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Your Community Watch Dog

November 2013 | Volume 4 | Number 10

San Juan Capistrano - Mission Viejo

In This Issue San Juan Capistrano

Dirty Politics in SJC

By Kim Lefner

Dirty Politics in SJC Page 1

Regionalizing the Ground Water Recovery Plant

This article and others written about Ellis and SJC Councilman Sam Allevato’s campaign consultant Eileen Padberg predict a down-anddirty fight by Allevato against residents running the recall against him.

Page 3

Class Action Lawsuit Seeks Refunds Page 5

The City Should Obey The Law

by Steve Magdziak

Americans are reportedly the most caring and generous nation when it comes to charitable giving. In Mission Viejo, residents gave more to Race for the Cure than any other city in Orange County. That’s a good thing.

Charitable Giving

What’s not so good in my opinion, is when the city decides which charities are worthy of your tax dollars. More than 20 charities attended a commission meeting in MV recently, in a bid to get get $75,000 of your tax dollars.

Page 1

The Not So Free Freeways Page 8

Hats Off to Residents Part II Page 11

Continued on page 5...

Your Decision or the City’s?

Mission Viejo

Page 9

One of the functions of these out-of-town political consultants is to marginalize the opposition by conducting “smear” campaigns. They target the average voter with glossy mailers attacking the opposition, often on a personal level.

Charitable Giving

Page 7

Voting Record of Anna Bryson

A recent article in the OC Register entitled “The Fixer” by Meghann Cuniff, describes political consultant David Ellis’ often unethical tactics to get his candidates elected.

Some of the “needs” stated by the charities are questionable. One group for example, wants to give cell phones to homeless people that “live” in MV. Although I may agree with some of the services offered by this charity, are cell phones better than food and a roof? Could that homeless person be on illegal drugs? Continued on page 11...

About the Community Common Sense The CCS is a free, non-partisan community watchdog newspaper distributed monthly to 35,000 homes and businesses in the cities of Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano. The CCS was established in San Juan Capistrano in 2009 by a group

of residents who recognize that tax dollars are often spent in ways that enrich a select few, while average residents are left with the resulting increases to cost of living, traffic and debt. We believe knowledge is power. Aided by Public Records Act

requests for information and extensive research, we print factbased information about these and other issues which enables residents to make educated decisions about local leadership. We do the homework – you decide!


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“Regionalizing” the Ground Water Recovery Plant A Solution to an Expensive Problem By Roy L. Byrnes, MD, SJC City Councilman Our “water troubles” began about ten years ago when the City made the fateful choice to move away from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which had been our traditional supplier of water for nearly 100 years. Unfortunately, the City decided that we should obtain about 75% of our water by pumping the subterranean aquifer from the San Juan basin using the local Ground Water Recovery Plant (GWRP). Roy L. Byrnes That was a bad decision and business without financial we’ve been paying a very injury. high price for it ever since. Indeed, over the past 10 years, At the present time the City we’ve learned that the GWRP has a goal of producing about is more expensive and less 75% of its water from the reliable than MWD water. GWRP and 24% from the less expensive MWD source. Looking to the future, the This places a heavy financial rising cost of electricity, plus burden on the 11,000+ San the cost of 21 employees to Juan customers. In time this run it, plus the maintenance and repairs, plus the expenses will become unbearable as the increased costs of electricity, of installing recharge facilstaff and measures to protect ities, plus the construction against ocean water intrusion of barriers to protect from ocean water intrusion - all are added on. these factors mean that the I suggest we start by removing future operational costs of the operation of the GWRP the GWRP will continue to (water plant) from the City of outpace even the expected increase in MWD water costs. San Juan and transferring it to the San Juan Basin Authority What to do? Last month (the actual owners of the Councilman Sam Allevato suggested that the City should facility) so that the GWRP can supply water to all four of the determine the costs and consequences of shuttering the Basin Authority participants, not just San Juan. That means “water factory” and stopping (defaulting on) the bond paythat the financial burden of ments. Upon the recommenthe GWRP would be supdation of the City Attorney, he ported by a vastly increased withdrew his suggestion. number of customers – an Today I offer a better solution. estimated 75,000. This is a return to the original Thus each customer will pay concept when the San Juan far less to support the operBasin Authority was formed ation of the plant. San Juan decades ago. This approach would reverse its pattern and involves reducing operational acquire about 85- 90% of its expenses by spreading costs of water from the less expensive MWD source and only a small operation over a larger num5 -10% from the GWRP. San ber of customers; a program Juan’s water costs drop! There of “regionalization” which could be three net results of gets the City of San Juan this change: Capistrano out of the water

One.

