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.

Worthington also brought to light the fact that CR&R is required to credit the recycled trash savings back to customers. However, though staff denied it, public records show no credit for recycled trash, which Mahboudi estimates at 75%.

Consequently, a resident requested an audit and after some hesitation, council agreed to look into the cost of an audit, “as long as it doesn’t cost too much”. Which was odd considering that they have NO problem giving away $78,000 to the Boys & Girls Club; $200,000 to the GRIP school program, $20,000+ in rent subsidies to The Ecology Center, etc. Heaven forbid they should spend money to make sure their residents are being fairly billed by the trash collector.

Then again, Nielsen reported a "gift" of a $280 dinner from CR&R CEO Dean Ruffridge who is also endorsing his re-election bid.

- Double-tracking: Last year: council denounced the efforts of Open Space Committee member Brad Gates and City staff’s secret negotiation of railroad double-tracking into town, which the council said they knew nothing about and would not support.

This year, far from discussing duplicitous negotiations, council members with the exception of Mayor Uso, stated their support for double-tracking. Never mind that they were told that once the OCTA gets their foot in the door by installing double-tracks from our northern border into town, the city cannot control how many trains run, at what times, what freight they can carry, etc. This is because the city is prohibited by federal law from "interfering with interstate commerce”.

With the exception of Uso, council members dismissed the pesky federal law. They clearly want that massive CLC development out at Rancho Capistrano. They want it so badly they’re willing to do almost anything to accommodate it including facilitating more double-tracking. This will allow more train traffic (mostly freight - the worst kind) passing through our town. Imagine the traffic that will back up at the Del Obispo crossing. Imagine more hazardous material barreling into San Juan at a high rate of speed and the increase in blaring horns. It would be nice to think that they were looking out for us, but it sure doesn’t appear that way.

Keep in mind that this is the same council that opposed a postal distribution facility at the proposed CLC site a few years back, publicly puffing with indignation over the fact that it was too big and would create too much traffic. Incredibly, most of the council members claim to support this development in the name of “protecting and preserving Open Space”.

Most striking about the council meeting to me though, was the mantra repeated by nearly all of the council members, that "we must have more development in order to pay the bills!".

What I don’t hear from any of the council members is a plan to reign in spending. If they quit spending our money on unnecessary pet projects like a new City Hall, buying “Open Space” that isn’t open to us residents or “habitat mitigation” resulting from development, they could save us millions of dollars and the burdens that come with irresponsible over-development. They could instead invest our money in downtown economic development, as they promised but have failed to do.

The other thought that struck me watching this council in action; November can’t come soon enough.

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