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Time to scrutinize city

John Selecky

In your article “Council takes a step to the right,” (Coastline

Pilot, Nov. 8) Frank Ricchiazzi is quoted as saying, “When you look

at who the taxpayers endorsed and who Village Laguna endorsed, it is


obvious who is more in touch with the mainstream voters.”

It’s ironic that the Taxpayers Assn. supported people who

supported forgoing about $5 million in tax revenue to the city, which

will delay our receiving any financial benefit from Treasure Island


for four to five years.

At a time when our state, county and our city are facing a deficit

and shortfall in tax revenues requiring budgets to be cut, our City

Council squandered $5 million by paying double the market cost for

our park at Treasure Island.

Yes, we will get the beautiful park we voted for on this site, but

a very bad contract with Athens [Group], very bad management of the

process of creating the park and very bad leadership by our council


has left us with a tremendous loss of revenue that could have helped

pay for some of the many recommended projects within the city that

our new budget cannot fund.

Even after the city staff had allowed Athens to allocate to us

$9.5 million in expenses for building our small park, the council

still had the opportunity to void the contract, since Athens did not

get specific bids for the construction of the park as required by the

contract (they just allocated how much we should pay). But, they



Or, they could have taken Athens into arbitration, but

Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman said they hate arbitration and wouldn’t

do it. Why not? It couldn’t be worse than what the council has

accepted to pay; arbitration would most likely have been less.

And Councilman Paul Freeman thinks that since we don’t have to

write a check for the amount, but just deduct this amount from

incoming hotel taxes, it doesn’t matter. Five million dollars sure

matters a lot to the city. Councilman Steve Dicterow approved every

request of Athens, helping to run up the bill.

Many good people from Village Laguna and others spoke in front of

the council at every meeting in an effort to control costs on the

park and save tax dollars, but the council was cavalier about it and

ignored them.

Residents of Laguna expect our council to represent our best

interests and expect that our money be spent responsibly. However,

this council and the one before have failed in fulfilling their

fiduciary responsibility.

And this is not the only project they have squandered. Our sewage

system is in shambles, having been ignored for years by the council

and city manager; we’ve been heavily fined for all the pollution of

our beaches; our infrastructure is eroding; they’ve allowed

mansionization to take over our neighborhoods until we complained;

they paid asking price for the Third Street property instead of

negotiating, as is normal, and then paid the mayor a commission; and

on and on.

It’s time to hold these people responsible for ignoring the good

of the community, and they should realize that they will be more

closely scrutinized.

* JOHN SELECKY is a Laguna Beach resident.