Bob WHalen, left, and Chris Quilter at Whalen's kick-off party Sunday.

Bob WHalen, left, and Chris Quilter at Whalen's kick-off party Sunday. (Courtesy Kirsten Whalen / September 18, 2012)

Bob Whalen is looking to move up from advising the City Council as a planning commissioner to making decisions as a member of the City Council.

Whalen kicked off his campaign for a City Council seat on Sunday at the home of Dr. Gary and Betsy Jenkins. Almost 60 invited guests attended.

"People always ask, 'why you are running?'" said Whalen. "I have three reasons.

"First and most significant, Anne Johnson and Elizabeth Pearson, said they wouldn't stop calling until I did."

Planning Commissioner Johnson and Councilwoman Pearson are both on Whalen's campaign committee, along with Councilman Kelly Boyd, Planning Commissioner Linda Dietrich and former chairman of the Design Review Task Force Matt Lawson.

On a more serious note, Whalen enjoys volunteering in Laguna. He has served on the school board, the Little League board and the Boys & Girls Club.

"It is important to give back, and I feel I can make a contribution," Whalen said. "I have lived here for 27 years. My daughter represents the next generation. And I think I have some skills."

Whalen has spent 30 years working as an attorney for public agencies.

"My record on the school board shows I know how to budget," Whalen said. "The city does a good job," he said, citing the 10% reserve in the general fund and the Recession Smoothing Account set aside to cover shortfalls, "but these are tough economic times.

"We have to be able to balance the budget."

Whalen said he thinks the Downtown Specific Plan needs work to revitalize the core area and Laguna Canyon from the Village Entrance to El Toro Road.

"Laguna College of Art has grown helter skelter, and we need to put utilities underground," Whalen said.

As for the Village Entrance, "People have been talking about it for 25 or 30 years," Whalen said. "We need to get it done."

Parking is another priority.

"People say parking is only an issue in July and August," Whalen said. "I was downtown Thursday, and I could not find a parking place."

People at the campaign kickoff took him at his word.

Laguna Beach Live! founder Lucinda Prewitt asked Whalen about support for a performing arts venue, in light of the difficulties in reserving the Laguna Beach High School Artists' Theatre for community events.

"Art, including the performing arts, are what we are all about, and I would support a venue," Whalen said.

Boyd suggested that with his connections to the school district, Whalen would make a good liaison to the on increasing community use of the high school theater.

Whalen also assured Marni Magda of his support for the council's recent stand that San Onofre should not continue to operate under current conditions.