Mary Romano-Navarro, Dana Point

As a resident and registered voter of Dana Point, I continue to be disappointed in Councilman Muller’s lack of insight, his failure to respond to our citizenry and voice as reflected in recent elections, and now his poor judgement in fiscal responsibility.

Councilman Muller’s most recent letter in the newspaper reflects his lack of understanding in long-term management of our public funds and is again in complete denial of the clarion call the voters have given in electing Major Lewis and passing Measure H. That message was a call for our elected leaders to hear and respond to our community voice. We are demanding through these elections thoughtful planning and development in order to preserve our unique beach community, and we want transparency in long-term responsible fiscal management to protect our assets and to build our community for the future.

This is a simple accounting principle: when expenditures exceed revenue, any budget is doomed for a downward spiral of deficit. And when assets are depreciating and savings becomes impossible there is no opportunity for replacement, renewal and/or growth.

Councilman Muller is failing to face this reality and is deflecting this issue by asking “do we really want to cut services?” The answer is inconvenient and uncomfortable, but obviously “Yes!” We must prioritize services and make thoughtful, responsible cuts and adjustments—like families must do in household management of their budgets. This is Major Lewis’s call for responsible, proactive action that Councilman Muller continues to demean and ignore.

Mayor Lewis is courageous, intelligent and reflective enough to ask for more near-term budget cuts rather than to wait and bet on the illusion of future revenue to solve near-term problems. Councilman Muller’s answer to her call-to-action is to paint the Mayor as out of step. What is out of step are police compared to neighboring cities like San Clemente. Dana Point is predominately a group of gated communities with private security. So why are we paying more? Seems a reasonable question to ask. Major Lewis is standing in the moment and looking toward the future as all effective leaders do. She is asking tough questions that require serious consideration. Councilman Muller shows his limited vision when he can’t adjust to the fiscal reality and insists on continued spending while a budget deficit is looming.

More importantly Councilman Muller is ignoring our community voice, dividing the council and minimizing the Mayor’s efforts to suit his ulterior motives and petty grievances. What is the point of that? Does he want to rehash old arguments that have been given voice and direction through elections or does he want to move the city forward? Unfortunately, his chronic obstructionism is impeding our need for community, collaboration and cooperation in solving current and projected challenges.

I support Major Lewis’ proactive and forward-thinking leadership. I urge others who have been impressed by her efforts and her responsiveness to our civic voice to show up and make that point at the council meeting on July 18.

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comments (19)

  • Finally, someone has the guts to comment on Muller’s behavior. I am appalled by his political remarks. What office is he running for next? Another safe seat to feed off the taxpayers???

  • Long-Time Resident Reply

    I would have liked to see even bigger budget cuts, but your statement,

    What is out of step are police compared to neighboring cities like San Clemente. Dana Point is predominately a group of gated communities with private security. So why are we paying more?

    is a case of selective reporting of facts. From the most recent budget report on the City website, here’s a list of OC beach cities’ police expenditures on a per capita basis:

    Table 16 Sheriff Contract Cost Per Capita
    Beach Cities Cost per Capita
    Laguna Beach $694
    Newport Beach $684
    Huntington Beach $384
    Seal Beach $374
    Dana Point $343
    San Clemente $211

    • LTR – your list of “Sheriff contract costs” is incorrect. None of the cities you list are actually contracted with the OC Sheriff, except for Dana Point and San Clemente. All the others have their own city police departments. I hope this was an inadvertent mistake on your part.

      The point has never been for the city to reduce our support for law enforcement, but that fiscal responsibility demands our contract with the sheriff be reviewed. The fact that we pay far more per capita than any other contracted city is simply evidence that such a review is important.

      Given your stated support for “even bigger budget cuts”, I’m surprised that you are against reviewing the contract. Shouldn’t every part of the budget be scrutinized for potential savings?

      Finally, I would respectfully ask that you use your name when posting, in the interests of transparency and in support of the most productive, civil conversation possible. Many of your fellow citizens are doing so.

