Discord among Laguna Beach’s elected officials has led council to consider censuring a councilmember for allegedly making disparaging remarks.
Councilmember Peter Blake will be the target of a March 9 vote, where his political colleagues will decide whether the city’s Rules of Decorum and Civility policy were violated.
Council’s newest member, George Weiss, filed the complaint. Weiss stated in his request that Blake publicly made insulting comments about Laguna Beach residents, and made derisive comments about fellow Councilmember Toni Iseman.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Blake said that the censure is nothing more than an attempt to “cancel” him and remove his First Amendment right to free speech, simply because the other councilmembers do not agree with what he has to say.
“As I’m concerned, the First Amendment’s the First Amendment,” Blake said. “And I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t express myself, and I don’t want to live in a world where I’m in a position to keep you from expressing yourself.”
With a majority vote, Laguna Beach’s Rules of Decorum and Civility policy allows council to “censure” a councilmember if he or she makes comments of “belligerent, personal, impertinent, slanderous, threatening, intimidating, abusive, profane or disparaging” toward members of the public or other city officials.
But Blake said his comments were merely in response to untrue personal attacks against him by councilmembers Weiss and Iseman.
“I’ll be the first person to admit, I attacked [Weiss] back in kind,” Blake said. “And from Day 1, when I started to run and I realized that they were not above making personal attacks that were totally false, I informed them that if you punch me, I’m going to punch you back twice as hard, and I’ve never stopped.”
He continued, “So, I have violated the code of conduct many times and will continue to violate that code of conduct. I have never initiated, not one time, have I ever initiated an attack on a fellow councilman or on an activist, but anytime someone has written something about me or made a disparaging comment about me in public, I have responded in kind.”
Blake said personal attacks on him have included being called him dumb, and “being in the pocket of developers,” he said. Others have accused him of having psychological problems, said Blake.
Council has then taken Blake’s comments, without saying what prompted them, and used them in the censure request out of context, he said.
According to the censure request, one comment made by Blake reads: “Everyone knows that Toni is Village Laguna’s lapdog and mouthpiece. She clearly lacks the experience and the legal knowledge to be involved in lawsuits against cities given their complexity. She can barely read her marching orders from her computer and then lip-synch them during council meetings. She’s a mess!”
Another one reads, “It followed last year’s comedic ‘Code of Conduct’ which also failed to garner support even though Village Laguna’s mouthpiece and sycophantic slag, Toni Iseman, could have won an Oscar for her choreographed attacks on my First Amendment rights.”
The censure, while offers no consequence, serves as a formal disapproval of remarks. Blake said that he while the censure has no bearing, he does not like it because he has never tried to censure Weiss or Iseman for personal attacks they have made against him.
“The censure has no teeth, it has absolutely no bearing whatsoever,” Blake said. “It’s not something that can be actioned on, they can’t take me out of office. They can’t fine me. There’s absolutely nothing they can do other than humiliate me and leave a digital tattoo.”
Blake said the censure threat is is experiencing is not just a local situation, but something that is part of a bigger problem on a national level. He cited the January removal of then-President Donald Trump from Twitter.
“If this is the beginning of what happens when this woke culture and this cancel culture finds its way into the local communities, and we start to cancel council people and make sure that they’re not able to express themselves or express the views of their constituents then we’re done,” Blake said. “We have nothing left at that point.”