At the Tuesday, October 15, Lake Forest City Council meeting, Councilman Peter Herzog unexpectedly announced his resignation effective immediately. Unfortunately, the video from that meeting has not yet gone online. A Councilman since 1994, Herzog issued a scathing letter of resignation that blasted the Council majority, according to the OC Political blog.
Herzog was elected to his first term on the Lake Forest City Council in November of 1994. He was then selected as Mayor for 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011, according to his city bio.
Herzog was driving with a blood-alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit when he was arrested outside his Lake Forest home on November 17, 2012, according to the O.C. Register. According to the complaint, Herzog, 57, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.18 percent. The legal limit in California is 0.08 percent.
Here is Herzog’s letter of resignation:
To the People of Lake Forest:
You have given me the honor of serving you these past nineteen years as your City Councilmember. This privilege has allowed me to work with so many of you to create the special quality of life we enjoy here in Lake Forest. In the past, numerous achievements were accomplished in this City because the community was the focus of the City Council. For over 20 years, this community has been run by its active residents who have spent a tremendous amount of their time to literally create the City, and then make it a better community. You have been Lake Forest. But, you are no longer.
Tragically, over the last 10 months, the City government has been turned upside down, and the people are secondary at best to the political interests of three councilmembers. Mayor Voigts and Councilmembers Nick and Robinson have decided the new course of the City is to replace solid public policy based on facts, with politics. They appoint their friends to the City Commissions over those duly qualified, and put their own self-interests above the will of the people.
The instances of this behavior are too numerous to set out here, so I will provide just a few examples. First, is the land rezoning fiasco in Foothill Ranch for two developers; Brookfield and Trumark. These two developers laundered $65,000 through two PACS so their names would not be on the flood of campaign fliers that came out. Plus, they donated an additional $13,550 directly to candidates for a total of $78,550, effectively buying the last election.
Spending far more than double what any candidate in Lake Forest had EVER spent, these two developers became the largest campaign spenders in the history of our City. The impact was immediate. Within 25 minutes of being sworn in Robinson got the projects put on the City Council agenda. Then, the two developers requested a study be cancelled that City staff indicated would have answered “a key question” about the proposals. Robinson, Nick and Voigts could hardly move fast enough to do as instructed by the developers and cancelled the necessary study against city staff’s advice. Then, without any outreach to you, the community, and despite the objections of numerous Lake Forest residents who publicly spoke in opposition to the projects, Voigts, Robinson and Nick voted to shove homes into the middle of an area surrounded by commercial developments. Over 4,000 voters have already indicated their objection to what was done. Money, PAC’s laundering money from outsiders, and politics have overruled the people.
The impact of money, PACS and politics also creates a concern for the business community. Robinson, Nick and Voigts claim to be “pro-business” and “business friendly”. Yet, by rezoning the property they voted to throw out four successful businesses because their building will have to be torn down for the Trumark project. Elite Automotive, for example, is owned by Lake Forest residents. They opened three years ago, and have grown at an astonishing rate and now employ 23 people, some of whom live in Lake Forest. They had made a long term commitment to lake Forest, and their current facility would allow them to continue growing. Not only does Elite Automotive bring in tax dollars to the City, a large number of their customers are Lake Forest residents, and the City of Lake Forest uses them to maintain the City vehicles. The owners are a perfect example of the entrepreneurial American dream. The thanks they get are to be thrown out to make room for someone who does not even own the property and has no stake in Lake Forest. It is clear that “pro-business” now means “pro-donor” in the City of Lake Forest.
Cronyism is now driving appointments made by the City Council, not the goal of choosing the best qualified people. The Planning Commission is the most glaring example. We had a very respected and highly functioning Planning Commission that was praised by both developers and the public. Quite an achievement. Yet, Robinson, Nick and Voigts proceeded to replace three Planning Commissioners with less qualified individuals who have connections to them. Newly appoointed Commissioner Brower worked for Robinson’s Long Beach based company in 2012, was paid a small amount to help in Voigts’ election, and posted on Facebook during the Planning Commission interviews that “I count 3 of the 5 council members amongst my friends”.
In appointing another Planning Commissioner, Voigts voted for one highly qualified woman in the first round and then changed his vote in the second round to someone less qualified. When asked why, his response was “I don’t know’. Nick explained his vote by saying “I want commission members who are an extension of me, who think like me.” Robinson also wanted someone who is “going to fit with my philosophy.” I believe the government should be an extension of the people, should think like the people, not the other way around. A resident said it best; “This entire episode stinks of politlcs and partisan game playing.”
Probably the most alarming change is we now have councilmembers who show open disdain for people who speak on agenda items or under Public Comments. A resident and long time volunteer who spoke was called “disingenuous” by Nick. The public has been told that speaking to their City Council “is not productive”; that it is “wasting everybody’s time.” Nick has also said the public may be “cowardly” in coming and speaking to the City Council. Councilmembers have openly questioned the honesty and character of members of the public. Furthermore, on two recent projects, residents views were treated as irrelevant because they did not live within a 1/4 mile of the project. As you can see, your views are no longer important.
These few examples, and there are more, give you a clear indication of how your City is being handled by Voigts, Robinson and Nick. I have done everything in my capacity as a Councilmember to try to bring reason and logic back into Council decisions, and return your City government back to you, but, it is now painfully obvious Voigts, Nick and Robinson will not allow that to happen. So, I must agree with the resident who said he could not sit “here watching people make a mockery out of our democratic process and messing up a city that I love.”
Therefore, I am resigning as a City Councilmember effective immediately so I can rejoin you, and serve you by standing with you. I have seen the people of this City achieve great things. You created the July 4th parade and make it happen each year, you came together to fight and kill an international airport from being built in our backyard, you were key to the successful renovation of EI Toro Road, you designed the upcoming sports park, and the list goes on. I do believe you, the people, can take back your city. I believe you can restore this community to its citizens by rising up and fighting to make sure the era of outside influence, laundered campaign money and politics comes to an end. And, the sooner the better!
It has been an honor and a privilege to have served you on the City Council. Your support and assistance over the years is something I shall always remember and cherish. I look forward to the future efforts to restore the city government of Lake Forest to you, the people.