It was your chance to see how they might perform behind the dias.
In front of an audience of about 100, candidates for San Juan Capistrano City Council debated water, traffic and other topics ahead of the Nov. 6 election at Monday night's Patch-sponsored debate.
Councilman Sam Allevato, Planning Commissioner Ginny Kerr, Tom Marantz, former Mayor Roy Byrnes and Kim McCarthy are competing for two open seats.
Three issues highlighted at the debate were water, traffic and vision for the future.
Debate moderator and Patch Editor Penny Arévalo asked: On a scale of 1-10 how important is it that the city has a local water supply? The answers showed the contrast between the candidates when it comes to the groundwater recovery plant.
Allevato answered with a nine.
“Right under our feet is a way to invest in our future. We need independence of our drinking supply,” said Allevato. “All the conferences I attend on water issues say the same thing: It’s not about cost of the water. It’s about the reliability.”
Kerr agreed with this argument and raised Allevato by answering 9.5.
“I believe it is essential,” she said. Kerr made the case that San Juan Capistrano imports water from two main out-of-area sources, and both could be easily interrupted.
“The Colorado River experiences times of drought and there are significant environmental issues with the California Delta,” said Kerr. “It is essential that we have a water supply to tap into during times of stress and times of drought.”
On the other hand, Byrnes would rate the importance of tapping into local water at a two.
“We should be buying our water from the Metropolitan Water District,” said Byrnes. “If we were to have a water factory at all it should have at least been a regional thing with four or five cities involved.”
Byrnes said the MWD is not only a cheaper method of supplying water but the agency's 100-year history proves it is reliable.
McCarthy walked the middle with a five.
“I’ll do everything to not raise water rates,” said McCarthy.
The topic of possible rate increases was raised but all candidates agreed there would be no rate increases until a rate study justifies the proposed rate increases.
The upcoming expansion of the Ortega Highway interchange at the I-5 afforded the opportunity for candidates to describe how they would handle the Caltrans project, which is likely to clog city streets for months on end.
Allevato laid out the work he has already done on the issue as a council member and how he would continue to work to make sure business and citizens are not overly inconvenienced.
“I have the relationships built in with the outside agencies to make this as painless as possible,” said Allevato. “I am committed to making sure we have good communication with residents and to make sure it is done safely. Our city is up to the task, and the council will be up to the task to make it work.”
McCarthy recommended setting up a website to alert drivers of delays and closures.
“We need a website that can be updated on smart phones,” said McCarthy. “A key component will be a website that can be accessed 24/7.”
But Caltrans already has a website planned, Kerr said.
Byrnes echoed the theme of communication with the public.
With two schools – one public, one private – mere blocks from the construction zone, “school coordination will be key,” said Byrnes. He made the point that safety has to be a top priority.
Marantz made the case that he could form a consensus on the council to handle these big issues.
“I give voters an alternative to vote for someone who wants to collaborate and bring together both sides,” said Marantz, “so we can move forward.”
In his closing statement, Byrnes said: “San Juan Capistrano is a bedroom community. As a bedroom community, it is inconsistent for us to be paying for a $30-million riding park.” He went on to add that he would help end the credit card mentality of the City Council.
McCarthy made her closing statement in the same vein. “We need new eyes and ears at the City Council,” she said.
Kerr portrayed herself as having a superior command of the issues. “I understand the issues and the process. I know how to move forward on the Ortega expansion and how to reach a solution on the ghost train,” said Kerr. “The voters have to ask themselves who is best able to represent the city to outside agencies.”
Marantz explained he has been talking to voters and that he has heard their concerns. “I want the council’s actions to be clear for the residents,” said Marantz. “The council can respond quicker to the issues like the ghost train and getting a quiet zone [when the trains don't blow their horns] implemented. Those are the things that residents tell me about.”
Allevato highlighted the work he has done with the council to make the city more business friendly, his belief that the groundwater recovery plant is a huge asset, and that he is the best candidate to work with agencies from the county or from the chamber of commerce.
Odds and Ends
McCarthy has faced allegations of racism in the past. Arévalo asked the candidate to explain.
“What upset me was the disenfranchisement of the American dream that these communities have experienced,” said McCarthy. “The American dream has been taken away from them by the various institutions that hand out freebies.”
All the candidates agreed it was important for the city to maintain its equestrian culture. Allevato touted a committee he set up to develop a website for virtual tours of the trails while also saying that he would pursue a logical course of connecting all trail routes.
McCarthy thought the process could be done more quickly.
Byrnes, who was mayor of San Juan Capistrano 36 years ago, says that back then, he was the sole fighter for equestrian issues and would pick up that mantle once again if elected.