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Debate: Mission Viejo Candidates Vie for Council

Mission Viejo City Council hopefuls answer questions from Patch editor Pete Schelden and local residents.

Four Mission Viejo City Council candidates shared good-humored barbs—and the occasional laugh—Wednesday night at the Norman P. Murray Community Center during a free forum designed to inform voters.

Mayor Frank Ury and challengers Desi KissEd Sachs and Wendy Bucknum sounded off about the city's most pressing issues, like city budgets, supporting small businesses and the long-awaited dog park. Patch editor Pete Schelden posed the questions, many of which came from Patch readers.

Sachs and Kiss positioned themselves as watchdogs for the citizens' dollars, criticizing incumbents like Ury for their money management. 

"I know how to run a business," Sachs said in his opening statement. "I know how to manage a budget...so I've got a real good handle on how the city can better manage budgets."

Ury, Mission Viejo's mayor, talked up the city's safety and finance record.

"Well before it was in vogue, we reformed our pension system," he said.

Kiss disputed Ury's characterization of Mission Viejo as the "safest city in California," accusing the city of using outdated data to determine its ranking.

Bucknum, who has campaigned in cooperation with the mayor, extolled the city's business climate.

"I'm running because I love Mission Viejo," she added. "I don't think there's any other way to put this."

Sachs, who left the forum before its conclusion for another engagement, accused the city of shady financial practices in response to a question about how to best use its $1.8-million surplus.

He compared splitting up money into different areas of the budget to avoid a state money grab to a business keeping two books. It is something a "crooked business" does, he said.

He also cautioned against excessive outsourcing of city jobs, noting the layoffs that often attend such a move.

Bucknum rebutted his attack on the city's budgetary practices: "If you think Sacramento can do a better job with our money than our city, I'd like you to raise your hand."

Bucknum advocated putting aside some of the surplus to shore up Mission Viejo's slopes as well as increase grants from the council to nonprofits.

She also suggested using some to acquire, or gain permanent access to, 40 acres of land owned by a golf company to beautify and connect to an existing trail system.

Kiss suggested the possibility of using a portion of the surplus to help fight a recent rash of vandalism and graffiti at local schools.

Homeowners and local businesses should benefit from the extra cash, Ury said.

He pointed to his "Improve, Don't Move" program, which gave homeowners a break on their home improvement permit fees.

All the candidates agreed that forming a Mission Viejo-only school district could be problematic.

Both school districts that serve Mission Viejo—Capistrano Unified and Saddleback Valley Unified—should generally remain outside of the purview of the council, they agreed.

Kiss brought up the city's plan to build a dog park, saying that he believes its $850,000 price tag will end up totaling more than $2 million. The city needs a dog park, but at a lower cost, he said.

But Ury said opponents of the plan "embellish" the cost to portray themselves as defenders of taxpayers' money.

Bucknum said the park will benefit others in addition to dog owners, noting that the addition of new parking will benefit nearby baseball fields. 

An audience member asked candidates what they would do to cut back the brush growing on slopes like hers around the city.

"I'll guarantee you will hear back from us before the end of the week because we're up for re-election," said Ury, earning a laugh from the audience and the candidates alike.

Another asked how each would work with other officials and regional agencies.

Each said their background would make it an easy task. Bucknum listed endorsements she has garnered from other city officials, while Ury mentioned his participation in the South Orange County Association of Mayors.

As an engineer, Kiss said he has worked with a variety of agencies, including Caltrans.

Each of the four present candidates began with an opening statement, responded to a series of questions from Schelden, then two questions from audience members. Some of the questions asked by the moderator were sent in before the event by Patch readers.

Incumbent Cathy Schlicht declined to attend. Challenger Richard Coleman did not respond to an invite to the forum.

