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Activists Seek Web Link on O.C. City's Site

Critics are skeptical of group's request for a spot on Mission Viejo's home page.

March 02, 2004|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

A novel legal issue is at the heart of a debate in Mission Viejo over a proposal for the city's website that critics call evidence that a local activist group is trying to run City Hall.

Citizens for Integrity in Government -- which has backed a new council majority with a platform that favors reduced spending, open government and limited business subsidies -- wants the city's official home page to include a link to a new website the group has created to boost Mission Viejo's economy.

The group's website, www.missionviejobusiness.com, provides a virtual tour of the city, contact information for most city businesses and links to other government websites. CIG also has another website, www.missionviejoca.org, which in the past has endorsed election candidates and called for the ouster of city employees.

CIG co-founder Larry Gilbert described the new site as part of an effort to show that the group is not just about criticizing city leaders.

"People always suspect we're being too negative," Gilbert said. "We're trying to do some positive stuff. There's no hidden agenda."

But others are skeptical.

"There's certainly the impression they have control of the City Council and the Planning Commission," said Vince Caiozzo, a member of Concerned Citizens, a rival activist group. "And now they're going to have control of economic development?"

Citizens for Integrity in Government proposed the link last week. The city attorney is considering whether the arrangement would be legal. If so, it would need City Council approval.

"We're reviewing the old policy and developing a new policy," said Assistant City Attorney Dave Snow.

Irvine and San Juan Capistrano officials say their cities have policies that prohibit city websites from linking to political groups.

"There is no political information on this site," Gilbert said. "This is a clean, positive effort to give back to a city where we all own property."

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