6:45 PM EDT, June 30, 2011
Four years ago, six Democrats were vying for their party's presidential nomination. Back then, the pundits griped there was very little light between the candidates. Not surprisingly, that's virtually the same thing I have been hearing since the Republicans debated in New Hampshire on June 13.
With the long Fourth of July weekend upon us, I have a suggestion for all the candidates hoping to challenge President Obama next year: Make sure you are seen eating hot dogs — the great American icon of food — as often as possible. Why? Because according to the Recipe Source, more than 150 million hot dogs will be consumed this holiday weekend. No politician can afford to pass up an audience that large.
Just ask my good friends Mayor Toni Iseman, Realtor Audrey Prosser, dentist Jim or certified public accountant Alan. Better yet, ask Obama. He recently ate a hot dog during a much-publicized outing in Toledo, Ohio. It was there he told the mayor, "Hold the ketchup."
Some people like Hebrew Nationals while others crave Nathan's or Boar's Head. A few die-hards still like Ballpark or Oscar Mayer. The truth is, hot dogs are big business.
When I am not eating hot dogs, I usually find myself mired in politics. That said, I have begun to wonder lately where each of the GOP presidential candidates stands on the all-important issue of "the dog."
No, this isn't a topic that will be debated anytime soon; however, I personally would like to know how each of them would dress his or her hot dog. Not that this will be my political tipping point, but it certainly will help me separate the true believers from the pretenders. So here, as a public service, I offer up the following White House contenders and their ideal hot dog.
Michele Bachmann of Minnesota: Is there any question here? The Iowa native loves corn dogs with a dab of yellow mustard. She can eat hers in a skirt or jeans. It doesn't get any more "down home, mid-Western values" than this.
Herman Cain of Georgia: If anyone can mix it up on the campaign trail, it's the former Godfather's Pizza chief executive. I see him creating something new on the stump. Along with chili, look to Cain to include bacon and at least three cheeses on his hot dog.
Newt Gingrich of Georgia: Given his reputation for long answers, I expect the former speaker of the House to have the most to say about his dog. With this thought in mind, I see Gingrich as a mustard and relish guy. On a whim, he might add a few chopped onions on top.
Jon Huntsman of Utah: Like his former boss, Huntsman appreciates a good Chicago-style dog. This is a steamed or boiled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun. It's topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedge and a touch of celery salt. Is this why Obama named him ambassador to China?
Ron Paul of Texas: No steamed dog for this doctor. He's a barbecue guy through and through. Not given to excess, Paul likes his dog plain (which, of course, mirrors his "no frills" campaign).
Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota: Of all the presidential contenders, I am most confused about Pawlenty. Candidly, I think he leans toward a Twins-style, baseball stadium favorite. That would be, by most accounts, dark mustard only.
Mitt Romney of Massachusetts: I predict the urbane Romney sneaks in a mean chili dog when no one is looking. How else could he do it? He never is messy on the campaign trail. It wouldn't surprise me if the former governor adds sauerkraut to his dog.
Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania: Forget the Philly cheesesteak, Senator. I'm going to go out on a limb and say you prefer a turkey or tofu dog. If true, then you like your dog piled high with ketchup, grilled onions and a dab of relish.
There are other Republicans running for president or thinking about it like Laguna's Fred Karger, former vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin, Texas Gov. Rick Perry or even New York's Donald Trump. I would never question their reputation or patriotism by implying they don't like hot dogs; it's just that I don't know which one they'd like.
Either way it works out for the current crop of GOP presidential contenders, here's one thing I know for sure: If you want to be the next commander-in-chief, then you better enjoy the fireworks and eat hot dogs. It doesn't get more American than that.
Open Space Initiative burdens homeowners
The Laguna property owners bought 23,000 acres of canyons and hilltops with a bond of $20 million, paid over 20 years. This debt ends this year. This new initiative is asking for another $20 million, to buy 550 acres of land scattered around Laguna, which they admit isn't likely to be developed given the parcel size and rugged terrain. They want us to blindly pay into their fund without giving us any specifics.
In 1990, Laguna Canyon was planned for mass development. We saw the property in question. This initiative declines to identify which parcels — claiming to avoid "price escalation." Vacant lot owners know the value of their land regardless of whether they have an offer today or six months from now by the initiative committee.
Are these "parcels" the small strips and triangles of city property adjacent to our city streets? These small patches are now maintained by neighbors or the city and much too small to be developed. And, will the committee personally profit from these particular parcels being sold? The property owners in 95% of Laguna won't see any improvement to their views or property values.
The Laguna Canyon Foundation has used the $20 million from the 1990 bond, along with $12 million in park bonds approved by the voters in 2000. They also raised $2.7 million from more than 7,000 donors and $7.8 million in state grants, funds from private land donations as well as federal and city funds to buy and preserve the land within and around Laguna Beach for the last 20 years.
This includes the Laguna Coast and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park, as well as the city of Irvine's open space preserve.
Let them continue their great work to preserve open space with private donations and donors. Ask the 2,700 voters signing the Open Space Initiative petition to pay $120 a year for 20 years.
The Laguna Canyon Foundation already has the committee to investigate possible parcels and all the operational experience. Homeowners don't want another parcel tax for another self appointed group to do the same job.
The economy is in a recession, our retirement funds have diminished, and health-care costs are on the rise. Utilities, gasoline, food and insurance costs have increased. Let each individual decide if they want to donate, whether they own, rent or are just visiting.
'Like-minded' residents work together
Gathering signatures for the Open Space Initiative, I've been enjoying the opportunity to say "hi" to a lot of people who live in and love Laguna Beach and want to help make it even better.
One morning as I stood outside of the supermarket with my petition in hand, a truck drove up. The driver rolled down his window while his passenger got out of the truck and ran into the store, and he asked me what I was doing. I told him all about the initiative and asked him to sign my petition to help get it on the ballot.
He said that he would be "more than happy" to do that, and while he was signing he told me how much he loved living in Laguna Beach. When his passenger returned, she too signed the petition.
As they drove off, a woman came up to me and asked, "What do you have there?" When I told her, she said, "Of course I'll sign that!" I began to envision the possibility of some kind of drive-through arrangement for signers.
My friends who are out on the streets with their petitions all have similar stories. Meeting so many like-minded people simply confirms for me what a special community this is.