Who is Serving Whom?

Public Servants...

What we don’t know can and will kill us! At the least, it can and will devastate our city’s finances. At the August 17, 2010 council meeting, the Capistrano Organizational Review Effort (CORE) Team, comprised of selected city staff, submitted to the council a report on “In-Sourcing vs. Outsourcing.” A glaring fact in the report was that, in an era where outsourcing can enhance efficiency and curb cost, our city continues to use in-house personnel to process its payroll. This is simply mind-boggling.

Then at the November 16, 2010 council meeting, more ugly truth concerning city wages and benefits finally surfaced. Here is a summary:

For the calendar year ended December 31, 2009, taxpayers paid. . . 
  • An “Accounting Specialist,” AKA: Payroll Clerk, to process the city’s bi-monthly payroll at a cost of over $60,000 per year. 
  • 124 employees (today the city has 133 employees., 119 full-time and 14 part-time). 
  • $7.7 million in wages per year ($647,657 per month) before benefits. This was 39% of the city’s budget of $20 million (now $17 million). 
  • 55 employees (more than 44% of the total staff) received overtime pay or other compensation. The cost to taxpayers was $403,000 ($33,583 per month). 
  • $326,000 for the employee share of pension contributions. This is in addition to the employer share also paid by taxpayers. Seems like they want all the money! 
  • $58,000 in deferred compensation to key employees. 
  • $977,000 for the staff and dependent’s health, vision, and dental premiums. Taxpayers are footing 100% of the cost for both the staff and their family members! Are you upset yet? 

But wait! There is more…a lot more:

Economic Profiling by the OC Sheriff and San Juan Capistrano

Taxation by Citation

When was the last time you received a traffic ticket in San Juan Capistrano?

From our observation the favorite spots for the Sheriff to give tickets, by direction of our city council, are on the east side of town at Ambuehl School 7 a.m.-8 a.m. while parents drop their children off at school, Camino Lacouague while parents drop their kids off to walk to SJHHS, the Ortega speed trap just east of La Novia, and last but not least – exceeding $400+ each ticket – the red light cameras at Ortega/Del Obispo and at Camino Capistrano/Del Obispo.

Did you know our city splits the revenue from these tickets with the Sheriff? Apparently, $7 million+ fee for the Sheriff's services is not enough, and who can blame our illustrious city leaders present and past resorting to this form of Taxation by Citation?

Election Recap

Looking Forward

Well, as the swallows of Capistrano Common Sense foretold, the makeup of our City Council has really changed with the recent election. Capistrano Common Sense wishes to congratulate Larry Kramer, Derek Reeve, and John Taylor as they become the new City Council members on Tuesday, December 7.

It will be very interesting to see how votes line up over the next two years, as many perceive Allevato, Kramer and Taylor to be representing the "good ole' boys" club, Freese to be on a mission to "yuppify" our downtown (even if it means using eminent domain) and giving our hard-earned tax dollars to every social engineering program in town, while Reeve is the scholar and "unknown" on the council.

We hope you will all listen to your constituents, treat us with respect whether we agree or disagree on issues, and remember that you are representing the citizens of San Juan Capistrano with every decision you make.

In that vein, we'd like to raise the following issues that our readers, friends and families think are important and areas deserving of your attention:
  • Stop pursuing building or purchasing a new City Hall. You don't need one and we don't want one. 
  • Please stop wasting our tax dollars on lobbyists and grant writing. There is no such thing as "free" money. Taxpayers pay for all sides of grants as well as salaries for staff and lobbyists to obtain them. 
  • Establish San Juan Capistrano as a Rule of Law City and please don't tell us it can't be done. While you're at it, require E-Verify for not only City Staff and Contractors, but for every business that operates in our City when they apply for a business license. 
  • Speaking of business licenses, do you know that some of our neighboring cities do not require them? If we eliminated this expense, perhaps more businesses would stay in San Juan Capistrano. And definitely eliminate the requirement for a “building” to have a business license.. 
  • Remove the red light cameras. They don't reduce accidents or improve safety, but are unfriendly to businesses, citizens and visitors. A great example of taxation by citation. 
  • Instruct the OC Sheriff officers in our City to apply the law to all residents equally in all areas of our City. 
  • Cut our City Staff to a more reasonable number, somewhere between 50 and 75 and take another look at the employment benefits they receive, once again all at taxpayer expense. 
  • Be open and transparent in every way possible. No more back door deals and secret meetings. A great step in that direction would be to televise all City Council meetings. 
We look forward to hearing your views and seeing how things play out with this new Council makeup. We will be paying close attention and trust you will do your best to represent the citizens of San Juan Capistrano.

Happy New Year to our City Council and to all citizens of San Juan Capistrano!