Desi Kiss October 25, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Debate opening statement: Good evening, my fellow citizens, residents, family and friends. It is a privilege for me to be here today and to participate in the debate. Thank you MV Patch and Mr. Peter Schelden for hosting this important and critical debate. My name is Desi Kiss. I'm a small business owner, a professional engineer, author, educator and businessman and a Mission Viejo resident since 1989. I understand MV’s history, heritage, traditions, the quality of life and our friendly community, as well as the need for transparency, growth and leadership. I believe in learning during one’s lifetime and I've proposed for Saddleback College to become a University as soon as practical, so that we can invest in education, intellectual capital and in our children's future. We can have both a top-notch, cutting edge University and a Community College. I have a masters Degree in Engineering from CSUF & served for more than 10 yrs, as PT faculty at both Saddleback & OCC as well as at the CSU Fullerton. Prior to forming DJK Engineering more than 10 yrs ago I worked for large corporations such: Disney, Parsons, The Austin Co. and Washington International. In my over 30 yrs of professional career I served in many capacities most recently as principal manager of DJK Eng. & while at the Austin Co, I served as lead structural design engineer for Boeing’ Delta 4 Rocket Manufacturing Facility a 400 M Project, one of the World’s largest structures.
Desi Kiss October 25, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Desi Kiss opening statement continued ( from above) : While at Parsons had a lead role on the structural engineering design team that designed and engineered the National Ignition Facility. The Department of Energy’s National Ignition facility is a 3.2 billion-dollar project that houses the World’s largest laser. I’m uniquely qualified to serve on the City Council and have the experience, backbone and vision to lead in the right direction. I stand for: public and environmental safety, clear vision and leadership, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, eliminate subpar performance and waste of our tax dollars on “contracted” City departments, I'm for free markets to function and bring back growth and prosperity to the City of MV. I believe that we the people need to take back our City from long-term incumbents who have become out-of –touch and deaf to the constituents they represent. I will not answer to lobbyists and interest groups nor be in their pocket, and I will commit to transparency and to residents and forums to provide constituents an arena for their voices to be heard. You deserve the truth, respect and truthful answers and to be able to hold elected officials accountable. Together we can work toward solutions and make our City a better place to live. I would be honored to receive your vote on November 6, 2012. Thank you.
Wendy Bucknum October 25, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Thank you Patch for hosting a well run debate for all of the Mission Viejo Candidates. I as a candidate appreciate Mayor Ury, Mr. Kiss and Mr. Sachs (who had to leave early) for participating. There was an empty chair in honor of those not in attendance for the one and only city wide forum that our citizens had the opportunity to personally hear from the candidates. Please support candidates who show up and are involved in your community. I would be honored to have your vote on November 6th - to find out more - www.wendybucknum.com.
Desi Kiss October 25, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Thank you MV PATCH for hosting this important and critical debate and for serving the community well. Please keep up the fine work. I as a candidate appreciate Mr. Ury, Mr. Sachs and Mrs. Bucknum for participating and for her kind comment. I must agree with Wendy. Please support those candidates who show up and are involved in your community. If you believe that we the people deserve a better local government through transparency and public participation and better days ahead, then please cast your vote on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 for DESI J. KISS. Thank you all for your support and your vote! Please visit : http://djk4mv.wordpress.com to learn more. I personally wish all candidates the best of luck on November 6, 2012 and God Bless!
Ed Sachs October 25, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I wish to thank Peter and the Patch for putting on this debate as it was well run and managed. I hoped I would not have to depart early for another obligation and believe earlier notification of the debate would have helped both draw a larger audience as well as mitigate scheduling conflicts. I only wish to correct Wendy Bucknum's total mis-read of my comment around the labeling of encumbrances and assignments to reserves. Playing games with GAAP to protect monies from from Sacramento had nothing at all to do with my belief Sacramento would manage our monies better than we at the local level. The charge is laughable. It has to do with transparence and honesty! Mrs. Bucknum provides evidence that simply being in love with the city is not qualification to be anywhere near a city budget.
