Laguna Beach to have Bob Whalen as mayor again, Sue Kempf is mayor pro tem
The Laguna Beach City Council opted to have Bob Whalen serve a third consecutive term as mayor on Tuesday night.
Whalen was nominated for the position shortly after being sworn in to begin this third four-year term on the council. Sue Kempf was selected as mayor pro tem, replacing former Councilman Steve Dicterow in that role.
“I know this is somewhat unprecedented, but we’re in unprecedented times, and we’re in probably the darkest point of this pandemic,” Kempf said in nominating Whalen, citing his connections at the county level and with other mayors. “Bob has been a great leader through all this.”
Looking ahead, Whalen said that the city faces significant public health and financial challenges.
“I certainly appreciate the confidence the other council members showed in me to appoint me again,” Whalen said. “I’ve been working very hard all year to address COVID concerns in the community, making sure we put public health and safety first.
“We’ve got challenges ahead, both health-wise and economy-wise, so we’re going to have to address both of those throughout the year, so I am looking forward to another term where I’m hopefully continuing to provide some steady leadership.”
The council welcomed a new face to its ranks on Tuesday night, as George Weiss took the oath of office to join the five-person panel.
Weiss, who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and transparency from City Hall, said he also wants to focus on environmental and housing issues on the dais.
“I want to work on affordable housing in 2021 and really make it a reality that we can embrace,” Weiss said. “I know it will take years to do, but I think we’re on the right track. I’m going to be on the Housing and Human Services committee with Bob to do that.”
With coronavirus transmission rates creating public health concerns statewide, another stay-at-home order was recently issued by the state. The order will remain in effect for a minimum of three weeks, until at least Dec. 28 in Orange County.
Public comments during the Laguna Beach City Council meeting included a restaurant worker asking for residents to patronize their local restaurants.
The staff reports portion saw appeals to residents to shop local and to also comply with the rules of the stay-at-home order. City Manager John Pietig indicated that the city would take an education-first approach as it relates to compliance from restaurants, but he warned that the city would consider enforcement, including reporting an establishment for violations or issuing fines, if necessary.
“We’re all in this together,” Pietig said. “In order to come out of this, we have to cooperate, we have to follow the protocols, and then hopefully we can come out of this soon, and then hopefully in the next several months, the vaccine will take effect.”
Kempf said that restaurant owners in town have been taking COVID-19 protocols seriously, adding, “We are sympathetic to them.” She also said that business recovery in town would be a priority for her going forward.
A quiet Forest Avenue in downtown Laguna Beach on Wednesday afternoon suggested that many have chosen to follow the stay-at-home order, despite it having dealt the latest blow to restaurants and retailers during the holiday season.
Whalen said he is pleased with the community’s compliance to this point in the face of what he characterized as a “difficult” and “heartbreaking” situation.
“It is very difficult to see the businesses suffering down there because there just aren’t shoppers down there,” Whalen said in observing the light traffic at what has become a popular area in town in the Promenade on Forest.
“We are encouraging people to shop local and to support our merchants. When I was down there the other day, I was very impressed that the merchants were complying with the order and they were regulating the number of people who could go into the buildings.”
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