Wildomar City Council Meeting Turns Into…

April 15, 2010

 

…A CORNERSTONE SCHOOL PEP RALLY

Zak arrived a few minutes prior to the start of last evening’s Wildomar city Council meeting, expecting to easily take his usual seat to observe the biweekly spectacle of a city Council meeting. But there were no seats available as the council chambers were jammed, with every seat taken  and the hallway was filled with a contingent of teenagers as well.

Not having read the agenda, Zak assumed that something of significance was occurring that evening. Alas, it was nothing of general importance to Wildomar’s citizens. It was  another Cornerstone Festival of “hey, look at us, we be good for Wildomar.”

It was a Mayor  Moore production on behalf of her own church, again exploiting her powers of the agenda as the Temporary Mayor (her brief, rotating term as mayor is up  in eight short months), to once again force some Cornerstone Community Church  activity down our gagging civic throats.

Permit me to explain. City Council meetings are civic and secular events, despite the  Mayor’s insistence of a religious moment of silence at the start of every meeting. Any presentations during the presentation portion of the  meeting should be of general interest to the community at large and not to just one group, be it a sports league, activist group or church.

There were a group of teens and preteens from the Cornerstone Community Church school who generously raised money for children in earthquake-stricken Haiti. That is a good thing and it is appropriate for children to be recognized and applauded for their efforts.

But who should applaud them? Where should that recognition be given? It’s simple, really.

The recognition and applause for their efforts should be accomplished at  their school and in front of their peers, to inspire them to similar exertions, at one of their own school assemblies.

As it turned out, every last child was ceremoniously brought into the chambers by individual roll call, as had  their teacher and principal of the school. As each of the kid’s names were called out, their teeny friends began to inappropriately squeal and whoop like it was a youth pep rally, not a city Council meeting for adults. Alas, the opportunity for their peers to be inspired was missed.

This clearly was a church/school event. Which is exactly where it should have occurred. At Mayor Moore’s church, where they do have a large entertainment center; a perfect setting for a Cornerstone school pep rally.

Once the individual names were called and the squealing  stopped, the entire group, teachers and kids, left the chambers en masse for a group photo with the Mayor, along with their  parents. So the city’s business  had to stop, yet again, for Cornerstone.

What might have been an opportunity for these youth to observe civic government in action, instead turned out to be just another opportunity for Cornerstoniac self absorption.

Every time there has been a Cornerstone moment in the council chambers, as soon as that moment has passed, all of the Cornerstone members usually leave as a group, for which Zak is grateful.

It does display, however, that special “bubble” in Wildomar that is Cornerstone. It’s all about them and how good they supposedly are for the community.

Note to Mayor Moore:  next time a situation like this presents itself for Cornerstone or any religious  group, please feel free to attend their ceremony at their facility on behalf of the city as Mayor, which would be appropriate. Just do it on your own time.

But please spare we nonmembers anymore Cornerstone “moments of glory and praise.” Some of us don’t care or would prefer not to waste our time with Cornerstone events. If we did, then we would want to be members, too, wouldn’t we?

At least I finally got a seat when they all left.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.  If you think Zak’s civic spleen relates only to Cornerstone, you would be mistaken. No local church, especially a large and politicized one, should have such easy access to the public’s time and forced attention. They can do that on their own, through paid advertising in the local media.

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Wildomar Classic Car Renovation And Body Shop…

April 14, 2010

 

 

…WHEN A HOBBY ANNOYS THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Zak knows that there are some libertarian types currently in places of leadership in Wildomar, such as City Councilman Bob “Live and Let Live” Cashman, who have a difficult time  voting to impose city ordinances and regulations on bootleg businesses when they are  discovered and are forced into the city spotlight for the purpose of correcting or removing their deficiencies.

And, of course, there is the Planning Commissioner who has his own enforcement problems in bringing his unpermitted business into conformity with city ordinances even as he has been appointed to rule on other similarly situated and deficient properties.

No wonder he always argues for leniency.

