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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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comments (11)

  • They are sheep. They use alternative facts. They are never wrong, always “right” read headlines only and think they know something. Sit in front of TV listen to opinion and confuse it with news. They are part of the 34% of American’s who will never change, but we need to call them on their BS. Stop letting them get away with shouting and bullying

  • Long-Time Resident Reply

    One of several issues I have with your post is, (a) trying to exclude non-contract cities in comparing police costs, and (b) use of “per capita” figures without adjustment.

    (a) per the latest budget report on the City website, Laguna spends 2.02x per capita what Dana Point spends. Are you claiming that Laguna could achieve more than a 50% savings if they switched to a contract with OC county? If not, then their per capita costs would still be higher than DP after adjusting for contract vs non-contract costs. If yes, then I’d like to see proof as that would be hard to believe.

    (b) per capita police costs are just total police expenditures divided by our population of about 35K. However, per the hotel agenda item for the last Council meeting, DP has “over 3.5 million annual visitors“. I assume you realize that millions of visitors drive up police costs.
    So when comparing us to Laguna Niguel for example, which has no beaches, and afaik no hotels, you need to adjust for tourists, which increases our effective population.

    This isn’t rocket science folks.

  • Long-Time Resident Reply

    Another problem with your post is that your revenue and operating expense percentage increases aren’t correct. Your operating expense % increase over the last decade is close, but your revenue % increase is way off (operating revenue, since that’s what makes sense when comparing with operating expenses)..

    You appear to be using figures from pages 82 & 84 of the FY 2016 report, but those numbers include all city accounts (capital, operating, & special revenue). Regardless, you need to look at page 27 of the FY 2016 report ($36,459,813 revenue & $32,992,768 expense) and compare to page 24 of the FY 2006 report ($27,781,880 revenue & $24,002,928 expense). Doing that gives operating expenses that have gone up 37.5%, and operating revenue up 31.2%; admittedly not great but not nearly as bad as the numbers you presented.

    • Long-time resident, please use your name,

    • Long-Time Resident, i would again respectfully ask that you use your name when commenting, as most of the rest of us do. Otherwise, readers have to speculate about whether your views against scrutiny of the city’s finances, and in support of developers and our legacy councilmen are colored by any personal incentives you may have, as a developer yourself or someone with financial interests in Town Center.

      • Long-Time Resident Reply

        Mr Sowell: You’ve misstated my position again. The first was in a different thread when you stated that I was against reviewing the police contract, and now you’re claiming that I’m against reviewing city finances. Pointing out faults in your analysis and data is not the same as saying no scrutiny of city finances should be done. But thanks for bringing these posts into the Recent Comments section with your vacuous reply, so that more people can see the amateurish analysis and fiction in your original letter.

        The pro-H crowd includes some nasty people, I choose to remain anonymous for that reason. During the run-up to the election, some were willing to violate the law on an almost daily basis by trespassing and destroying or removing No on H signs. And some threatened or organized a boycott of businesses like Luxe that were against Measure H.

        • Anonymous is a loosely associated international network of activist and hacktivist entities. A website nominally associated with the group describes it as “an …
          Purpose‎: ‎Anti-cyber-surveillance; Anti-cyber-c… Membership‎: ‎Decentralized affinity group
          Formation‎: ‎c. 2004

          So there you have it anonymous!!!!! I have hear from a measure H person, that a man call Harold tried to put a sign on property, and the property owner turned a hose on him. Is that what you are frightened of. If so, keep off property that does not belong to you. As usual, the 34% always reports what they are doing and blame it on the opposition. 66% of American’s are waking up to your tactics.

          so writ what you want, but every time you do I will remember what anonymous means.

  • Corinne: AntiFa, Bernie. Black Lives Matter. Occupy, etc…..Same tactics from the Measure H, Capo Cares, Save Dana Point people. Shout the loudest, pack the city council halls and say your for the people, as the city lots stay empty, like Santa Cruz and all of the other progressive dream cities, as we cut services residents want (like the concerts in the park) .

    Don’t forget, 35% of the budget comes from the TOT tax, most coming from MB district, yet 42% of the expenditures are spent on Capo, while our sales tax revenue is another 16% of the budget, with most of that also coming from the hotels that cater towards tourist. So to say we shouldn’t focus on tourist doesn’t make sense (then again most people who believe in Occupy, BLM, AntiFa, don’t understand business because they never worked). Maybe we should focus on reducing spending on certain areas of town, maybe more in line with what that district brings in? (maybe Capo should have their own HOA, so they can pay for their own roads, like most of LD and MB do) Still don’t get your 66%, is that 66% who don’t pay their fair share and suck resources from others?????

    And Jay, in numerous post you mention the legacy council members, I think 3 got elected in 2014, way after this mess was created. So, stop blaming them. Since I didn’t vote for any of the council members I would say 4 are logical and 1 is fighting for a particular group, which is pretty obvious. And, I will say all 5 are hard working and should be applauded for their service.

  • I am reading this and absolutely positively LMAO!!!!! Too much fun!!!!!

    • Did you ever think you would see Capo Cares and Black Lives Matter in the same sentence? or Save Dana Point and the Antifa? What is it with these radicals from Capo Beach?

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