Thank you for supporting my campaign for Mission Viejo City Council.
There were five challengers, one in each of the five districts of Mission Viejo, in opposition to the Republicans. I polled the most of the challengers and more than the ultimate winner in one of the other districts. But in District 2, where we live, I came up short. The name recognition of the longtime incumbents together with low voter turnout allowed three of the five former Council members to remain. A new Republican and one of the Democrat challengers will take the other seats.
My campaign reached everyone in District 2 with literature at their doors, mail, text messages, YouTube videos, neighborhood meetings and knocking on their doors. My improvements over the 2022 Council's program of business people helping other business people were clear. So I gave our part of town a choice. If this new Council gets into more trouble, the responsibility rests on the voters who didn't vote. Lynn and I along with a great campaign team did our part. My opponent, Brian Goodell, made no commitment to change his ways. The voters have made their bargain.
I'm planning to keep this website up. I will post updates on the issues before Mission Viejo. The issues I ran on continue to be close to my heart and vital to the future of our city. I'll have more to say about Mission Viejo's progress, if any, toward:
Taking care of all residents, not just business friends.
Making schools and all large group venues safer.
Requiring new projects to make Mission Viejo more viable ecologically, financially and morally.
Revealing Council members' conflicts of interest.
Curtailing Council members' personal and political use of Mission Viejo's attorneys and other services.
Supporting women's access to abortion and control over all personal health decisions.
Expansion of available affordable housing, low income housing and housing for the homeless.
Reasonable accommodations for disabled, elderly and economically disadvantaged persons.
Guilty City Council Members lose their appeal.
Three City Council members elected to two year terms in 2018 stayed on the Council for four years. California State Attorney General Rob Bonta gave permission to Mission Viejo citizen Mike Schlesinger to file suit. Judge Schwarm found Wendy Bucknum, Greg Raths and Ed Sachs guilty of California election law violations. He removed them from City Council. Council members Brian Goodell and Trish Kelley were elected to two year terms in 2020 and planned to stay on for four years themselves. Judge Schwarm rejected their illegal plan and ordered elections all five seats in November, 2022. City Council's attack on democracy was over. All five 2022 City Council members had voted twice to commit an illegal act in violation of California election law. The 2022 City Council appealed the decision causing further delay and expense to the Mission Viejo taxpayers. Their appeal was unanimously rejected by the California Court of Appeals.
Campaign Donors Get Favors
Patrick Cox appeared before the Mission Viejo City Council and other Mission Viejo municipal bodies on behalf of ValueRock Realty in 2021 to propose a 60 foot high sprawling building at the corner of Marguerite and La Paz. A more dangerous, disruptive and inappropriate addition to our city’s already congested downtown area would be hard to imagine.
In my career in public service I sometimes met with developers seeking to get rich with crazy ideas for school property under my authority or the developer’s own property in the same municipality. A simple conversation laying out the values of the community put a lot of schemes to rest before they got started. The developer didn’t waste money preparing a proposal that would never pass. The city was saved a controversy.
Apparently no one had such a chat with Mr. Cox. Or perhaps he thought he had a special inside track to approve his crazy idea. As many of us protested on the streets, we would often hear Mission Viejo citizens tell us we were wasting our time. I heard things like, “I’m sure the City Council is already getting their cut. You can’t stop it.”
One of the protestors checked the public records and found that Mr. Cox did indeed have an inside track. He contributed to Council Member and then Mayor Bucknum’s political campaign more than once.
Bucknum later publicly acknowledged the contributions. She did not, however, recuse herself from further discussions of the ValueRock project. No Council member called for her recusal. Councilman Brian Goodell did not call for her recusal, nor did any other 2022 City Council member.
For nearly two decades I brought projects, employment candidates, vendors and other matters before the elected officials on the local and county boards I served. Board members would routinely recuse themselves from discussion, abstain from voting and even absent themselves from meetings if that elected official had a relationship with the person or business seeking action by the board. If they did not recuse themselves, other members of the elected board would insist on it. After thousands of meetings with elected boards, I had never seen ethics so poor as those of the 2022 Mission Viejo City Council.
After thousands of Mission Viejo citizens signed petitions, knocked on doors, circulated information, jammed City Council meetings and picketed in the streets, the Council, perhaps worried that the community would turn against them if they let the consideration of the project continue, ended the ValueRock project.
Would the Council have voted to end the project without the discovery of the Mayor’s special friend Patrick Cox? Were there other ties between ValueRock and Ms. Bucknum? Were other Council members so compromised in their own dealings that they hesitated to call for her recusal? We may never know how deep and wide the problem is, but clearly there is a problem. We need a City Council we can trust, not one that so many assume is on the take.
Taxpayers stuck with City Council's Lawyer Bills
When citizens protested the City Council’s attack on democracy by extending two year terms to four years, the Council answered their citizens with expensive legal action. This litigation is not benefiting MIssion Viejo, it only serves Council members. And yet, the 2022 City Council sees fit to spend the taxpayers’ money to advance their own personal political aspirations.
The City Attorney apparently advised the Council that they could get away with extending their two year terms to four years. After multiple court appearances, the City Council's attorney has lost every case. The City Council appealed their loss in Superior Court. Their appeal was rejected by the Appeals Court unanimously. Under California law, when a public body is found guilty, that public body must pay their own legal costs as well as the legal costs of the other party in the cases. The bills have not been totaled up, but it appears the 2022 City Council wasted a million dollars of the Mission Viejo taxpayers' money pursuing legal actions that they lost one after another.
I don’t know how many 2022 City Council members ever took a graduate course in Ethics. I did at Rutgers University Law School in the 1980s. There are many ethical standards various organizations have established. I prefer requiring all behavior by a person in a position of trust to be above even the appearance of impropriety.