The role of the GWRP is switched – no longer is it the primary water source for the City of San Juan. Instead, the GWRP becomes an auxiliary-backup emergency water source for a much larger group of customers from all of the San Juan Basin participants – as originally intended

Two.

Since the GWRP is no longer their direct responsibility, the San Juan ratepayers are relieved of an insufferable financial burden. The City is “out of the water business” as the San Juan Basin Authority takes over. San Juan finances improve hugely!

Three.

The costs of leasing the GWRP would be assumed by all the San Juan Basin Authority members. This would supply the money to meet bond payments. There is no interruption in the payment of money to bondholders and no bankruptcy. This illustration is offered to show that reasonable alternatives do exist.

Editor’s note: Councilman Byrnes’ suggestion echoes that of Capistrano Taxpayers Association Board member John Perry, who proposed a similar “regional” approach in an article in the April issue of the CCS entitled, “New Water Strategy Needed,” which can be accessed in the “Archives” on our website at:

www.ccsense.com.

Perry re-iterated his recommendation to “regionalize” the Ground Water Recovery Plant to the Board members of the San Juan Basin Authority at their November 12, 2013 meeting. Unfortunately, to date the San Juan Capistrano City Council majority has failed to consider this or plan to solve the problem.

Copyright © 2013, All Rights Reserved commonsense.com LLC § Letters and submissions will be considered for publication, are subject to editorial adjustment.

eboard@ccsense.com

Editor:

Kim Lefner Mission Viejo Contributing Editor:

Steve Magdziak Art Director:

Marcos Forbes-Reyes Find out more on our website

www.ccsense.com

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Class Action Lawsuit Seeks Refunds By Kim Lefner The law offices of Keller Rackauckas Umberg Zipser and Klein & Wilson have filed a claim against the City of San Juan Capistrano for illegal water rate charges on behalf of water rate payers. This is the first step in the process of a class action lawsuit on behalf of all San Juan Capistrano residents, according to plaintiff ’s attorney “This claim and any resulting Gerald Klein. lawsuit have nothing to do with Klein said the plaintiffs any pending election in the city will contend that the city and will proceed regardless of any charged water rates in election outcome,” said Klein. excess of what is permitted The City has 45 days to accept pursuant to California law. If the claim is denied by the or reject the claim. If the claim City, the matter will proceed is rejected, it then proceeds to a lawsuit. to a class action, in which virtually all rate payers will The amount of damages listed be class members. on the claim form ranges from When asked if the class $20 to $30 million, based on action was politically driven, estimated overcharges of all resattorney K lein indicated idential customers for domestic that the attorneys don’t care and recycled water. who won or lost elections; The CCS will keep you updattheir clients are the residents of SJC who want their ed...stay tuned. money back.

Recall Update Councilman Sam Allevato was served with Notice of Intent to Recall on September 17, 2013. The primary reasons recall organizers give for the recall are Allevato’s repeated votes to increase water rates (an increase of 105% since 2004), his subsequent vote to use an estimated $500,000 of taxpayer dollars to fight the water rate lawsuit, his vote to use more taxpayer dollars to appeal the Superior Court decision which ruled that San Juan’s tiered water rates are illegal and his refusal to consider spreading the cost of operating the expensive Ground Water Recovery Plant among several cities to reduce the financial burden on San Juan residents. Recall organizers Residents For Honest Government report that it took the City longer than anticipated to approve the text of the recall notice, but that they finally received approval and are now collecting signatures. The recall organizers have 120 days to gather signatures from 20% of the registered voters in San Juan Capistrano, for a total of 3,500 valid signatures. If enough signatures are collected to qualify the recall for the ballot, an election date will be set by the Registrar of Voters. Recall organizers hope to have a special election in June, 2014 however, if a special election is needed, the cost will be $93,000 according to City Clerk Maria Morris. According to John Perry of Residents For Honest Government, “With a new council majority we will have the opportunity to put an end to the costly fight against the court decision on the city’s illegal water rates. A new council majority will also give us the opportunity to negotiate a new lease agreement with the San Juan Basin Authority to share the cost of running the hugely expensive Ground Water Recovery Plant. By my estimates, these actions alone will save the residents about $100,000 per month, which makes the one-time cost of the recall a good investment.”

