Saturday, February 21, 2015

• Let There Be Lights: Windsong Park

The parks opened last Spring and the fence was to remain up at Windsong until lights and security cameras were installed. For some reason, the fence came down about four months before the lights went in, and the cameras are still not installed. A lot of the delay has to do with the poles that the lights sit atop of.

Still, if I were to put my 20/20 hindsight goggles on, I'd say that the fence should have come down on day one if it wasn't going to be timed with the installation of the lights and camera.

The poles went up rather quickly once the footings were poured. These two photos were taken just hours before the lights shone for the first time later that evening.

The camera is the next step. I was told that it will be going on the pole that's the most southern of the three. (The one nearest Monty's house) ☺

I was asking one of the workmen about it and he said they've had many lookiloos watching the progress. Many were hoping for motion sensor lights, or even dimmer lights (funny since they hadn't been on to know about their brightness up to that point). Other's though LED lights would be the way since they don't use as much energy to light.
Now the only thing left to deal with is the ridiculous mess left by the companies that needed to drive heavy equipment, on wet fields, as they were cleaning up the aftermath of the snows we had back at the first of the year.

These heavy scars are deep furrows and it sure seems to me that they would be easier to fix sooner than later. Why wait for the ground to revert back to baked adobe before remedying it?

I know that we have a small parks staff, but this kind of thing should be being taken care of by those that did it, and on their dime too. In the meantime it'll be an obstacle course for those out there kicking a ball around.

While you're at it, how about putting the bolder blockade back in place so that no one can go 4x4ing after hours, in the glow of the new lights? ☺

•      •      • 

There were these two wonderful young people, Jane & Michael. And they meet one day on the street, and Jane says to Michael, "I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith." And Michael said, "Really? What's the name of his other leg?". —Mr. George Banks (Mar Poppins)

Friday, February 20, 2015

• Special Council Meeting: Ken Calvert

This afternoon there was a special council meeting to host our US Representative Ken Calvert.

There was no real agenda, more of a question and answer visit with the congressman.

Ken Calvert of Drought.
"In this region, in all the west, we have a drought, a historic drought along the Colorado River and up into the Delta. It's true we're having a difficult period right now, and unless God bails us out here pretty soon I would not be surprised if we have some mandatory rationing coming down the pike."

Ummm... no offense, but can we see if there are any non-divine solutions while we're at it?

Mayor Pro-Tem Bridgette Moore brought up mail theft. Including thefts of entire cluster mailboxes. 

The congressman mentioned that this is a serious issue, that's going on all over the district and the state. "It's certainly a pain in the neck" speaking about the issue of mail theft.

I also liked his quote about how the post office is struggling, and "making their living on third class mail... junk mail... political mail..."

I didn't know there was a difference between Junk Mail and Political Mail.
— Can I get a rimshot please?

Marsha Swanson brought up the continued desire to unite all of Wildomar under ONE zip code. Currently, there are bits and pieces of the city that still have Lake Elsinore, Murrieta or Menifee as their return address. 

Mayor Ben Benoit asked about various grants that might be available.

He mentioned how the Clean Water Act has caused a significant impact to the state, where we now have to have permits for our waste water. Not sewage, but what goes into the storm drains. That fee five years ago was almost nothing, and now it's $150K per year that the city pays just to have storm drains.

Here's what I got out of Ken Calvert's response. He mentioned how the various agencies, such as the EPA (which is under his jurisdiction) have had their budgets cut back to 1989 funding levels. Now the various agencies are trying to bypass the appropriations process and go to a self funding process through fees. They're not supposed to do that, but they are.
"We need to legislate that to keep them from doing it."

Yes, great... so are you working on it or just talking about it?

Hey, you can always send another loser bill trying to repeal ObamaCare to the president for a veto... if you have nothing else going on. (Oh, I voted for Calvert, so I can say anything I want to about it.)

I liked the part where he spoke about a Transportation Bill. How they've been trying for years to pass one and hope to get one by the end of Summer. He said, "The problem is money... it all comes back to money." He went on to explain, "The problem we have is the gas tax revenue. The last gas tax hike was in 1980 when president Reagan pushed through the last gas tax increase..."


