City Council Preview for Jan 7 - Part 1 (What's Up?)

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

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 -



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).



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.



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.



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.)


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.

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 January 06, 2014 at 03:27 PM
Jim: I'm a little confused, but why do we have one contract with an arborist for $380K per year, and another for tree management for $709K. The latter might be a three or five year contract, so the annual amount would/could be a lot less. But, why have two contracts? With respect to the ghost of Joyce Kilmer, a tree is a tree! Also, if the council adopts your suggestion for the quesionairre for the Planning Commission, I'm guessing a lot of us that were interested before may as well save our energy and avoid angst by sitting this one out! :)
Jim Gardner January 06, 2014 at 04:07 PM
Tom, Good question. West Coast Arborists has been working under a contract valued at $163K, then $380K, then $570K. The City is now proposing to increase that amount once more, now to $709K. The amount in the City's budget seems to be $220K. According to the report there are more old and diseased trees requiring removal, and this is why the dramatic increase in price. We had a similar problem in our HOA and we dealt with it by separating the two functions - maintenance and removal - and bidding them separately. Sometimes removal experts can give you a better price than maintenance people. We did this for a few years.
Jim Gardner January 06, 2014 at 04:10 PM
PS - there are several other reasons listed in the City's report for the dramatic increase. Bear in mind this is an RFP process so it is open to competitive bidding and therefore the final price may be less, and hopefully will be.
Lionel M. January 06, 2014 at 05:29 PM
If I contribute but don't agree to mindlessly approve every project, do I still have a shot?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »