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Residents of Dana Point were dismayed by the “no” votes by the city council majority of Joe Muller, Richard Viczorek and Jamey Federico on Mayor Pro Tem Wyatt’s motion to bring any new short-term rental (STR) ordinance to a vote of the people. Numerous speakers on both sides of the debate agreed that voters should have a say in this fundamental change to zoning of residential neighborhoods. The Council had an opportunity to bring people together on the one thing upon which both sides agreed. They could have brought people together, showed in a very tangible way that they do indeed care about residents and live up to the promise inherent in the city’s mission statement—to create “an exceptionally livable City.”

Mr. Viczorek used the excuse that there is an electoral process, and if we the people don’t like it,  we can do a referendum. Never mind the costs and manpower involved in garnering 4,000 signatures for the last referendum in 2016. If we don’t like it, he would have us simply do a referendum again. And potentially again and again.

At first, Mr. Federico sounded like he was for a resident vote, and participants in the packed house dared hope he’d uphold the promise he made publicly during his 2018 campaign. He even tried a failed substitute motion to defer the decision. Sadly, in the end, he flip-flopped and voted, as usual, with his slate mailer companions, Muller and Viczorek.

Perhaps the strangest excuse was Mayor Muller’s. He mystified everyone present by suggesting that the motion was somehow an illegal campaign scheme that should be investigated by the FPPC. It’s unbelievable that he could not understand that Lewis and Wyatt, who are consistently pro-resident, simply wanted to give residents a say on something that will have far-reaching effects on their most valuable assets—their homes.

And even after the city attorney proclaimed, late in the debate, that such a vote would be non-binding, they still couldn’t find it in their hearts to pass a motion revealing an intention to give residents a vote. Perhaps they knew, as Mr. Wyatt remarked, that if they reversed themselves, even on a non-binding pledge, we’d “have their heads.”

Is there any wonder that residents are now seriously worried that these three will pass an STR ordinance that residents, if given a vote, would never approve? If they don’t represent residents, who exactly does our council actually represent?

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