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Hansen: Play rage against the Laguna machine

August 22, 2012|By David Hansen

In any small community that cares, you have crazy people. In Laguna Beach, however, we are blessed with a majority of crazy people.

I'm kidding.

Sort of.

If you have ever been to a City Council or school board meeting, invariably during the open mic session there will be some colorful person who shuffles up with a piece of paper and an attitude.

The elected officials try hard not to roll their eyes because it happens every time: The Angry Speech. It is three minutes of diatribe, exacerbation, finger pointing and threats. The sky is falling and it's all their fault.

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Here's the thing: Sometimes the person is right.

If you get past the prejudice, the history and the smell, there could very well be a story.

Now since there is no way to make an elegant segue, I'll just come out with it: Meet Michael Hoag.

The esteemed Mr. Hoag is by no means one of "those people." Since 1973, he has been a respected resident and former traffic committee member who still attends meetings, offers ideas and genuinely cares about the city.

But he definitely marches to a different drummer, which is a good thing. At 73, he's not trying to impress anyone. Like a bemused muckraker, he prefers reading urban theory and attending raw food meet-ups.

An inveterate letter writer, he doesn't think twice about calling up an official to bend their ear.

Last week, for example, he was thinking about the inefficiency of school buses, so he called up the district to tell them what they should do.

"If the school district charged money to students and teachers to park in their parking lot, more people would walk, bike, bus and car pool, meaning potentially less auto congestion, less fuel, less smog, less noise," he said.

Imagine for a second exactly what Hoag suggested: Charging students to park at school, not as a revenue tactic but as a way to get them out of cars.

"I know," he said, realizing how far-fetched it sounds to most people. "There would be murder."

These types of ideas, however, often foster other interesting ideas.

Scott Drapkin is a senior planner with the city who is managing one of the most important, complex new projects currently underway, the General Plan Mobility Element Update. Expected to take more than two years, the update is mandated by the state's Complete Streets Act, which basically says we need to have a better transportation network that accommodates all needs, not just cars.

In its first overflow meeting Aug. 6, Drapkin was inundated with suggestions from eager residents such as Hoag.

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