      • Thank you Jay for correcting the “fake” facts. This is what is happening all the time in the US and 34% of the American voting population believe them Opinion and headliners. They do not want to know the true facts, they believe alternative “facts”. Fact are facts, and you got down to facts.. Please keep calling these alternative fact people out. And here is a fact, Joe Muller said he had been a lobbyist, which amy account for his behavior at council meetings. I am not looking forward to his next campaign. Nasty man, and I think he is a developer plant. Hopefully DP will vote against this nasty person. I think he is a bully.

        When did SC become a dump???? Not a fact, just an opinion?

      • Long-Time Resident Reply

        I just did a cut and paste from the most recent budget report on the City website, page 53 of the following link,

        So what you’re saying is that the word “Contract” should not have been in the budget report table heading, and should have been omitted as it was in the column heading. Yawn.

        Police chief Chilton discussed in detail why our costs are higher than other OC contract cities in his May 16th presentation to the City Council (at 1:03:30 in the video). It’s not only because we’re a destination resort, but also because of our 50+ city-wide events per year, because we contract for a higher level of service than the minimum (“Dana Point’s policing model … is considered a best practice for those communities that can afford it. “), and other reasons. I would like to see the City cut back some on our yearly events to save $, or at the very least cut back our direct (as we’re going to do for the Doheny Blues Festival) and indirect subsidies.

        Finally, I never stated that I was against reviewing the contract. In fact, in doing so we may have been able to quantify the added costs to the City of preparing for and policing special events. I do think cutting back our level of service would be a big mistake however.

        • LTR – I’m saying that the chart you cite (p. 53 of the proposed budget document you posted, in case anyone else wants to see it) is inaccurate. I’m surprised that your reaction to learning that your information is wrong is “Yawn”, rather than a thoughtful reevaluation of your position.

          I appreciate Chief Chilton’s perspective on why our contract with the Sheriff is so much higher than any other city, but his view might be colored by his position and should be balanced by a thorough contract review. We need a city council that with the fiscal responsibility to examine large expenditures like this contract. And why we have 70 full time equivalent employees vs 48 ten years ago. And why expenses have grown so much faster than revenue over the past ten years.

          Again, I respectfully ask that you use your name here, as many of the rest of us do. Until you do, readers will have to speculate that your positions in favor of developers and against those who seek to put residents first is driven by a personal agenda.

          • Thank you Jay. I am so tired of hearing how great our police is doing. Time and again when residents call we are answered discourteously. My friends who had things stolen from her car that was in her garage,—- the garage door was open while she was unloading her car—-was told that the police were busy with other things. The man who stole from her car was still walking down her street when she called. The police arrived over an hour later. No one was caught, even though she told them she saw the thief throw things in the trash bins.
            That kind of crime is rampant in DP..

            All the events on our calendar do not benefit the taxpayers who live in DP/. Are there really 50 events a year? No wonder we are a prime target for crime;!

            Events may support the business owners, restaurant owners who mostly do not live in DP. We need to get our priorities straight in Dana Point. We are overrun with events, poor parking.and high priced restaurants.

            Okay, enough venting for now

    • LTR
      The huge difference in police costs between San Clemente and Dana Point, $132 per capita, speaks for itself. Why has Dana Point chosen to spend so much more and what we are getting for it, especially since so much of our population resides in gated residential communities? What we pay for all this “service” exceeds the city’s revenue from all our hotels.

      Cutting our expenditure back to what San Clemente spends per capita would free up $4.5 million annually to balance our budget and allow accumulation of capital to fund improvements across the city. There are probably further savings to be made in pooling our police services administration with San Clemente. We have a lot of police administrative overhead and the compensation for those individuals is a very expensive and potentially avoidable part of the overall police services bill. The other cities you cited are not sheriff contract cities and thus the comparison not valid.

      Our council members need to honestly face the implications of police costs.


    Restoring fiscal responsibility was a theme in the election campaigns of Mayor Lewis and Mayor Pro Tem Wyatt in 2016. Due to significant deficit spending, the city’s spendable cash fell from $55 million in 2008 to a projected $20 million in 2017. The city projects that the expenditures will outpace revenue within a few years if no action is taken.

