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Posts Tagged ‘Allan Pilger’

Mission Viejo residents donated 10,000 pounds of food—five tons—for the National Letter Carriers Food Drive on May 9. I got this total from no better source than my own carrier, who was proud of the accomplishment.

The US Postal Service, postmasters and carriers worked extra hard, and the general public also responded equally to the increased need for donations in the recession. The sponsoring Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County collected about 300,000 pounds of food through the mail carriers—150 tons. That was 60,000 pounds more than the prior year, a 20-percent increase. Based on population, Mission Viejo’s contribution was right on target with the county haul.

With the recession and high gas prices affecting everyone, people were more generous in realizing that the working poor, seniors on fixed income and the unemployed middle class were in greater need than every for food. The Register frequently reported on this growing need coupled with declining receipt of overstock from grocery stores, food manufacturers and government surplus.

While the federal government is expanding its social net, the American public replied loudly and clearly on May 9, “We can take care of our own.”

For the last year I have been one of thousands of volunteers at Second Harvest, which supports 400 civic and religious organizations that distribute the food directly to the needy. For more information, go to www.feedoc.org.

Allan Pilger

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The very idea of towering brick kiosks planned for the Oso Creek Trail brings to mind other fiascos in the past 15 years or so of big, secret government in the City of Mission Viejo.

I’ve listed my favorite fiascos below and ask Dispatch readers to select one of these, or perhaps something I missed, and write a brief reason for your vote. I would like to get a clear-cut winner from among fiascos of the current MacLean-Ury-Kelley (MUKsters) regime or the regime it succeeded.

The term “regime” is not used lightly. Each project was a waste of taxpayer dollars in foolish, expensive plans concocted virtually without public input. So here goes in somewhat chronological order:

The Potocki Center. Several million in tax dollars were wasted with a building originally designed as the training center for the US Soccer Team to bring big-spending soccer fans into the city. The only tangible benefit I recall was a former mayor got his picture taken with Pele. The building was morphed into a sparsely used business conference center with tiny rooms. Old regime.

The Vigilantes. About $2 million was blown on a temporary baseball stadium at Saddleback College for the unaffiliated Vigilantes pro team. The team drew poorly and quietly left the city and unpaid vendors after two seasons. The grand plan was a $6 million permanent stadium with private boxes so corporations could entertain their clients with bush-league baseball and the human bowling ball performing between innings. Old regime.

The $6,000 Desk. Though the least costly of the fiascos, the former city manager and his mahogany desk and leather pad drew public outrage for arrogance. The desk was the crown jewel in the new city hall that still is perhaps the most lavish building in town. Old regime.

Easelgate. Another waste of tax money, perhaps the nuttiest idea of all was construction of wooden easels by a favored city contractor to display residents’ photos of local sites to celebrate the city’s 20th anniversary. The easels cluttered sidewalks and were viewed by few. Even worse, it turned out city staffers took most of the photos and the easels were dumped along a streambed. It led to a series of misleading public statements by city officials. New regime.

Community Center Veranda. Ten million dollars in cost overruns for the Community Center expansion included a sprawling veranda with private cabanas, waterfalls and designer furniture bolted down and later guarded to prevent theft. It’s been said that if you put together the city hall lobby and Murray Center veranda, you’d have the beginnings of a five-star hotel. New regime.

Rose Parade Float. Besides wasting about $400,000, the city regime ignored warnings that you can’t lug a big pool of water along Colorado Blvd. After downgrades, Mission Viejo’s Olympic champions were limited to cannonballing into a half-filled trough. While proclaiming success, the city quietly succumbed to public outrage and declined an offer to enter a float in the next Rose Parade. New regime.

Crown Valley Porkway. With millions in cost overruns and years of delay, the expansion of Crown Valley Parkway is near completion. Residents are horrified at the sight of specimen palm trees and imposing kiosks jammed into narrow medians. On the plus side, city officials acknowledged the region’s history as a cattle ranch with retaining walls the color of fresh cow dung. New regime.

The Iron Tree. The ranch history lives on but the city wasted money by ditching the mission bells city logo in favor of an iron tree design that looks like a medieval torture device. The California Promise slogan was replaced with “Life is worth living,” or something like that. New regime.

