Richard Viczorek

By Richard Viczorek

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the financial health of our city. And whether you believe our city is on sound financial footing or is headed off the fiscal cliff, there is general agreement that, looking forward, the city should take action now to ensure expenditures do not outpace revenues in the long term.

I have heard some community leaders advocate that their solution is to raise taxes and fees to increase government revenues. As a fiscal conservative, this is not my first instinct when facing a possible budget deficit. Rather, we must first look at reigning in spending. This does not mean that we should not spend any money. However, it does mean evaluating specific line items in the proposed budget, no matter the size. Although $10,000 here or $20,000 there may not at first seem that significant in a $36 million budget, eventually it can add up to significant savings.

Looking at the line items in the budget also allows us to identify where our priorities lie as a community.  As a result, I have reviewed the proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2018-19. I found several examples that I do not believe represent our community’s priorities. The first item that jumped out at me was that the city has budgeted $25,000 in both FY 18-19 to sponsor the State of the City address. For those who are unaware of what this is, it is an annual event where the mayor presents a speech regarding the city to those active in our community (usually at one of our 5-star hotels). While it is a worthwhile event, I don’t agree that our city should spend $25,000 each year for our mayor to make a speech.

The proposed budget also once again includes $20,000 in FY18 and another $20,000 in FY19 to sponsor the Dana Point Symphony. This comes at the same time as the sponsorship for the Dana Point Grand Prix Bike Race, which has been reduced from $20,000 in FY17 to $10,000 in FY18 and then eliminated altogether in FY19. This raises the question: why has the symphony been spared from any cuts? This question must be asked when considering that the symphony plays in a church in a residential neighborhood while the bike race attracts thousands of people to the Lantern District with results in benefits to our small businesses. Also, the symphony sells tickets, pays an executive director and has many wealthy patrons who could support it privately. How long must the city continue to subsidize this? Similar to the bike race, the symphony has been around long enough and must eventually stand on its own. I suggest the city reduce its sponsorship to $10,000 in FY18 and phase it out entirely in FY19.

The last item I noted is that the proposed budget has eliminated funding for the Dana Point BBQ Championship. While this will result in substantial savings for the city ($90,000), this funding is not proposed to be phased out (e.g. $45,000 in FY18 then down to zero in FY19) which would give the event an opportunity to see if it could stand on its own. This concerns me because there is a hidden cost to losing this event that most residents may not understand. Our local VFW Post 9934 is a significant beneficiary of funds raised at this event. (Full and transparent disclosure: I am a proud member of VFW Post 9934.) But while this potential loss of funding concerns me, it is not for personal reasons. Rather it is because of what it would mean to the community.

The VFW is a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to serving veterans and their families. Neither I, nor any other member of our Post receives remuneration for our time and efforts. This means that every dollar raised by the VFW is spent for the benefit of our local veterans and their families. For example, in the last year, our Post provided over $55,000 to help those who needed assistance paying their rent, mortgages or car loans. The VFW also helped those who needed their cars repaired to get to work and those in need of extra food and diapers. This list is not exhaustive. 

Sometimes there is more to a budget than just the numbers. How we decide to spend money can be just as important as how much we spend. Perhaps there are other ways we can support our military veterans than the BBQ Championship. As illustrated above, I believe the budget, as currently proposed, falls short as an expression of this community’s values and priorities. We need to get it right.

*Editor’s Note: The proposed budget can be viewed online at www.danapoint.org/home/showdocument?id=21964.

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comments (11)

  • Absolutely right. No expense is automatically worthy because the expenditure “sounds good” or “but we’ve always done that” logic. No expense is above scrutiny by the City Council. There’s no better time than now to clean up the dead wood or to implement worthy plans that have sat idle.