My children and my property value on November 2

A Mom's "Special Interests"
Kim McCarthy

November 2 is an opportunity for San Juan Capistrano parents to vote to support their children and for all voters to protect their property values. We have watched our property values plummet while our historic town has been turned into a sanctuary city. Meanwhile, our current city “leaders” are spending our money like there’s no tomorrow on unnecessary pet projects.

I may not be a doctor, a businessman, or an open space committee member, but I know what’s good for my family and it’s not another four years of bad decisions by incumbents or committee members and their associates.

In the last City Council election, I made the mistake of trusting candidates who said they believed in public safety, fiscal responsibility and transparency, without asking for specifics. This time around I have asked for specifics and because I have done my homework, I am voting for REEVE, REARDON and WORTHINGTON for the following reasons:

Home Invasion in San Juan Capistrano

Orrie Brown

Yes, that's exactly what one family experienced on Tuesday, September 21. Martin Ramirez, a known gang member from San Clemente, was fleeing Deputies and entered a home to hide, while the family was home. The residents noticed a door in their master bedroom was closed, and had previously been open, so they became suspicious. The OCSD helicopter was in the air and deputies and canine units in the neighborhood. They called for help and five Deputies entered the house, with guns drawn, and successfully captured Ramirez.

The residents and law enforcement officials were very fortunate that there were no injuries, as Ramirez is wanted for attempted murder, auto theft, evading arrest, and trespassing. According to Lt. Dan Dwyer, he is currently being held at OC Jail, with one million dollars bail. Ramirez is also on hold for ICE as it is suspected he is not in the US legally. While living in a Gang Injunction zone makes City Council candidates Kramer, Nielsen and Taylor feel "safe", it scares the heck out of most of us who know what that means and how and why we got here. I look forward to the day when living under a Gang Injunction is no longer needed. Our City leaders should be working towards that goal and not accepting the status quo. Rid our City of "our" gang problems by tough enforcement of the law and focus on public safety!

Giving the Farm Away

Tony Brown, Editorial Board

It must be Global Warming. It must be the overwhelming heat. What else could explain this city council’s insistence on giving the Farm away (literally) to the non-profit group “The Ecology Center”?

They made a decision recently that they must think was very brave. They increased the rent for the Center’s use of the Congdon House and the surrounding grounds (3/4 of an acre) from $680 per year to $1,200 per year. This works out to about 27 cents per foot per year.

Crazy Issues

Jay Wade, CCS Reader

Three issues that are driving us absolutely CRAZY here in San Juan Capistrano are ridiculously apparent to those paying the bill (taxpayers) but seemingly a bona fide mystery to those spending other people’s money (city staff and city council). They are:

Immigration
What business does the City of San Juan have committing tens of thousands of our taxpayer dollars towards the funding of programs for illegals when we can’t even manage our OWN costs? 

Ground Water Recovery Plant
For God’s sake, audit the GWRP to find out why we’re spending $200,000 more per month to operate it than if we purchased the water from the Metropolitan Water District. If the rationale for building the GWRP was to create our own independent water source and save money and it is instead losing money, let’s find out why and figure out whether it makes sense to continue to dump money into it.

Open Space
Quoting council candidate Derek Reeve, who rightfully asked “How bad was the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park deal? Just look at the Purchase and Sale Agreement for the property that was purchased with the proceeds from the Open Space Bond approved by the voters in 2008. Keep in mind when you read it that this deal was negotiated entirely in secret by 3 unelected members of the Open Space Committee. None of them filed Conflict of Interest Disclosure forms which are required of every other committee and commission member in our city, yet they were allowed to negotiate real estate deals with tens of millions in public funds. One of the three (Brad Gates) owns property in close proximity to the newly acquired Open Space”. This reeks of special interest, collusion and theft of public funds.

When are we going to wake up and elect real, transparent fiscal conservatives to the City Council? I urge San Juan residents to VOTE for Reeve, Reardon and Worthington!

An Opportunity for San Juan Voters

John Perry, CCS Reader

The voters of San Juan Capistrano have an opportunity to change the way business is conducted in the future by the City Council. I can think of five good reasons why the incumbents do not deserve to be re-elected.

- The City Council has failed to manage the delivery of water to its residents without an endless series of rate increases. Since 2006, when (Lon) Uso and (Mark) Nielsen were elected, the water rates, including sewer, have nearly doubled. Every time the local water plant (GWRP) gets in the red, the council comes back to the ratepayers for another tax increase.

