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Has Councilman Bass Gone Fishin?

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

It’s been more than 2 months since the City Council selected Dave Bass to fill the seat vacated by Peter Herzog. The Council didn’t have a good record of making selections. In less than a year, they managed to fill the Planning Commission (PC) and the Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) with people who, for whatever the multiple reasons, caused both Commissions to stop working effectively. Just to review –

  • In less than a year, the PC had more appeals and more decisions overturned than in their previous 20 year history.

  • For the first time ever, a sitting chairperson of the PC resigned, citing the conduct of the new appointees as a reason.

  • Then, within a few months, his replacement as chairman, another veteran, resigned.

  • Meeting cancellations at the PC exceeded more than 20% and in addition absences were high.

  • The PRC spent more than a year looking for a location for a dog park and came up empty handed.

  • Then the PRC spent more than half a year trying to come up with a plan to solve the problems at Village Pond Park, and again, came up empty handed, managing to violate the Brown Act in the process.

Not exactly a stellar record for showcasing the selection skills of the Council members. Of course, talent selection is not a kid’s game – it’s a serious business, and it takes years to develop and maintain the skills to do a good job. Not only do all the Council members lack sufficient skills in selecting talent, there were many other issues that reared their ugly heads in the selection process, not the least of which was the trail of money and influence that led from the doors of the “Trumark Twins” (Scott Voigts and Dwight Robinson) to the doors of most of the people who were selected.

Hence, one might not have expected their selection of a new council member to be effective. Some of you will recall that I also applied for that position, so my opinions may not be entirely neutral no matter how hard I try. However, I’m far more interested in seeing the new Council member succeed because with his success the City succeeds.

Dave Bass didn’t promise much when he applied. He admitted that his sole reason for applying was to save the City the costs of having a special election, and he had no particular interests and no particular projects he wanted to push. He further admitted that he hadn’t been involved much in any activities in the City, nor was he familiar with any of the current issues facing the Council. He did have the benefit of having worked for the City a few years ago, however many of us wondered if decades of working as a municipal employee was the kind of experience that would make for a good Council member.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at Bass' record. Is he still standing at the dock or has he gone fishing, and if he has, what exactly did he catch?

