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Archives for January 19, 2016

More proof that kids rule the family

How essential to young families is having a playroom for the kids? Very. And some are giving up another long-held family feature to get them — the sprawling backyard.

“Buyers today — especially millennial buyers — want everyone to have a private space of their own to decompress under one roof, and the bonus room/playroom outweighs a large yard in their buying decision,” said Patty Blackwelder, a buyer’s agent with Twins Selling Real Estate in Northern Virginia. “The first item that seems to fall off the list is the large yard.”

It was a formal living room repurposed into a playroom that recently swayed clients of hers to purchase a home in Bristow, Va. Gone were the typical sitting chairs and end tables, replaced by shelving for toys, blackboard paint and a Dr. Seuss quote printed on a wall.

While the home has a yard, it’s small. No matter; since moving in, the buyers have been taking their children to a nearby playground anyway, Blackwelder said.

The biggest requirements for families with children, according to the National Association of Realtors, is what you’d expect: 62% of those with kids 18 and under say the quality of the neighborhood is important, while 50% are looking for a good school district and 49% want the home to be convenient to their jobs. Fewer said that lot size or proximity to parks and recreational facilities were a factor in choosing a home. The statistics come from the group’s 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report.

Yet once those top-level needs are met, families start to make more detail-level compromises when choosing their homes. And being able to visualize a place for the kids to corral their stuff and play has become a priority, according to Blackwelder and others.

In the San Francisco area, Ann Thompson, regional sales executive at Bank of America Home Loans, is seeing the same thing. Indoor play space was a top desire for buyers in 2015, she said.

“People are happy to have a patio for the kids to play on. The big yard thing — it’s not necessarily everyone’s grandest dream anymore,” Thompson said. That may be especially true in California, where water shortages — and restrictions on water usage — influence how much lawn people want. Many owners also don’t want to spend the time or the money required to keep up a large lawn, she said.

That isn’t to say that a large backyard doesn’t remain a priority for some buyers, in some locations. In Kansas City, for one, families don’t seem to be interested in downsizing lawns, said Sherri Hines, a real-estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Kansas City Homes.

“We are so used to space and land, we don’t have houses right on top of each other, we are very spread out geographically,” she said. “And I don’t see that diminishing.” Home prices are also generally more affordable there than in markets on the coasts, and home buyers may not need to compromise as much as in high-cost areas.

But in the Kansas City area, too, an indoor play area is a priority, she said, since parents want a separate space to keep the toys from flooding the kitchen and family areas, Hines said.

“The volume of toys we have is much higher [than in generations past],” she said.

New life for the dining room

Millennials, in particular, are good at repurposing home spaces so that they’re more useful to the way we live today, said Jill Waage, executive editor for the Better Homes and Gardens brand. The brand includes the print magazine from which it gets its name and also includes its website, social platforms, apps, broadcast programs and licensed products. For years now, formal spaces such as dining rooms have been out of favor with many home buyers.

“They are willing to look at the renaming and reuse of the home,” she said, changing rooms “into something that they get value out of every day and every week.”

Retailers are also suggesting the dual-use room as a trend. On the website for Land of Nod, a retailer of children’s furniture and products, there are tips on how to create a formal dining room and playroom in one.

“Just because at some point in time someone wrote ‘dining room’ over this square plot in your home, doesn’t mean that it can only forever and henceforth be used as a dining room,” it reads, adding that often this formal room is used only several days a year for gatherings. “We say you can have your dining room four days a year, but you can also have a playroom 361 days a year.”

Playboy Mansion for sale, and you get Hefner too!


Donald Trump’s recently sold $14.05 million Park Avenue condo and the Playboy Mansion on the market for $200 million.

Size of the yard may not matter

Families still want some sort of backyard, but it doesn’t have to be huge, Blackwelder said. Many times it’s enough to have room for outdoor living features, such as dining areas and fire pits. Gardens and edible landscaping are also popular, Waage said.

And for the kids, a small lawn — perhaps to place a swing set on — may do just fine, Blackwelder said.

Gone are the days — for many families — when the kids head out the backdoor and play in the yard unsupervised, Blackwelder said. They probably wouldn’t want to, anyway, often preferring to play at a park (with parental supervision) or, in the case of her own family, out near the cul-de-sac in front of the house, where other neighborhood kids would gather and she could watch her kids from the front steps.

