Mayor Butterfield and Councilwomen Withrow have become extremely defensive about criticisms from the Committee for Integrity on Government, a nonpartisan group seeking to insure major issues are decided with the informed consent of the majority of citizens. In my long life, I have never met more arrogant and dictatorial politicians than these two.
Now Butterfield and Withrow have rigged the upcoming March 17 ballot measure regarding the construction of a new city hall. In 1992, 86 percent of us voted requiring the council to conduct an advisory election on the "size, location and cost" before proceeding with any future construction of a new city hall project. First the council used the library project to camouflage the purchase of an adjacent lot for a new city hall, including underground connections to the library, the construction of parking for a city hall and the installation of a flag pole entrance in front of the secret parcel.
Today city officials admit they were intending to proceed with a city hall project. Next the council hired a consultant providing financial justification to sell their plan to the public. The council, instead of negotiating actual lease and purchase options for the current city hall building, allowed the consultant to feed us speculation on 50 year cost to lease or purchase the current building. The skewed figures naturally favored building a new city hall, but the consultant was forced to admit the reality could become opposite his predictions.
Butterfield and Withrow became a two-person city hall task force allowing them to avoid open meeting laws. They then secretly directed the city manager to hire a political consultant to advise a strategy to overcome public objections. This secret order occurred despite a council ordinance protecting local democracy by forbidding the city manager to be directed by council members outside of an open council meeting and also forbidding orders to the city manager by a minority of the council.
The consultant's survey of 500 residents found voters would reject a new city hall a yes-no basis so the consultant advised the task force to control voters by forcing them to select from three strategic options. It is reminiscent of their refusal to allow voters to select a two term limit for council members two years ago. (Will Bill Craycraft renege on his promise not to run for a fourth term this year?).
The three options prevent voters from approving size, as required by the 1992 initiative, since the same massive size increase is included in all three options. There is NO way to say no. The is no way to vote to maintain our very satisfactory situation in our upscale High Park location. That would be the cheapest alternative for at least the next 30 years.
It will not be possible to adequately inform the 50,000 registered Mission Viejo Voters. Because of the skewed costs, omissions and misleading options, most voters will feel compelled to vote for option 3, the Butterfield-Withrow Taj Mahal city hall, even though they could protest by voting for options 1 or 2.
Most won't realize they are approving an enormous 20,000 square foot increase. City officials admit they are only asking for 1,544 square feet as work space for administrative productivity. The rest is primarily prestige space. At the library last year the community room was only scheduled on about 60 days, less than 10 percent of its availability. Also, large additional community rooms are already planned at the Murray Community Center and the World Cup Soccer Building.
This rigged ballot measure is a travesty to local democracy, but folks, we appear trapped by the domineering duo on the city council.