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Obituary

Vina Williams

Obituary Vina Williams

Courtesy of Craig Williams

Vina Williams

On September 27, 2022, Vina Williams (née Malvina Louise Montgomery), loving wife of Thomas Slattery, passed away at the age of 86. Vina is survived by her husband Tom, son and wife Craig and Lee, daughter-in-law Kathi, grandson and wife Drew and Megan, grandson Joel, granddaughter Abigail, grandson Stewart, and two great-grandchildren Emersyn and Oliver. She was pre-deceased by her first husband Barry, son Mark, and brother William Montgomery. 

Music was always at the center of Vina’s life, beginning her career as a young girl singing solos in the Old Stone Church, East Haven, Conn. She sang as soloist and chorister in churches and concert halls for more than 60 years. For 17 years, she was the professional soprano soloist at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Laguna Hills, working with Don Walker and Gary Toops. When she moved to Orange County in 1969, she joined the Irvine Master Chorale under Maurice Allard. In 1970, she was soloist in the Verdi Requiem and she remained in the Pacific Chorale under John Alexander until 2010.

When orthopedic and eyesight issues made it too difficult to perform, she continued her fundraising efforts for the Pacific Chorale and Pacific Symphony.  For the Pacific Chorale, she was on the Emeritus Board, established the Encore Society, chaired the Gala fundraiser three times and was the recipient of the 2014 Entrepreneur in the Arts award. With the Pacific Symphony, she was on the Board of Directors, Board of Counselors (which she chaired 2010-2011), and Symphony 100. She spearheaded the Pipedreamers, supporting the William Gillespie pipe organ in Segerstrom Hall. She was a sponsor of many Chorale and Symphony concerts, including several featuring the brilliant young pianist Conrad Tao, whose career she actively promoted.

Music played a big role in the lives of her children and grandchildren; Mark playing drums while serving as a missionary in the Philippines, with his children and grandchildren surrounded by music; Craig becoming the fourth organist/choirmaster of the West Point Cadet Chapel; granddaughter Abigail becoming a high school choral director; and grandson Stewart graduating with a degree in musical theater. There are many professional musicians whom she considered “spiritual” musical children, those who were directly inspired in their musical journeys through her example.

A memorial service, open to all family and friends, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. in Grace Lutheran Church, 6931 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, CA 92647. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to the Pacific Symphony, www.pacificsymphony.org and Pacific Chorale, www.pacificchorale.org.

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Letters to the Editor

Measure Q was not drafted by people in the know and must be defeated

Measure Q is inherently flawed; it must be defeated [vote no]. It uses language that is misleading; “major development” is nothing like major, “reasonable necessary number of parking” is nothing like reasonable. If you are thinking of voting yes, I urge you to read the actual referendum. It is not benign.

This measure is put forth by people who are not architects nor planners. They seem to simply distrust people who study this, who understand the physical ramifications of zoning codes.

I am a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (less than 2% of America’s architects) installed for the quality of my design work. I have practiced architecture for over 45 years here in California, across the United States, in Canada and in Europe. I have read this measure. I have no stake in this other than being a citizen of wonderful Laguna Beach, where I chose to live and raise my children some 43 years ago.

They propose to put to a citizen vote [who knows when, every two years] on projects that occupy lots of 6,000 sq. ft. or more. That is a little larger than a typical house lot (50’x100’). That is small for a commercial or institutional project. Under this measure:

–Susie Q couldn’t be built.

–Hotel Laguna couldn’t be built. 

–The Sapphire restaurant complex, the Pottery Shack couldn’t be built. 

–The Heidelberg center and The Plaza (Shirley’s Bagels) couldn’t be built.

The size of a building that they call major is 22,000 sq. ft. or more. It is not. Susie Q’s total area is larger than that.

This means virtually no new shopping facilities, restaurants, cafés, anything that gives life to our city.

What we need is a vision of what this city can be. We need to encourage quality buildings and projects that help us arrive at that vision. We need codes that enable the building of a vision. We need to encourage the engagement of talented planners and architects. Our city deserves this, our citizens expect this, and for our children we must be responsible enough to understand how to achieve this.