For more information, see: www.RecallSam.com

Dirty Politics in SJC Despite Allevato’s repeated denials about ties to Ellis, a recent Public Records Act request reveals that Allevato is indeed involved with Ellis, as he is with Padberg. A Daily Pilot article from Nov. 24, 2002 about Ellis entitled “The Campaigner”, by reporter Paul Clinton reveals Ellis’ tactics;

“As a political consultant… Ellis has long been a hot commodity in City Council elections...known as a freewheeling bomb thrower... his opponents often dread his aggressive tactics. ‘He pushes the envelope until it tears,’ said one source who requested anonymity.” According to the article, the Newport Beach-based Ellis has “…perfected a... no-holds-

barred campaigning style...for two decades…[and] promotes his candidates... using bulk mailers, phone blitzes, voter surveys and...other tools of the trade. With about $20,000 and the right candidate, Ellis can take you to the top.” “Politics is definitely a combat sport. I happen to be on the gridiron,” Ellis said.

Allevato’s political consultant Eileen Padberg was quoted in the article, stating;

“You get hired to do a job, you get hired to win for your candidate. It’s a very tough business and you only get one shot [to win] ... It’s not a business for the faint of heart.” A response to a recent SJC Public Records Act request offers a glimpse into the political tactics employed by Ellis, Padberg and Sam Allevato. On July 2, 2013, Ellis sent a City Of Newport Beach “newsletter” to both Allevato and Padberg with the following email;

(continued from page 1) Nobody complains about tax In what appears to be a follow up to Padberg’s dollars paying for it…It’s very much an advocacy piece advice, former Council member Laura Freese then masked in the facade of an official City mailer.” [empha- wrote a Letter to the Editor of the of the Capistrano sis added]. Dispatch. In it, she attacks Within weeks of Ellis’ sugthe Community Common gestion, the City mailed out Sense (CCS) and individuals critical of Allevato. Prior to its first “newsletter” entisubmitting her letter howevtled, “The Value of Water.” According to a PRA request, er, she asked Sam Allevato and Jonathan Volzke for the PR mailer cost the their opinion about it in a taxpayers between $6,000 September 18 email: to $8,000 to design and “Both of you did such a great distribute. job last night with your speeches! [at the city council meeting Allevato has repeatedly in which Allevato was served denied campaign ties to recall papers.] God I Ellis. He has not denied ties with just hate those people! Please to Padberg but has not see the attached Letter to the mentioned her by name, Editor...I want to send it out only stating that he has “a right away, but being as I am a

political consultant”.

bit emotional about this whole Padberg and Allevato’s polit- thing I want your opinion first. I don’t want to come off as ical strategy becomes clear whiney.” however, in the following email exchange on July 22, Allevato responded: “Laura, 2013 when Allevato emailed your letter is wonderful and Brad Gates (who is copied I can’t express enough my on a surprisingly large volume of emails), Padberg and heartfelt gratitude for you stepping to the plate to support Ellis, stating; me...’Bullying’ is what they are “Councilmembers Byrnes & about...” Reeve vote “No” on placing Freese replied to Allevato, American Flag in city park! “Do you think the FYI - matter of public record.” asking, comparison to the Nazis is (Note: The record reflects over the top?” that Reeve stated his support Allevato responded: “Why for the flag and flag pole, not refer back to the true but objected to a permapurpose of recalls i.e. immoral, nent sign advertising Brad unethical behavior, etc. Not Gates’ private “Open Space Foundation” at the entrance one’s voting record. Thanks.” to publicly owned Reata Park. Byrnes agreed with Reeve, but the sign promoting Gates’ foundation was approved anyway in a 3-2 vote). Padberg responded: “Great

- keep this in your tickler file - we’ll use it at a later date... We should take some shots now; letters to the editor from outraged citizens (just so we can reprint articles/columns in direct mail)” [emphasis

“Hi Sam & EileenSan Juan should be mailing something like the attached added]. newsletter the City of Newport Beach Brad Gates responded: “Got sends to all city residents… it.”

Continued on page 6...

Cor rect ion

In the last issue of the CCS, Jonathan Volzke was incorrectly identified as having made the signs displayed by twelve people at a council meeting to show their support of Councilman Sam Allevato, who is facing recall. The signs were made and paid for by SJC resident Steve Behmerwohld, which Volzke then helped distribute.

