Friday, December 19, 2014

• Marines Toys for Tots 2014

On Thursday, December 18th, there was a toy drive at the Terri and Steve Holladay home in Windsong Valley.

The Marines and Toys For Tots were on hand to collect toys for underprivileged kids.
A look early in the day.

Toys were being dropped off from early in the afternoon to well after dark. Out front there were donuts, popcorn, fresh spun cotton candy, coffee and hot chocolate for the visitors.

Terri Holladay and Joni Beckman flanked by some our Marines.

For those that wanted to stay longer, there were other goodies inside.

What an honor it was to share some tri tip chili, and conversation, with a few of the Marines. Even though I've only gone shooting a few times, I asked about their rifle and pistol qualification badges. I didn't understand the inside lingo, but did understand that the badges weren't handed out like candy. They had to earn them.

Another look as the twilight was ebbing into night.

The Toys will be distributed through Western Eagle, a non profit food bank in Temecula.

Joni Beckman (pronounced like "Johnny"), the donation coordinator for Western Eagle, was on hand to pick up the toys. She was telling me how they typically get over 5000 toys donated to them for distribution in this area.

I asked her how parents learn about Toys For Tots.

"Some of them find out when they go to the Toys For Tots website, some hear from word of mouth, or they got toys in past years from us. Toys For Tots has criteria that parents have to meet in order to participate."

So how would a family contact you to participate?

Most people email me. If you go through the Toys Fot Tots website, they have my email address (

A big thank you to Terri and Steve Holladay for opening their home and putting on this event.

I look forward to next year's toy drive at the Holladay house. They really have been putting a lot of effort into the community, and I'd like to see this event become bigger with each passing year. ☺

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Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. —Helen Keller

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

• Last City Council Meeting 2014

It started off fun when Mayor Marsha Swanson asked Mrs. Wildomar Rap, Grace Morabito, to lead the way in the pledge. Immediately I got a big cheshire cat grin since Grace was raised in Canada, and though she went through all the classes and became an American many years ago, she doesn't know the words by heart. (Just like none of us know the words to O Canada). ☺

She stammered for a moment then said, "Um, uh, he's going to do it" (pointing to me).

Only two items were on the agenda.

1.1 Subdivision between Laguna Road and Orange Street.

This was in front of the planning commission many months ago. Since the applicant had pretty much met all the requests of the neighboring properties, it sailed through 5-0. One resident, Ruth Turner, still was concerned that run off would affect her house,

I'm very concerned about the process of the drainage. The other developer tried to force all the water over on our side of the street. That's when it was the county. I had to go to the flood control —to the head guy. He said "what, they don't have a permit to do that."

I just want you guys to know that if it's the same developer I will be on him like I was when they built the houses directly across from me; which was on a daily basis.

I just want you to know that I'm going to be watching this project... and I'm old and I'm retired, so I've got the time to do it, and I will do it because I love Wildomar. I thought maybe becoming a city might help us... but the houses got put in under the county.

I also have a letter signed by one of the Supervisors saying that my house will never flood. So if I ever flood, we all have a big problem, and I've got that letter nice and secure in a safe place. That's my big concern, the flood issue and the water... and the traffic.

—Ruth Turner, Wildomar

I could tell that she just wants her property to be respected during the construction phase, as we all would. I'm still not to sure what kind of letter she has, or how it would really turn into the equivalent of one of Wonka's Golden Tickets if her home got flooded... let's just cross our fingers and hope she doesn't feel the need to whip out that document. My guess is that it isn't worth any more than the Publisher's Clearing House notice declaring a person to be a millionaire.

City Engineer Dan York added:

Maybe I can just bring closure to this. Public Works is working with Ms. Turner. She's got a low flow Arizona Crossing that's near her driveway. She's shared some of her concerns, and some of the things that have occurred downstream. We're passing that onto our code enforcement officer. It's something that has happened on private property.

As far as this development, there is nothing in this development that would impact the location of her house. (Speaking to her directly) You're far enough away that this development will not impact you. We very carefully reviewed all the engineering on this.

Since I'm a big proponent in Occam's Razor, I went up to Dan York after the meeting and asked him some basic questions.

Q: Is the concern about natural water, like rain, or if a neighbor leaves a hose on?
A: (a look that represented "Are you serious"?)
Q: If it's rain, isn't the same rain already coming down now, and how are ten houses going to cause more runoff than already occurs?

There are issues in the area with drainage, but it seems to be on private property, and where people have backfilled some ditches/culverts and now the water isn't going where it was planned. Time for a visit from Keith Ross, Wildomar's code enforcement officer.

