Capo Recall: The John Alpay Interview.


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I got together at Starbucks with John Alpay, the San Clemente executive who’s running on the Capistrano Unified Children First ticket to take the place of trial lawyer Mike Winsten if the latter is recalled this November. John’s lived in San Clemente about four years now, and has degrees in economics and law as well as an MBA. He was a little frazzled that morning after getting his daughter Autumn all ready for her first day of kindergarten, at the new dual immersion language program at Viejo Elementary in Mission Viejo. It seems like just yesterday she was born, he says. But then, when you think about it, our own first day of school doesn’t seem all that long ago either, we agreed. So it goes.

Wait – Viejo? Outside of the San Clemente area where John lives? Isn’t Alpay, a staunch supporter of Measure H, concerned that under that reform he wouldn’t be able to vote for the trustee representing the area in which Autumn’s attending elementary school? Not really. Like me, he sees this concern as a small quibble in comparison to the expanded democracy by-area voting would achieve, through more accountability and less campaign expense. And he agrees with what I’ve outlined elsewhere, that there are still numerous ways beside the simple vote that a parent can help elect a trustee in their kid’s school area, if they care that much.

Now you, dear reader, have to read through this whole thing if you want to get to the juicy details about the harassment, intimidation, and miscellaneous Mike Winsten madness!

Down to Brass Tacks.

OJ:  I want to begin by asking you, John, why do you hate unions so much?

Alpay:   (laughs) Well, hate’s a pretty strong word.

OJ:  No, you hate them.  I mean, you’ve rejected any endorsement or support from the unions, why is that?

Alpay:  To start with, I haven’t rejected anything.  I’ve merely declined the opportunity to seek their endorsement or support.  My actions don’t suggest that I have anything against union members.  In fact I support the teachers and the classified workers for their dedication and hard work

In a union, the members pay dues, a portion of which is diverted to political purposes, as determined by the union leadership.  The political views of the leadership may not be consistent with that of the membership.  Union members should be able to decide for themselves which political causes they want to support with their hard earned money. So if a union member makes a decision to make a contribution directly to my campaign, he has exercised his own free well and I welcome the support with open arms.  Support from a union is artificial because somebody other than the worker who earned that money is making the decision.  In addition, by not accepting union money, I will win the election without their support and therefore not feel beholden to them and will be free to make decisions I truly believe are in the best interests of the school district.

OJ:  It seems to drive SOME Republicans crazy, that so many of the opponents of the current Board – which of course consists of GOP insiders with their strings pulled by other GOP insiders – that so many of their opponents are also Republicans. You especially they treat like some kind of Judas or Benedict Arnold. You sense that too?

Alpay:  Well…I don’t think this whole thing is really a Republican or Democrat issue, this is a non-partisan issue, and a non-partisan position. Mike Winsten himself is a good example of that – up until two years ago, right before running for this board, he’d been a lifelong Democrat.  So, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, I think you need to look at the track record of the individual, and see what they’ve done, consider what they’ve said, and then make an informed decision based on the facts.  With respect to Winsten, you need to ask if he’s acted in the best interests of his constituents.  So, Republican, Democrat, or Decline to State, I’m seeing an across-the-board dissatisfaction with this trustee.

OJ:   Do you feel that this Board, given that they are all insider Republicans, have betrayed any core Republican values?

Alpay:  Well again, with respect to Mr. Winsten, I think you can legitimately call him a RINO – Republican In Name Only.  He gets into office, talks about doing all these great things, for example giving local control to the voters, but then once he’s no longer on the outside, he supports actions that are designed to entrench himself in office for years to come.  Take the voting-by-trustee-area issue for example, he came out and said he supported it, then once he gets in he realized “Hey this is great! Let’s not do it because then I can stay in office that much longer!”

OJ:  Because a person has to raise so much money just to…

Alpay:  It’s ridiculous! It’s a huge amount of money!

OJ:  How much are you having to raise for this election?

Alpay:  I need to raise as much as possible, quite frankly.  Just look at the size of the district, its geography, its population, it’s just a huge barrier to overcome. In terms of me running for City Council two years ago, you know, San Clemente is a relatively large city, and it’s very expensive.  There were two seats available and nine candidates.  The top four finishers each spent more than $40,000.  Can you imagine that in the context of a school district that much larger? That’s prohibitively expensive unless you’ve got the backing of special interests, or somebody with very deep pockets and presumably less than altruistic motives.

