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Scott Voigts: In the beginning

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

This is the first in our series “House of Lies” which seeks to make public officials accountable for their promises and remarks. This week we focus on Scott Voigts. In succeeding weeks we will cover other Council and Commission members.

 

FIRST TIME

The first time I met Scott Voigts we were both campaigning in 2010. He sympathized with me since we were both running against incumbents with much bigger war chests. He said that (with me) he had less than $5,000 he could spend, and wanted to know how I was going to use my limited funds. It turns out, when I looked at the final State required election finance disclosure Form 460 for the 2010 campaign, Voigts spent $37,763.40 which was the most money anyone had ever spent on a Lake Forest election. Looking at his earlier Form 460, while he was telling me he had less than $5,000 to spend he had already accumulated $15,514.99 in his campaign kitty. This was my first hint that when Scott Voigts’ lips were moving, I might not be hearing the truth.

(Interestingly enough, Voigts worried how with this little money we could reach 50,000 people. I told him there were nearly 80,000 people in Lake Forest, and he got a confused look on his face. “No way” he said. “Way” I said. “There are about 50,000 in the old part of town, and another 25,000 people in Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills”. “You mean Foothill Ranch is a part of Lake Forest” he exclaimed, and then scribbled a note on a napkin.)

 

OPPOSING MUSICK JAIL

His mistaken claim to me about how much he had to spend might be considered clever maneuvering, and not really an outright lie. After all, we were both seeking a seat and were competitors. But to the public, he and I shared a resolve to oppose increasing the size of Musick Jail which borders Lake Forest along Bake Pkwy. Yet no sooner did he get on the Council he voted to approve an agreement with the OC Sheriff to increase the size of Musick to 3,000 prisoners and to allow maximum security cells that could house maximum security prisoners.

Now you could say that his campaign promise wasn’t a lie, because once he got in office he received some information that changed his mind. You could say that, and if this were the end to the tale, you could be right.


TERM LIMITS

One of the items that Voigts stressed in his 2010 campaign, apart from Musick Jail, was term limits. He felt that the incumbents had been there too long and term limits would let some new blood onto the Council. But term limits didn’t sound so good once Voigts was on the Council, so in 2013, when the topic came up (courtesy of Councilman Nick), Voigts argued for term limits that in reality were unlimited. He supported and pushed through an ordinance that says that over 26 years a Council member must take a break for 2 years. IOW – Voigts’ idea of terms limits is virtually unlimited.  And he did that despite the alternative and far more reasonable motion made by Councilman Herzog and seconded by Nick, to restrict the limits to 8 years. If we’re keeping track, this might be better classified as a broken campaign promise rather than a lie.

 

SAFEST CITY

Once in office, Voigts has been caught straying from the truth several times. For example, as Mayor, he claimed that “Lake Forest is the 8th safest city in the U.S.” As readers of this column know, that statement is patently false. The fact that others at the City Hall (e.g., City Manager Dunek, Councilwoman McCullough) also say the same thing, doesn’t make it any more truthful.

The truth is, according to one study that limits itself to the 400 largest cities in the U.S. that have populations of 75,000 or more, Lake Forest does do pretty well in having a lower crime rate than most of these other much larger cities. But when all 20,000+ cities in the U.S. are examined, Lake Forest no longer looks so good. In fact, when compared to our neighbors, we have a much higher crime rate than almost any City down here in South Orange County. Voigts (and everyone else at City Hall) knows this, but it doesn’t make for a good sound bite to tell the truth, so he sticks to the false statement which he’s repeated often.

 

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

In 2013 when the Council was discussing campaign finance Voigts claimed that he spent “no more than Peter Herzog” in the campaign of 2010. The truth is that in 2010 Scott Voigts spent $37,763 to get elected to City Council and Peter Herzog spent $27,145.83. That’s 40% more!

Of course he wasn’t the only Council member to mis-state the truth during that discussion. Kathy McCullough spun even more “mis-information” at the time, and in fact, if we were to try to decide who the bigger spinner of tales is, the choice would not be easy. BTW - McCullough comes up next after we finish with Voigts.

 

Tomorrow we’ll continue this sad saga.