How about taking the side of the citizens of Wildomar, for once, Mr. Commissioner? Some of us want to see Wildomar improved by removing businesses from their bootleg status, either by conformity or eradication. As always, it’s their choice. But you surely have a vote to help motivate them.

As you can see from all the pictures, this is not a one-car hobby for some aficionado of classic vehicles. We all can be reasonable neighbors for one car being worked on in the privacy of a guy’s  “man cave” but this is  surely not the operation of a baby boomer hobbyist who is trying to regain his youth (which of us are not?) by restoring the first automobile  he owned where he attempted to give a girl a hickey for the first time. Why is there a  Band-Aid on your neck, Charlotte?

Ah, precious adolescent memories. 

However, this is the equivalent of an automobile salvage yard.  It can’t be long before we see our first “Pick Your Parts” advertisement in Wildomar’s newest newspaper. But  that would be true only if this was Menifee.

Double click on the photo and you’ll notice the detached pickup truck bed  in the driveway.

We will be working with city code enforcement personnel in reporting this condition and will keep you posted as to the outcome.

By the way, none of these vehicles have moved for months so they aren’t someone’s only ride to work.

Comments can be made to  zakturango@excite.com.

If you disagree with Zak, Zak will be happy to help these people find a rental property near your home for the pursuit of their “hobby.”


Menifee Earns Their Own Category On Wildomar Magazine…

April 11, 2010

 

….AS  FAIR TRADE FOR THE MAILBOX INVASION  OF WILDOMAR BY THE  MENIFEE WILDOMAR GAZETTE

What makes Wildomar Magazine different from the Wildomar Gazette is that it won’t have a ghost-written puff piece from Mayor Bridgette Moore on the front page of every single issue.

Instead, if the Mayor makes the WM front page,  it will usually be the result of some inane action or comment on her part that deserves, nay demands, some incisive, satirical commentary from her favorite contestant in the “robust debate in democracy” game show, Zak Turango.

She sounded like she meant that stuff about robust debate during her state of the city speech. Or am I being naïve?

But then, when am I not?

What will make  the new Menifee category hauntingly similar to the Wildomar Gazette is that Wildomar Magazine will also try to spotlight businesses from Menifee, something that might incur the wrath of local Wildomar businesses. 

The Editors of the Gazette might want to avoid any upcoming Wildomar Chamber mixers in the short-term.

Like most of what Zak does, the Menifee category is a free gift, pure and simple, to the people who read the magazine, which may now also include more Menifee folks than usual. Based on what I’m reading in the newspapers, it’s a richly deserved gift. Perhaps my interest in Councilman Scott Mann, as a result of his past boorish antics in Wildomar, also plays a part.

So read away, new friends. You’ll be glad you did.

And, since it may be important  to you erstwhile environmentalists, WM is also completely “green.” No trees were reduced to cheap newsprint to publish Wildomar Magazine and cyber ink has absolutely NO carbon footprint.

Comments and inquiries as to commercial advertisements on Wildomar Magazine can be made to zakturango@excite.com. Understand, however, if you’re an interested Wildomar merchant,  that we are focusing our efforts on putting more tax dollars into Menifee’s coffers.

You also won’t find any sponsorship in Wildomar Magazine by any churches promoting local eateries either, since Zak profoundly believes in the separation of church and steak.


Wildomar Magazine Announces…

April 10, 2010

 

…A QUI TAM SEMINAR FOR MENIFEE

But only if Menifee citizens want it.

A date for the seminar has not been set and in fact, Menifee citizens are currently unaware that they may need to schedule the seminar.  Instead, they were forced to sit back in helpless embarrassment and watch their city officials find repeated and significant overpayments to vendors and consultants.

To be fair, no Menifee citizen has  even invited Zak to come to their fair city to introduce this  useful citizen activist strategy. But I am graciously extending the invitation, nonetheless.

Why re-invent the wheel, or, in this case, the hammer?

