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Jonathan Volzke

By Jonathan Volzke

We as a nation should applaud Congress this month. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., negotiated a budget that should be palatable to both parties. I watched an interview with Ryan on television and he said the key was simple: both sides agreed they wouldn’t violate their personal principles–and that they’d get something done.

It is the first bi-partisan budget proposal since the Reagan era. I’m sure the extremes at both sides will contend the proposal doesn’t do enough, but House Speaker John Boehner could not have put it better when he angrily told reporters the extreme conservative groups are “using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals.”

From his lips to Capistrano’s ears.

Capistrano celebrated a wonderful tree lighting event on December 7—Historic Town Center Park was full, the streets were full, shops and restaurants were full. I expect a similar day this Saturday, December 14, when snow is trucked into Historic Town Center Park for a “Winter Wonderland” of sledding and community booths. That event goes hand-in-hand with the Second Saturday Art Fair that will fill the downtown with craft venders and artists. Metrolink is also featuring Capistrano in a promotion that day, which should bring hundreds more to the downtown.

Sadly, though, the thoughts running through many minds these days is “What’s going on in San Juan Capistrano?” A councilman is facing recall. The city is appealing a Superior Court judge’s ruling in a lawsuit over our water rates. Someone’s filed a multi-million-dollar claim in the wake of that decision. Now there’s a kerfuffle with newspaper racks that has the city back in court.

Seems like things are falling apart at the seams, doesn’t it?

But they’re not. Not at all. We as a community are simply facing what brought our federal government to a standstill for two weeks in October. The issues that seem to be tying up the city can be traced back to a small group that seems intent on little more than paralyzing City Hall—then taking over on claims it’s inefficient or ineffective.

I bumped into a gentleman at Bad to the Bone the other evening. He lives in town and is a successful businessman. He’s busy and knew the headlines. To him, things seemed grave. We had a chance to chat over a cocktail or two, and by the end of our conversation, we’d both learned a bit. I think he understood the nuances a bit, and I certainly understood the city had created a lot of the issues it faces—by failing to communicate more clearly with residents.

He was worried about water. I explained the city’s water rates were derived pretty much the same as done by most cities in the county, if not the state. Setting water rates seems like a simple task, but it’s far more complicated than most realize.  A Stanford think tank recently reviewed the Capistrano case and concluded new laws and new strategies are needed statewide. About Proposition 218—a law that says cities can’t impose taxes or fees without public approval—and the basis for part of the Capistrano ruling and wrote this: “While it remains to be seen whether the ruling will stand and just how far it may ultimately reach, its potential to further complicate the ability of California water agencies to provide reliable, clean water to communities should motivate decision makers in Sacramento and voters throughout the state to come to their rescue.”

Doesn’t sound like our leaders did anything outrageous from that perspective, does it?

Of course, there’s more noise out there about City Hall news racks and other such issues, but it really comes back to the same group of folks attacking wherever they can, trying a new strategy to gain City Council seats three of them failed to win in earlier elections.

As Rep. Boehner said, these aren’t citizens trying to make Capistrano a better place, it’s a group of people trying to further their own goals. Some say the extreme conservative movement is tearing apart the Republican Party—more than half of the Republican senators running for reelection next year face primary challengers running to their right. Let’s not let it tear apart our community as well.

San Juan Capistrano resident Jonathan Volzke is a former award-winning journalist for the Orange County Register and founder of The Capistrano Dispatch. He’s since moved on and now works for Communications LAB, a public relations and community outreach firm in Lake Forest.

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