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Candidates Tackle the Issues, Occasionally Each Other

For the second night in a row, Rancho Santa Margarita City Council candidates meet. Hrabik brings a new dynamic to the discussion and the intensity level rises.

The forums are done, and now it's all about campaigning.

For the second night in a row, candidates for City Council in Rancho Santa Margarita commanded center stage in the ballroom of the Bell Tower Regional Community Center.

They addressed the issues and occasionally they addressed each other, but for the most part they stuck to a structured program in which they defended or expanded on written answers they had provided to a questionaire from the collective of home owners associations, the Community Associations of Rancho.

  • Click on the PDF to download the advance questions of the candidates and their responses
  • Click here to read about the first forum
  • Check back on Patch for more analysis and video

There were plenty of HOA questions, such as how the City and CAR can work together, as well as finding out the candidates' thoughts on the city's infrastructure and what it means to be a councilmember.

Moderator Don Chadd explained to the Tuesday night crowd of about 80 that he committed to the participants that there wouldn't be "any 'gotcha' questions" asked of the candidates.

"The questions are intended to inform and further identify their positions on issues," Chadd said.

The forum lacked some of the spontaneity from the previous night's forum presented by Rancho Santa Margarita Patch and the RSM Chamber of Commerce, but the two-hour program—98 minutes of it in the hands of the candidates—was long on information and not without a couple of dicey moments.

For the first time in either forum, Kenney Hrabik was present and had a chance to address the public; he missed the forum Monday to tend to a family medical issue.

Also present were Hrabik's opponents for two four-year seats that are up for election, Mayor Tony Beall and councilwoman Carol Gamble, and the three men vying for a single two-year seat, Glenn Acosta, Larry McCook and Brad McGirr.

Hrabik brought an audible gasp from the crowd when he said council members should recuse themselves from voting on city contracts when they've taken money from the vendors.

Without clarification, the implication appeared to be that council members were on the take. After the forum, Hrabik clarified that he meant campaign contributions from vendors.

"In my worst day, I wouldn't accuse that," Hrabik said."Most politicians, when they vote on contracts, they’ve been given a donation to their campaign. I don’t know about the trash contract, I threw that out, but the trash contract wasn’t up until 2015 and we expanded it to 2020. I don’t know if any of these people have taken money from the trash collectors."

Gamble addressed the item with some extra time she had from a subsequent question and explained the city evaluates each contract approximately 90 days prior to the option of contract renewal.

"There are surveys done with surrounding cities to determine if the value of the contract services we secure in Rancho Santa Margarita is equal to or less than comparable cities. …," Gamble said. "It was evidenced last with our trash hauling contract when we secured better rates than we have today."

The closest the forum got to a debate format was an exchange after Beall decided to "correct for the record" Hrabik's description of a $50,000 settlement the City paid to Hrabik at the end of the Dove Canyon Courtyard permitting process. The DCC is a wedding/banquet venue owned by Hrabik, who called the settlement a "refund" of most of the $60,000 in fees he paid the City.

Beall had two minutes to answer a question about the types of business he would most like to attract. He answered quickly that he was for any businesses that "want to come here. ... Big business, small business, I'm for all of them. Our job is to provide the business friendly environment."

Beall then launched into an explanation of why Hrabik's fees were so great and the clash between DCC and some of its residential neighbors who complained the noise was "destroying their quality of life."

"In the end, after 3 1/2 years where our staff worked very, very hard, (he) received  the conditional use permit he sought. ...." Beall said. "He didn't say thank you, he threatened to sue his own city for close to half a million dollars. ... Entering into that settlement agreement is the biggest regret that I have because I had hoped it would help our community to heal and the bitterness obviously continues."

Hrabik: "Don can I respond to that?"

Chadd: "What I would like to do at this point, I want to encourage each of the candidates to respond to the questions."

Hrabik: "Don, I think it would be fair if I had a response to this."

Chadd: "You will have two minutes at the end for your closing remarks. I would encourage the candidates—we've been doing good so far, let's stay on the path that we're on."

Hrabik: "But when there's false information put out, I think I need to correct it."

Chadd: "We'll give you two minutes at the end. Thanks, Kenney."

Hrabik later reiterated that the $50,000, though called a settlement, was really a refund for most of the $60,000 he paid the City in the 28 months it took him to get his CUP.

Both the incumbents came across as knowledgeable, and each pointed to their roles in making the city a success—Beall over the last eight years, and Gamble in its formative years.

Among those competing for the two-year seat, McGirr continued to draw a distinction between himself and McCook, most notably about their respective visions for Chiquita Ridge. McCook wants to bring a Fortune 500 type of company—and its jobs—to the city and put it in the complex, which must include a sports park.

