This week we have the first meeting of 2014. Thank goodness 2013 is behind us. It was the worst year in our history from the POV of the Council. Click here for a review of last year. With Scott Voigts out of the Mayor’s seat, things can only get better - under his "leadership" we had more overtime meetings, more postponements, more reconsiderations and reversals in 2013 than ever before.
Here’s some items of interest for Tuesday night’s meeting -
ELECTRONIC FILING OF FPPC FORMS (Item 10)
The City is contracting with NetFile to allow FPPC forms to be filed electronically and then posted to the City’s website. FPPC is the Fair Political Practices Commission and it regulates campaign spending. It’s important for this information to be online so that you can see which of your City Council members is taking money from vested interests and then voting to give them whatever they ask for. Council members Voigts, Robinson, and McCullough are the culprits here. Kudos to Councilman Nick for not accepting any money from vested interests. But the $30,000 that the City is spending is basically going to make life easier for the candidates, letting them move from paper to electronic submissions. In addition, there is a $14,000 per year charge for the continued use of the system. Though there is some savings to the staff from manually processing the forms, there is no data in the staff report about any costs savings to the City. This looks like the Council members making life easier for themselves at the expense of the taxpayers.
(At their last meeting, the Council voted themselves iPads for Christmas, paid for by the taxpayers, and didn’t vote to stop giving out paper copies of the lengthy Council packages, which was the rationale for using the iPads in the first place. So now taxpayers will pay for paper copies and for new toys for the Council).
CITY ARBORIST (Item 11)
There are 14,000 trees in the City’s urban forest, and about 3,000 per year are pruned. West Coast Arborists was initially contracted to do the service in 2011 for $163,078. In 2012 the contract was doubled to $326,156. Then it was increased to $570,773 for an 18 month extension that ends in June 2014, which comes to $380,515 on an annual basis. You have to wonder why the contract is growing like a weed.
CITY CONTRACTS (Item 13)
The city has 5 contracts that are expiring in June 2014. They are listed below along with their current value -
· Custodial Maintenance at City Hall and Sports Park - $110,330
· Facility and Park Repair - $153,750
· Electrical Maintenance - $364.649
· Tree Management - $708,695
· Median, Parkway, & Slope Landscape Maintenance - $2,475,373
Hopefully the City will reach out to Lake Forest businesses to handle these contracts. Two of the 5 businesses with the current contracts are Lake Forest businesses and that’s great. Wouldn’t it be nice if all 5 were from Lake Forest? If you are a Lake Forest business and you can offer these services, please contact Tom Wheeler (Director, Public Works) at the City for more information.
PARKING RESTRICTIONS FOR STREET SWEEPING (Item 16)
The City is proposing to establish parking restrictions to allow street sweeping on Ridge Route (west of Rockfield) and on Cherry Street (North of Trabuco to Darrin). Apparently this change comes as a result of studies in 2010 and in 2013, and is based on the 2009 “Street Sweeping Parking Restriction Policy”. Prior to this, the only restrictions placed were on 10 residential streets near El Toro Rd. in 2010.
Street sweeping is important not only because it keeps our streets clean, but also because it protects the water system by reducing the amount of trash and debris that enters the sewer system and ultimately the ocean. It can also help reduce flooding, which can be a big problem in several parts of the City. At Lake 1, for example, thousands of dollars of damage has been done to the clubhouse area as a result of flooding from overflowing storm drains, and part of the problem is the trash that wasn’t picked up by the street sweepers.
The proposed restrictions will cover a 4-hour period, from 7 am to 11 am Tuesday on Ridge Route and from 12 pm to 4 pm Friday on Cherry Street. For the first month the Police will issue warnings, and after that, tickets. There are no plans to tow. There was no indication of how much the fine would be.
(BTW - The City's report was extremely poor. It wasn't as bad as the recent "traffic committee" report, but it was still pretty bad. I'll have a detailed analysis of this clunker later this week.)
ANOTHER PLANNING COMMISSION APPOINTMENT (Item 17)
This will be the fourth Planning Commission appointment in a year. The latest vacancy was caused by the resignation of long time Commissioner Jerry Zechmeister whose term expires in Dec 2014.
The Council is considering a more complex application process, not unlike the process they went through to fill the vacant Council seat. You can view it online. To save the Council and the applicant’s time and energy, I’ve done an extensive analysis of the past three appointments and have developed my own application that will be more efficient. Here are the questions –
1. Did you (or your friends and relatives) give me $$$ for my campaign? How much are you (they) going to give me for my next campaign?
2. Did you (or your friends and relatives) work for me in my campaign? Are you (or they) going to help me in my next campaign?
3. Do any of my Republican masters insist I appoint you?
4. Do you mindlessly agree that, except in very rare occasions, business interests must be placed over the interests of the residents and our quality of life?
If you can’t answer “Yes” to at least one of these questions, and preferably 2 or more, don’t bother to apply.
Tomorrow let’s look at what is not on the agenda.