As he prepares for his new job, columnist Jonathan Volzke bids a fond farewell to his column and weekly Coffee Chat

Jonathan Volzke
Jonathan Volzke

By Jonathan Volzke

It’s been just over two years since I signed off as editor of The Capistrano Dispatch, and today I find myself saying more goodbyes.

I’ve taken a new post as public information manager at the Santa Margarita Water District and the demands of the new job will keep me from a couple of things that have been part of my life for well over a dozen years: writing this monthly column and hosting the community Coffee Chat.

I’ll miss both, but I’ve always been an advocate of term limits and change, so these transitions are fitting, if not overdue.

Capistrano, of course, is home to plenty of vibrant voices, so I’m sure lively discussions will continue in the pages of The Dispatch. When I was editor, my favorite editions were packed with letters to the editor. We had six pages of just letters once.

Plenty is going on to discuss and debate in the months ahead. We have three council members—Larry Kramer, Derek Reeve and John Taylor—whose terms are up. Kramer and Taylor have said they’re seeking re-election, while we haven’t heard of Reeve’s intentions. Business owner and chamber leader Stephanie Frisch and volunteer and historian Jan Siegel have announced they’re running, so already we’ve got four good folks vying for three seats—and that’s without any word from Reeve or folks who have run unsuccessfully in the past.

Around town, Urban Village has landed a Hilton but needs final City Council approval to bring that four-star hotel to the downtown, along with 33 homes. At Ortega Highway and El Camino Real, Goveia Real Estate proposes a retail center to replace the Plaza Banderas Hotel. Full disclosure: I worked on outreach for both projects.

While a few folks around town like to say I supported the projects because I was hired to, I truly believe both would be great additions to the town and was honored to work with them. Brian Lochrie, my boss at Communications LAB, hated when I said this, but I would have worked for both for free, just as a resident excited about what they can bring to our city.

Speaking of Communications LAB, the past two years were great. The owners, Lochrie and his wife, Arianna Barrios, were the best bosses I’ve ever had and I was lucky to work with great clients, including Duane Cave at San Diego Gas & Electric, which was Capistrano’s “Business of the Year” last year for all of the support it gives community events.

Thanks, too, to Roger Faubel, who mentored me on the transition from journalism to public affairs. I learned a great deal—with the most enduring (and confounding) lesson that much of what happens in government that frustrates us is pretty much happening as it has to. It’s easy to blame people—from elected officials to staffers—but the system is pretty convoluted, redundant and … messed up. The people involved make good things happen despite a tangled web of regulation and requirements.

The toughest goodbye comes in my farewell to the Coffee Chat, where I play the role of Regis Philbin to Erin Kutnick’s Kelly Ripa (she doesn’t like the Kathie Lee comparisons).

We started the weekly gathering nearly 20 years ago, when I was at the Register. Editors there thought it would be useful to hold a Friday morning open focus group to hear community feedback on each week’s edition of the paper and gather story ideas. It lasted beyond my career at the Register, beyond my decade at The Dispatch and through today. Coffee Chat outlasted several coffee shops, too, bouncing around a few times before landing now at Mission Grill. We can sit there and chat and watch the town go by for a couple of hours.

We’ve learned great history lessons from old-timers at Coffee Chat, which draws 50 or so on a good Friday. Sometimes more, sometimes less. We’ve debated the future with elected officials. City Council candidates have announced their runs for office at Coffee Chat and every serious candidate for the fifth district seat on the board of supervisors came by to introduce themselves and take questions in the past election cycle.

We’ve celebrated birthdays, mourned losses, met new babies, some just weeks old. The Capo Girls Softball team brought trophies a couple of weeks ago when they were talking about their historic run for a state title. Jim Reardon grabbed an empty cup and passed it around and we donated $320 for the effort. Things like that have happened before, too.

But my favorite part of Coffee Chat was always just sitting back and watching folks gather. Some have come to the chat for a while, others are new. Folks sort of cycle through. It’s supposed to start at 8 a.m., but never really did—that’s when friends who might not otherwise see each other got to catch up a bit.

I’d wander in and let Steve Behmerwohld make his weekly joke about my being right on time at 8:15 a.m., and I’d just take a look around. No matter what’s happening east of us, no matter whether we’re debating hotels or houses in our own city, for those 90 minutes or so each Friday, San Juan Capistrano was a small town again.

