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.


This might sound like a substantial increase but really it is just a fraction of what the city should charge. This is like going from zero to ten MPH on a freeway. The City could be getting $18,000 per year. That's the going rate.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t be criticizing anything green (BTW – Green is the new RED). I really am with everybody else when it comes to being a good steward of the planet. Everybody wants a clean environment.

But it drives me crazy that being environmentally minded has become a liberal issue. Why does this drive me crazy? Because it is due to the free market system (Capitalism) that we have attained a high enough standard of living to be able to afford environmentalism. Yet, many of the people who have claimed ownership of the green movement detest private sector business. They either don’t understand, or won’t admit, what got us here.

Also, the message underlying environmentalism is the idea that we need government to become better stewards of our planet. Somehow, they know better than we do how we should live our lives. They will make us do what they deem best if we let them.

With that in mind, I have a few comments to make regarding this lease agreement.
  • The Ecology Center has an annual budget of around $250,000. They need to pay their way like all the rest of us.
  • They serve only about 2,000 SJC residents a year, or slightly over 5 people a day. This hardly constitutes a “Public Benefit”, nor are they filling a pressing need by any stretch. 
  • They charge hundreds of dollars for their “feel good” green dinners, with food and chefs donated at no cost to them.
  • They can even afford to host events with speakers that are paid a $10,000 speaking fee. You and I are charged to attend.
  • At $1,200 per year we taxpayers are not even getting close to break-even. It cost the City close to $500,000. to rehab the property some years ago and will cost us an additional several thousand dollars a year to maintain the property. 
San Juan Capistrano is a city in financial peril (much like many of us in the private sector) so it would sure be nice to see a more prudent approach to those situations that we can control, like this one. We should be getting a better return on OUR investment than a measly 27 cents a foot per year.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse (probably not good for the environment) but this is the kind of bonehead decision this council makes over and over again. The Ecology Center has some prominent citizens who are protecting this “Sacred Cow” - choosing pet projects and “feel good” boondoggles that end up cheating you and me – the taxpayer.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good for you for talking about something that needs to be made public! The Ecology Center is run by a Newport Beach "Silver Spoon" who appears to care less about San Juan community and more about being trendy to his Newport Beach lackeys. Green is indeed the new Red. The Ecology Center has emerged to appear more like a country club for sycophant philanthropists than a center for San Juan residents. As a resident of San Juan for 15 years and someone who spends a significant amount of time at the wonderful South Coast Farms, I can honestly say that I have never felt welcomed at the Ecology Center and I don't imagine I would welcomed unless I forked over some cash and fawned over Evan Marks as if he were the prophet of green. So what is the solution? How do we get the city to charge the Ecology Center the worth of the property lease and how do we convince the board members of the Ecology Center to be more authentic to the "San Juan" community (not the Newport Beach community)? Mmmmm...I guess San Juan community members needs to confront the tyranny and dethrone the prophet...or at least confront him and the city. Bravo for your article!

Tony Brown said...

Thanks for your kind words...very glad to know that there are people thinking about this protected "sacred cow".
The solution, I think, is to continue to put the light on this and get more folks to see the truth.
That will in turn place more pressure on the City Council to refrain from supporting this socialist front.
We at CCS intend to keep exposing these taxpayer ripoffs.
Thanks again,
Tony

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