By Brian Park
The San Juan Capistrano City Council unanimously elected John Taylor as the new mayor and welcomed back Councilman Sam Allevato and newly elected Councilman Roy Byrnes to the dais Tuesday, but it was the selection of Allevato as the new mayor pro tem, over Councilman Derek Reeve, that drew the council’s first divided vote.
Allevato, who is beginning his third full term on the council and previously served as mayor in 2011 and 2007, was elected mayor pro tem by a 3-2 vote. Councilman Larry Kramer made the initial nomination and was seconded by Taylor.
Prior to the vote, Byrnes nominated Reeve for the position and asked Allevato to consider stepping aside. Byrnes, who previously served on the council from 1972 to 1976, pointed out that all other council members—except Reeve—had prior experience as either mayor or mayor pro tem and that a term as mayor pro tem would benefit Reeve’s growth as a council member.
However, Allevato said he could not turn down the nomination due to Reeve’s critical remarks published in local media outlets during the election season—widely considered to be one of the most contentious in recent memory.
“I can live with differing on issues, but when you are up here, working together collegiately on Tuesday, but you read in the paper, on Tuesday or Friday, personal attacks on your character from that same person, that does not breed camaraderie,” Allevato said.
Taylor agreed with Allevato.
“We don’t always agree on things but then we do see things in the paper that are puzzling,” Taylor said. “That always kind of bothered me that we would get those types of comments that we wouldn’t see from you in our interactions.”
Reeve and Byrnes are known to share critical views on such local issues as the controversial Groundwater Recovery Plant and the city’s license agreement with Blenheim Facility Management for use of the city-owned Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. Reeve supported Byrnes’ campaign, and although he acknowledged his comments during the election season, within that context, he said, it was “a two-way street.”
“In the course of our relations on the dais, I thought I’d been nothing but respectful. Truthfully, I don’t feel it’s gone the other way in every instance,” Reeve said. “But we’re grown men. I’m thick-skinned. It’s like water off the back of a duck for me.”
Kramer said he could not support Reeve because of their conflicting views on a number of issues and added that he would like to see Reeve become more involved with outside agencies and regional boards.
Reeve responded by saying he had previously prepared to participate but felt he never had the opportunity.
“Maybe it was a misunderstanding. In the past, Sam put me on one committee that was scheduled to terminate, so that was really beyond my control.”
Reeve also said he was concerned with how Allevato’s selection would be perceived by the voters who supported Byrnes and him.
“I feel in some respects it’s a slap in the face to them and that we’re really not rotating among the five council members. It’s really all just three of you,” Reeve said.
Byrnes closed the council’s comments by saying he was surprised to see such frank discussion between council members.
“This is the new look. Transparency. We no longer discuss these things the way we used to in the backroom,” Byrnes said. “Everybody has expressed themselves, and I hope we can just accept the views we’ve had and accept what we think and try to improve.