The last Taj Mahal city hall plan was overwhelmingly overturned by the voters. Mission Viejo voters also adopted City Ordinance #92-90, which is a ballot measure requiring an advisory election by residents on the location, size and cost of any future proposal to construct a new city hall. Therefore, in order to prevent voters from blocking their latest city hall scheme, Mayor Butterfield and Council Member Withrow, as the sole members of the City Hall Task Force, have conspired to deceive the public.
The public trust was initially breached when Mayor Butterfield and Council Member Withrow privately approached City Manager Dan Joseph to use his purchasing authority and commission a political consultant to conduct a strategic city hall survey without the consent or the authority or the input of the entire city council. I believe that this was in violation of City Ordinance 2.08.070 which states: "The city manager shall take his orders and instructions from the city council only when sitting in a duly convened meeting of the city council and no individual councilmember shall give any orders or instructions to the city manager."
Their resulting survey of 500 residents revealed that constructing a new city hall at the intersection of Marguerite Parkway and La Paz at a cost of about $10 million would fail in a straight-forward Yes or No vote. They therefore devised a 3 option ballot that does not give the taxpayer a voice on the "size, location or cost." All 3 options increase the size of our present city hall by over 50%.
Mayor Butterfield wants us all to believe that according to a report by another well paid consultant, the most cost-effective way for the City of Mission Viejo to meet future office space needs is to construct a massive, 2-story, 47,500 square foot city hall. What future needs can she possibly be referring to? The city is almost all built out.
The city estimates that 300 square feet is a reasonable space requirement PER PERSON for a city hall! We must question this sudden need of a major increase in space when the private sector, on average, is reducing workspace. We are also being misled into believing that we are required to have a 6000 square foot Emergency Operations Center (EOC). To put that size in perspective, that is the lot size of an average home site in our community. We already have a mobile EOC which fully qualifies us for receiving state and federal funds.
In addition to increasing the size of our city hall to 47,500 square feet, the Norman Murray Senior Center has just received approval for 10,000 square feet of additional community rooms, and Multi-purpose rooms will be added during the renovation of the World Cup Soccer Center. All this space is being added in spite of the fact that the Butterfield Community Room at the Library was reserved for only about 60 days last year. Plans already exist to increase the size of the library by an additional 10,000 square feet.
The only purpose of the City Hall Task Force was to seek a strategy to enhance the possibility of voter approval for construction of the new city hall. Because the survey showed that the city hall project would fail to gain voter approval on a Yes or No basis, the ballot measure was constructed so that there is NO WAY TO SAY NO ON MEASURE K.
Option #1 misleads the voters. We are not obligated with a 50 year lease and this is a non-competitive proposal. The voters have a right to know that the very subjective lease rates projected in the city's pro-city hall package are totally unsubstantiated because staff has admitted that there has been no attempt to re-negotiate our current lease. Unfortunately, it is very apparent that if the city had negotiated a lease, those real time numbers would have proved NOT to be favorable to building a new city hall. Additionally, the proposed added space is currently not available.
Option #2 is a bogus option. This second option on the city hall ballot issue is to purchase the Pala building, our current location. According to public records and before the ballots were even printed, the property managers of the Pala building had again confirmed with city staff on December 8, 1999, that the building was not for sale. People will waste a vote on this misleading option for purchase. The only purpose for this option is to split or water down the vote to favor building a city hall.
Option #3, according to the survey results, was actually defeated when presented to the voters in accordance to Ordinance 92-90. To win voter approval for this option, the city has skewed all the cost projections by using false and inconsistent speculations. Additionally, city owned properties do not enjoy the same benefits of home ownership such as appreciation or tax deductions. Property ownership adds extra costs to the city such as maintenance and insurance.
It is obvious that the city never had any intention to find out how the public felt about the city hall project. Their goal was to create ways to trick the voters into accepting a 47,500 square foot building. Two lots were purchased over 5 years ago, one for the library and one for the city hall. On June 25, 1999, Dan Joseph was quoted as saying "We knew exactly what was going there when we purchased the land." At the council meeting held on December 6, 1999, former mayor Robert Breton admitted the following: "We purposely laid out the library so that we could build a 45,000 square foot city hall on the same site." Such secret activity by this city government must be stopped!
Both Council Members Ledesma and Craycraft have expressed concerns regarding the size of the new city hall project and the unfairness of the ballot. Last November, at the Vista del Sol city hall debate with Brad Morton, Council Member Craycraft stated: "When I first heard these figures, for a 47,000 square foot building, I squirmed. It was a little too large for me." On December 6, 1999, Council Member Craycraft expressed his misgivings about the misleading 50 year lease figures. That evening, with Council Members Ledesma and Craycraft voting No, the city council passed the 3 Option Ballot by a 3-2 vote.
Public Interest is best served by Full Disclosure. The public has not received adequate or honest disclosures on this city hall issue. As a protest vote, I encourage our community to vote for Option #1, that we continue to lease space at our present Pala address. Regrettably, this is the best option available for the taxpayers to say NO to building a massive city hall and to demand a fair election on a smaller and more reasonably sized building.
We cannot reward this bad political behavior by entrusting our public officials to build this opulent, oversized city hall. By stopping this Butterfield-Withrow scheme, the public sends a clear message to all public officials that their devious behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.