- Uso and Nielsen were involved on a committee with the developer of the Distrito La Novia/Meadows project promising to deliver a General Plan amendment and zoning change if the developer, ARES, agreed to build the kind of project they wanted. When ARES purchased the property, they knew they had entitlements to build a hotel and residential units. However, the City Council needs revenue and they see this project as the "golden goose," despite opposition from nearby residents who will be impacted by the traffic, excavation of the dump and at least 500 horses

- The City Council has failed the residents who thought they voted for open-space bonds, only to find that a secret deal had been cut with the equestrian elite to purchase the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. This $27.5 million giveaway to the ranch is currently leased back to the previous operator for $200,000 per year when the cost to the taxpayers is over $2 million per year in bond repayment and maintenance costs.

- The Orange County Register reported that San Juan Capistrano's city manager was being paid $324,000 per year, the second-highest in the county. The City Council defended the salary, saying the city manager really was being paid for doing two jobs, city manager and utilities director, and that he was really saving the city money. The Register also disclosed that six top city administrators were all making more than $200,000. Not bad, huh?

- The city has blundered into a $9.4 million judgment for demanding property dedication as part of a 30-house development by a local resident. The resident sued and the jury found the city has acted improperly by requiring the property as a condition for approval of the development. The loss is not covered by insurance, and interest is accruing at $1,800 per day while the city ponders an appeal. Unless the city prevails on appeal, the city may have to declare bankruptcy if they can't find a pot of gold. Vote on Nov. 2 to change the City Council of San Juan Capistrano.

Larry Kramer: A Good Man with a Bad Habit


Open Letter to San Juan Capistrano from Roy L Byrnes, M. D. former Mayor


Larry Kramer and I have been friends. Nevertheless, when Larry asked for my vote in the City Council election, I had to think about it. Here’s what I know about Larry. 

Kramer’s election pamphlet says: ”Time for a Change”, but he’s been the instigator of the very things requiring change. Larry wants you to think he’s a “Reforming Outsider” -- but in truth, for years he’s been a member of San Juan's inside power-elite whose terrible decisions have messed-up our City.

Illustrations of the Need for Change of Leadership


City Council Meetings...

Kim Lefner

-Water rate increase
: City CFO Cindy Russell had asked water consultants hired by the City for recommendations to raise revenue (despite already increasing our water rates by 40% this year). One recommendation was an "MtBE surcharge". Fortunately the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association weighed in that such a “surcharge” would violate Prop 218. The council subsequently abandoned the proposed tax, using Chevron’s agreement to settle the MTBE contamination issue as the reason. That claim is suspect however, given the City’s quest to generate revenue and the HJTA's question about the legality of the “surcharge”. One resident remarked that the City appears to be using water fees as a piggy bank to bail out their bad decisions.

- Trash fee increase: City staff twisted themselves into pretzels defending a trash fee hike during a time period prohibited by CR&R’s contract. When resident Clint Worthington questioned the apparent breach in contract, City Engineer Ziad Mahboudi didn’t deny it. Instead, he attempted to explain it away by saying that it was actually better for us customers, as if that makes breaching a legal contract OK.

Unintended Costs of a Council

Ian Smith, CCS Reader

In recent weeks we’ve learned about issues of pay and perks in the City of Bell but only recently have we learned of analogous issues in San Juan Capistrano.. The Orange County Register has published a list of the salaries of our city staff. Yes, it also includes the perks received by our own city council members.

Many of us are learning of these issues for the first time. Frankly, I am shocked how little we knew before reading this alarming article. I suggest you go to the OC Register web site and click on cities and then San Juan Capistrano issue 10-01 and 09-30 all currently available to view.

You will see that our city council has paid the City Manager one of the highest annual salaries in the county, $325,000 even though we are not nearly as large as the average size city. Please observe that we have five (5) employees who are in the high salary levels above $200,000 per year. There are the additional costs of their healthcare (including dental and vision care), pensions, sick pay and other benefits. There is also one omission from the OC Register list; the additional high salaried staff running the Water Department that inexplicably is not listed! Please note we reimburse city staffers for certain sick leave even if they are not sick. Wow some perk! If the private sector behaved like this you could not count the bankruptcies! We all know that the State of California has severe fiscal problems but we must all realize this problem is rooted in our home city as well. Please say your peace to our leaders!

The Boondoggle that Won't Go Away?

A Halloween Trick...

Wow! It seems like just a few months ago that our city fathers professed their absolute need for a new City Hall. We heard justifications ranging from IT-problems, ADA problems, leaking roof, staff complaints and even mold! Mark Nielsen even tried to imply that the city would lose out on unspecified "grant opportunities" because the building was not ADA-compliant. We were told that "millions of dollars" were at stake!