Community Common Sense |

Page 5


Dirty Politics in SJC Shortly after that, Freese’s letter was printed in the Dispatch, stating that recalls should only be used for immoral or unethical behavior. She also attacked the CCS, stating that we filed the recall against Allevato [NOT TRUE], calling us “... the deceitful group

(continued from page 5)

which operates under the alias Community Common Sense” [it’s our name, not an alias] and accused the CCS of making “personal attacks with lies and halftruths...” [while offering no documentation for her claims]. Freese evidently

reconsidered comparing us to Nazis. The lies, misinformation and vitriolic personal attacks outlined in the emails reflect a disturbing trend in increasingly divisive politics in San Juan. We will put these emails in a “tickler file” as a reminder of who

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Editorial

City Should Obey the Law No one should have to file a lawsuit to get the city to comply with the law.

going to court, if the city agreed to the following provisions; that the City of San Juan Capistrano, Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer, John Taylor and Hans Van Ligten admit they violated the constitut iona l r ight s of the CCS by banning our news rack from cityowned property; publicly apologize to CCS; repeal the ban; agree not to enact a future ban; reimburse the CCS for attorney and filing fees and agree

First it was the Capistrano Taxpayers Association’s lawsuit against the city to force them to stop illegally billing for water. The CTA won, but the city council majority of Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor voted to appeal the court ruling and ignore the court decision by continuing to bill the higher, illegal tiered water rates. More recently, the CCS filed legal action to force the city to allow us to place our news rack alongside other news racks on city-owned property. Newspapers have been distributed via news racks at City Hall, the Community Center and on other city-owned property for many years. That is, until the CCS put our news rack alongside the others. Within four days, a closed door meeting of the city council was called, newspapers were banned on city property, and the CCS was threatened with criminal prosecution if we placed our newspapers “anywhere on city property”. The council majority of Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and Mayor John Taylor have refused to take responsibility for the ban, but Councilman Roy Byrnes reported the vote in open session, stating that the council voted 3-1 to support it (with Byrnes opposed). If Allevato, Kramer and Taylor truly believe there is nothing

that the CCS reserves its right tochallenge any restriction or limitation placed on it or its news racks by the city. If history is any judge, the city will continue to dig in its heels, and refuse to accept any responsibility for bad and illegal behavior. The losers are the residents who are governed by such lawless ineptitude.

WE DELIVER!

San Juan residents deserve so much better.

www.FlagsPolesAndMore.com wrong with banning newspapers on city-owned property, why will they not admit their vote or explain why they think it’s OK? Meanwhile, other newspapers remain on city-owned properties with no apparent problem. We are guessing that these other publications have not received a letter from the city attorney threatening them with criminal prosecution for “...violation of the SJC Municipal Code, among other violations”. We are attempting to protect our right to free speech in the only way that we can; by filing legal action. In order to avoid having to drag this into court however, the CCS offered to settle with the city if they allowed newspapers back on public property. The CCS through its attorney, Wayne Tate, of Ostendorf Tate Barnett LLP, offered to settle it without

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The Not-So-Free Freeways - Part I By Ed Sachs

Toll lanes might be in your future on both the I-405 and I-5 freeways. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is proposing a plan that would add a toll lane, convert an existing carpool lane to a toll lane, and create a 3-person “free” lane in both directions on our freeways. This, in fact, would kick out any 2+ passengers from the HOV lane. Why are many of our elected officials so interested in taxing residents with tolls on the 5 and 405? We have already been taxed to build these freeways. In an article in the OC Register entitled, “Toll-lanes plan a theft of Measure M dollars”, former Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever writes, “The real plan, as outlined in the article and a map graphic in the July-August issue of Westways magazine, is to eventually have these toll lanes running throughout Southern California, on every Orange County “freeway.” The questions is, who made this plan - and why? Recently re-elected to the 17-member OTCA Board is Mission Viejo City Councilman Frank Ury, who is also running for Orange County Supervisor. Mr. Ury cites threats from Caltrans as his justification for supporting the toll scheme. Let’s examine the accuracy of this alleged threat from Caltrans: A tactic used by pro-toll road Board members and OTCA staff to convince the public to support the “Alt-3 Toll Roads Alternative is to claim that Caltrans will build the toll lanes anyway, and that the toll lanes Page 8

