Reflections on Elections
Seeing elections in a mirror (“From the Rearview Mirror,” Indy Nov. 14), no wonder Michael Ray gets everything backwards.
Instead of honoring our small town democratic ritual during a bizarre campaign season, Ray tells us he was “distinctly nauseated” by our 2014 election. Yet, because candidates he supported won he patronizes voters for being “rational.”
Ray praises Toni Iseman, but then loudly condemns the City Hall policies and practices that are Iseman’s true legacy.
Specifically, Ray argues Laguna Beach “has become a ‘nanny city’ with so many different committees and laws governing behavior” local government is like a “nagging annoying mother-in-law.”
Ray’s rant redundantly mimics Michele Hall’s platform for renewal of our civic culture. Yet, Ray derisively disdains the earnest and good-natured Hall as “an obvious loser,” even though she came from behind to finish first runner up.
Ray then shows his true colors, condescendingly dismissing Hall as having no “qualification” other than “being a declared Republican…strongly supported by the local Republican Party.”
Ray wasn’t satisfied giving Hall the metaphoric back of his hand for being a Republican woman daring to seek local elected office without permission from him or anyone else.
Clumsily pretending to be an equal-opportunity censor of all partisan free speech, Ray adds grandiosely, “Political parties of any type, stay out of Laguna Beach. We are doing quite nicely without that kind of crap.”
Yet, Toni Iseman campaigned at Main Beach on election day with the head of the local Democratic Party, and has appeared on Democrat candidate slates. Why does Ray’s scatological diatribe single out Hall for her party affiliation but not Iseman?
Michael Ray held a fundraiser at his home for Republican Party state assembly candidate Keith Curry, but tells a young Republican woman her party affiliation is “crap.” Yet, somehow he didn’t see fit to call Mr. Curry who also lost an “obvious loser” who should “stay out of Laguna.”
Michele Hall was supported by voters across the political spectrum. Her record of non-partisan service in our community is well-known. Michele Hall stands for old Laguna values Ray can’t comprehend.
Unlike Hall, Ray wasn’t here before the regulatory regime he now claims to abhor was ushered in by Iseman and Village Laguna.
Like all of us at times, for a dose of reality Michael Ray needs to take a good look in the mirror…at himself.
Sore Winners and Sour Grapes
What does it mean when the winner of an election is bitter and resentful, while a candidate who lost is grateful and optimistic? How come spirits were higher at election night gatherings where candidates who lost felt good about the campaign, and toasted with candidates who had won election?
Instead of being flush with victory (“Voters Choose Familiar Names” Indy, Nov. 6) a tense Toni Iseman griped that “competent responsible people” will not run for office because of “unprecedented nastiness” in the 2014 campaign.
What was “unprecedented” was the insidiously negative Iseman campaign theme insisting that only her re-election would “save Laguna Beach” from opponents bent on “paving paradise” and destroying our town. A lot of people who have done a lot more to save Laguna than Iseman respectfully but openly opposed her re-election.
Iseman should know better than to suggest it’s “negative campaigning” to oppose her re-election based on the public record of her public acts. As it turned out voters responded to arguably the weirdest election in our town’s history by voting for the status quo down at City Hall. But facing and overcoming opposition gives meaning our elections will not have if we allow elections to become beauty contests for incumbents.
The suggestion that a robust debate discourages “competent responsible people” from participating is anti-democratic. It would be incompetent and irresponsible for people with a sense of civic duty to allow Iseman to enjoy the advantages of incumbency without the burden of accountability.
Iseman was criticized fairly for singling out a property owner for extraordinarily strict compliance, triggering the protest appeal opposing city approval of a new resort development at Aliso Creek. Then Iseman made a mockery of her strict compliance standard by not demanding immediate enforcement action when her most prominent campaign supporter paved 9,000 square feet of paradise at Aliso Creek without a city permit.
Similarly, Iseman’s 2002 vote against a federally subsidized flood control project was a legitimate issue given pollution and loss of sea life in a 2010 flood that will be repeated until mitigated by measures she voted to kill.
Still, the Indy reported an irate Iseman “singled out Howard Hills” for “negative campaigning.” I also was singled out in 1969 when I criticized City Council for not more actively supporting our fundraising to jumpstart the Greenbelt. So I’ll take being singled out again as a sure sign that open debate without fear of retaliation also is one way we save the spirit that makes Laguna home.
Hall Expresses Gratitude to Supporters
The election of 2014 is over and boy oh boy what a ride it was! I am very proud to have come in as runner up. Compared to the war chests of other candidates and their spending, my team and I worked really hard and ran a smart campaign with not a lot of money.
We walked the neighborhoods and had the privilege of getting to know many of Laguna’s awesome citizens. It was always encouraging when people that I had never met before opened their doors and said, “I know you…. And I’m voting for you!”