Sorry Mr. Calvert, but according to Wikipedia, the last gas tax raise occurred in 1993. Reagan raised it 15¢ over several years... that was in 1982. In 1980, Jimmy Carter was the president... but hey, that was eons ago, and there's no point in needlessly trying to make this a Brian Williams or a 57 states moment. ☺


"... there wasn't a COLA (cost of living adjustment) attached to it, so as the value of the dollar has diminished over the years, the amount of purchasing power of that tax has diminished, and since then also cars are getting much more efficient and some electric vehicles pay no gas tax at all. Which is not fair, but that's occurring. So we don't have enough money to pay for a substantial transportation bill to upgrade the freeways. So we need to have an additional bunch of cash to put in there, to do a five or six year transportation bill." 

Really? What do you call "An additional bunch of cash"
Where I came from, we always called such sources of government largess — TAXES.

He did mention that Rand Paul had come up with an idea where businesses with off shore "bunches of cash" can repatriate their money at a one time lower rate, and then dump that into the  Gas Tax Fund so they can put together a $500-$600B Transportation Bill. 

The total gas tax we Californians pay per gallon is 63.8¢ with 18.4¢ going to DC (24.4¢ for diesel). It's true that 18 cents doesn't spend like it did back when MTV was just coming to cable, but hey... we're Americans, and we'd rather drive on potholed roads than pay another nickel in any kind of tax.

Councilmember Moore then asked if there was anything he could do about getting our VLF funds restored to the city even though it's a state issue. His suggestion was to have our state reps attach the bill to something the governor really wants

[] Well, ok... I don't think anyone thought of that one before. I guess that comes from years of hardball inside the Beltway. [disengage sarcasm brackets here]

L to R:  Marsha Swanson, Ken Calvert, Ben Benoit, Bridgette Moore.

Councilmembers Tim Walker and Bob Cashman were absent. Cashman was in Germany.


There was a second part of the meeting.

It was about the need for additional storage that the city is need of.

The topic of city hall's building was brought up by the Mayor. He asked if the city still had an option to purchase the building. City manager Gary Nordquist said that the option to purchase is not in the lease, but there is a right of first refusal. 

We occupy 11,000 of the 22,000sf building, with the rest of the building being occupied. What a coup it would be to purchase the building, and then renting out the other portions as it currently is being done. 

Wildomar is NOT going away. So it's really shortsighted to think of renting as a long term plan. I'm glad that Mayor Benoit brought that topic up and the City Manager will be looking into the feasibility of it.

A new City Facilities Subcommittee was created and will be manned by Swanson and Benoit who volunteered for the posts.

•      •      • 

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. —Groucho Marx

Thursday, February 19, 2015

• Planning Commission Meeting: Sycamore Academy

A couple of things on tonight's agenda worth noting.

The long plagued Oak Creek Canyon project was hit with another last minute document dump. So the issue will be continued until April 1st, 2015.

Gary Andre spoke and wanted it known that he has "no problems" with the project, but... He went on to speak for 9 mins, with donated time, discussing the problems just the same. He was concerned about soils tests and repeated more than once that it "wasn't Bill Lo's problem... How do you build homes next to a sewage treatment plant? You wouldn't want to build homes on top of sewage and people getting sick."

Good points Gary. When did you first realize this was potentially the case? I'm guessing that you had your documents ready long before the day of the Planning Commission meeting... right?

So what was the point of doing another last minute Document Dump... other than that's the only card you people seem to have in your hand?

I liked how Chairman Veronica Langworthy worded it: As a commission, we'd appreciate a more timely opportunity to read the information, so if you can get it to us a little sooner, that would be lovely.

To which Andre said, "No Problem".

To which I whispered to my lovely wife, "Yeah right."

Item 2.2 Sycamore Academy
A room full of Scorpions! (It's the name of Sycamore Academy's mascot, and you can see it on the green jerseys.)