1.2 Bids for Almond Street sidewalk.

Since the project was within 400 feet of Ben Benoit's home, he recused himself while the discussion went on.

The sidewalk is going on the west side of the street. They've already started coordinating with the high school and and other projects that are on Bundy.

It passed easily 4-0.

Final comments went to Council Member Bridgette Moore:
I just wanted to say real quick, this is Marsha's last meeting as mayor, (turning to her) you did a great job this year. Congratulations.

To which she said, "Thank you", then adjourned the meeting.

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That really is my trademark. Day to day, week in, week out. If something happens and the crowd roars, I shut up. —Vin Scully

Saturday, December 13, 2014

• Breakfast With Santa 2014

This was the 13th annual Breakfast With Santa in Wildomar. 

Despite it being quite rainy in the days leading up to this event, it was a beautiful morning, without a hint of rain in the sky, and perfect temps.

The volunteers started getting to the station before the sun even had come up, prepping the fire station for a crowd of locals. Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon or sausage, and juice or coffee. 
Rotary Club members Andy Morris, Gary Brown and Judy Gugliemana getting a bit of cooking practice in before the rush.

WRCOG was there with a Christmas lights exchange (give them two old,
working strands of lights, and they were giving out new LED 100 light strands).
 I made sure I got my two boxes of lights, as Stewart Moore looks on.

Janet (pronounced Janette) Morales and Rita (I didn't get the last name), city staffers manning the cash desk.

Mayor Pro-Tem Ben Benoit serving up some eggs to his daughter Abby.

A look at the station with the cars from Back to the Future, and Knight Rider on display.

One of the emergency response vehicles was out on display with a cornucopia of gadgets and doodads for all to see. 

Andrew Latham wheeling and dealing, at the Hot Chocolate booth, with Council Member Bridgette Moore.
No "Breakfast With Santa" would be complete without the first couple of the Arctic Circle.

Here is a group shot of the volunteers that made today's event possible.
Also present was Wildomar Little League looking for players and other volunteers. In addition to the hot chocolate, Boy Scout troop 332 was selling Christmas greenery and mistletoe. Among the volunteers were the Mayor Marsha Swanson, the Mayor Pro-Tem Ben Benoit and the inimitable Council Member Bridgette Moore.

A representative of Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez was there, as was our County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, Council Member Tim Walker, City Manager Gary Nordquist, Planning Commissioners Gary Brown, Veronica Langworthy, Bobby Swann and EVMWD Director George Cambero. The only notable no show was Council Member Bob Cashman. The same guy that was asking to be the Mayor a few days ago, that never actually shows up to anything, including Thursday night's city dinner at the VFW (I'm still scratching my head on that disconnect).

I asked Janet Morales how many people were served today, and she told me that they had sold 346 breakfasts, with a gross of $1900. That bested last years participation by about 17% (289 breakfasts were purchased in 2013). The money is split between the city and the Rotary Club.

I wanted a few more details so I asked Bridgette Moore more about where the money goes.

Well for the city this event was part of the parks and recreation program.  It had a budgeted amount, but since we received many sponsors no city funds were used. The proceeds are split 50/50. City goes back into recreation and Rotary uses all fundraiser for programs such as Bicycle Safety.

Now for Boy Scouts, they were selling hot chocolate and mistletoe and greenery for their Outdoor Program.

I was there from about 7:15am through 11:00am and the tables were always filled with smiling families. Also, the line to get a picture taken never seemed to be empty and the two Hollywood cars were a big hit, even if the younger ones had no idea about their significance to us old people.

All in all, another terrific event for Wildomatinis of all ages, (or Wildomartians if you prefer). If you'd like to take a look at the blog about last year's event, here's the link.

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Uncle, there are many things which have made me happy. Things which have never fattened my purse by even that much. Christmas is one of these. 
—Scrooge's Nephew Fred, 
A Christmas Carol (1938 Movie)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

• City Council Meeting Dec 10, 2014 Recap

The meeting started with a special order of business, which included the swearing in of our re-elected council members,  Ben Benoit, Marsha Swanson and Tim Walker. Which also included a ten minute break for some cake.
The swearing in conducted by Janet Morales. The cake had already been cut before WR Photographer Grace could snap a pic.

There were a few more presentations before the we got to city business.
  • First was a moment of silence for Jim Heer. I knew him as the volunteer at the VFW on Steak Night. He would write up the order and take the money. 
  • Eagle Scout recognition for Adam Pereyra. His project was framing tiles made by Kindergartners from one of the local schools.
  • Girl Scout Silver Award Winner Ashley Fox got recognition for her Freedom Swing project.
  • Fire Chief Steve Beach was honored for his time as Wildomar's Fire Chief. He's been promoted and now will be serving outside of the area.

