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Council Preview - April 1 (Part 2)

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

Yesterday we looked at the possibility of Lake Forest starting to activate the non-profit foundation that has been sitting on the shelf for half a decade. Today we’ll look at 2 more items on tonight’s agenda.

 

RENEWING CITY HALL LEASE (Item #9)

In case you weren’t aware, Lake Forest is one of only two cities in Orange County that doesn’t have its own civic center - the other one is Yorba Linda. Even little cities like Rancho, Laguna Hills, and Aliso Viejo have their own civic centers. The City currently pays $106,000 per month, $76,007 of which is rent and $29,993 is our contribution to the common area maintenance of the building. For 23 years the City has had a goal of establishing our own civic center, but it’s one of a host of amenities the City has gone without (others include a dog park, local animal shelter, senior center, community garden, etc.). For the past 10 years the City has been planning to  move to a 12 acre site previously owned by IRWD, and the City claims to be “making good progress” toward that end, and resolving unspecified “issues” between a host of agencies. The bottom line is that we have no immediate plans to build our own civic center, so the lease on the rental has to be extended. Because of the anticipated opening of the Sports Park, the City will move some Recreation staff and programs to that location, freeing up space, vacating the second floor, and allowing us to reduce the rent by $26,377 per month. The new lease is for 4 more years, so apparently the City isn’t hopeful that the “issues” it seeks to “resolve” will be resolved soon.

 

BROOKFIELD HOMES (Item #10)

When I saw that Brookfield had made another payment to Scott Voigt’s campaign committee in December 2013, I was puzzled. Brookfield, Trumark, and their associates had already spent nearly $100,000 getting Voigts, Robinson, and Nick elected and the troika had given the developers what they wanted, even though the City staff, Planning Commission, and the vast majority of the people were opposed to the projects. Why was Brookfield continuing to pay? Campaign contributions tend to go with the quid pro quo, appearing before a business wants something, and disappearing after they get it. I couldn’t figure out why Brookfield was continuing to support Voigts. Was it his winning personality, or did they have some future plan and was this the down payment?

My question was answered when I looked at Tuesday’s agenda. Brookfield needs another favor from the Council, and that explains, in my mind, the additional contribution to Voigts.  If you recall, Brookfield got the OK from the Council in July 2013 to build 147 condos in the Auto Centre mall, but in the process of proceeding with their plans, they ran into the Foothill Business Association (FBA), and now Brookfield must add retaining walls along Bake and Portola Parkways as well as along Auto Center Drive and also remove some existing mature trees. This won’t change the number of units, or the use of tandem parking, nor anything else, but it will substantially change the appearance of the project. Not only will mature trees be removed, but new retaining walls as high as 14.4 feet will be installed.

What I don’t understand is why this plan change is being brought before the Council and not the Planning Commission, nor is there anything in the Staff report which explains this. By all appearances, this seems to be the type of issue that the Planning Commission should deal with, and using valuable Council time seems questionable, especially when we have a Council which is not known for using their time very well. Could it be that having primed the pump, Brookfield is more comfortable going back to the men they helped put in office and asking for this one last favor?

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Chris S April 02, 2014 at 11:53 AM
None of this is a surprise. My concern is that these people on the council are blatantly destroying the community to line their pockets. I really wish there would be a community uprising to unseat these incompetents. At some point, when corruption is transparent, it is incumbent upon the populace to remove the people who are clearly not acting in regard to the welfare of the community. I, for one, would happily support and work to help anyone interested in recalling them.
Jim Gardner April 02, 2014 at 02:14 PM
3 of the 5 people on the Council are up for election this year, so perhaps this is the best way to start. A recall is time consuming and potentially expensive, and with these 3 out and new people in, I think the main problem would be solved. So you need to be looking for someone to support for the upcoming election. It's not enough to be against the incompetence and corruption of the some of the present Council members, you need an alternative. And bear in mind, that Voigts who is up for election campaigned on the promise to be different and not to do the very things that he is doing. In the near future I will have a report on his promises and conduct as well as McCullough's record.
Tom Cagley April 02, 2014 at 03:13 PM
Jim: Some of the most important things you discuss are the broken campaign promises, but that should shock no one. Very few politicians keep their promises, many times that is a good thing. I still don't see where getting on a city council can be all that lucrative, not in Lake Forest anyway. Neither McCullough nor Voights display a capability to be hired as consultants or lobbyists for firms, and that is where a lot of money can be found. The relatively speaking pittance they receive from the City Council would not be worth selling their souls for a few thousand dollars in campaign contributions. I guess what I'm trying to say, as frustrating as it may be, most of these folks really do believe they are 'here to help.' Mores the pity! Will look forward to your continuation on this subject in future articles.
Jim Gardner April 02, 2014 at 03:47 PM
Hi Tom. This current series has been about broken campaign promises, but other series have focused on lies in office, taking money and refusing to disclose it while voting in favor of the money givers, general incompetence, etc. In tot it is a very sad picture, but I agree with you I don't believe Voigts or McCullough are "evil" people wishing to do harm. But that belief doesn't save us from the harm they do. Most of the harm in the world is done by people who think they are doing the right thing.
Chris S April 02, 2014 at 07:46 PM
I don't think the people on the council are evil, just grossly incompetent. Broken campaign promises are one thing, but to completely alter the Foothill Ranch community is the appalling part to me. They have taken money from homebuilders and they don't even bother to recuse themselves for starters. In regard to your comment, Jim, about finding the right candidate...perhaps we should pick three people from the white pages.

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