    Following are the 2016 listed costs for nearby cities that use the Orange County Sheriff Department: Dana Point’s per capita cost is $319, Mission Viejo is $174, San Clemente is $203, San Juan is $232 and Laguna Niguel is $166. Dana Point’s cost is considerably higher. In 2017, the city’s financial report projects a cost of $388. (Cost of $11,893,986 with a Dana Point population of approx. 30,600)

    The FY 2018-2019 budget for police services of $12,344,223 in 2018 and up to $12,946,510 in 2019, an increase of $602,287 in a single year, is approximately 33% of the city’s total yearly projected revenue. Personnel costs consume another major portion of the budget along with other fixed contracts and necessary road and storm drain repairs. If cuts are not made in those areas, what remains are steeper cuts to city services and events that residents enjoy.

    It would be prudent to review the police services contract rather than routinely approving huge increases each year, particularly with the budget restraints mentioned above. Resident services could be improved by reviewing police activities and priorities while looking for possible cost reductions.

  • You are funny, list cities that are not beach communities or is a dump (San Clemente). What the Capo cares, anti-development, as of now anti-police crew (but they sure do bitch about homelessness, druggies, etc… they take 42% of the Capital Expenditure budget but only pay 15% of the bills) forget to mention is we are a destination city, we have Ex-Presidents, Kings, Queens, CEOs, PMs etc…that need extra protection at our 3 great hotels (those other towns have none), we have 10,000 dope heads who come down to Doheny 2-3 times a year for concerts (but our mayor wants to ban smoking? another revenue killer), we have higher cost because tourist flock here. But the mayor seems to forget this part when she provides you her marching papers right from Pravda.

    So far the Mayor has lost 4-1 on two major items (police and budget) in the last few weeks and her side kick has voted against her both times (he finally woke up and smelled the coffee). Time to wake up and see the light, The mayor ran as a left wing, anti development activists and now has no clue what she is doing, thus she is throwing up crazy ideas that have only or will only hurt the city, drive down Real Estate prices, increase crime, homelessness and bring no development! (minus a tattoo shop that recently opened) Is that what you want?

    And, for Connie and Mary, what has councilmember Muller done? Been responsible? Like the other 3 members who voted with him, including your friend Wyatt. She is 0-2 on major items and was voted against by her own crony, Wyatt. So next time don’t pick on one person pick on four, that way you will seem logical. But to bitch about one and not the other three makes you look foolish and personal.

    • New in DP – so your contribution to the discussion is to assert that our mayor is a Communist. Seriously?

  • Mary Therese Spivey Reply

    These thread’s of conversation’s that follow the letter, show exactly how much people truly love their home, DP. But we should try to care about each other, we are neighbors. This not about what color your skin is, how much money you have, your political affiliation, sexural orientation, gender, nationality or faith. Why can’t we initiate conversation’s between people that don’t think alike? We do not have to agree with each other. Disagreement is not equal to hate, it should be the start of converstion.

    New in DP, San Clemente is not a dump!

  • To New in DP. Your opinions will not have credibility until you are willing to put your name on them right up front. As for my votes, whether I win or lose is not what motivates me. I vote and will continue to vote for what I believe to be in the best interest of this city, putting its Residents First, ALL of its residents. I will not be bullied, shamed or guilted into voting otherwise.

    As for the two votes you mention, I voted against the budget because I believe it unfairly targeted residents without having first cut the waste and redundancy from the large expense items, such as legal fees, which I stated at the time of my vote. I voted against the police contract that night because I was in favor of the original motion to delay the vote on the police contract, not because I am anti-police, an absurd statement on its face.. I like to gather all the facts and information possible before casting my votes. Since the police contract then in effect would have enabled police services to continue through August, I saw no downside to delaying the vote a few weeks. As for the extra expenses of the dignitaries visiting Dana Point, those expenses are paid for and should be paid for by the hosts, not the residents. BTW, San Clemente is not a dump. It is a great city, with issues, like every other city.

