UnMasking the Mayor - Part 1

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

Many super-heroes and super-villains wear masks to hide their true identity. When you strip away the mask, underneath it reveals the real person, not the persona. For the next four articles we’re going to try to strip away the mask from the Mayor and see exactly who this reveals. This indepth look was inspired by a column I did a few days ago entitled “The Real Mayor Robinson”. In response, one of our readers asked whether or not I had been completely fair to Mayor Robinson and more specifically, had he done anything worthwhile, and was his perceived inability to follow through on so many of his promises merely hypocrisy or a symptom of how hard it is to get anything done at the City. So for this series of articles I’ve taken everything that Robinson promised in writing, looked at what he did, and then I’ll discuss what could have been done. I’ll also include as appropriate, all the positive things he’s accomplished along these same lines.

Of course, we need to bear in mind that people are rarely able to achieve everything they set out to do. The English poet Robert Browning said it best when he noted that “…a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” So let’s not set an impossible goal that Robinson should have achieved everything he promised, or even that he should have attempted to achieve these objectives. Let’s also bear in mind that Robinson has only been in office for 16 months and that he is only one of five members of the City Council. Moreover, the view once inside is no longer the same as it was outside, so some of his ideas before being elected may have changed as a result of the 16 months he’s spent on the dais.

I managed to track down 10 specific written promises Robinson made during his campaign. We’ll start by looking at Musick Jail, Traffic, Schools, and the Pension Debt.

Note: Quotes in normal text are from his campaign literature. Quotes in italics are from his ballot statement.



What He Promised

“Stop the Musick Jail Expansion. Work actively to prevent any Jail Expansion and stop the transfer of high risk, violent offenders to our family friendly community.”

What He Did

Robinson has done nothing to stop the Musick Jail expansion or to stop the transfer of high risk violent offenders. Since he took office, “high risk violent offenders” have already entered Musick Jail and a $100,000,000 expansion has been approved which among other things will bring “maximum security” prisoners to Musick.

When I brought up the problem of the risk to Lake Forest residents from escaped prisoners, and the need to create an early alert system so that people in the area were notified that a prisoner had escaped, and warned to lock their doors, avoid picking up hitchhikers, etc. Robinson agreed with me but never followed through with the idea. When I asked that the City consider putting up signs on Bake Pkwy that asked people not to pick up hitchhikers (something done near State prisons) Robinson looked at me with a blank stare.

What He Could Have Done

He could have worked with the other City Council members to join with the City of Irvine in their lawsuit against the County, but he never did anything. He could have pursued the early alert system either through the County or independently (as he and I discussed privately). He could have supported the idea of installing signs on Bake Pkwy. He could have set up a committee to consider all the ways in which to make the City safer once Musick Jail’s expansion comes online. But he did none of these things.



What He Promised

“Reduce Traffic Congestion. Appoint a Citizens [SIC] Commission to focus on improving traffic conditions for Lake Forest residents.”

“I want to create a Traffic Commission, solely focused on improving traffic congestion.”

What He Did

Since being elected he twice voted against creating the Commission, the first time on Dec 17 2013 when he was appointed Mayor. On Feb 18 2014 he said he’s not 100% against it, but doesn’t see the need.

What He Could Have Done

To make it easier for Robinson to vote affirmatively, it was suggested that a Committee rather than a Commission would be easier to get started, and it could be an ad hoc committee rather than a statutory committee, but Robinson still would not vote for more citizen involvement in the process despite his promise. He did vote for City staff to conduct 3 “educational” forums to tell people what the City is doing. Apparently in his mind, traffic congestion will be solved when people learn what the City is doing. And he did vote for continuing with the traffic signal synchronization that has been going on for nearly a decade now, but in doing so, he also voted to extend the time period an extra two years. Apparently he’s in no rush to solve the congestion problem.

One thing he should have never done was to approve more new homes being built, but under his watch, more than 4,000 new homes have been approved. This will bring more than 35,000 new vehicle trips per day into the city. He could have opposed the new homes, or put a temporary moratorium on new homes until we saw whether or not the City’s traffic mitigation program was successful. But he didn’t.



What He Promised

“Protect Taxpayers from Pension Debt. Eliminate pension spiking and reduce pension benefits for future city employees.”

What He Did

He has done nothing to eliminate pension spiking or reduce pension benefits for future city employees.

What He Could Have Done

The “pension debt” Robinson is talking about is the “pension debt” that the County suffers from, not the City. There was no “pension debt” problem in the City before he was elected and there still is no “pension debt” problem. It looks like Robinson was adopting a common politician’s ploy by attacking something people are opposed to, even if it has no relevance to the situation. Leaving aside Robinson’s hyperbole, he has done nothing about the “pension debt” problem at the County, which has serious impacts to the City because we contract with the County for Police services, which is the biggest part of our expense, at almost 40% and growing.

