San Juan Capistrano

Recall Exposes Big Money Influence in San Juan
By Christie Smead

Those who have done it will probably agree that gathering signatures for a ballot measure is a lot of work, but is also a great way to conduct an informal survey of your community. So what have we learned about our community while gathering thousands of signatures for the recall of Mayor Sam Allevato?

We learned that about 8 out of 10 residents do not believe that Sam Allevato represents their interests.

We learned that the majority of residents believe that their water rates are too high, the traffic has become too gridlocked from over-development and that our city council majority should stop wasting our money on unnecessary lawsuits, including unconstitutional actions such as banning newspapers on City property, which they have yet to justify.

We learned that the many residents who signed the recall petition are united in their desire to stand together; not for Sam, but for San Juan.

We also learned that there is apparently no limit to the amount of money that outside, wealthy and financially invested special interests are willing to pour into Allevato’s campaign to keep him seated on City Council. 

Allevato reported more than $70,000 collected in just 90 days from developers, unions, attorneys, lobbyists and city consultants/contractors who rely on his vote to benefit their financial interests. This amount doesn’t include the money spent by San Juan Cares, a group run by former and current city commissioners appointed and/or approved by Allevato. San Juan Cares spent well over $50,000 on attack mailers vilifying two sitting councilmen and residents who disagreed with Allevato, Kramer, and Taylor. It is incomprehensible to me, and the residents in San Juan, that Robert Ferguson who ran San Juan Cares, is allowed to continue serving on a city commission (as Chairman of the Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission) when he violated the city’s ethics policies by attacking sitting council members Byrnes and Reeve, not to mention residents.

As an all-volunteer group of residents, even if we could compete with the vast monies donated by Allevato’s special interests, we realize that the “kick out” rate would likely eliminate the possibility of proceeding with the recall. Coupled with the ongoing intimidation tactics by Councilmen Allevato, Kramer and Taylor in order to stop citizens from signing the recall petition, the recall committee has decided to focus their energies instead on the November election. The goal is to replace Councilmen Kramer and Taylor with candidates who are not indebted to developers, unions, consultants, lobbyists and others whose profits and economic interests depend on favorable votes by these council majority members while everyday residents pay the price through increased traffic, water rates and fees.

The positive result of the recall signature gathering is that the Wizard's curtain has been drawn back to reveal who is really running this town. When we look at who contributed big money to keep Allevato in office, it helps to explain why our historic little town scarcely resembles the San Juan so many of us love and are still willing to protect.

On behalf of Residents for Honest Government, I could not be more grateful for all the time, talent and treasure each member of our ever-growing team gave. This "team" includes every neighbor who took the time to become educated on the facts and then share that knowledge with others; those who made donations to help print petitions and leaflets; those who made the effort to collect signatures, and those who signed. Many of our volunteers have been maligned, publicly and privately, by Sam Allevato and his backers (most of whom do not even live in town). This movement includes grandparents, moms, dads, coaches, teachers, entrepreneurs, retirees, military veterans, community volunteers and students among others. Many hours away from family and other pursuits have been devoted to changing how the current City Council majority treats and views San Juan residents. Residents deserve respect and representation from their elected leaders - regardless of whether they can afford to donate thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

The recall effort succeeded in waking up our little town; residents are now more aware about the issues. People have seen the intimidation, the ugly mailers, which were not only mean-spirited but lacked veracity, and our neighbors are now alerted to the growing list of costly, bad decisions by this majority council of Allevato, Kramer and Taylor.

We have asked Mayor Allevato to put an end to the divisiveness and the cronyism by stepping down, but we don't expect him to respect the wishes of San Juan residents whose pleas he has ignored for so many years. So it's up to the voters to seat a council majority of three in November who will actually represent the best interests of residents, and not just those of the highest bidder. To make good choices when we vote, we must do our homework on the issues and, with a skeptical eye, gauge whether any information addresses the issues honestly, or if they are putting residents down. Visit our website at: to add your name to our email list to receive periodic updates about the November election and the candidates who we hope will replace the current council majority.


Anonymous said...

I think I know who "owns" our town - and it ain't the residents!

Anonymous said...

Im sorry to see the recall didnt happen. San juan needs to get council members who represent all of us and not just rich friends of the 3 council members who vote to give the rich friends special treatment at the expanse of the residents here.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, residents do believe the council represents them, or the recall would have been more successful. The effort was in the newspapers, in Community Common Sense, at the markets couldn't even get even signatures to turn in.

A few angry folks will always be a few angry folks. You tried, but you're the ones out of step with the community, not the council.

Anonymous said...

Ending the recall effort had nothing to do with whether voters would sign. Collecting signatures was easy; about 90% of the voters I spoke with signed without hesitation. They knew the issues, were ticked off at what Allevato and the council majority have done to our quality of life (and to our pocketbooks with water rate increases, etc) and were eager to sign. The anger in this town is palpable - and it's not just the recall group - it's the residents. They get it.

The problem was not enough volunteers who were able to spend their personal time collecting signatures. In a recall election, you cannot pay signature gatherers unless they are registered to vote in the city.

The recall did accomplish something important though; it flushed all the special interests who IMO are really running this town out into the open. Now everyone knows who they are, and voters can decide if they want to keep paying to benefit these special interests.

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