by Dale Tyler
All members of the Committee, indeed all informed citizens of Mission Viejo should be proud of their accomplishments in the last election. We were able to help elect three honorable people who will listen to the people and govern the city fairly. These people were elected with the largest mandate in Mission Viejo history. They out polled the incumbents 3 to 1, a stunning defeat for the status quo. Yes, we should all be proud.
However, there are hard choices to be made in the coming days. Wasteful programs put into place by the prior council must be abolished. Recalcitrant staff need to be retasked or replaced. The out of control spending on lavish facilities such as the Potocki center needs to be halted. The growth in City staff and contractors doing work for the city must be curtailed. In short, we need to become a lean, efficient city that puts the residents first, the city staff second and the council's perks and honorariums last, the exact reverse of prior council's priorities.
The two new council members, Trish and Lance along with J.P. will be sworn in on December 2. Working with Gail Reavis, I believe that they need to take a number of steps at their first meeting to show their supporters and the public that things are going to be different. Here is my list:
- Open the Library on Fridays with no new staff
- Abolish the naming of City facilities after Council members while in office or for 10 years thereafter. All 5 existing council members should sign a pledge to never agree to having a facility named for them in their lifetimes.
- Rename the Butterfield Room and Craycraft Park to their original designations.
- Open all meeting rooms in City facilities to citizens of Mission Viejo for noncommercial purposes at no charge.
- Close the Potocki conference center. Prepare the building for long-term disuse and turn off the lights, water and heating/cooling. Stop spending all money there.
- Open Sierra Rec Center year round. Move equipment into the center for resident use.
- Institute a 120 day hiring freeze for employees and contractors.
- Appoint a 'Blue Ribbon" committee of residents to audit city operations for waste and inefficiency with a goal of reducing city spending and making the city more responsive to residents. The committee report would be due in 120 days.
- Introduce for first reading, J.P.'s proposals for resident approval on redevelopment activity and city capital expenditures.
In addition to the list above, there are personnel matters that need to be discussed in closed session. While removing staff can be painful, there are a few that are likely to act as cancers within the body of city employees, poisoning the climate so the primary goals of the city cannot be accomplished. In my opinion, these persons need to be removed from positions of authority quickly, but not at the December 2 meeting, since that would give insufficient time to discuss this in closed session prior to making the decisions. Staff that should, in my opinion be considered for these sanctions are: Dan Joseph, Rick Howard, Valerie Maginnis and Stan Jacquot. These individuals have, over time, demonstrated contempt for the average citizen and actively worked against the new council majority's positions. There may be others I am unaware of, but these people will undermine and attempt to derail any reforms that are put into place. In addition, we should replace our City Attorney with another firm to avoid a continuation of the bad advice he has given the city over the past years.
It is important that we start with a clean slate and quickly begin to show the citizens that the new council understands that the public voted for change and they can have confidence in the new council.
We should talk about the forgoing at the November 19 meeting and decide what the Committee's official position should be.
The foregoing article was published in the November 2002 Integrity Journal, the newsletter of the Committee for Integrity in Government. This newsletter is mailed to members of the committee and to guests at one of our recent meetings. One of these newsletters made its way into the hands of City Staff and also to the news media.
Since the wide distribution of the ‘What’s Next’ article, much has been made of the Committee’s role in the recent election and the changes in City government that are being discussed by the Council in chambers and by regular citizens throughout the city. The role of the Committee for Integrity in Government was, is and always shall be promoting open, accessible government and citizen involvement. The Committee is made up of individuals who, by their very nature, have interests in the government of Mission Viejo. These individuals are free to act in support of any candidate they choose. Many also choose to write letters to the editor of the local newspapers, speak to the City Council and other government bodies and participate in various workshops on government issues, including redevelopment. It is therefore natural for these concerned citizens to come together and work as a group to promote their common goals and interests. However, in doing so, the individuals check their support for specific candidates at the door of the meeting room. The Committee does not and never has supported any specific candidate for office, although it has raised ‘open government’ and similar issues during campaigns to help educate voters. In summary, it would be an error to conclude that the Committee is doing anything more than raising issues consistent with its charter as it always has done.
Over the years since the committee has been founded, there have been many examples of abuse of the committee principles by the Butterfield/Withrow/Craycraft/Faubel/Potocki majority of the City Council. This abuse engendered my list of nine items. It does not cover all bases, for example, open meetings and document access were not addressed. My intent was to simply promote a number of issues that were important in the recent election, as well as take steps to slow down spending before a hard look can be taken at the bogus Butterfield/Withrow/Craycraft budget numbers.
As to the staff changes I suggested, I firmly believe that these people have worked against the people of the city by blocking reforms and/or suppressing debate on policy issues that were proposed by the then Council minority (Reavis/Ledesma) or by the people of the city. Several were also partially responsible for various financial disasters that affected our pocketbooks and likely will require hard decisions in the future. If you, the reader of this have any doubts, read through the articles on this web site and look through back issues of the Saddleback Valley News and the O.C. Register. You will see a pattern of abuse by the senior city staff and Council that cannot be denied.