Obviously, Nielsen and the others were just kidding. While our good old City Hall chugs along, this City Council has presided over the loss of $9.3 million in court to a local property owner who was able to convince a jury that his Constitutional Rights had been violated by our City Fathers. It had nothing to do with the ADA and it wasn't a very difficult argument. Now, despite the fact that our City is on the verge of bankruptcy with no money or insurance to satisfy the court judgement and meet our basic needs, our dissonant City Fathers continue to debate in secret closed-door sessions about the acquisition of Serra Plaza as a new City Hall!

Will the wonders and willfulness of government never cease? It matters not to, Uso, Hribar, Allevato and Freese, that our little municipality is on the verge of insolvency (they are, in part, responsible for this). These council members won't be around when the bills come due. But the future of our town depends on dealing with our new reality now. The city must be made to fit within our existing City Hall and our drastically reduced budget.

Our Take on the San Juan Capistrano City Election

The present Council is badly flawed and arguably the most deceptive in City history. A major housecleaning is needed to rid City Hall of “good ol' boy” cronies Mark Nielsen, Lon Uso and Larry Kramer.

As we see it, incumbents Nielsen, Uso and Kramer (a member of the Traffic Commission and infamous “Open Space Committee”) must be removed. While candidate John Taylor seems to be a nice guy, he is supported (some say hand-picked) by the “good ol' boys club”. If the status quo is what you want, then John Taylor, Mark Nielsen and Larry Kramer are your men.
Reform is necessary for a number of reasons. Take for example the council's unwise actions recently which caused a $6.8 million adverse court judgment that we citizens must pay. With interest accruing at roughly $1780 per day, the judgment is now up to $9.4 million with attorney's fees. This one judgment will pretty much whip out our General Fund and there isn't enough in reserves to cover it. So where will our council get the money to pay it? They are prohibited from taking it from the redevelopment agency funds. However, the don't seem to mind taxing the residents more, so another water rate increase is one possible scenario.
Our message is clear: Nielsen, Uso and Kramer are all closely associated with the above malfunctions; they should not be returned or elected to office. We need strong, principled independent leadership to restore stability, accountability, and transparency to our city government. We urge voters to support the team of Derek Reeve, Jim Reardon and Clint Worthington.

A Matter of Trust

Derek Reeve, CCS Reader

At a recent city council meeting, Mayor Uso insisted that the people of San Juan Capistrano should trust their city council. It embarrassingly came across like a used car salesman trying to sell the city a lemon. The people do not trust the current city council because collectively they make maddening contradictory arguments on policy and spending. Furthermore, each has betrayed their campaign pledge for transparency in city government. You remember transparency? It is that popular yet often abused phrase that has been tarred and feathered, and locked away in a secret vault in the council’s political purgatory.

The people of San Juan do not trust the city council because many of their arguments are simply and blatantly illogical. Take the issues of revenue and spending. The city council is poised to approve the Distrito-La Novia Meadows project for the primary stated reason of increasing much needed revenue for the city. However, while the council approves transformative development projects to raise alleged needed revenues, they in turn spend money like it is going out of style. They are in secret negotiations to buy an unneeded new city hall, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollar on unwanted consultants, and they continue to acquire millions of dollars of unconscionable grants that require city matching funds. The city council however will never explain where all this money is coming from.

The most recent matching fund grant came from OCTA totaling 1.5 million dollars in order to plant native plants in the northwest corridor. This is Orange County tax payer dollars plus, according to our records, almost four hundred thousand dollars of San Juan tax payer dollars to garden our open space. Yet when it was discovered that residents in San Juan were being overcharged for trash services and an audit was needed, the city council expressed concern that the audit might be too expensive. Our city council acts schizophrenic as to whether we have money to burn or whether we need to pinch our pennies.

The hesitation to audit the trash service also has everything to do with keeping that abused transparency from peeking out of its vault. The city council does not want this embarrassing issue to become known before the upcoming historic election. So much of what the city council does is designed to keep the people in the dark. The city council agenda is often packed with non essential items while placing the more important substantive issues placed at the end of the agenda after everyone has left and gone to sleep. Take for example the issue of double tracking in San Juan Capistrano. This is an issue every current city council member campaigned against. Yet at 11:40 pm on September 21, 2010, after even the local journalists had gone home, the city council all but approved double tracking through town.

The willingness by the city council to overtly avoid transparency has legal consequences as well. All substantive council decisions must be properly noticed in the council agenda and allow for public debate. The double tracking issue was clearly not listed in the agenda. It was hidden in the agenda as a “status report” for an ad hoc open space sub-committee. It was impossible for the public to know that the double tracking issue was on the agenda and no public debate was allowed. This is not new for our city council. Remember that unneeded city hall that the council is negotiating to purchase? That likewise was not properly identified on the agenda. It is consequently not surprising that Mark Nielsen and the rest of the city council were investigated by the Orange County District Attorney for violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act. Unfortunately the investigation will not be completed until after the election.