Home buyers typically consider their budgets, wishes, wants and needs, then make compromises to settle on their best home choice for their family, she said.

“What’s interesting is, given the choice of a large backyard or space inside for everyone, they will take the smaller backyard and space for everyone. Even if the house is on a main road, they will take that, as long as a playground is nearby,” Blackwelder said.

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Curbside gardens on council agenda

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Zen and the art of landscape gardening

One of the world’s foremost garden designers, Shunmyo Masuno explains how his work is intertwined with his own spiritual journey

Now and Zen_1_Chester Ong
Image by Chester Ong

As anyone who has been there will be aware, the city of Kyoto is replete with inspirational scenes.

Japan’s former capital and its spiritual centre is the country’s traditional persona writ large. Beautiful temples meditate peacefully in leafy glades and by tranquil lakes while in historic enclaves such as Gion it is still possible to observe immaculately presented geisha scurrying between secret liaisons.

For Shunmyo Masuno, it was another famous Kyoto signature – its sublime temple gardens – that set him on the path to becoming one of the world’s most sought-after landscape architects.

“My family visited Kyoto when I was in elementary school,” recalls Masuno, who rounds out his design work with duties as head priest at Kenko-ji temple in Yokohama and professor at Tama Art University in Tokyo. “I was blown away by the beauty of the stone garden in Ryo-anji temple and the dry landscape garden in Daisen-in temple. It was the first time in my life I had seen such beauty and I was totally captivated.
Now and Zen_Shunmyo Masumo

“At the same time I wondered why Kenko-ji temple, where I was born and grew up in, had no beautiful gardens. How could the Zen temples in Kyoto have such stupendous landscape gardens? I experienced a kind of cultural shock.”

Spellbound by the ancient tenets of Zen landscaping – an expression of thoughts through gardens, rocks and trees – the young Masuno became obsessed with sketching out his design ideas at high school. His first project was the realisation of the dream that had been nurtured on that formative family trip to Kyoto. Working with an elder mentor, garden designer Katsuo Saito, he set about reimagining the garden at Kenko-ji where his father was the head priest.

That informal apprenticeship was bolstered by a university education in the natural environment as well as Zen training from his father. After completing his studies he founded his company Japan Landscape Consultants and took on the role as assistant priest at Kenko-ji.

Combining the roles of company director, master designer, professor and Zen priest may sound like a heavy burden to take on. Masuno, however, credits his Zen schooling for a methodical yet meditative approach to life and creativity.

“In Zen, zazen, or meditative discipline, plays a central role,” he explains. “Zen is the state where one finds his/her original self and its ultimate goal is to calm the soul and experience the truths and reasons that prevail in the world. Buddha lies in the heart, which gives us all the more reason to practice discipline through zazen.”

Masuno’s dedication to his work has helped him become arguably Japan’s foremost garden designer – no mean feat in a nation that is known for its advanced aesthetic sensibilities.

He has over 50 gardens to his name, his work instilling a sense of Zen calm and beauty at residential, commercial and municipal projects at home in Japan and overseas. Big name commissions include gardens at the One Kowloon office building in Hong Kong, the Canadian Museum of Civilisation in Ottawa and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo.

Although his services are constantly in demand, nobody could call Masuno prolific. He insists on hands-on involvement in all his projects, and makes every effort to keep his lofty reputation burnished. To that end he only takes on two or three projects per year.

The process of building a garden can also be painstaking. Masuno and his team go to great lengths to find exactly the right materials for every project. For the garden at One Kowloon, for instance, he travelled to the southern island of Shikoku in Japan to choose the diamond-granite boulders he wanted from Gokenzan Mountain. It is little wonder then that his projects generally take around three years from conception to completion.

Image by Taku Imai
Image by Taku Imai

“Japanese gardens must express the underlying spirit that prevails in any given space,” he explains. “One does not design concepts like wabi (the avocation of enjoyment of a quiet life) or sabi (the connotation of melancholy) out of nothing. Careful consideration is given to the existing landscape and trees and also to how adding materials will impact this balance.”

