been rejected unanimously -- instead, the council took no action at
all. Anyone knows that when your boss asks you to "participate" at
organizational expense in a discussion involving something he
strongly favors, your support is being demanded.
Councilman Steve Dicterow rightly stated that this procedure gave
the appearance of coercion. But council members who are allied with
the city manager in the matter were undismayed. Councilwoman
Elizabeth Pearson brushed off the problem of payment of city funds to
the staff for their time for this attendance by offering funds from
private donors, thereby effectively transforming city staff members
into paid lobbyists. Mayor Cheryl Kinsman went even further, saying
that as she supported the move to ACT V, she saw no problem in the
payment from city funds.
In a further recommendation, the city manager asked for approval
to hire a "facilitator" to represent the city before the commission
without any mention of the cost of the hire. Although he was
challenged by council members as to the identity of the proposed
employee and as to the amount of payment, he was unwilling to respond
to either question.
Some of us may remember discussions in our high school civics
classes, in which the supposed advantages of the city manager system
were extolled over the traditional "strong mayor" system of city
government. The evils of "political machines," political corruption,
cronyism, bribery, etc., were supposed to be vitiated by the actions
of professionally trained city managers who could easily be replaced,
if necessary, by the actions of the voters.
But Laguna Beach has come to be dominated by 20 years of political
control by a single individual who seemingly can expertly sway the
actions of some (fortunately not all) unsophisticated council
members. Residents of Laguna can address these problems and regain
control of their community in three ways. The first is to vote for
strong council members who are pledged to ethical governance and not
to the proposition that the end justifies the means. The second is to
insist issues that affect a broad segment of Laguna residents (like
the Village Entrance, etc.) be put on the ballot in the form of a
referendum, as is done for many state issues. And the third is to
demand a term limit of eight years (like the U.S. president) for
future city managers.
* MANFRED E. WOLFF is a Laguna Beach resident.