Now And Then: A vote for the future

"Voters don't decide issues; they decide who will decide issues." — George F. Will

Once upon a time in Laguna…

Visitors discovered that the village was a great destination to visit and a number became residents in a great place to live. The streets were not yet congested with traffic and tourists, and the creative sorts often expressed themselves through commerce, architecture, gardens and the arts.

Then as now, proximity to Los Angeles and with a superior coastal climate, Laguna Beach offered endless possibilities for freedom of lifestyle, expression, and pursuit of privacy. Heck, back in the day (just ask Kelly), we could even fish in our coastal waters.

Early garden organizations planted the rose gardens in Heisler Park and organized Arbor Days. Eucalyptus groves in the canyon and hillsides were intended to be a commercial commodity long before marijuana became a cash crop for others. Sleepy trailer parks once overlooked the Pacific. The occupants likely never imagining that three months' rent would be the daily rate at subsequent, premier resorts.

The right to develop property was a given, mainly cottages and bungalows; and our ridgelines weren't yet scarred by stucco boxes with red tiled roofing. Neighbors mainly acted civilly and reasonably when remodels were dreamt, considered, and built. Not to say that violation of views or privacy were ever tolerated.

Before I digress into further nostalgic musings of our rural, collective past, City Manager Ken Frank will soon be addressed as our former city manager. I believe he should be recognized with other local, creative greats such as Jim Dilley, Fred Lang, Jack Eschbach, Harry Lawrence, Chris Abel, and my father, Pete. Not necessarily due to an individual artistic or civic talent, but because of his financial wizardry and his unfailing embrace of reasonableness and love of Laguna.

Bound by a pragmatic sense of community, balanced budgets, and loyalty, Ken has guided our town through every conceivable challenge, with a sense of fairness and an acknowledgement that the future cannot be avoided. I know our City Manager well, and he will be missed, as will his unparalleled legacy of excellence. And without pause, our Assistant City Manager John Pietig is hopeful that he will be able to continue Ken's mandate of superior city government.

Meanwhile, even without Ken's direct support, the majority of the City Council recognizes that neighborhoods and businesses may sometimes collide and that decisions that allow businesses to thrive and protect quality of neighborhood life can be a parallel pursuit.

I serve on a neighborhood parking task force, with Toni Iseman, Kelly Boyd and residents, which has proven that divergent interests can agree when it's good for Laguna. It is easy to see why Toni and Kelly, along with Elizabeth Pearson will return to City Council after November's election.

As one of Laguna's lucky residents, when you vote on Nov. 2 in the General Election, will you be a voter or just a partial voter? All too often, many of us, it seems, enter the voting booth with knowledge of only half the candidates and issues, or fewer. No matter who or what you vote for, you ought to vote with the whole of yourself; after all, you are deciding who will decide the important issues for Laguna Beach and beyond. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani is a local, plant guy and always will be. He can be contacted at (949) 497-8168 or

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