It is no wonder the people of San Juan do not trust our city council. The council has spent tax payer funds and purposed development projects illogically. Furthermore, the council has taken every step imaginable to keep the people in the dark. I am sorry Mayor Uso, but trust is earned.

The Perfect Storm

A RECIPE FOR OVERSPENDING
Kim Lefner

How does a city get itself into financial trouble? Start with high unemployment; add a steep decline in business revenue; continued spending on non-essential programs and heap more taxation on the residents to pay for it. The results equal a depressed economy and increasing levels of debt.

How does a city get itself out of financial trouble? For starters, we need three true fiscal conservatives on the city council. Without three votes, change is unlikely. That’s why I’m voting for the slate of Derek Reeve, Jim Reardon and Clint Worthington for city council in November. I urge you to check out their website at: www.teamsjc.org .

Here are a few additional suggestions to help restore fiscal sanity...

The Hijacking of 9/11

Kim McCarthy

On September 11, when many Americans will spend the day in remembrance and mourning for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, self-described “Latino empowerment” group CREER plans to celebrate “Indigenous Peoples Day” at Historic Town Center Park with “entertainment, food, bouncy houses, music and arts & crafts”.

When local patriot group SJC Americans sought to schedule a 9/11 Memorial, they were informed by the City that CREER had reserved the park venue for an "Indigenous Peoples Day" celebration. The SJC Americans attempted to contact CREER to request that they switch their event to the following weekend so they (SJCA) could instead hold a memorial for the victims of 9/11. The two certified letters sent to CREER President Joe Soto were refused. To insure that CREER received the date change request, a member of the SJC Americans tried to hand deliver the letter to CREER Director Richard Ybarra. According to the SJC Americans, Ybarra first pretended not to speak English, then had to be physically restrained from assaulting the person who handed him the letter.

Talking Trash

GETTING TAKEN TO THE DUMP...


Clint Worthington


I sure was surprised when I opened my July trash bill from CR&R to find that it had increased. I wondered to myself how the cost of this service could increase eight percent when inflation is flat? I did a little investigating. In fact, I did a lot of investigating! According to the Franchise Agreement between the City and CR&R, trash rates may only increase or decrease annually on January 1 – not in July. I found that the rate had been incorrectly calculated, and I discovered that a required resolution for a change in rates had never been considered by our City Council.

An Open Letter to Councilman Mark Nielsen

"Mark, please do not seek re-election"


Roy L. Byrnes, M.D., former Mayor

Our City government is broken and your disastrous policies are heavily to blame. I like you on a personal level, now I join many others in saying, “Mark, please do not seek re-election in November. Retire!”

Mark, you have hijacked our dream of public open space and botched it. In November 2008, your “Open Space Committee” seduced the voters into approving a $30 million dollar bond measure artfully mislabeled “Open Space”. We were told the idea was to protect open areas from development that would generate traffic. This was a ruse! Your committee even provided voters a list of properties identified for “protection” -- all within our City limits. The Rancho Mission Viejo “Park” was not on that list, although we now know that your committee was already in secret negotiations to purchase it. Deceptive and manipulative!

The Circus is Back in Town

Downtown Redevelopment
Tony Brown

It seems like this city throws up it’s hands about every fifteen to twenty years in frustration at the state of things downtown and commences to produce a very expensive analysis and plan for improvement. Somewhere at City Hall there is a collection of these detailed, professional reports (none of which have ever been used).
Well, we’re at it again and the next version of the redevelopment of our downtown is well underway so I thought I’d check in on it to see how it’s going.
First I checked the published 2010 City Council Priority List to see how much money we were spending on this latest exercise. The list does show that this is a high priority and it shows that the CC budgeted $250,000. Seems like a lot to me but apparently it’s peanuts as the actual cost is sitting at $571,000 right now. Wow, for that much money they must be doing a lot of drawing and conceptualizing.

Rule of Law in San Juan Capistrano?

Ahead of November's Election...
Kim McCarthy
Approximately 31 years ago, the LAPD and the LA City Council implemented Special Order 40 preventing police from questioning people for the sole purpose of determining their immigration status. The excuse for passing this mandate (or as I see it, circumvention of the law) was to encourage residents in the country illegally to report crimes without intimidation. BALONEY! Its actual purpose is to enable illegals to stay in the country so that the various profiteers of illegal immigration can benefit. The top three profiteers are:
  • politicians pandering for votes and growing government,
  • businesses hiring illegals at low wages minus insurance, often for cash, and
  • religious institutions baptizing illegals for the propagation of their doctrine.
Like LA, San Juan Capistrano operates as a sanctuary for illegals through a “don’t ask don’t tell” philosophy while the OC Sheriff's cite-and-release policy creates the local equivalent of Special Order 40.

