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The Capistrano Dispatch
As part of The Capistrano Dispatch’s ongoing coverage of the San Juan Capistrano City Council election, we asked each of the eight candidates five questions about local issues. In the editions of The Dispatch leading up to the Nov. 8 election, we’re publishing their answers in the order their names will appear on the ballot.
This week, we asked:
If elected, what do you hope to accomplish over the next four years on the City Council?
Sergio Farias, Small Business Owner
Farias said one of his main priorities would be to resolve the city’s parking and traffic issues.
“Unfortunately, because of our place in the region, there may not be much we can do,” Farias said, “but I think removing the Ortega Highway choke point and trying to get the 241 Toll Road fixed should be priorities.”
Farias said he plans to use his platform as a Council member to make sure the city’s “students and community members that are helping know that we’re with them and we’re seeing the efforts they’re putting into their studies and community.”
“Aside from city issues and business, I think being involved and being there for the community is going to be by far the biggest thing that I could do,” Farias said, adding that he also wants to make sure local nonprofits like CREER have leadership and help getting the Latino community involved in civic issues.
“I think a lot of that’s gone by the wayside,” Farias said. “The community needs someone who can get them involved.”
Nathan Banda, Businessman/City of San Juan Capistrano Commissioner
Banda said he plans to focus on getting community members, especially the residents of District 1, more involved in city government so that they “have a place at the table.” He’d like to see residents in his district run for seats on city commissions so they can better represent their community’s interests.
Banda also wants to prioritize youth outreach, especially with the children in his district “turning to gangs for family.”
“It’s a huge issue,” Banda said, adding that he’d like to connect the community with local nonprofits such as Great Opportunities, Breakthrough and CREER.
Banda envisions a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce to develop a youth leadership program, where kids are trained and partnered with businesses in town for job opportunities. Banda said this would teach kids about responsibility and money management, while keeping them off of the streets.
Banda also wants to bring back the city’s six-week Citizen Leadership Academy, which provided an in-depth overview of the city’s history and government. He’d like to see the program offered in English and Spanish.
Larry Kramer, Retired Submarine Captain
Kramer said he intends to reduce the city’s legal bills by settling some of the lawsuits. He compared addressing the current situation to the city’s previous decision to settle the Scalzo lawsuit, which he was a part of while serving on the Council.
“I think that’s what we’ve got to do with our existing lawsuits right now—make a business decision to settle,” Kramer said.
With the money saved from less litigation, Kramer said he would prioritize road maintenance, which he said the city has fallen behind with. He would also focus on potentially adding officers to the city’s police force, which he noted has not had any new hires since 2001.
Kramer said other goals of his include seeing both hotels built, completing the city’s water reorganization, widening Ortega Highway, improving the city’s relationship with outside agencies, and extending the Blenheim EquiSports contract for five or 10 years.
In District 5, Kramer would like to see “little pocket parks” go in at the corner of San Juan Creek Road and La Novia.
Jim Schneider, Professional Geologist/Professor
Schneider said his first goal would be to “resolve the water plant” issue and “make plans to annex it.”
“I would also like to resolve, if possible, the pending lawsuits in the city, and with that, evaluate our own legal consultants,” Schneider said. “I’m not convinced they’re doing as much as they could do.”
Schneider said he would also like to “revisit the master plan and look for growth in the city.” With the city’s projected deficit, Schneider wants to develop “a plan to expand business in San Juan.”
“How else is the city going to raise more money?” Schneider asked.
Schneider said he’d like to “get a cohort together” to discuss the city’s economic revitalization. While he appreciates San Juan being known for its Mission, he wants to see more economic drivers in town, such as the thriving art community in Laguna Beach.
“We should all sit at the table,” Schneider said. “What district you’re in doesn’t matter. How will the city generate revenue over the next five, 10 or 25 years?”
Mechelle Lawrence Adams, Director, Historic Mission
Lawrence Adams said her priority will be to “reach across the aisle” to people she doesn’t necessarily agree with. “You have to talk to everybody, not just one side,” she said.
“My number one goal is to reset our community and to demonstrate myself as a leader that is available,” Lawrence Adams said. “I put my number in my ballot statement, and I’ve been taking phone calls. I did that on purpose, because I want people to know they can call me.”
Lawrence Adams said she intends to use her “technical background to ask the right questions on behalf of the community” so that city leaders don’t “waste taxpayers’ dollars and are good stewards of faith, trust and money.”
She plans to focus on creating a sustainable future for San Juan, which she said includes “collaborative partnerships.”
Some of her other goals include maintenance of the city’s parks, making sure the riding park is “more publicly accessible without sacrificing the equestrian tradition and show jumping” and revisiting widening Ortega Highway.
Ronda Mottl, Media Executive
Mottl said one of her main priorities would be to minimize the city’s lawsuits.
“They’re draining our financial resources,” Mottl said. “My number one objective is to not wastefully spend taxpayer money.”
Mottl said the city’s projected deficit for 2017-18 needs to be addressed by “looking at ways to cut spending without raising taxes.”
“Hopefully, additional revenue will come from reasonable development and paying for parking,” she said.
Mottl also intends to listen to her constituents in District 5 and “be their voice.” She hopes to restore trust between city government and the residents of San Juan.
“There’s such mistrust in our government with all the lawsuits and the factions within city hall and how people vote,” she said.
Mottl said she’d also like to initiate some town halls in San Juan with guest speakers and local government officials. When she held similar forums in her previous city of Newport Beach, she said the events were a “chance for residents to speak up about what they like or don’t like in community.”
Brian Maryott, Financial Services Executive
Maryott described San Juan’s current city governance as “somewhat dysfunctional” and lacking “healthy collaboration.” He said the present political climate of “finger-pointing and name-calling” creates a “difficult and strained environment for decision making.”
“My reputation of being a consensus-builder in my corporate life is something I want to bring to the city and see if we can help put our heads together on some things,” Maryott said.
Maryott’s priorities are to “inject a little bit of collaborative energy” into San Juan’s city government and to “create a more inclusive environment with the community.” He also wants to work on getting “a meaningful resolution to the water situation,” and will be “extremely protective” of the city’s open space.
“Open space is a very important issue to me,” Maryott said. “Our residents stepped up to acquire open space, and they did so not knowing what the exact uses would be for the short-term and the long-term. If we begin to sell off any bit of it, it’s an affront to the people who voted for it.”