Elsinore Chamber Of Commerce Self-

April 28, 2012


In their organizational hysteria over the firing of former City Manager Bob Brady, the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce has inadvertently “flashed”  their overt political “junk”  to the citizens of Lake Elsinore.

With the confirmation of the political connection of Chamber Chairwoman Natasha Johnson,  and her “overlapping” role as treasurer of the noisy, but small  38 member political action group known as “A Better Lake Elsinore” (“ABLE”), this Chamber chapter has put their head into the mouth of the political lion, which is in the form of a likely three vote majority bloc on the City Council, made up of  Daryl Hickman, Melissa Melendez, and Peter Weber.

The Chamber should have waited until after the 2012-13 budget was approved before they foolishly took on three City Council members at one time.

By the way, Johnson does have a right to have any political affiliations she wants; but there will be  political consequences.

Please click on the following recent Press-Enterprise article for background and context:


Ironically, the more vociferous these two groups become prior to the budgeting process, the more likely there will be political “fatalism” on the part of Hickman, Melendez and Weber and, as result, the more likely they are to  vote to cut off funding for the Chamber.

Political vengeance is not normally this easy.

That  the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce did it to themselves, by overplaying their political hands, is political karma.

The  “Great Political Universe” tends to bring all things into eventual balance.

If you prefer Scripture, “you reap what you sow.”

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

Unfortunately, the Press-Enterprise staff reporter did not drill down into the $85,000 “gift of public funds” from the city’s budget, to identify the $40,000 “gift” portion of  the $85,000 that “covers” the  Chamber President’s  salary.

Perhaps, this year, at the budget study session, the various reporters covering Lake Elsinore will finally get it right.

Time To Change Someone’s Employment….

April 27, 2012



This morning’s Press-Enterprise provides additional background and context to the recently-released Grand Jury report critical of Wildomar’s ongoing relationship with the contract vendor, Diamond W Events.

Please click on the following link to review:


As noted in the article, this is the second time that the Riverside County Grand Jury has weighed in on this particular relationship.

According to the California Secretary of State website, Diamond W Events is a California Corporation whose agent of service is, as follows:

Entity Number: C3113350
Date Filed: 10/21/2009
Status: ACTIVE
Jurisdiction: CALIFORNIA
Entity Address: xxxxx SHOEMAKER DR
Entity City, State, Zip: WILDOMAR CA 92595
Agent for Service of Process: PAULA WILLETTE
Agent Address: xxxxx SHOEMAKER DR
Agent City, State, Zip: WILDOMAR CA 92595

Willette’s original connection to the City of Wildomar was as it’s “events coordinator,” but her position and status has morphed into her current status as “Director of Community Services.” The “morphing” included Willette’s primary responsibilities of the oversite of the city’s parks, which duties have been rendered moot by the loss of park funding.

Click on the following link to the City of Wildomar minutes for the 02/11/09 city Council meeting (and scroll down to page 6) to confirm:


It is apparent that there are persons in the City of Wildomar who are sufficiently concerned about this ongoing contractual relationship and who have filed complaints with the Riverside County Grand Jury (the simple “complaint form” can be filled out online), with sufficient justification that the Grand Jury has now investigated the relationship twice. (Despite my numerous and varied sources within the community, I have no idea as to who filed the latest complaint).

There have been, however, “grumblings” about the “under the radar” transition from “events coordinator” to “Community Services Director,” as evidence of subtle and ambitious advancement and promotion on the part of the contract vendor.

Being aware of the grumblings, therefore, as you may recall, when the Wildomar Cemetery District became a subsidiary to the City of Wildomar,  I addressed the City Council as the outgoing president of the Cemetery District.

I advised the City Council that I had supported the merger, with the specific assurance of City Manager Frank Oviedo, that Willette, who had been a Trustee of the District and had voted in favor of the merger, would not have any personal involvement with the Cemetery District, once it became a part of the City of Wildomar.

This assurance was necessary, in my opinion, in order to avoid any future concerns about her support for the merger, which might have been construed by some as a conflict of interest, a concern with which Oviedo apparently concurred.

The fact that the Grand Jury did not raise that particular issue in it’s recent report, confirms our mutual wisdom.

As usual, I have a reasonable suggestion for the mitigation of the current dilemma.

