San Juan Capistrano fights newspaper ban

In response to the city’s banning of San Juan Capistrano newspapers on public property, Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly led a “Free Speech” event at C. Russell Cook Park Feb. 8.

Pauly argued the decisions of the city council members, labeling City Attorney Hans Van Ligten, Mayor Sam Allevato and Councilmen Larry Kramer and John Taylor as “fairly arrogant city council unwilling to listen to its residents.”

“We are gathered here today in defense of the first amendment. We are gathered here today in defense of liberty. We are gathered here today in defense of our constitution. We are gathered here today in defense of our country, because we love her. Even though we might not love the government that runs her now and seeks to run our lives. We are gathered here today to call out those who would dare to usurp the God-given rights of the people… Be prepared to hear the truth,” Pauly said.

The newsracks had been banned during a closed session meeting of the city council members, violating the Brown Act, however one of the newspapers, Community Common Sense, previously known as the Capistrano Common Sense, argued this ban, gaining back their position on public property.

“In my opinion, they banned it (newspapers) because they don’t want public records act information getting to the front door and getting to the residents because then they’ll know the real truth about how their tax dollars are being spent,” Kim McCarthy, a writer for the Community Common Sense, said. “That will affect how they vote, which is going to affect who’s going to control the council majority, which is who is going to affect who’s going to control the tax dollars.”

The banning of the newspapers occurred after the paper printed information about the the city of San Juan Capistrano imposing tiered water rates even after having lost the court battle against the rates. This violated Proposition 218 which states a vote must take place before any increases could be levied.

“My concept of free speech is when the public speaks, the city council listens, such is not the case in San Juan Capistrano,” John Perry, board member of the Capistrano Taxpayer’s Association, said. “You are given three minutes to make your case. When I told the city council, that their rates did not conform with the California Constitution, they told me my three minutes were up and to sit down. The lesson is listen to the public, do the right thing, or end up in court where you might get your butt kicked.”