We can’t afford to have our public places, our public facilities, our civic identity designed by trite soundbite advertising propositions. This requires talented, dedicated professionals, educated and practiced in town planning, architecture, and urban design, having visualization skills, imagination, clarity of vision and boldness. We deserve nothing less! Please vote no!

L Paul Zajfen FAIA RIBA, Architect

Laguna Beach

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In Memoriam

Joe Briskey, 78

In Memoriam Joe Briskey

Courtesy of the Briskey Family

Joseph Allum Briskey, Marine veteran, carpenter, 50-year resident of Laguna Beach, stalwart regular at Main Beach and Crescent Bay, former pitcher for the Utah State Aggies baseball team, known to hundreds of friends all over Laguna Beach as Joe or Jose, died September 16. He was 78.

Joe passed away at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach after a lengthy illness and complications from surgery. His daughter, Lisa Briskey, a Laguna Beach High School graduate, her partner, Martin Byrne and two of Joe’s three grandchildren were at his side.

While a player at Utah State, Joe’s claim to fame was he pitched against a great Arizona State team, one that included future Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and future major league all-stars Rick Monday and Sal Bando.

Joe loved everything about life in Laguna Beach and was a well-known, friendly presence on the benches and boardwalk of Main Beach. That’s where he spent countless hours visiting with friends and neighbors, occasionally shooting baskets and enjoying the surf, sunsets and passersby.

There wasn’t a person he would not talk to, a dog he would not pet, a sport he wouldn’t bet on, or a friend in need he would not help. May his memory be a blessing.

Born in Park City, Utah, Joe was the son of Tom, a silver miner and Angel Briskey. He grew up in Provo, Utah and attended Provo’s St. Francis High School where he was a two-sport letterman in basketball and baseball all four years and Prom King his senior year. After leaving Utah State, Joe joined the Marines and was stationed at Camp Pendleton. He moved to Laguna Beach in the early 1970s.

Along with his daughter Lisa, Joe is survived by his sister, Bonnie Briskey Andrews of Tucson, Ariz.; brothers Tom Briskey of Seattle, Wash. and John Briskey of Orinda, Calif.; brother not by blood but by choice Tom King of Dayton, Nev.; and three grandchildren: Avery Byrne, of San Francisco; Dylan Byrne of Los Angeles and Olivia Byrne of Long Beach.

Plans for a Celebration of Life are pending.

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Letters to the Editor

Rounaghi brings new ideas that our town needs

If there is one thing I have learned from the countless city council meetings I have attended, it’s that we need new ideas in this town. No more hidden agendas and trying to keep things the exact same. 

I am proud and happy to say that I will vote for Alex Rounaghi. Alex knows our town and he and his family have watched it grow. He appreciates its unique character and recognizes the need to protect our town from fire, address parking demand, help our buildings downtown that have seen much wear and tear and improve the safety of many areas. He is willing to listen and respects the opinions of those who are knowledgeable and experienced. 

Since graduating from Laguna High, he has been involved in multiple positions to learn how government works including at the county and in our Laguna Beach city government. He clearly has integrity and will not be swayed by special interests. He has gotten some great endorsements from groups – like police and fire department among others. 

I say we need the dynamics of some new and young ideas. Alex has the ideas and the skills and experience to execute them.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Measure Q equals immeasurable harm

Do you want to see development come to a near halt in our village?

Do you want small shop owners who have a creative idea that will contribute to Laguna’s charm say, “I’m out – I don’t have the money or time to lobby for my project with a general election?” 

Do you want to be going to vote on projects when you really don’t know much about them? Will you be equipped to cast the vote on someone’s future hopes? 

This is the risk we take if we vote yes on Measure Q – a well-intentioned ballot initiative, but poorly written, complicated beyond any reasonable measure, and most importantly, will lead to more closed store fronts because people with good ideas will not take the risk or the time to face what measure Q requires – “a majority vote by the majority of our electorate.” 

An impartial analysis of that requirement done by the city attorney of Laguna Beach says this does not mean a simple majority vote on election day – up or down. It means the majority of all registered voters in our community must say yes. Think about that – it means on any one project, at least 80 to 90 percent of “yes” voters on any project would be needed to reach the 51% required for ALL registered voters in our town. 

The authors of the ballot initiative, Laguna Residents First, say the word electorate was really meant to be a simple majority vote. If that’s the case, why didn’t they say so. This to me only illustrates the poor wording and confusion of the ballot initiative in the first place. 