2.2 on the agenda was regarding a planning application for Cornerstone Church. 

This was covered in an earlier Planning Commission meeting. It was mostly the same information, just this time for the council to vote on. To read the previous blog on it, with more details, follow this link.

Council Member Bridgette Moore recused herself from voting on this issue since she is a member of the church. Though she doesn't get money from the church, and still could have sat in on the matter, she chose to remove all doubt about any potential "conflict of interest" claims that future litigants might want to suggest with her actions.

The vote to approve was 4-0.

Council Member Bob Cashman added his concerns about traffic on Monte Vista, and specifically the need for a signal light at Bundy Canyon and Monte Vista. "Somehow, I'd like to see if there's a way we can get that light up there... is there anyway that can happen?"

There was a lot of talk, but in the end, there is not going to be a traffic light installed on either end of Monte Vista at this point. So, it'll be business as usual for the locals. Meaning, stay away from Monte Vista on Sundays.

This project has already heard input from the same groups that like to sue over every other issue here... so it's not really worth mentioning here. Suffice to say, if we hadn't had to waste so much money defending all the frivolous lawsuits brought by the cranks, then there would be money enough to get that signal light off the back burner.

3.2 City Hall Facility Lease.

There were five options on the table. Four at the current location, the other was the Jean Hayman school.

We are currently paying just under $10K per month for 3824sf... but that is misleading since the center has been giving the city free use of the current city council chambers, which puts our space closer to 5000sf. The space was always free on the contingency that there were no paying customers interested in it. Now there are, so we have to decide what our next move will be.

The other option was taking over the Jean Hayman school to serve as our City's Headquarters. Sadly, the cons outweighed the pros here. First, the school district wants more than it's worth. Second, the buildings have sat around and have deteriorated to the point that it's been estimated to cost $1.4Mil to get 10,000sf up to standard condition.

The costs for the building ($15K per month) and the renovations ($13k per month) are flat out more than we can afford. That doesn't even include any maintenance or utilities. Oh, not to mention any seismic retrofitting the building would also need. It's a shame too, because renting really isn't something that a city should do, but when there are no viable options, you settle for second best.

There was also another idea bandied about... something about taking part of Marna O'Brien park and making it the city hall. This is another of those times that you need to consult the game show buzzer since the idea was that bad.

There was a bit of discussion about which lease option to go for, and it looked like option 2 might win out, but in the end, option 1 was adopted with a 5-0 vote.

3.3 Appointing Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem for 2015

Marsha Swanson nominated Ben Benoit to be Mayor. It was quickly seconded and seemed to pass 5-0. Then Tim Walker nominated Bridgette Moore to be Mayor Pro-Tem, which was seconded by Marsha Swanson.

Before the vote could be taken, Bob Cashman spoke up, "I would like a place... either as pro-tem or the mayor. Normally we've been rotating this from one person to another... somehow I seem to be missing out here... so I just thought I'd put in something for it."

The Mayor asked, "Is that a second nomination?"

To which Cashman responded, "I nominate myself."

The Mayor asked, "Is there a second?" After a moment, and a bit of chat about which post he was nominating himself for, Swanson again asked, "is there a second on the nomination?"

Even the crickets were silent as there was no second offered.

Before the motion could be nixed, Cashman spoke up, "I've been around here a long time, I think I should have some position here where I can be just a little more responsible for some things in the city."

The original nomination of Moore was still on the floor, and when the vote was asked for, she got a 5-0 approval.

After the vote, the 2015 Mayor to be, Ben Benoit said:

"Bob, I think you heard concern from Marsha last time, since she was in this seat when she made these comments, and I'll make the comments again. There have been training opportunities for you to go to —the League of Cities, where you can get more involvement, and get some more training on how to run a meeting.

I feel very strongly that all of us have taken the time to go and do that training, and have seen a lackluster approach from you for not only that training, but getting involved in the league of cities and other opportunities to go out with all of us [the other council members] and represent our city.

I also feel very strongly that unless it's an event that you're chairing, you don't show up to a lot of these events in the city. I think that others have made that concern well known and I'll make it well known again. We want to see more participation on those outside events that aren't directly related to groups you're involved with. Maybe get more involved and show that leadership role. We don't want you to think this is done out of spite, there's just some concerns that we have."