  • Councilman Viczorek, with his usual lack of vision, focuses on chump change items like the Symphony and BBQ festival while ignoring the elephants in the room like overspending on police services. Dana Point annually spends almost $100 more per resident than Laguna Hills and other cities with comparable population. The savings to our city budget if we staffed at the levels of other similar cities would be about $3.5 million. Our city also employs many more people on general staff than it did 10 years ago when our population was actually higher. We can solve our budget problems but it will mean changing from past practices. We need more council members with the vision of Debra Lewis and Paul Wyatt to do that.

  • Councilman Viczorek has perfected the fine art of distraction, superficial analysis and misplaced blame. His constant targeting of Mayor Debra Lewis and Paul Wyatt reflect his blatant obstructionism of Lewis and Wyatt’s efforts to be transparent and solution oriented. While budgets are complicated, basic principles apply. When increasing expenditures exceed incoming revenue, the consequences are inevitable! Those negative consequences are surfacing in our nearby cities. They are red flags of warning that we must heed NOW. We have the opportunity to come together, be preemptive, re-evaluate community needs and expendatures, and plan strategically around these needs and our community values. Clearly Councilman Viczorek has not heeded the call of our citizens’ voice as reflected in our last election. His petty targeted cuts outlined in this superficial analysis of this extensive report not only reflect his bias, but also his misalignment of values with our community values.

  • It’s ironic that Councilman Viczorek describes himself as a “fiscal conservative”, given that city expenditures have continued to grow much faster than revenues during his tenure.

    The fact that the Councilman’s detailed review of the budget only produced $35,000 in potential savings explains a great deal about why our legacy council members have been so fiscally irresponsible.

    The fact that his newfound concern for reducing expenditures comes right after citizens have become vocal about their budget concerns is not a coincidence. This is mere political posturing, and Dana Point voters will not be fooled by it.

  • Concerned In Dana Point Reply

    Here we go again, the Capo Care’s crew attacking with irrational logic. Is it any surprise Laguna Hills spends less on police then we do? It is almost entirely residential with a large retiree population. Dana Point is a resort town, with a long stretch of beaches, harbor, and shopping areas. Though we spend $100 more per resident we have 96 crimes per square mile, Laguna Hills has 86 crimes/mile. Can you imagine what our crime rate would look like if we cut $3.5M out of the budget? With regards to staffing, our city is going through massive changes when compared to cities like Laguna Hills. We are contending with an effort to revitalize our Town Center, Doheny Village and the Harbor. Permit filings have increased dramatically and obviously we need more staff to support it. 10-years ago we were going through the Great Recession, no surprise that staffing was different then. Its really unfortunate that we are even considering cutting things like the symphony and the BBQ. Its absolutely shocking that Capo Cares / Maylor Lewis / Councilman Wyatt are recommending that we cut our police spending thereby impacting the community’s safety. But I guess we shouldn’t be that surprised, these are the same people behind Measure H. Tax revenue that should have been coming through a revitalized Town Center is now a pipe dream. Empty lots and more businesses closing is what we have to look forward to. Their fight against vacation rentals is a fight against tourism, our number one tax revenue source. Capo Care is an absolute disaster for our community, be prepared to cut events we hold dear, more crime and a town center that will continue to dilapidate.

    • You guys have conflated and confused the information presented in several comments and turned it into a dogs breakfast of misinformation and propaganda. To be clear:
      1. I dont have anything to do with Capo Cares and dont live in Capo.
      2. Re police services: I used the example of Laguna HILLS – not Laguna Woods. It is probably quieter in Laguna Woods and so they only paid $148 per capita vs $229 for Laguna Hills vs $319 in Dana Point..
      3. Neither Mayor Lewis or Paul Wyatt or Capo Cares questioned per capita police spending.
      I raised the issue – not them. It is dishonest to suggest otherwise.
      I could respond to other inaccuracies and distortions made in your recent posts but it is clear that being serious and honest about real issues in our city is not your intent.

