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City Council Preview - December 17

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

This week’s City Council meeting has a number of topics that will interest people.

TRAFFIC COMMITTEE (Item 13)

After months of being harassed and cajoled to put a traffic committee on the agenda, the beleaguered people of Lake Forest are finally getting their wish. Unfortunately, a deeply flawed report may not give the Council members the information they need to make an informed decision, but at least the topic is now open for discussion. (BTW – I hope to have an analysis of that report available for the meeting).

According to research conducted by the City, 11 other cities have Traffic Commissions, 4 have Traffic Committees, 2 deal with traffic inside their Planning Commissions, 1 has a Traffic Subcommittee, 1 has a Public Safety Committee that handles these issues, and 1 has an “Environmental and Transportation Commission”. IOW - 20 of the 34 cities have some formal mechanism for handling their traffic problems. Lake Forest is among the 14 who do not.

Want to know which cities join Lake Forest in not having any formal approach to handling this important problem? Here they are in alphabetical order – Aliso Viejo, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Newport Beach, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, and Villa Park.

The City’s report (available at the website)  indicates that among the 11 cities with Commissions, the median staff time to service the Commissions is 30 hours per month, with a range from 11 to 92. The median staff time to service Committees is 12.5 hours, with a range from 5 to 15. The city that is most efficient for committees is Brea (5 hours per month vs. a median of 12.5) and for commissions the leaders are Garden Grove with 11 and Placentia, Laguna Niguel, and Westminster with 15 vs. a median of 33). Combining commissions and committees, more than half the cities accomplish their goals in 15 hours of staff time or less per month.

In my mind and the minds of many others, including some council members who promised to create such a committee/commission during their campaigns, our City needs a group of concerned citizens along with staff to address the many parking and traffic issues.

NEW MAYOR (Item 16)

This is the time of year when the Council switches seats, and Mayor Voigts will step down. He has presided over the worst year in our City’s history, and next week I will have a 5-part series talking about what happened in Lake Forest in 2013. Let’s hope the new Mayor has more success. Word on the street is that Councilman Nick who received the most votes in 2012 is entitled to the job, but Councilman Robinson may have the greater hunger.

NEW HOMES (Item 10)

The Council is set to approve a 430 unit apartment complex on 16.3 acres at the intersection of Alton Parkway and Rancho Parkway. It’s part of the Baker ranch project which will put 2,379 new units along the Northern border of our City, all of them within a mile or so of the new jail with Maximum Security prisoners that is planned. The developers say the apartment units will be available at “the prevailing market rate” but I’m not sure anyone knows what the prevailing rate is to live so close to a prison with maximum security inmates.

EXTEND TRAFFIC CONTRACT (Item 9)

The City is proposing to extend the contract with Hartzog and Crabill for “professional traffic engineering consulting services for the City”. The first extension grew the cost from $30,000 to $213,750 and now the City proposes a second amendment to add another $273,000. A good deal of this money goes to fund H&C’s representative Doug Anderson who is filling the gap left by the resignation of the City’s Traffic Engineering Manager in late 2012. If I understand the contract, the City is going to pay $486,750 and in return will receive 2184 hours of service. That’s over $220 per hour which seems pretty high to me, although it’s in line with the kinds of salaries the City pays right now. I’ve met Doug Anderson and he was kind enough to sit down with me and go over some of the City’s traffic issues. I found him to be informed and helpful, as are most of our staff most of the time, although I’m surprised to find out that Mr. Anderson is in fact a consultant. As described to me, and as it says on his business card, he seems to be the City’s “Traffic Engineering Manager” when in fact he is not a city employee but rather a consultant. Employee or consultant, Anderson is doing a good job and the City can benefit from his experience.

NEW COUNCIL MEMBER

This will be the first meeting for our new council member Mr. David Bass. I’m sure everyone wishes him well. The City is in dire need of someone who can look honestly at where we are, plan diligently for where we need to be, and have the courage to take us there. I sincerely hope Mr. Bass can provide this much needed resource.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Cagley December 16, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Jim: I'm a little puzzled by the staff report, especially regarding Irvine. Irvine as the North Irvine Transportation Mitigation Committee (NITMC), with responsibilities that include traffic studies, reports and analyses. It meets the first Tuesday of every month. With all the development in and around the Great Park, I would imagine this is a pretty active group.
Jim Gardner December 16, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Hi Tom. I took the report at face value and never questioned whether or not they had done their homework in properly identifying the ways in which traffic issues were being handled by the individual cities. Your comment suggests that I should have looked more deeply. Quite frankly I found so many major flaws in what they did, I didn't have time to check. But I will before tomorrow's meeting. Meantime I am sending you a copy of the report I did. Starting Wednesday it will be a 3 part series in The Patch - that's how many errors there are in that report.
Douglas Ward December 17, 2013 at 02:12 AM
Jim, Do your homework... The jail near Alton and Trabuco is NOT a maximum security prison. It is not a prison. Prisons are state operated facilities. This is a local Orange County jail. The James A. Musick Facility is a one hundred acre minimum security facility known as "The Farm." The facility is located in an unincorporated area of the county near the cities of Irvine and Lake Forest. Captain Mike Krueger manages the daily operations of the 1,250 bed facility. The facility was originally opened in 1963 and was named in honor of James A. Musick, who was the Sheriff of Orange County from 1947 to 1975. Originally the facility held a maximum of 200 male minimum-security inmates and was referred to as the "County Industrial Farm" or the "Honor Farm." Since 1986, the inmate housing capacity has increased to 1,250, and includes both men and women. The inmates housed at the facility are considered to be a low security risk and most are in jail for crimes such as driving under the influence, minor drug possession, burglary, failure to pay child support, and or prostitution. Inmates who have committed violent crimes, sex crimes or mayhem are NOT eligible for transfer to the facility.
Tom Cagley December 17, 2013 at 08:50 AM
Douglas: You're both correct. Originally Musick was to be a minimum security facility. It is more to than a 'farm' and there are guards, just not as oppressive as the Lacy maximum security jail. What is of concern, currently and in the near future, is the intent to expand the bed capacity at the facility, and to increase the level of security. Recently, the Sheriff announced that under an agreement made 6 or 7 years ago with Lake Forest and Irvine, there may be a need to temporarily house more violent criminals there. All of this driven by the state sending more prisoners to county facilities. To date, Musick has had a great record and I think less than an inmate per year has left the facility, and those have been captured within a few days. The facility does have good programs for rehabilitation, including one just started this year where they are experimenting with bringing dogs from an animal shelter and assigning one to an inmate, and the inmate is responsible for its care. Seems to be a good program. But, like Dr. Gardner, I'm concerned about the future and plans for expansion.
Jim Gardner December 17, 2013 at 11:10 AM
Doug - the new addition for Musick Jail will IN FACT have cells designed to house maximum security inmates. That is part of the plan agreed to by the Council. Go check the agreement yourself. As far as the "low security risk" classification, this is designed more for the sake of the workers in the jails/prisons rather than a reflection of what will happen to the public if/when they escape. The most recent person to escape, only a few months ago, had been arrested for theft, burglary, narcotics, and resisting arrest.

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