Although he has achieved huge success in his career and is one of the world’s most bankable garden designers, Masuno remains something of an ascetic. When he is not travelling the world to oversee his projects or lecturing he can generally be found at home at Kenko-ji where he begins his daily routine by opening the temple doors at 4.30am. He meditates, chants scriptures and cleans his living environment before settling down to his design duties for the rest of the day. After eating dinner with his family he goes to bed every night without fail at 11pm. It is this discipline, he says, that helps inform his calming design creations.

“I cannot be a landscape designer without being a resident priest at the same time and vice versa,” he says. “Designing gardens, to me, is a means of engaging in a Zen task and I regard my work as a part of my spiritual training. In Japan we believe that there is a spirit in each stone and plant. This is a belief based on Buddhist teachings. How can I bring out the spirit that lies within? I am always questioning how I want the viewers to feel when they gaze over one of my gardens.

“I express Zen principles in my garden spaces. That is why I am indivisibly a Zen priest and a landscape designer.”

Now check out: 8 of the most sensational gardens in Thailand

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GARDENING GURU: Top 5 tips for creating biodiversity in your yard

Just when I thought I had covered the bases on this subject, I came to the stark realization that we have a lot of work to do. Clearly this discussion has a long way to go.

It started with concern about the decline in the honeybee population and has extended to the general concern shared by naturalists everywhere about the problems with our native population of pollinators.

We are no longer concerned exclusively with the decline of honeybees. Truth is, there are more than 700 species of native bees (honeybees are not native) that serve as primary pollinators in the natural environment, many of which you can attract to your yard with an insect hotel. In addition, there are thousands of other invertebrates that either pollinate over 30 per cent of the plants that we rely on for food or are essential members of the web of insects that make up the whole show.  It is complicated.

But luckily I am here to boil this one down for you. Take a mid-winter moment to digest the following and you will be on your way to understanding the whole, big picture.

1. Understand the meaning of biodiversity. The word comes from biological diversity. WWF defines it as: “The term given to the variety of life on earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact.” Biodiversity in your yard is represented by the range of naturally-occurring plant, animal and insect life that exists in it. There is much that you can do to increase biodiversity, or the range of life in your yard.

2. Plants — pack them in. However small your yard or balcony, do not underestimate the impact that you can have on the beneficial insect life in your neighbourhood by planting flowering plants. The longer each plant produces a flower and the more of them, the better.

If you have a minimum of six hours of sunshine in your garden you are in luck. The varieties of plants available to you are nearly limitless. If you are dealing with shade, you also have opportunities to plant flowering plants galore, but you will need to be more thoughtful about your plan. In either case, place your plants densely to attract the maximum number of pollinators.

3. Extend the beginning and the end. Crocuses are terrific pollinator-magnets and they bloom in March. Same for hellebores, snowdrops, early iris and dandelions. Yes, you read right. If you are blessed with dandelions and view them as weeds, but want to add biodiversity to your yard, you no doubt have some conflicted feelings. Answer: let them bloom and then cut them down or dig them out. While blooming, they are visited by many beneficial insects.

In the autumn there are many flowering plants that tolerate the early frosts while blooming — rudbeckia, Joe Pye weed, asters, mums and Japanese anemones to name a few.

4. Go native. Or not. A recent study in England indicated that it is not important to a bug that a plant is native, as long as it produces a blossom that attracts them in the first place. According to the results of ‘The Plants for Bugs Pollinator’ research it is the diversity of plant material that attracts the maximum range of bug species, not whether they are native. To quote the study, “The value of a site can be maximized for pollinators by choosing plants from different regions of the world.”

5. Add water and don’t stir. The single most impactful feature that you can add to your garden or balcony where attracting pollinators is concerned is to add a still-water feature.

A pond in the yard or a half-barrel on the balcony works just fine. When you add a water feature I can guarantee that you will discover wildlife in your yard that you have never seen before. As dragonflies, salamanders, frogs, toads, water beetles, amphibians, mammals and bugs discover your new drinking hole they will grow, thrive and breed. There is no downside.

We are only beginning this discussion. I hope that you will stay tuned to my column for more as we explore the importance of creating biodiversity in our yards and gardens.

As I look in to the crystal ball, I see the interest in attracting pollinators and creating biodiversity in Canadian gardens as growing steadily. Within a generation, the average Canadian garden will have little to do with the plant collections and formal, clipped and manicured gardens made popular after the Second World War.