If the City Council and city staff believe that the activities and services currently provided by Willette, through the auspices of her company, Diamond W Events, Inc., are a benefit to the City of Wildomar, then the position of “Community Services Director” should be changed from “contract vendor” status to that of an “employee.”

However, that would require the appropriate quantification of the economic value of such a position, for budgeting purposes, and would further require that the position be offered publicly, and that all qualified candidates who might apply for the position, be given a fair interview during the normal employment process.

If, after going through the proper hiring process, the most qualified individual is Paula Willette, she can then be hired as a permanent employee by Oviedo.

As an employee of the City, the Community Services Director would then have to assume the stance of a “political neutral” and would not be seen as facilitating the political interests of any individual politician or political interest group.

Doing so, should eliminate the future concerns of the Riverside County Grand Jury.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

The “I No Cruise” Syndrome….

April 25, 2012



When this partial project (Phase I) is completed without the inclusion of signal lights (they won’t be installed until the end of Phase II), there will be “no cruising” for anyone headed east/west on Bundy Canyon Road.

An unfortunate four-way stop that is planned for  just east of Interstate 15 (at Sellers) is going to be a traffic nightmare, especially if parents are going to have to drive their kids to nearby Elsinore High School.

The Planning Director and Staff of the City of Wildomar have amazingly agreed to permit the Phase I construction of a gas station/Circle K retail store where Bundy Canyon Road intersects with Interstate 15 without the inclusion of a signal light.

If the entire project were completed at one time, it would include the installation of a required traffic light at the intersection of Bundy Canyon and Sellers Street, which will then, once installed, safely permit vehicles to egress from the center and back onto westbound Bundy Canyon Road.

However, in their infinite wisdom in seeking to maintain a “business friendly” atmosphere, as dictated by the Wildomar City Council, the developer is being allowed to build a potentially busy gas station/retail store without the benefit of the signal light.

Instead, an inexpensive four-way stop sign traffic control will be allowed to be installed, at the behest of the developer. (If Phase II is never built, neither will the signal lights be installed).

In addition, city staff is relinquishing control of the traffic engineering for the intersection to the “traffic engineer” employed by the developer, whose actual name is, ironically, Ino Cruz.

Even Zak Turango, on his best day, can’t make this stuff up.

 If you can, try to imagine the imposition of an inefficient four-way stop sign traffic control on a busy east/westbound Bundy Canyon Road, plus the addition of cars waiting “their turn” to exit the gas station after having refueled, turning west on Bundy Canyon to get back on the freeway.

It will be a traffic nightmare for soccer moms and commuters.

Recent traffic studies have demonstrated that there is a 4 second delay between vehicles using a stop sign. If 1000 vehicles attempt to pass through the intersection of Bundy Canyon Road and Sellers Street, a plausible figure for a heavily traveled throughfare such as Bundy Canyon Road, a 4 second delay could accumulate to as much as a 66 minute delay at that intersection alone for east and westbound traffic.

Unfortunately, your imagination will soon become reality  in a relatively short period of time upon completion of Phase I of the truncated project.

For more information on four-way stop signs, and the resultant inefficiencies in traffic, please click on the following:


Wildomar Magazine is encouraging any potential litigants to step back from opposing this traffic nightmare.

It is time to  allow the realtor-driven, “business friendly” philosophy to have it’s unfettered way on Bundy Canyon Road so that the citizens of Wildomar , especially those who frequently use Bundy Canyon, can understand the negative impact of that mis-guided philosophy.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

If you’re having trouble with your “imagine” function, please click on the following link:


City Staff should immediately issue a necessary revision to the permit process and instruct the developer to complete the signal light at Sellers Street within Phase I  construction, as originally contemplated.

 Unfortunately, it’s probably too late for that.

Grand Jury Flags Wildomar For….

April 25, 2012



The Riverside County Grand Jury has just released, as of April 23, 2012, the results of its investigation into the alleged lack of transparency and inappropriate contracting procedures relating to the city’s relationship with one particular contract vendor, Diamond W. Events Inc.

Please click on the following link to see the Grand Jury report to confirm:


The primary concern for the Grand Jury was the award of the original $87,600 per year contract, without competitive bidding, as required by the city’s own purchasing procedure ordinance.

“During the investigation, the Grand Jury requested to see documentation that would identify any other bids submitted on this contract.  The City did not present any such documents.”

