Last time we looked at the impact of political cronyism on the performance of the City of Lake Forest Planning Commission (PC), following the coup d’état engineered by then Mayor Scott Voigts when he was joined at the dais in 2012 by newly elected Dwight Robinson and Adam Nick. As reported, the performance of the once well-regarded PC deteriorated in almost every respect – since Voigts’ apostles took over the PC it is doing less, taking more time to do it, and costing the City more. Even worse, some of their decisions are so poorly considered that they literally risk the future health and well being of the 80,000 people who call Lake Forest home.
Today our focus is on the City’s only other commission – Parks and Recreation (PRC). As with their companion Commission, the PRC enjoyed a good reputation prior to Voigts’ reign. Several years earlier the PRC began an aggressive re-model of the City’s parks, making them more attractive and usable. They planned an enormous 87 acre Sports Park that will open its doors in the next few months, and they helped organize an active recreation program that provides activities and courses for thousands of residents. If that weren’t sufficient cause for praise, they had a 20+ year tradition of putting on a great 4th of July Parade. So what have they been up to since Voigts’ appointees joined the PRC?
During 2013 the PRC had two new major tasks assigned to them by the Council – find a location for a dog park and solve the problem of the excess urine and feces that makes Village Pond Park nearly uninhabitable for humans.
Nationwide, dog parks are the fastest-growing segment of city parks. Nearly half the cities in Orange County have their own dog park. With the exception of Laguna Hills, virtually every city around Lake Forest has a dog park – Irvine, Mission Viejo, Laguna Woods, Rancho Santa Margarita, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, and Dana Point.
Though absent a place for 9,000 licensed dogs and their owners to socialize, Lake Forest is replete with parks – 30 in total with more than 200 acres – 18 of the 30 parks are greater than 4 acres, and 6 are greater than 10 acres. Add to this the dozens of acres of vacant City land and the hundreds of acres of vacant County land, plus the vacant private land and you’d think that a miniscule few acres for a dog park could be found. But, incredibly, the PRC spent a half year and came up with empty paws – no location for a park for the dogs and their owners could be found.
Village Pond Park
Historically Village Pond Park (VPP) was a nature preserve for water fowl, but over the years it has become more foul than fowl, with urine and feces from hundreds of ducks and geese that settled there. In early 2013 the Council set aside $30K for a plan to reduce the problems, but more than a year later, the $30K plan they paid for has yet to surface. In the meanwhile, a poor plan that violated the terms of the City’s contract was being circulated and completely ignored the problem of the oversupply of water fowl. The PRC described the plan as “excellent” but it was so inadequate that City officials have been working for months to make it merely acceptable.
How could a once proud and high achieving PRC be reduced to a comical version of itself? How is it possible to spend a year and not come up with a location for a dog park in a City thick with parks and other vacant land? How can a $30K plan to reduce the water fowl not have a single reference to reducing the water fowl?
The deterioration in the level of performance of the PRC parallels the problems reported earlier about the Planning Commission. Together they suggest that wanton political cronyism is as destructive today as it was 150 years ago.