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Campaign 2012 - Part 4 (Put Lake Forest First)

Will you Put Lake Forest First when you vote?

For 20 years our City Council has been bogged down by petty squabbles among the Council members. Threats of restraining orders, ethical code violations, etc. turned up and almost every session was accompanied by bickering. It’s probably one of the key reasons neighboring cities have achieved much more than we have. Most everyone else has


• Synchronized traffic lights
• Senior center
• Dog parks
• Access to a no kill animal shelter
• A stadium for their high school
• Sufficient sports parks
• A city hall

To date we have none of these, nor is there a likelihood of most of these appearing in the near future. Had the City Council members not be spending their energies fighting among themselves, perhaps we would have better services.

Council members McCullough and Rudolph had been the minority for 18 of those 20 years, but in 2010 Scott Voigts set a new Lake Forest campaign spending record and defeated Richard Dixon, causing a shake-up in the council.

At first, Peter Herzog, the long reigning “Prince” to Dixon’s “King”, welcomed Voigts, but it wasn’t long before Voigts and Herzog clashed. Several news articles chronicled these spats, and pretty soon Voigts aligned himself with McCullough and Rudolph and a new reign began at the City. The first fruit of the new alignment was the appointment of McCullough as Mayor, a post she held only twice under the 18 year Herzog regime. And Voigts appointed himself Mayor Pro Tem.

Out of power, Herzog found himself on the wrong end of 3-2 decisions for the first time. To compound his woes, his junior partner, Mark Tettemer, decided to move on after 8 years in the Council, so Herzog, once the Prince, looked like becoming the Pauper. Accustomed to the taste and the trappings of power, Herzog recruited two allies to run for the 2 upcoming Council seats. He nurtured them, tutored them, attended their fund raisers, gave them advice, and even gave them money.

The people who endorsed him, endorsed them. With these two allies on the Council, Herzog would once more be in power.

But Scott Voigts was aware of Herzog’s plans, and in the middle of all of this, he had a falling out with Rudolph,  and his 3-2 majority was in danger. So Voigts got his own allies to run. His former campaign manager, Dwight Robinson, and one of his major campaign contributors, Adam Nick, soon appeared on the candidate list. With Robinson and Nick on his side, Voigts would keep the power.

Voigts’ backers, the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, had made it their mission to capture control of every level of the political process. They are busy at work at City Councils, and at the State and Federal levels, backing their candidates and attacking with a fury, those who oppose them. In Lake Forest we’ve seen, for the first time, attack ads. What makes them even more unusual, is that they are attack ads on fellow Republicans. Voigts and his backers are so determined to get their allies on the Council, they will pull out all the stops. One of their fellow conspirators calls it “purging”. Quite frankly you have to admire their conviction and determination, even if you don’t like their tactics.

So we have a struggle between the old guard, represented by Herzog who is trying to get Anderson and Zechmeister on board, and the new Turks, Voigts who is trying to get Nick and Robinson on board. Both Herzog and Voigts hope to gain the 3-2 edge so that their brand of politics can control the future of Lake Forest.

The two groups differ on several issues. Herzog represents the status quo. He thinks he’s done a great job for the past 20 years and he’s happy to see it continue just the way it is. He doesn’t care that other cities have done a much better job delivering services to their citizens, he’s happy that we are solvent and that every year we make a little more progress. Anderson and Zechmeister go along with most of the things Herzog says. They have few positions that differ substantially from his.

The Voigts people are less happy with the way things are. Nick especially wants us to do a better job in a host of areas so numerous I can only ask you to go to his website. Robinson is less concerned with issues. He’s busy gathering endorsements and posting pictures of his family, but it you corner him, he will give you a list of the things he’s unhappy with, but it’s much less extensive than Nick’s list, and apparently he thinks there’s a lot the City can do about what happens in the Schools (there isn’t) and this is one of his chief areas of concern.

At the end of the day, the high school/soap opera carrying ons in the campaign and on the Council do not serve the interests of the people of Lake Forest who get the chance to vote for 5 independent voices, not two social groups. Decisions about the future of Lake Forest should not be made in the living rooms of Peter Herzog or Scott Voigts. They should be made in the Council chambers and they should be made in the best interests of the City.

Powerful forces are aligned with the Herzog and Voigts clans. Voigts has the extreme right wing of the Republican Party on his side and they launched three attack ads (to date) for Nick and Robinson. Herzog has the developers and the Sheriff and Supervisors on his side, and they have been busy endorsing his choices – the Andermeister twins. We just got an insight into their thinking from a post yesterday from one of their chief supporters, Margie Matsil, who spoke about the rest of us as “outsiders” and “invaders” (After being flamed by several posters, she deleted her post so you’ve been spared the pain of reading it).

Lake Forest doesn’t need any more partisan bickering. We don’t need powerful forces outside our City trying to shape what we do. Developers who live elsewhere want to flood our City with new homes. The Sheriff who lives elsewhere wants to build a maximum security prison. We want people on our City council who have no allegiance to the developers, or the Sheriff, or the Supervisors. The only allegiances a City Council member should have is their allegiance to you.

When you vote, vote for someone who will put you first. Vote for someone who will Put Lake Forest First.

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.

