Happy New Year Lake Forest!
But if we’re really going to have a “Happy” New Year, some things in the Council will need to change. Here’s my Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for the council.
1. STOP LYING
Last year we heard so many lies from the dais you’d think they were fishermen and not Council members. I have a 7-part series coming up soon devoted to the fancy fables told by Scott Voigts and Kathryn McCullough alone. Lying doesn’t belong in the Council chambers. We hear enough lies during the campaign.
2. STOP TAKING MONEY
It’s a disgrace that Council members Voigts, McCullough and Robinson stuff their campaign coffers with thousands of dollars from people and businesses that come before them asking for favors, permits, etc. and then they grant them the favors/permits they are asking for, and never mention that they just cashed the checks. I’ve pointed out before that while this behavior isn’t technically illegal, it certainly seems to be against the City’s code of ethics as well as Western morality in general.
3. STOP BUMBLING
This past year, under then Mayor Voigts, we’ve seen more meetings go overtime, more agenda items postponed and reconsidered and then reconsidered again, and for all of this we got less accomplished. Among other things, Lake Forest is a multi-million dollar business. Let’s treat it that way.
Lost in the bumbling are a whole host of issues that never got solved or resolved last year. Let’s make a list (checking it twice) and be sure to address these issues asap in the New Year.
4. BEHAVE YOURSELVES
This past year we’ve seen some of the worst mis-behavior in our history. There is no excuse for the lack of manners show by Council members to each other, and even worse, to our citizens, and even worse, to visitors. The Nick-Herzog verbal assaults were unbecoming to both of them. Mrs. McCullough acts as if she’s in her living room, yelling at people, huffing and puffy, and calling out whenever she gets the notion. Behave yourselves.
5. PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAPS
I know not everyone on the dais was endowed with unusual skills and abilities, but you don’t need to be a nuclear physicist to read the reports that come to the Council and realize that there are some serious flaws here. And if the information coming to you is flawed, how can you make a decent decision? Do something about it. Insist on high quality reports.
6. STOP BLOWING SMOKE
The number of times Council members have falsely claimed that something in the City was especially good when in fact it wasn’t, speaks poorly to their personality and also does no good to the City. Whether Mrs. McCullough is falsely claiming that we did very well on the Grand Jury report on transparency, or Scott Voigts is incorrectly telling the audience that OC Alert will warn them when a prisoner escapes from Musick Jail, the council members should spend less time patting themselves on the back and try to give people an honest and realistic appraisal of the City. And what's with this "No Worries" attitude about adding 35,000+ new vehicle trips per day to a City already in traffic trouble? We have a lot of good things to be proud about, without having to resort to blowing smoke.
7. END THE BACK ROOM DEALS AND CRONYISM
Too many times the Council has come with what appears to be a prepared script, with the conclusion decided long before anyone entered the room – Trumark, Brookfield, Fuentes, the election of Dwight Robinson as Mayor, etc. are just a few examples.
Equally too many times, appointments to Commissions appear to have been the result of whom you knew or who you campaigned for, rather than who was most qualified. This has had disastrous consequences for the City. The Planning Commission has been completely reduced to a parody of itself. Parks and Recreation can’t find a location for a dog park or a plan to clean up Village Pond Park. People should be appointed based on their abilities to help the City.
8. OBEY THE LAW
Things in Lake Forest last year appeared to resemble the wild west. Councilman Herzog pointed out what appeared to him to be several breaches of the law by the Council, including violations of the Brown Act. The Parks and Recreation Commission has been reported for violating the Brown Act on at least two occasions, for multiple counts. When the lawmakers become lawbreakers, you know we're in trouble.
9. START SPENDING OUR MONEY ON OUR PEOPLE
Never before in our history have we spent less money on our own people and businesses than we did last year. Apologists for the City (IOW the staff and the Council) claim that it’s because we are building the Sports Park, and this extra expense distorts the true figure. There is some truth to that statement, although the staff and Council made no attempt to get the general contractors (who gets MILLIONS) to use sub-contractors from our City. But putting that aside, prior to building the Sports Park, we were only spending 4% to 5% on our own people and businesses. We need to spend more of our $35,000,000 annual budget on our own people and businesses in 2014.
10. HAVE A PLAN
One of the reasons for the bumbling (see item 3) is that the Council and the Commissions are reactive. Despite the existence of a “5-year strategic plan” there is almost no forward planning and apparent systematic way of getting there. The Council seems to have the attention span of a Cocker Spaniel, moving and shifting, delaying, postponing, reconsidering, etc. Let’s pretend we’re competent adults, engaged in a multi-million dollar business that impacts the lives of nearly 80,000 people, and start doing a competent job.
If the Council can achieve these objectives, we the people of Lake Forest will truly have a Happy New Year. If they can't 3 of them are up for re-election, and 2 of them feature heavily in this article.