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Agenda 2013—New Business

Here are some old problems that need solving by the new City Council

In a previous article we looked at seven measures that should be instituted in 2013 to make Lake Forest a leader in the movement to make government more transparent, a movement endorsed by the majority of Council members. Today we’ll look at some of the major challenges confronting the City and suggest some additional measures that should be taken in 2013.

I've labeled this subject "new business" but in fact it is very very old business that hasn't been dealt with. Hopefully this new Council will work on these issues.

Traffic

Everyone knows traffic is a problem and with the short-sighted decisions by the previous City Council to add 4,000+ more homes and more than 20,000 new cars, trucks, and vans into a city already choking on traffic, we know this problem is only going to worsen. See our previous articles if you need more convincing.

There seems to be universal acknowledgment that we need better planning for traffic. Several people recommended this in the recent campaign:

Adam Nick: “I will also take measures to improve our roads and traffic.”

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

Let’s go ahead and create the traffic commission. Many other cities have one, including Laguna Hills, Westminster, Orange, Encinitas, Torrance, Los Alamitos, etc.

One might also consider a “working group” inside the Planning Commission if the creation of a full blown commission requires too much paperwork and will take too long to get going (The old City Council was notorious for taking too long to do just about anything). This working group might eventually grow into a commission but could “hit the ground” more quickly.

Term Limits

Just about everyone is in favor of term limits. Following the 2012 candidate forum, The Patch reported “Each of the candidates said they would consider some type of term limit except for Rudolph…” And we all know what happened to Rudolph.

Our neighbors in Laguna Hills (LH) went through the long, tedious, and expensive process of putting it on the ballot. Let’s spare ourselves the pain. The LH ballot limited office holders to two consecutive terms and then required them to take at least two years off before continuing.  That seems OK to me. Let’s get the process started. Do I hear a motion?

Business

In the last election, most people recognized that the City wasn’t doing enough to promote our own people and businesses. Dwight Robinson campaigned on the basis that “he knows how to create jobs”. Adam Nick was even more specific. His vision included the following -

“Establish a “Lake Forest Comes First” program whereby when all other things equal, the business that is located in Lake Forest is awarded the contract assuming a qualified contractor is available in the city and they have submitted a proposal for consideration.”

Getting this done will not be so difficult. I suggest that the City ask the Chamber of Commerce to set up a “working group” to work with the City on developing the nuts and bolts of such a program. Their mission: To spend more of our money on people and businesses in our city. Do I hear a motion?

Dog Park

According to the Chinese, this is the “Year of the Snake”, but I’m inclined to think it’s the “Year of the Dog.” Last week the OC Register asked its viewers to indicate what they wanted from their cities in the new year. Though this isn’t a scientific poll, it does have some information worthy of note. Here’s what Lake Forest residents asked for


• Dog Park – 85 percent
• Humane animal shelter – 38 percent
• Improved traffic management – 23 percent

In my previous article about dog parks, I noted that “Nearly half the cities in Orange County have their own dog park. Eight cities with fewer people than Lake Forest nonetheless have a dog park.”

Most of the people running in the last election favored a dog park. Our new City Council member Dwight Robinson even mentioned a dog park in his comments upon taking office.

Let’s go ahead and establish a “working group” under the Parks and Recreation Commission to study the issue and report back, within three months, on the best way to proceed. I’ve already outlined my idea for “pocket parks” which I think is the best way to proceed, but let’s see what the new working group comes up with. Do I hear a motion?

Summary

Here are some steps the new Council can take to address the challenges we all acknowledge are waiting for solutions.


1. Make Local Government More Transparent
2. Help solve the traffic problems by setting up a Traffic Commission or a “Working Group on Traffic” within the Planning Commission
3. Introduce Term Limits
4. Help local businesses by setting up a “Lake Forest Comes First” program in coordination with the Chamber of Commerce.
5. Set up a “Working Group to Establish Dog Park(s)” within the Parks and Recreation committee. 

These are old problems that have been out there for decades. Let's move forward and put them behind us.

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.

