The election is less than two weeks away. The Coastline Pilot offers a last look at the five candidates for City Council.
Name: Steven Dicterow
Occupation: Attorney, small business owner
Endorsements: Orange County Register, Laguna Beach Taxpayers Assn.
Top three issues: According to his responses at forums and his campaign literature, public safety, fiscal responsibility and doing more for kids are his top priorities.
In campaign literature, Dicterow stated that he is running for his fourth term on the council because the council has drifted away from what he fought for while previously in office.
"I served on the City Council from 1994 to 2006, including three terms as mayor," Dicterow stated in an email. "[I have] proven leadership and [the] ability to get things done. "While on the council, [we] cut the red tape and got the fire victims back into homes years sooner than otherwise."
He said that his agenda bill added five police officers and crime was reduced by 50% within two years. Earlier statements in his campaign that he settled a $20-million judgment against the city down to zero have been toned down to "helping" to negotiate the Diamond Crestview judgment. He was mayor at the time.
"I helped negotiate a $20-million judgment against the city down to zero, and I was instrumental in getting the Montage into town," he said.
His community activities include serving on the boards of the Festival of Arts and the Chamber of Commerce, and memberships in the North Laguna Community Assn. and Laguna Beach Neighborhood Watch.
"I believe I have certain qualities which are necessary in order to serve successfully on the council: energy, enthusiasm, stamina and a love for public service," Dicterow said.
He and his wife, Catrina have been married 27 years. Daughter, Taryn, graduated with a juris doctorate from her father's alma mater.
Name: Jane Egly
Occupation: retired law professor, Laguna Beach mayor
Education: bachelor of arts, University of North Carolina; juris doctor, Wayne State School of Law
Endorsements: Orange County League of Conservation Voters, Elections Committee County of Orange PAC, Planned Parenthood, council members Elizabeth Pearson and Kelly Boyd
Top three issues: fiscal responsibility, public safety and infrastructure, and environmental sustainability
"During my eight years on our City Council, we have balanced our budget, which includes a 10% reserve and $4 million set aside for emergencies," Egly said in an email. "We have completed work on the Main Beach lift station and have begun construction on the new Lifeguard Headquarters. We kept our trolleys running, found peripheral parking for our visitors and continue to attract new businesses through our Open for Business seminars. While many cities struggle meeting demands for services, I am proud that we took a prudent, long-term approach in managing our financial resources."
Egly also cited the Disaster Preparedness Committee, which was created in 2011 by the City Council and has enhanced the city's ability to respond to emergencies, as another accomplishment.
She is a strong advocate of environmental sustainability, particularly reducing water use.
"In the last few years, we have reduced our water use by nearly 35%," she said.
During the past eight years, Egly said the city has added to its portfolio of open space, noting three new parks that opened. She also said the city continues to "celebrate our reputation of one of the best artists' communities in the world with our placement of beautiful public art around town.
"I pledge continued due diligence on our finances, keen management and performance of our infrastructure, and to protect our beautiful environment," she added.
As mayor, Egly sits in the middle of the dais, literally and figuratively. She does not predictably vote with the blocs on either side of the political divide, and it has cost her. Orange County Democrats and the Laguna Beach Democratic Club declined to endorse her because she doesn't vote the strict party line, although she personally supports the Open Space Initiative and other liberal issues.
Name: Verna Rollinger
Occupation: mayor pro tem
Education: University of San Francisco, special program for city clerks
Endorsements: Laguna Beach Police Employees' Assn., Village Laguna, Laguna Beach Democratic Club, Laguna Beach Equality Coalition, Orange County Democratic Party, Orange County Young Democrats, Orange County League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Women in Leadership, Planned Parenthood, Councilwoman Toni Iseman, Police Employee Assn. President Larry Bammer and school board member Betsy Jenkins and Laguna Beach Democratic Club member Audrey Prosser.
Top three issues: safety, services, sustainability
Rollinger, who has raised two children — one now a college professor, the other a software engineer — said that experience alone has taught her about responsibility, organization and conflict resolution.
"Perhaps more directly relevant here, I was the elected Laguna Beach city clerk for 30 years and for the past four years have been an elected member of the City Council," Rollinger said in an email.
During her time as city clerk, she became familiar with Laguna's policies and procedures.
"The job required evenhandedness and an eye for detail, and kept me in direct contact with citizens," she added. "The city website I launched and later the online records system have received a positive response and continue to improve, allowing all residents to obtain information without having to drive to City Hall."
