San Juan Capistrano

Court Rules Tiered Water Billing Illegal

By Kim Lefner

On August 6, San Juan’s water rates were declared illegal under Proposition 218.  Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz ordered the City to abandon its current water rate structure and base all rates on cost of service in conformance with the California Constitution....

The Court also entered a judgment restraining the City from collecting water fees from residents for recycled water that they do not actually use and which is not immediately available to them. Judge Munoz based his ruling on a section of the California Constitution that deals with “Waste of Taxpayer Funds”.

Capistrano Taxpayers Association (CTA) attorney Ben Benumof said of the ruling, "Ultimately, we always believed that our case was simple, straightforward, and technically sound. The City has never provided any cost-based data to support Tiers 2, 3, and 4, which the City admitted at trial are, in fact, penalties. This is truly a win for the taxpayers, supported by the letter and the spirit of Proposition 218."

Mission Viejo

City Should Return Surplus to Residents

By Steve Magdziak

Steve Magdziak
The city of Mission Viejo claims to have a surplus of monies. The city also spends millions of tax dollars on non-essential programs and services that could be paid for by the people who utilize them. Since it has been said that there is no way to lower taxes or send checks to taxpayers, the next option would be rebates on essential services like trash pickup, water, electricity, etc.

The concept is relatively simple; for every million dollars the city cuts in non-essential spending, a rebate of $27.78 per dwelling could be given back to 36,000 dwellings. The city has a budget of roughly $50-60 million. An $11 million dollar cut could lead to a sizeable rebate of $297.00 to each dwelling.

San Juan Capistrano

City Council Burns Through Your Cash

By Roy Byrnes, M.D., San Juan Capistrano City Councilman

At the last council meeting your City Council did again what it does so well; shoveling your tax dollars into the furnace.
SJC Councilman Roy Byrnes, MD

This time the ruling three council majority pushed through a measure to spend a half million dollars to buy diesel generators as “emergency back ups” to pump water for the Ground Water Recycling Plant. Why was this a stupid move? Because in order to use the generators, two phenomenally unlikely events must both occur together (1) Metropolitan Water authority must fail to deliver water, which hasn't happened in over 100 years and at the same time, (2) SDG &E electrical power must fail for a 48 hour period. This hasn't happened in 100 years either.

Two "never before happened in over 100 years” events must occur simultaneously. Yes, for this long shot to pay off, you'd have to hold winning tickets for both the California and the National lotto on the same day. I don't know how to calculate the odds against that one but Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor went blithely ahead while Derek Reeve and I voted “No' . We lost the vote 2 to 3.

Mission Viejo

Send in the Boy Scouts

By Joe Holtzman

Mission Viejo city hall has neglected numerous city-owned parcels overgrown with brush. After one homeowner asked repeatedly to have a potential fire hazard addressed, the city finally responded with an unusual answer. A city employee said, "We’ll send Boy Scouts to do the work," referring to the work as “community service”.
This vacant lot in Mission Viejo is one
of many the city has failed to maintain
Performing essential work of a city without pay is not community service. The city has collected tax dollars to do the job, and residents should ask if the area is assigned to a contractor. Fire hazards abound on city and county property, and contractors should be addressing all of them – not just those where a homeowner has complained.

In August 2012, Mission Viejo’s council majority rezoned 12,000 homes into “Special Fire Protection Areas.” The wording was changed from “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones”, but the meaning doesn’t change. The council majority ignored the overwhelming public outcry against the change.

San Juan Capistrano

Should Your Tax Dollars Be Used To Fight You?
The water rate lawsuit is the fourth lawsuit in the past several years in which the city has fought its residents and either lost or settled. The amount spent on attorney’s fees is high enough; but add to that monetary judgments awarded to the plaintiffs and the total amount is staggering.

Listed below are two examples of lawsuits over the past few years in which the city spent our tax dollars to fight losing battles against their own residents.

Mission Viejo

The Million Dollar Dog Park

By Larry Gilbert

Many long time residents support a dog park but have opposed spending upwards of one million dollars to create one. If the article printed recently in a local paper is accurate, we have now broken that magic ceiling.

A recent front page feature in the Saddleback Valley News addressed the City of Mission Viejo’s new dog park and detailed a recently released contract for $888,888 to construct the dog park. However, the reporter failed to include the full project cost. City records indicate that the dog park costs are $1,121,176 – and that’s only for Phase One. The figure also fails to include the $250,000 more in “Professional Services” that must be added to the tab for Phase One.

San Juan Capistrano

CCS Banned On City Property!


Ever hopeful that the city will finally agree to operate with the transparency they claim to support, we continue to ask questions and report on community issues while offering what we believed are reasonable solutions. Some at City Hall (fortunately, not all) clearly dislike our reporting on the decisions they make that negatively impact residents, such as increases in water rates, traffic and debt. But it is the public’s right (and many believe, responsibility) to question public officials, especially those who are elected to represent them.

Mission Viejo


Mello-Roos is a tax. When Proposition 13 was enacted, it restricted local governments from using property taxes to build public services and facilities. As a result, new funding methods were devised. Enter Mello Roos.

Mello Roos tax is called different things by different agencies. It started as a law called the “Community Facilities District Act”, which enabled the formation of "Community Facilities Districts" (CFDs) to provide a method of financing public facilities and services in new developments and areas undergoing rehabilitation.

Mello Roos taxes are usually found in newer residential developments. Older houses (typically those built before 1988) don't have them.
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