OJ:  Yeah, I heard that while you were running for Council, or was it afterwards, you were proposing some kind of spending limits? Some hostile commenter brought that up here as though it was some huge strike against you, but I’m not sure ideas like that are unpopular at all; I think Americans are looking for a way to get big money out of politics, in spite of this latest Citizens United decision.

Alpay:  Well,  had written a proposed model ordinance that contained two components.   One was term limits, and the other was campaign finance reform. Now, there was another individual in town who was advocating term limits as well, and the Council addressed that issue immediately prior to me discussing my ordinance. And the Council turned down term limits, so it just basically became Campaign Finance Reform. It was designed as a means to have turnover in the City Council, because what you had there were people who in one case had been there nearly twenty years. Well, that’s a very long time.

OJ:   Don’t most… okay, well, the OC cities I’m familiar with have term limits.

Alpay:  If you look just at the aggregate population, the majority of people in Orange County do live in a municipality that has some kind of term limits.  (Mostly it’s the smaller towns that don’t.)  On top of that, our Board of Supervisors at the county level also live under term limits.  So my thinking was it makes sense to try it in San Clemente, given that there were Councilmembers who had been there for multiple terms.  And the average age was well north of sixty when I ran, and after the election, it was even older.   That’s just not representative of a community where the average age is 37 years.   Is that in the best interest of democracy? No, because there’s no turnover, and continued entrenched interests.  It’s reminiscent of the Supreme Soviet back in its heyday.

Taxpayers, Children & Homeowners – oh my!

OJ:  You’ve had a sort of slogan, where you would be representing three groups only: “taxpayers, children, and homeowners.” Well, children of course, we all love children. Talk about how you’d represent taxpayers, and how you would do that better than the incumbent.

Alpay:   Well, again, Sacramento is decreasing the revenue to CUSD, so the only way they could effectively maintain a budget is by reducing costs. The only other option I can foresee is to raise taxes, and to me that’s not an option. I don’t support a parcel tax…

OJ:  Not in this economy.

Alpay:  No, it would be a huge disservice.  So again the only option is to reduce costs outside the classroom. We see a huge number of attorneys on retainer by the District and I can not see any effort to reduce legal expenses.  If anything, they have gone up.

There should be in-house counsel, for example, that could do all these cases much more cheaply, much more effectively, and if nothing else properly monitor the outside attorneys who are hired. If you go back and look at the news articles in the OC Register, there was a move to bring on in-house counsel prior to Winsten’s election.  There was even talk, in these Scott Martindale articles, about how they had interviews ongoing for that position. Once Winsten assumes office, there’s only radio silence. There’s nothing in the press, nothing on the record, nothing to suggest any moving forward on that. The idea of hiring in-house counsel was quashed. Why is that?  There’s a strong  correlation to Winsten assuming office, Winsten who coincidentally is the only attorney – a trial attorney at that – serving on the Board.

OJ:   Okay, back to what was that – taxpayers, children and homeowners. You were saying the current Board’s policies are impacting home values in the district?

Alpay:  Well, you’ve got to remember that the quality of the schools is an important factor when buying a house, especially for young families.  When I bought my first house, I was single and did not necessarily consider the quality of the local school district.  It was something I thought about, but it was low on my list.  When I was married and buying my first house with my wife, the quality of the local schools was at the top of our list, because any responsible parent is going to want the very best for their children.

Now, with the turmoil in CUSD, and this Board becoming a laughingstock and a figure of pity for many other school districts, young families won’t necessarily want to move into the area.  We all know that real estate has taken a great hit in the last few years –  yet why is it they’ve stabilized or even increased in Irvine first?  It’s because the school district there is fundamentally sound and well operated.  Home values have held up exceptionally well in Irvine, at least comparatively. We don’t have the same situation in the South County with CUSD, and so our home values have been impacted by this uncertainty given the school district, causing parents to question, “Where do I want my children to go to school?” The answer is a lot more young families are starting to choose Irvine, or other communities outside of CUSD.  In fact, I had one friend who chose to buy a house in Rancho Santa Margarita, but intentionally chose a neighborhood that is served by Saddleback, not CUSD. That speaks volumes.