Promoting One Race in San Juan Capistrano

UNSUSTAINABLE DIVERSITY?
By Kim McCarthy

CREER is a local non-profit, tax-subsidized organization that describes its mission as “for the Empowerment of Mexican/Latino Youth” and “to fortify the identity of the Mexican/Latino Community”. The racial division promoted by groups like CREER fuel racial tension experienced by non-Hispanic Americans throughout our country.

Why does Capistrano have two languages, two local newspapers, two Rite-Aids, two local Coffee Chats, separate schools and separate neighborhoods? These are self-imposed barriers, unlike those once imposed on American Blacks back when racial segregation was widespread. Today, racial division is the result of resistance to assimilation to the American culture. Ethnically distinct groups create isolated communities within ours while reaping the benefits of taxpayer-funded subsidies, all the while promoting their culture of origin.

Graffiti Action

Our City Council is to be congratulated for passing a new law specifically targeting graffiti. This law makes the parents of a minor child financially responsible for the actions of the child.

The Political Season Begins

ACCOUNTABILITY?
Editorial Board - Capistrano Common Sense

We wish remind incumbents and others who may seek public office this November that being accountable is part of the bargain.

Last week an article by Councilman Mark Nielsen called "Straight Talk" was his opening salvo in a quest to get your vote in November. The article comes across as the plea of an incumbent that claims to have a corner on truth and a monopoly on fact. His demand that his critics be accountable for their opinions is a diversion. Actual responsibility rests with those elected to office, like Mark Nielsen.

Inside Job?

Do you know that our City is in the final phases of drafting our Long Term Vision/Strategic Business Plan Document? Do you know what is encompassed in that document? Do you know that instead of City staff drafting the document or hiring the company that has worked on the plan for two years (GFOA), the City decided to complete the project with yet another consultant for almost $2,000 MORE than the bid for the contract from GFOA?

City Faces $6.7 Million Jury Award - Legal Disaster?

After a four year legal battle with the City of San Juan Capistrano, on Tuesday June 1, 2010, a jury awarded $6,768,000 in compensation to the Scalzo Family Trust for the city’s illegal imposition of development conditions on the Trust’s proposed residential subdivision.

This is a disastrous result that we should all hope is somehow overturned. But after such a jury award, the prospect for relief is remote. Still, it is likely that the City will first ask the trial judge to set aside the verdict. If that doesn't work, then they will certainly appeal the case.

In the political dimension, this situation shows that the City is being poorly advised on legal matters. The fact that this matter got to an actual trial by jury suggests that on numerous occasions the City Council was assured by its attorney that the City would prevail. Obviously, that advice was wrong.

The failure is on two levels. The City's choice of legal representation should be reviewed. But more importantly, the City Council as a whole is responsible to voters for this result because it failed to exercise oversight that might have kept this matter out of court and away from a jury in the first place.

The City Council is collectively to blame. It is impossible to know whether the decision not to settle but instead submit the matter to trial was the position of every City Council member because this entire matter was handled in closed session and the strategy and votes will never be revealed to the public. It is therefore a collective Council decision, along with the selection of the attorney who represented the City.

San Juan Capistrano has a deserved reputation for being capricious in its demands on those who would seek to develop their property or start a business within the town. This is the bitter result -- an uninsured loss of $6.7 million, plus attorney's fees, plus the City's own attorney's fees, plus the fact that the property remains undeveloped yet today.

Will the City learn from this result? Only if there is outrage among the voters in November!

A Broken Promise Wrapped in Lies

The April issue of Capistrano Common Sense warned of plans to alter a long-standing development plan for the area bounded by San Juan Creek Road, La Novia and Interstate-5, the so-call "Distrito La Novia" or "Meadows" project.  Since our article appeared, our City's Planning Commission has formally rejected the application to alter the project and forwarded the matter to the City Council for a final decision.

On May 26, the developer Advanced Real Estate Services (ARES) launched a deceitful letter-writing campaign that aims to have the City Council set aside the decision of the Planning Commission and approve the changes to the project.  These changes would require a formal amendment to the City's General Plan.

Growing up in San Juan Capistrano Under the Gang Injunction - A Young Woman's Experience

Kim McCarthy, San Juan Capistrano

A failure to enforce immigration laws and an the breakdown of families have made victims of the children in our town -- especially young women. Meet a local victim, a 17-year old girl living in Capistrano's Gang Injunction Neighborhood who attended Capistrano Valley High School just last year.

