Working together or at daggers drawn, Kelly Boyd and Toni Iseman led the way in some of the most combustible issues facing the City Council in 2009.
Together they staunchly represented the council in defusing the debacle created by the American Civil Liberties Union suit that for months pitted residents and the business community against the homeless who had taken over city parks and beaches. Their rapport fizzled over the proposed five-year ban on commercial or recreational fishing from those beaches or the off shore waters of Laguna, which Iseman supports and Boyd opposes, but they mutually blasted the county for fencing off the library grounds, which shortly thereafter was removed.
Poles apart in style and political philosophy, they are united in their love of Laguna and their desire to serve it.
Iseman is daintier in her approach to issues, coming at it from a more oblique angle, using anecdotes to prove her point. Boyd is more blunt, but generally more succinct. Both go down swinging.
Iseman was elected to her third consecutive term on the council in November 2006. Boyd was returned to office after a 24-year hiatus
She is a standard bearer for preservation, conservation and moderation in development. She was the “Phantom” of the canyon, planting anti-development, Burma Shave-type signs along the roadway, when the Irvine Co.’s huge “Laguna Laurel” housing and commercial development seemed inevitable.
Her environmental credentials include terms on the board of Laguna Greenbelt Inc. and the California Coastal Commission.
Iseman is supported by the Laguna Beach Democratic Club, Village Laguna and environmentalists.
Boyd, born and bred in Laguna, was supported by the Laguna Beach Firefighters Assn., the Laguna Beach Taxpayers Assn., Republicans and his family’s historical ties to the city — a school, a street and a trailer park all bear the Thurston name.
Boyd, owner of the Marine Room Tavern, quickly staked out the homeless issue as one of his major concerns.
At the Jan. 26, 2007, council retreat, Boyd said the city needed to address the problem of homeless people and their health issues.
“I stand outside of my business because I smoke and I see them,” Boyd said. “There are new ones and a bigger population of [homeless] women and we need to figure out where they are coming from.”
It was only the opening salvo and the goal would broaden.
Boyd persuaded the council to create a Homeless Task Force, and on which he and Iseman served. Fourteen of the task forces’ recommended solutions for solving the homeless issues were approved by the council, well before a lawsuit was filed Dec. 23, 2008, by the American Civil Liberties Union, a Newport Beach legal firm and the dean of UC Irvine’s neophyte law school. The suit claimed that the city’s anti-sleeping ordinances amounted to unconstitutional harassment through illegal “sweeps,” subjecting the homeless population to middle-of-the-night interrogations and citations.
Locally, eyes rolled and heads were shaken. Lagunans are used to thinking of themselves as the good guys, not Scrooges, as one ACLU spokesman called the city administration, council and police.
During his term as mayor in 2009, Boyd named an Advisory Committee on Homelessness to implement the task force recommendations, again calling on Iseman as his partner.
The committee’s work culminated in the ACT V haven for the homeless, which has restored the intended use of Laguna’s parks and beaches, which is not a camp site.
Boyd described Iseman’s contributions as “phenomenal.” She said the outcome of homeless issues would never have happened without Boyd’s efforts.
Their bonhomie was tested when Boyd bitterly opposed the proposal to close all of Laguna’s coastline to commercial and recreational fishing, which Iseman espoused, along with three other council members.
Iseman spoke in support of the proposal before the state’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, saying that 80% of the townspeople favored the closure. Boyd, who had been instrumental in gathering 1,971 signatures on petitions in opposition to the ban, blew his stack.
Boyd publicly accused Iseman of a flagrant falsehood in letters to the editors of newspapers and of highhandedly ignoring the wishes of the voters in a letter to the task force.
Iseman addressed the accusations at the Nov. 17 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].”
Iseman said she was able to contact three of the five task force members to clarify her statement.
“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.
A couple of days later, Boyd said he believed that they can continue to serve the community in harmony despite 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.”
Boyd and Iseman’s relationship could be a major factor in these challenging economic times.
“Hearing opposing views and comparing them to yours is extremely valuable,” Iseman said. “Decisions by the council are too important to make through one set of eyes. Five minds are better than one.”
Boyd, Iseman and Mayor Elizabeth Pearson are expected to run for reelection in 2010. Don’t expect to see Boyd and Iseman running on a slate, but voters can count on hearing them speak out on issues that can most vitally impact the city. It’s too early to tell whether the race will be a shoo-in for all three, or a horse race with other hot contenders in the mix.
2006 Election Results
A total of 10,491 votes were cast in the 2006 election: 5,731 were for Iseman, 5,331 for Pearson-Schneider, 5,217 for Boyd and 5,079 for former City Clerk Verna Rollinger.
It wasn’t exactly a haymaker for Boyd, but he was happy to take the W. The win was attributed to absentee ballots, traditionally cast in higher numbers by Republicans and conservative voters.
A disappointing 44.5% of Laguna’s 18,075 registered voters cast ballots: 6,637 of them registered as Democrats; 7,006 as Republicans; 3,525 as Declined to State; 202 Green Party; 705 registered voters split up among the American Independent, Libertarian, Natural Law and Peace and Freedom parties; and 70 listed as miscellaneous, according to the Orange County Registrar at the time.