Initiatives and Voting Record

Since I took office in Dec 2012, in working with my colleagues on the Council, I have been able to introduce and/or help pass several initiatives while working on a backlog of matters that I inherited from the Council Members previous to me.  However, much more could have been accomplished that would have made Lake Forest government a better, taxpayer-oriented government and Lake Forest a better city for its residents only if the allegiance of most of the other Council members had been to you, the resident, not to big money, real estate developers, special interests, County Board of Supervisors, and Sacramento politicians.  Here in America, we live in a democracy.  So, YOU, the voter, have the power to affect change in government – meaningful change.  PLEASE learn what you may not know and help educate those friends and neighbors of yours who care to know the facts – the truth. Let us not vote based on disingenuous handshakes, fake smiles, lies, and half-truths.  Let us vote smart.  You may verify the accuracy of any and all voting history that you see here with the Records Office at the City Hall.

Click here to get immediately to a summary presentation of Adam’s 2013 & 2014 Introduced Initiatives that were voted down by Dwight Robinson and Scott Voigts (shown further below).

In the two calendars years of 2013 and 2014, Lake Forest has ranked as one of the safer cities but I am confident we can even do better.  The City adopted balanced budgets in each of the last two fiscal years with surpluses, and budgets proved to be accurate.  The Proposed Fiscal Year 2015-16 Budget is balanced as well and has an $800,000 surplus.  As of the last audited financials (Year ended June 30, 2014), unreserved fund balance in the General Fund (105% of total General Fund revenues) falls well above the reserve policy set by the City Council for planning and budgetary purposes.

In the two calendars years of 2013 and 2014, no new litigation emerged.  In other words, we just continued cleaning up after the doings of previous Councils.

To cite a few measures that were introduced in 2013-2014 year, please read below (the items with an asterisk are measures introduced by me and passed by Council majority; otherwise the matter has been brought up in the normal course of business and passed unanimously):

*Open Government – To facilitate the public’s access to all information, the City’s website now includes a new “Open Government” section organized around the theme of open and transparent government.  The revamp of the City’s web site:

  • Today, we have a user-friendly web site offering many functions and an array of information that previously was not available is now not only available but also readily accessible.

  • These range from financial information such as payments and reimbursements to Council Members and City employees’ salaries and benefits to nonfinancial information such as the City Halls’ receiving, processing, and grating of waivers of any kind to grant a special privilege to the grantee such as rezoning land for real estate developers or issuing waivers to alcohol retailers in areas that are legally defined by State law as “unduly saturated”.

  • The public can view budget and financial statements, including the newly created “Budget at a Glance” brochure that provides simple, easy to read highlights of the Operating Budget.

  • Council Travel Expense Reports are also posted online. Campaign disclosure records for Council Members are now available online, as well as access to Statements of Economic Interests (i.e., Form 700) for Council Members, Commissioners, City attorneys and staff.

  • The Lake Forest Records Online (lakeforestrecords.com) database continues to grow with approximately 80,000 records now available. In the Planning and Development section of the website, a list of current planning projects and recent decisions, along with staff contact information for each, continues to be updated monthly.  To increase awareness of Bid and Proposal opportunities, a prominent icon is now featured on the City’s homepage to increase awareness of the City’s procurement activities.

*The curtailment of Council Members’ expenses:  Payments & Reimbursement to Council Members by taxpayers’ dollars have been restricted.  Many types of expenses are now ineligible for payment or reimbursement.  Of those expenses that are eligible, mandatory compliance with Federal guidelines and limits and requiring actual receipts are in effect now (I still consider some of these expenses too “personal”, and as such not reimbursable, but my Co-Council would not help me pass more restrict a version).

*The requirement that any tax or rate increase by the Council must be approved by a super majority (4 of 5), rather than a simple majority of Council Members (3 of 5).

In 2013 and 2014:

  • Nearly 300 new businesses have been added to Lake Forest creating nearly 2,000 new jobs.

  • The unemployment in Lake Forest is about 3%, lower than the rest of the Orange County, and much lower than the state’s and nation’s.

  • The occupancy in our commercial buildings is in the 90 percentile, significantly higher than OC’s average.

  • The addition of a new Sheriff’s Department Substation increased efficiency equal to savings of nearly $300,000.00 annually.

  • Over 80% of our traffic signals have been synchronized and hundreds of our ramps have become handicap-accessible. We will not rest on this until 100% of our lights are synced and every single ramp provides such accessibility.

The permitting and construction of our first dog park is underway.

Unfortunately, those previous to me did not have the vision to secure and purchase a building in over twenty years since we became a City while collecting from you and me ¾ of one billions dollars in taxes:

  • Altogether, the City Hall occupies about 10,000 square feet of the space in the building where the City Hall is housed. Accordingly, with the millions of taxpayers’ dollars gone to rent expense over the past 20+ years, with some foresight and proper planning, we could have purchased a suitable building, perhaps tenfold.

  • However, take comfort in knowing that, as compared to when I took office, we now pay more than a quarter of a million dollars less for the rent of the same building where the City Hall is housed currently and has been for many years now. Today, we are paying annually below $1,000,000 compared to $1,300,000 we paid before FOR RENTING THE SAME BUILDING AND FACILITIES.

  • Further, today, plans are underway for us to build a multi-function City Hall housing among other things, Community, Senior, & Youth Centers. The project was going through permitting and design on about nine acres of land we acquired from Irvine Ranch Water District several years ago (i.e. before my time), however, we suffered a setback for there were found some geological watershed drainage issues with the land.  The issues are being rectified through and with the help form the proper agencies but at this point it is safe to say that in the end not all of land will be usable, unlike conveyed to the City at the time (only eight acres will be usable).