Kiosk Towers. More public outrage has forced the city to reconsider the proposed construction of towering informational kiosks along the Oso Creek Trail. Residents object to detracting from nature, but consider also how the city would have to provide stepladders for visitors to read flora descriptions posted at the top of the kiosks. New regime.

So these are my candidates for the City of Mission Viejo’s biggest fiasco. One thing for sure the MacLean-Ury-Kelley regime has out-classed the regime it replaced in both the frequency and scope of its fiascos.

So let’s see your choices. Send your comments.

Allan Pilger

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An Initiative to allow voter approval for major land-use changes in Mission Viejo, which has been cleared for a future ballot, is looking better and better as a way to apply some basic marketing sense to property development.

The latest report on Orange County retail vacancies show strip malls catering to everyday consumer needs are suffering in the recession less than half as much as “specialty” centers with upscale stores like boutiques that rely on discretionary spending. That’s an unsurprising trend throughout the economy.

The Register reported April 22 that real estate broker CB Richard Ellis found “specialty” centers in Orange County had the highest vacancy rate (10.4 percent) and strip malls had the lowest rate (4.4 percent). Vacancies are climbing countywide.

With public outrage mounting, Mission Viejo Council members Lance MacLean, Trish Kelly and Frank Ury couldn’t run fast enough from their proposal to convert the strip malls at La Paz and Marguerite into specialty centers with apartments on top of upscale stores and restaurants. However, I could not get a clear answer from the planning commission or staff on whether the project is dead. This unhealthy limbo would be resolved by a public vote.

As I understand it, the Right to Vote Initiative would allow orderly development under existing zoning which preserves the city master plan for a low-density residential community, putting businesses offering everyday goods and services close by.

Allan Pilger

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I’ve been curious why Mission Viejo City Council members Lance MacLean, Frank Ury and Trish Kelley (M-U-K) continue with the public illusion that the city is flush with cash. Surrounding cities, Irvine the latest, have announced cost cutting measures to overcome revenue shortfalls in the recession.

The reason for the subterfuge became clear when the council approved a $325,000 project to install four bricked kiosks and other signs along the Oso Creek Trail. Funds come from a $285,000 federal grant and $40,000 in city funds. Cash is virtually falling out of city pockets with such extravagance that detracts from a natural environment – a bad idea even in boom years.

Activist Larry Gilbert points to the two-edged sword of waste when federal pork is compounded with city funds, but the big-spenders in city hall say the city should take advantage of handouts from Washington. This reasoning turned three million in federal grants into a $15 million expansion that transformed the Norman P. Murray Center into a resort complete with cabanas and waterfalls on the expansive veranda. 

Meanwhile the Dispatch is documenting how city reserves are dwindling while sales tax revenue in Mission Viejo is down 14 percent and reserves shrink. The MUK majority condemns these revelations, but the Dispatch uses quarterly reports from the state.

Allan Pilger

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The media stepped up coverage of itself big-time this week, with the closing of venerable daily newspapers in Seattle and Denver, as TV talking heads and newspaper columnists warned of the day community blogs replace newspapers as government watchdogs.

 It is already happening in Mission Viejo and the rest of the real world-and city halls are running for cover everywhere.

LA Times columnist James Rainey tells only half of the story (Cutbacks at newspapers open the door to more political tricks (Mar. 20). He quotes a combination of unnamed sources and ivory-tower observers like himself on how newspaper investigative coverage has fallen since seasoned reporters were replaced by newbies in the newsroom. The Times’ published my following letter responding to that column:

   ” In another attempt to portray dying newspapers as victims of the internet, economy, fickle readers and community blogs, columnist James Rainey makes startling admissions of poor decision-making by newspaper publishers.

   They laid off higher-salaried investigative reporters and replaced them with neophytes “easily bamboozled” by political operatives. If investigative reporting is the service Internet competitors can’t match up with, as Rainey attests, why get rid of the top reporters?

   Any business survives on its niche-what it can do better than any competitor.

A multi-million dollar newspaper would have other places to trim first.

  Maybe it’s too late. Newspapers are surrendering their niche to the Internet. Community blogs, in particular, publish free contributions from residents with real-world backgrounds in business and finance who don’t like to see their tax dollars wasted by city councils.”

