Melissa O'Neal: Woman with a vision

Melissa O'Neal blesses the day in 1989 when she and her husband,

Michael, moved to Laguna Beach. But it was participation in the

Vision Laguna strategic planning process that prompted her to run for


"For Laguna to remain the city we treasure, we must address three

challenges: problems caused by aging and neglected infrastructure;

growth and development pressures from inside and outside Laguna; and

competing requests for city services," the Mystic Hills resident


Her experience as a facilitator for Vision Laguna and her career

as a water quality consultant led to her appointment on the

Wastewater Advisory Committee.

"My energy and drive allows me to think outside the normal

bureaucratic box," she said.

O'Neal is concerned that the Laguna Canyon flood control project

design got as far as it did without flaws being discovered in time to

repair them and keep the project alive, funded by the county and the

Corps of Engineers.

"I don't think the county will come back again," she said.

O'Neal signed the $30,000 spending limit. She had raised cash

contributions of $2,274 and a loan of $500 as of Sept. 21.

Village Laguna, Laguna Beach Republicans, Orange County League of

Conservation Voters, ECCO, the Sierra Club and the Log Cabin Club

endorsed her.


1. With the proposed construction of more than 1,000 parking

spaces three blocks from the Village Entrance to Third Street, what

can the city do to alleviate traffic problems in the area?

The success of Laguna Beach as a destination challenges us to fill

a 5-pound sack with a 10-pound load creatively. The goal is simple:

get cars parked efficiently so people can enjoy our town and shop. A

single solution to this issue doesn't exist. Resolution will only

occur when a combination of projects are agreed upon, funded and

built. Easing gridlock along the Civic Arts District corridor can be

achieved by:

* Creating peripheral parking and signage directing drivers to

their location.

* Facilitating safe and convenient parking for employees.

* Expanding the use of our tram service.

2. How do you feel about putting public funds into private

organizations, like the community clinic and senior center, versus

using the money for infrastructure, particularly the sewer system?

I believe municipal government must protect the health and safety

of its residents and businesses by providing basic services such as

police, fire, lifeguards, streets, water and sewer service. This

mission must never be compromised. I work as a grant writer and I

have developed more than $40 million in non-traditional financing

packages for cities and special districts since 1997. As an

experienced and successful fund developer, I strongly believe both in

fiscal responsibility and community compassion. Therefore I will

aggressively pursue private partnership funding to support services

that provide for community wellness.

3. How has the enmity between members of certain political and

community groups affected the city?

We celebrate our eclectic mix of residents, and we must also

encourage a community dialogue peppered with differing opinions. In

the 13 years I have lived in town a number of heated issues have

fractured our community. Negativism severely limits our success in

resolving critical problems. We no longer have time to engage in

endless, unproductive debate. We need to make effective decisions by

working together as a community and move forward to identify

solutions that will work for all. My skills as a certified mediator

will help us take necessary action on the traffic, parking and

infrastructure problems we face.

4. What can the city do to help local merchants?

By developing adequate parking and signage directing people to

their locations, we will get people out of their cars and on to the

business of shopping! We must also keep our beaches and ocean water

clean, protect our village atmosphere and support our world-class art

institutions for these all attract visitors to our town. I support

the Downtown Specific Plan, as it is designed to promote diversity in

our market place. I also support the Civic Arts District and its

goals along with the Village Entrance Plan. These will facilitate

success for our businesses, art community and residents.

5. What can the city do to preserve the Village character?

Two variables are affecting our future. On one side are the forces

of standardization, as illustrated by the current debate on hedge

height; on the other side, is an individual's right to

self-determination. Laguna Beach cannot become a bland, planned

community. Nor is anarchy to rule.

The Vision Laguna 2030 Strategic Plan provides a number of

recommendations for maintaining Village character that have yet to be

seriously considered by the council. My objective as a council member

will be to implement these and other unique solutions, and enforce

our general plan and city codes while making updates to components as

they become outdated.

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