07-17-2019

John Kirby - Report on Incorporation Status and ILGC meeting of 07-16-19

  

[this editorial is available for download at the bottom of the page]


Hello everyone concerned with whether or not to incorporate Crestline and the surrounding communities into our own city. Yesterday evening (July 16th) I attended the Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee’s (ILGC) community forum at San Moritz Lodge. Here is the latest from them, with some commentary from me, of course:


The short version is that this effort is on hold until after we see what happens with Assembly Bill 818 (AB-818), which is currently in suspense in the Assembly Appropriations Committee (I’ll explain why this matters in a second.) So the petition that ILGC had been circulating for signatures is going in the trash can; they will start a new petition if AB-818 passes the Assembly and the Senate and gets signed into law by the governor. If AB-818 does not get signed into law – this whole incorporation effort is dead in the water. 


But why does AB-818 matter so much?

Basically, AB-818 matters because the County messed up when they gave some financial numbers to ILGC back in October when they started their preliminary financial feasibility study. ILGC was told in October that the new city would receive 68% of some taxes that currently go to the county. New math by the county lowered that percentage to 45%. Also, part of figuring out the money is learning the assessed value of all land/property parcels and how much that would mean in property taxes coming to the new city. The County Assessor messed this one up in October because they forgot to eliminate tax exempt properties like churches and property owned by other nonprofit organizations. These two mistakes made the financial feasibility more than $1.8 million in the hole every year, with nowhere to find that money in other sources of revenue. AB-818 if it passes would make up for that $1.8 million loss.


Here is where AB-818 comes in to the picture. Those of you who own cars will have seen on your annual registration a Vehicle Licensing Fee (VLF). When the VLF was initially started that money was returned to cities and counties for inclusion in their budgets for infrastructure and other things. Some years back the state started keeping the VLF for themselves. A stink ensued and legislation was put in place where the state still kept the VLF, but an amount equal to those dollars that would have been returned to cities and counties was restored by allowing cities and counties to keep that amount extra from property taxes; this was only done for cities and counties that were already incorporated – not for any new cities in the future.


Some of our senators and assembly members have been trying to fix this for newly incorporated cities since 2012. There have been 12 separate bills at the state since 2012 trying to allow this property tax in lieu of VLF to also go to newly incorporated cities – 5 of them never made it out of committee, 2 saw no action taken at all (the committees wouldn’t even discuss them), 4 were vetoed by the governor, and AB-818 has been suspended in committee (which is what generally happens right before it dies in committee). And, AB-818 is identical to a bill that died in committee last year.


One of the primary reasons, I believe, that none of these bills have passed is simple – this is a zero sum game. If new cities “win”, then the state “loses”, because the money that would go to these newly incorporated cities would be taken from the pot of money the state uses to fund local schools; and, California law requires the state to fund those schools whether they have this money or not – so they would have to pull more money from the State General Fund to keep schools paid for. I’m thinking after 12 attempts in 8 years to do something along the lines AB-818 is probably not going to get signed into law even if it gets out of committee. Our new governor is already trying to outspend Governor Moonbeam, so I’m guessing a veto even if a miracle happens in both houses of the state legislature.


So the ILGC said very clearly last night that the whole petition, LAFCO, “just to get more information” thing is on hold until after they see what happens in January with AB-818; because without that signed into law there is no way incorporation can possibly be financially feasible. 


However, they are going to continue educating us on the benefits of incorporation in the hopes that AB-818 passes so they can start from scratch.


We’ll keep you posted as things progress folks.


And you will be able to continue to find the voice of the opposition on our Facebook page, Don’t Incorporate Lake Gregory, and on our website preservecrestline.com, or you can email us at preservecrestline@gmail.com

07-03-2019

John Kirby Post July 3, 2019

  [this editorial is available at the bottom of the page for download and sharing]


In response to comments received:


Scott Markovich was engaging in comments on my personal page and I thought my response should go to the whole community, as many of the points are - I believe - germane to the larger discussion (or lack thereof) concerning incorporation of the Crest Forest area.

Scott, I’m frankly getting a little tired of you and others telling me – in effect – that I need to be nice. I tried when I first started writing about this issue of incorporation to be nice. I was ignored. 


The concerned community members and property owners on the Don’t Incorporate Lake Gregory (DILG) side have been asking questions of the Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee (ILGC) since before I got involved. They have been ignored. We have begun an organized effort to get information to the whole community – all 11,362 members of this community who will be affected by this incorporation. The ILGC has done a very poor job of getting information to this whole community, and the information they are getting to some of the community is fluff, misinformation, or only the good sounding stuff that could be a positive result of incorporation if none of the bad stuff they are neglecting to mention happens after incorporation.