The school project was hit by it's own 275 page document dump, around 4:00pm, by Wildomar's own self proclaimed activist, Martha Bridges and pals. The comments were not provided during the 30 day public review period. The actual letter was 2 pages, with 273 pages of exhibits.

Mark Teague spoke about the letter.

Two main points. The first was about liquefaction and the second about fault lines. "We feel that the information here [in the letter] doesn't raise any new environmental issue, or does it cause any problem with the project."

There was then a presentation by the school principal Barbara Hale, about their school's program and mission statement, followed by a detailed powerpoint, by the architect, for the new project.
Artist rendering of what the future campus will look like from it's northernmost point on Palomar.

Aerial view of the campus. To the left, you see the edge of the grassy field area that will provide a play area.
A couple of interesting things I heard were that the school has a No Walk To School policy, and No Ride Your Bike either. I get that at its current location next to Baron's Market, but once it's at a real campus, I don't get it. I guess it's that I'm an old fashioned parent that's out of touch, because I had my kids ride their bikes, or walk, once they were old enough. My kids only got rides to school when it was actually raining.

The other thing that caught my attention was that the rules of a charter school are different than that of a typical public school. Sycamore Academy is attached to Ronald Reagan School and part of the District and open to all students without charge, but there are a ton of things that don't apply to them, that do apply to other schools such as the speed limit when children are present.

Sycamore is not "attached" to Ronald Reagan Elementary.

Though, according to the internet, it's full name is:

Ronald Reagan Charter School Alliance,Sycamore Academy Of Science and Cultural Arts 

It's not an automatic thing that the speed limits will be reduced. 

I have two thoughts on that one. First, the city council needs to take the necessary steps to have the speeds lowered while kids are present. Second, since kids won't be allowed to walk or ride bikes, it seems that they won't be "present" and so maybe lowering the speed isn't necessary. I'll leave that to the city engineer to hash out with the council members. ☺

There were two public comments of note. First was George Taylor, and he made several strong points in support of the project.

  • Win-Win for both the city and Sycamore Academy.
  • The school gets a place out in "the country", where it's quiet.
  • The city gets ready made office space, without having to go through the building process.
  • As far as the seismic thing is concerned, we are at the tail end of a fault, and maybe we should all pack up and leave tomorrow morning. (I read that as a forearm shiver to those that would bring such a silly thing up in these here parts.)

Everyone loves Debbie Downer!
Next up was Kenny Mayes, and probably due to the applause that George got for his comments, Kenny started off by declaring himself as Debbie Downer as he proceeded to say that the school has no business being built on Palomar Street.

Watch the video to see it in real time, along with some well placed sound effects.   Principal Hale comes back to rebut a comment about the property line "being manipulated to be shoehorned into a parcel" to avoid environmental factors. 

There were two speakers from the school, Hillary Martinez and 6th grader Taylor Bedley. There were also 101 comment slips filled out in favor of the project.
Taylor Bedley speaks in front of a full house as the Planning Commissioners give him their full attention.

What an exciting campus they have in mind. If I had kids that were the right age, I'd be looking to get them into this school.
This is a bundle of 400 letters from the students.
This looks to be a future heirloom that the school will want to get back I'm sure.
There was also a giant banner that they didn't get a chance to unfurl.

The vote went 4-0 to approve. The only potential hitch is whether the Last Minute 275 page Letter Writers want to pay the $964 filing fee for the privilege of further trying to hold up this project with an appeal. They have ten days. Which means they'll wait until 9 days and 23 hours have passed before dumping more documents.

Let's hope not, though I told one city staffer that "I'm going to mortgage my house and head to vegas, putting it all down on the Bridge-Burner to do what she always does..."
•      •      •

Last on the agenda was Westpark Promenade. It's still in the early stages, but it is another half commercial—half housing project. This has been discussed in the past, but has been revised a bit. This project is off of Clinton Keith Rd behind the USA gas station and abuts the I-15. 