JustUs January 11, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Thank you, Jim. Your list is a good start. And we appreciate the fact that you are quoting our new elected officials and holding their feet to the fire. You need to stay on them until they ACT. Words mean nothing. I would also like to add that our Council officials should PUBLICLY DISCLOSE prior to any Council vote whether they have taken any considerations or contributions from parties that could benefit from their vote before they say "yea" or "ney". The Council members should come to such an agreement and make this declaration to start off the New Year. This should be announced at the next meeting. It would not take an ordinance. It would just be a short resolution to the public that our Council would disclose their financial supporters prior to voting on a matter than involves those sources of the support. And if a Council member disagrees, he could opt out but we would want to know the reason for his/her exclusion. I don't think that's asking too much. And it could happen right away. Why wait?
Jim Gardner January 11, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Hi JustUs, Glad you noticed that I quoted from the newly elected council members. I could have added quotes from the people who lost, because on most of these issues there was almost unanimous agreement. But to some extent I wanted to keep the fire at the feet of the guys who make the votes. This is what they promised. So now deliver! I neglected to do this with Voigts and you can see what we got. I couldn't agree more with the idea that council members tell us before they vote on an issue whether or not they have pocketed any campaign contributions. This is party of the transparency measures I asked for at the last Council meeting and wrote about in a previous blog.
JustUs January 11, 2013 at 08:32 PM
I don't agree with you 100% of the time, Jim. But I must say that of all the Patch columns I like yours the best. You do not tiptoe around issues. You hit them head on. Many people are so wishy-washy that it's really hard to nail them down. Not with you. I don't have to try and read between the lines in most instances. If I do and I ask you to explain, you never run away and hide. That is why I like you so much. And that I why I so value your column. Now that the 2 new guys have their seats I would be very surprised if you acknowledge your requests. After all, these are 4 year terms. And now that they have purchased their seats it is a LONG TIME before they must run for reelection. So I personally think they will ignore you. Now I've been wrong before. And I may be wrong this time. But I think there is only a 10%-15% chance I could be in error. We shall see. With regard to disclosing any contributions accepted that IN ANY WAY may be related to a voting issue - that could take place immediately through a simple resolution voted on by the Council. It would be a simple PLEDGE to the citizens basically stating "I will publicly disclose at the Council meetings IMMEDIATELY PRIOR to any of my votes whether I took money or other consideration from an individual or from a group of people or from a corporation that could be impacted POSITIVELY or even NEGATIVELY from my subsequent vote on an agenda item". Very simple, Jim. Easy. They could do it NEXT meeting.
Jim Gardner January 11, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Yes they could. But Herzog and Voigts are very big accepting money from people and businesses that come before the Council, so I doubt they will go along. McCullough does occasionally, despite the fact that she tells people that she doesn't. Robinson also takes an occasional buck from contractors with the City. The only truly "honest" person is Nick who financed his campaign almost solely with his own money. So it would take a BIG dose of INTEGRITY for such a motion to pass, and I'm not convinced it will happen yet. Bear in mind that what they do is not illegal, and is not uncommon practice for politicians. So what is the incentive for them to do the right thing, especially when elections have been shown to be directly the result of how much money you spend. So why would you spend $50,000 (or more) of your own money for a job that pays $6000 a year? It's better to spend $50,000 of other people's money instead of your own. But who has friends who will give you $50,000 so that you can get elected? Few people. So that leaves the vested interests who have MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to be gained by electing people who will vote in their favor. For these vested interests, a few thousand dollars are just the "cost of doing business" and they can write off their controutions as business expenses. The recent scandal with Wal Mart in Mexico might help change this process, but I doubt whether the people involved will change it from inside, although we can hope.
JustUs January 11, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Ah Jim, it's the old game of politics. You know very well how the game is played. You didn't have the bucks so you lost the election. There was no one on that panel at the Candidate's Forum who understood better the scams in city government and who was willing to disclose it publicly. All the rest of them know about it too. But the game rules state "do not bite the hand that feeds you", so the rest of them shut up and go along with the scam. That's politics, Jim. You know it. So do I. "Consent of the governed" is a total farce. It's a play on words. Meaningless. We know that, sir. The best you can do is expose them. Does that mean that they will not be reelected. Not at all. They will probably get reelected anyway because of the flaws we have in our system. But just the FACT that they KNOW that YOU KNOW and that some of the rest of us KNOW makes them a little more hesitant to stick their hands in the cookie jar out if fear of being caught. The more scrutiny, the better. So what you are doing is VERY worthwhile. You make a HUGE difference, even if it just means that they have to look over their shoulders. And you're right. It makes no sense taking a job that pays $6k a year that you must invest $40k or $50k to retain. Any businessman knows better than that. We know why they take the job, Jim. hah! The WalMart scandal will make no difference. The ones who make the laws make the difference. The fix is in to stay, my friend.
Dennis Fletcher January 11, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Transparency....its all about Transparency. The more that columns like Gardner's exist, and people like JustUs call a spade a spade, the closer we just might get to it. Attending City Council meetings on a regular basis as citizen watch dogs wouldn't hurt either.
JustUs January 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Thanks, Dennis. I am glad you are on our side.
Dennis Fletcher January 13, 2013 at 09:49 AM
Definitely on your side JustUs. The more we participate in City Council matters, the better it will be for understanding how our city is being run.
Omolu January 14, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Hi Dr Gardner. Thanks again for another great article. Of the 5 things you list, do you have a priority order in mind? Here is my preference 1. Transparency 2. Dog park 3. Lake Forest First 4. Traffic 5. Term limits
Jim Gardner January 14, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Hi Omalu, Good question. If I had to separate my own needs from what I think the greater needs of the community are, my list for the city would be - 1. Transparency 2. Lake Forest First 3. Traffic 4. Dog Park 5. Term Limits For me personally, since I am retired and have 2 dogs, my list would be 1. Dog park 2. Lake Forest First 3. Traffic 4. Transparency 5. Term limits I think term limits has less importance now that we have seen 2 long time council members defeated and another retired. In the "old days" council members had the joint advantage of name recognition and money since they were funded by special interest groups. But now that "outside" money is making such a difference, sitting council members no longer have a monetary advantage, and thanks to The Patch and increased media scrutiny, name recognition now cuts both ways. At this point term limits is more symbolic than necessary.

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