As you will soon learn if you read on to the bottom of the page, years ago, while digging around Lake Elsinore’s corrupt political regime as a prime contributor for Elsinore Magazine, and out of frustration, Zak found a way for commoners without law degrees, people like you and I, to effectively sue politicians and bureaucrats for public monies falsely taken and pocketed by individuals or their companies. He found a serious hammer to pound the corrupt within the civil legal system.

The Hammer for this task is the California False Claims Act, Government Code 12650-12656. I am providing a link for your easy reference, as follows:

http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/cacode/GOV/1/2/d3/2/6/9/s12650

 This code provides an avenue for recovery of monies spent and received improperly. In Menifee’s current situation, where a company, a consultant, or perhaps even  a law firm, have allegedly overbilled for the services, any private citizen with that knowledge prior to reading about it in the newspaper, could have filed a Qui Tam lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Menifee.

Qui Tam (qui tam pro domino rege quam pro sic ipso in hoc parte sequitur ) is abbreviated Latin for “he who sues on behalf of the king as well as himself” and comes from old English common law. Its first use in America occurred during the Civil War after greedy, corrupt manufacturers sold defective shoes to the U.S. government  for its Union soldiers. 

When the troopers put the boots on and found themselves marching during rain storms, a common occurrence, the boots quickly fell apart due to their shabby construction. Since the federal government was too busy fighting a war of survival to seek redress from the companies, so they  enacted a federal Qui Tam statute so that  persons with personal knowledge of corruption could file lawsuits on behalf of the federal government.

In the 1980s, the state of California enacted a similar statute.

In the 1990s, Zak used that statute to recover money from two persons falsely taking money from the citizens of Lake Elsinore. They were then-Mayor Pam Brinley, who wrongfully let the city pay for her grandchildren’s plush health insurance policy and former Elsinore City Manager, Ron Molendyk, who was given a sweetheart deal by his successor to supposedly find Parks and Recreation “grants” for Elsinore.

Molendyk impudently billed the city of Elsinore for $24,000 in six months, billing for meetings that never took place. And with people who later repeatedly denied knowing him. He ultimately paid every penny back. As part of the settlement agreement, the plaintiffs agreed not to pursue the same claims through other cities, where similar billing events could be established.

So powerful was the False Claim Act, that Brinley and Molendyk each settled their cases before they went to trial, returning all of the money taken by them back to Elsinore’s taxpayers. All at no cost to the city for the lawsuit.

In fact, my good friend and longtime environmental activist, Gene Frick, thought that False Claim Act lawsuits, if relentlessly applied statewide, could change state politics. A currently-sitting Associate Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court once asked Zak to bring this law to Nevada, giving Zak permission to drop the judge’s name as a  referral.  Wow, the stuff you sometimes discuss at cocktail parties.

The key elements  of the Act are, as follows:

The threshold for a lawsuit is $500. That seems like chump change given the numbers we read about the newspaper.

Fraud does not have to be proven.  Only the “fact” of false billing. Proving intent is what makes fraud lawsuits so difficult to prosecute. But intent is not a necessary element under the False Claims Act.

You do have to be the one to find the false billing; you can’t have read or heard about it from the media so you have to do some homework, which amounts to following  the paper trails found in  the warrants list provided with your city Council agendas. It can be an easy and profitable hobby for the retired, as a successful Qui Tam plaintiff is rewarded by the statute with percentage of the proceeds recovered, up to one third of the recovery. The rest goes back to the city. Again, fair enough.

You are not suing the citizens of your city, usually an unpopular thing in a city strapped for cash like Wildomar; rather, you are suing on behalf of the citizens so there is no cost to the city for the lawsuit, the person accused of taking the money has to defend themselves and pay for their own lawyers. The city’s lawyers sit on the sidelines, their expensive hands folded quietly in their laps.

 The suing citizen gets to recover his  legal fees from the greedy as there is an attorney fees clause in the act so plaintiff attorneys are willing to take this type of case on a contingency basis.  Zak always uses the Qui Tam Queen, a wonderful Orange County attorney for a his recoveries.

