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Election 2018: Meet the candidates for Laguna Beach City Council

Election 2018: Meet the candidates for Laguna Beach City Council
Laguna Beach City Council candidates, clockwise from top left: Ann Christoph, Toni Iseman, Sue Kempf, Cheryl Kinsman, Lorene Laguna and Judie Mancuso. Not pictured: Peter Blake, Sue Marie Connolly and Paul Merritt. (File and courtesy photos)

Nine candidates are gearing up for the Laguna Beach City Council election Nov. 6 as they vie for three available seats on the five-member council.

With Mayor Pro Tem Rob Zur Schmiede having dropped out of the race, Councilwoman Toni Iseman is the only incumbent seeking reelection. Mayor Kelly Boyd had already announced he would not run.

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Candidate Elizabeth Bates also has dropped out.

The Daily Pilot sent a questionnaire to all council candidates to get a better idea of who they are, why they’re running and what issues they feel are most pressing. Some responses have been edited for formatting, brevity or clarity.

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Candidate Peter Blake did not respond.

Ann Christoph

Age: Did not answer

Professional occupation: Landscape architect

Education: Master of Landscape Architecture, University of Michigan; Bachelor of Arts in art, Arizona State University

Time lived in the city: 47 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: South Laguna, 47 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Laguna Beach City Council, 1990-94 (mayor, 1994); Laguna Beach Planning Commission; South Laguna Specific Plan Board of Review; South Laguna Civic Assn.; South Laguna Community Garden Park; Historic American Landscape Survey for Laguna Beach and the Greenbelt Committee; Woman’s Club Woman of the Year, 2005

Immediate family members: Husband Alfredo Careaga

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the city and why?

1. We need to move forward while always respecting our traditions and environment. This is a guiding principle that we should always apply while addressing the many detailed issues we confront. We need to restore the unity and vision we had when we as a community accomplished our most important achievements, like preserving the Laguna Greenbelt (1990), establishing height limits (1970) and creating the artist colony (1920-30).

2. Traffic and parking and the large numbers of visitors need to be managed so as to minimize impacts on our residents and on the beautiful town and natural setting that both the residents and the visitors treasure. This involves more sophisticated parking management, increasing policing and beach patrol, protection and monitoring of the open space for abuse and fire danger, and using every opportunity to plant and maintain our public spaces.

3. City management issues include the need to expedite project reviews, high staff turnover, delayed completion of planning projects, over-reliance on outside consultants and lack of meaningful citizen involvement. Recommendations from personnel board, architects and applicants and citizen task forces should all be considered to make dealing with the city a positive and fruitful experience.

Sue Marie Connolly

Age: 60

Professional occupation: Aesthetician with a license in cosmetology (Sue Marie’s Facials by the Sea and Sue Marie‘s Day Spa in Laguna Beach)

Education: Did not answer

Time lived in the city: Did not answer

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: “I live in the village by the high school.”

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Red Cross; Greenpeace; marched for equality and human rights, Washington, D.C.

Immediate family members: Most of family is in Minnesota. “Nearly 200 cousins!”

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the city and why?

1: Public safety is my main concern. Undergrounding utilities for safety and fire prevention, not to mention value added on the homes. We may have to widen [Highway] 133 in the future.

2. We are dealing with the homeless and I would like to see more affordable housing.

3. Parking and sidewalk repair. As a business owner, we need more parking.

Toni Iseman (incumbent)

Age: 73

Professional occupation: Retired educator, 36 years in middle school and high school and as a community college counselor

Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Nebraska; Master of Arts, Cal State Fullerton

Time lived in the city: 48 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Woods Cove/Diamond Street, since 1973

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Five terms on Laguna Beach City Council (mayor four times); California Coastal Commission; Academic Senate at Orange Coast College; California League of Cities

Immediate family members: Partner Steve Miller, son Nicholas Stednitz

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the city and why?

1. Traffic: Beyond the usual crush of cars, surrounding communities are approving thousands of new housing units without adequate transportation solutions. To keep Laguna livable, we must keep cars out of our town, refine our free trolley system and keep our neighborhoods from being parking lots.

2. Affordable housing: Seniors, artists and millennials are being priced out, not just out of Laguna but Orange County. More development at current prices won’t solve our problem. The city needs to do public/private projects to create affordability.

3. Like never before, wealthy developers are investing in this election, trying to strip the charm from our small town and trying to strip the council of a seasoned, knowledgeable person who will protect the community from oversize development. There are hundreds of millions of dollars to be made if this election delivers votes to those who want to sell our town to the highest bidder under the guise of progress.

Sue Kempf

Age: 62

Professional occupation: Retired; former president of Mirion Technologies and former executive director and managing director of Vodafone Group PLC and Verizon Wireless

Education: Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science in business

Time lived in the city: 12 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Bluebird Canyon, 10 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Laguna Beach Disaster Preparedness Committee; View Preservation Task Force; Economic Development Committee; Planning Commission

Immediate family members: Cheryl Sykes, James Kempf, Allison Kempf, Julia Kempf

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the city and why?