    For the record, I am NOT anti-development, although I understand that label suits a particular agenda. But I am for responsible development that does not waste $30,000,000 of our money without first addressing the negative impact a development will have on residents, such as parking and traffic. Had the city spent some of the $30,000,000 providing adequate public parking, as called for in the original Town Center Plan (pages 53-54), DP would be picking and choosing from among the development applications. The city has already spent nearly $1,000,000 on a Doheny Plan with nothing to show. I would have loved to see that $1,000,000 spent putting in lighting in and beautifying Doheny Village. Let’s not repeat the Town Center mistakes in Doheny.

    Finally, I have always encouraged residents to share their views with me during my office hours at city hall, by coming to council meetings and speaking during public comment or emailing me. If voters are dissatisfied with my stances, they will express that position on election day.

    While I encourage expression, I urge you to stop pitting neighbor against neighbor, engaging in personal attacks or labeling our visitors who generate our revenue as “dope heads.” The Doheny Blues Festival is a very popular event that helps fill our resorts. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

    • Mayor – I’m not trying to be personal but trying to stand up for what others want outside of Save Dana Point and Capo Cares; below are a few responses:

      The police budget – it’s hard for me to believe you would compare Dana Point to San Clemente, seriously one is a five star city and the other is 3 stars, at best. And you are correct; it is a great city but not even close to DP. Maybe my term “dump” is a little harsh but then again they do have a few areas that are close to being called slums and I would speculate most residents of DP do not want to end up with a police budget that matches theirs. Now if you had a rational discussion about lowering the Police Budget based on the savings they generate from not travelling from Aliso Viejo, then I would be on board. But to say we should compare ourselves to Laguna Woods, Niguel, etc… (Non-coastal cities) or that place, San Clemente, then you are not seeing clearly or understanding our own unique city. We need to be honest with ourselves. Further, your comment on extra expenses for dignitaries being paid for by the host – next time Bill Clinton or George Bush speak let’s make sure they have no protection from the OC Sheriffs, so if one of them gets shot we can truly be a laughingstock? At no point should the city every not provide protection to those who come here to speak. Be it a Republican/Democrat or a world leader. The host BTW, would probably say this: “Dana Point is too expensive, let’s go to Newport instead” so more lost revenue. Our hotels are our greatest revenue source and the crown jewels of the city.

      Comment on dopeheads – Mayor you are the one who brought up the smoking ban. Just saying, if you pass your ban, then I hope you have plenty of paddy wagons available for the next Eddie Veeder concert, because most of those who attend will be smoking. But if you won’t let the citizens of Dana Point smoke in their neighborhoods why would you agree to have outsiders smoke in our town? As someone who believes in personal Liberty, it is another item that I believe will hurt the city and pit neighbor against neighbor, as well as drive down revenue, because our hotels will not be able to allow dope, or regular, smokers on their property. What is next, a ban on homosexuality? If so, we might lose revenue, which I oppose.

      Pitying neighbor vs. neighbor – have you seen your actions at the council meetings, or in this newspaper, you have your agenda and everyone knows it. And Capo Cares, no agenda there? They have some very mean people (especially Connie and her 64% comment, what ever that comment is about), that’s why so many of us hide our names, and they only Care about Capo. In fact the one item you are not addressing is my repetitive comment on the 42% Capital Improvement Expenditure for Capo vs the 10%-15% revenue input over the past 10 years.

      Responsible development – prior to H it was the council who controlled this, what is wrong with the original plan? As you have shown, you can always win an election and change the council. The bad thing is Measure H won and now the town is tainted anti-growth, and that is all on Save Dana Point and Capo Cares.

      Mayor, I give you credit, you won an election and a referendum. Now the hard part: doing something and having a plan. So far the plan is cut, play games, do hand signals with your friend Ms. Nelson, go after the other three council people (even though one put you in your spot), go after the Sheriff. And so far, we have one Tattoo parlor and no growth. Thanks. See you at a council meeting.