  * * *

Mark Cullen is Canada’s best-known gardening broadcaster and writer. He is the spokesperson for Home Hardware Lawn and Garden. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at and watch him Wednesday mornings on Canada AM. His column, which focuses on our growing zone, appears in the Hants Journal every two weeks.


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Knowledge to Grow: 10 tips for planning, care of garden

Posted Jan. 15, 2016 at 7:00 PM

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Tips to create a wildlife-friendly garden

As the trend towards naturalistic gardens continues this year, tidy gardeners with pristine plots may need to chill out a bit if they want to really contribute to the balance of nature.

Yet having a wildlife-friendly garden doesn’t have to mean a chaotic onslaught of weeds, nettles and overgrown areas. With a little forethought and just a few changes, you could incorporate some measures which will make your garden far more welcoming.

Many of us don’t want to make our garden into a small-scale nature reserve, but there are ways we can make it more attractive to wildlife while staying in control. Just carefully placing a couple of bird feeders and baths in strategic positions can welcome nature while remaining unobtrusive. Work out what features you would like – it may be a butterfly border, mini-woodland or meadow, or simply a bird-feeding station, but plan to maximise the view you’ll get of the wildlife activity from your patio and your house.

Also, get to know your weeds. Some garden plants and wildflowers will self-sow just as enthusiastically as weeds and are frequently treated as such. Enthusiastic self-seeders include foxglove, cow parsley, ox-eye daisy, columbine (aquilegia) and hellebores. Don’t dig them out if you want to attract wildlife. If they really aren’t where you want them, move them to start a colony in a different place.

Grass can be a tricky issue if you don’t have an area where you can leave it to grow longer. However, leaving a few low-growing flowering weeds such as clover and daisies in it will attract insects. Just cut the grass less frequently and leave it slightly longer, but it doesn’t have to be up to your knees.

Alternatively, those with a bigger garden could opt for a flowering meadow with a mown path in the centre, which guides the visitor and gives the path a natural border of wildflowers and grasses. If you’re making a meadow from scratch, it’s more likely to succeed on poor soil. On moist, clay soils the effect is harder to achieve.

If you plan to create a wildflower meadow consult a specialist seed supplier who deals in native flora, to get the right mix of grasses and indigenous flora for your soil type. The main challenge is to stop the grass from overwhelming the flowers, hence the need for poor soil, where the lack of nutrients should limit the spread of tough, vigorous grasses.

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Garden Visions Conference offers tips, tricks

WAUSAU – With the bone-chilling temperatures and a layer of snow so thick you can’t see a speck of dirt or grass, getting down and dirty in the garden might be the last thing on your mind.

But nurturing your green thumb shouldn’t take a backseat in the cold, because right now is an ideal time of year to start planning your spring garden — at least according to the North Central Wisconsin Master Gardner Association.

This weekend, the NCWMG and the University of Wisconsin-Extension will host their annual Garden Visions Conference at Northcentral Technical College to help gardeners in northern climates hone their horticultural skills and become more educated on the latest agriculture trends.

“In January, people start looking through all the seed catalogs and start thinking, ‘Gee what can I do in my garden?'”  said Carol Bray, chairwoman of the Garden Visions Conference.

The annual conference, which started about 10 years ago, kicks off with a dinner Friday and a full day of presentations and breakout sessions Saturday.

The conference’s keynote speaker, Kerry Anne Mendez, a garden designer, author and lecturer from Maine, will discuss how to create, landscape and keep a low-maintenance perennial garden. The 16 breakout sessions afterwards will cover an expansive array of horticulture-related topics, from how to grow edible plants without a garden to flower arranging.

“We try to cover a little bit of everything so it meets the needs of a wide variety of attendees,” Bray said.

And the event isn’t just for master gardeners, although there are some in attendance. Every year, hundreds of people, including novice horticulturalists and people with a general interest in gardening, show up to stimulate their green thumbs, Bray said.

For more details and a full schedule of the conference’s presentations, visit

Attend the 2016 Garden Visions Conference

When: Friday’s dinner — the second annual Slow Food Dinner — runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday’s presentations and lectures begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Walk-ins to Saturday’s lectures are welcome and registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

Where: Northcentral Technical College, 1000 W. Campus Drive, Wausau.

Cost: $50 to register for Saturday. Friday’s dinner is at capacity and is no longer open for registration.