Look – many of the people who think Measure Q is a good idea are friends of mine. I understand their worries about large scale development that might harm our town’s uniqueness along the coast of Orange County. I applaud them for wanting to do something. However, their first try at a ballot initiative like Measure Q is a disaster in the making. 

Please, do yourself and our community a big favor and vote NO. If Residents First, who are advocating for Measure Q, want to try again with a better written ballot measure, more power to them. Measure Q, however, needs to go in the trash heap. If not, I’m afraid we will look up in three years and see more empty store fronts, no new creative projects that make our town a great place to live, and a town run by people who want to live in an idealized past, not investing in a future that can revive our charm and uniqueness as a community along the sea.   

Douglas Wilson

Laguna Beach

Parents of school-age kids need representation

If there’s one thing that recent candidate forums have made clear, it’s this: we all love Laguna. We agree that it’s vital to maintain our town’s cultural, architectural and artistic heritage into the future. Our uniqueness is a major contributor to our strong property values. 

My endorsement by the Orange County League of Conservation Voters proves how much I value preservation.

Here’s what sets my candidacy apart: I care deeply about one of the most neglected constituents in Laguna Beach – parents of school-age children. I know because I am one. That’s a major reason why I’m running. My sons are 5 and 7 and I want them to enjoy the wonderful childhood here that so many long timers have experienced. 

Our population is aging. Certainly, our seniors deserve attention. But I want to be sure we also attract new families so that we aren’t overwhelmed with only investors and second homeowners. As of today, about 40% of our residential properties are non-owner occupied and that’s concerning to me. 

We’ve budgeted $1.3 million over the next three years for park improvements. Yes, pickleball should be part of the conversation – but the needs of families must be addressed, too. I can lead that effort.

I believe as a father, Little League coach, PTA and Laguna Beach Parents’ Club member, with experience on city boards and task forces, as well as in corporate management of teams and budgets, I am well positioned to represent families in this town.

–Let’s think about what kids need when we debate uses for St. Catherine’s. Is a pool or skate park a possibility? Can we offer more after-school activities that focus on music and the performing arts and perhaps tutoring for those who need extra help? How can we partner more with our Boys & Girls Clubs and School Power organizations? 

–Let’s improve our parks with more shade areas, increase bike path connectivity and partner with Laguna Canyon Foundation on educational hikes in our wilderness areas.

–Let’s plan resident-focused experiences, like a “Welcome to Summer” community event along the lines of our Winter Hospitality Night, which is such a great success and a wonderful way to build community.

–Let’s be sure to focus on fire safety, which matters above all else: Let’s underground those utility lines. Let’s make sure our evacuation centers are properly maintained – for example, the Susi Q should be equipped with a generator. We shouldn’t wait until a fire threatens our homes to put these measures in place.

Let’s encourage local small businesses that serve family needs – whether it’s as simple as a store where I can buy back to school necessities or a pizza place to celebrate youth sports achievements. Let’s not strangle new projects with more regulations than are needed.

Let’s get those bathrooms built near our beaches, especially in South Laguna!

Those are just a few ideas. Every day I talk to many parents and, of course, my kids and kids’ friends. They feel as I do – that we are incredibly fortunate to live in this amazing place. That we want to keep our wilderness and beaches pristine and the village feel of our downtown. That we want Laguna to prosper into the future – and we need to align our plans to make sure that happens. 

At the relatively young age of 39, I’m neither naïve nor jaded. I think that working together, we can make Laguna even better, and with my Design Review Board, Affordable Housing Task Force and corporate team-building experience, I believe I have the skill set that’s needed to bring people to the table to talk. I would be honored to get your vote.

Louis Weil

City Council candidate

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Concerned with candidate Weil’s take on certain groups of people

After listening to a number of council forums, some statements made by candidate Louis Weil are chilling.

He has claimed to “tolerate” homeless people, rather than being sympathetic and understanding of their individual plights. Weil constantly refers to protecting his children from that “unsavory” element. Yes, it is too often we hear profanities in public, but they’ve become part of our lexicon, the dumbing down of America. That doesn’t mean we approve of them.

I have two grandchildren, and the anger and ugliness we hear oftentimes expressed by homeless people is frightening.