"I am adamantly against providing any industry of any type in those pristine hills behind Canada Vista Park ...," McGirr said. "If you moved here to Rancho Santa Margarita because you want to drive down Antonio to look at a manufacturing plant ... you're in the wrong town. You're not in my town."

Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 04, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I am in favor of allowing a clean industry company such as Applied Medical to build on Chiquita Ridge. It is hard for me to imagine anyone objecting to this vision if it is done in an ecologically safe and esthetic manner. Applied Medical is one of the "Crown Jewels" of our city. A company such as this could generate10s of millions in sales tax revenue and create hundreds of jobs for RSM I am not in favor of creating an additional tax burden (bonds, city debt, or Mello Roos) on the citizens and taxpayers of Rancho Santa Margarita to pay for developing the infrastructure of Chiquita Ridge. Of course, I favor a great sports park for both youth (I am currently coaching in AYSO 630 in RSM and all three of my children played youth sports) and adults to enjoy! It is my understanding that Santa Margarita Catholic High School would enjoy playing in a stadium there if someone would step up and donate $20-$30 Million Dollars to pay for it. But again, let's not increase the financial burden on on residents of Rancho Santa Margarita. People who run businesses tend to be more conservative with their spending than politicians. I want to thank the many voters of RSM for all of their encouragement and support in my campaign. www.larry4rsm.com
RSM Dad October 04, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Mr. McCook, according to what I have heard from city council meetings and other candidates, the city is required to build a sports park if they do any development on that land according to the lawsuit settlement. Do you think the community would like a sports park next to any kind of manufacturing plant? You really need to get yourself educated on the subject.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 04, 2012 at 04:39 PM
RSM Dad, I have sat through all of the RSM City Council discussions about Chiquita Ridge and understand the sports park condition as part of the conveyance. How do you propose to pay for this development? Do you consider companies such as Applied Medical (a clean manufacturer) to be a bad neighbor?
RSM Dad October 04, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Here Mr. McCook, start with this page and look at what the FAQ says about the requirement. http://www.cityofrsm.org/faqs/categoryqna.asp?id=46#598 And by the way, when you want to call someone stupid again in the future, you might start by looking in the mirror.
Flannery4 October 04, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I was at Monday's forum but I wish I had been at this one too. Looks like Kenny showed up, so that should have been interesting. I still insist that McCook would be horrible for this town especially since he is the only guy who wants to destroy the hills with a manufacturing complex.
JTTPW October 04, 2012 at 05:40 PM
With all due respect, there are a lot of vacant bulidings in the commercial/industrial area where Applied Medical is now located. Me thinks it would serve Our City better to revitalize that part of town, along with the other vacant commercial areas, before touting Chiquita Ridge. Thank you.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 04, 2012 at 06:02 PM
RSM Dad (Mr. Hide Behind An Alias Dude) It may come as a complete surprise to you but I had already read the requirement a long time ago. I (and anyone that reads the Patch) understand that you are backing the Political Threesome of Beall, Gamble & McGirr. They are all very good politicians and I will never say anything bad about them. You would think that anyone, interested in the good of RSM, would jump at the chance to get the two year services of a man with worldwide business development experience for pennies. Also, I have never called anyone stupid! Thank for your "refined" remark. www.larry4rsm.com
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 04, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Mr. Flannery, We all know that you support The Political Threesome of Beall, Gamble & McGirr. Mr. McCook would be straight shooter and never distort the truth. He might not be your best friend but, he will be best for RSM.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 04, 2012 at 06:11 PM
JTTPW, I totally agree with your comment. That is why I am keeping a running inventory of all available commercial properties in RSM. Thanks for your intelligent remark! www.larry4rsm.com
RSM Dad October 04, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Well let me refresh your memory- "RSM Dad (An Alias), Since I don't know your real name I am not sure how stupid you might really be? LOL I have said nothing about having a company "in the bag" as you have so elegantly phrased this. I have said that I am working with a tremendously large company in LA County to assist me in attracting a company to RSM Too bad that you or your associates do not have the experience, free time and contacts to do this!" Your post from the other day. I rest my case
Flannery4 October 04, 2012 at 06:38 PM
McCook, you lied. You say you will "never distort the truth", but your candidate statement says you graduated from the University of Alabama in 1961 and that you received a degree. You lied. When I confronted you with what I know, you tried to hedge by saying you "attended" the school. Shame. And regarding who I would support in the election, I support honest people. Every last one of the people running against you deserve my support.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 04, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Mr. Flannery, You had better re-read my statement. You calling me a liar is libelous and you have made yourself open for litigation with this attack. Do actually you think that you can get away with this type of disparagement? Boy, what goes on in local small town politics!
Martin Henderson (Editor) October 04, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Let's keep everything smart and civil.