Going Out Reporter Melanie Lawder can be reached at or 715-845-0607. Find her on Twitter as @mel_lawder or follow her on Instagram as @mellawder.

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Small garden, huge wow factor

An undercover decked area offers space for outdoor entertaining.

The owners of this 440sqm Carine property may have downsized from a 970sqm block in Duncraig but they haven’t compromised on a garden with wow factor.

With a new house built by Peter Stannard Homes on what was once part of a tennis court, and the ability to enjoy the pretty reserve almost across the road, they’re glad they made the move — and the new garden is the icing on the cake.

The exterior of the Carine property is enhanced by the garden design.

The owner gained inspiration listening to a program on Curtin FM radio in which Janine Mendel, of CultivArt Landscape Design, was being interviewed about her specialty — small blocks.

“I wrote her details down on a Coles docket and put it in the glove box,” she said. “Then when we started looking at building and met one of our new neighbours, it turned out that Janine’s her best friend.”

Rusted feature panels are back-lit and create ambience.

The couple found the vacant block by accident while walking their daughter’s two dogs around the lake. They saw the for-sale sign and went to have a look.

It was an easy decision to uproot and just as easy to contact Ms Mendel, see her garden and ask her to design theirs.

INEX Pro director Josh Urwin was commissioned to put Ms Mendel’s ideas into practice while interior designer Heidi La Cava came up with the striking wall and fence colours which match and highlight the plants.

A tiled wall with feature spouts creates movement and sound within the garden.

The triangular block has a 12m frontage and widens out to 21m at the back. Alongside the house is a swimming pool by Five Star Pools Spas.

Mr Urwin had to put planking over the half-finished pool to get access to different parts of the block where he completed the pool paving and decking and an in-ground box for the retractable pool blanket.

He also created plant-filled beds around the covered alfresco area and alongside the kitchen and made a stunning front garden.

Lush, verdant plantings surround the deck for a tropical feel.

The Colorbond fence on the two sides — as well as some of the exterior rendered wall and the letterbox — are painted with Dulux Metalise, while offset rendered panels are alternately finished in the lime green of Dulux Laird and the dark blue of Dulux Sea Blithe.

Some of the panels are inset with deliberately rusty screens with a cut-out wattle pattern.

At the front, a semicircle of lawn is segmented by cobblestones.

Nearby is a low decking plinth with a big bowl of succulents and twin white-blossoming Natchez crepe myrtles attract bees.

Uplit feature plantings offer focus and variance around the space.

Tall Purple Cloud agapanthus circle a red-flowering poinciana and the understorey throughout the garden shines in bright yellow and purplish greens and reds, which were chosen to reflect the paint colours.

Plants include liriope, orange jessamine, Alternanthera Little Ruby, Philodendron Xanadu, elephants’ ears, strelitzia, sacred bamboo, lady and kentia palms, pittosporum and hibiscus.

The one plant taken from the owners’ Duncraig garden — an elkhorn at least 23 years old — thrives on the wall outside the kitchen.

The owners said they are thrilled that their beautiful new garden also has frogs.

CultivArt Landscape Design, 0414 865 747,; INEX Pro, 0422 754 225,

The West Australian

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Local officials: Walmart closures shocking, devastating

One crew finishes up landscaping as a second crew installs the primary sign on top of a pole, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, at a new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market location slated to open soon in Tyler, Texas. Even as the Bentonville, Ark., based company plans to open three stores in Tyler, the company announced Friday the planned closure of 269 stores, more than half of them in the U.S. and another big chunk in its challenging Brazilian market. 

NETTLETON, Mississippi — Local officials say they’re stunned by news that Walmart is closing stores in their areas.

“That was devastating news to us. We had planned for that store to increase our sales and that put a damper on our ideas,” Mayor Mem Riley of Nettleton, Mississippi, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

In Jefferson Davis Parish, La., economic development director Marion “Butch” Fox told the American Press that officials did not have any clue that the store in Lake Arthur might close, and had thought it and one in nearby Iowa were doing well.

Riley said the majority of the Nettleton store’s customers came from out of town.

“They are from Amory or Smithville that drive through there headed to Tupelo,” Riley said. “They come back here and shop on the way to work. They just figured out where it was, and here (Wal-Mart) is pulling the plug.”

Six stores in north Mississippi and eight around Louisiana are among 269 that Walmart will shutter worldwide.