In short, it includes 191 Townhomes, about 100,000sf of retail with two 8,000sf restaurants. It has a large anchor store and though a clothing or grocery store was mentioned, there are no commitments at this point. 

Commissioner Bobby Swann said, "You used the G word, and I think the worst thing we could do is put a grocery store there. I can't control what you do, but we're putting a Walmart one off ramp up, it's a Super Walmart, it's in essence a grocery store, and the existing grocery stores are going to have a [fiscal] problem with that."

Come on Bobby, we don't have a Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions or Gelson's yet... but I sure could go for a Winco myself.

There was a lot of wrangling about enough parking spaces for the condos, errr... I mean, Townhomes.

Had to love Langworthy's invocation of Little House on the Prairie again. Where you live above your own general store. Not sure how real that is in a wide open place like Wildomar, but it's good to have dreams.

The problem I see with this project is that the people that live off of Depasquale have an advanced case of the NIMBYs. They don't want ingress and egress going in and out of their neighborhood. 

Commissioner Stan Smith said it best on the topic, "That's what happens, you do a development, then the adjacent property gets developed. Then the residents that moved into the first development say 'Oh no, we don't want anything happening over here next to us.' So if you don't plan for it in advance you end up with this impact where you don't get adequate flow."

This project is still in the early phases, and there won't be much movement on it for months. Be sure to stay tuned.
•      •      •

The best of men cannot control their fate,
The good die early, the bad die late.
— Daniel Defoe

Thursday, February 12, 2015

• City Council Meeting Feb 11, 2015 Rap Up

It was an overflow crowd to hear about Walmart. I was able to horse trade my way to my usual seat, though it had been designated for the applicant (Walmart). It was a long meeting with many things on the agenda. Let's just go down the list as I highlight the memorable parts.

  • Library Update: There is an adult book club, the first book will be In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Mention of a Lego Club and a Crochet Club. A Summer Reading Club is in the works slated to start June 13th. Be sure to call the library for details (951) 471-3855
  • 2014 Mayor Marsha Swanson getting recognition as her name was added to the plaque of past mayors by 2015 Mayor Ben Benoit.
Hey guys, you need to look at Grace next time so she can get a better shot.

  • Recognition for two Wildomar Soccer teams. 
  • Boys U10 that made it to the "equivalent" of the Super Bowl.

    Girls U12 that won the "equivalent" of the Super Bowl. To see the full story, click here.

    • Fire Department update discussed that a recent rash of fires had no correlation.
    This is where non agenda item public comments came in. There were three public speakers.
    • George Taylor speaking about the condition of Bundy Canyon Rd.
    • Kenny Mayes speaking about parks, drainage and roadways in town that aren't up to snuff.
    • Steve Urane speaking about the crazy traffic and terrible conditions on Lost Road.
    Agenda Item 2.0 Walmart
    It was basically the same presentation that was put in front of the planning commission a couple of weeks back. To see the write up, and the full video if you'd like, check out the blog that covered it by following this link.

    There were many public speakers on the matter. Most were in favor of Walmart, though there were only two that spoke against it.

    Miss Miller and Kenny Mayes.

    Miss Miller brought her A-Game tonight so I thought she deserved to be seen in real time on video. No trick edits here, just her as the good lord intended... Au naturel.

    Meryl Streep... move over, there's a new Drama Queen on the rise.

    From my count, there were 42 speaker slips. Though to be fair, that number was aided by a little bit of Walmart thumb on the scale action. You see, just before the meeting they held a rally of sorts at a local Pizza place, and they were giving out buttons showing support, and urged people to fill out speaker slips in support of the project. Of the 39 in support, only about 10 spoke.

    The proponents touted the jobs, the convenience, the affordability, less pollution since Wildomar residents won't need to drive as far to shop.

    The opponents mentioned traffic concerns, Autumnwood, and the city falling on Walmart's sword in desperation only to bleed when the changing face of retail causes the sales tax to be collected elsewhere by goods purchased by citizens of Wildomar.

    Next were the Council Comments of the matter.

    The comments that stood out for me came from Council Member Bob Cashman and Mayor Ben Benoit.

