Lawsuit Claims City Elections are “Racist”

                                                                     By Jim Reardon

 Do you consider yourself racist? At least two of your neighbors who filed a lawsuit* against the city apparently do. In their lawsuit, plaintiffs Tina Auclair and Louie Camacho claim the city’s “at-large” election method denies representation to the city’s Latino community. They seek to break the city into districts that they claim will be more representative of the Latino community.
Plaintiff Louie Camacho,
 pictured with Anna Dickinson
Plaintiff Tina Auclair
Plaintiff’s attorney Kevin Shenkman claims that, “The city’s political culture is infected with anti-Latino racism to a degree rarely seen in the 21st Century. “ His lawsuit claims that while 40% of San Juan Capistrano’s population is Latino, the Latino voter registration level is at only 16%. Without facts, Shenkman argues this is racist; the suit offers no direct evidence of the alleged racism. In fact, it fails to acknowledge that several candidates elected to council seats in the recent past and who went on to become Mayors, were Latino. One of them, Londres Uso, was an immigrant from Mexico. Another, Joe Soto, was elected to multiple terms and twice served as our Mayor.
The percentages quoted in Shenkman’s lawsuit are based on the U.S. Census which did not determine citizenship status nor whether individuals are eligible and/or registered to vote. Residents here illegally and all children are included in the racial population figure.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Water Refunds

 By Kim Lefner

 A Class Action Lawsuit filed on January 8 by a group of San Juan Capistrano residents in OC Superior Court alleges that customers are due “millions of dollars… illegally and wrongfully assessed” for water services from at least February 2010 to July 2015.

The lawsuit states, “SJC failed to calculate its costs in setting its water rates, instead arbitrarily increasing those rates and using improper tiers with no support, justification or relationship to the cost of supplying the water, as required by Proposition 218 and was found by the Court of Appeal and the Orange County Superior Court. SJC’s attempt to escape the consequences of its illegal conduct by accounting sleight of hand should be rejected.”

The suit is based on the outcome of a 2013 lawsuit filed by the Capistrano Taxpayers Association (“CTA”), which successfully sued the City after repeatedly warning the City Council that customers were being overcharged for water in violation of the California Constitution. The council ignored the warnings. A lawsuit was subsequently filed, and an OC Superior Court judge agreed that the water rates violated Proposition 218, which holds that water fees must be reasonably related to actual cost of water service.

The CTA’s win in court was welcome news to the many residents who implored then-council majority members to address runaway costs in the utility department and lower, not raise, water rates. Rather than listening to the concerns and financial hardships expressed by residents, then-city council members Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor voted to use taxpayers’ monies to file an appeal of the ruling, and continued to charge the illegal water rates. On April 20, 2015, they lost again when the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court ruling.

What is “Capistrano Forward”?

Following their election to the City Council in November 2014, the new council majority of Pam Patterson, Kerry Ferguson, Derek Reeve and appointed councilman John Perry have repeatedly been publicly criticized by members and/or supporters of a group calling themselves “Capistrano Forward”.

Members of the group include some of the same supporters of a now-disbanded group calling themselves “San Juan Cares”, which supported the previous “old guard” council majority of Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor. Residents may remember when several years ago, San Juan Cares mailed out glossy flyers to all residents depicting then-council candidates Dr. Roy Byrnes, Councilman Derek Reeve and several prominent community members as clowns and circus characters. The mailers attacked individuals who were on the opposite side of issues promoted by the old guard, and the mailers were widely denounced by residents.

 “San Juan Cares” disappeared, and as near as we can tell, has been resurrected under the name, “Capistrano Forward”. In addition to attacking those with whom they disagree, Capistrano Forward has posted signs along city streets criticizing the current council majority.

Residents who have publicly identified themselves as members and/or supporters of the group are listed below:

                                                                                                                                                            Tom Scott - According to domain registration records, Tom Scott was the original registered owner of the Capistrano Forward website, and used the Camino Real Playhouse address as the group's address (see domain registration listed below*).
Scott has been leasing the taxpayer-owned and subsidized Camino Real Playhouse for the nominal sum of $100 per year from the City, and his lease only allows him to use the property for theater-related activities. In addition, according to the Camino Real Playhouse website, Scott has listed the theater for rent for a fee, in violation of his lease agreement. 

Tina Auclair – After Scott was warned by the city that his use of city-owned and subsidized property for political activities violated the terms of his lease, the website domain registration was taken over by Tina Auclair.

 Auclair has been a frequent public critic of the newly elected council majority and outspoken supporter of the old guard. Auclair filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that San Juan’s election method is “racist” as it does not proportionately represent the Latino community. Auclair claims in her lawsuit that Kim McCarthy and the CCS are “racist”, while failing to acknowledge that McCarthy was a campaign manager for former Councilman Londres Uso, an immigrant from Mexico; established and operated an afterschool “Homework Club” primarily for English Language Learners at a local elementary school and who, as a Parks & Recreation Commissioner, voted to recommend that the city council charge nominal rent to “Creer”, a group established to service local Hispanic youth.
 Anna Dickinson – Local realtor and partner of Tina Auclair in “Regency Realty”; Dickinson lives and owns a home in San Juan with Louie Camacho. Camacho is co-plaintiff in the lawsuit with Tina Auclair claiming that San Juan’s election process is “racist”................................................................................. Stephanie Frisch - Failed council candidate in the November 2014 election, and supporter of the old guard council majority. Expressing bitterness over the election outcome in 2014, Frisch publicly stated in several online posts just after the election: “Educated voting or influence of propaganda… It’s not that I didn't win, it's that all the qualified people didn't and the ones that don't know more than a thimbleful did…”  
"Sad, sad day for our town..."
“This is going to be a very dark time for our town. I am literally afraid for what is going to happen...”

Letter to the Editor

                                            Kudos to the Council for Protecting Ortega         

Having researched the widening of Ortega Highway for the past ten years, I am dismayed by the misinformation being given to the public about this issue.   

The issue is not about simply eliminating a perceived “chokepoint”. In fact, lane reduction is a proven safety measure called “traffic calming” which is used to reduce accidents.  

What this issue is really about is a landowner/developer’s need to have adequate “road capacity” in order to complete build out of their planned developments to the east. Contrary to what some have said, the landowner does NOT automatically have the entitlements to build 14,000 homes and 5 million square feet of commercial/retail space; he must first demonstrate to the county that there is adequate “road capacity” to accommodate the thousands of vehicle trips per day generated by each new development phase. 
Getting the taxpayers to pick up the lion’s share of the 30 million dollar tab for the widening is what has really been behind the push to widen the road. Elimination of the so-called “chokepoint” opens the door to further widening.
Now you might ask, can’t the developer just pay to build the roads that they need in order to handle all of their traffic? Of course, and we SJC residents should demand that the developer do just that. The developer can and should put in their own road on their own land, with their own money, to accommodate their own traffic. The developer’s original plan was to build an east-west arterial road to the north on their own land (listed as a top priority in the 2002 Strategic Transportation Plan), which would redirect hundreds of thousands of vehicle trips away from Ortega.
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