I'm sorry that Bob Cashman got upbraided, but he asked for it. In the short time I've been keeping a close eye on Wildomar politics, he's missed several meetings, and was at only a few citywide events out of dozens. Some people say that such participation isn't necessary, but they are the same ones that think the parks cost too much too.

In a place like Wildomar, to be a city official, you have to be a top stepper, a person that is very involved with the city and the activities here. If that isn't something you want to do, then don't run for city council in a small town.

Funny thing is, back in Spring he mentioned, from the dais, wanting to have regular meetings with the public, a "town hall" so to speak... "Coffee with a Councilman" or something like that. I haven't heard another word about it since.

*A top stepper is a person on a ball team that isn't a starting player, but is always on the top step of the dugout, shouting encouragement to those on the field.
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If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should not grow old. —James A. Garfield, 20th president of the USA

Saturday, December 6, 2014

• Christmas Tree Lane Wildomar Elks Style

I already told you about "The Original Christmas Tree Lane" that is being held at the Lake Elsinore outlet center. Tomorrow, Sunday December 7, the big drawing at 4:00pm... where you don't have to be present to win.

*<|:^) }      ←  gotta love Santa Claus emoticons →      *<|:-{)}

Today was another Christmas Tree Lane... this time at the Wildomar Elks Lodge. They had 9 trees valued at $1000 or more, with many being well over that amount. The idea is that you buy tickets, and then put them in the receptacle in front of the tree you most desire. For this fundraiser, the winners had to be present. So it added to the experience knowing you were going to see the winner's face.

There was "The Man Tree" that had tools and such. There was one tree with outdoor patio furniture. Another with barbecue things. More than one tree had more toys than an entire nursery school could use. Then there was the favorite, and last to be drawn, the money tree with $1000 cash tied to it.

As the numbers were being called.

There were so many people that overflow parking had to be used with people carted in (brought over in a golf cart). I ended up parking the Rap-Mobile, a 1970 powder blue VW Bug, on the dirt and braved the muddy no man's land to get to the event. Once inside I was greeted with a full house. Wall to wall people enjoying the afternoon and the anticipation of the coming drawing.

It was nice to see many familiar faces inside, and there was a nice menu of things for those that wanted some lunch there too. I went around the room, taking pictures of the various trees, and I learned one thing above all others. I need a better camera for indoor shots.

This is a charity event and I wanted to learn some details so I went up to the past Exalted Ruler of the Lake Elsinore/Wildomar Elks Lodge, Larry Hannon, the man that conducted the drawing today, and asked him if he wouldn't mind telling me some of the specifics of the fund raiser/event.

—What the fund raiser is about—

We're very proud of our Elks Scholarship program which starts at the local level. We've just done Christmas Tree Lane for the tenth consecutive year, in our lodge, and past years we've donated money to graduating high school seniors. We have money available for apprentice programs for people that aren't going for a four year degree.

In addition to the money they win here, six of our young applicants, three male and three female, will be submitted to the district where they will be judged. There are twelve lodges in this district, the district competition will then forward a certain number to the state competition. At the state competition, they can win more scholarship money.

The next step is in Chicago, where the applications are forwarded to, and Elks National Foundation Scholarship  individuals Review and then have a judging for those winners. The top young man and young woman, of that competition, will each win $15,000 per year for four years —a total of $60,000 for their education.

In a addition to that, there is money awarded for second, third, fourth and fifth place. There is more than a million dollars given away by Elks Lodges in the United States every year, to help our youth achieve the best capabilities that they can, for the rest of their adult life.

It's our honor and privilege, to be able to do that type of program for our community.

— Larry Hannon,  past Exalted Ruler of the Lake Elsinore/Wildomar Elks Lodge

Also in attendance was one of the best Mr. & Mrs. Claus I've seen in a long time. I have a feeling that if I had a better camera, Mrs. Claus wouldn't look like she'd been making frequent trips to the punch bowl.
If I ever end up living in the arctic circle, I hope to be as happy as this couple.
Part of today's festivities were the Boy Scout Troup 332. They were there to help the winners get their prizes into their autos. One of the winners were so pleased with their help that they peeled off a $20 tip to the troop. The scouts also helped stack chairs and clean up the hall after it was over.

The preliminary figures for todays fundraising event is $11,700 raised for the scholarships. Way to go Wildomar!

☺ ☺ ☺

If you missed today's Christmas Tree Lane, there is still another chance to get out and participate. Tomorrow head down to the one at the outlet mall. Here's the link to the info for that fundraising event. Click this link.

Also, you can always mark your calendar for next year's Elks Lodge event. They'll be doing it again next year too.