BTPeri October 04, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Every candidate says they would like to attract new businesses to RSM. We have a lot of empty buildings that it would be nice to see filled. I would like to see specific steps that each of the candidates believe could be followed to bring in new businesses, and what you see as obstacles that are preventing this from happening. I'd really like to see details. I am not looking for ideas to be debated. Lets just see who has a real grasp on how we can move forward. Thanks.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 05, 2012 at 03:54 PM
BTPeri, I will be glad to meet with you personally to discuss my business development plans if you are a RSM resident.. Please call me so that we can set up a meeting time and be prepared to bring both voter registration and personal identification. (949)207-3900 www.larry4rsm.com
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 05, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Mr. Flannery, Good Try! You may be a large man in physical statute but, I am the one man that you can not bully or intimidate! Did you call The University of Alabama Alumni Office to verify that I served as a National Vice President (1987-1989)? I am very busy with the campaign and will divert my attention there rather than respond to any more your personal attacks in your support of "the ingrained RSM politicians". Fortunately, thousands know me here in RSM and know that I am a good man.
April Josephson October 06, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Seriously, Larry? You want someone to bring their voter registration information to meet with you? Why? I'm confused.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 06, 2012 at 09:44 PM
April, LOL Glad there is someone else that shares my sense of humor! I don't want to teach our neighboring cities "the tricks of the trade". I am the only person running that has a chance of bringing serious business with Real Jobs to our city. Do you personally BTPeri?
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 06, 2012 at 09:47 PM
April, Do you personally know BTPeri and is he a resident of RSM?
Marilyn P. October 09, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Larry, you don't want to teach our neighboring cities the "tricks of the trade?!" What tricks of the trade? I was reading through the PDF notes of your answers (from the above link), and it's clear you don't even know the definition of "infrastructure." Other candidates gave thoughtful, intelligent, detailed responses. Yours are the vague answers of someone who has no idea what he's doing. And now you'll talk to people ONLY if they bring their voter registration and personal ID? How creepy. It's clear you are not qualified to sit on our city council. I hope RSM residents are paying attention.
Marilyn P. October 09, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Martin, Above it says to check back at Patch for videos and more analysis of this forum (and the first forum, too?). Do you have that up, and did I miss it? Is there a link to find it easily?
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 09, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Hi Marilyn, Thanks for your "kind words". It is obvious that you support "The Politicians"! You obviously did not see that the comment about bringing "Voter Registration" along was made in jest. Beside being the only candidate capable of bringing a major company ro RSM, I have a great sense of humor! Keep Smiling it makes people look better! Tricks of the trade obviously went right over your head. Perhaps I should have said the expertise to succeed? It might be a surprise to the City Hall employees that you do not consider City Hall as part of the RSM infrastructure. Infrastructure is more that paving streets, laying pipe and burying cables. It is obvious that you are upset that I am running. The voters will decide on November 6th. Kind wishes for all of the candidates for happiness and civility! Larry www.larry4rsm.com
BTPeri October 10, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Larry, Yes, I'm a resident of the city of RSM, and I've been in this house for 20+ years. I've been in the Saddleback Valley for nearly 40 ! My question was inquisitive, respectful, and sincere. I really don't understand your reaction because there was nothing in it to which anyone needed to be defensive. We can all observe the vacancies in our community centers, and I simply asked if people had ideas how we might fill them with new business. Sadly, the question goes unanswered. I don't want a private forum, just a civil dialog on the topic that benefits our city. We're living here because we like this community. I appreciate anyone who believes they can improve it. BTW, I'm not running for City Council, nor do I know any of the candidates personally. I'm also not involved in anyone's campaign, nor am I endorsing anyone. I'm just a resident who will be casting a ballot in the near future.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook October 10, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Mr/Mrs BTPeri, I in no way intended to be flippant with my response (though I do have a great sense of humor). I do not want to publicly lay out my progress and plans (if you understand business then you surely understand the reasons). That would be fool hardy and destructive to my efforts. I will assure you that I am using a proven formula that has brought great success to other cities. I remain willing to meet with you on a private basis but, there again I am not able to disclose a lot of info in private or to the public. Some political adversaries question this as a political ruse but, I am not a politician. People that have known me for 40 years know that I am a catalytic producer and not a pretender. Call me if you wish. www.larry4rsm.com
Martin Henderson (Editor) October 10, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Hi Marilyn, there is no video or analysis up yet. The forums were kind of all over the place and I have begun cutting the video. There will be some analysis as well, but have not yet put all of that together. Absentee ballots should have been mailed out yesterday and I'm hoping to have some of the video/analysis up by midweek of next week.

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