For the past 2 months we’ve reported that the City of Lake Forest spent less than 2% of its budget on people and businesses in Lake Forest. Historically this has been the lowest levels achieved since I began periodically looking at the data years ago. Members of the City Council have been defensive to the point of absurdity, trying to come up with every conceivable reason for why they spend so little on our own people and businesses. But what they haven’t done, apart from coming up with reasons, is to appoint a committee to look into how we can spend a larger proportion of our money in our city. After all, we are spending tens of thousands of dollars every month on businesses that provide services which are also provided by Lake Forest businesses. Here are some examples –
· We spent $118.80 to have a Mission Viejo company frame a plaque. There are half a dozen businesses in Lake Forest that can do the same thing.
· We spent $375 using a Bee Remover based in Claremont when we have 4 bee removal businesses right here in Lake Forest.
· We bought lunch for the seniors for $907.20 from a business in Newport Beach.
· We purchased a printer for $5,572.80 from a company in Laguna Hills.
· We spent $103.68 on business cards from Laguna Hills.
The data for spending in November is just in, and it’s just as distressing as September and October. In November the City spent $4,435,465.80 and only $76.030.70 stayed in the city. That’s a mere 1.7% and comparable with September (1.8%) and October (1.4%). But it’s even worse than this. Of the $76,030.70 spent in the city, $60,008.04 went to a single business, leaving a mere $16,022.26 for the rest of the City.
Mayor Voigts loves to go around to grand openings and get a free meal and praise the business climate in our City. What he doesn’t talk about are all the vacant storefronts throughout the City. The shopping center along El Toro near Montbury looks like a graveyard. At the corner of Muirlands and Lake Forest Drive more than half the stores are vacant. Everywhere you look the signs of the recession are still all too evident in our City, yet we spend almost nothing on our own people and businesses and our Mayor seems happy as long as he can find a grand opening to go to.
Councilman Robinson never tires about his plans to improve the business climate in Lake Forest. His first venture into this arena was to sponsor a workshop for businesses to contract with the city, and more than 80% of the participants came from businesses outside the City. With that kind of help, can we stand much more?
If anyone on the Council is sincere about helping the people and businesses in Lake Forest, why don’t they get started with spending more of our $35,000,000 a year budget on the people and businesses in the City? Mr. Nick, to his credit, tried to get his colleagues to do just this, but he was ignored. Note to the Council - continuing to ignore a palpable problem will not make it go away.