In addition, the Grand Jury criticized the City of Wildomar for it’s “lack of transparency” by not identifying on its organizational chart which positions are filled with city employees and which positions are filled with contracted personnel. Lack of identification has caused confusion with residents of the City.”

The City of Wildomar has until July 17, 2012 to respond.

Res Ipsa Loquitur, which is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.”

‘Nuff said, for now.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

Lake Elsinore’s Living “Aces”….

April 23, 2012




From the archives of Elsinore Magazine.

Rasmussen Rebukes Council

July 11, 2001  Call for Resignations Ignored  

 At last night’s televised city council meeting Gil Rasmussen strode to the podium and placed the blame for five deaths directly on the sagging shoulders of the council.  For three minutes Rasmussen spoke in a steady and powerful voice, culminating his remarks with a call for the resignation of the council and staff whose negligence has taken five innocent lives.  Sassy city attorney Babs Liebold attempted to respond by calling Gil’s remarks “embarrassing” but she wisely did not defend city negligence.  During his address Babs and the members of the council hung their heads and stared down at the table before them.  Following is the full text of Rasmussen’s remarks:

“If these City Council members were Air Force fighter pilots, they would now be considered “aces,” since they have five confirmed kills.

Lake Elsinore has the distinction of being the only city I know of that qualifies as a serial killer.

Only William Suff, Elsinore’s prostitute serial killer, has a higher body count than this council. Their year-long failure to take responsibility for four deaths is reminiscent of O. J. Simpson’s sociopathic ability to blame anybody else… and everybody else… for his victims’ deaths.

Sadly, then, we must now add the fifth victim, Everado Arzola, to their charge.

The context of these comments is the abysmal and absolute failure of this council to protect yet another innocent victim from drowning in their so-called Economic Engine. Their economic strategy apparently is to invite tourists to the lake, collect their gate fee… and then kill them.

Sorry, Everado. No refund.

 When there was mere anecdotal evidence of stolen palm trees taken from vacant lots, this council sensed the danger and quickly intervened. They enacted the Palm Tree Ordinance, saving palm trees from bad haircuts, death and destruction. Yet, when it came to saving precious human lives, there was not a whisper to their incompetent staff to implement basic safety precautions such as they have finally enacted, by blocking the deadly beach to public access.

And therein lies their moral failure and, in my opinion, criminal conduct. The beach could have…should have… been blocked after the first two children drowned one year ago, before their latest victim.

ElsinoreMagazine.com is urging the Riverside County Grand Jury to open an investigation into these five preventable fatalities. Whatever weak excuses and lame explanations are offered by the Council for the existence of five innocent, young corpses, these wrongfully dead human bodies demand justice.

I would support indictments and criminal prosecution of the members of this Council for these tragic and easily preventable deaths.

 Whatever the actions of the Grand Jury, it would be morally appropriate for each of the five of you to resign this very night, within this very hour, as a first, small act of contrition for your unbelievable, sinful failure to prevent these deaths.

Lake Elsinore would have been far safer without you.

Alas, none of you will resign.

How shallow a life each of you must live, as you desperately cling to your minor political office as if your very lives were dependent on it.

We will likely have to displace the balance of the blame for these deaths until it finally comes to rest, barring prosecution or resignation and beyond November’s election, upon this Council’s wretched accomplices; their fervent, shameless, remorseless supporters.

If any of you hearing my voice, who have presently empowered this council, knowing now of the deaths of five innocents, ever again vote, in the near future or far, for any one of these lethal politicians, please consider that your vote to re-elect them forever links your own shabby morality with theirs.

May God have mercy on all of your souls.

Assuming you still have souls.”

 Like an Old Testament prophet, coming down from the hills above Jerusalem to pronounce judgment on the heads of those committing evil, a decade younger Gil Rasmussen took his first opportunity to publicly speak in Lake Elsinore, motivated by the parade of death occurring at one single spot at the city’s campground.

As you can imagine, I am not a popular figure in Lake Elsinore. However, with the current political upheaval in Lake Elsinore, the voters in Lake Elsinore may, once again, be faced with a voter’s moral dilemma,  if any of the above figures, have the unmitigated gall to reappear in Lake Elsinore’s body politic, seeking your vote.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

The “other” Aces have passed on, making their electoral re-emergence unlikely.

Lake Elsinore Flirts With It’s Evil History…..

April 22, 2012


…Or more, if necessary.