Yasemin October 25, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I was unable to attend this forum. Thank you Mission Viejo patch for hosting this event. I also thank you for inquiring about uniting the city by joining our two school districts into one. It is disappointing to hear that it is problematic. Does that mean it is not worth the trouble? Change is not an easy journey.
Dan Avery October 25, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Mr Sachs, So the voters are not worthy of your time? This other engagement was more important than the citizens of Mission Viejo? Why even accept the invite? Surely you knew how it would look to us sitting there watching you check your watch repeatedly. Or perhaps you never even gave it a second thought. Perhaps you were afraid that we'd ask questions about your disrespect for election law. You talk transparency and your dislike for our city and it's citizens are truly transparent. You trotted out every old gripe Brad Morton has told his candidates to say for the last 20 years while offering nothing fresh and innovative for the city. Most telling was your attempted rebuttal of Mayor Ury's truly innovated idea of using business methods in Government. You ran it as running government like a business. Government is not a business and Mr. Ury knows that. The distinction of running government like a business and using business methods in government isn't particularly complex or subtle. You were as obtuse to that distinction as you were to how deeply you offended the citizens by letting us know we're not important as your next meeting.
Shripathi Kamath October 25, 2012 at 06:38 PM
"Mrs. Bucknum provides evidence that simply being in love with the city is not qualification to be anywhere near a city budget." Here's what I saw. The first question posed to you was how would you better manage the budget allocated to the fire and police services, since they are the costliest items for the city. Your response, Mr.Sachs, and feel free to correct my mis-read was that you thought the city already did a fine job with that. The one who you refer to as "simply being in love with the city" responded with her efforts on involving the community, having neighborhood watch programs so that they can co-operate with law enforcement. Educating the community. She too found the current handling satisfactory. Would it lead to savings in the budget? I do not know. But I do know that she at least tried to improve upon status quo. In the little time she was given on stage. The one that you exited, stage right, after the first couple of questions, because you budgeted your time differently. Yes, love of the city is not enough, but I'd think that it is a pre-requisite, and for that I commend Ms. Bucknum. She loved the city enough to show up, STAY, and answer a few questions. Which is more than I can say for candidates not named Kiss, Ury, Sa... and Bucknum. They found a way to budget one WHOLE hour to let the citizens know about them. So what to make of candidates who cannot even manage that?
Shripathi Kamath October 25, 2012 at 06:44 PM
It may well be worth the trouble, but I suspect that the city council needs to hear a vociferous chorus from the community. It is NOT going to happen, nor should one expect it to, by "let's do it, because common sense" It is a serious time sink, but one that can happen if enough activists petition the council. I know because I have seen a group that championed and succeeded in getting much needed renovation to the tennis and swimming pool recreation complex, a after school care program subsidized by low rent for about 25 kids. Merging two school districts is a bigger task because it involves other agencies, but if you really want to champion it, please bring up enough supporters to the council periodically. Some of us will join you.
Shripathi Kamath October 25, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I will say this for you Mr. Kiss, you cared enough to show up and ask for my vote. Yes, there were only 30 of us there, but you had the decency to stay through the debate, and while I am not sure I understood the full context of your answers, you laid it out as you saw it. Thank you for doing this.
Tom Ward October 25, 2012 at 08:42 PM
"Mrs. Bucknum provides evidence that simply being in love with the city is not qualification to be anywhere near a city budget." This statement coming from an individual who apparently believes in "deficit spending" - look at his campaign finance report on Patch. Mrs. Bucknum has a history of commitment to the community that goes beyond just words - she is out there volunteering at a wide variety of venues within the community - in other words action. Somehow she has found a way to squeeze 26 hours in a 24 hour day. Her leadership within organizations has always displayed a fiscal conservatism that maintained fiscal responsibility. Her budgeting expertise is also displayed at her work environment (I was a participant in that environment with her for 12 years). Lastly, apparently Mrs. Bucknum excels at budgeting her time, but alas, you apparently have difficulty in allocating time for interfacing with the community. You may talk the talk but Mrs. Bucknum walks the walk!