    Cashman wanted to know about the traffic around the project, particularly on Monte Vista to Baxter.
    "You have to assume that trucks and cars are going to want to go to Walmart." 

    Charlene So, Walmart traffic consultant, mentioned,
    "The traffic study does identify that there are future needs to widen the roads. Which includes signals along Baxter Road at Monte Vista and future [I-15] interchange improvements, but the project itself doesn't generate the need for those improvements."

    Cashman came back with, 
    "Future impacts???" said with the vigor of three question marks, "As soon as you build the thing you're going to have impact. I don't think we have to wait for the future to see how a flock of Walmart shoppers —which I think there will be— have to leave Walmart and go someplace and they're going to go down that road [Monte Vista]. 
    He ended by saying he has no "Intrinsic" objections to Walmart.

    Mayor Benoit's thoughts on the Monte Vista/Baxter intersection.
    My big concern is Monte Vista and Baxter, and the signalization of that. I know it's only a 24% [responsibility] share [of yours] according to the traffic report. I know it's off the site, but I was wondering if there was any way possible that Walmart might look forward to helping our community out by developing that, then getting their share back as other developments come in.

    Other interesting points from the council included:
    • Marsha Swanson mentioned not having to drive to other communities, giving them our money and our tax dollars. Services like having your eyes checked in town.
    • Bridgette Moore had So confirm that the light at Bundy and Monte Vista would be going in before Walmart would open.
    • Tim Walker in favor of the project, speaking about what it takes to do business. That "it's hard and it takes money to do anything". 
    For a full look at the council comments, watch the video below.

    Interesting factoid. The proposed sign along the freeway is set to be 30 feet high... whereas the Shell sign is 71 feet high.

    Nothing is ever complete without a document dump and the threat of a lawsuit in our city. This time it was by Walmart's own remora Briggs Law Corp.

    We did get a letter from the Briggs Law Corporation, about 8 pages long with a number of attachments. City staff and the applicant have not had enough time to digest what is in there. We've done a cursory review and because of that last minute —as we call it "document dump"— Walmart has asked us to continue this item to the March 11th meeting..
    —Matt Bassi Planning Director

    Since the item was continued, we'll have to wait another month to watch the vote go 5-0 in favor of the project.

    There were a few more things on the agenda, but you should have attended if you wanted to hear about them. ♥

    City Manager's Report:
    • The new council chambers are under construction, with a target opening of May.
    • WM is sponsoring this year's Easter Egg Hunt at Marna O'Brien park.
    • CR&R charged $2400, factoring in a 50% discount, for the west side's green waste clean up.
    • Congressman Calvert will be at a special City Council meeting February 20th at 1:30pm.
    • Another Great Day of Service is being proposed, and the meeting discussing it will be at Wildomar Elementary at 2:30pm Thursday February 12. Open to the public.
    The only other thing of note was that the new multi city trail that is slated to open this June, known as the Murrieta Creek Regional Trail got a new logo. It was selected from more than 20 local entries. More will be discussed about the trails as we get closer to June.

    •      •       

    Bureaucracies were invented by people with nothing better to do than frustrate those who did.

    Thursday, February 5, 2015

    • Mt. San Jacinto College Update

    Carol Toone and Teri Safranek were guest speakers, on behalf of Mt. San Jacinto College, at the recent Wildomar Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

    As we all know, Measure AA passed last year which was a bond measure for $295 million to benefit Mt. San Jacinto Community College.

    In case you were unaware, there is already a new MSJC campus site in Wildomar, on Clinton Keith, in the works. Take a look at the images below to get a feel for it.

    You can see that this areal photo is quite old. I don't see Ronald Reagan Elementary School in it. 

    This one is so old that City Hall wasn't built yet, and neither was Stater Bros.
    That's how long this has been in the works.

    The presentation included a take off on BINGO called FOCUS. It was touting various studies they offer and benefits that come with them.

    Most of us know that having a college campus in the area will open many doors for Wildomar and we're eager to see it progress to completion.

