Michael Forster, San Juan Capistrano

Was I the only one disappointed by City Councilwoman Kerry Ferguson’s guest opinion about moving the city forward in the Oct. 23-Nov. 12, 2015 edition of The Capistrano Dispatch? The column just reinforced why many constituents are so frustrated with the lack of integrity and political tone deafness. Councilwoman Ferguson’s letter promotes that the new council members arrived on scene to save our city from the evils of the previous council. The reality is that these new faces on the City Council are trying to politically highjack the city by tacking politics to their minority extreme.

In her letter, Councilwoman Ferguson proclaims that “naysayers … tell mostly half-truths … telling untruths altogether” and the Vermeulen Lawsuit  “improperly undermines the will of voters who exercised their inherent referendum powers” and that “60 percent of voters voted against incumbents.” She further contends that “the facts” support her position that San Juan Capistrano’s majority interests are being carried out by City Hall. Really? Let’s take a closer look at Councilwoman Ferguson’s perspective and what truly is fact.

First, “naysayers” are not the enemy. Naysayers are indispensable cornerstones of our democracy, freely and proudly voicing their perspective with the right to be heard and respected. Our City Council has the responsibility and duty to ensure that all residents are represented by closing their lips, opening their minds and listening well, whether they agree with it or not. You never know when a naysayer may have it right—anyone recall Galileo, who was jailed in 1633 for heresy by claiming that the earth revolves around the sun?

Second, her premise that the Vermeulen lawsuit  “improperly undermines the will of voters” whereby “60 percent of voters voted against incumbents” is a skewed and politically motivated perspective not quite supported by the entirety of the facts. The Speiker project detractors’ misleading signature-gathering process aside, her argument that the Speiker project was specifically rejected based on the statement that “60 percent of voters voted against incumbents” in the last general election fundamentally falls short of credible. The facts are that of the 24,293 votes cast, only a minority 32.9 percent of the votes went to new Councilwomen Pam Patterson (4,313) and Ferguson (3,690). And let’s not forget that Councilman John Perry was appointed without a single vote of San Juan Capistrano’s 18,000 registered voters. How ludicrous it is to contend that overturning of the Spieker project was supported by the majority of residents.

On the bright side, Councilwoman Ferguson goes on to offer that, “Naysayers contend falsely that City Council is not working for all our residents. We meet constantly with constituents, whether they voted for us or not.” Councilmembers Ferguson, Patterson and Perry must be very busy these days meeting with the majority of San Juan Capistrano residents who did not vote for them. For San Juan Capistrano’s sake, I hope they are listening.

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  • Meeting with constituents, whether they voted for you or not, is meaningless if there is no discussion or action on the issue(s) being presented. Take the environment for example and our continued reliance on fossil fuels, which have led to the release of green house gases that endanger not only our generation, but future generations as well. We are in a extended “severe” to “exceptional” drought. The east-coast is suffering horrendous winter storms with loss of life and billions of dollars of damage, all because we continue to elect people who deny that we are responsible for global warming and climate change.

    Cities like Sebastopol and Lancaster have enacted ordinances requiring installation of solar on all new construction. Irvine is installing solar on its schools, Edwards Lifesciences has installed solar on the roof of their parking garage, saving them approximately $130,000 a year. They have included 15 charging stations, as well, for their employees driving electric vehicles (EV). According to the OC Office of Public Information, at least one mall on Grand Ave in Santa Ana has installed solar in its parking lot, and plans are in progress to install solar arrays in other malls in the area.

    I have made numerous proposals over the last two years that we follow Sebastopol and Lancaster in requiring all new construction to include solar. My suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.

    I have recently suggested we cover our parking lots with solar, including a number of charging stations for EVs in each row. A lack of charging stations is the biggest obstacle to adopting EVs as a primary mode of transportation.

    In August 2006, Lincoln’s City Council formally adopted a resolution to approve its Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) Transportation Plan that implements the City’s vision to provide safe and efficient access for NEVs to downtown and other commercial areas. Prior to 2005, federal law only permitted NEVs to operate on streets with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or less, but California enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 2353, establishing special provisions to define the use of NEVs on city streets. The legislation allowed NEVs to operate on streets with posted speed limits above 35 mph where designated NEV lanes are available.

    On July 22, 2008, AB 2963 was enacted to extend the January 1, 2009, termination date applicable to these NEV provisions to January 1, 2012. It also extended the reporting require
    ments for both cities (Lincoln and Rocklin), to the extent they implement a NEV transportation
    plan. The overall success of the NEV program resulted in a recommendation that the provisions of AB2963 be expanded statewide.

    Our city councils arguments against the introduction of NEVs in 2006-2007 are no longer valid. We could allow the use of NEVs in San Juan Capistrano today. Thanks to forward looking cities like Lincoln and Rocklin, the roadblocks to NEV operation have been significantly reduced.

    NEVs are basically a golf cart with head and tail lights, turn signals, side and rear view mirrors, windshields and seat belts. They have a stop speed of 25 mph and can normally only be operated on streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. AB2963 changed this with minimal requirements.

    Businesses in both cities realized early on that NEV drivers bought local, so they took the initiative to install charging stations for them. The NEV has become hugely popular in Lincoln. They could become hugely popular here, as well. Based on the success of them in Lincoln and Rocklin


    But the city council refuses to discuss the possibility of becoming an NEV friendly community.

    Councilwoman Ferguson favors the adoption of fuel cell vehicles (FCV). Toyota is currently the only manufacturer offering a FCV, with a MSRP of $57,500. Honda discontinued their FCV Clarity last year because of low sales. No one wants to purchase a vehicle that they have to drive 40 or more miles to refuel it.

    We now have a Hydrogen filling station at Junipero Serra, with four or more stations to be installed by the end of February and a dozen other stations promised by the end of 2016. Honda has a new FCV concept vehicle that they plan to introduce in 2017. But until their are sufficient refueling stations, there will be little motivation to purchase an FCV, given their high cost.

    It will be at least two decades before one can drive coast-to-coast in an FCV. In the interim, the electric vehicle makes an excellent transition vehicle. Arcimoto will begin production of the first truly affordable, daily utility, pure EV later this year. Against the backdrop of global urban traffic congestion, rising emissions and climate change, the Arcimoto SRK will provide a real fossil-free alternative for the vast majority of daily trips. The Arcimoto SRK is a two passenger EV with a top speed of 85 mph and a range of 70-to-130 miles, with an MSRP of $11,700. See:


    There is much that we could be doing to improve the future of our child and grand children. All we need is a City Council that will stop denying climate change and sea-level rise, move to make San Juan Capistrano a truly green city.

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