After I cross the street to protect my kids, I take time and use that opportunity to explain that there are different causes for people to behave with unwarranted anger and pain. We are thankful for opportunities we have, our achievements, and we try and understand that for whatever reason, some people may be forced or chose to live and sleep on the street and eat out of garbage cans. 

And so, a dialogue begins.

I also heard Mr. Weil state that “old people are ok.” Was he referring to his in-laws, the MacGillvrays, Mr. Joe Hanauer, the Shopoffs, Mr. Honarkar, Mr. Ray, Mr. Goldstein?

Perhaps at the next forum, Mr. Weil might clarify which people he considers both “old” and “okay.” What about we who are becoming “less young?”

Jahn Levitt

Laguna Beach

Lauding Marrie Stone’s coverage of the forum

Brava to Marrie Stone! Her transcription of the September 10th City Council Artist Forum was informative, clear and a boon to voters. As one of those who have attended each of the City Council Candidate forums and tried to madly capture each candidate’s messages and quotes, it was a relief to read this accessibly organized transcription. Thank you for including it in the paper.

The only two things missing were some comical moments, such as CC member Blake’s suggestion for the Laguna Art Community to get rid of the use of the word “festival” (watch out Cannes Film Festival!) and his put-down of Candidate Orgill’s past artist work/live space housing. Candidate Orgill’s closing remarks about how his one-year free artist housing project helped launch a local artist/developer, Louis Longi, did create laughs.

Well done and thank you for this service to the community!

Deborah Laughton

Laguna Beach

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Guest Letter

Kurt Bjorkman

Chairman of the Board, Visit Laguna Beach

COO, The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Saying farewell to Visit Laguna Beach’s Ashley Johnson

Guest letter Kurt Bjorkman Ashley Johnson

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Ashley Johnson

Ashley Johnson has dedicated the last 16 years in helping make Laguna Beach one of the most respected and thoughtful beach cities in the world. In her role as President & CEO of Visit Laguna Beach, Ashley has garnered the respect of her peers and colleagues and has won just about every award someone in her role could receive! Check out her official bio, here. Those awards and accolades, the respect she has in our industry, pale in comparison to her kindness, enthusiasm, dedication and creativity that she has brought to our little seaside village. 

Ashley lights up any room she walks into, if you are lucky enough to have worked with Ashley and call her a friend, you know just how incredibly special she is and how much she has done for Laguna Beach.

So, it is with both excitement and sadness that I have to announce that Ashley is leaving her role with Visit Laguna Beach and has accepted an incredible and well-earned executive position in a city just north of us. It’s no Laguna Beach, but it’s a respectable destination, obviously smart enough to know that getting Ashley on their team will be massively beneficial. They will no doubt benefit and become an even better city with Ashley amongst the ranks!

Officially, she is joining Newport Beach & Company as the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, a role seemingly designed for her incredible talents and industry knowledge.   

Ashley’s last day here at Visit Laguna Beach will be October 7th. Please join me, the staff and the rest of the board here at Visit Laguna Beach in congratulating Ashley on her next adventure. She’s not going far and will remain part of the fabric of South OC for a very long time.

Kurt Bjorkman is the COO of The Ranch at Laguna Beach and serves as the Chairman of the Board for Visit Laguna Beach.

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Letters to the Editor

Tom Johnson just isn’t listening

I guess we now have a publisher who loves controversy. Despite all letters of disapproval of him headlining his opinions, he doesn’t care. He was the moderator of the candidates forum and yet instead of remaining neutral, he has to plug a candidate. 

Peter Blake has been a disruption to the city council since he took office. His outbursts have been censored and his behavior has been embarrassing and demeaning. When Tom said, “except for one little muffled outburst” he was on point. Is this equivalent to “one minor little assault otherwise he’s a good citizen?”

Tom, keep your personal opinions to the editorial page where they belong. 

Marcia Sanserino

Laguna Beach

Let’s have a little respect for those running for office

This is becoming a very strange year politically – even in Laguna. Some people perhaps are anticipating their “friends” are going to lose, so they are going around and trying to do their best to either destroy signs or alter them for those who oppose them. What a stupid reflection on them – we all know who would do this – opposing people. 

