and for employee parking, which uses many residential spaces for the whole day.


Kelly Boyd- 

I don’t believe a structure would be used year-round at Act V. I cannot support spending millions for a structure that will only be used ten weeks a year. My preference would be to support a joint private-public venture with parking lots like Wells Fargo, Pavilions, and Albertsons. 


Paul Merritt-

Yes, I support a parking structure at Act V. However, the new parking will only benefit Laguna if it is coupled with active and coordinated shuttle transport to and from the lot. The City must support alternative transportation. A new proposed 4-lane road down Laguna Canyon is not the solution to traffic or parking problems.


Toni Iseman-

Eventually we will need to add parking at ACT V, but not in the near future. Keeping cars from our downtown is a goal we all share. As we make improvements to make Laguna Canyon Road safer, we must ensure that the design of the road allows for additional parking at ACT V. The current parking lot could sit atop a lower level of parking.


Jon Madison-

Yes – I would support a parking structure in Act V. 

But – I would first investigate the use of lifts. We would basically double the parking with the lifts and have almost no construction costs.

Also – there are companies that provide and maintain the lifts. I would have city employees/business employees park in the lot. Their cars would be up all day – therefore the lifts would not be going up and down all day, and making it easier to park.

Of course we would have to have an express tram/trolley system in place that ran all year long to shuttle everyone to the downtown area/City Hall.

“One man’s trash can be another woman’s bikini”


That is the quote from one very adventurous woman. She is on a quest to turn trash into treasure, raise awareness, and save the ocean environment. 

“Awareness is number one,” says Alison Teal of her plans to spread education about ocean pollution and its effect on a place that otherwise would be considered paradise. “I was just one little surfer girl with a dream. I never knew that now I’d be a world-wide activist.” 

Teal launched her Surf, Survive, Sustain campaign to make a film about the mountains of plastic waste that she found washed up on the shores of the Maldives.

Photo courtesy Sarah Lee

Click on photo for a larger image


With efforts from donations, and supporters including companies that make clothes (and bikinis) from recycled plastics, she is in pre-production of a film called Alison’s Adventures Maldives. She hopes to finish the film, and then promote it at festivals and at schools - to raise ecological awareness and find sustainable global solutions.

To see the teaser to the Alison’s Adventures Maldives film, click here: Alison’s Adventures Maldives

She would like people to know that the plastic trash found on the beach in the Maldives are not particular to the Maldives, nor are they locally originated. “The plastic is from all over the world,” she said. “It is not a Maldives issue, it is a global issue.”

Photo courtesy Shaahina Ali

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When Alison Teal is not speaking around the US with media outlets, such as NBC, the Weather Channel, and National Geographic, or talking with environmental activists, she is hanging with her family in Hawaii and in Laguna Beach, with her aunt, local news anchor Leslie Leyton.

As Teal describes it, she was raised in a “global family”. Her parents were adventure photographers. “I was the Tarzan child,” she laughs. “Who grows up on Mt. Everest, the Andes, the Amazon?” Well, Alison Teal did. 

Now she’s called the female Indiana Jones.

This woman’s bikini

It actually started minus the bikini.

Teal was cast in the Discovery Channel’s hit show, “Naked and Afraid in the Maldives”. She was plopped on a Maldive island with a perfect stranger, naked and without food or water. It was the “Everest of survival challenges,” she says. Together they survived 21 days.

She’s a can-do person, but she learned during that adventure that the pristine island she survived on was smattered daily with floating garbage.

“I was shocked by the overwhelming amount of plastic trash covering the uninhabited island,” Teal said. “This was only one island. I couldn’t bear to think of what the other 1,200 islands looked like, covered in trash. 

“To leave the island, we actually made a raft out of bottles,” she continued. “As we paddled to our rescue boat, I swore I would come back and do something about the plastic pollution.”

Her goal with Alison’s Adventures is to inspire and educate. She wears all clothing made from a company called Repreve that processes plastic into usable thread for brands such as Patagonia, Odina, Teeki, Volcom, and Roxy. 

“And, of course, my surfboards are Sustainable Surf approved eco boards made from recycled Styrofoam,” she adds.

