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By Jonathan Volzke

Jonathan Volzke

I must say I was surprised on many levels when I opened the last edition of The Dispatch and saw Councilman Derek Reeve’s “Ode to Jonathan Volzke.” My first reaction was that I didn’t recall any discussions with Mr. Reeve about my vision and ideals, and as I read on about my personal and professional demise, I realized Mr. Reeve had simply moved from plagiarizing for to writing fantasy for The Dispatch.

Mr. Reeve was, of course, writing in response to my earlier column in support of City Council candidates Sam Allevato and Ginny Kerr. It was only fair, of course, that Mr. Reeve, who supports fellow Capistrano Common Sense candidates Roy Byrnes and Kim McCarthy, be allowed to reply, but I found it interesting Mr. Reeve dedicated his column to his wishful ode rather than extolling the virtues of his candidates. I’ve not been in the PR game long, but I recognize the play: When you have the message, stress the message. When you don’t, attack the messenger.

Still, the column provides the opportunity for me to expand on my earlier thoughts—particularly the one that seemed to hit home with Mr. Reeve: that always voting “no” is not leadership. Mr. Reeve shuddered at the thought of “going along to get along” or of “becoming a lapdog.”

I’d hoped Mr. Reeve would avoid talking about dogs. Last time he famously announced from the council dais that he’d named his dog Mohammad—a particular insult to Muslims, who see dogs as unclean—even conservative hero Bill O’Reilly labeled him a “pinhead” on national TV. While it’s Mr. Reeve’s right to name his dog whatever he wants, and even talk about it, there’s a difference between something being right and something being appropriate. In this case, Mr. Reeve put the city at risk, because the city engineer at the time was Muslim and was in City Hall’s sights for replacement. Also in the audience that night was a Muslim business owner appealing a Planning Commission decision. Mr. Reeve’s comments unnecessarily put the city at risk in two potential legal cases. And Ms. McCarthy, of course, has shown even more hostility toward Latinos than Mr. Reeve has for Muslims.

The dais is not a place to air ideology. It’s just not in the best interest of the city of San Juan Capistrano, which should be first and foremost in the interest of every man and woman honored to sit in one of those five chairs. Ideology also brought us Mr. Reeve’s infamous proposal to overturn Capistrano’s ban of guns and other weapons in city parks, which resulted in more national embarrassment.

Even in a minority, Mr. Reeve could put residents first. Years ago, I watched the council approve a development in town 4-1, with only then-Councilman Gil Jones voting “no.” Two weeks later, when the project came back for the routine second reading, it passed unanimously. I asked Councilman Jones why he’d changed his mind. He gave me an important lesson in local governance, telling me he’d approached the developer to ask if a unanimous approval was important. When the developer said it was, Councilman Jones asked him to make the project’s sign smaller. The developer agreed, and Councilman Jones—knowing the project had the votes of the council majority—supported it, knowing he’d made it a little bit better for Capistrano.

Mr. Reeve brought up the expansion of the San Diego Gas & Electric substation on Camino Capistrano, a block from my home. Yes, SDG&E is a client, but as a resident, I suggest Mr. Reeve consider the lessons of the past in the approach to SDG&E’s proposal to upgrade a facility last improved before Capistrano was even a city.

Because utilities cross multiple communities, like railroads, they are governed by the Public Utilities Commission to ensure the network is coordinated and cohesive. Just like San Juan Hills, the SDG&E substation does not require city approval, but the utility has promised to work with the city. Mr. Reeve, naturally, skipped the numerous open houses and workshops on the proposal, but is quick to criticize the project. Rather than flat-out fight the project, history shows a successful strategy would be to work with the utility instead of against it to create the best project possible—just like former councilman Jones.

Leadership shouldn’t be about the ego or personal goals of one council member, but about doing what’s best for our city. Councilman Allevato and Commissioner Kerr know that; both have demonstrated it. They address issues instead of punting them off to others. Our City Council members are asked to sit on outside agencies—for transportation, sewage and water—yet Mr. Reeve has never volunteered for any. That’s not in the best interest of constituents either, because he is missing the opportunity to discuss regional issues with experts and compare our city to those around us. Water rates? Capistrano’s average bill in 2010 was less than that in San Clemente or South Coast Water District. You can’t just look at a bill to know that: some agencies don’t include sewage fees as Capistrano does, and some, such as Moulton-Niguel, put a large portion of the water charges on homeowners’ property-tax bills, so it’s invisible month-to-month.

Ms. McCarthy will likely adopt Mr. Reeve’s same isolated stance. She has repeatedly stated she would vote against accepting any grant money for the city. That ideology would make us less safe: The city receives a grant of $100,000 a year to fund a deputy sheriff in our community. We also received a $1.5 million grant from OCTA to improve our northern open space—money that other cities would have been happy to have. Frankly, McCarthy shows disrespect for most stakeholders in our community. She even got into an argument with a GOP committee member while unsuccessfully seeking an endorsement from the Republican Party. It was so bad another committee member said Ms. McCarthy’s behavior caused him to fear how she’d treat constituents. Another committee member noted she lied on her endorsement application.

It’s easy to complain, it’s easy to vote “no.” It’s harder to study issues, to gain perspective and develop solutions that aren’t dictated by ideology but by what’s best for San Juan Capistrano. That’s what leaders do. The early years of The Dispatch weren’t about whether an incumbent was seeking re-election, they were about the public involvement and processes that led to decision-making. There were times before The Dispatch when incumbents were reappointed without electoral challenge. City Hall, our community, has come a long way since 2002. There’s more to go, but Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Byrnes would be a step back. That’s why I support Sam Allevato and Ginny Kerr.

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