Last week in City Council chambers, I promised to report on Councilmember Verna Rollinger and her merry band of Village Laguna vigilantes any time they try to manipulate our political process. Here's Report No. 1 about 154 Pearl St. — site of the oldest cottage in Laguna.
For two years, the property owner diligently worked with the city on a plan to preserve the cottage. After that plan was unanimously approved by the Heritage Committee and by a 4 to 1 vote of the Design Review Board, that should have been the end of it. But Village Laguna appealed, and at the Dec. 7 City Council meeting when the appeal was heard, we all bore witness to a textbook lesson in Village Laguna's bullying tactics.
Tactic 1: Pack the chamber to create the illusion of broad community support.
Tactic 2: Stretch the public hearing out for more than an hour to create the illusion of a strong case by having Village Laguna members make the same weak arguments ad nauseum.
Tactic 3: Misrepresent the deliberations of both the Heritage Committee and DRB to create the illusion of controversy.
Tactic 4: Try to kill the project on a legal technicality.
Tactic 5: Totally mischaracterize the architectural plans to create the illusion of a contemporary structure replacing an historical one — no wonder Village Laguna wants to keep real architects from serving on the DRB.
Tactic 6: Have Councilmember Rollinger faithfully regurgitate every Village Laguna argument in the hopes of convincing her fellow council members — hey, didn't Milli Vanilli get busted once for that kind of lip synching?
Now here's the good news: The normal 3-2 Village Laguna majority on the council — Rollinger, Iseman, and Egly — failed to uphold the appeal. Egly defected because she simply couldn't buy some of the weakest arguments ever offered by Village Laguna against a solid project.
This raises a broader issue: Is Village Laguna drunk with the arrogance of its power? At one time, it played a useful role in historic preservation. But with each victory — and with what it thinks is a solid majority on the council — the group has veered ever farther from its mission. Now, instead of selfless political action from the group, we have what looks essentially to be a group of grumpy old men and women who want to stop everything — just because they can.
My advice to the residents who are writing the checks to fund Village Laguna is this: Hold your Board of Directors more accountable to common sense, and tell them they need to be far more selective in the projects they oppose — otherwise Village Laguna simply looks like an extremist group attacking the decision-making process itself.
Finally, to all of the "usual suspects" from Village Laguna who constantly pontificate on City Council issues — you all know who you are — know this: Your self-inflated egos have led you to falsely believe you speak for "the city." You don't. Nor apparently does Rollinger, who has devolved into a mouthpiece for what has become a very unspecial interest group.
Village of Laguna Beach
City at odds with citizens over marijuana
The president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn., Larry Bammer, says Prop. 19 is dangerous and talks about illegal sales of marijuana from storefront dispensaries. You can get a medical marijuana card if you have any one of over 200 medical conditions. The 1997 law passed by the people allows those people not only to grow marijuana but purchase it at dispensaries.
In spite of marijuana being smoked all over Laguna Beach, even by young family parents and hundreds of citizens who have medical marijuana cards, Laguna Beach has no marijuana dispensaries. More hypocrisy from our City Council.
Bammer sounds like he would like to raid the dispensaries and goes on to say 21% of traffic fatalities involved drugs, but he never mentions the legal drug that accounts for a large part of these fatalities — alcohol. Bammer also fails to mention a new law the governor signed months ago that allows any citizen to have in their possession one ounce of marijuana in your car or on the street, and if questioned by a cop, the most the cop can do is give you a ticket (a misdemeanor) which can be cleared for $100.
If you have more than an ounce, you can choose a diversion program and have the ticket taken off your record. If you have a scale, baggies or anything in your car — beware because the cops will claim you are selling marijuana, and that's a felony.
Thank you, No Square Theatre
The Laguna Beach American Legion & Women's Auxiliary wishes to thank Bree Burgess Rosen and her troupe of seven carolers and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus for the fabulous entertainment they provided at the American Legion Christmas social this year. The event, attended by more than 60, was held at Legion Hall on Dec. 9. Thanks to the efforts of Sande St. John, 16 children and eight of their parents attended so they could have Christmas dinner with us and receive presents from Santa Claus. The ladies Auxiliary put on a sumptuous ham dinner, and Doug Miller added his violin virtuosity to the occasion.
Editor's Note: Richard Moore is adjutant of American Legion Post 222.