Jay Sowell, Dana Point
Since the city’s financial issues came to light, there has been a lot of good dialogue about the subject in letters to the editor and online comments. First of all, thank you to the Dana Point Times for making this civic conversation possible.
We should also thank everyone who has contributed to the discussion constructively and respectfully. This is the kind of conversation that will help move our city forward.
Unfortunately, some of the letters and comments have included disinformation, and political and personal attacks on individuals and civic organizations. This has been very disappointing.
The culmination of that trend is Gary Mann’s letter to the editor on June 16. Mr. Mann’s distortions demand a response.
Mr. Mann calls Measure H “ballot box zoning,” attacks our new council members Lewis and Wyatt with hyperbolic charges of financial fearmongering, and claims that the imbalances in city revenues and expenses are due to the 2007 recession. None of these claims are true.
Far from representing “ballot box zoning,” Measure H simply codified the original Town Center Plan and forced the city council to stop revising the plan through variances and parking giveaways granted to large out-of-town developers.
Many citizens of Dana Point have expressed concerns about the city’s financial situation. Pointing out real issues is not fearmongering.
Here are some of the key financial facts again:
—Operating expenses up to 40 percent while revenues only grew three percent over 10 years, according to the City of Dana Point’s CAFR reports. This decade-long trend was not caused by the 2007 recession but by poorly controlled spending. Mr. Mann’s claim that the economy has grown since 2007 is correct, but that just makes the anemic 3 percent growth in city revenues against a 40 percent increase in spending all the more concerning.
— City staff of 70 now vs 48 ten years ago, with no change in population
— The highest spending per capita for police services of any contract city in the county, per the City’s operating budget report. Based on 2016 data, we are higher than every other city, at $319/citizen. (Compare to: San Clemente—$203, Laguna Niguel—$166, for example.)
Why do supporters of our legacy councilmen Viczorek, Muller and Tomlinson choose to focus not on these facts, but on smear campaigns to discredit others and to try to divide the city? The whole city is affected by their legacy of fiscal mismanagement, not just Capo Beach or Monarch Beach or Dana Point or Town Center. A more constructive approach would be to either explain and defend these financial decisions, or join the effort to change course and get our financial house in order. For instance, why were Mayor Lewis and Councilman Wyatt the only council members pushing to review the police contract? (Some have called this anti-police, which is silly. Reviewing contracts is just sound fiscal management, especially when the contract is the highest around.)
We are overdue for a comprehensive review of city finances. Why wouldn’t everyone support this? If we join together to solve our problems, we can keep Dana Point the great city it is, for all of us.
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