The Statute of Limitations is 10 years from the act; three years from discovery so there’s plenty of time to go back and dig through the records.

Treble damages can be awarded by the jury for taking the money in the first place. For those of you in Juniper Flats, that means three times what they took. As a result, the cost of defending themselves for taking money they were not entitled to are so onerous that they usually settle prior to trial. Can you imagine facing a jury of angry taxpayers?

Qui Tam truly puts the fear of God, or fear of informed citizens, into corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

While Zak was doing this  in Lake Elsinore, a prominent and powerful political consulting firm  in Riverside was scared sh*tless that these lawsuits would become popular and spread to every city in the county, which would likely have included many of his clients.

Reading about the recent events in Menifee, that would be a good thing.

So Zak is extending an offer to any concerned motivated citizen activist  living in Menifee to meet with Zak at a meeting place of their choice so as to provide further information on this wonderful tool. We apparently don’t need it in Wildomar at this time. So, as good neighbors, we’ll let you borrow our hammer for a while.

Zak found two instances of false billing and supported two lawsuits under the false claim act, resulting in two rapid settlements prior to trial, returning monies directly back to Elsinore’s coffers as a result. 

Zak may have better winning record in lawsuits on behalf of Elsinore than two locals have in suing Wildomar and Riverside County. A False Claim Act lawsuit is certainly more palatable than what they are doing.

Interested persons may contact Zak at zakturango@excite.com.

I sip decaf coffee during the presentation so I suggest a Starbucks for a meeting place.


Lose The Artwork And Then, Maybe…

April 8, 2010

 

 

…YOU MIGHT GET A MATCH FROM ZAK

As I opened my bills this month, I found an undated, generic letter addressed to “Dear Friend,” from the fund-raising arm of the to Temecula Rescue Mission asking for my spare change. For a second, I thought I was back in front of Stater Brothers in Wildomar, where the hustlers for the homeless, or themselves, I can never figure out whom they are begging for, but thankfully, I was still safely ensconced within my own office environs.

Supposedly, I can change the life of a homeless person for $1.48. So I went to their financial page, where I found their financial statement for fiscal year 2008 which includes an entry for”Artwork” in the amount of $1,504,002.

An open letter of reply to Jim Palmer, President, as follows:

Dear Friend,

When you can show me that you have sold in your $1,504,002 worth of artwork so you can purchase 10,135,135 meals for the homeless (do the math), then and only then may you send me another request for funding. In the meantime, permit me to give you the same response I give to the beggars of Stater Brothers.

I don’t care about the homeless.

 I have given too much already.

Sincerely,

Zak Turango

your Dear friend,

As a sidenote, I spoke to one of the checkers at Stater Brothers who recently observed one of the homeless-exploiting beggars take money out of her Ammunition can used for collections to walk into the store to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Why am I not surprised? When an organization like the Temecula Rescue Mission can also hustle money while sitting on a sh*tload of expensive artwork, what’s the problem with little pack of cigarettes? What’s the difference?

In my opinion, much of this homeless fundraising is about big business fund-raising, or a desperate-to-grow church, exploiting clueless people who have wasted their lives by repeatedly making bad choices and now I’m being asked to make my own bad choice with my limited resources on their behalf.

I told you I’ve given too much already.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.  If you’re from the Temecula rescue mission, a copy, please, of your bill of sale for your artwork.


Another Realtor Resigns…..

April 8, 2010

 

 

J.)  DO YOU HAVE THE TIME TO BE A PLANNING COMMISSIONER?

Please, no more Realtors for the Wildomar Planning Commission.

Wildomar Planning Commissioner Scott Nowak,  originally appointed by Wildomar City Councilman Scott Farnam, has tendered his resignation as a Planning Commissioner to Wildomar Planning Director Dave Hogan.

Word on the street is that Nowak, a Realtor, was getting too busy as the real estate market appears to be recovering somewhat and he does not have the time to fulfill his duties.

Fair enough.