Other affected Louisiana stores are in Kentwood, Independence, Mamou, Colfax, Clinton and Zwolle.

The others in Mississippi are in Belmont, Mantachie, Sardis, Walnut, and Dermas.

In all, the closings affect about 240 Louisiana workers and nearly 180 in Mississippi.

Company spokeswoman Anne Hatfield said laid-off workers will have priority for openings at nearby stores.

A 45,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market employing 60 to 70 people is scheduled to open this year in Tupelo.

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Q and A: South County mayors talk about goals, challenges facing local cities …

On Jan. 1, new mayors took over in most south Orange County cities.

The mayors, who serve one-year terms, are chosen by their fellow City Council members.

Here, new South County mayors tell The Orange County Register about their goals for their city, for the region and for their tenures.

Editor’s note: Some answers have been edited for clarity and/or length.


Name: Mike Munzing

Q. What are the top three issues facing the city this year?

A. Public safety is paramount for our residents, and we’ve been lucky to be among the safest cities in the county. I’m going to do anything I can do to help (residents) when they have needs, providing them the latest and greatest equipment to keep them safe.

The future of Aliso Viejo Ranch is an important issue. I’d like to see us bring back that beautiful historical aspect of what that land means to the community and possibly partner with others to bring a broader historical education program to the property.

We’ve got 400 new apartments and a new hotel coming to the city, so I’m excited to see who’s coming. It’s going to be great watching new people have an opportunity to move into the area and enjoy places like Town Center for the first time.

Q. What do you think is the biggest issue facing South County as a region?

A. It’s important for all of us to communicate well, especially regarding state legislation that can affect local control. I’ve enjoyed getting to know my fellow mayors and sharing knowledge. There are several veterans, but many of us are first-time mayors. So far, we’ve been really good at collaborating, meeting and helping each other as best we can.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your term as a mayor?

A. I believe I made my mark on the city in my first three years on the council, influencing the outlook and makeup of the council. Now I’ve got an opportunity as mayor to have us all shine. It’s not about me as mayor. It’s about the five of us doing a great job for the city.


Name: Laurie Davies

Q. What are the top three issues facing the city this year?

A. We finished tier one of our Crown Valley Park refurbishment project in 2015, and we’re going to start working on tier two in July. We’ll be creating a new bridge, a lighted parking lot, a new entry monument with an electronic marquee, trails and landscaping. We should be done in about a year.

The AGORA Arts District and Downtown Laguna Niguel project is one of the most exciting things happening in Laguna Niguel. Environmental analysis of the project should begin this month, and it will most likely take six to eight months to complete before coming back to the council for approval. This is something this community has lacked – a central place for families and kids to come and spend time.

We’ll also be continuing our street rehabilitation program. I think Laguna Niguel has some of best streets in Orange County, so I’d like to continue working on those.

Q. What do you think is the biggest issue facing South County?

A. As representatives on local, regional and state boards, we mayors and other city leaders need to make sure to fight to retain local control. We need to fight and we need other representatives to fight for us before decisions get to the city council level. We want to make sure to keep our costs down, which will show up in our residents’ taxes.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your term as a mayor?

A. Having an informed city is my priority this year. For myself and City Manager Rod Foster, it’s imperative to having great communication with our city staff, so we met with each staff member and talked with them about whatever tools they may need to make their job performance even better. I’ll (also) be holding a series of informal meetups with residents, with the first 7:30-9 a.m. Jan. 26 at Mimi’s Cafe, so we can talk about what’s going on in the city and so I can listen to their ideas to make this city even better.


Name: Andrew Hamilton

Q. What are the top three issues facing the city this year?

A. Although the greatest percentage of residents and businesses did not identify a concern in our most recent 2014 satisfaction survey, the largest communicated issue was traffic congestion. In 2015, the City Council formed an ad hoc traffic committee, which will provide recommendations in 2016, and we hope to begin implementing recommendations shortly thereafter.

Another issue facing the city is that we lease our City Hall for approximately $1 million each year. Using previously obtained land, the city anticipates breaking ground in 2016 on a new civic and senior center without incurring any debt.

Lastly, as we currently provide cost-effective and high-quality city services to residents and business, future cost increases due to costly state mandates and vendor cost increases always seem to threaten our annual balanced budget. As a CPA, I plan to help find creative solutions to maintain high service levels while limiting future cost increases.