| Community Common Sense

anyway, and that the toll monies collected will go to Sacramento, not to OC. But, there is no evidence anywhere in California where Caltrans has built toll lanes in opposition to local authorities. Caltrans does not wish to take control away from any local transportation authority. Further, a conversation I recently had with OC Supervisor Pat Bates confirmed that state law prohibits taking toll revenue out of the counties that have toll roads. In order to have that revenue sent to Sacramento, Malcolm Dougherty, was asked if Caltrans would force toll lanes on Orange County, his answer was “No”. In addition, he said Caltrans would work with OCTA to solve issues with “Degradation,” which is a term for a national edict that car pool lanes must be able to travel at 45 mph minimum. I will explain Degradation in more detail in Part 2 of this series. You can listen to Councilman Ury’s OTCA report on the toll road situation from the November 4 Mission Viejo City Council meeting posted on the City’s website (see link below). Councilman Ury states that Caltrans would mandate that HOV lanes become toll lanes, and says there is nothing we can do about it. However, evidence suggests that it’s the OCTA, not Caltrans that is looking for a way to generate more tax revenue through toll lanes. The 405 freeway tolls are estimated to cost as much as $9.91 northbound and $6.61 southbound. That’s an additional $320 a month for the average toll road user; on top of the gasoline taxes we already pay for our roads. Orange County voters approved taxing themselves for freeway improvements through Measure M in 2004 and a follow up Measure “M2”. More than a billion dollars in additional taxes was

raised with these measures. That is enough to pay for adding two new HOV lanes to the 405. In fact, our gasoline costs 51 cents more per gallon than the national average, thanks in large part to gasoline sales taxes. So including gasoline tax, we would be taxed thrice. We pay 39.5 cents per gallon in taxes whereas the national average is 21 cents. Toll lanes are estimated to cost between $1.3 - $1.4 billon. Taxing us through two Measure M sales tax increases plus proposing that we pay tolls for using public freeway lanes amounts to double taxation. The OCTA Board was scheduled to vote on the I-405 “project alternative” at its December 9 meeting. However, that vote has been postponed until around March 2014. I’m guessing it is in response to the public push-back on this terrible idea. OC Supervisor Pat Bates states that they (the OCTA) need time “to build trust”. Trust for what? That the OCTA will tax us wisely? The OCTA Board is comprised of elected officials throughout OC. To view the contact info for these officials and the meeting address, visit the website at: www.octa.net/About/ Board-of-Directors/Agendas/

 Our elected officials need be held accountable when they make campaign promises rooted in fiscal conservatism. You can email Councilman Frank Ury at: fury@cityofmissionviejo.org to let him know what you think about being double or triple taxed when using toll lanes.Next month I will offer details of “LEVs” and “MAP 21” and why I believe OTCA feels pressured to come up with a solution. To listen to Councilman Ury’s comments at the November 4, 2013 council meeting visit: http:// missionviejo.granicus.com/ ViewPublisher.php?view_ id=14. Scroll to 4:35:00 below the video screen.

Ed Sachs and his family have lived in Mission Viejo since 1991. Ed spent 30 years in the consumer electronics industry where he was inducted in the Hall of Fame. He retired as President Emeritus at Pioneer Electronics in 2009. Since retirement, Ed has opened his own leadership-consulting agency while becoming active in the community. In 2012, Ed ran for Mission Viejo City Council. Ed and his wife Leagh, an award winning photographer, have two sons, David and Daniel. Questions? Comments? The CCS wants to hear from you! Contact Mission Viejo Contributing Editor Steve Magdziak at: (949) 441-0499.

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Voting Record of Capistrano Unified Trustee Anna Bryson

Candidate for State Assembly, 73rd District The CCS occasionally prints the voting record of candidates for elected office in order to help our readers understand the candidates’ background and history. Listed below is the voting record of Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Trustee Anna Bryson, who was elected to the CUSD Board in 2007. Bryson is now running for a State Assembly seat in the 73rd District, which encompasses Mission Viejo.