Photo provided courtesy of San Clemente Historical Society.

Let’s Have a Photo Contest!

OJ:  Okay, I asked my hostile readers what questions I should ask you.  One of them came up with that campaign finance reform thing which they thought was a bombshell, and one of them said I should ask you about some “photo contest.” I’ve seen a couple of them making fun of some photo contest of yours. What’s that all about?

Alpay:  Well, I am a founding member of what’s called the Spanish Village Foundation. It’s a local nonprofit, whose sole mission is to “recognize, celebrate and promote the positive aspects of San Clemente.” That’s all it is, it’s a feel-good organization. Now, to generalize a bit, San Clemente is a city that’s divided into two. You’ve got Talega, and then the rest of San Clemente. Talega’s the newest development in San Clemente, it’s got a different feel, a different vibe. And so there’s a sort of us-versus-them mentality, and the effort along with the other founders who are – I live in Talega, and the other founders are outside of Talega – we’re trying to strengthen the bonds of San Clemente together.

Photo provided by San Clemente Historical Society

And one of the first programs we launched was the “Proclamation of Distinction,” which is an award program in eight different categories, we give out eight different awards, in each category, once per year. And so we recognize, generally people who have worked for the betterment of the community. It doesn’t matter what their political background is, it doesn’t matter what their political philosophy is, as long as they’re working with the altruistic goal of improving their community, then we want to recognize them for that.

We intentionally seek out those who are not in the spotlight as a way to say thank you and recognize them for their efforts. There are other things we’re doing in the Spanish Village Foundation, like we’re trying to restore weather vanes that the town’s founder Ole Hanson included in his “Spanish Colonial Revival” architecture, which was dormant in San Clemente and now the city is trying to restore through the use of architectural overlay districts.  People have forgotten these old weather vanes he had custom-made for all the buildings, and what we want to do is restore those throughout the town, put all these landmarks through ALL of San Clemente, and show that we’re all one community together, regardless of background, we’re all the same, we’re all proud to be members of this great city.

OJ:  So, that’s all THAT is.  It sounds like a fine project.  If these characters want to make fun of that, well, to hell with them.

So what made you decide to run for School Board?

Alpay:  I ran for City Council two years ago in San Clemente, and my intention was to run again. My passion and interests are in San Clemente local politics.  I had my operation, my plans in place to run for Council again, but people kept strongly encouraging me to consider School Board. School Board wasn’t originally at the top of my list because my children were too young for the School District, but with my daughter Autumn entering school this year it became a higher priority, so I started paying attention to it, and people encouraged me to go to the Board meetings.

So I went to one. This was in February I believe. And Mike Winsten was sitting there and comparing CUSD to LA Unified, and how LA was a great role model for us, how CUSD should look to LA and copy their best practices. Well, we’re in Orange County – San Clemente is in the deep south of Orange County. We’re not Los Angeles. We do things our own way. We don’t emulate Los Angeles. If anything they should be copying us; I just think we’re smarter than that.

And for a CUSD trustee to be sitting there on the dais, and openly advocate that we should be looking to LA Unified as a model, to me is an unmitigated disgrace. Unacceptable. And I think it’s a reflection on how the school district here has declined, and frankly gives me grave concern for the education of my children.  My children come first, and so I set aside my efforts to win a seat on the San Clemente City Council.

OJ:  Isn’t LA Unified, like, a really low-performing district?

Alpay:  LA Unified?!  Well, it’s certainly not the best.

OJ:  And you guys, in spite of the Board you have now, are one of the better ones, aren’t you?

Alpay:   Well, it’s come down a bit. It was a great school district, now it’s just “good.”

Mike Winsten’s philosophy, and his struggle against integration.

OJ:  So, talk a little about the trustee you’re running to replace, the famous Mike Winsten.

Alpay:   Well, I don’t know much about him personally, so maybe I’m not the best person to ask.  But I do know he and I are similar in one key respect – we’re both well educated individuals. We both went to good undergraduate schools, we both got law degrees, and we both earned MBA’s, so we both went to business school. But you’ve got to fundamentally look at how we utilize our education – how it impacts our outlook and how we operate.

