Yet another recall moved a step closer to the ballot Thursday when a group of disgruntled Dana Point residents presented more than 10,000 signatures to the city clerk calling for the ouster of two City Council members.
The fledgling group, Citizens Help Against Non-Representative Government and Excesses, or CHANGE, has targeted Mayor Karen Lloreda and Councilman Harold R. Kaufman for purportedly voting consistently to waste and misuse public funds. The two council members call that absurd.
The group contends that Lloreda and Kaufman have backed a controversial development plan for the Headlands, a 121-acre peninsula near Dana Point Harbor, and have allocated more than $1 million to build ball fields against the wishes of the adjacent neighborhood residents.
"This group has seized upon an emotional issue, the Dana Point Headlands, and [is] using it to bring people in," Lloreda said. "It's really too bad."
The proposal for the Headlands, which includes a hotel and more than 300 homes, was approved by a previous council and then rescinded by a local referendum.
The plan for the ball fields, backed by Lloreda, Kaufman and Councilwoman Judy Curreri, is to pour $1.1 million into upgrading an athletic field at Dana Hills High School, so it can be used by local youth- and adult-sports groups.
Ball field development has been criticized not only for the anticipated impact on neighborhoods, but because the city would be spending money on land owned by the Capistrano Unified School District.
"The key is and always has been that they won't follow the will of the people," said Geoffrey Lachner, an attorney and CHANGE spokesman. "We have demonstrated what we want on the Headlands, for example, and they won't do anything about it. Then, on the ball fields, we filled the entire council chambers with people who don't want the lights and traffic, and they ignored us."
Lloreda called the group's charges "totally incorrect."
"This group does not agree with the way Harold and I and [Curreri] vote and are using the recall process to gain control of the council," Lloreda said. "They had the chance to do it in the last election and were not successful. They'll have another chance next year, but apparently they're afraid they won't be successful then either, so they are using the recall process instead."
Kaufman and Lloreda said the Headlands issue has already been dealt with at the ballot box, and the ball fields were an attempt to satisfy a need for more recreational areas in the small, six-square mile city.
The signatures must represent at least 20% of the city's approximately 20,000 registered voters. If they are found to be valid, the recall could be placed on the state's March presidential primary ballot. Thirty days are allowed for the verification of signatures, City Clerk Sharon L. Waits said.
The campaign against Lloreda and Kaufman is one of five recalls underway in Orange County, targeting 10 officials, including Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress), Supervisor William G. Steiner and some members of the Irvine and Cypress city councils.