      • What is with you people who criticize and do not give their name? Why not leave your name. Are you ashamed to be honest? Why would anyone believe anything you write or say. You are so like our current President. Full of hot air and no facts. Go back under your rock, or be honest please.

  • Perfectly written as always. Thank you. Go away FC. and stop trying to poison the voters with false twisted information. I cannot help but think you may be a plant for somebody on out City

  • New in DP: I see you will still not give your name. I cannot verify who you are or whether you are a resident of Dana Point. What I find interesting is that you take positions and give opinions based on comments you attribute to me that I never made.

    Police Budget: I did not say that dignitaries should get no extra security when in Dana Point.. What I said is that the host pays or should pay for any extra security incurred, rather than Dana Point residents paying. George Bush and Bill Clinton have their own secret service. Kings, Queens, etc that you mention not only have their own security, they can afford to pay the costs incurred if they choose to use OCSD. I have actually not weighed in on the police budget to date. My vote was against approving a contract and for a delay in the contract approval so I could intelligently weigh in on the police budget armed with facts and information. I was deprived of that opportunity.

    Pitying [sic] Neighbor against Neighbor: I have have not addressed your comment that “Capo Beach receives 42% Capital Improvement Expenditure for Capo vs the 10%-15% revenue input over the past 10 years.” because you have given no source for that statement for me to review and analyze that data which supports your assertion (assuming there is data). If you want to provide the supporting documentation, I will be happy to review it and comment accordingly. . I personally applaud residents who are engaged and volunteer their time to improve their neighborhood. It is the reason I am a big supporter of Neighborhood Watch, although each block captain is only concerned with his or her area of town.

    Dope Heads: I cannot even address your response to “dope heads” because your argument is filled with non sequiturs. Please give me the facts and statistics that support your contention that a smoking ban in public places (which has nothing to do with dope heads) drives down revenue. As a matter of fact, I discussed the ban with our 5 star hotels and they are in favor of it. At least one of our resorts does not allow smoking anywhere in the hotel and fines guests if they are caught smoking. Manhattan Beach has a public places smoking ban and has one of the highest per square foot value of real estate in Southern California. Laguna Beach just passed a similar prohibition. We will see if Laguna Beach will lose revenue because, as you put it their “hotels will not be able to allow dope, or regular, smokers on their property.”

    Responsible Development: You ask “what is wrong with the original plan?” The answer is nothing. If you read Measure H you will see that that was exactly the purpose of Measure H, to obligate the City Council to conform to the “original plan.” It was the prior City Council’s approval of a project that deviated from the “original plan” after a denial of the same project by the Planning Commission and over the objection of a majority of DP residents that brought about Measure H. Measure I was about approving the prior City Council’s deviation from the “original plan” and it was soundly defeated by nearly 20 points.

    Measure H is not anti-growth. It is about growth that works for Dana Point. Have you noticed the newly remodeled “The Row?” It still has several empty shops. Those empty shops have nothing to do with Measure H. The Raintree (Prado West) project in Town Center is moving ahead. It complies with Measure H’s parking requirements and the first floor of the entire project will be devoted to retail. You have not noticed the progress because it has been and will be all underground work for a while. The underground utilities are now finished. Starting July 10th, the underground parking facility work will begin. So take a deep breath and be patient before you give up on Town Center.

    Again, I reiterate, I will not be bullied, shamed or guilted into making decisions. I will vote for what I believe to be in Dana Point’s best interest.

    I hope you will come to a council meeting. I encourage residents to be engaged. But please, come to the podium and identify yourself as the person who writes under the moniker “New in DP” before you speak.

    • Thank you Mayor Debra Lewis.

      I have been distressed by some of the falsehood written in the DP Times and other sites about what you are supposed to have or have not done since being elected to the DP City Council.

      It seems to me that flat out lies have become the norm throughout DP and the US. My view is to correct the misinformation straight away. To some degree I think our media should be held responsible for printing or allowing lies to be promulgated. Freedom of Speech gone wild.

      Please keep correcting the misinformation as soon as you can.

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