Q. What do you think is the biggest issue facing South County?

A. Although unfunded pension liabilities and traffic are strong contenders, I believe the largest issue facing south Orange County is our tenuous water supply reliability. As South County was not blessed with an underlying aquifer to store water, we are heavily reliant on imported state water from outdated, 60-year-old water infrastructure of dirt levees and insufficient reservoir capacity. Offset by valiant regional efforts, South County cannot solve this issue by reducing our water consumption. We need statewide leadership to provide more reliable conveyance systems along with increased groundwater and reservoir storage.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your term as a mayor?

A. I want to encourage Lake Forest to become a city of kindness based on Anaheim’s model. Working together to improve our city, acts of kindness will unite neighbors to strengthen our community.

Lastly, I want to lead in helping our residents and businesses obtain their estimated $6million of unclaimed property, funds that have gone missing from uncashed checks, dormant bank accounts, lost utility deposits, etc.

I want to publicize these funds using an interactive map on our city website and hold outreach events to reunite Lake Forest residents and businesses with their own money.


Name: Barbara Kogerman

Q. What are the top three issues facing the city this year?

A. The first is the Laguna Hills mall renovation. We used to be the premier mall and the talk of the town; now it has kind of deteriorated. Our retail tax revenue has recovered since the recession, but there is just so much more to be had to provide services to the city.

Second is animal care. After 20 years of (the county) dragging (its) feet over the (current) 70-year old shelter, we started looking for other alternatives like Mission Viejo. Rancho Santa Margarita and our city still have a good chance of going with a better service animal shelter. I don’t want to take a chance on the county saying we’re going to make these changes since they’ve had since the ’40s to make those changes. (Editor’s note: Dissatisfaction with the quality of service and the condition of the OC Animal Care shelter has prompted Laguna Hills to explore other options for animal services.)

The current issue with the Philips-Mazda property in the Alicia Gateway area. There is a lot of opportunity to make improvements there. It is sad-looking, and the commercial areas are in need of refreshing.

Q. What do you think is the biggest issue facing South County?

A. Housing is a regional issue; the average new construction of housing is pushing $1 million. The population is aging and the number of young children and number of people per household is decreasing. Our kids are finishing high school and they are moving on and they’re not coming back because they can’t afford to live here. It’s not just Laguna Hills; it is all of Orange County. We have about a 60,000-person shortage of houses versus jobs in Orange County. I think employers are already saying, “I am not going to build in Orange County when my employees can’t afford to live out here.”

Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your term as a mayor?

A. When appointed, Kogerman said her goals were to start a city Planning Commission, and to start an initiative called Put a Roof on It that aims to reduce parking issues while benefiting charities that support veterans.


Name: Noel Hatch

Q. What are the top three issues facing the city this year?

A. The top three issues we face are maintaining our financial strength, expanding our commercial sector and maintaining our public safety. With the general plan, we want to strengthen the city’s commercial sector and encourage businesses to open in our community. The city is in a strong financial situation, but focusing on economic growth will allow us to improve our service to the community. As far as safety, we want to maintain the safety that Laguna Woods is known for.

Q. What do you think is the biggest issue facing South County?

A. Orange County is aging because of a lack of affordable homes for young families. If that problem isn’t addressed, the county will see things like schools shut down and businesses move away. In the end, it might be good for us, though, because we are an older community and a desirable place to retire. But it will be bad for the county as a whole.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your term as a mayor?

A. I would like to see us increase our visibility and stature in greater Orange County. Other than that, I wish to continue the level plans of the previous council.


NAME: Frank Ury

Q. What are the top three issues facing the city this year?

A. The Marguerite Aquatics Center renovation. This is one of the largest capital programs in the history of the city; it is imperative the we kick the improvements off on time and work to keep the costs in line with the budgets.

Water. As with all of Southern California, we must work as a city and regionally on water conservation, reclamation and generation. Mission Viejo already has replaced half the irrigation systems in the city with intelligent irrigation systems that use data and weather measurements to water areas only when needed. I look forward to the city voting on replacing the rest of the city’s controllers in the near future.

Traffic. We in South County are going to see over $800 million spent on I-5 and other road improvements over the next five years. This and local measures should really help our traffic in the near future.

