Friday, January 01, 2016

Yorba Linda: A perfect political storm in 2016?

There's little doubt 2016 could be Yorba Linda's most politically contentious year yet, perhaps surpassing the controversy about becoming a city in the 1960s and the ensuing debates about residential densities.

In fact, a “perfect storm” of opposition might be brewing, with disparate groups unhappy with decision-making by the City Council and Yorba Linda Water District joining to support a slate of challengers certain to emerge for five open council and water board positions.

Factor in the automatic anti-incumbent vote that predictably includes from 13 to 17 percent of the electorate, and council and water board office-holders could face tough re-election battles in November. Sign-ups for the positions begin mid-July.

Gene Hernandez and Craig Young are running to return to council seats they won in 2012.
A third slot is held by Mark Schwing, who's not expected to seek a sixth term. Mike Beverage and Ric Collett hold water board seats they first won in 1992 and 2004, respectively.

Protect Our Homes and Hills is a grass-roots citizens organization that's been fighting the 340-home Esperanza Hills and 112-home Cielo Vista developments, both on county land northeast of the city's current boundaries.

The group has filed a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of an environmental impact report and has held two training sessions – a third is slated Sunday – on collecting signatures to overturn council's anticipated action to approve a pre-annexation pact for Esperanza Hills.

The agreement could be on council's Jan. 5 agenda. If adopted then or later, petitioners have 30 days to collect at least 1,939 signatures to either force council to rescind the agreement or schedule an election on the matter.

While the Protect Our Homes and Hills group is not set up to support or endorse candidates, leaders and individual members, who've shown formidable fund-raising prowess, almost certainly would favor challengers for both council and water board seats.

The Yorba Linda Taxpayers Association currently is focusing on overturning a $25 monthly hike in water district fees, but the committee's registration document says it will support or oppose “a variety of candidates in multiple elections.”

Co-founder Jeff Decker lost in the 2014 October recall and November general elections, so expect the group to oppose incumbents this year, with help from leaders of the once-active Yorba Linda Residents for Responsible Representation.

Also possible is an attempt to recall from one to three of the water directors not on the ballot this year, since the taxpayers group hopes a new board majority will review the fee increase.

And expect the county Republican Party to play a big role in supporting Hernandez and Young, as it has in past years, and likely supporting a third candidate and the water directors. Of the city's 40,687 voters and the water district's 47,543 voters, 55 percent are Republicans.