Winsten’s very proud of  his twenty-four years of experience as a trial attorney. To me that explains his  mentality of conflict, that’s so much ingrained in him, because he’s a trial attorney. So his philosophy during conflicts is one of a “zero-sum game.” “For me to win, you have to lose.” So he uses primarily his law degree and thinks like a lawyer, and operates on that philosophy of a “zero-sum game.” It’s classic Gordon Gekko:  I win and you lose.

On the other hand, I come from more of a business background, and my education and training are used in a different aspect.  I work in the corporate environment, where you’d say, “Let’s try to work toward a mutually beneficial solution, a ‘pareto-optimal outcome’ if you will , try to find something that will resolve the situation.”  There are times and situations where you must fight and one side will or must lose, but it is rarely acceptable for that to be your first instinct.  Very little is accomplished with that kind of mentality.

At the end of the day, regardless of the outcome of this election, Area 3 will be represented by someone with a legal background.   So the fundamental question voters will need to ask themselves:  Do you want a lawyer on the Board who has a business degree, or do you want a businessman on the Board who has a law degree?

OJ:  What was that lawsuit about, back in 2005, where he was suing to keep his kids from having to go to some high school?

Alpay:   That litigation related to San Juan Hills High School.  Now, I wasn’t a part of that, I wasn’t involved in that. That matter involved the use of race in deciding high school boundaries, especially given the large Hispanic population in the area. My first dealing with Winsten was after that when the issue was over the attendance boundaries for Vista del Mar (VDM) which is the elementary and middle school for the Talega community.   And he was doing a lot of work formulating a number of arguments to keep all of Talega within VDM’s boundaries.  The proposal from the District was to send kids from a portion of Talega to another school a few miles down the road.  Since Winsten was formulating arguments against dividing Talega, I exchanged a number of e-mails with him.

His argument was that since Talega residents paid the “Mello Roos” tax, they should be entitled to use the new facilities.  I agreed with his argument, but I also suggested another argument where the portion of Talega to be assigned to the other school included the low income Title 9 housing, which so happens to be mostly Hispanic.  School policy requires the Board to consider socioeconomic factors to keep a school from becoming a high wealth or poor kid school exclusively and from my perspective, the new proposed boundaries would violate their own rules.  To be clear, there was no use of race in determining school boundaries at this time and that was most certainly not my argument.  When I pointed this socioeconomic policy out to Winsten, he pretty much blew me off.  I didn’t think too much of it at the time because I thought he saw me as some Johnny-come-lately and he clearly had been involved in the matter for quite some time.

OJ:  So, let me get this straight:  First Winsten successfully sued to keep his kids out of a high school which happened to be majority Hispanic.  And then he unsuccessfully argued that the lower-income kids in his own neighborhood, who also happen to be majority Hispanic, should not be allowed to attend his kids’ elementary and middle schools.

Alpay:  Yeah, that’s about right.

A certain young Hispanic Alpay.

OJ:  Sounds like maybe a pattern Do you get the impression he was trying to keep his kids from having to go to school with Hispanic kids?

Alpay:  Well… I was explaining to a friend of mine how Winsten blew off my argument about the Title 9 housing as it related to the VDM boundaries and I was told that Winsten said to the Board that he did not believe that the residents in Title 9 housing in Talega were entitled to go to VDM.  His theory was that because they did not pay Mello Roos, because they were renters, they were not entitled to the same rights as people who owned a house in Talega.   I don’t agree with Winsten’s theory because even though they are renters, they still live in an area subject to Mello Roos. And if you consider the location of the housing, it would be impractical to assign that housing area to a different school because they would need to drive past other developments in Talega just to get out of the area to head to the other proposed school.  And on top of that, if you follow the same line of thought, if somebody rents a house in Talega, then they too would be ineligible to attend VDM as well.

I don’t know if Winsten has an issue with his kids going to a school with Hispanics, especially considering at least one of his kids is at San Clemente High School now, which does have some Hispanic students. However, given his involvement in the San Juan Hills High School litigation and his position regarding the Title 9 housing, it certainly made me stop and question his motives. Only Winsten knows the true answer to that question.

OJ:  I don’t imagine you have any problem with Hispanics?

Alpay:  Well, I’d better not! My wife and kids are Hispanic. That would certainly make for an interesting domestic environment if I had that kind of problem!

