By sheer luck and some third-hand communications, I learned of a hastily arranged meeting of the Wildomar Parks Subcommittee - called for with little or no normal public notice - mid-morning on the Saturday before Christmas!
Not exactly an opportune time as most people were busy with holiday plans and family commitments!
Such haste is really reasonable only when dealing with a true emergency, and it is certainly questionable for the start-up meeting of a new committee to define its purpose and the qualifications for selecting its members.
While this meeting was supposedly called with 24-hour advance notice, it seems the agenda and meeting information failed to get posted to the City’s website or sent out to people who had specifically signed up with the City for such notifications.
However, I’m told the meeting information was distributed widely to Bridgette Moore’s “friends” using her personal Facebook account.
This raises serious questions about the propriety of providing crucial City information to a select group of citizens while withholding it from the general public. Something which must be addressed promptly in the new year!
The numerous apologies and dubious excuses for this snafu, offered to the handful of meeting attendees, only served to reinforce suspicions that there was a deliberate attempt to exclude public participation – not exactly a trust building action by subcommittee members, Bridgette Moore and Marsha Swanson. It smacks of the back room dealing Wildomar is so often plagued with!
This is not a good beginning for fulfilling the City’s election promises of transparency and rigorous fiscal management of the new parks tax revenue or the selection of a truly representative Parks Oversight Committee.
The agenda, which had a lot of superfluous information, appeared to be laying the groundwork for selecting the members of the Parks Oversight Committee without first clearly defining the committee’s purpose and duties which normally dictate the qualifications for its members.
Wildomar's incoming city manager, Gary Nordquist, who has a strong financial background, helped identify the normal areas of concern for any oversight committee. However, there seemed to be considerable resistance on the part of councilmembers Moore and Swanson to make these functions the focus of the new committee.
We may be headed down the well-traveled Wildomar path of selecting committee members who are little more than diehard supporters of the council’s wishes and personal surrogates or cronies of councilmembers. This is what happened with the failed Parks Blue Ribbon Committee, and if that is the case, we can expect to end up with little or none of the true fiscal oversight promised to voters.
Of special concern is the proposed borrowing of funds from the City’s reserves to selectively refurbish and reopen the City’s parks ahead of receiving revenue from the Measure “Z” tax. These reserved funds are customarily set aside for true, unanticipated emergencies which the City could face at any time.
I emphasize the word “selectively” with regard to plans for reopening parks after hearing that pocket-sized Windsong park, which requires little more than refreshing the landscaping and unlocking the gates to reopen, may be delayed until July. It seems the priority will be getting Marna O’Brien back in shape for the highly politicized Eggstravaganza event already scheduled for March.
As usual, politics seem to have set irrational priorities even before any preliminary presentation of plans to the full Council.
While I was happy to hear the City is finally planning to pay long overdue refund claims from the original, illegal parks assessment, I find it appalling they are thinking of using borrowed or Measure “Z” funds to do so. The meeting agenda contained an outrageously inflated cost figure of $180,000.00 to meet this refund obligation. Sounds like they are planning to develop a fat budget for this which could be used with little oversight…or another discretionary Wildomar slush fund?
The County long since settled their half of these claims with only a small percentage of that amount, and they have also done all the work associated with noticing claimants and collecting refund requests. The reluctance to use this existing data appears to be yet one more blatant delaying tactic in paying the refunds.
For the overwhelming number of parks supporters who put their faith in the City’s campaign promises and worked tirelessly to achieve the supermajority required to pass Measure “Z”, these actions should send up serious warning signs of potential mismanagement.
You might be tempted to ask why can’t the City use some of the funds freed up by the departure of Frank Oviedo on December 31st - instead of borrowing money and increasing Wildomar’s already unacceptable level of indebtedness?
Bridgette Moore and John Lloyd have already broadcasted on their Facebook accounts that the applications for the Parks Oversight Committee will be available on January 2nd...once again failing to utilize the City's website.
So it appears Moore and Swanson with an assist from Lloyd (who currently has no official position with the city) intend to move forward without first presenting their plans to the full city council at a properly agendized public meeting or getting appropriate approval for a boat load of expenditures even before a funding source can be established.
Surprised? I’m not and I doubt the other 3230 people who voted NO on Measure “Z” will be either. We are undoubtedly in for more of the usual manipulation and subterfuge from our infamous city council with regard to the management of our parks.
Those voters who ardently campaigned for this new parks tax should shoulder the responsibility of seeing that the revenue is spent fairly and wisely, and that the parks are planned to serve the whole community.