Council Divided Over “Water Rate Study”

“I think by authorizing this study, what we’re really doing is putting in for a rate increase. No study was ever requested that REDUCED water rates..” – Councilman Roy Byrnes

“We have to stop unnecessarily burdening our rate payers. The water plant does not work for a City of our size…We have to stop throwing good money after bad…” - Councilman Derek Reeve 

 “I don’t know if [the study] will result in cost reductions…[but] Metropolitan Water District rates are going up, so we need to keep pace.” - Councilman Larry Kramer
Councilman Sam Allevato pointed out that the money being spent on the water plant is part of a $5 million grant the City applied for to expand the water plant. "Yes, it’s taxpayer money but we got it, so I think it’s something we need to do,” said Allevato. 

Mayor Taylor expressed concern over Byrnes' suggestion that the water plant bond debt be refinanced to bring down costs… "Are we paying off debt too fast? Is it too aggressive?” Taylor asked. 

Over objections from Council members Roy Byrnes and Derek Reeve that a “Water Rate Study” may lead to yet another water rate increase that over-burdened residents can ill afford, Council members John Taylor, Sam Allevato and Larry Kramer voted 3-2 to approve conducting the study.

Larry Kramer defended it and commended staff for “doing things that keep costs down.” But watchdogs who track water plant expenditures wonder just what staff is doing to control costs. Councilman Byrnes for example, pointed out that there was an increase in total staff compensation last year of 9.3% - far outpacing inflation.

Big Money in Small Town Politics

A Sworn Complaint alleging campaign violations in the last San Juan City Council election was filed recently with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) alleging that big money interests attempted to benefit financially by controlling who was elected to City Council.

The complaint, filed by Councilman Roy Byrnes and Kimberley McCarthy, describes how the following politicians, political consultants and related groups allegedly worked together to influence the outcome of the campaign in violation of the Fair Political Practices Act:

Roger Faubel of Faubel Public Affairs, former President/CEO of “OC Taxpayers Association”, which sponsors a Political Action Committee (“PAC”) named “OCTax PAC”. Faubel and OC Taxpayers Association benefit financially from a number of development-related projects in San Juan Capistrano;
  • OCTax PAC shares Faubel’s business address, and as an officer of OC Taxpayers, Faubel signed their most recent tax returns in 2010 and 2011; 
  •  OCTax PAC spent nearly $10,000 on mailers promoting Sam Allevato and Ginny Kerr for City Council; 
  •  OC Taxpayers, SDG+E and the Orange County Transportation Agency (OCTA) are all Faubel clients. SDG+E has a large SJC expansion project pending approval in San Juan, and the OCTA granted SJC substantial sums of taxpayer monies from Measure M (gasoline tax) funding for SJC projects 
  •  Jonathan Volzke former Capistrano Dispatch Editor, was hired by Faubel shortly after an article appeared in the Dispatch promoting the proposed SDG&E expansion project in San Juan. SDG+E became Volzke’s client when he was hired by Faubel. Volzke also wrote “Guest Columns” in the Dispatch promoting Allevato and Kerr, prior to the City Council election. 

City Council Voting Record

San Juan, Chicago style...


The bullying just doesn’t stop. As some have suggested, perhaps it’s because the “good ol’ boys” have been calling the shots for so long now that they don’t know how to do business any other way.

The Capistrano Common Sense (CCS) first reported on this issue back in 2010, when some “very powerful people connected with the City” threatened a local restaurant owner with all manner of code violations including jeopardizing his liquor license, if he continued to allow us to host our monthly “CCS Happy Hour” community forum in his restaurant. He responded to the threats by cancelling our community forum the day before it was scheduled. We didn’t blame him; he was just trying to protect his business.

Now, this same small group of “good ol’ boys” has threatened a number of merchants if they advertise in the CCS. The following is from a merchant who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation:

“Local San Juan businesses are afraid of the well-connected good old boy network and the City's influence [on their business] if they don’t toe the line. Thanks for printing the facts which is what this town needs.”

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