October 23, 2000

A Mother’s Grief

As I left the apartment, the older woman continued to stare at me, despite being unable to communicate verbally with our language barrier. But her staring began to unnerve me as I walked out the front door and she arose from her sofa and followed me out the door. Looking back over my shoulder, I observed the woman walking across the apartment common area, dogging my footsteps. When I reached the parking lot and opened the door of the car, I looked back and saw that she stood at the gated entrance to the complex with her eyes locked on mine. I am haunted still by that mask of sorrow.

I understood her unspoken message that recent Sunday morning. I had come to the San Diego home of Lake Elsinore’s drowning victim, Minh Phuong Thi Tran, in the hopes of meeting with the family and expressing my sorrow and anger for her needless death. Apparently my mission had bridged the wide river of Asian stoicism that minimizes the loss of human life but left a mother’s sorrow unrequited. It wasn’t the father’s fault as he had surely become toughened by twenty years of a Communist prison after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Minh Phuong’s sisters were still young and had yet to bear their own child so they could not share her grief. Only a mother can fully understand the loss by death of the fruit of one’s own body.

Perhaps my own small sense of her loss came from my own Vietnam experiences. In order to help the family understand why I would be in their living room, I brought a photograph of a 21 year-old GI, standing thinly against a Vietnamese backdrop, M-16 slung jauntily over his shoulder. As soon as the parents saw the photo, they knew why I cared. I have always found that Vietnamese refugees acknowledge the sacrifice of American soldiers for their service to a far greater extent than any American who did not serve. There is a bond with Vietnam that only those who served can ever know.

I also wanted to be certain that the family had sought competent legal counsel for their loss. I was gratified to know that they had already engaged an attorney to seek redress for the horrific loss of their daughter and sister. Of course, money will never bring back Minh Phuong, nor will her mother’s grief ever completely subside. It is my hope, though, that the economic cost of the failure of the City of Lake Elsinore to prevent Minh Phuong’s needless death will be measured in the millions of dollars. Perhaps the jury will allocate punitive damages that will be uninsured and thus payable directly by the taxpaying voters who have yet to voice their outrage over drowning children at City Council meetings. (The beach remains unprotected as you read this piece).

The mother’s stare that I returned on that Sunday morning of sorrow stills tugs at my conciousness. I hope that I assuaged some of her grief by sharing my own anguish and anger with her.

All of the recent drama that is the fetid septic tank of Lake Elsinore politics (Most local politics comes from the sewer. Alas, Lake Elsinore is  served by EMVWD, making the septic tank a better metaphor). has stirred my writer’s soul to dig into the archives of Elsinore Magazine, to pull out relevant commentary for the newer citizens of Lake Elsinore, who do not know the lethal legacy of their tired little town.

I covered Lake Elsinore as an opinion columnist for the Lake Elsinore Valley Sun Tribune, followed by a stint as the “prime contributor” for the Internet-based Elsinore Magazine, so I know whereof I write.

 Beyond revisiting Lake Elsinore’s history, my “long and bitter memory” regarding the tragic and unnecessary drownings of 5 innocent campers, over a single calendar year, is primarily focused on the death of this young woman, whose parents were provided a year of my young life in 1968, courtesy of the US government, in a futile attempt, as it turned out, to save them from  communism.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Elsinore Magazine to goad the Lake Elsinore City Council into taking simple and inexpensive precautionary measures, I was unable to save their young daughter’s life from the Lake Elsinore City Council.

She was, after all, the fourth victim in a short period of time to drown in the exact same spot at the Lake Elsinore campground. It wasn’t as if she had fallen out of a boat somewhere on the Lake.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

I will be damned if I let her memory, and those responsible for her death, be forgotten. Especially if they think they can make a political comeback in Lake Elsinore with impunity.

Lake Elsinore Flirts With It’s….

April 21, 2012


….Where’s Minh-Phuong?

From the archives of Elsinore Magazine, this….

…..September 24, 2000  By Gil Rasmussen

On August 17, 2000, Minh-Phuong Tran drowned in the lethal, slimy green waters of Lake Elsinore’s city-operated lake park. The local newspapers ran a brief story on the incident, identifying her only by a partial name, her tender age and her affiliation with her church youth group. But a complete human being lost her life that day; a young woman enjoying life with her friends. I have met with her friends recently and intend to stamp a fuller, permanent imprint of Minh-Phuong’s brief life onto the civic memory of the community that caused her death.

