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!

Voters believed we’d get public space, land owned by the community for the use, enjoyment and benefit of all. Not so! Your committee bought private land outside the City with our money. Although now owned by the City, use by the community is virtually forbidden. Instead, we got the bill! Open Space! My Aunt Agitha!
Had your “open space bond” promoters told voters about the Ranch plans for a new city with thousands of homes and massive commercial development virtually across the street from our newly-purchased space, I doubt the bond would have been approved. Do you realize that the $27.5 million dollars we paid to the Ranch has the effect of stimulating their development and increasing the devastating Ortega Highway traffic; the very opposite of what your committee lead us to believe? To add insult, under your leadership the City agreed to other detrimental terms such as waiving our right to oppose the Ranch’s plan to develop their 24,000 acres, no matter how bad the impact on our small town.

Taxpayers now bear the financial and physical burden of a toxic soil site on the property, but the Ranch is excused. We are required to name it “The Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park” – a fitting tribute since it will really be “their” park surrounded by their new city. Additionally, we must allow the Ranch to hold their annual private rodeo on our space free of charge for the next 50 years. All this was done secretly behind closed doors. It’s hard to believe a conscientious Councilman would accept such preposterous purchase conditions. In response to widespread criticism, your group concocted a special, one-time free “Family Fun Day” last month as a public relations stunt to deceive taxpayers into believing they had received something for their money. Unless one free half-day per year is a good return on our $27.5 million dollar expenditure, we must conclude that this was a cynical trick designed to draw attention away from a misdeed.

You have shown no respect for the public purse - in spite of your claims to the contrary. Under your leadership, we’re well on our way to spending ourselves into poverty. Typical examples include the ongoing push to get ever-more government “grants” requiring City matching funds while we’re facing shrinking income (you won’t say or maybe don’t know where the “matching funds” will come from). You were a major force in hiring Joe Tait as City Manager at $324,000, a hugely inappropriate salary. Mr. Tait has zero previous experience as a City Manager; he’s a retired Water District executive. The laughable excuse offered is that “Tait is doing two jobs at the same time”. Dana Point’s highly experienced City Manager earns around $204,000.

Mark, you have pushed the development of the deceptive Distrito La Novia/Meadows project. Despite promises to residents that no Redevelopment Agency (RDA) money would be used, the RDA Implementation Plan reveals the intention to use public money to fund infrastructure for that project. Where’s the truth? Where’s the blight? Where is the public benefit? More tap-dancing!

The pattern of making major decisions in secret Council Executive Session is incompatible with good governance. In fact, the OC District Attorney warned you last November of a violation of the Brown Act, a matter now under investigation by the California Attorney General. In breaking your election promise of “open, transparent government” our town is a poster child for skating up to or just over the edge of the law.

Although I condemn these City Hall machinations, I find much to like in Mark. He’s intelligent. We’re both opera buffs. He’s a persuasive talker, but lookout, he’ll lead you down a black alley. Mark’s proven to be a Progressive, a “big government” guy, and a political opportunist like Irvine’s Larry Agran. If you’re a leftie-Democrat of the Obama mold, then Mark is your man! But if you’re a conservative who believes government and taxation should be less intrusive, Mark’s views are antithetical.

Mark Nielsen, time to retire - - - please!


Anonymous said...

It appears that Nielsen has other ideas. His rebuttal appears in the Capistrano Valley News, here:

Anonymous said...

Nielsen has LOTS of other "ideas" - most of them more than what our town can afford.

Unfortunately, his ideas benefit only a few special interests and not the majority of the residents in SJC.

I hope he gets voted out in November.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your article about Mark --I am assuming though it is tongue and cheek regarding how much you like him. It is bad enough to be lied to and cheated by someone you don't trust...but in Mark's case he preyed on all, young and old in town, with a false friendship and supposed moral character. His deceitful actions as a councilmember prove how far someone with his personal ambitions will go to get what they desire.

old san juan said...

I read Mark's response with wry amusement. He seems to be saying "Good news, we are getting $250,000 a year for the lease of our open space and it is going away next year!" Huh? It is a great deal and it will be over soon, is that the message? The taxpayers in San Juan are paying between $1 and $2 million a year for this boondoggle. But hey, we can go to horse shows for "free".

And camping or having picnic in the lemon groves that are contaminated with pesticides and next to the (now being widened) Ortega? Has Mark ever actually been camping?

Oh yeah, he rides the Ranch now with Tony Moiso and friends -sweet!

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