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Council members agree to disagree

Two council members said this week that a clash of opinions about a proposed ban on fishing on Laguna’s beaches should not prevent them from working together on behalf of the city.

Mayor Kelly Boyd and Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who partnered to help resolve the homeless problems in town, parted company on the issue of closing Laguna’s coastline to fishers, which Iseman along with three other council members supports and Boyd opposes. But neither wants the issue to adversely affect the way the council works together.

Boyd had publicly accused Iseman in letters to editors of newspapers and to the Blue Ribbon Task Force of a “flagrant falsehood” at the Blue Ribbon Task Force hearing on the proposal when she said 80% of the townspeople favor the closure. Iseman addressed the accusation Tuesday at the City Council meeting.

“I may have misspoken,” Iseman said. “My intention was to say that 80% of the people I have spoken with agree with this [a city-long reserve] — the phone calls I got, at the grocery store, the places we run into people, on the street — it was strangers calling me on my phone and thanking me.”

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Iseman also said she was able to contact three of the five task force members to clarify her statement.

“None of them remembered what I said, but they definitely heard what my intention was,” Iseman said.

Iseman said the matter was not easy to talk about but perhaps was important to the public.

“I think one of the things people like to know is how the kids play together,” Iseman said. “We,” she said, gesturing at the council members on either side, “are the kids. That’s a term I learned on Coastal Commission, and it is indicative of the work that can be done.”

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The council faces major challenges in the upcoming years, and Boyd and Iseman’s relationship could be a major factor in how issues are addressed. Both are up for reelection next year and both are expected to run again.

“So at this point, I am hoping we will take a position of mutual respect, civil discourse, and be able to communicate and worked comfortably with one another,” Iseman said.

Boyd did not respond to Iseman’s comments at the meeting.

However, on Thursday, he denied calling her a liar, contrary, he said, to a newspaper report, and he believes they can continue to serve the community in harmony despite deeply held contrary convictions.

“As Toni said, the city is facing many challenges and there is no reason that we cannot put this in the past and continue working together as effectively as we did on the [Advisory Committee on Homelessness.],” Boyd said. “This is just one issue on which we totally disagree.”

Iseman represents the environmentalists’ view on the closure of the beaches; Boyd is the standard bearer for fishers.

His was the lone council vote against the closure.

And he supported efforts to persuade the Blue Ribbon Task force to adopt a less stringent plan, based on a poll and petitions.

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“During the two-week poll, 1,971 signatures were gathered in opposition to the plan supported by the council,” Boyd said. “And 95% of them [signers] live in Laguna Beach and probably 1,800 are voters. They were very, very upset at Toni’s comments at the hearing in support of Proposal 3.”

Iseman called Boyd’s survey a “push poll” Tuesday, in which she said misinformation is presented in the form of a question.

Push polls are designed to elicit specific responses.

“If you know that Toni was torturing kittens in her basement, would you still vote for her for city council?” Iseman gave as an example. “Then they ask if you would support a cat torturer.”

In his letter to the task force, Boyd wrote, “Iseman never asked our citizens what they wanted nor did the other three council members, [who voted for the closure]. We are elected by our citizens to represent them, and I firmly believe an issue this big should have either been put to our citizens for a vote or presented as a petition soliciting what our citizens want. This did not happen!

“I would think it would be your responsibility to support a proposal that the citizens truly want and not what four council members with no feedback from the citizens who elected them want. Our citizens want reasonable access to our ocean for their families and future generations, as we have enjoyed for over one hundred years.

“I believe it is the responsibility of the Blue Ribbon Task Force to support our citizens’ wishes and not the wishes of four council members who showed irresponsibility by not asking our tax paying citizens what they wanted.”

The letter to the task force was sent after the decision was made to give the closure supporters pretty much what they wanted.

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The task force recommended closing the beaches from Abalone Point to Aliso Beach to all fishing. Beaches south of Laguna could still be fished if the task force recommendation is approved by the Fish and Game Commission.



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