Q. What do you think is the biggest issue facing South County?

A. As I mentioned – water. We need to put solutions in place not for the next year, but with the vision to keep the water issues solved for the next few decades.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your term as a mayor?

A. Mission Viejo is very well-run, so my hope is to keep us working together to maintain our strength in finances, keep us the safest city in Orange County and to make substantial strides in our economic development by bringing businesses and jobs to Mission Viejo. In addition, as a technologist, I would like to see our city work on what I call constituent self-service, basically giving our residents access to information so they can see what the status is of their home improvement design approvals, what the availability is of our recreation centers, etc. The goal is to make it easier for residents to view the same data as our staff, to get them that information quicker and the way they want it.


NAME: Tony Beall

Q. What are the top three issues facing the city this year?

A. The good thing about being a mayor in Rancho Santa Margarita is that our city is in great shape. We don’t have a lot of the difficult issues that many cities are facing.

My No. 1 priority is to protect and enhance the original vision of our master planned community because to me it’s that vision that brings our residents the quality of life that they enjoy.

I want to focus on economic development, especially in regard to our auto center. We are looking to engage an economic development consultant that has focus in auto business, and we want to investigate and increase signage for our auto dealers.

I think we deliver a first-class level of service to our residents at City Hall, but I’m working closely with our city manager to ensure that we fine-tune and improve where possible the delivery of services.

Q. What do you think is the biggest issue facing South County?

A. One is water and one is traffic.

Water is a significant because the water districts that serve our residents are imposing restrictions on residents’ ability to use water and increasing the rates they charge residents for that water. I believe this is a man-made issue caused by years of failure in Sacramento. At the same time that tremendous development was approved in our region, the Legislature failed to approve any water storage infrastructure.

Just the ability to get around South County is getting increasingly difficult as more development occurs. Badly needed infrastructure like the extension of the 241 toll road is being held up for years, which hurts the quality of life for Rancho residents and anybody riding in south Orange County. The solution to a lot of this is the extension of the 241 toll road.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your term as a mayor?

A. As a result of the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and elsewhere, and as a result of Proposition 47 that caused a spike in property crimes, I want to ensure that Rancho residents never become complacent. We are the safest city in California, but it doesn’t mean we are crime-free.

I want to ensure that we communicate to our residents, our business owners and our school officials, all that they can do to work with us to be prepared. I intend to have a meeting and discuss this with, No. 1, our chief of police; No. 2, we will sit down with all the principals in the city to discuss these issues; No. 3, we will provide directly to residents the information that help them be prepared and let them know that we are prepared. For example, our public newsletters and all the information that we send out to our residents.


NAME: Bob Baker

Q. What are the top three issues facing the city this year?

A. The most important issue we face is the proposed closure of the San Clemente hospital and emergency room. I think this is a terrible idea and a disservice to our community. The hospital is part of a nonprofit corporation that is acting like a for-profit company. I am going to do everything I can to convince the owners that investing some money in modernizing the current hospital and emergency room will be better for everyone.

Complaints are growing about vacation rentals and sober-living houses in some of our residential neighborhoods. Many people operate businesses in residential zones without affecting their neighbors, but these two businesses can have huge negative impacts. Some of these owners are not being fair to their neighbors. People who have issues with inconsiderate neighbors should call Code Enforcement at 949-366-4705 or the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 949-770-6011.

Traffic is an important issue, and it should start to get better in 2016. The freeway construction should be finished by early 2018, and we will see fewer instances where the traffic comes to a halt through town. The La Pata extension will open this year and should help a lot. This project should have been done 20-plus years ago.

Q. What do you think is the biggest issue facing South County?

A. The closure of the San Clemente hospital has enormous regional impacts. (Local) emergency rooms will become even more crowded. San Clemente residents will have to travel farther for emergency services. In addition, our firefighters and police will be out of service longer when they have to take folks to these more distant emergency rooms.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish during your term as a mayor?

A. Continue the effort to improve the current sidewalk replacement program. We have a number of sidewalks in need of repair or replacement. The current regulations are overly complicated and unfair to a large number of residents. We need more sidewalks in some parts of town.

I want to encourage more residents to take part in city government. Call or write the city when you have something to say. If you just complain to your family or friends and don’t let someone know, less gets accomplished. Call 949-361-8200 or visit

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