She told me of her experience while I made notes. I've cleaned-up the language so you can follow it.

- This past October the border patrol came into my neighborhood to pick up an illegal criminal and half of the people couldn’t go to work because they are illegal too, and afraid of the border patrol. They all missed at least half a day of work.
- I just broke up with my boyfriend, he is here illegally. But I have a new boyfriend, he is older than me and came here illegally with his mom, dad, and a brother and sister. His mom came first and paid a coyote to bring him, brother, sister and dad after she saved the money. She got a job with a lady at the church who is a citizen but hires illegals for her cleaning business. His mom cleans the library and other buildings and they pay her cash.
- It is easy to let children pass back and forth at the border after they get an American school ID because that is all they have to see. But when you are an adult, you need to get a fake ID / SS# / License. All are easy to get. For about $250 you can get the best. Most people get them in Santa Ana.

Capistrano Open Space: Closed to Public!

$27.5 MILLION FOR NOTHING

Why is “open space” officially closed?


The recent revelation that the public is prohibited from accessing the polo grounds “open space” property is astounding. Although every property owner in San Juan Capistrano is now being taxed $32 per $100,000 of assessed value to pay for this “open space”, the public cannot set foot on it as long as it’s under lease to a third party. The current lease is for two years. Councilman Mark Nielsen, who championed the acquisition of this land, has expressed his desire to renew the lease to continue accommodating exclusive equestrian events. Mr. Nielsen further explained that soccer and baseball leagues are especially prohibited from using this property as they would “ruin the fields” for equestrian events. Sports leagues and recreational equestrian residents who encouraged our City to buy this “open space” believing that they would be able to use it are thus left empty handed - except of course, for the bill. At $27.5 million, that’s a pretty hefty bill!

Capistrano Water Refunds Available

As the result of systematic billing errors, many water customers served by the City Water Company may have been over charged and could be entitled to receive refunds.  Miscalculation of water "allotments", bad billing software, and other errors arising from irregular meter reading dates push customers into higher rate tiers under the City's predatory water price formula -- resulting in over charges.

The City has kept this very quiet.  Check your past bills.  It is uncertain when these errors started, however, refunds have already been issued to some customers.  If you believe you have been over charged, contact Joe Tait at City Hall on (949) 493-1171.  In addition to being the town's "top law enforcement officer" and City Manager, it is rumored that Mr. Tait also runs the Water Department in his spare time.

So-Called Non-Partisan Leaders

Capistrano Common Sense Editorial Board

Our City Council and school board are regarded as “non-partisan”, which means that they are not politically contested in a formal “Democrat vs. Republican format. That’s supposed to remove partisan special interests from the equation in running local agencies that are responsible for providing essential services like police protection, water and trash services and education.  But the opposite is true. Leftist activists, cloaked as non-partisan leaders are reshaping the agenda of local city councils and school boards.

Another Broken Promise?

Capistrano Common Sense Editorial Board

For two years, members of our City Council have quietly been working behind the scenes to encourage a land developer to build a mixed commercial, residential and equestrian complex on the vacant land bordered by San Juan Creek Road, Valle Road and La Novia – the area generally across the street from Plant Depot. The City has now gone public with this plan and may be poised to approve it, breaking a promise made to residents in the mid-1980’s.

E-Verify After Two Years

Marsha Norman, San Juan Capistrano resident

Another marathon City Council meeting lasting past 1 AM, it was nearly 3 AM before Bob and I put our heads on the pillow. It might have been later for some...

I appreciate the Council's decision on E-Verify. The City needs to do everything in its power to defend the rights of citizens and not accommodate illegal residents. As a past CIC member, I am reminded that this was one of our solutions – to uphold Federal law and give rightful citizens the opportunity to obtain a job albeit low-income or otherwise. Two years later, it is finally done.

OC District Attorney Criticizes City Council Action

In response to citizen complaints (1, 2), the OC District Attorney has quietly conducted an inquiry and formally objected to actions of our City Council in connection with approval of an agreement to purchase property for “Open Space” in the northwest area of the City. On January 20, 2009, the Council met in secret session and approved an Option Agreement that provides that the City may purchase the property for $10 million, but also included provisions related to water supply, parking, access, and other land-use considerations for the land developer.

Can San Juan Capistrano Afford Affordable Housing?

Our town is a microcosm of Sacramento and Washington D.C. The tendency to grow government and to embrace social engineering programs is thriving here. City-funded “affordable” housing is an excellent example.

It is taken as the gospel truth at City Hall that the State has mandated that we provide a number of low cost housing units… or else! However, upon closer examination, one can see that there really is nothing to fear. There are no laws prescribing penalties; there is no downside for non-compliance. There is a nebulous risk of losing future “grant opportunities” (a topic for another story), but City Hall has embraced affordable housing and moved us further down the wealth re-distribution and big government road.