Anna Bryson Proposed Item

Anna Bryson Vote

Result of Vote

June 4, 2007 - 7 % raise to teachers union

Yes

Cost of raise: $24 million

June 4, 2007 - 6 % raise to classified staff

Yes

Cost of raise: $8.2 million

June 4, 2007 - 7 % raise to CUSD management

Yes

Cost of raise: $3.2 million

June 4, 2007 - Eliminate college and career plan- Yes ning program, reduced student supervision and staff and increased class size

Increased class size; reduced or eliminated college planning/ support to students

2010 - Restore 2 furlough days for all CUSD staff Voted in closed $2.8 million per year in with no formal vote of the board session (reaffirmed perpetuity yes vote) 2011 - Restore 2.5% pay for teachers with no formal vote of the board,

Voted in closed $4.8 million per year in session (reaffirmed perpetuity yes vote)

2011 - Restore 3 furlough days (in 2011 and 3.5 in 2012 (non student days)

Yes; Motion by Bryson

2011 - Added two minimum days for conferences at a loss of instructional minutes to students (elementary)

Yes; Motion and 2nd Loss of instructional minutes to by Bryson students: time off for teachers

2011 - Taxpayers to provide training to union members as to how to negotiate

Yes; Motion by Bryson

Cost $30,000

2011 - Taxpayers increase contributions for teachers union benefits

Yes; Motion by Bryson

Unknown cost: cap was lifted for teachers only

2011 - Vote for Democratic Central Committee member Gary Pritchard for Board President (over conservative Republican)

Yes

Pritchard became Board President

2012 - Allow staff develop retirement incentive (“golden handshake”) for teachers union members with NO DATA and no written information

Yes; Motion and 2nd Later learned (after vote to by Bryson approve) that cost would be $2 million per year for 5 years for a total of $10 million.

2012 - Borrow an additional $12.6 million from the County of Orange to cover debt - with no way of knowing terms of repayment

Yes; Motion and 2nd by Bryson

Good decision; debt covered with reasonable terms

2012 - Increase class size from 31 to 33 in kindergarten and 30 to 31 in grades 1-3.

Yes; Motion by Bryson

Class sizes increased

2012 - Trustee Palazzo requested Board adopt No District Attorney’s recommendation to reinstate recording of closed session meetings

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2012 - Approved “golden handshake” early retirement incentive of 85% of salary. No data was provided to document savings

Yes; Motion and 2nd Cost: $2 million per year for 5 by Bryson years plus $6,000 per year for retiree health benefits

2012 - Lay-off of librarians and other support staff

Yes

Increase taxes in 10 “Mello-Roos” districts

Yes

Loss of supervision of students Increased property taxes every year of CUSD Mello-Roos taxpayers

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Community Common Sense |

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Charitable Giving (Continued from page 1) Your Decision or the City’s? Other charities stated that many MV residents are hurting for cash and that some cannot even afford clothing. If true, why then is the city giving the school district $800,000 of your tax dollars for an afterschool program for Saddleback Unified K-6 schools? At an average attendance of 47 students per school (in 12 schools), that’s an estimated $1,400 per student. Our taxes already pay schools an estimated $12,000 per student per year; why isn’t the school district paying for “afterschool programs”? As a commissioner, I voted no on the $800,000 program. For that kind of money we could have had 2+ extra police officers, or rehabilitated 2+ parks or fixed sidewalks and roads. Then there’s the issue of how these decisions are made. I have learned that there is no means test to determine who should get money, other than a charity or school district claiming they need it. In response to a charity’s request for money for school clothing, the city gave each student $100 to spend at Target. Taxpayers don’t get to know whether the family being awarded $100 per student has money, or whether they are already getting tax dollars through one of 20+ duplicate Government programs. AFTER the votes to give money away, the Chairman commented that some of the reference letters were “boilerplates” created by the organization requesting money. Other comments from commissioners included the fact that maybe too much money was given to the arts and culture, and not enough to services like special needs and domestic violence services.

for City Council in 2012 and is fundraising to run in 2014. The Vice Chairman asked how we know where the money went. How about they address these questions prior to the vote, not after? One example of why taxpayers have a right to know is the abuse of taxpayer-funded programs like “Electronic Benefit Transfer” (EBT) cards. These are the “debit” cards that are supposed to be used for essentials like food, but which have been used at bars, casinos, strip clubs, tattoo parlors and vacations to Hawaii and Florida. It’s easy; they just swipe them through a machine like a debit card, only the money doesn’t come out of their pocket - it comes out of yours as a taxpayer. At the commission meeting, I explained (again) my rebate idea; that if the city has a “surplus”, why not give it back to the residents since it’s their money anyway? Let them decide which charities they give to. I researched it and found that our city can legally rebate residents back monies they have been overcharged, or that end up as a city “surplus”. This can be done through say, a credit on your utility bill.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a $10 0 credit on your ut ilit y bill? Or how about a $10 0 check issued to you, so that you can decide if you want to buy clothing for your kids, or pay other bills with it? While council members claim that issuing checks would “cost too much money”, how do they know without findCommissioner Wendy Bucknam ing out the true cost? Businesses voted to give tax dollars to these send rebate checks out all the charities but the vote was “bifurcat- time. I urge the council to detered” due to her conf lict of interest in mine the cost and if isn’t feasible serving on a Board of a charity that to issue checks, rebate

Photo by www.tradingacademy.com the money back to the taxpayers on a utility bill.

member who supported giving your money back to you was Cathy Schlicht.

