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Leading up to the San Juan Capistrano City Council election on Nov. 6, The Capistrano Dispatch is publishing six questions, two each issue, that we’ve asked each individual who qualified for the ballot to answer. Be sure to look for next edition when we publish the final two questions. The list of candidates is published according to the random alphabet the California Secretary of State recently drew.
Question 3: San Juan Capistrano, like many Orange County cities, has a growing homeless population. What would you as a city councilmember do to mitigate homelessness and address associated issues such as trespassing and drug use?
The lack of action taken by the City regarding its homeless population has resulted in crimes committed against residents and has grown into an environmental crisis. While walking San Juan Creek recently, I viewed tents, mattresses, fire pits, clothes, tampons, syringes, garbage, blankets, shopping carts, and more. As Federal Law requires the City to keep the creek clean, I would immediately organize clearing of all the garbage and cutting all brush along the creek.
As the question infers, homelessness is a regional problem, and many of the solutions will come from County and State agencies. We need to work more productively with these agencies to implement solutions that protect and prioritize our city’s interests. I’ll work to restore San Juan’s regional credibility by working in a less adversarial manner with key stakeholders, and I’ll prioritize effective law enforcement in San Juan to keep our neighborhoods, trails and parks safe.
In all honesty, I couldn’t begin to answer such a complex question without a serious degree of due diligence. As a council, we need to study what has worked and what has failed in other cities. We also need to have empathy and try to understand the cause and challenges that these people are facing. At the end of the day, part of the solution must be creating a path to a productive lifestyle.
Together we must fight crime, homelessness and combat the sober living industry that is threatening our neighborhoods and home values. I have successfully worked with law enforcement to put criminals behind bars. However, we need to devote resources for additional sheriff and code enforcement personnel by increasing city revenues, stop foolishly wasting taxpayer dollars on over-budgeted pet projects my opponents support, and end needless lawsuits that waste taxpayers’ dollars that my opponents contributed to.
Our city has two jobs to do. First, we need to provide our proportional share of Permanent Supportive Housing, proven far less costly and more effective at helping the chronically homeless than handouts. Organizations such as Mercy House and Jamboree Housing are great examples. I’ll encourage making such a facility a reality. At the same time, I’ll continue pushing for enforcement of true offenses such as public drug abuse, trespassing on private property and theft.
We have a big homeless problem now in San Juan, putting our residents and children at risk, due to City Administration’s failure to clear the creek. Hundreds of people are now living in what has become a virtual shanty town, and it is no longer safe. We need to immediately clear the brush, increase the Sheriff’s patrol there, and work with the County towards a long-term solution.
Homelessness being an issue throughout Orange County is not an issue San Juan Capistrano can take on alone. We need to work together with all of our neighboring cities to develop a program to respectfully and humanely address our communities’ concerns while doing everything we can to help those in need.
Certainly, homelessness is a growing problem in our community. We must be compassionate and work with non-profits to help the homeless find a way back into society. At the same time, we should do our part to protect residents from crime. I know people who grew up in SJC who now live on our streets. Being homeless is not illegal; we must treat the homeless with dignity and help them get back into society.
Our neighborhood in the Los Rios historic district has been meeting to proactively learn how we can address these issues. We met with the OC Sheriffs as well as Family Assistance Ministries, who work with the homeless to transition them back into society. I believe a compassionate but firm approach to our laws must be maintained. My opponent did not attend either of the neighborhood meetings and has not responded to repeated invites and requests.
Question 4: What are some ways you as a city council member would seek to increase recreational opportunities for the city’s youth?
The Eastern Open Space should be managed by the City, and additional activities for youths should be explored. To fund these activities I would recommend the City: 1. Cease paying Blenheim $1.25 million to manage our property, which they currently monopolize; 2. Hold Blenheim accountable for the more than $2.9 million dollars they just cost taxpayers for polluting and damaging our open space; and 3. Hold Blenheim responsible for restoring the damage.
I’ve coached my children’s soccer and baseball teams every year for almost 15 years—this fall, it’s the 9-years-olds at Cook’s park. It’s no secret that our town’s playing fields need more focus and investment. We need more venues and safer playing surfaces. Neighboring cities have made kids’ fields a priority and we have fallen behind. I’m committed to change that. It’s critical that San Juan remains a great place to raise families.
This is something that I’m passionate about. There are some great projects on the table right now, including the city skate park. But like everything else, it comes with a price tag. I do have some ideas on how to fund and sustain them long term and you’ll be hearing more about that as this campaign evolves.
With eight years on the council, I have been the voice for youth sports and athletic fields. With two boys, I understand firsthand the important need for youth recreational activities. Opponents give lip service, but continually redirect taxpayer dollars away from youth activities and instead waste it on over-budgeted pet projects and wasteful lawsuits. We need additional athletic fields (soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby), basketball courts, children’s playgrounds, a dog park within walking distance, and more sheriffs.
I’ve worked on a skate park for four years. I helped find a great location and spearheaded creating a world-class design. Now, I’m helping raise funds to build it. I’d task our Youth Advisory Board to identify facilities our youth want and need such as an aquatic center, sports fields or things we never imagined. I’d bring people together to make those happen. The Y.A.B. inspired my work on the skate park. Let’s utilize their talents.
The Ecology Center (TEC) is one of the best learning experiences available anywhere and fosters appreciation of the unique nature of San Juan and its agricultural history. Involving our youth in a TEC education will shift their perspective by immersing them in a wholesome and unique experience, will have a lasting impact on their lives and our community through their involvement. It has the ability to enhance the lifestyles of all who live here.
As a council member I will continue to support existing youth programs and facilities in San Juan Capistrano, such as the Boys & Girls Club, AYSO soccer leagues, and especially the building of the skate park at San Juan Capistrano Sports Park. If the city spent less time participating in lawsuits and more time addressing the needs of our youth, we would have more community-oriented activities for them.
Every child should know how to swim at an early age. I grew up surfing, paddle boarding and enjoying the local beaches at an early age because my mom enrolled me in a competitive swimming as a youth. Someday, I hope to see us have a community aquatic center of our own. This is a great resource for all ages. Even the elderly benefit from aquatic exercise programs that increase longevity.
I was President of the SJC Little League and have worked toward bringing a skate park to SJC. I negotiated an aquatic center at our sports park as part of a city approval, but unfortunately a future city council denied the project allowing 180 homes to be built in its place. Going forward I would upgrade and enhance our City Parks and over 50 miles of trails and continue exploration of youth recreational facilities.