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By Kristina Pritchett
Five candidates are seeking to be elected to one of two open spots on the Dana Point City Council. In order to get a better idea of the overall vision each candidate has for the city, we asked them, “What do you see as the main issue Council should consider over the next four years?”
The candidates’ responses ranged from encouraging development to maintaining an identity, indicating a wide array of goals and initiatives the city could take on in subsequent years.
The candidate’s responses are listed in the order in which their names will appear on the ballot.
Nadia Khalil, Travel Agent
Khalil said the main issue the Council should consider is the fact that the city has turned into a “marketing” campaign—particularly in light of Council’s recent approval of short-term rentals.
“Our community is being marketed, and we the residents are being marketed out of our community,” Khalil said. “Everybody I’ve heard that recently moved here, purchased a place and now [are renting] them as vacation rentals, stated, ‘We moved here because of the charm of Dana Point. We love Dana Point; don’t you want to share Dana Point?’ Well, of course.”
Khalil said the city has a large tourism area but she doesn’t agree with what she sees as residents turning residential areas into tourism areas.
“We have a huge tourism area of Dana Point, but that doesn’t mean I as a resident, who pays taxes, needs to turn my area as well into the tourist area,” Khalil said. “I was surprised to hear the Turkey Trot was marketed to what it is today, and I thought, ‘Why is the Turkey Trot marketed?’ That was our hometown event for just the residents to grow with.”
Khalil said there is a lot of greed in the city, which has only progressed over recent years. She added that if the city had listened to its residents, the city would be an “even better money maker.”
“It’s a beautiful location but if you continue to build it away, you’re not going to have that anymore. Instead of building it away, we should be enhancing it,” Khalil said. “We should have a tourism area so that our hotels are doing well, our businesses are doing well; [but] they are overdeveloping to not support these industries. If they looked at what we have, enhance what we have, we would be a destination that real estate would be very valuable.”
Paul Wyatt, Retired Engineering Executive
Wyatt said the main issue the Council should consider is the city’s financial health, “which will take more than four years [to work on].”
He said since 2009, the city has been deficit spending “by quite a lot.”
“Often they will argue with you they didn’t draw down the reserves but it drew down something. The savings account doesn’t have as much savings in it,” Wyatt said. “The city’s chest of money isn’t quite nearly as big as it used to be.”
He said the city needs to stop spending.
“It can’t continue to spend, they sold some land and other things that covered some immediate expenses, but there’s only so much that can do,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt said the city needs to make a plan to get the expenses and revenue “in line.”
“It will take some time to rebuild [the city’s funds] and look how we’re going to fund the Doheny Village project and other things until they get the financial house in order,” Wyatt said.
He said a lot of spending has also gone to the increasing number of staff the city has.
“[The city has hired] a lot of new employees over the last few years; their payroll, I think there’s 12 or 14 people that are making $150,000 a year base. That’s a lot of money for a city this size,” Wyatt said. “I think they need to get the financial house in order, that’s really the biggest problem that can get the city in trouble or make it so the rest of the plans go sort of awry.”
Debra Lewis, Small Business Owner
Lewis said she believes the main issue the City Council should consider is development.
“I think development of various issues is huge, Town Center, Doheny because it impacts everything we’re doing,” Lewis said. “It impacts our parking, it impacts our roads, it impacts transportation.”
Previously, when the Times asked each candidate what they would like to see from development in the Lantern District and Doheny Village, Lewis said she would like to hear from the public what they want to see go into the areas. But, one initiative she did say she would like to see is to incorporate a “music identity.”
Lewis said development also impacts how the city gets people in and out.
“Until we know what we’re going to put there, and what we anticipate of how many people are coming in and out and how we’re going to get them there, I don’t know how else you can address those problems,” Lewis said.
She said the first thing she would want to do is to look at the whole city.
“[We need to take a look and see] what needs to be done there, how are we going to do that, and then what are the issues that go along with that,” Lewis said. “Our decision-making process as a city is so flawed that this is what causes the problem.”
Penny Maynard, Nonprofit Consultant
Maynard said she believes the main issue is building out the Lantern District, and building out the city’s economy.
“I think implementing the vote from H to build out the Lantern District [will be important], and I think it needs to be built out because [of the businesses on Del Prado],” Maynard said. “I’ve tried to work closely with them over the years, and I think that needs to be dealt with.”
Maynard said that even though the city’s economy is good and primarily strong due to tourism, it still needs to be worked on.
“If we build [Del Prado] out, and have a nice area where people want to come, somewhere the hotels and resorts want to send their guests, there and to the Harbor,” Maynard said. “When Doheny Village is completed in a way where they have their restaurants and gift shops, it will be beautiful.”
She said she’s for “building the economy” and thinks it can always grow.
“Even though we’re pretty much built out, you can still grow it,” Maynard said. “If you look around, you can see, we’re not getting the foot traffic we should on Del Prado. If people come, there aren’t as many shops and restaurants and things to do. It isn’t something that will keep them there for any length of time.”
She added that a connection needs to be made between the business areas in the city.
“You need to connect Doheny Village, the Harbor and Lantern District,” Maynard said. “I would be interested to see what we can do there.”
Michelle Brough, Businesswoman/Investment Attorney
Brough said the main issue is that the city needs “a facelift.”
“The issue for me is the facelift of Dana Point being started and completed,” Brough said. “We cannot have projects lingering for years and years and years.”
She said the Dana Point Harbor Plan from 2006 is one example of a plan that was created years ago and needs to be either revisited or executed.
“So much has changed. If you leave these projects that you use taxpayer dollars on, creating these huge projects, you have the community come together, you have town hall meetings, all the resources being used to create this plan, and then it just languishes,” Brough said. “They really need to be pushed through to completion.”
She said with these development changes, she’s adamant about the city keeping its charm.
“In all honestly, my family, we’re lifers in Dana Point. We made the choice to move here, and we’re going to make it work,” Brough said. “It’s honestly my hope that my kids can eventually, and want to, come back to this area.”
She said to ensure that the younger generation comes back, redevelopment is necessary.
“There are there are those who agree no growth is the best approach, that’s not what I believe. I don’t believe in ‘no growth,’ I believe in keeping the charm and the uniqueness of Dana Point,” Brough said. “But some of the residents want no growth, that’s great. Let’s have a conversation, I’m absolutely accepting of that, I think it’s a wonderful position, it’s not mine but it is a lot of people’s position.”