Yasemin October 25, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I'm unable to spear this endeavor by myself. This is something bigger than myself. Yes, I think it is worth the trouble!!! Indeed, we need more than, "some of us will join". We need a movement.
Desi Kiss October 26, 2012 at 11:41 AM
Mr. Kamah, thank you for your comment,. The OCR also had a different view about what it was said during the debate than the PATCH in the article they published http://www.ocregister.com/news/city-375680-ury-park.html . One must be wondering about the competence of Mr. Ury who compared MV budgets to Peru's!!!! BTW Peru has a GDP of approx 274 Billion. Comparing City budgets of a City like MV to those of a country like Peru is grossly misleading and insulting to the voters. It was greatly captured by the OCR reporter. It is unfortunate that both the Patch & OCR have omitted other issues that were covered during the debate, including my proposal for a MV University & a Community College, as well as other issues covered by all 4 candidates.
Desi Kiss October 27, 2012 at 04:41 AM
From MV voters: Misty Webb via http://www.ocregister.com/news/city-375680-ury-park.html (see comments) Very interesting unfortuately was not aware of this get together seems like alot of residents must not have known w/such a low turn out...not sure who Kiss is but definetly going to check into this cause anyone who can clearly make the statement that the city is too business friendly is right on the money, at this time the businesses in the area get away with sooo much expecially when it comes to disturbing the residences that R located by them, the clear example is the 7/11 story it is exactly what is already going on in the city w/existing businesses, what is needed is stricter regulations, code enforcement on business & keeping in favor of the residents Not the businesses, cause if it is not for the citizens in the area there would be no need for businesses, the city needs to improve on what already exist before doing anything else & there is alot of work to do,, don't get me wrong there is much to love about MV its all the behind the scenes that needs some cleaning; also the University in MV is a grest idea on many levels, many people like myself moved to MV & deal w/the ups & downs here just so our kids could be in the district w/great schools/opportunities & adding a Univ would only heighten the appeal for those wanting to live in the area would hopefully bring back families to the area & maybe then wouldn't have to close down so many schools; Lots to think about :O
Desi Kiss October 27, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Yasemin, I must agree w/ you. However if the incumbents are re-elected it is not going to happen. It appears that the City does not even know how many schools are in our City and that is outrageous. Even in the City Council Candidate Handbook that was given to me a & to the other Candidates, they only list 13 elementary schools and 7 secondary schools + 1 College! Mr. Ury and the City Manager should know better. MV has approximately 44 schools (23 public +21 private) and 1 Community College. The City is served by CUSD w/ 61 schools and approx. 54K students (KG to K-12) and Saddleback Valley Unified SD w/ 35 schools (KG to K-12) attended by approx 33K students. I served as PT-faculty at both Saddlebak & Orange Coast College and at California State University Fullerton and I'm the only candidate with this kind of experience. Please visit : http://djk4mv.wordpress.com to learn more. I would be honored to receive your vote on November 6, 2012. Thank you.
Desi Kiss October 29, 2012 at 01:25 AM
While there are others this is one of the reasons why to vote for Desi J. Kiss: please visit http://missionviejo.patch.com/blog_posts/one-of-the-reasons-mission-viejo-voters-should-elect-desi-jkiss-ms-pe-to-the-city-council-on-november-6-2012 to learn more.
Desi Kiss November 01, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Readers can also visit: http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/or/vote/kiss_d/ to learn more about my political philosophy and position papers and what I bring to the City. Thank you for your support. Please vote : Desi Kiss on November 6, 2012! Thank you.
Desi Kiss November 06, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Election results beginning at 8:00 p.m. can be seen here: http://www.ocvote.com/results Vote 4 Desi J. Kiss!! Thank you. To learn more please visit: http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/or/vote/kiss_d/

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