Time for CHEC to Check Out?

The license agreement between the City and CHEC is coming up for renewal at the April 6 City Council meeting. CHEC is a collaborative effort between Mission Hospital, OC Social Services Agency, Mission Basilica, The Raise Foundation, and the City of San Juan Capistrano. It serves as a guide to the public in accessing welfare benefits.

Council Priorities are Upside Down

Our City Council has been skimping on police protection, attempting to economize on the level of police services that it purchases from the Orange County Sheriff Department. Sadly, our Council has long been in denial (no, that's not a river in Egypt). Their emphasis has been on “feel-good projects” -- skate parks, services to illegal immigrants (The Sanctuary City program), Open Space schemes, “affordable” housing, a huge water fiasco, etc. The basic responsibility of local government, which is to suppress crime and facilitate traffic, has been largely sidetracked in favor of sexy, socialist programs inspired by the wildly liberal leadership of Washington and Sacramento.

City Hall Spending: Time to Face the Truth

Kim Lefner
San Juan Capistrano

In the midst of the worst recession in decades, it’s a mystery why the City is proposing to spend our declining tax revenue on such items as a Diversity Sustainability Action Plan, preschool and after school programs, lobbyists, consultants and grant writers. With the City Council’s recent acknowledgement of another two million dollar revenue shortfall, do these programs and services make sense? They certainly don’t appear to be essential public services.

Keep Criminals in Jail

Bill Hunt
Guest Columnist

The Office of the Sheriff is responsible for maintaining our county jails. Yet, our appointed sheriff Sandra Hutchens has released more than 400 criminals early back into our community. Despite having 1400 open jail beds, the interim Sheriff continues the unsafe practice of citing and releasing all misdemeanor arrestees. This practice was instituted by court order to relieve a jail overcrowding problem that no longer exists. Daily, non violent felonies are released with nothing more than a promise to appear in court. They are not required to post bail or provide any other guarantee to appear as promised and many flee.

Criminal attorneys and bail bondsman are legitimate components of a normally functioning criminal justice system. They are private alternatives to excessive government bureaucracies that have greatly exceeded their mandate. Both contribute to the economy, create jobs and save tax payers millions of dollars annually.

City Hall Spin Zone - II

§ On March 5, we discussed plans being discussed by our City Council to erect a new City Hall. We criticized the falsehoods and political "spin" that are at the root of this discussion.

Here are some details on the fixable “problems” with the current City Hall location. These are estimates based upon a tour of City Hall by a General Contractor and tradesmen in the construction industry:

City Hall in the Spin Zone!

Do we really need a new City Hall in San Juan Capistrano? According to Mayor Uso, the current location is “toxic” and he “will not leave our employees in that mess one minute more than I have to.” However, a recent tour of the facility by residents and professional tradesmen proves that those stating the “need” for a new City Hall are stuck in the spin zone.

Drowning in Water Bills

§ San Juan resident John Perry kicks things off with an Open Letter to the San Juan City Council and City Manager Joe Tait concerning runaway costs at the City water operations:

At the February 2, 2010 Public Hearing, the City Council sat stoically as residents berated their decision to increase domestic water rates by 78 percent over the next 8 years. Although questions were asked of the City Council by public speakers, no answers were forthcoming from our elected officials or the City’s staffers. So it is time to ask some hard questions again:
Since no Council member questioned my calculation that it cost the water rate payers of San Juan Capistrano $196,915 in the month of December 2009 to be water self-sufficient, can I assume that this has been going on since the Ground Water Recovery Plant (GWRP) was opened in 2004?

The GWRP has been in operation for 55 months through December 2009. If we use the base figure of $196,000 per month, the cost of self-sufficiency totals $10,700,000. Can this really be true? If not how much extra did it cost the City to make water instead of buying MWD water? Please have Cindy Russell do the calculation.

 

Welcome!

Hello everybody and welcome to the inaugural issue of “Capistrano Common Sense”. This publication is a joint venture of local residents who share concerns about the issues facing our city, San Juan Capistrano. We hope to bring a “grass roots” perspective to you the in the hopes that you will gain a better understanding of what is going on around you. We strive to present what might be best described as a “constitutional conservative” or a “fiscal conservative” point of view.

The name of our publication is obviously taken from our own nation’s history, from a series of writings known as “Common Sense”, written by Thomas Paine in 1776. He was advocating independence from the tyrannical British government. Due in part to his thinking and writing, the American Revolution came to pass. Probably the most famous line written in that pamphlet was “These are the times that try men’s souls”.

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