Meanwhile the Register announced another round of staff layoffs and furloughs this week. The published letter in the Times deleted my comment that the only real savings in replacing  top reporters with greenhorns is the difference between salaries at the top and bottom of the pay scale, not the entire salary.

Meanwhile, at the Mar. 16 city council meetings, Council members Frank Ury and Lance MacLean repeatedly felt compelled to pointed out, in a discussion about a school closing, how the city is in sound financial condition. They were reacting to community blog articles documenting how the city continues spending more money than it takes in.

Allan Pilger

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Allan Pilger and his conservative friends are defending Cathy Schlicht, the newest Mission Viejo City Council member, for trying to reverse the city’s big-government agenda. We are Smokey and the Bandit, the lovable liberal dogs in Allan’s household. We still like her a lot, but we’re wondering whether we should take back our endorsement of Cathy in the last election.

Cathy, we thought you would be like other council members campaigning as fiscal conservatives and then giving in to big spending, making friends with consultants and contractors who feed at the public trough. You’ve been on the job for about three months and haven’t dreamed up one public-information project for Roger Faubel yet.

You have the audacity to actually uphold your campaign promises by calling for transparency, efficiency and common sense. These are dangerous conservative buzzwords like infrastructure. The people of Mission Viejo elected you to spend money and decide, among other things, which developers and land speculators get to cash in on high-density development. And they will throw some campaign cash your way. 

Then Monday night you suggested eliminating two of the five police officers assigned to the schools and having the Saddleback Unified School District use the savings to keep open an award-winning neighborhood school. That would turn the safest city into an urban war zone, according to the council majority.

They’re right. Without all five officers the Crips and Bloods would have taken over Mission Viejo schools a long time ago. The Diablos would have had to change their names to Graffitis. Besides, school officers are preventing burglaries and other neighborhood crimes. You can hear Officer Friendly now, “Boys and girls, you don’t need to break into homes for electronic gadgets and money. Just hit your parents up for it. Everybody in Mission Viejo is loaded.”

Thankfully the MUKsters (MacLean, Ury and Kelley) are rejecting every one of your conservative proposals. Honestly, though, Cathy, we secretly admire how you are hanging in there and not letting the pit bulls in city hall get to you.

Respectfully submitted, Smokey and the Bandit

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Readers of online MV publications are keeping up on events at Mission Viejo City Hall and taking their concerns to council members. As a result the overriding theme of the March 2 council meeting was “Thanks, but no thanks.”

First, City Manager Dennis Wilberg reported he will notify the Tournament of Roses Committee that the city will decline an invitation to field a float in the 2010 parade. Thanks, but no thanks. The city tried to ballyhoo the $360,000 float as a taxpayer investment in community spirit. But community outrage overcame hype from city hall and the Orange County Register about the supposed success of the project.

That March 2 City Council meeting was also used by Council members Frank Ury and Lance MacLean trying to refute blog articles.

They appeared to contradict Council Member Trish Kelley. She attempted at the prior council meeting to expose “False statements running rampant, that the council wants to bulldoze the shopping center (at La Paz and Marguerite) and build any kind of housing on top of businesses, are scare tactics. “We all said thanks but no thanks” (upon receiving an Urban Land Institute report on mixed-use development),” she said. 

“Thanks, but no thanks,” certainly indicates both a council decision against the report, and conveying a decision to ULI or the property owners. Ury and MacLean said the city never took such a vote, but merely received and filed the report. Kelley happened to be absent that night.

 If the bloggers had been making these “false statements” for about two years, why wait until now to try to refute them? Kelley also said any renovation plans would be very hard to coordinate with 13 different property owners within the center. Maybe it was the property owners who said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to URI’s social engineering.

By another Ury comment, the city essentially is saying “Thanks, but no thanks” to proposed high-density development of the Casta Del Sol Golf Course. The blogs, though, have been reporting that an extended moratorium on development of open land can be overturned with a majority council vote should the economy improve.

Finally, Ury once again tried to assure the community the city is on sound financial ground with healthy reserves, comparing favorably to other California cities. But first San Juan Capistrano and now Rancho Santa Margarita have acknowledged deficits and are cutting costs to stay in balance. Quarterly financials published in the Dispatch show Mission Viejo continues to spend more than it takes in, like saying “thanks, but no thanks” to fiscal discipline.

Allan Pilger

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