I first met Steve Dicterow when, out of the blue, he called and asked if he and Paul Freeman, both then recently elected to City Council, could come talk to me.
My wife and I had just been dragged over the coals by the Design Review Board and City Council over the now infamous “Shadow House,” and had lost everything – literally everything, because those bodies, under the control of the same irrational people who control them now, purported to believe a neighbor’s unsubstantiated claims rather than the elaborate scientific studies we had presented.
The real reason, of course, as it so often is now, with the present gang in control of City Council, that they just didn’t want a house built.
We had lost our entire life savings, and only managed to cling to our house by a ruinous refinance, for which I am still paying today, 20 years later. I had filed a lawsuit against the City which, even if I won, would take years.
Steve and Paul came to me, on their own, and offered to settle. I was, to say the least, shocked, and when they agreed to an amount that I thought reasonable, even more so.
Steve explained: first, he and Paul had just been elected to City Council and had run on a platform that included the elimination of lawsuits against the City – of which there were many at the time, but second, and even more significant, the City, he said, had unquestionably damaged us by its unreasonable actions, and had a moral obligation to make good, at least in part.
I had never met an honorable politician before (I am, after all, a New Yorker), let alone a reasonable one, and over the years of Steve’s tenure, as my own practice brought me more and more before the Design Review Board and the City Council, I have found that same sense of honor and reason not only in Steve’s own actions, but in his influence on other members of the Council, to a point where I—and the many other lawyers, architects and citizens of Laguna Beach—could expect fair and consistent rulings.
Even on the matters on which Steve has voted against my projects, he has always done so for a reason I could understand, and he has always been willing to meet with me to explain his reasons, and discuss ideas that could make a project acceptable to the City.
Steve is a Republican. I am a lifelong Democrat who believes sincerely that the Republican party is destroying America. But Steve and I have talked politics for years, and I have been able to do so because, as a rare characteristic, he is not crazy.
He brings to our political discussion the same analysis and reason that he brings to civic issues in Laguna Beach, and I am surprised to discover on how much we agree – the need for public safety, the need for a sound and well-managed educational system, the need for fiscal responsibility and management.
Those are not Republican values, nor are then Democrat values; they are rational values, and the policies on which Steve has run three times in the past, and now for a fourth, and which his record clearly shows have been the guiding principles by which he has operated as a council member and has tried to bring to the entire City Council.
Now more than ever, with a City Council in control of special interest groups – the same ones that cost me my home in 1992 – and more and more irrational in its actions, we need Steve’s calm and reason to guide our city.
— GENE GRATZ