Her Family

Minh-Phuong Tran was born 18 years ago near the city of Saigon in Vietnam. Now it is officially named Ho Chi Minh City by the North Vietnamese Communists that ended the Vietnam War in 1975 when they overran the South Vietnamese Army and entered Saigon.

She was born to the family of Nam Van Tran, a lieutenant in the National Police force, and her mother, Vo Thi Hue. Her father had been imprisoned by the Communists until his release from prison in 1995. At that time, the family was allowed to immigrate to the U. S. under a Humanitarian project. Minh-Phuong has an older brother and sister who have remained in Vietnam. Living in San Diego until her death, Minh-Phuong also has two brothers and two sisters in her immediate family. She was the middle child. Her family attends the Wesley United Methodist Church of San Diego.

Her Friends and Future

According to Miss Hien Pham, a 20 year old friend of Minh-Phuong, they met in the local neighborhood and attended church and school together. Minh-Phuong had just graduated from Crawford High School in San Diego and was enrolled at Mesa College. She originally wanted to become a school teacher but Hien talked her into becoming a Medical Assistant with her so they could attend the same classes at Mesa.

 Minh-Phuong loved to belong to the clubs at her school. She was a part of the United Chinese Asian (UCA) club. She was a member of the soccer team. According to another friend, Miss Khuong Le, Minh-Phuong enjoyed singing, especially at church, “even though her voice was not good.” (Khuong Le giggled at this point, embarrassed at her own comment even as she recalled the happy memory of her friendship with Minh-Phuong). She also loved to dance in the traditional Vietnamese style. Photography was another hobby that she enjoyed.

Her Death in Lake Elsinore

Hien Pham was in the water when Minh-Phuong drowned. According to Hien, she was swimming with a group of about 20 persons, away from a small group of non-swimmers which included Minh-Phuong. The non-swimmers were only waist deep in the water. Suddenly, Hien Pham heard yelling and turned to the cries for help.

Four girls in the wading group had stepped into a deep hole which no one had been able to see and were struggling desperately to get out. Others in the immediate area went to their aid. When everyone was finally out of the “drop off,” they looked around and tried to determine if everyone was accounted for. “Where’s Minh-Phuong?” became the chilling cry for the group of Christian youth.

Hien Pham says that she tried to dive to the bottom of the drop off to find Minh-Phuong but stated that “I could never touch the bottom as it was too deep.” She also said that the water was so dirty that she could not see her hand, mere inches in front of her face. Someone called 911 and police and fire arrived 20-30 minutes later. Finally, after two hours of searching, Minh-Phuong’s body was found.

Hien Pham says that there was only one sign at the park and it only stated that “diving” was not permitted. There were no warning signs whatsoever about the drop off and there was no verbal warning given by any park employee at any time that they were in the park.

Minh-Phuong’s Legacy

Following our conversation, Hien Pham pointed to the sky and said that Minh-Phuong was with Jesus now. It was the sincere and honest reliance on her Christian faith and the stoicism born of a national people that has endured death by the thousands that came through Hien Pham’s acceptance of the death of her friend.

Rest in our Creator’s bosom, Minh-Phuong Tran, beautiful daughter of Asia. May your family and friends never forget your brief passage.

The evil that “was” Lake Elsinore appears to be re-emerging, brought on by the unfortunate melding of thoughtless City Council access with that of a  local business interest, which is why “honorable” politicians remain aloof, to a certain extent, from people of commerce.

Now that the bad karma from that relationship appears to have spawned political chaos in Lake Elsinore , whether it be in the form of Chris Hyland’s recall effort to remove  Daryl Hickman from office (despite allegations to the contrary, Chris tells me that her recall effort is not connected to any other recall effort), or the collection of a gaggle of political opportunists marching to the discordant beat of EVMWD President Harvey Ryan’s political drum known as A Better Lake Elsinore (“ABLE”), the dissonance has stirred my commentarian soul.

There are old and corrupted, political figures who appear to be ready to rise from their own political ashes amidst the current controversy.

The young Vietnamese woman who died in the murky waters of Lake Elsinore on August 17, 2000, was the fourth of 5 young persons to drown at the hands of the negligent Lake Elsinore City Council, in the span of one year.

I always thought, at the very least, that the then-Lake Elsinore City Council (circa 2000) was guilty of negligent manslaughter, and should have been charged criminally for their failure to prevent repeated and unnecessary drownings.

