The Phantom Bond

Clint Worthington

In February 2010 the City increased our water rates to pay for an $18 million bond that was to be sold to raise money for improvements to our water enterprise. By May, 2011 the City had collected $1,663,000.00 from SJC water users to re-pay the bond debt.

There's only one problem; the $18 million water bond was never issued, yet the City continues to collect around $111,000 per month from SJC water users to pay for the bond that was never issued.

At the May 3, 2011 City Council meeting, four of the five council members (with Councilman Reeve dissenting) voted to approve transferring the $1,663,000 collected for the never-issued water bond from the City’s Water Enterprise Fund to the City’s general fund.

The City has never reduced the water rates and is still collecting from the water users to pay for that $18 million bond that was never issued.

Common sense and Proposition 218 require that when monies are collected for a specific service and they are not used for that service, they must be returned to the original fee payer. Despite repeated requests, the City has never returned the $1,663,000 to the water users that it collected, nor has the City reduced the water rates that were originally raised to pay for the $18 million bond.

City Council Abuse of Power

View from the Bully Pulpit... 

Kim McCarthy 

In an on-going struggle to maintain their grip on power, the City Council Meeting of May 17th provided yet another example of what happens when elected officials abuse their position.

During the council meeting, several constituents pointed out to Mayor Sam Allevato that he was once again in violation of a city policy that he voted to approve. City Council Policy #124, “The Role of the Mayor” states, “All Council Members, including the Mayor, shall not 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.” The Mayor’s most recent violation of the policy was in his shameless promotion of the “YES on Measure B” political campaign supporting the developer of the Distrito La Novia project’s wish to force a huge, high-density development on the residents of San Juan over the objections of thousands of residents. One resident remarked during Oral Communications that Mayor Allevato appeared to be a pitchman, “in effect…the head cheerleader at a campaign rally for the (Distrito La Novia) developer ARES (Advanced Real Estate Services)”. 

Mayor Allevato recently took it a step further when he publicly denigrated resident John Perry, who is actively opposed to the Distrito La Novia development. Mayor Allevato publicly called Perry a liar and a hypocrite. We find Mr. Perry to be quite the opposite; we find him to be an asset to the community. Perry is the one who has extensively researched the Ground Water Recovery Plant operation, which ultimately helped to explain why we are being billed such outrageous amounts for our water. He also successfully pushed for an Ad Hoc Forensic Audit Committee to audit the Water Enterprise and the Redevelopment Agency, which have driven up our debt to obscene levels. We can see why Perry is a threat to Allevato and Freese, both of whom contributed to the estimated $150 million debt we have.

Distrito La Novia: No means NO - The Measure B Referendum

Editorial

On June 7, SJC residents will witness democracy in action. Voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to overturn the City Council’s approval to change the General Plan and to Re-zone the property along Valle Road and La Novia above San Juan Creek Road and the “Meadows”, in order to facilitate the Distrito La Novia “mixed-use” development. A “No” vote means that the Council’s approval of the development is overturned. A “Yes” vote means that the Council’s approval of the development is affirmed.

The original development plan granted to the previous property owner differs from what is being proposed now, which is why the current owner asked the City Council to change the General Plan and Re-zone the property to allow a high-density, mixed-use retail/commercial development. The proposed development will include apartments and condos stacked on top of ten 3-story retail and commercial buildings, a 4-story parking structure plus single family homes, 500 horses and an equestrian center. In a 4-1 vote (with Councilman Derek Reeve opposed), the City Council voted to approve the change.

The Council approved it over the objections of hundreds of residents, who implored the council to reject the new development plan. The residents say the new development plan is too dense, will create too much additional traffic, is out of character with our “small town”, requires excavation of the old hazardous waste dump with unknown consequences and improperly places 500 horses (which can be increased up to 1500 with one vote of the Council) and night lighting next to their quiet neighborhoods. After all, the residents argue, they were promised protection from intrusive, dense development through the General Plan and Zoning laws.

The Planning Commission agreed with the residents and recommended that the Council reject the proposed development, citing the “…significant building massing and intensity and a 4-level parking structure that will be incompatible with the low-density character of the nearby neighborhoods.” The Council ignored the concerns of the Planning Commission and the residents and instead voted to approve the GPA and Re-zone, using as justification the need to “generate revenue” for the City through what the Council assumes will be increased sales tax revenue from the retail/commercial and equestrian component (a risky assumption in our estimation, given the city’s track record).

