Government Grants Are a Slippery Slope

by Clint Worthington 

The City Council “good ol’ boys” seem to think that government grants are free, judging by the large number they apply for and the ways they spend the money. But grants have a tremendous cost. They are made up of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars, so the more we tolerate, the more taxes must be increased to pay for them.

As if sinking another $5 million dollars of grant funding into the failed water factory wasn’t enough, the city council majority also voted to pay former Open Space Committee member Tom Ostensen’s son $75,000 to go after grant funding that resulted in the latest boondoggle; “habitat mitigation”. Now the son has also been appointed Field Project Manager for this latest waste of taxpayer dollars.

You may have seen the white sprinkler pipes snaking their way up the slopes in the Northwest Open Space (above the Shea Riding Center and the Dog Park). The installation of the pipes, the weeding and the planting of that hillside with 35,000 plants ranging in size from 1 to 15 gallon containers, was done with a grant the City received from the Orange County Transportation Agency. To be clear, the OCTA is funded with our tax dollars, so this is nothing more than our sales tax money being confiscated and then doled out to local politicians who waste it on projects like this. 

This hillside was beautiful before and has survived all these years without government interference. Now white irrigation pipes mar the area, and many of the new plants require hand watering. Guess who is paying for these “native” plants to be hand watered?

Have you noticed the City’s advertisements in the Capistrano Dispatch encouraging us to conserve water? They spend our tax dollars designing and placing these ads. So it boggles the mind that while we’re being told to conserve, the City is wasting water on slippery slopes that never required water before and have a history of slippage. Guess who will pay for repairs if the slopes (and the homes above them) slide? You guessed it, the San Juan taxpayers.

Here’s a solution; how about we spend the money instead watering the orange grove on the Northwest Open Space near the historic Swanner House on Camino Capistrano? This orange grove is a part of San Juan’s history but the City seems to be letting the trees die for lack of water, despite residents begging the City to water the trees.

Come to think of it, the Northwest Open Space would be a far better location for a Welcome Center and Museum promoting San Juan’s history and the Juaneno Indians, rather than building a museum promoting the Ranch’s history out at the Eastern Open Space across from the Ranch’s new city. A Welcome Center and Museum in our Northwest Open Space make sense given the exposure to visitors driving by on the 5 freeway. The CCS has a poll posted on their website at:; weigh in and let the City Council know what you think of the idea about watering the orange grove and building the Welcome Center at the Northwest Open Space.


Anonymous said...

How much will it cost to water the northwest orange trees? Who will benefit from the fruit? We need this information prior to voting on it.

Editorial Board said...

Hi reader-

That's a good question and while we are not sure what the exact dollar amount would be, it's our understanding that the owner of Hamilton Oaks Winery, the business that is currently leasing the historic Swanner House, has offered to pay for the water (not sure if full or partial) of the Orange Grove surrounding the Swanner House. If our understanding is correct, the City has been unresponsive to his offer.

The article points out that the hillside above the Shea Center on which irrigation lines and "native" plants have been installed, has survived without any "new" planting or additional water for centuries.

The orange grove on the other hand, was planted by San Juan residents decades ago and is a part of our City's history, along with our many historic sites such as the Swanner House. Residents have asked the City Council to preserve the orange grove. The CCS Editorial Board has also heard from residents who would like to see the orange grove watered.

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