I think it is important, in the midst of this political chaos, that the citizens of Lake Elsinore take a moment to pause and reflect, on what and whom, they may be unleashing on their city.

It took years to dismantle former-Mayor Gary Washburn’s Political Machine.

It may be as soon as the upcoming election of November 2012, a matter of months, before Lake Elsinore’s angry, yet misguided, voters resurrect it, to the City’s detriment.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

Some of the persons responsible for Minh Phuong’s death are still in your midst.

Is Lake Elsinore Still Paying The Salary Of A Local…

April 19, 2012


Whether or not any member or director of the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce supports the laudable effort to recall Lake Elsinore City Councilman, Daryl Hickman, it is way past time for the City of Lake Elsinore to discontinue it’s politically selective monetary support of the Chamber of Commerce, preferring to spend taxpayer dollars on this particular commercial enterprise, as opposed to picking any other commercial business in Lake Elsinore to support with your tax dollars.

In any event, it’s just wrong to do so.

It’s a waste and misappropriation of taxpayers dollars.

Yesterday’s Lake Elsinore Patch reports the issue as a political vendetta on the part of Hickman, as follows:


In the murky world of the “lesser of two evils,” I would prefer to support the man whom I believe is   the “world’s dumbest politician” over the nefarious “shadow government” that infests and infects our local governments under the guise of being a “service club.”

This “sweetheart deal” goes back to the Pam Brinley era, when Brinley’s chief political supporter was the CEO of the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce.

If my recollection is correct (recalled from the days when I covered Lake Elsinore for Elsinore Magazine), the aforementioned political supporter received a salary of $33,000 per year as CEO of the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce, whose financial support came primarily, if not solely, from the City of Lake Elsinore.

In my opinion, her salary was a “payoff” from Brinley for her continuous and corrupt political support.

For more information on the “illegal gift of public funds,” please click on the following:


It is my hope for Lake Elsinore, that a coalition, and council majority, comprised of Hickman, Weber and Melendez, can finally sever the economic artery that provides an unwarranted monetary pulse to the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce.

WM doesn’t object to paying the Chamber for “tourist services,” as long as there is a method of determining the efficacy of their efforts. If, however, they cannot identify measurable successes for their efforts, that contractual arrangement should end as well.

But that payment for tourist services only accounts for approximately one- half of the $85,000 contract.

The rest goes into Chamber employee pockets. (Even as Lake Elsinore, in the recent past, had to layoff its own employees, it continued to pay the salaries of Chamber employees.)

Why do you think the Chamber of Commerce is howling so loudly? This action by the Council is going to expose the Chamber of Commerce reliance on public funding.

Cutting off the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce from the public teat would surely make “A Better Lake Elsinore.”

Or, at the very least, a less corrupt Lake Elsinore.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

If you wish to take the time to read all of my pithy commentary on the local Chamber of Commerce chapters, please go to the “Chamberpot of Commerce/Rotary” category on the right column.

Leadership Is Not A….

April 19, 2012



…Nor a Blue Ribbon Commission.

Sometimes, leadership has to be able to sit all by itself, alone, yet without any personal,  internal discomfort. An emotionally-healthy, well-balanced leader won’t  desire or need to be the most popular person in the room.

Last Tuesday evening’s Budget Study Session saw the emergence of “Re-Thinkers;” a small number of non-organized, non-connected (save for a common interest in Wildomar’s success) Wildomar citizens who seem willing to tackle, and reshape, Wildomar’s budget by providing input to the budget process, anticipating that the elected “leaders” on the City Council will contemplate what the “thinking leaders” have suggested and provide direction to city staff to follow up on these citizen- proposed initiatives and authorize the preparatory steps to implement them.

Only our elected City Council can get these balls rolling. It is, after all, their job.

Yesterday’s Lake Elsinore/Wildomar Patch captured much of the discussion. Please click on the following link to further inform yourselves:


To recapitulate, there were three significant initiatives proposed, as follows:

1) Move City Hall to Marna O’Brien Park, utilizing pre-manufactured commercial buildings for government functions, saving more than $100,000 plus per year for lease payments
2) Prepare to withdraw from the Southwest Communities Finance Agency (“JPA”), which funds Animal Friends of the Valleys (“AFV”), or negotiate a much fairer (and less expensive) allocation for animal control services, saving approximately $180,000 per year.
3) Energize local code enforcement to  abate substandard commercial and residential properties in Wildomar. (Requiring a shift in Council attitude and, eventually, budget allocations).