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 January 28, 2014 at 12:15 PM
Interesting recap of the past few years, Jim. I'm a little puzzled about the 'sit out two of twenty-six' idea. I'm not much of a fan of term limits, being the naive believer that voters should do that every election cycle. However, we do live in an Orwellilan world, and as Orwell said: "Political language is designed to make the lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind!" I do think the Councilman Voights, and others, should be given a little slack regarding Musick Jail, There has been a lot of "Orwellian" speak from authorities on that, and as I've said in other places, to plan the 2014 or so expansion based on environmental impact reports that were done based on the premises of El Toro remaining an airpot, and ingnoring the planned residential growth in Lake Forest and the Great Park vicinity is wrong, on the part of the Sheriff and Board of Supervisors.
Jim Gardner January 28, 2014 at 02:35 PM
Hi Tom, The City of Irvine opposed the expansion and sued the County and lost, and they are now on appeal. Hence, had Lake Forest joined the suit we may not have prevailed either, however, one of the arguments made by OCSD against the Irvine lawsuit was that Lake Forest hadn't sued. Thus, the Council's action supported the OCSD and had both cities fought the issue we MIGHT have prevailed. My complaint about Voigts is that he switched teams, saying he was against it and then voting in favor of it and subsequently defending it strongly, and then doing nothing as far as I know to mitigate the possible effects of a dangerous felon escaping. Of course, he may have received some new information that changed his mind, although I can't imagine what that was.
Kevin Hebenstreit January 29, 2014 at 10:58 AM
I'm looking forward to your financial analysis of Nick's suit against the City of Lake Forest. The City which he has sworn to "serve."
Jim Gardner January 29, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Hi Kevin. Me too. As you are probably aware, lawsuits against the City get handled in Executive session and to date we have had no ability to get any information about the details. Once they're available I will dig through them like I dig through everything else.
tkmike05 January 29, 2014 at 01:42 PM
Good stuff Jim. Keep it coming. Would like to see some info on the personal benefits our elected officials stand to gain with all the housing being developed. It seems they continued to approve housing without an impact study on the community. I'm fairly certain there's not enough schools in the district and the traffic consequences don't appear to have been a consideration.
Jim Gardner January 29, 2014 at 02:12 PM
Hi TK. Yes. Schools are a BIG problem. The City allowed the developers to go ahead and make an agreement with SV USD NOT to build schools. We'll have some 6,000 new school children and not a single new school. Most of these new kids will live in Foothill or Portola, so they will have to be bussed or driven out of that area to the nearest schools. That may even "bump" existing kids in those schools to have to be bussed/driven to other schools. All of this will increase traffic in the City and be an extra hassle for parents who drive their kids. All of this will happen slowly as the new homes are built and then occupied
Jim Gardner January 29, 2014 at 02:14 PM
TK - the answer to your question about "personal gain" to the City Council members from the development is that developers gave tens of thousands of dollars to the City Council members to get them elected so that they in turn would vote to allow the development.
Tom Cagley January 29, 2014 at 03:21 PM
Jim: Wouldn't disagree with the fact that candidates for the City Council received generous support from developers, but what is the long-term benefit. City Council pay is not like a Board of Supervisor's pay, so that is hardly beneficial, unless they (council members) are looking down the road to some other position. I guess Larry Agran (Irvine) ran for Presidnt 20 years ago, which is a stretch. If they are looking for something else, they may be 'banking' support for the future. For the schools, that is a different animal. I was speaking with the SVUSD supervisor a few weeks ago, and he commented that they are, at the moment, facing a decling enrollment. Naturally, those schools that are emptying are not where they will be needed for the new development, thus the residents are faced with the conundrum of busing the children or paying for new school buildings. The good news would be, if busing is the choice, unlike where you and I grew up, they'll not have to worry about walking through snow (up hill, both ways) to go to school. :)
Jim Gardner January 29, 2014 at 06:28 PM
Hi Tom. SVUSD has at least one vacant school that they rent out. It is near Ridge Rte. and Muirlands, across the street from where the Lake 1 Clubhouse is. I suspect that this may ultimately be filled with kids who now go to La Madera, who in turn will be bumped by the Lake Forest kids who get bumped by the Foothill and Portola kids. Since the growth of kids will be slow as the new homes are built and then occupied, this will happen slowly, so most of the kids in school now will not have to be moved, but their younger siblings probably will not go to the same school when this transition happens.
Tom Cagley January 30, 2014 at 10:21 AM
That is how I would project it, as well. I come back to what I said to the Council when I was applying for the Planning Commission, we can build roads and we can build schools, we can't "make" water, and I still think that is the long pole in the tent regarding development. Right now, we're okay, but if this drought continues, especially as it impacts on the state's agriculture business, I see problems!
Jim Gardner January 30, 2014 at 10:48 AM
Hi Tom. Your comment on water was spot on (pun intended) and in additional we have to worry about electricity for these 4500 new homes. With San Onofre now dead and with all the other problems we had last year with electricity and brown outs and low usage days, how on earth can we support all the electricity needs of 4,500 new homes. I suspect we can expect an enormous increase in the cost of electricity.
mOmO123 January 30, 2014 at 11:14 AM
the vacant school you are referring to is now a private christian school, that god willing i will be able to afford to put my son in some day soon and get him out of the horrible school he is in now. I grew up in lake forest, and went to the local elementary, jr high, and high school but there has been a BIG change in the last few years that makes parents like myself very concerned. My son is in elementary school in the district and with his class holding nearly 40 kids, a teacher who can barely handle them all and the curriculum slipping to accommodate the ESL kids is it really a Shock that the enrollment is down? With that being said, Why is it SO DIFFICULT to transfer my kid out of his school to another in the district if enrollment is down? there is a multiple year wait list for certain schools. i would LOVE it if the Patch would interview SVUSD to answer some community questions regarding these issues as well as the others posted by some regarding the new housing developments.
Tom Cagley January 30, 2014 at 11:18 AM
Thanks, Jim, I did forget about electricity, which is definately a concern. I know, or suspect, that some of the solar panels that are sprouting like mushrooms after a rain, will assist abit, but will not be the total solution.
Jim Gardner January 30, 2014 at 12:36 PM
Hi Lo. I agree completely. I wish there was more coverage of SVUSD on The Patch. Schools are so important, yet we hear very little about them, except for the sports.
Jim Gardner January 30, 2014 at 12:39 PM
Hi Tom. FWIW I have one of those "mushrooms" that sprouted on my roof. I did it when they announced that San Onofre would be closed down, in anticipation of a big increase in the costs of electricity. So far it's reduced my bill from $100 p/m to $60 p/m so that's better than expected. If more people turned to solar it would be a big help.
Tom Cagley January 30, 2014 at 01:42 PM
Yes, Jim, I knew you had some solar panels. Please to hear it is reducing your bill. Not opposed to it if it works, opposed to it being subsidized (if it is) by the government. My understanding is the windmills are not working, at all. I used to go to Fort Collins (Colorado Springs) a lot on business and they have hundreds of acres of solar panels in a field that helps provide electricty of military housing. We also put it on top of the commissary at LA AFB (when I was planner for that community). We had about 40,000 square feet, and about the maximum amount it would generate was enough to keep the refrigeration units running.

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