For the past year and a half, the Capistrano Common Sense (CCS) has exposed the machinations of what many refer to as the entrenched “Good ol’ boy politicos” on the last two City Councils. Our CCS was created by San Juan citizens who became frustrated with the Council’s lack of transparency, self-dealing and financial irresponsibility.
We wear as a badge of pride the fact that neither the Council politicians nor their supporters have been able to demonstrate that we were wrong in any of the dozens of act-based reports we’ve printed. The most that City Council politicians and their supporters seem to be able to manage is to resort to name calling. “Mean-spirited”; “naysayers” and “CCS is so negative” are some of the more popular responses. I guess when you have no real defense you stoop to calling the opposition names. At this point we take it as validation of their concern that we’re exposing the truth. We’re a “watchdog” publication. Would you want your watch dog to growl and bark at a burglar or just lick his hand and go back to sleep?
Here’s a recent case in point about the value of watch dogs to our community. At the May 17 Council meeting, Council member Laura Freese voted to approve a group of checks (called “warrants” in city-hall speak) which included two items payable to a printing distribution company owned by Ms. Freese. The checks totaled $1,890. Not a huge amount of money, but a basic ethical principle was violated in which Ms. Freese tried to circumvent the prohibition against self-dealing. It’s axiomatic in public service that a Council member does not pay money to himself/herself from the public purse or at the very least, he/she should notify the public with a complete explanation. Council member Freese violated this ethical cannon and worse yet, tried to “sweep it under the rug”.
When a member of the audience associated with CCS publicly questioned her action, she offered the excuse that she had “given the City a discount”. Of course, this was totally irrelevant to the issue. She was ethically bound to abstain from the vote and publicly disclose that this was payment to herself. Finally after repeated prodding, input from the City Attorney and protests from several quarters, Council member Freese offered a red-faced apology during a Council meeting a few weeks later.
This serves as an example of the necessity for “mean spirited watch dogs”. Council Member Freese, who has tried to represent herself as a savvy, experienced elected official, actually committed an act qualitatively similar as occurred in the City of Bell. The only difference being that the alleged malfeasance in the City of Bell involved millions while Freese’s “slight oversight” was limited to just under a few thousand. That may be petty cash in comparison, but the principle is the same. If we CCS “naysayers” had given Council member Freese a pass, the next “oversight” might have cost taxpayers much more.
The attempt by San Juan politicians to characterize this important civic function as “mean-spirited naysaying” is an indication of just how concerned they are about the truth being told. Allowing these elected officials unmonitored rein over our monies has contributed to the more than $150 million debt burden carried by our small town.
We encourage everyone with a similar desire for truth and transparency to join us as we work hard to bolster local opposition against big-government spendthrifts who are running our small town. Learn more by attending Council meetings and our own CCS “Happy Hour” held monthly (for details visit our web-site: www.ccsense.com). Get involved and be heard! Write to us or call us; we want to know how you feel. CCS is funded from our own resources and from those who have generously supported our efforts. To all of you, THANK YOU AGAIN!