Harassment and Intimidation by the Beall/Board Crowd

(the Bealls & Winsten celebrate a victory)

Alpay:   In connection with the lawsuit against me over my ballot statement, Jennifer Beall came to my place of work, to formally serve me with the complaint.  And I was not in the office so she could not effect service.  My office told her that I was away on business…

Jennifer Beall trying to serve Alpay papers at work (as caught by John's security cameras)

OJ:  Jennifer Beall herself, Lady Macbeth? They don’t have little gophers to do these things for them? [non-Capo readers:  Tony and Jennifer Beall are the insider masterminds behind the current “reform” Board, and Jennifer is particularly active and outspoken.]

Alpay:  Apparently not.

OJ:  Maybe they’re that small and isolated of a group at this point.

Alpay:  Maybe this is a reflection of how “strong” they are.  So later that night a woman my wife politely described as a rotund blond lady tried to serve me at home, and my wife told her I wasn’t there, again saying that I was away on business.  And the woman left and then five minutes later came back again, and in the process attempted to gain entry into the house and in the process assaulted my wife…

OJ:  Assault? How do you mean?

Alpay:  Maybe it’s best not to go into too many details right now.  I’ve talked with my attorney about the issue and communicated our concern with the manner in which this individual conducted herself.  We’re considering filing a civil suit once the election is over.  There is something wrong with an individual who tries to serve legal papers on the defendant’s wife when she is home alone with three crying children late at night.  It tells you how bad the situation was that my wife had to call 911.  [The report number is 10-154332.] The Sheriff’s Department sent a deputy and even the duty sergeant was on scene at one point.  One of my neighbors saw this woman attempt to break into my wife’s minivan before she went to the door. I can only guess as to her motives.  My wife later saw a picture of Jennifer Beall in the Register and identified her as the woman who attacked her.

OJ:  Jennifer’s denying it?

Alpay:  So I hear. But what makes matters worse is that I come home the day after and there in front of my house I see MIKE WINSTEN. He’s in his car, trying to look into my wife’s mini-van, and driving around in front of my house, then he pulls over and sits in front of my house. Why is he stalking my family? Why the fascination with the mini-van? It makes no sense to me. It was him in his black BMW, with his New York Jets license plate frame – he’s a big Jets fan – California license plate 4JPC641.

OJ:  Wow. These people are creepy.

Alpay:   So, it’s kind of sad… they…

OJ:  You think he was trying to find something out, or trying to intimidate you?

Alpay:  Nothing more than a poor attempt at intimidation.

OJ:  Are they picking on you specifically, maybe because you’re a fellow Republican, or are they bugging all five of the Children First candidates?

Alpay:  As far as I understand they’re only focusing on me, I don’t understand why.  But you know, I’m not going to be intimidated.  My neighbors saw him, I’m not the only one.  They were later asking me “Why is Mike Winsten in our neighborhood?”  At first we all thought that we had a pedophile in our neighborhood.

OJ: [after long, hearty laughter] Okay, yeah, I can see that.

Alpay:  Mike Winsten is subject to recall, he’s not actually a candidate.  The issue is, should he be recalled or not, yes or no?  Whether I’m running in the election to elect a replacement in the event he is recalled  is not really material.  Because if they want to attack me, that’s fine, but it doesn’t address the fundamental issue:  Should Winsten be recalled or not?  Attacking or intimidating me gains him nothing.  I mean, it makes no sense, it’s illogical, but I perceive it as nothing more than an attempt at intimidation.

All that being said, there is one thing I want to be clear about.  People can say what they want about me, they can attack me, they can ridicule me, they can criticize me and say what they please on the blogs.  I put myself out there when I started running for office so I am a fair target.  People can even exercise their God given rights as Americans to file frivolous litigation against me.  There is nothing I can do to stop that.  But when Winsten and his ilk take affirmative actions to go after my family, I take strong exception to that.  It is all the more galling when Winsten says “Gee, I hope my family’s left out of this.”  It is almost as if he says, my family is off limits, but Alpay’s wife and kids, including his five month old son are fair game.  That is not acceptable.

Next: Meet Ken Lopez-Maddox-Lopez, a bundle of contradictions!


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.