Politics Brings Change – and Stasis

Did you vote for change, or to maintain the status quo?

Elections bring out the best and the worst of mudslinging and spit-hurling. I for one, am grateful that the votes have been cast and I no longer need to listen to endless dispersions of one candidate to the next. While I realize the value — no doubt that the outsourcing conversation about Carly Fiorina ended her chances of being elected — I will forever dream of elections based on positive debates of experience, talent and political abilities.

Lagunans voted to hold steady the course with their City Council choices. This wasn’t much of a surprise. The only non-incumbent had a limited budget, not much exposure, and not a terribly enticing platform.

Boyd, Pearson, and Iseman were given the nod to continue business as usual. What exactly that means will be played out over the next two years.

First on their agenda will be the selection of a new city manager. Ken Frank is going to be a tough act to follow. His 30-year legacy of tight fiscal management has guided the city through the OC bankruptcy, the firestorms that roared through our neighborhoods, and the landslides that changed forever our hillsides and their residents. He weathered challenges to his governance with a stoic, but unyielding, resolve.

Frank’s current assistant, John Pietig, stands ready to accept the mantle. For nine and a half years he’s worked along side the best. I find Pietig to be intelligent, fair minded and well-versed on the multitude of issues that confront the city on any given day. The council would do well to select him to follow in Frank’s deep footprints.

The second mandate of the council must be a continued play to enhance and encourage business development in our community. Without community support and growth, the city coffers grow slim, the storefronts turn to empty, and our vibrant city suffers. Beach tourism is great — but only if they purchase goods and services in the city. And to do that, those services need to exist. Local needs must continue to be weighed in a conversation about changes in the Downtown Specific Plan.

And then of course, there are the parking issues, the city entrance issue, how and who to choose to replace seats on the Planning Commission and the Design Review Board, and what to do about the damn trees blocking precious — and pricey — ocean views.

In the grander scheme of national politics, voters selected change, with a shift in the House of Representatives to the red side of the books. While my Democrat friends might scream at me, I think this is a very good thing. “We the people” are not of one mind, but of many. We are our best and our strongest when we are forced to compromise — to find a path through political minefields of rhetoric and posturing.

At the end of the day, there is no “correct” agenda — only a direction or path that we choose to follow, until we choose to change. How our politics are formed is as much a matter our upbringing, as it is where we now choose to call home. My point of view would be drastically different if I had been raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, than the fair city of Laguna Beach. For starters, I wouldn’t be thinking about solar power or worrying about running out of water.

In a move that surprised me, Californians reelected Governor Jerry Brown. I voted for Brown in 1975 when he was the youngest candidate to run for governor. Now, as the oldest at 72, he returns with a promise to “get California working again.” That metaphor plays out on multiple levels, and certainly hits home to our basic needs. But the truth is that no one person — not governor nor president — can actually instrument change. It takes all of us — their consortiums and inner sanctums — and the pound of our needs against political agendas to arm-wrestle solutions to the system.

I can’t say my heart goes out to Meg Whitman in her loss. I had feared that she was in a position to buy the governor’s seat — an idea that deeply disturbed me. Could we really come to a place where the most money spent takes the office? I will be left wondering, how many lives might she actually have changed, if she’d simply donated her $140 million dollars to charity.

We can expect a small break — but only a small one — in bad political jokes. Within days, finger pointing will begin again, and those newly elected/re-elected will be responsible for everything that is wrong — and very little that is right.

It’s the nature of politics. Status quo or change?

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