So why not try to bring a little civility instead of stupidity – show that you understand how important it is to respect election signs.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Vandals deface political sign for upcoming issue

I woke up early (Sunday) morning to attend the September 11th memorial remembrance at Monument Point in Heisler Park. I left at 8:30 a.m. The banner I had placed on Laguna Canyon Road stating my perspective on Measure Q was in good shape.

Letter to the editor SNL banner 1

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Jorg Dubin

We all may disagree on the message but that is what democracy is all about. I came home at about 10:15 a.m. to find the banner vandalized. Clearly someone who disagreed with the message or a proponent of measure Q was the culprit.

Letter to the editor SNL banner 2

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Jorg Dubin

Don’t like the message, vandalize it! That seems to be the mantra! There have been other incidences of vandalism and theft in town during our election cycle by folks who either oppose candidates or political messages. Whether you are for or against Measure Q, this type of juvenile behavior should tell us a lot about the small-minded pettiness of those (involved). They appear willing to do anything to win! Spread misinformation. Done! Vandalize opposing viewpoints. Mission accomplished! What’s next? When Measure Q goes down to a resounding defeat? Rigged election! 

Shame on those who feel democracy only applies to them. Playing fair is clearly not in their vocabulary. The police have been notified and a report has been made.

Jorg Dubin

Laguna Beach

Upset with “approved” 24-hour construction

I am trying to bring attention to the nearly 24-hour construction in our neighborhood. Our city councilmembers have approved day and nighttime construction for the channel project. We were notified yesterday of this decision. Project started Monday. We have been to the planning commission and city council meetings. Never was this discussed. 

Please contact me at 714.420.5057.

Jesse Rothman

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Opposition trying to confuse voters on Measure Q

Some are trying to change the focus on the Measure Q ballot initiative. There’s an attempt to say the word ELECTORATE and VOTER are not the same. The jury is back, they’re the same. So what? It’s an attempt to negate the initiative, making a majority vote more difficult. 

“Electorate” has always meant “All of those who actually voted in the election.” That is the context where the word is used in Measure Q. 

In other contexts, the word can also mean, “All adults who could be eligible to vote” or “All of those who are registered to vote,” but not in the context of where an election was won or lost. Only the people who vote in an election get to decide who wins or loses. 

1) An article in a journal from the Harvard Law School states, “Once an initiative measure is passed by the electorate, the legislature cannot alter that measure without the electorate’s consent.” In this context, the article clearly refers to those who actually voted to pass a ballot initiative.

2) Google the term “passed by the electorate.” Hundreds of legal documents use “Electorate” in the same context as Measure Q – “All of those who actually voted.”

3) A local example is that the Costa Mesa ballot initiative also uses the word “Electorate,” and it has not been challenged there.

4) The attorney for Laguna Residents First recently cited several major court cases where the ambiguity was resolved to mean “All of those who actually voted.” The attorney stated that “An interpretation of Measure Q as prescribing, without any elaboration, an unprecedented majority approval requirement in this state is simply unsupportable in light of the weight of this legal authority.”

5) Use your common sense. We all watch election returns on TV. Has anyone ever seen an election where the winner was anything other than a majority of the electorate; meaning “All of those who actually voted?” That is how elections are run in this country. Falsely claiming that “Electorate” means something else in this context is distorting reality. 

David Raber

Co-Founder of Laguna Residents First

Laguna Beach

Disappointed in claims of previous letter

I was highly disappointed that such a partisan and divisive letter was published in Stu News this week. It appears Denny Freidenrich has been “off the grid” for the last six years. There were incessant claims from DNC leadership, Obama, Clinton, Biden, Biden Administration personnel and DNC media hacks that President Trump was “illegitimate” and “stole the election.” Where was Denny Freidenrich for the last six years? His attack on “millions of people” and supporting President Biden’s “call to action” is detrimental to our civility and our Country. Incendiary rhetoric based on the demonization of one political party over and over never ends well.

Freidenrich, President Biden and media operatives would be wise to read and embrace President George Washington’s Farewell Address. Many of the issues we face today and, together as a Nation, he prophetically advised future generations so that we could remain a cohesive and prosperous Country. One of the key points of the Address was the warning that the worst enemy of government was loyalty to party over Nation. 

Both sides of the aisle need to study this invaluable Address.

John Jenal

Laguna Beach

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