Accomplishments she is most proud of: "One is being accessible. Another is the Flood Mitigation Task Force I established, which made 26 recommendations that have been implemented or are well under way."
She also cited the council's adoption of her proposal for continuous sidewalks along Coast Highway and a biking-walking path along Laguna Canyon Road as high points in her career.
"I was also successful in restoring a foot patrol to the downtown," Rollinger continued. "As a member of the school district's Community Coalition, I have worked to address alcohol and drug problems."
Rollinger's community service began when she helped establish the 36-foot maximum building height, still in effect today.
"If reelected, I will continue applying my expertise and experience to the betterment of Laguna Beach. My focus will be finding ways of doing more with less, fiscally and environmentally," she said. "My question will always be: 'Is it good for Laguna?'"
Name: Robert Ross
Occupation: retired film editor
Top three issues: bogus lawsuits, budget for city attorney's office and lowering rent for businesses by 25%
Ross is a newcomer to Laguna Beach politics. The former Warner Bros. film editor has been a permanent resident in Top of the World for about 10 years.
During City Council candidate forums he voiced ideas, such as advocating for the restoration of a Temple Hills waterfall, underground parking and creating equestrian trails.
During an interview last week, Ross stood by his ideas. When asked how he planned to get a majority vote and rally support of City Council members if elected, he admitted that it would require work that wouldn't happen overnight.
"I would have to convince them that this is the thing to do," he said.
"Bogus lawsuits" such as the Laguna Terrace Park lawsuit with the California Coastal Commission, reexamining the budget for the city attorney's office and lowering rent for businesses downtown by 25% are at the top of his list.
"I would just say getting rid of the Coastal Commission," he said. "They've pretty much served their purpose."
When asked how he plans to address a state issue at a local level, Ross said he planned to challenge the commission's jurisdiction in regards to the mobile home park.
He has previously misstated that the city attorney gets $5 million. The city has a budget for the city attorney of $585,000, which his challenger Steve Dicterow brought up at a recent forum.
Ross admitted he's had legal issues himself, having been "gouged" by a lawyer that he said was aiming to foreclose his home, and he sued a neighbor in the late '80s for reportedly encroaching his property onto a city street.
In regards to lowering rent for downtown businesses, Ross said that the city could declare it was in a "fiscal emergency" and force the banks to pay.
"People ask where I'm getting most of my support — I say it's women," he said. "The ladies I come across seem to back me more than anybody else."
Name: Bob Whalen
Occupation: municipal finance attorney
Education: A.B. cum laude, Harvard College, 1975; juris doctor, UC Berkeley, 1978
Endorsements: Laguna Beach Police Employees' Assn., Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn., council members Elizabeth Pearson and Kelly Boyd, former Mayor Kathleen Blackburn, school board member Ketta Brown, architect Morris Skendarian, Laguna Beach Seniors President Chris Quilter and businessman Donnie Crevier.
Top three issues: Maintain a strong balanced budget, improve public safety and disaster preparedness, and improve parking and traffic circulation citywide
"My primary focus as a council member will be to ensure the financial health of Laguna Beach during a time when California cities are experiencing unprecedented financial turmoil," Whalen said in an email. "I am recognized statewide as a legal expert on municipal finance. I believe my 30 years of professional experience will benefit our city."
Whalen cited a "proven track record" on fiscal responsibility.
"During my 10 years on the Laguna Beach school board we replenished depleted reserves, achieved competitive teacher salaries and modernized all schools while staying within budget," he said.
A sound financial foundation is critical to moving forward with important city projects such as devoting resources to public safety and disaster preparedness; improving parking and traffic circulation, as well as pedestrian access, he said. He added open space, beautifying the city's village entrance and promoting local businesses to the list.
"As a 28-year resident, active community volunteer and current Planning Commissioner, I have worked hard to make Laguna Beach a better place to live, work and raise families," he said. "While respecting our history and community character, I commit to moving our city forward. I will listen to all viewpoints, work diligently, think independently and make the hard decisions when needed."
Whalen's community activities include coaching AYSO for six years, Little League for 11 years and Boys & Girls Club Youth Basketball for five years.
He has served as president of the boards of SchoolPower, Little League and the Boys & Girls Club.
Whalen has been a Planning Commissioner since 2008. He also served on the Homeless Task Force.
He has been honored by the Orange County Community Foundation with the Philanthropist Award.