The context for the proposed initiatives is the inarguable fact that Wildomar’s actual revenues of $6.6 million (for 2012-13) is far less than the $15.7 million (in 2012) anticipated by the Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis (“CFA”) that was used to justify Wildomar’s incorporation in the year 2008.

Needless to say, (even as I’m saying it), it is a “no-brainer,” given the actual revenue numbers, that good governance requires significant changes to our current way of doing things. The original infrastructure established to run Wildomar is simply not sustainable.

However, I do not believe the current City Council will be willing to authorize city staff to take the steps necessary to implement these obvious and reasonable changes, for the following reasons:

1) City councilmember Marsha Swanson, whose real estate office is located in the same shopping complex as is City Hall, will likely argue against the initiative, as her office’s proximity to City Hall enhances it’s profile. She has already publicly  stated that moving City Hall to Marna O’Brien “can’t be done.”

It can and it should be done.

2) City councilmember Bridgette Moore will not be able to bring herself to vote to secede from the AFV/JPA, as a result of her “fear” that doing so might hurt someone’s feelings at the animal shelter. (An adolescent mentality).

3) The current City Council will be unable to give direction to city staff, including their code enforcement officer, to “proactively” enforce current codes and ordinances that would begin to improve the environment we all have to live in. (It wouldn’t be “business friendly.”)

It is just not in their DNA to function as sophisticated elected officials.

Unfortunately for the City Council, Tuesday’s Budget Study Session, and the subsequent excellent reportage by Patch editor, Toni McAllister, a public record has been made.

When Assistant City Manager Gary Nordquist unveils his proposed budget for the year 2012-13 in May, these citizen-proposed initiatives will be included in their City Council agenda packets. Naturally, we intend to be present at the meeting to monitor the discussion and deliberations of your elected officials.

For the record, the solitary individual in the orange T-shirt, sitting in the background in the above photograph, is your’s truly.

Had I known there would be cameras, I would have dressed better.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

If You Are Making Bad Choices, As An Elected Official….

April 16, 2012



Yesterday’s Lake Elsinore/Wildomar Patch publication contained a rhetorical article on women in local politics, as follows:


Wildomar, and for that matter Lake Elsinore, have hardly been political man-caves of male dominance. Lake Elsinore has consistently maintained a 40% feminine roster, with the likes of Pam Brinley and Genie Kelly, and recently, Melissa Melendez and Amy Bhutta.

Wildomar’s inaugural city Council was 60% feminine, until the last election eliminated Sheryl Ade, and replaced her with either Ben Benoit or Tim Walker, reducing the Wildomar City Council once again to a 40% feminine makeup.

At the end of the day, it isn’t a matter of gender but a matter of competence that should drive our local elections.

Pam Brinley and Genie Kelly were part and parcel of the corrupt Washburn-era that dominated Lake Elsinore politics for a decade.

Melissa Melendez and Amy Bhutta were each a breath of fresh air for the citizens of Lake Elsinore where, despite the current vocal screeching of those who formerly supported the Brinley/Kelley/Watenpaugh corruption feedbag, and no one can plausibly lay the allegation of monetary corruption at their feet. Don’t get me started on Brinley and Kelley.

In Wildomar, our problem is one of ongoing bad decisions having been made by City Councilmembers Bridgette Moore, Marsha Swanson, Ben Benoit, and Tim Walker, and, on occasion, Bob Cashman.

Fortunately, that’s why we have municipal elections every two years in order to give citizens an opportunity to replace 2 or 3 incumbents, depending on their decision-making record, as evidenced by their voting record.

In November 2012, I don’t believe Bridgette Moore or Bob Cashman should be retained or replaced, based on whether they are male or female. The voting citizens of Wildomar will be given an opportunity to apply their own critical thinking skills to the voting records of both incumbents, and  their impact on Wildomar, and then take a look at any alternative candidates who will be proclaiming that they would  be a better choice to represent Wildomar.

At the end of the day, it should be a matter of competence and leadership, not gender, that drives our electoral choices.

Comments could be made to zakturango@excite.com.

For the record, the mythical Zak Turango is an “alpha male,” yet with a charming soft and “feminine” side. (Zak still pampers his 90-year-old mother).