      • Concerned in Dana Point Reply

        Steve,

        I have no idea where you live, maybe we should call your group the Measure H mafia. Seems like this is when all this nonsense started in the first place. Been watching the same group of people pontificating for years on the coming demise of Dana Point. This example you provided regarding policing spending is a classic example. Are you seriously trying to compare the crime rate of Laguna Woods and Dana Point, they are a retirement community for god sake. Can’t imagine there is much crime at Leisure World.

        Mayor Lewis and Councilman Wyatt have had one signature bill that they are responsible for. Measure H. Measure H single handily destroyed the vision for the town center. Muller and Vicorek rightly predicted what would happen if if passed, development in the town center would halt, and that is exactly what has happened. Tax revenue to the city that should have been flowing in, but instead it has dried up. and now you are asking us to cut police spending and impact our safety in order to make up for the shortfall. What a joke that the two individuals who pushed hardest for Measure H, Toni Nelson and Buck Hill now sit on our Financial Review committed.

  • Steve, is the mayor really recommending that we reduce our spending on law enforcement? You do realize that even though we spend $100 more per resident, our crime rate is actually higher than Laguna Hills. Hard to believe she is actually recommending cost cutting that would endanger our residents. Ultimately with the election of Mayor Lewis and Councilman Wyatt it seems that our city has moved away from being business friendly. Measure H and the STR referendum are clear examples. If we can’t drive in more tax revenue, then I would tend to agree with Councilman Viczorek, some of these more ‘frivolous” activities have to go, no matter how much residents love them. Cutting our spending on Public Safety like law enforcement, emergency services or the fire department would be reckless behavior. If the city cuts staff, than as we as residents need to accept the fact it could take longer to get permits and community development will slow to a halt. As resident’s we can’t be anti development, anti business and expect to have all these wonderful programs that come with the tax revenue they provide.

  • These attacks of misinformation and disinformation are disappointing. Comment after comment denigrates Capo Cares, ignoring the constructive effect this grassroots group has on the Capo Beach community. (I am not a member of Capo Cares, nor a resident of Capo Beach.) Comment after comment seeks to smear Mayor Lewis on crime with no evidence to back up their claims.

    This kind of political propaganda and character assassination has no place in our city politics.

    The facts remain uncontroverted: expenditures are outpacing revenues, reserves have been spent down, we pay the county sheriff 30% or more per citizen than any other city (not just Laguna Hills – other cities pay even less than LH), we wasted over $1MM on Strandsgate lawsuits, and our legacy councilmen were at the helm and took no significant steps to put us on solid financial footing. Measure H passed overwhelmingly despite their efforts to mislead the public with Measure I.

    Our legacy councilmen and their allies may want to continue running the city for the benefit of a few wealthy developers, but voters have shown they want change.

  • I may have missed something. Totally possible. Comments on something written in the DP Times is not city policy or law. It’s nothing more than musing and commentary, no matter the author. I don’t see anything wrong in the least with asking “why” about any law or policy whether official or otherwise. If the answer is then that’s the answer. Nothing makes people more suspicious than quick shallow answers. It’s good to be sceptical and questioning no matter which side of an argument we’re on. So much agitation over a question.

  • Concerned in Dana Point Reply

    Capo Cares and Save Dana Point are basically one in the same. Same leadership, same email database, but two different PACS. One (Save Dana Point) accepted $20,000 from the developer Sanford Edwards (who is currently being sued by the city for $2M.) Both lobbied hard for Mayor Wyatt and Councilman Lewis. Each appointed the leaders of these PACs, Toni Nelson and Buck Hill, to the Dana Point Financial Review Committee. Gotta wonder what happens to that lawsuit if he can get a third person onto city council?

    The voters got change, boy, that couldn’t be more true. Our town center is dead, businesses are flocking from our city, and tourists have been told they are not welcome. We now find ourselves having to either cut important programs or take on more debt. Will be very interesting to see if the voters will be happy with all the change they are experiencing.

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