Oh, please tell me that you've marked your calendar for next Saturday morning. It's Wildomar's annual Breakfast with Santa at the fire station. Take a look at last years blog to get a peek at what to expect. Here's the link.

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“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” 
Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

• Planning Commission Meeting Recap

It was a shorter meeting than most. Probably because there were no public comments, and no comments on any of the agenda items either. So let's go down the agenda.

2.1 Revised parcel map for Wildomar Square Retail Center. 

The revision was to take it from six approved parcels to eleven. It passed 5-0. After the meeting I asked Assistant City Manager Dan York about rough time tables for this project. What I got from it, don't expect much movement before the second quarter of next year. 

I asked when commerce might be happening there... and I could see that there wasn't really any definitive answers that could be given since there are so many variables between now and then. So I tackled it this way. 

I asked, "Do you think any of the stores will be opened before Hillary is sworn into office?" (that one always gets the funniest looks) If all goes well, then we'll be able to add that to the list of retail areas sometime in 2016... I think (my words, not Dan's).

3.1 and 3.2 were Back To School topics. A study session on "Conditions of Approval" and a study session on "Running an Efficient and Orderly Meeting"

My two pull quotes were these.

As Mark Teague was detailing Conditions of Approval I liked his quip that went something like, "If you can't measure it, it's not real".  Examples of requiring a contractor to "make it pretty" or "respect the surrounding areas" were used to illustrate the point. In other words, if you want to set conditions on a project, be specific.

The other quote came from Assistant City Attorney Erica Vega as she was giving her primer on Running an Efficient and Orderly Meeting. 

It dealt with the point of public comments. 

[About] engaging in back and forth with the people that speak during public hearings. That's a matter of commission preferences. I work with other commissions where they do not really respond to public comments at all, besides with a "thank you for your comments" then moving on.

You might have a clarification question, that's perfectly acceptable, that's up to you —the level of back and forth you want to have. However, I would advise not to engage in debate with public commenters.

The purpose of the public hearing is for the public to air their concerns to the commission, not for the commission to question the public as to why they feel the way they feel. Clarification questions [to the public speaker] are perfectly appropriate. However I wouldn't engage in wholesale, tearing down of people who may have opposing viewpoints.

—Assistant City Attorney Erica Vega

Seems pretty basic to me. The public has concerns, so they speak them to the commission (or the City Council). It's not that our representatives don't want to hear our viewpoints, they do. It's just that at a city meeting it isn't the place to expect debate or the same type of conversation you'd have with them at other venues.

3.3 Election of New Planning Commission Officers.

This went rather smoothly... especially compared to last year when the choices weren't unanimous. It started with Chairman Stan Smith nominating Vice Chair Veronica Langworthy to be the Chairman for 2015. That was approved without discussion 5-0.

Next was the nomination for Vice Chair. Gary Brown nominated Bobby Swann for the seat, quickly seconded by Dan Bidwell... but before the vote could be taken, Langworthy said she wanted to nominate Gary Brown. Before the tempest in the teapot could boil, commissioner Brown declined the post. The vote was fun to watch though. On paper it was 5-0, but one of those yes votes sounded more like... "well, if you're going to twist my arm... I'll vote aye" after a two second pregnant pause.

This is where my aspie senses betray me. I can't tell if it's just innocent banter up there, or if there's something deeper. I just know that one liners go back and forth that seem a bit chippy at times... but I guess that's what politics are all about.

Now this is where I whip out my crystal ball. Let's talk about the 2016 City Council elections for a second. Unless something unforeseen occurs, there will only be one seat up for grabs in 23 months. I say that because the only way Bridgette Moore won't get another term is if she declines to run. That leaves one seat that is currently held by Bob Cashman.

I haven't heard that he will run again or not. By then he'll be in his mid 70s and I'd hope we'd be prepping a statue (or a plaque) in his honor for all his past service to the city. If not, I see a storm a-brewin' with a crowded field of qualified candidates. Among them, I predict you'll see Bobby Swann, Veronica Langworthy and Gary Brown.

Such a prediction is as bold as predicting that New Years will come a week after Christmas, but just the same... you heard it hear first.

From the Planning Director's Report.

The Oak Creek lawsuit settled (sorry, no details were given out). After a year and a half in the courts, the project is finally going forward after some minor changes. Expect it to be in front of the planning commission in February.

Also, due to the holidays, the Jan 7, 2015 Planning Commission meeting is cancelled, but there will be a meeting on January 21, 2015 instead. Watch your email for the agenda. If you aren't signed up at the city's website, follow this link to stay connected with city events.

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