The election process also opened the door for me to get to understand the issues facing our arts community. Laguna’s artists are passionate, intelligent, caring and really love where they both live and work. Laguna must never forget our roots as an artist colony. We must preserve our true heritage by ensuring that these extraordinary and hard-working people can afford to both live and work in our town.
Thank you to all of you who showed your confidence in my leadership abilities by voting for me, opening your homes for an event, putting up a yard sign, writing a check to my campaign, making calls and/or sending emails to friends and families, walking precincts and rallying around me right down to the last hours on election day. Most of all, thank you to all who kept me in your prayers.
I’d also like to thank the Orange County Register for their endorsement and to the four Laguna Beach mayors (Steve Dicterow, Elizabeth Pearson, Wayne Baglin and Cheryl Kinsman), who believed in me enough to endorse me. I was honored to receive public support from these and dozens of other elected officials and residents.
Finally, I’d like to send a special thank you to the people who were on my campaign team, advisors, volunteers, friends and family, all who worked for our cause. Your love and support touched my heart in ways you will never know.
We proved ourselves in forums with other candidates, in the media, going door-to-door and with the voters on the street. We learned a lot and will be stronger for the next time.
The campaign affirmed in news ways what public service means to me. Each of us is called to serve others in our own way, and in my own case I can assure you that the 2014 election only deepened my commitment to community service values. So look for me and I will look out for you as we continue to work for the renewal, vitality and success of our little town.
Namaste (which literally means: I see the light in you and you see the light in me).
Casting Only One Vote, For Hall
During this campaign, I was surprised to learn that many people don’t know who Michele Hall is or what she’s done for this community. When her maiden name Oliver comes up, she then becomes more recognizable, especially with alumni. It’s not because her actions aren’t meaningful newsworthy endeavors or haven’t warranted the media’s attention or sparked personal discussion. As director of United Laguna she increased membership by 300% and was instrumental in bringing the Montage, the only six-star resort to the U.S., to Laguna by championing the entitlement process. The destination resort, which shares space with a public park, generates millions in bed-tax and has proven to be an indisputable “win-win” for the city. As president of LB GOP Michele took a stand against Village Laguna. Amongst much criticism, she held her ground for what she knew was right. Her tenacity paid off and the entrance project was ultimately defeated.
Michele is not about the singular “I”. She has always been and continues to be about the collective “we”. She is uncharacteristically humble for a candidate embroiled in a heated campaign and does not take credit where credit is actually due. Other than City Hall bureaucracy, not a lot of training is required in order for her to take a position on City Council.
She collaborates well with others, has been a director or member of a board, leads groups effectively, brings ground-breaking, multi-million dollar projects to fruition, gives back, listens well and can do a yoga bow pose with grace and fortitude. She is a tour de force who wants us all to win. She has calculable experience with things that are important to Laguna: water conservation, property rights, real estate, children, art, education, homeless, philanthropy and business. She infuses a fresh perspective of what is necessary for creating an indelible positive future.
I’ve had the pleasure of friendship with Michele since third grade when we met at Aliso Elementary and our friendship continued through Thurston Middle School and LBHS. She is godmother to my daughter Chiara, whose father died when she was 15 months old. Michele was my first and only choice to be Mom for my child should something happen to me. I trust her judgment, value her accomplishments personally and professionally, her decision making ability and unwavering love for Laguna. That’s why she’s my only vote for City Council.
Lisa (Babik) Berman
I read Tom Osborne’s column “When Ideology Trumps Facts”. He stated that he does not object to healthy skepticism, but was “shocked” about Michelle Hall’s skepticism about human-caused global warming. He then proceeded to denigrate her for having this view, going so far as to berate her intelligence and suitability for city council. Really? I suspect not too many Lagunans peruse the latest copy of Scientific American with their morning java or receive regular updates from the IPCC.
I don’t know Tom Osborne or Ms. Hall from a hole in the wall, but I do know politically motivated arrogant condescension when I see it. Ms. Hall cited Dennis McTighe, a noted local meteorologist whom Mr. Osborne is familiar with, as a scientific source for her view which does not seem unreasonable. Yet Mr. Osborne suspects Ms. Halls views are simply derived from her subjective conservative political ideology.
Mr. Osborne should look in the mirror and reflect on his own political ideology and how that relates to what he touts are scientific facts. Perhaps he may see the hypocrisy in his attack on Ms. Hall’s views. Better yet, instead of insulting the intelligence of others, please review the fundamentals of science and facts: The scientific method, hypothesis, theory and scientific law. Anthropogenic global warming is clearly not a proven scientific law. It is clearly not a fact. It may not even be a theory, just a hypothesis. A hypothesis that also may need to be restated considering that global warming stopped, or as the believers say, “went on temporary hiatus”, 20+ years ago.