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 February 24, 2014 at 10:22 AM
Jim: Nice intro, looking forward to follow-up. It really takes more experience than education to select people, such as someone to serve on the Planning Commission. We have at least two council members, the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem, who are in their own right successful businessmen, which cannot be achieved by selecting under-achievers for subordinate positions. I don't know much about the other members, as you said, Bass has some background in knowledge of the city, but it seems to be limited, at least so far. That is the problem with elected officials, you may get what you asked for, but what you asked for is not really what you wanted. Of course, the real problem is getting people interested in these elections. Out of curiosity, do you know what the turnout was for the last council elections?
Jim Gardner February 24, 2014 at 11:24 AM
Total vote was 47,039, but bear in mind people could vote for 2 choices in 2012 and there were 7 candidates. In 2010 there were 49,684 votes cast but there were 3 seats open and 5 candidates. In 2008 there were 42,590 votes case, 2 seats open, and 3 candidates. Trying to figure it out is difficult since some people vote for only 1 candidate even when they have 2 or 3 votes they can cast. If you merely divide the total by the number possible, the range is between 16,561 and 23,519, but that is misleading.
Tom Cagley February 24, 2014 at 12:04 PM
Thanks, Jim. Going to take another cup of coffee to wade through it. :)
Lionel M. February 24, 2014 at 12:27 PM
Seems to me that Mr. Bass says very little and does even less. I find it difficult to understand when he wanted to be on the council in the first place. Maybe he is a slow starter.
Tom Cagley February 24, 2014 at 03:25 PM
It is sometimes to decide which is a better: an official who does very little, or one who feels compelled (think Spitzer here) to do something, whether it needs it or not! :)
Jim Gardner February 24, 2014 at 04:05 PM
Tom, that's true. We have been disadvantaged by having a Council that simultaneously does very little and then what they do is often problematic or harmful. For example, in terms of making bad decisions - (a) we are increasing the population by 15% targeted at families and building no new schools to accommodate them, (b) we will put 12,000+ new people and 30,000+ new vehicle trips into a City already suffering from traffic problems, (c) we will put a CNF fueling station at the most strategic part of the City where we already have significant traffic problems, etc. OTOH, we have no civic center, no senior center, no dog park, no local animal shelter, less than 60% of our traffic lights are synchronized, etc. So I assume you are saying that if Bass does no harm that will be a relief.
Tom Cagley February 24, 2014 at 04:26 PM
That's about it. I fear he will become a rubber stamp to the city staff, instead of an independent thinker.
Sonny Morper February 25, 2014 at 09:44 AM
Does your 30,000 car trip estimate include the bus trips and parent driven car trips for school kids? Had the school district required one elementary and one junior high, it could have reduced traffic , had new schools, sold old schools. Also, the new home owners in the opportunity study area may not be paying 5,000 to 10,000 dollars to the school district, as they are now. Imagine, paying the district, but not having a walkin school for your elementary kids, when you could have. We can thank the old city council for this traffic and no new schools for our city.
Sonny Morper February 25, 2014 at 09:52 AM
If he WAS working as an employee in the City of Lake Forest, who does he work for now?
Jim Gardner February 25, 2014 at 10:11 AM
Hi Sonny, No, the estimated increased traffic does not include the enormous moving of kids from the 4,500+ new homes which then displaces the kids in the existing schools and leap frogs them to schools more distant. No new schools for 4,500 new homes was a crazy thing to do and will come back to bite us. I agree that the City Council must accept blame for this, as must SVUSD who made the ultimate decision.
Sonny Morper February 25, 2014 at 12:07 PM
The builders constructed more homes ( and no schools in the opportunity study area) thus more profit. Your focus has been on the city council, generally. They required the builders to enter into contracts with the school district before they would be allowed to build any home. Today the school district has collected close to a million dollars already with the builders no doubt passing that fee on to the buyer's price of the home. Question: Did the school board members get "contributions" to their campaign funds from each builder for allowing more homes to be built, instead of schools?
Jim Gardner February 25, 2014 at 01:06 PM
Hi Sonny. I am so busy with the Council, the Commissions, and the staff that I didn't have time to look at the SVUSD (or the Irvine Water Board) where I also imagine we might find conflicts of interest. The developers did in fact pay millions to SVUSD in lieu of building schools. By not having to allocate land to schools, they were able to build more homes.
Bob Holtzclaw February 25, 2014 at 04:08 PM
Good question Sonny! I spoke at the last SVUSD meeting about what they intend to do with all the children from the new homes in Foothill. We currently have two schools for one through 6th grade in that area and they are both full. I got no response from the SVUSD board, so I guess you own a home in Foothill, but your child goes to school in Mission Viejo. It looks like the developers, City Council and SVUSD board win and residents are left holding the bag again.
Jim Gardner February 26, 2014 at 10:22 AM
The bottom line for people with children in school is to vote out anyone who sits on the Council or the SVUSD Board. And perhaps it's time for Lake Forest to consider its own school district. Many cities have their own school districts - Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Westminster, etc.
Tom Cagley February 26, 2014 at 11:15 AM
Jim, I'd be a little cautious at developing/creating a Lake Forest School District. At first blush, it might be appealing, but it would lead to creating of yet another government entity: an Elected School Board! Further, there would be added administrative expenses, expenses that are wrapped up in the SVUSD costs right now. Better we elect some school board members from our communities, and hold them to a higher standard than what we seem to be inclined to do so far.
Jim Gardner February 26, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Tom - yes I'm not endorsing the idea, just suggesting someone take a look at it since it seems to work in other cities. SVUSD includes MV and LH as well as LF, so on a population basis we have about 40%. MV has 46% and LH has about 15%, but we are under-represented on the Board with only 1 member.
Sonny Morper February 26, 2014 at 03:57 PM
The school board has always treated the City of Lake Forest as second class citizens. They delayed consideration of constructing a football stadium 30 years, sold land where the stadium should have gone, recently used our tax dollars to pay attorney fees, etc. after creating a ruckus by forcing the stadium onto the campus where inadequate parking exists, and numerous other issues could have been avoided. Wait until the new property owners in the opportunity study area find out the school district has entered into a contract with the builders to "never" build a school in their neighborhoods. Wait until they find out between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars of their purchase price is being sent to the school district as part of the same contracts between the builders and the Saddleback Unified School Distict.
Tom Cagley February 26, 2014 at 05:05 PM
A few things here, Sonny. First, the city fathers, elected, appointed or hired, should never have allowed the buildings or developers to deal with the SVUSD apart from them. As Dr. Gardner noted, of the school board members only one is from Lake Forest. We need to get a larger representation. There is a lot about the location of the El Toro stadium that 'smells' to say the least. Before my time living here, but I've seen enough smoke to know there is something smoldering there. However, I still would be hesitant at creating another USD, as there is tremendous expense in creating these, and, as I said above, it means more elected officials and more bureaucracy. Further, the way the wheels move, it would be a long time materializing. SVUSD is facing declining enrollment, so they should be amendable to re-visiting adding schools to this area.
Sonny Morper February 26, 2014 at 07:49 PM
Tom, our personal conversation would be better to be done in person or by phone. If you agree, feel free to call. I'm listed. Thx, Sonny
Bob Holtzclaw February 26, 2014 at 11:02 PM
As a resident of Lake Forest it appears we pay more attention to the City Council then the SVUSD. However, the SVUSD also received money from the developers for not building and I wonder if any of the board members received campaign donations that may have helped in their decision. I wonder if the people buying these new homes realize there is no local school that can take their child.
Jim Gardner February 27, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Hi Bob - the literature that Baker Ranch is passing out makes it look like there are "local" schools. No mention of the drive to the schools. No mention of the Jail.
Sonny Morper February 27, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Jim, you might add: The literature also does not include info on The school buses, or chauffeuring to schools they will have forever, in spite of the fact they have indirectly paid the school district up to 10,000 dollars. Their "thanks" can be given also to the city council who required the "mitigation" school (tax) dollars in order to get the building permit authorized, for each home. How will those dollars be used? About a million dollars estimated to have been collected thus far via builders to the district. Citizens can thank the school district and the city council for the extra school related traffic we are about to absorb. Nevertheless, Welcome to Lake Forest and to the SVUSD.

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