Robinson could have supported the idea of contracting with the City of Irvine for Police services. Irvine’s record is far superior to the County and they don’t have the “pension debt” problem. But Robinson did not support this idea. Robinson could be pushing for more use of civilians like the STARS program to reduce our dependence on Police services for routine administrative functions, but he hasn’t. Robinson could be encouraging Neighborhood watch programs, but he doesn’t.



What He Promised

“He wants to open more schools to lower class sizes.”

“I will work with the School District to find ways to build more classrooms and reduce class sizes, even if it takes investment from the City.”

What He Did

Robinson promised reduced class size and more schools, even if the City had to invest. What nonsense! Robinson has supported building thousands of new homes without any new schools, which will only increase class size. He rationalizes his decision by saying that he supports “property rights” – the right of the developer to build what they want without concern for the “public welfare.”

What He Could Have Done

He could have refused to allow more new homes without the new schools to support the 6,000 new children. He could have insisted that SVUSD provide a complete plan for how they plan to deal with the additional students without unduly sending them all over Lake Forest to meet their schooling needs. But he did none of these things.


Next week we’ll look at Wasteful Spending, Costly Perks, Open Government, and Listening to the Public’s Voice

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.

Jim Gardner March 31, 2014 at 01:26 PM
Hi MF and mOm. I agree that educating the people is a major effort. There are things you can do to spread the word. At the top of the page you can click on the Facebook (f) icon and upload the story to your Facebook page. If you click on the "More" text alongside the icons there's a drop down menu that let's you select "Email" so you can send it to your friends.
Jim Gardner March 31, 2014 at 01:33 PM
PS - I recently joined the editorial board of the Voice of OC and started spreading the word there. Here is my editorial from this morning - http://www.voiceofoc.org/community_editorial_board/article_9f5f45d0-b893-11e3-b667-001a4bcf887a.html
OldTimer March 31, 2014 at 03:41 PM
Based on my life experience people generally don't get involved until the pain becomes intolerable. Even then, many prefer to suffer in silence for one reason or another. If their neighbor has the pain it's generally viewed as the neighbor's problem and it's up to him to solve it. (ie, if the Foothill community experiences overcrowding, it's a Foothill problem). Not saying that's accurate, only that it's the general perception. And perception becomes reality. We see this on local issues, on state issues and on national issues. It's ironic that America is often thought of as the bastion of free speech, activism and opportunity to question authority. Yet only a small fraction of society ever do. Look at the tiny percent of citizens who even bother attending public meetings, let alone voice a public opinion on a civic concern. Only a handful show up when a certain group is subject to government imposed pain. Few who do not feel the pain will step forward to speak on behalf of those who do. If the group becomes too large (as with Occupy Wall Street) then the government takes action to quash their opposition. America has become a paradise for politicians. They can do most anything and get away with it. We have become a "me" society. Americans have lost that fire in our bellies for social or economic or political justice. By the time the pain gets too great for too many of us, it will be too late to make orderly change. As I mentioned, I don't see much change ahead based on public criticism. The ones being criticized just don't care what the few of us think. A real leader would respond to the criticisms lodged against him by Gardner to clear the air. The fact that he doesn't respond simply tells us that he doesn't care because he feels no pain as a result of Gardner's comments. Not even a threat of pain or political consequence. Mostly because he is protected by and accountable to those above him who run the system and levy tremendous influence over the elections. Again, this is a systemic problem. I can't stress that enough.
Jim Gardner March 31, 2014 at 04:39 PM
I think what you say is true. A few meetings ago, a Foothill Ranch resident appeared at the City Council during public comment and challenged Robinson to explain what he did about his campaign promises to open more schools and lower class size. Robinson sat there stone faced and never said a word.
OldTimer March 31, 2014 at 05:33 PM
Once they get elected to office they don't have to explain themselves for 4 years. There are no consequences for remaining silent. And even if promises made by the candidate were broken the chances of him or her getting reelected 4 years hence are over 90%. This has been proven true time and time again. Voters have very short memories. Those who saturate the thoroughfares with $15,000 worth of "vote for for me" signs or $20,000 worth of glossy campaign mailers (or both) - or have clout with the political insiders who run negative campaign ads against their opponents end up taking home the trophy. There are so many ways that power, influence (money) and political clout manipulate and twist the outcome of elections. It's become an American art form. A specialized endeavor that is practiced by trained professionals who've become very rich as a result. Quid pro quo. Who suffers? Those who expect productive, upright and honorable political representation. It's a very unhealthy system. Top to bottom. Systemic. We've really deteriorated as a union.


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