There are many smart scientists on both sides of the issue and political ideology on both sides with no unbiased proven consensus. Regardless, consensus is not science especially when research is funded by politically motivated ideologies. As such, anthropogenic global warming is a belief system, not scientific fact. For 1,400 years scientific consensus believed the Earth was the center of the Universe. Those proving otherwise were incarcerated in Galileo’s case and executed in the case of Bruno. Albert Einstein said, “that genius abhors consensus because when consensus is reached, thinking stops”. From Galileo to Einstein, one scientist with proof trumps thousands of scientists who believe something to be true.
Clearly, one can be skeptical of global warming alarmists, yet still want to protect our natural environment.
Stephen Tygh, Laguna Beach
So Jon Madison catches hell for embellishing his past, and Michele Hall is accused of being “dishonest” for saying she is a “community volunteer.”
But Rob Zur Schmiede claims on a fake Republican mailer he’s a “Proven business leader” who will “protect our tax dollars,” and the press in town gives him a free pass on all three misrepresentations!
Rob is a 36-year career city-planning technocrat for Anaheim and Long Beach. Caught in his “business leader” fib, he claimed government bureaucrats “work with businesses.” As a junior level consultant eight years ago and government affairs lobbyist now, Rob isn’t “proven” anything in the business world.
At least Madison took liberties with truth about his past, then told voters it is what it is, take it or leave it. Zur Schmiede is calling to be a “proven business leader” right now.
In contrast, Michele Hall spent countless hours serving food at Friendship Shelter, fundraising for Boys & Girls Club, volunteering in public and private schools, rallying people to assist kids with cancer. Still, she was forced to answer irrational poison pin accusations of “subterfuge” for “failure to disclose” her political party volunteer work on the ballot.
That would be funny, since the Registrar of Voters doesn’t allow political party work on a ballot profile, but the ignorance of her accusers was not amusing. The press never got to the truth, which is that Hall listed community volunteer service because that’s closest to her heart.
As for “protecting our tax dollars,” Zur Schmiede recently said, “The thing wrong with the village entrance was lack of public support.” So he supported the $60 million revenue bond for the village entrance in 2013, but not now because the public rejected it? Wow, true leadership!
Zur Schmiede won’t say if he openly opposed extra property tax to buy public parcels of land in residential neighborhoods or if he supported the $5.2 million city paid for the Christmas tree lot.
Rob promises inclusion using grandiose “Big Tent” sloganeering. But Rob and his wife, a former Newport Beach City Attorney, have presided over all design review for years, picking winners and losers under vague standards applied arbitrarily more often than not.
Zur Schmiede is Verna Rollinger on steroids. That’s why he’s Village Laguna’s boy. Why should they mind if denying it helps him get elected?
Christopher Kling, Laguna Beach
Trick or Treat Politics
Gale “Morrie” Granger (“Can’t Support Uninformed Candidate” Indy Oct. 11) and Tom Osborne (“When Ideology Trumps Fact” Indy Oct. 11) falsely accuse candidate Michele Hall of being a “global warming” heretic. This Halloween week witch-hunt comes as support for Hall surges.
That’s because Hall has the energy and ideas to forge new solutions for homelessness, show our youth we care about them too by finally building a skateboarding park, and ensure more predictable and equitable treatment of citizens by City Hall. Michele stood with Democrats and Independents opposing a $60 million village entrance. No one called her an “ideological conservative” then.
Hall also wants to revisit upgrading downtown storm drains to reduce ocean pollution if climate change causes more frequent flooding. Hall’s opponent Toni Iseman voted to give back $10 million federal grant for flood control. Iseman enlisted scientists to create misdirected environmental fear, lacking Hall’s proven ability to unite community, mitigate environmental threats, and manage change for the better – as she did when Village Laguna tried to kill the Montage.
Never met Granger or Osborne, but I was told Morrie was the boorish belligerent harassing Hall after last candidate forum. Then came Osborne’s column boasting about getting in Hall’s face that night. I apologized to Granger for being misinformed and attributing Osborne’s obnoxious behavior to the professor.
When Hall shared folksy comments by a local weatherman about our inability to change weather, Granger and Osborne denounced her, the latter labeling further “skepticism” as “unhealthy” thought. He also demanded Hall read the city’s Climate Protection Action Plan, for which Osborne claims credit.
Does someone need attention, maybe a hug, since his plan largely has been ignored? I read the plan in 2009, when I already had a carbon footprint smaller than Osborne or Granger, found it incomplete and inaccurate.
Since Village Laguna accuses others of paving paradise, and Osborne calls for the city to disallow cement surfaces to reduce run off, we have one question for our climate crusader.
Why do City Hall holdovers Zur Schmeide and Iseman impose building code fines on others, but not a political supporter who poured a 7,000 square foot cement slab that paves over an environmentally sensitive site without any city permits?
