On the heels of the most expensive City Council campaign in the city's history, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause will hold a public meeting Thursday to begin to craft a campaign financing ordinance for Laguna Beach.
"I feel this is an ideal time for this activity for our city," resident and league member Jean Raun told the City Council earlier this month. "We ask that the council act now to protect the integrity of the electoral process."
The goal, Raun said, is to prevent those with a financial advantage from wielding a disproportionate power in city elections. The council has unanimously endorsed the idea.
"I know this is a very difficult project," said Mayor Lida Lenney, who is expected to attend Thursday's meeting. "And I can't think of anybody who can tackle it better than the League of Women Voters."
Even before the November election, the League of Women Voters of Orange Coast had targeted the city for campaign spending reform, said Patricia Sturges, chairwoman of the Laguna Beach chapter.
This is not the first time a group has tried to cut campaign spending in Laguna Beach. Last year, Village Laguna, the city's largest political action committee, presented an ordinance to the council, hoping to have it in effect for the November election.
However, with limited time and varied opinions about how to solve the problem, the council instead encouraged candidates to voluntarily agree to limit their spending to $30,000 each. All but two candidates--Mel Owens and Peter French--agreed to do so.
Owens, a political newcomer in Laguna Beach who came in third after funneling $41,202 into the race, was the biggest spender. The winning candidates--Kathleen Blackburn and Wayne L. Peterson--were second and third in spending, respectively.
Political veterans were surprised when Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman, who had been considered a front-runner in the race, was knocked into fourth place after he was targeted by a free-spending political action committee that was formed to defeat him and elect Peterson and Blackburn.
That committee--Citizens for Responsible Government--spent $53,432 on the campaign.
Most of that total--$50,220--was contributed by Richard A. Hall Co. Hall is a Costa Mesa businessman and part owner of Treasure Island Mobilehome Park in South Laguna.
Thursday's meeting will be held in council chambers at 9:30 a.m.
As envisioned, the new ordinance would include campaign spending limits and a code of ethics for the city, Sturges said. It should be ready for a council vote this summer.