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Harold Kaufman, Dana Point

I have been deeply involved in the city government since before we were a city. I was president of the Dana Point Civic Association when we led the successful effort to incorporate Dana Point. I served on the incorporation committee and acted as a liaison between the Capistrano Beach and Dana Point committees. I saw the infighting between the two, and between Laguna Niguel and Monarch Beach, during those days.

I was the very first chairman of the very first Planning Commission. I sat through the establishment of the first General Plan and the establishment of the first zoning code. I chaired the committee that consisted of residents and business people who argued over and eventually wrote Dana Point’s first sign code. I spoke up at the City Council meetings when the first body discussed and then adopted the Redevelopment Agency. I spoke against our adopting that agency and I watched the word “redevelopment” became a four-letter word in Dana Point.

I sat on the City Council when we argued over the Headlands and adopted the Headlands Specific Plan; during the days when Toni Gallagher spent 20 minutes each meeting reading her “statement for the record” into the minutes, when her husband and some other gentleman got into a fist fight in the audience of a council meeting; when people used to tell me that they would rather watch the City Council meetings on TV than any other show because they never knew what strange things would happen or be said (reality TV before there was reality TV).

I also fought a recall election orchestrated by the no-growth, no-Headlands faction when some citizens did not like that Judy Curreri, Karen Lloreda and I voted to enter into a joint venture with the Capistrano Unified School District to develop the joint-use Sports Park at Dana Hills High School. I was on the losing end of an election when a local developer tried buying his own City Council, and watched as the next council tried stripping Harry Otsubo’s name from the Harry Otsubo Gardens for purely political reasons.

In all that time and through all that turmoil, I was never once ashamed of what the council had done. I was upset sometimes. I was angry sometimes. I was even embarrassed sometimes. But I was never ashamed. At the last City Council meeting when members were reorganizing the council and electing a new mayor, I was ashamed.

Six different people came up to the podium to say the exact same thing: “Lisa Bartlett and Scott Schoeffel have done a wonderful job and should be elected mayor and mayor pro tem respectively.” The words each used were almost identical. It was obvious that either someone had orchestrated the crassest electioneering campaign I have ever seen, or a miracle had occurred that would rival the parting of the Red Sea. The political posturing was, well, disgusting.

I was ashamed for the council in general and for each of them in particular.

Being mayor does not grant you any privilege over any other council member. You still only have one vote. You do have a little more control over the agenda, but any other member can get items on the agenda they wish to have discussed. Mayor is a title. It requires you run the council meetings. If you do the job properly you also represent the council at civic functions, although that is not mandatory and we have had mayors never, or very rarely, appeared at public functions.

I was on the City Council for eight years. For the first four years I was on the losing side of a 3-2 or 4-1 vote many, many more times than I was on the winning side. I could not get the council to appoint me Dog Catcher (wait a minute, they did appoint me to the CASA Board but that was because no one else wanted it). I had no chance of becoming mayor. In my second term, we had a council that was a little friendlier toward me so I was able to be mayor in my sixth year on the board (and I had a great time as mayor). But I never campaigned for the job. I never saw anyone campaign for the job.

But I did at the last council meeting, and I was ashamed.

In the article that appeared in the Dana Point Times, (“Contentious Council Shakeup,” December 6-12, Vol. 6, Issue 49) Rick Erkeneff and Ross Teasley each said they did not know the other was going to say anything about the topic. I believe them. What I also believe is that whoever set this up asked each person to come to the podium and say those words. They were probably not told there would be others doing the same thing. But they were told what to say.

Who would have had the motive to orchestrate this? Whose ego has grown so big that the title has become greater than the job? I have my suspicions. Whom do you suspect?

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