Photo courtesy Sarah Lee

Click on photo for a larger image


Teal may be simply wearing a pink bikini and riding a pink surfboard, but she’s carrying a big message. She is trying to change the world with passion, humor, and the gift of storytelling through her film and speaking circuit. 

She brings a fresh outlook with wisdom well beyond her years, perhaps because of the many cultures she has learned and grown up with.

Donations to finish the film may be made by visiting her homepage:

Youngsters from Laguna competed in the California Open Martial Arts Competition in Carson Oct 18 

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Submitted photo

Members of Cho’s Academy Youth Team include Vincent Ewing, Alex Chang, Brayden Jenson, Sterling Radisay, Garrett Woodburn, Luke Machin, Rex Bradshaw, Leo Pardun, Nico Bammer, Sabrina Yang, Jimmy Shea, Theodore Drews, Alyssa Sladeck, Zachary Van Meter & Zachary Wang-Huhem (not pictured)

Cho’s Academy Youth Team represented Laguna Beach at CA Open Martial Arts Competition recently and did extremely well. 14 young martial artists from Laguna Beach’s Cho’s Academy competed in sparring at the 22nd Annual KS Choi California Open Tae Kwon Do Championships in Carson on Oct. 18. 

Roughly 1,000 competitors participated in the event. The medal count for Cho’s team, by way of matches won, was five gold medals and two silver medals. Three of the Cho team losses were extremely close matches, with one match going into double-overtime, another into standard overtime and one loss a likely result of accidental fouls. Overall, it was an exciting day of competition. 

One parent had this to say to Cho, “Thank you for putting so much time and effort into all your kids and all that you do. You have two of the proudest parents today. I had tears at the end. What an awesome day and what an awesome experience.”

The Cho’s Academy team undergoes a rigorous training schedule in order to best prepare, and are encouraged to be humble in victory and to accept loss with dignity. All academy youth students are required to compete as part of their curriculum, not just the gifted athletes.

“We prepare and compete to win, but know that having the courage to step up is most important in life. We are building strength of the body, strength of character and the spirit to fight and persevere. I believe competition is an important component of this process,” said Jacob Cho, academy owner and team coach.

“We are proud and appreciative of our wins and ready to improve from our losses. I am incredibly proud of all my students for their work-ethic, follow-through and bravery. An impressive display especially considering their young ages, 7-12 years young only,” said Cho. “We all know losses are hard to handle, but being surrounded by a supportive team can definitely help.”

Another parent whose child did not win by tally of points said, “By the time we got into the car he was already talking about what he would do better next time. He must have said 10 times how appreciative he was for all of us cheering for him. Anyway, it was a great day and I think it’s just made him stronger for the next competition.”

Cho’s Academy has been proudly serving Laguna Beach since 2009 and offers Tae Kwon Do, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Donation-Based Yoga and Strength and Conditioning Fitness classes, and is conveniently located at 1966 S. Coast Hwy with ample parking behind the academy.

LBHS Homecoming Queen and King

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Photo courtesy Simonson Photography

LBHS Homecoming Queen Brenna Merchant and King Dominic Droulez Oct 17

Brenna Merchant and Dominic Droulez were crowned Homecoming Queen and King on Friday night Oct 17 at the LBHS football game. 

Brenna comes from a “Royal Line” – her Dad Tim was Homecoming King at LBHS in 1980 and her Aunt Mollie Merchant was Homecoming Queen at LBHS in 1983!

Members of the court: Charlotte Andrews (left), Willy Wheeler & Audrey Pillsbury


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Nolan Gunsolley and Makena Collins

Laguna Craft Guild hosting an art show - this weekend

Come on down to the Laguna Craft Guild art show located on the Cobblestones of Main Beach. The show will be on Sunday, Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to sundown and is free. 

There are over 30 different artists exhibiting unique and handmade arts and crafts, including painters, glassblowers, textile artists, potters, jewelers, & lots of others. We hope to you see you there; bring your friends, family, and dogs.

Trunk Or Treat!

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Plan to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at their Annual Trunk or Treat Halloween Festival on Monday, Oct 27 from 6-8 p.m. The event will be held in the church’s parking lot at 682 Park Ave. Join the fun... there will be candy, homemade pies and hot chocolate served.  All are welcome - free of charge! Wear your favorite Halloween costume, and be ready for a “spook-tacular” time!


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