Many of you haven’t been shy about letting me know The Dispatch has not only survived my departure, but improved. No argument here, and I expect the same thing to happen with Coffee Chat. Erin has promised to continue her duties, and a host of volunteers have stepped up to take a turn in the moderator’s chair next to her.

And we know there will always plenty to talk about. Just as I enjoy the surprises I find as I turn the pages of The Dispatch now, I look forward to returning to Coffee Chat when I can.

But I’ll be sitting in the back, enjoying a view of our open hills and loving our small town.

San Juan Capistrano resident Jonathan Volzke is an award-winning journalist for the Orange County Register and founder and former editor of The Capistrano Dispatch.

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comments (3)

  • David Bartholomew

    Dear Jim, Good luck with telling the San Juan community, that their $100,000 taken from their life savings went to some deserving stockholders / out-of-towners / water / Land Barons. I would be screaming if any tyrannical company leverage my savings account.

    JV, you say, “Every serious candidate for the fifth district seat on the board of supervisors came by to introduce themselves and take questions in the past election cycle.” Dana Point residents now hate you for this propaganda, Just look at the destruction of the Harbor remodel plan being authored by these same County Supervisors. You appear to be, then and now, the editor-special interest propaganda publisher, giving the impression that political corruption cannot stand, cannot profit by the Land Baron land-lording tyranny schemes taking place in Dana Point.

    JV, you say, “No matter whether we’re debating hotels or houses in our own city …” these real estate friends of the Dispatch have enjoyed your propaganda; as a result the community and our nation suffers.
    JV, you say, “The Dispatch has not only survived my departure, but improved.” Not so JV. Remember when you started the paper and you would describe issues of controversy in the community, pressing for not just resolve, but proposing real reform in how controversy starts, how your review of paper-trails by the special interest politician / investors stick-it us, over and over again, we sleepy community! You know darn well the new owners of the Dispatch stand on the side of the stick-it-corrupt GOP real estate investors growing like a virus.

    1./ Example: Hilton wants money, period. All the out-of-Towner’s, the L.A. Times / Register Land Barons can care less about protecting the charm of the city. Why didn’t San Juan elected officials to establish standards for protecting the Mission environment? (example) “ Yosemite National Park (overlords, politicans too) knew that this environment is a place worth protecting for future generations. As far back as the mid-1800s, the park was formally recognized as a place so special that Yosemite required protection for the enjoyment and use of future visitors. Not only is Yosemite a National Park, it has been designated as a World Heritage Site because of its outstanding universal value. “
    The San Juan Mission area is a national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy. Not one local authority stood up to express conditions of protection … that the atmosphere shall be held for public use and resort-like enjoyment, establishing a reasonable set back, like other national monuments, shall be inalienable for all time; …. (reference) — 38th United States Congress, Session 1, 1864.

    2./ Example: The freeway design is also a mess causing encroachment upon precious national interest atmospheres, and could have been routed through the next southern freeway exit. ( Sadly, we are also wrecking Dana Point Harbor.)

    JV: you say, “It’s easy to blame people—from elected officials to staffers—but the system is pretty convoluted, redundant and … messed up.” Well I say, “Pull the stick out of your eye.” You became the most intricate part of necessary criticism, the Headlands was downsized, Superintendent Fleming was punished. Sad to say, just the tip of the iceberg. The dump high school lost $100,000,000 of tax revenue (stolen scheme), transferring funding from the classroom to the corrupt school contractors; Fleming s Group. Today, your buddies Duane Cave and San Diego Gas & Electric still emit harmful EMR ( Wiki / Electromagnetic radiation (EM radiation or EMR) is a fundamental phenomenon of electromagnetism, behaving as waves and also as particles called photons which travel through space carrying radiant energy. In a vacuum, it propagates at the speed of light, normally in straight lines. EMR is emitted and absorbed by charged particles. As an electromagnetic wave, it has both electric and magnetic field components, which synchronously oscillate perpendicular to each other and perpendicular to the direction of energy and wave propagation.) Harming kids brain / metabolism long term; was a bad plan.

