The last water bill I received included a letter on official stationery from the Office of the Mayor, entitled “Understanding the importance of redevelopment to everyone”. I knew that Mayor Allevato had sent a letter to Governor Jerry Brown, approved with a four to one vote (Reeve dissenting), but I did not recall hearing or reading of a decision by City Council to send a similar letter to residents of San Juan Capistrano. A few days later I received an email blast letter “Understanding the facts about City Debt”.
I questioned Mayor Allevato about the appropriateness of these letters at a recent City Council meeting and he responded that it was his prerogative to take this kind of action without City Council approval. But, after a little research, I learned that isn’t quite accurate. Policy Number 106, effective 5/19/92 states, “It is a policy of the City Council that City stationery may only be used for the transmittal of official City correspondence. The correspondence shall be prepared by City staff and signed only by staff or the City Council. No correspondence indicating an official position of the City shall be signed by an appointed advisory board member. Supplies of City letterhead stationery may not be given to individual Council, Commission or Board members.
And, have you ever heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it”? Well, apparently Mayor Allevato has forgotten that last year, when he and Council Member Nielsen felt Mayor Uso had gone too far without Council approval, Policy Number 124 was enacted on May 18, 2010. It states, in part, “All Council Members have an equal vote and no Council Member including the Mayor, shall speak or write on behalf of the City or Council unless a majority of the Council has approved the position being expressed in a properly agendized meeting. When communicating the official position of the Council, such communications will reference the position as that of the City or Council and not any individual...Council Members, including the Mayor may express their personal views on issues so long as they clearly indicate they are speaking individually and not representing the City or Council, and such communications will not be on City letterhead nor presented in such a manner as to appear to be an official City position.”
So it appears that Mayor Allevato is in violation of both of these policies. He also presents several inaccuracies and misstatements in these letters. As he has reminded many of us multiple times, he has a day job for the Great Park in Irvine and he is partially paid with Redevelopment Agency Funds, so of course he opposes Governor Brown’s proposal to do away with Community Redevelopment Agencies because it may have a direct negative impact on him, personally. But CRAs, as they are called, may not be good for the citizens of our community and are certainly open to abuse by government officials and developers.
The “debt letter”, also from the Office of the Mayor, contains several inaccuracies and is spun so that the taxpayers do not get the full picture. For instance, the size of the debt is higher than stated in the letter. It does not include the Scalzo judgment debt being issued, which will hit the General Fund. He states that the City does not fund current operations from debt. That is incorrect. The money paid out by the CRA to the Ford and Chrysler dealers is borrowed and the benefits flow into the General Fund and are spent for current operations. Mayor Allevato also fails to connect the water rates with the size of the water enterprise debt. And he fails to mention that he, and perhaps other Council Members, want to borrow an additional $18 million for the Ground Water Recovery Plant, which has never operated successfully, as we were promised years ago and millions of dollars ago.
It seems that the Office of Mayor is now being used as a bully pulpit to promote Mayor Allevato’s personal desires instead of speaking on behalf of the majority of City Council, at taxpayer expense.
Sunlight is a vital component of transparency and good governance, which is what we at Capistrano Common Sense encourage. Mayor Allevato needs to do the right thing and let the light shine in City Hall.