Unfortunately, most council members want to remain in the business of deciding which charities they want to give your tax dollars to. Councilman Frank Ury scoffed at my suggestion to give back about $1 million of “surplus” tax dollars to residents, calling it “McDonald’s money.” This implies residents don’t need it. Mind you, I just was at a commission meeting where we were told that people were hurting for cash in MV. Maybe these people could use some “McDonald’s money.” Regardless, it’s our money; shouldn’t we decide whether we want to spend it on McDonalds, or something else? The only Council

Per sona l ly, I l i ke t he ca mpa ig n sloga n “M I N D YOU R BUSINESS” that was on the Continental dollar in 1776 and the first US Penny in 1787. But the campaign that wins the hearts these days seems to be the photo op of the “caring politician” that funds these programs with your money.

is line for tax dollars. Bucknam ran

Contributing Editor Steve Magdziak is a resident and businessman in Mission Viejo. He can be reached at (949) 441-0499 with questions or comments. Page 10 | Community Common Sense


Hats Off to Residents - Part II By Larry Gilbert

Fighting the establishment is a long, hard battle. For those who may lose a specific fight the answer is not to disappear from holding our government accountable but rather to find or create a group of neighbors and friends with similar concerns. The benefit of joining other concerned citizens goes beyond fellowship; you also gain a priceless support system.

In his March 2, 2004 article on our offer to share the business development web site, LA Times staff Writer Dave McKibben stated the following, “people always suspect we’re being too negative,” Gilbert said. “We’re trying to do some positive stuff. There’s no hidden agenda.” CIG, with around 30-40 members, continued as a watchdog organization until 2004.

There is strength in numbers and working together you catch the eyes and ears of not only Larry Gilbert the media but city council and staff who take notice of your activities.

Our business website contains a history of the city, including a virtual tour and business contact information. The volunteer team responsible for creating the website were residents Alan Pilger, Cathy Schlicht, Norm Rosenkrantz, Joe Holtzman, Dale Tyler and myself.

CIG was formed on Jan 23, 1997 after the city broke an established housing cap with a zoning change to build 741 apartments north of Crown Valley Parkway. That development decision ignored petitions containing 7,000 signatures of residents opposing the project. Leading that drive was local resident Dale Tyler.

For several years we offered free access to the website at city council meetings, yet our offer fell on deaf ears. So, last year, Council Member Cathy Schlicht and I joined the new Mission Viejo Chamber of Commerce where we joined the Ambassador Committee. We offered the Mission Viejo business web site One of the achievements of a CIG at their meetings as well as to subcommittee was our effort to the Chamber president. Sadly promote economic development to nothing happened. However the “retain, sustain, and gain” business city, being aware of the positive in Mission Viejo. To that end we site, created their own version created a web site that readers can by copying our format. Further, still access... www.missionviejobusithey permitted a private Farmers ness.com. We offered to share the Market access to the city web web site with the city, including our site while ignoring our non-paroffer to grant them full edit authortisan effort to promote our ity and yet, even after our cordial city hall presentation, they chose not business sector, simply because we are community watchdogs. to utilize it. You see, watchdogs, or as some like to call those who object to city mismanagement, “activists”, “naysayers”, “nattering nabobs of negativity” or “gadflies” are labeled as such in order to paint them as the bad guys in the black hats while our leaders have big white hats.

City staff may cringe when we expose waste and abuse of taxpayer monies. But they cannot silence us, which no doubt frustrates them. One person, and certainly a group, can make a difference if you engage in the sharing of information.

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Larry Gilbert, a retired electronics industry executive, has lived in Mission Viejo since 1977. He is an elected board member of the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights. Larry is also a former Board Member of South Coast Christian Assembly church and leader of their Senior Ministry. Questions? Comments? The CCS wants to hear from you! Contact Contributing Editor Steve Magdziak at:

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Community Common Sense - December 2013