    The super, superficial Erin Kutnick’s (Kelly Ripa ) is a part of the Teacher’s Union, a part of the group who directly takes funding away from the classroom’s to pay for overpriced school property and 9% jacked-up teacher wages. The status quo has now taken over the coffee chat. Welcome to early 1930’s Germany and Italy, where smart wise professors got paid to shut up.

    This article, pretty much demonstrates the only one left with any credibility is Jim Reardon.

  • David Bartholomew

    Dear Jonathan, Good luck with telling the San Juan community, that their $100,000 taken from their life savings went to some deserving stockholders / out-of-towners / water / Land Barons. I would be screaming if any tyrannical company leverage my savings account.

    JV, you say, “Every serious candidate for the fifth district seat on the board of supervisors came by to introduce themselves and take questions in the past election cycle.” Dana Point residents now hate you for this propaganda, Just look at the destruction of the Harbor remodel plan being authored by these same County Supervisors. You appear to be, then and now, the editor-special interest propaganda publisher, giving the impression that political corruption cannot stand, cannot profit by the Land Baron land-lording tyranny schemes taking place in Dana Point.

    JV, you say, “No matter whether we’re debating hotels or houses in our own city …” these real estate friends of the Dispatch have enjoyed your propaganda; as a result the community and our nation suffers.
    JV, you say, “The Dispatch has not only survived my departure, but improved.” Not so JV. Remember when you started the paper and you would describe issues of controversy in the community, pressing for not just resolve, but proposing real reform in how controversy starts, how your review of paper-trails by the special interest politician / investors stick-it us, over and over again, we sleepy community! You know darn well the new owners of the Dispatch stand on the side of the stick-it-corrupt GOP real estate investors growing like a virus.

    1./ Example: Hilton wants money, period. All the out-of-Towner’s, the L.A. Times / Register Land Barons can care less about protecting the charm of the city. Why didn’t San Juan elected officials to establish standards for protecting the Mission environment? (example) “ Yosemite National Park (overlords, politicans too) knew that this environment is a place worth protecting for future generations. As far back as the mid-1800s, the park was formally recognized as a place so special that Yosemite required protection for the enjoyment and use of future visitors. Not only is Yosemite a National Park, it has been designated as a World Heritage Site because of its outstanding universal value. “
    The San Juan Mission area is a national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy. Not one local authority stood up to express conditions of protection … that the atmosphere shall be held for public use and resort-like enjoyment, establishing a reasonable set back, like other national monuments, shall be inalienable for all time; …. (reference) — 38th United States Congress, Session 1, 1864.

    2./ Example: The freeway design is also a mess causing encroachment upon precious national interest atmospheres, and could have been routed through the next southern freeway exit. ( Sadly, we are also wrecking Dana Point Harbor.)

    JV: you say, “It’s easy to blame people—from elected officials to staffers—but the system is pretty convoluted, redundant and … messed up.” Well I say, “Pull the stick out of your eye.” You became the most intricate part of necessary criticism, the Headlands was downsized, Superintendent Fleming was punished. Sad to say, just the tip of the iceberg. The dump high school lost $100,000,000 of tax revenue (stolen scheme), transferring funding from the classroom to the corrupt school contractors; Fleming s Group. Today, your buddies Duane Cave and San Diego Gas & Electric still emit harmful EMR ( Wiki / Electromagnetic radiation (EM radiation or EMR) is a fundamental phenomenon of electromagnetism, behaving as waves and also as particles called photons which travel through space carrying radiant energy. In a vacuum, it propagates at the speed of light, normally in straight lines. EMR is emitted and absorbed by charged particles. As an electromagnetic wave, it has both electric and magnetic field components, which synchronously oscillate perpendicular to each other and perpendicular to the direction of energy and wave propagation.) Harming kids brain / metabolism long term; was a bad plan.

    The super, superficial Erin Kutnick’s (Kelly Ripa ) is a part of the Teacher’s Union, a part of the group who directly takes funding away from the classroom’s to pay for overpriced school property and 9% jacked-up teacher wages. The status quo has now taken over the coffee chat. Welcome to early 1930’s Germany and Italy, where smart wise professors got paid to shut up.

    This article, pretty much demonstrates the only one left with any credibility is Jim Reardon.

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