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City Gets Down to Business and Runs Into Murphy’s Law

Times Staff Writer

In its first week as a city, Dana Point played the smiling host to a series of inaugural bashes that included rousing speeches and a champagne reception at a fancy hotel ballroom.

In its second week, Dana Point came crashing back to earth.

Jan. 9, at the city’s first regular council meeting, almost anything that could have gone wrong did.

First, City Manager William O. Talley called in sick with the flu and City Atty. Jerry M. Patterson was forced to take his place, fumbling along through unfamiliar territory during the meeting.

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Then, Mayor Judy Curreri looked up with a certain degree of alarm to see that some members of an audience of more than 100 local residents were being forced to stand outside in a cold hallway. It seems that the meeting room of the Capistrano Bay Park and Recreation District where the city is holding its council meetings was not large enough to accommodate them all.

Curreri conscientiously asked some of the shivering residents to step inside and line up along one wall where there was still standing room, but only three people responded.

That might have been because the others couldn’t hear the mayor’s offer over the din of a lively basketball game going on next door.

The city is meeting in the park district’s community center until a new office building in which the city will have space is ready for occupancy in about 6 months. The city will have its own civic center eventually, but that project is at least 2 years down the road, Talley has said..

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Throughout the 2 1/2-hour council meeting, residents at the back of the meeting room found themselves straining to hear what council members, city staffers and a parade of speakers were saying.

At one point, when a resident’s voice could not be heard over a podium microphone, Curreri asked whether the microphone was working. A city staff member sheepishly replied that the microphone was to record the speakers, not amplify their voices.

City Council members also found that there is more to running a city than sitting back and allowing praise to be heaped upon them, as was the case during the inaugural festivities.

The meeting began on an uplifting note, however, when resident Dennis Block took the podium to say: “I’d like to tell all the wonderful people of Dana Point that I salute you.”

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But that was one of the last noncontroversial comments to come from the speakers. John Bates officially became Dana Point’s first purveyor of bad news when he stepped up to the podium early in the meeting to complain about the high accident rate on Selva Road.

“I’d like to see the council investigating that situation,” Bates said, as council members Bill Bamattre, Curreri, Mike Eggers, Eileen Krause and Ingrid McGauire listened intently, some scribbling notes to themselves.

A few moments later, the council got it with both barrels. Lawyers involved in a complex legal battle over rent hikes at a Dana Point mobile home park stepped to the podium to unleash a barrage of legalisms. The council sat numbly as lawyers for both sides presented their arguments in courtroom fashion.

The council was not asked to take any action on that dispute other than to “work with these people in no specific direction,” according to Gerald Gibbs, attorney for the mostly elderly residents of the mobile home park.

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As Curreri said to those present at one point during the meeting: “We’re learning and you’re learning, as we’re all new to this.”


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