Wildomar Magazine wants to go on record thanking Commissioner Nowak for his service. Any appointment to the planning commission is a sentence of  years at hard labor. There are many unseen hours of reading required to properly prepare oneself to participate in a planning commission hearing.

Zak is not certain what is the best candidate pool should be for selecting a Planning Commissioner, occupational-wise. But we now know what they should not be, as two of the original planning commissioners who have resigned to date, were realtors.

At the very least, we now know that  some realtors don’t have the make-up necessary to fulfill their duties. 

We have absolutely no objection to some hard-working person realizing that he/she does not have the time to be a planning Commissioner and having to resign as a result.  It is far better for the city to have someone face his/her own stressors and to do the proper thing for all concerned, including the citizens of Wildomar.

It would be far better for a candidate to understand their significant obligations  prior to an appointment to the planning commission.

Simply, we ask that realtor and Wildomar City Councilmember Scott Farnam thoughtfully appoint someone to replace Nowak who will be able to realistically commit to the time and effort necessary to fulfill their duties. Turnover on the planning commission is not a good thing. It takes too long to learn what’s important.

Given the current circumstances, and recent Commission history, the replacement appointment offered by Farnam should not be another real estate agent.

And no one else from Cornerstone, either, but that is a topic for another day. One Cornerstone member on the Commission is undue influence; two Cornerstone members are  a voting bloc; three members are a Cornerstone “Mission accomplished.”

Perhaps, the City Council should once again take over the duties of the planning commission, in the short-term, since a lot of the projects with serious issues have to come before the council in any event.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com


The Non-Identical Twins……

April 8, 2010

…NOT HAPPEA AND PEAWEE

…..WILDOMAR AND MENIFEE

For those of you who are old enough and local enough to recall the advertising campaign for Anderson”s split pea soup, you’ll remember that the two cooks pictured above, Happea and Peawee, were always referred to as the “non-identical twins.”

As a result of the TV  advertisement, we all wanted to drive to Buellton, California for a big bowl of hot and slimy green soup.  Umm-umm good. Tell me I’m wrong.

Which permits Zak to segue into a piece about the non-identical twin cities of Menifee and Wildomar, both of whom were incorporated about the same time (2008) and are currently dealing with similar problems in getting up and running properly in tough economic times.

There are differences, to be sure, as Menifee has Scott Mann for a city councilman and Wildomar does not; therefore, as I see it, Wildomar is already ahead of the game. (See “Menifee Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up… in the October 2009 archives, for context and another chance to giggle).

When Wildomar was making choices to retain the various bureaucrats necessary to run a city, they were being approached by the very same people now running Menifee. In fact, Menifee’s current treasurer, prepared the initial financial documents submitted to LAFCO to establish the financial viability of incorporation by Wildomar.

And he seemed ready to bring an intact cabal of networking baggage from the city of Rancho Santa Margarita that appears to be plaguing Menifee today.

Wildomar Magazine applauds the fact that the current City Council for Wildomar had the wisdom and foresight to bring in people far from the local scene, unlike Menifee.  Interim city manager John Danielson may have had his own networking  baggage from Elk Grove California but most of the baggage, including his financial whizzes, have turned out to be pretty good.

On the other hand, the distance was too great for any grunt work- types, like street pavers, to make the trip from northern California. Thus, the ties that bind and embarrass Menifee do not exist in Wildomar. 

While Wildomar used the same public maintenance company as Menifee, there does not appear to be the same familiarity between city officials and the company  that may have led to some financial irregularities currently being investigated by auditors.

Whatever the give and take that occurred during Wildomar’s formative meetings, the wisdom and leadership within the City Council of two years ago has left Wildomar out of the spotlight.

Unlike Menifee.

Although far from perfect, most of the early choices to run the various departments of the city, have worked to Wildomar’s benefit.

Congratulations are in order to the current Wildomar City Council for the wise, and as it seems to have turned out, and thoughtful choices.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com. I would ask that my friends and business networking  associates from the Rancho Santa Margarita area  not comment at this time. 

Or, at the very least, hide their addresses.