Laguna Beach firefighters want Planning Commissioner Robert Whalen on the City Council.

The Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn., to which Laguna firefighters pay union dues, notified Whalen by mail of the endorsement Saturday.

"Of all the candidates, incumbents and challengers alike, Bob has articulated the strongest commitment to improving public safety, in particular, disaster preparedness," according to the association's Political Director Tony Bedolla's press release.

"That's what our members care most about, and, frankly, that's what everyone who lives in Laguna Beach should care most about given the city's recent history of devastating brush fires, deadly floods and damaging landslides," Bedolla added.

Whalen was also endorsed by the Laguna Beach Police Employees' Assn.

"I'm honored to be the only council candidate supported by both the fire and police employee groups," Whalen said. "We owe a great deal to these brave men and women who protect our safety and our homes.

"If elected to council, I intend to do everything I can to ensure that they have the resources and support to do their jobs properly," he continued.

"When that recent brush fire broke out above Ruby's Diner in South Laguna, I was at a campaign reception nearby," Whalen added. "I saw first-hand the immediate and highly effective response from our fire and police departments."

He noted that more than 150 firefighters averted a potential tragedy "that could have destroyed a good part of our community."

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Candidates forum

Meanwhile, the Laguna Beach Republicans and Laguna Beach Taxpayers Assn. forum took place Sept. 28.

How and on what the city spends its money was the primary focus of the forum.

Asked about outsourcing services if it would save taxpayers money, candidates said the city already does that to some extent — but never the police or fire departments.

"No" was the response of the candidates when asked if city employee contracts should be put to a public vote.

Another question was about prioritizing the $100 million unfunded projects in the city budget.

"In my personal experience, we wrote a strategic plan before we wrote the budget," said moderator Dennis Myers. "With the city budget, it's spend it and now go out and spend some more."

Mayor Jane Egly explained that unfunded projects are the city's wish list.

"Like most families, we have a certain amount of money to spend," Egly said. "We might want new floors, but if the roof leaks, that comes first.

"The lifeguard headquarters was on the list for a long time, and now it has come to fruition," she added.