Lionel M. November 05, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Dr. Gardner I am voting for you and only for you. Here's why I won't vote for the others - RUDOLPH - you gotta be kidding! NICK - sued the city, spent too much money trying to buy the election, signs are littering the city ROBINSON - paid $38,000 penalty for lying to the US Govt is not a good thing, and then refused to explain himself ANDERSON - we don't need a Herzog clone, isn't he a city official and isn't he putting his signs illegally on city property? ZECHMEISTER - another Herzog clone. No to puppets! CARREL - doesn't really have any positions I can find. Doesn't even have a website. I know there are 2 seats open, but you're the only one who meets my standards so I will only vote for you. Thank for your blogs about Lake Forest. They are extremely educational
Andromeda November 05, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Very nice analysis. Without your information none of us would be aware of the inside workings of city hall and how all the pieces of the political puzzle fit together on a local level. This should be mandatory reading for all Lake Forest voters who intend to cast a ballot for the City Council. The bottom line is that we need average citizens (butchers, bakers and candlestick makers) on the City Council making decisions based on what's best for the citizens instead of what's best for their puppet masters and handlers. No politician should be beholden to a special interest of any sort. For instance, who in their right mind would claim that putting a maximum security prison in the middle of Lake Forest neighborhoods would be good for our residents? Preposterous. Anybody who believes this is acting in our best interests has a screw loose. That should be obvious to any casual observer. But I agree. We must eliminate the little social and political cliques on our Council. When a council member is beholden to a special interest or to a political clique when he/she enters his/her vote then he/she is not serving or acting in the best interests of those who elected him/her. Period.
Jim Gardner November 05, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Thanks Lionel. I know you were skeptical at first and asked me (and the others) some probing questions. I'm glad that you took the time to investigate me (and the others) and, of course, I'm glad you came to the conclusion you came to. I'll do my best to live up to your confidence and if I drop the ball I'm sure we'll all read about it here. In fact, I'm going to plan on a weekly column about what's going on inside the City from the perspective of a Councilman, and open the whole thing up to participation by everyone. I hope to make arrangements with The Patch to do some opinion polling as well. More about that after the election. Again, thanks for the vote, and thanks especially for the exclusive vote. This is, after all, a contest and the 2 people with the most votes wins, so I'd hate to think you gave a vote to one of my opponents and then I got beat by a single vote.
Mike F November 05, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Dear Mr. Gardner, You have been running advertisements for your candidacy for weeks and weeks. How much in advertising cost have you paid Patch? This latest advertisement is more of a hit piece than you condemn others for. Your ideas for Lake Forest are proposed big government for Lake Forest. Lake Forest was the economy class of cities when it became a city twenty years ago. Peter Hezog was one of those that led the crippling of the El Toro big time airport. Lake Forest is continuimg to become one of the better Orange County cities if not one of the better California cities - and not because of the wealth of the residents. The reason is in making the family the emphasis of the city. Whether they are the elected candidates, Terry Anderson and Dwight Robinson have shown this emphasis. The problem I have with some of the candidates is that they are for bureaucrats running the city rather than the elected city council.
Jim Gardner November 05, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Thanks Andromeda We agree that allowing special interests to have a seat at the table is not in the best interests of our City.
Jim Gardner November 05, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Hi Mike, I have a small advertisement that has been running for about 6 weeks and it cost me $150. The Patch advertisements by Zechmeister, Nick, and Carrell are much more expensive. Your comment that Lake Forest is "one of the better California cities" reminds me of the myth that Peter Herzog and others perpetrated on our citizens for the past decade - that we were "one of the safest cities in the U.S." when in fact we have more crime than most of our neighbors. We are not even one of the safest cities in South County, much less the U.S. Read my blogs and you'll see the data. I don't know why you say we are "one of the better cities" when we are without all those amenities that others have (I didn't even complete the list). What are the criteria you are using, apart from your own feelings. My point, repeated over and over again, is that we can be better, much better. Until we recognize our shortcomings, this will not be possible. If we stop patting ourselves on the back long enough to look around and see how much more other cities have, we should aspire to have these things for ourselves and enrich our lives and the lives of our families.
Informed Citizen November 05, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Jim you clearly have an extremely poor opinion of the city, perhaps you should move.
Jim Gardner November 05, 2012 at 10:21 PM
We could do better than we have done. If you believe we've done a "great" job and the fact that we don't have synchronized traffic lights, sufficient sports fields, a true senior center, a dog park, a city hall, a no-kill animal shelter, etc. even while almost everyone else around here has one is your definition of a "great" job, then you're welcome to your own world. If you think we're doing a "great" job when our crime rate is higher than almost every city around us, you need to tell us what your definition of "great" is. I know there are some people who are satisfied with the job that the City Council has done. They have much lower expectations that I do. I believe with the same resources (staff, budget, infrastructure) we could be doing a much better job.
Jim Gardner November 05, 2012 at 10:29 PM
When my daughter came home with C's, we asked her to try harder. I didn't disown her. When my son came home with B's, I told him we expected him to do better. I didn't kick him out. Somewhere along the way we ended up with kids who made the Dean's List, completed college, got good jobs, and are raising families and asking their children to strive to do better. Asking someone to do better is a sign of love, not disdain. It shows concern, not indifference.

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