We support the developer’s right to a lawful project, but Toni and Rob’s discriminatory use of power is another reason to vote for new leadership in City Hall.
Election Tests Iseman’s Record
It is important in life to have a good exit strategy. When all the signs say it is time to take a new road in life, we need to read the signals, turn in the right direction, seek new horizons.
Mayor Elizabeth Pearson showed us how it is done. In a dignified way she let us know she would not seek another term. No drama, no surprises, a class act.
As a result, Pearson leaves intact a strong legacy, including her truly inspired and unsurpassed leadership as our mayor during the Bluebird landslide crisis. Despite the national media spotlight, she stayed focused on coordinating policy and programs that not only enabled a full recovery, but averted costly lawsuits and facilitated relief to victims in need of a helping hand in the face of real hardship.
Elizabeth generously shared credit for what was accomplished on her watch with the City Council, city staff, Resource Center, Board of Realtors and all who contributed. That is why it seemed more than a little desperate for Toni Iseman to pat herself on the back for the Bluebird slide as a success story for her at the Village Laguna candidate forum.
Toni has done good in our community that she can point to in her campaign. Why embarrass herself by exaggerating her role just to inflate her resume? If she does not think she has enough to show for her 16 years on the City Council and needs to embellish her record to go for 20 years, maybe she should have taken the last turnoff before the point of no return.
Now her record must be put to the test. Fortunately, there is time for us to do that in a respectful but clear and accurate way before the election. The voters of our town deserve no less.
Rob, Toni and Village Laguna are the big money ticket in 2014. If you could buy an election, they win! But VL spent 10 times over the opposition in 2012 and lost both the $30 million parcel tax and VL stalwart Verna Rollinger’s council seat.
Trouble signs for the 2014 VL ticket include Toni’s embarrassment over her 2002 “floodgate” vote. Next shoe to drop was Rob’s admission at the Firebrand Media-Chamber of Commerce forum he paid to appear on a slate mailer labeled in large bold letters “Republican Election Day Voting Guide.”
Rob’s stunning excuses were “everyone does it,” “just political marketing,” “outreach to Republicans.” Then on radio he tried “seeking name recognition,” “voters should not rely on mailers,” and “read the fine print at the bottom.”
If voters should not trust or rely on mailers, should they trust or rely on candidates who send fake mailers? $30,000 in yard signs, media ads and glossy mailers aren’t enough name recognition for Rob?
Rob claims to be an “independent nonpartisan” reaching out to Republicans, but he does it by tricking voters to believe he is a partisan Republican. Rob wouldn’t explain why he didn’t “reach out” to Democrats with fake mailers.
Rob’s confession he thinks the fine print disclaimer justified deception only proves he understood bold lettering on front targeting Republicans was meant to deceive voters. Do we really want a City Council member who tells us to “read the fine print” to find out the truth is the opposite of what he told us?
A lot of our good friends who were all in for Rob saw this as his chance to be the transformational “Big Tent” consensus leader he has promised. Instead of candidly admitting his campaign manager used fake mailers in 2012 and it worked, but he now realizes it was a mistake, Rob tried to talk his way out.
Career bureaucrats think they can talk their way out of anything. Elected leaders can’t blame voters for being too stupid to read the fine print. Elected leaders can’t fall back on the fine print like subprime mortgage brokers blaming underwater homeowners for taking too much risk.
Nor can they blame honest questions for less than convincing answers, especially when the person asking the question is not the one misrepresenting his party affiliation.
Toni Iseman recently demanded intensification of enforcement under new parking restrictions for construction workers, ostensibly to protect parking and road use rights of neighbors living near building or remodeling project sites.
Yet, a week later Iseman held a gala fundraiser in a residential neighborhood that left driveways blocked and roadways congested by luxury cars parked illegally for the convenience of her high-end donors. Neighbors complained and got stonewalled.
In the Laguna Beach that Toni wants, local builders can have their businesses shut down if workers don’t comply with administratively determined parking prohibitions, but politicians are not responsible for parking violations by their hired commercial valets and wealthy contributors.
Toni is the poster child for excessive regulation and local government mission creep leading to officious inter-meddling in our lives. It is not just the building trades. Go down and try to get a city permit for any business and you’ll find out City Hall is a quagmire of politicized bureaucracy. The city staff is demoralized and the political appointees are all wannabe mini-mayors, micromanaging our city employees and the private lives of our residents. This is the government culture Toni has promoted on the City Council for 16 years.
Toni claimed last week that she is “seasoned but has fresh ideas,” yet her policies reveal a stale mentality and obsolete agenda. Her record is one of political stunts that do not even sustainably redeem the values of her own supporters.
We wish her well personally, but elections are not about personal privilege or prerogative. Elections are about what is best for our town. We need wise mentors and the next generation of people who love our town to become its new stewards.