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1. Economic vitality: We need to make smart choices in land-use policy to encourage a healthy retail environment. Allowing housing in strategic locations will foster businesses that residents and visitors will frequent.

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2. Historic preservation: I support voluntary, incentive-based historic preservation. I do not support placing homes on a historic inventory without the owners’ consent.

3. Public safety: Rapid changes in our climate are fueling the risk of wildfires across California, and Laguna Beach is no exception. We are routinely flooded with tourists who create demand for services, at a cost born by the residents.

Cheryl Kinsman

Age: Did not answer

Professional occupation: Certified public accountant

Education: Master of Business Administration, Golden Gate University; Bachelor of Arts in economics, Scripps College

Time lived in the city: 43 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Three Arch Bay, since 1982; downtown (second home), since 1982

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Laguna Beach City Council (2000-08); Laguna Beach Planning Commission; Laguna Beach Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee; Laguna Beach County Water District; Laguna Beach PTA; Woman’s Club; Laguna Plein Air Painters Assn.; El Toro Reuse Planning Authority; Hospital Advisory Committee; Neighborhood Watch; North Laguna Community Assn.; Laguna Presbyterian Church Sunday school teacher

Immediate family members: Husband Michael, sons Joshua and Nicholas

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the city and why?

1. Fiscal viability is the most important issue facing Laguna Beach. We have unfunded pension debt of nearly $60 million, aging infrastructure and a City Council that wants a $130-million [measure] to underground power wires.

2. Our aging sewer infrastructure poses a danger to our ocean because of potential sewer spills.

3. Laguna Beach has become a destination resort for the homeless, and it is time that other cities in Orange County begin taking responsibility for a fair proportion of them.

Lorene Laguna

Age: 54

Professional occupation: Library page, parochial high school teacher, designer, corporate manager in the retail industry

Education: Cal State Fullerton

Time lived in the city: Seven years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Canyon, seven years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Laguna Canyon Conservancy; Laguna Ocean Foundation; Laguna Beach Taxpayers Assn.; Laguna Canyon Task Force; Laguna Beach Beautification Council; Canyon Alliance of Neighborhoods Defense Organization; Zoning Committee; Community Emergency Response Team; Laguna Beach Citizen Police Academy; Leadership Laguna

Immediate family members: Two children

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the city and why?

1. Fiscal accountability for cost overages for infrastructure construction projects, surveys and consultants. City government must have spending caps on capital improvement projects.

2. City requires reformation to streamline processes and enable greater transparency and accountability of local government. Establish term limits for committees, commissions and City Council, along with resident town hall meetings for Q&As for effective communication with members of the public.

3. The city must mitigate parking, traffic and circulation issues by assuming control of Laguna Canyon Road to enable congestion toll pricing to effectively manage increased future congestion. Smart parking meter technology will replace parking meters with wireless sensors to navigate vehicles to available spaces. One no-cost resident parking permit should be provided per R1 property tax household.

Judie Mancuso

Age: 55

Professional occupation: Founder, chief executive and president of nonprofits Social Compassion and Social Compassion in Legislation

Education: Associate of Applied Science in data processing

Time lived in the city: 23 years

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Mystic Hills, 17 years

Public service, activism and volunteerism: California Veterinary Medical Board; California Democratic Party Credentials Committee

Immediate family members: Sister, two brothers

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the city and why?

1. Public safety: With the influx of visitors to our small town, public safety is a growing concern. Maintaining state-of-the-art public safety facilities and equipment and adequate staffing is essential in resolving the problems associated with safety, which includes the homeless population.

2. Manage tourism: As we welcome and accommodate 6 million visitors annually, we strain city resources, streets and parking facilities. To help alleviate this, I propose expanding the Act V lot and providing zero-emission trolley service to visitors. Additional support could involve testing the effectiveness of dedicated foot traffic only in some areas of downtown and utilizing traffic attendants during heavy summer months.

3. Financial stewardship: We must protect our city from future taxation to secure our healthy financial future. I believe that reining in excessive city spending on projects that most residents do not agree with is in order.

Paul Merritt

Age: 67

Professional occupation: Businessman; former reserve deputy

Education: Law degree, Washington State University

Time lived in the city: Since 1964

Neighborhood in which you live, and how long you’ve lived there: Moss Point, since 1998

Public service, activism and volunteerism: Former councilman, planning commissioner, parks director; Public Safety Committee; Orange County Economic Development Commission

Immediate family members: Linda, William and Karen

What are the three issues you believe are the most important facing the city and why?

1. No sales tax increase. Use current funds on hand and start undergrounding [utilities] in our precious Laguna Canyon.

2. Investigate why 120 downtown parking spaces have been “vanished”' by our Laguna City Council and why mega-mansions have no coastal development permits.

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3. End Cox cable monopoly and provide citywide free internet. Excessive cable rate increases have been allowed by the current council. Protect residents.

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