Notwithstanding the progress we have made in the last two years, we continue to have a broken and corrupt system at the City Hall plagued with influences of special interest, cronyism, and self-serving agendas.

To fight corruption and eliminate such influences and practices, make your City government transparent, and City Hall public-friendly, in 2013 & 2014, I worked hard and introduced the following measures but I lost on each one and my loss was 1 to 4 (see footnotes please).  Two of the four Council Members who voted down these measures remain on the Council today (Council Member Voigts and Robinson).  Judge for yourself whether or not Lake Forest as a community and Lake Forest City Hall as a government would been better off with my measures.

Adam
Nick
Dwight
Robinson
Scott
Voigts
Fate of the
Initiative or Measure
2013-2014 Nick’s, Robinson’s, and Voigts’ Voting Record**
Lake Forest City Council Members
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Create and place on the 2014 Ballot for voters to decide on adopting a comprehensive,robust Code of Ethics for Council members
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
In light of the defeat of the above initiative, adopt (by the Council itself) a comprehensive,robust Code of Ethics for Council members
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Adopt Campaign Finance Regulations and limit corporations’ ability to contribute money to Council members (to fight corruption at the Council level and eliminate quid-pro-quo)
 
 
 
 
Adopt a Sunshine Ordinance to:
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
• Require City government to be transparent
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
• Require lobbyists to register to stop the back-room deals and the Lobbyists’ Registry be available for public viewing
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Require Council members to disclose their private meetings with those who are presently conducting business with the City Hall and those who are wanting to conduct business with the City Hall
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Require Council Members to disclose campaign contributions from companies and vested interests before voting on and awarding contracts and waivers
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
• Require City Council to notify the public two-weeks in advance, rather than 72 hours, any upcoming item on the Agenda to be discussed either privately or publicly
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
• Require and enact an anti-nepotism ban to avoid favoritism and giving special treatment or unfair advantages to a person or group at the City Hall or on the City Council
YES²
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Place on 2014 Ballot REAL term limits (two 4-year terms lifetime)
YES³
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
The Mayor to be elected by the voters (as opposed to selected by Council members, which practice has been and remains to be plagued with politics ever since cityhood in 1991)

 

YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
To place items on the Agenda for Public Discussion ONLY two members consenting is adequate (Not three of the five-member Council).  Requiring a majority to consent for a matter to be voted on enables the majority to circumvent the intent of the State law by NOT allowing any given matter the majority chooses to come to a public vote.
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Establish a Traffic Commission to encourage citizen participation and help alleviate traffic congestion
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Establish a Nonprofit Community Foundation
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Provide Tax Relief for ***Lake Forest Residents and Businesses
YES¹
NO
NO
FAILED/DEFEATED
Reduce Administrative Fees at the City Hall for ***Lake Forest residents
¹ denotes that the initiative was introduced by Councilman Adam Nick
² denotes that the initiative was introduced by Councilman Peter Herzog
³ denotes that the initiative was introduced by Councilwoman Kathryn McCullough
** Source: City Hall Records Office
*** References to Lake Forest herein includes Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills

Click Here: A Glance at the 2015 City Council in Gridlock due to Special Interests and a Voting Bloc

Code of Ethics for Council Members

We need a robust and comprehensive code of ethics for Lake Forest City Council Members.  I want to get special interest money out of our City government.  As you see, I introduced a measure to be placed on the 2014 ballot for your approval but, as you see above, the measure was voted down by the other four Council members and thus never made it to the ballot.

My Solution

There is no doubt that Reform is needed, and I think the Council must take the issue directly to you, the voters.  Government must be transparent, lobbyists must be required to register to stop backroom deals, and Council Members must be required to disclose meetings they have with companies who do business with the City or like to start doing business with the City.

Term Limits

The current ordinance allowing the same person to serve in the same office for 24 years out of a 26-year span does not achieve what the intent of term limits is.

When the same person can serve in the same office for 24 years out of a 26-year span, where is the limit?

Politicians have a tendency to grow more corrupt as they spend more time in office.  Some blame this on the legislative environment, while others simply cite basic human weakness and the tendency of people to succumb to temptation if they are exposed for too long.  Term limits are often seen as one potential solution for this problem.

With REAL term limits, nobody sees becoming an elected representative as a viable lifetime career choice, leading to more people who get into politics for noble reasons instead of a simple desire for power.

It is common for politicians to jockey for advantage instead of voting based on their real beliefs.  For example, a political leader might decide to oppose a plan even though he knows it could help people simply because it was proposed by someone from the other side of the political spectrum, and voting for it might make it seem like he is siding with a political enemy.  By reducing the constant concerns about being reelected, REAL term limits could potentially reduce this kind of political gamesmanship.

REAL Term limits would also result in a constant influx of new people bringing new concepts and philosophies to the table, which is an important advantage.

My Solution

Simple, two four-year terms in a lifetime.

Election of Mayor

Currently the Council elects the Mayor from among their colleagues.  This practice has always been plagued with dirty politics and cronyism.

My Solution

Enact a City ordinance to allow the direct election of the Mayor by the voters.

Agenda Items

Currently the law only requires a 72-hour notice for an item to be discussed either publicly or in closed session.  Most people are too busy to check city council agendas. This does not mean they do not care but they may not be aware of an issue important to them until after the vote has already taken place.

Citizens are being shut out of having their concerns considered by the council by the requirement that a majority of the council must vote to have something place on the agenda.

My Solution

Require a two-week advanced public notice of agenda items.  This will allow time for concerned citizens to spread the word and adjust their busy lives to have time and opportunity to participate in the process.