City Council Preview for Jan 7 - Part 2 (Filling Voigts' Void)

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

Yesterday we looked at what’s on the agenda for tonight’s City Council meeting. But it’s just as important to look at what’s not on the agenda, especially after going through the “Voigts void” – a year in which almost nothing got done.  Here’s my list of pending projects that the “Voigts void” didn’t fill.



We could be raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the many worthy nonprofit organizations in our community, just like almost every other city in Orange County. But we’re not, and so far “the City” is saying “No we don’t want no foundation!”



Despite all the campaign promises, we are still without a traffic committee and still faced with 35,000+ new vehicles trips per day being added to the City in the near future. The Council had a chance to create a traffic committee at their last meeting, and postponed the decision.



Last year we hit an all-time low in the percent of our annual budget spent on our own people and businesses. Whenever the issue is raised, City Council members snarl and roll their eyes, but month after month, spending stays at an all- time low. Here we have a Council that describes itself as “business friendly” and they are doing less to help Lake Forest businesses than any Council before them.



Now that more than 2,000 homes are starting to be built within a mile of Musick Jail, and now that the City Council has approved building maximum security cells on the grounds of Musick, and now that the County jails are being filled with more serious criminals, it's time the City did something to alert our citizens when a jail break occurs.


For years the waterfowl have fouled this park, and finally last year the Council signed a contract to get the problem resolved. But then they couldn’t decide on an ordinance to prohibit feeding (despite a substitute ordinance I sent to them) and the consultants devising the Plan did such a poor job that the project appears in limbo. In addition, the consultants failed to live up to the terms of their contract to provide a plan to deal with the problems, and to date the City doesn’t seem to care.



Nearly a year ago the Parks and Recreation Commission were given the job of searching for a location for a dog park. They spent 8 months, did just about nothing, and then said they would report their lack of progress to the Council. But we’re still waiting to hear how poorly they did, and for the Council to give the project to someone who can get it done. 



Last year the Council passed a bogus term limits ordinance that will be on the ballot in November 2014. It limits their tenure to 24 of the next 26 years. Can the City really survive 24 more years of Scott Voigts or Kathy McCullough? Of course, 24 of 26 years is better than the lifetime appointments people thought they were entitled to, but let’s get real. Before we waste taxpayer money on a bogus term limits proposal, let’s give the people a real alternative. Let’s have term limits that limit a person to no more than 12 years total.



Isn’t it time we stopped reversing ourselves? How many ordinances do we have to repeal before you get the message? How many meetings and decisions must skirt the Brown Act before it’s clear what’s going on? How many bad recommendations must we have before it’s clear that the City needs to be looking for another law firm? Or maybe just a City Attorney and then contract out what the attorney can’t provide. In case you don’t recall, BB&K presided over the City of Bell fiasco, for which they have been sued. And the last time I looked, the City’s payments to BB&K were a higher percent of our budget than almost any other City down here. Hmmm. Paying more and getting less? That doesn’t seem right.



We’ve done a good job getting more transparency on the website, but it’s clearly not done. Why don’t we have the real salary figures for everyone? Instead we use a salary range, except for the City Manager. And why don’t we have a figure for the worth of the benefit package the staff receives? And while we’re at it, what about the Committees that operate within the City? Why aren’t their FPPC forms online?



Thanks to Mayor Pro Tem Nick we got a chance for a Sunshine Ordinance last year, but it got shot down. Let’s give it another try. Sunshine Ordinances will make it more difficult for Council members to engage in the type of hanky-panky Lake Forest Council members are now famous for (or should I say “infamous”?).



What happened to the discussion of the PCN process? That’s the process by which a variance can be issued for “public convenience or necessity”.  In April the staff agreed to bring it back for consideration. The current PCN process puts the power in the hands of staff on decisions that should be made at the Council level.



In the middle of last year, an earnest and enthusiastic group of people came forth asking for a community garden. Everyone seemed in favor of the idea, but like most of the ideas that surfaced during the “Voigts Void”, it made little progress. A community garden might not make the list of many people’s top 10 things we “need” in Lake Forest, but it’s a good idea, has people willing to work on the issue, and shouldn’t be allowed to die.


These are just a few of the items that should have been on the agenda. There is a list, probably just as big, of new items that should be on the agenda. The disastrous impact of the “Voigts Void” is that all these issues that should have been resolved in 2013 are left-overs which will crowd the 2014 agenda, leaving less time to do the 2014 work and even less time to address new issues that are coming up – management of the Sports Park, the new civic Center, etc.

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Jim Gardner January 08, 2014 at 01:48 PM
Hi Tom. Tomorrow I will report on last night's council meeting and discuss their plans for "the peons". The Council believes that the traffic problems will be solved if they explain to us what they're doing. With regard to closed schools, we do have closed schools in Lake Forest and they will have to be re-opened when the new 4,500 homes come on line. Unfortunately they are not near the places where the new homes are going to be built, so there will be a large shifting of kids/schools and a big increase in traffic as parents shuttle their kids to these schools.
Andy O'Connor January 08, 2014 at 07:54 PM
Pretty Pathetic speech by Mayor Robinson last night. When your vision is "slurry coating" Los Alisos, were all in trouble....
Jim Gardner January 09, 2014 at 10:23 AM
Yes. I agree. It was a little startling. Obviously Robinson is not a "high achiever".
Tom Cagley January 09, 2014 at 12:09 PM
Jim: I read an article about Santa Ana on another blog this morning, and BB&K are sort of knee deep in some issues involving the mayor. Let's add up the score: Bell, Downey and Santa Ana, and a lot of misguided advise in Lake Forest! I think I see a trend!
Jim Gardner January 09, 2014 at 12:23 PM
Do you have a link to that story?


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