Election 2012: Council candidates fill war chests

City Council candidates Bob Whalen and incumbent Verna Rollinger cashed in on supporters over the last week to bolster their campaign finances.

Rollinger's fundraiser was held Sunday at the home of Dr. Gary and Betsy Jenkins. The Jenkinses also hosted Whalen's kickoff in March. Betsy Jenkins also serves as president of Laguna Beach Unified's school board.

"It was amazing," said Rollinger, who is serving as mayor pro tem in the last year of her first term on the council. "We had more than 100 reservations and then a ton came without reservations, even some I had never met before."

More than $10,000 was raised, with about 60 supporters each giving $360, the city's campaign donation limit. Rollinger reported in January contributions of $21,458 and expenditures of $4,719.

The highlight of the fundraiser was a tour of the Jenkinses drought-tolerant garden, led by landscape designer and former Planning Commissioner Jeff Powers, who designed it.

School board members Theresa O'Hare and Jan Vickers, Nancy Caruso, Lee Winocur Field, Ray Hiemstra, Carol Nilsen, Ginger Osborne, Chris Prelitz, Patricia Twitty and Carolyn Wood hosted the event.

Rollinger, who previously served seven terms as city clerk, ran twice for City Council before being elected.

She began her bid for reelection last year. Sunday's fundraiser was the second event of the campaign.

Her message hasn't changed.

"I want to bring a more user-friendly, customer service attitude to City Hall, complete a greener Village Entrance project, help restore Laguna Beach's financial strength and security, and keep providing resources to rebuild our sewer and water infrastructure," Rollinger said.

In her first term, Rollinger supported neighborhood-compatible structures and activities; open space acquisitions; preservation of Laguna's historic buildings, local artists and arts organizations; and the designation of most of the Laguna coastline as a protected marine reserve. She participated in the creation of the first business task force and chaired a task force that recommended solutions to Laguna Canyon and downtown flooding.

"Her hard work and leadership make our community a safer place to live," said Councilwoman Toni Iseman. "She cares about us and our future."

Rollinger has lived in Laguna for 43 years and raised two children here. During that time, she was involved with passing the 1971 initiative that limited building heights to 36 feet and organization of the 1989 Laguna Canyon Walk, which opposed construction in Laguna Canyon.

She also worked on state and local propositions and initiatives that brought Laguna Beach more than $43 million for open space acquisitions.

She opposed a commercial airport at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

Rollinger is a member of Village Laguna and has served on the Laguna Greenbelt Inc. board.

"Coming to Laguna changed my life," Rollinger said. "This beautiful town and its people nurtured me and my family, and provided opportunities I could never have envisioned.

"Knowing Lagunans as I do, I know that we share a respect for our history, a strong sense of community, and a willingness to participate in thoughtful planning for our future. Our shared values will be a source of strength in continuing to meet the challenges we face."


Whalen fundraiser

City Councilman Kelly Boyd hosted a fundraiser for Whalen at the Marine Room on April 19.

"As a council member, I would love to see this guy sitting next to me on the dais," said Boyd. "The best thing would be to have two guys up there."

The event was billed as a meet and greet, but more than 90 people paid $25 to chat with Whalen and mingle with other Whalen supporters — including architect David Parker and Laguna Beach High School Principal Joanne Culverhouse, two nonresidents who can't vote here.

"I came down here to run for the council, but I have decided I am going to open a bar," Whalen joked. "It is great to see so many familiar faces.

"So why am I running? The hours are long, you are underpaid and half the town always hates you."

The flip side is that half the town loves you — and duty calls.

"I am running because I love this community," Whalen added.

And the town needs good people to keep it great, Whalen said. He ran for the school board to help fix its financial problems following the county bankruptcy. Whalen is an attorney who specializes in public agency financing.

As a councilman, Whalen said he would focus on a stable financial platform.

"I think I have something to contribute, some skills and a thick skin developed on the school board," Whalen said.

He asked his supporters to volunteer in his campaign.

"Talk to friends and neighbors," he said. "Host small neighborhood events."

He urged his supporters to help get out the vote by writing emails, making phone calls and networking at the neighborhood level.

Whalen said he hoped to get fundraising out of the way by May — taking in somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 — so he can concentrate on the issues and the differences in the candidates.

"They look to the past; I look to the future," Whalen said. "That is the fundamental difference between me and them. It is important to have new faces at the top."

Pressured to divulge his position on the Open Space Initiative, which would tax property owners to purchase available lots for open space that would reduce density, Whalen said he wouldn't have voted to put it on the ballot at this time.

"[Initiatives] need a comprehensive plan," Whalen said. "The school board spent two years planning its initiative."

In addition to his terms on the school board, Whalen has served on the board of the Boys & Girls Club and on the city's Planning Commission.

"I have been behind Bob since he was on the commission," said architect Anders Lassiter. "He is a nice man and just what Laguna needs."

Lassiter is not the only architect in town that supports Whalen. Morris Skenderian, Leslie LeBon, Kirk Saunders and Horst Noppenberger also attended the event.

"Every architect in town should be here," said Noppenberger.

Also at the event were school board members Betsy Jenkins and Ketta Brown, gallery owner Peter Blake and Laury Detrick.

"I was just walking by and I heard new people were running for the council, and I thought I would check it out," Detrick said. "He seems nice."


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