The Race Card

Tony Brown 

Rac-ism - noun rac-ist - adj. & noun

1.A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

2. A policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

3. Hatred or intolerance of another race, other races.

Our nation’s history is full of examples of racism, the most obvious ones, of course, being the institution of slavery and the near destruction of the native Americans. This nation nearly destroyed itself over the practice of slavery with the civil war in the 1860’s. This self-correction came at the cost of about 500,000 lives.
For the soul of the nation it was worth the cost because slavery was ended as an acceptable practice. Native Americans were the target of early American settlers of various European backgrounds for many different reasons yet did manage to survive and today many tribes seem to be doing better. Racism and discrimination have lived on of course and, as it seems to be part of the human make-up, we do see it in today’s world.

Under no circumstance would I say that Americans are perfect. We are far from it. But we, collectively (as a nation), have a good soul and we love to help others. We are the most generous nation in the history of the world (I’m speaking of the people) and we do have the ability to self-correct. We do want to do the right thing. We do want prosperity for all. We are a nation of laws and as citizens our social contract is that we (all of us) agree to respect and obey these laws. Not all of these laws are good laws, but unless and until a law is changed, we have still agreed to obey it.

Some People Say...

Editorial


It seems hard to believe but we celebrated our one year anniversary last month of publishing Capistrano Common Sense! So many of you have contacted us and thanked us for bringing so many vital community issues to your attention and we appreciate your comments. Of course, there are also a few naysayers, as well. 

Most recently former Council Member Mark Nielsen criticized us for being negative and not offering actual practical solutions. This is simply not true. We have offered many positive solutions to the challenges our City faces. Here are a few of those: stop spending what we don’t have, stop borrowing and increasing our debt load, stop contributing 100% medical for City employees AND their dependents, stop contributing 100% of employee retirement contributions, stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on social engineering, enforce our laws and codes across the board--don’t pick and choose which and for whom. Just as the message was sent loud and clear last November on a national level, it’s time for our City to reduce the size of government, stick to the basics and allow private enterprise to flourish. Government isn’t the solution to our problems and many times it is the problem itself.

Chevron Settlement Most Unsettling

By Kim Lefner

Is the Chevron “settlement” merely a capitulation?

The recent announcement by the City that a settlement had been reached with Chevron over contamination of our drinking water with MTBE (a known carcinogen) was presented as a victory for SJC. Juan Garcia, Regional Manager, Chevron Policy, Government and Public Affairs said about the settlement, "We have always accepted responsibility for the unfortunate release of gasoline containing MTBE. We have consistently strived to do what is necessary to take the appropriate measures to address the situation… This agreement clears the way for us to fulfill our commitment to the people of San Juan Capistrano, which we have been eager to do for a long time.” A reading of the actual settlement agreement however, indicates that water ratepayers are stuck with picking up much of the tab resulting from Chevron’s “unfortunate release of gasoline containing MTBE” into our water supply. The question that comes to mind immediately upon reading the settlement is, why would our taxpayer-funded negotiators settle for only $3.1 million in incremental payments, when City documents indicate that our contamination-related expenses amounted to well over $6 million without legal fees?

To Be or Not to Be...Squeaky Clean...

by Ian Smith


Editor's note:
Since this article was written, the City Council approved the recommendation from the "Ad Hoc Audit Committee" that an independent auditor, separate from the "general auditor", be hired to conduct an in-depth forensic audit of the Water Enterprise and the Redevelopment Agency. The ad hoc audit committee will develop the Scope of Work and select the auditor(s).

For the many of our readers who know our publication from past months I am proud to proclaim another success for the benefit of our city residents. On the agenda of the March 1 City Council meeting was a topic close to the focus of our recent writings. Not only had we written considerably about transparency in our city governance but had expressed loud and clear, numerous times, the need for a full financial audit of the books. This was more specifically for the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and the Water Division. They denied us more than once with pitiful excuses. We are grateful that the council voted 5-0 to the motion to form an Audit Committee which would be comprised of two council members, Mayor Allevato and Derek Reeve.

Update on the Ortega Widening

The following letter was sent to the City Council on April 5 by SJC resident Lennie DeCaro, who has been closely monitoring the City’s involvement in the widening of Ortega Highway. We believe it’s important to share with our readers another perspective about the City’s stated “need” for the Ortega widening.

Dear Councilmembers, 

Once again, I wish to remind you that I will hold our City responsible for any negotiations with Caltrans that are not in our best interests. In considering settlement negotiations, I would ask you to review the numerous letters and documents I have previously submitted objecting to the widening. 

The Council’s lack of outrage over the widening of Ortega has been of real concern to me and I would like to hear what you are doing to protect our town. There is nothing that will have a more negative impact on our City than the 14,000 home development that will take place on our City’s edge once the widening and interchange expansion on Ortega takes place.
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