    When it came time for questions, my hand shot up and I asked:

    What are some of the remaining hurdles or obstacles before you guys can put the first shovel in the ground? 

    As Teri and Carol were about to answer, Kristen Huyck of Supervisor Kevin Jeffires' office had an answer.

    I'm with the county of Riverside, in Supervisor Kevin Jeffries' office, we're working with the college district. From my understanding there is a lawsuit regarding the draft EIR. The college district knew it, as well as the county, so when the property was sold, there was actually money imbedded into the sale, about $300K, knowing that this was going to happen.

    It shouldn't hold it up too much, other than just typical litigation... but it is moving forward and with Measure AA going through they have funding too, so it'll [be] coming to fruition very soon.

    The city should be seeing some applications for development around that area too... it is moving forward.

    George Taylor, long time resident out at The Farm, asked: Is the prognosis good?

    To which Huyck replied.
    Yes. It's looking pretty positive. It [the litigation] was all anticipated, so it's nothing surprising. 

    Hey, it's Wildomar... so if there hadn't been some Ambulance Chaser... or maybe we should upgrade that to K-Rat/Gnat Catcher/Fairy Shrimp Chaser in this case... that would be the surprise.

    After the breakfast I asked Huyck what the name of the litigants were, but she didn't have that info. I was given an email at the college for my inquiry, if I get that info, I'll post the update.

    In the meantime, isn't it just grand that instead of getting this campus up and running, that MSJC anticipates the litigation process to take up to three years?

    Thank you self appointed community activists... it's not like the time and money could be better used elsewhere.
    •      •       

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015

    • Congrats to Wildomar's Soccer Champs

    Wildomar U12 Girls Team (under 12) wins the Tournament of Champions trophy for the first time.
    I asked Coach Martin (Marty) Rodriguez a couple of questions about the team and the path to victory.

     WR  What's the name of the team?
     MR  The team is called United Academy. We are made up of girls from Wildomar and Lake Elsinore combined.

     WR  Tell us how this year started.
     MR  Our fantastic voyage started in September during our rec season, where the team went undefeated. That allowed me to fortunately become the head coach for All Stars. Then we had a tryout from all the teams, and picked the 14 girls to represent the United All Star U12 Girls Team.

     WR  How did the girls gel once the were picked for the United All Star U12 Girls Team?
     MR  The girls came together quickly, like they have been playing together for years. We went to the President's Tournament in Eastvale, Ca and played other teams from our district. The girls played awesome and had two shut out games and a tough loss due to a rain out, but they qualified with enough points to make it to The TOC Tourney in Palm Desert.
    Front Row - Melodie Martinez, Brianna Gonzalez, Katherine Lemus, Aspen Broadbent, Jordan Rodriguez, Nina Flores, Addysin Martinez. Back Row - Selena Quinonez, Mya Gutierrez, Kaili Cleveland, Coach Marty Rodriguez, Julien Tongol, Christy Watkins, Viviana Contreras, Genesis Vargas, Assistant Coach Francisco Martinez.  Not pictured Team Mom Wednesday Rodriguez


     WR  Tell me a little about the tournament.
     MR   In this tournament, they send the top 8 teams from the President Cup to play each other. Again, the team played unbelievable. They won the first game 3-0, second 2-0, and the third Tied 1-1, which meant by point system we made the Championship Game.
    During that game the girls, played their hearts out. We were able to score in the first half and then shut them out the rest of the game to win 1-0.

     WR  Who are the key players on the team?
     MR   I can't say 'I had just a few girls stand out', because they all played great and stepped up when needed. Between both tournaments we only allowed 4 goals and had 5 shut out games out of 7 games.

     WR  Say a few words about the team and what it was like to be their coach.
     MR  These girls worked hard at practice and games and had unbelievable support from packed sidelines from family, friends, and other teammates from the league cheering for them. It has to go down as one of my greatest moments ever in my coaching career. I couldn't be any prouder of these girls.
    Way to go team and coaches

    •      •       

    The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give.
    ― Howard Cosell

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