And you’re right Scott, when the ILGC answers these questions it’s going to spark more questions. It’s called dialogue. It’s what happens prior to grown up making decisions about important stuff. The issues surrounding incorporation are deep, and need deep discussion and understanding for people to make informed decisions. If we know in advance what could be unintended consequences, and as a community we vote for this incorporation to happen, then we won’t have anything to complain about when stuff goes haywire. But I’ll guarantee you that if the ILGC continues to refuse to engage in a grown up dialogue, even in the face of some people being mean, they will all be held accountable in future lawsuits for refusing to answer honest questions, or for failing to do proper research prior to embarking on this debacle.


I have made no secret about the fact that I’m against incorporation and nothing anybody says in answer to anything is going to change my mind about that. I’ve also made clear that I will support whatever decision voters make at the ballot box so long as the electorate has been given full information on which to base their voting decisions. The ILGC has not been forthcoming with any answers to any real concerns of people in the community. The nine questions I’ve boiled down are relevant, whether you or anybody else in favor or incorporation believe them to be relevant or not. They are relevant. And they’re not going away. The only people keeping secrets and hiding stuff are the ILGC and their supporters.


I’m also getting tired of hearing that the ILGC members are “good people” and that you and others have known them a long time. I’m really happy that you like them. I happen to really like Penny Shubnell; I know her – I believe her heart is pure in all of this. I don’t know the other four. I don’t know how trustworthy they are. And I don’t know you – so your vouching for them doesn’t mean a thing to me. I would also venture to guess that the vast majority of the 11,362 people whose lives they are trying to change don’t know them either.

And even if I did know them all personally, and liked them as well as you obviously like them, I would still be asking the same questions. In fact, ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I would be asking even harder questions of my friends.


Yes, I’ve casted a few aspersions in my writing; but, there are no aspersions in these questions. So, let’s break them down for you:

The first question is relevant to land use and zoning regulations. The community knows that you, Mr. Hill, and Mr. Leistra, are greatly in favor of the idea of incorporating. We also know that Mr. Hill, at least, has been stymied by the County in several efforts to develop commercial properties in our area. Many of us are members of indigenous tribes whose spiritual beliefs and sacred rituals are tied to the land. Many of us are conservationists and environmentalists who care about the wildlife, the plant life, the air quality. Many of us like the lack of a commercial footprint on the mountain – we don’t want downtown Big Bear turning up on Straight Way in Crestline after builders manage to buy up the property and tear down all the houses. We like the peace and quiet. And we have a right to know how these would-be creators of a new government we didn’t ask for intend to ensure that we can preserve the Crestline we chose when we decided to move here.

We also know that any newly incorporated city will have to produce a Housing Element. (For those not aware, this is a document that shows how a municipality is going to formally address the growing needs around ensuring there is adequate housing for the future, including affordable housing for low income folks. Right now we’re included in the County’s Housing Element and all the affordable housing projects are built down the hill.) And we also know that in order to adequately address affordable housing (I’ll use one of your favorite terms here) economies of scale will mandate that multi-family housing will be necessary to meet the affordability requirements. People have a right to know if this new city will be allowing for the building of housing projects up here.


My second question is relative to which of the folks on the ILGC or behind the scenes intend to run for city council positions, or hope to be included in city staff or contracting opportunities. Two of the ILGC members are leaders of local Baptist organizations who chose to leave the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCU) because ABCU was relaxing their stance on acceptance of homosexuality, and their churches (the ILGC folks) wanted to keep preaching about the abomination of homosexuality. I think every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered person in the area to be incorporated have a right to know if a potential city council member might want to write discriminations against them into local ordinances wrapped in the cloak of religious freedom laws.


We also have a whole lot of military veterans on this mountain who have served from World II all the way through the current wars in the Middle East. We have been wounded in defense of the Constitution. We have held in the viscera of our wounded comrades while medics and corpsmen tried to sew them up and keep them alive long enough to get to a field hospital. We have held them as they let out their last breath, then followed through on promises to get some last words to their wives and families. And we have seen these unnecessary wars being brought about because religious figures have taken political power. We believe more strongly than many that the line of separation between church and state must be unequivocal. We have a right to know if religious leaders intend to run for city council.

We’re also concerned that the local building contractors might run for council seats, or want to serve on committees or commissions related to writing new zoning and land use ordinances, or make future decisions on conditional use permits for building projects. We have a right to know if you, or any of the other builders plan on running for council seats.


My third question relates to the tax exempt status of the ILGC and their requesting donations from the community. I’ve been told by Mr. Garcia that the IRS has been back logged with approving the tax exempt status of new organizations since the government shut down. Well guess what – I’ve helped four different organizations incorporate with the California Secretary of State, and get their tax exempt status in place with both the California Franchise Tax Board, and with the Internal Revenue Service since the government shut down. So, I’m really unclear about why the IRS has decided to pick on the ILGC and back log their request.


My fourth question is about getting control of Lake Gregory. This has been a key selling point from the ILGC and we have informed them multiple times that with information as it stands now that getting control from the county may not be possible for 20 years because the county intends to sign a 20-year contract with a new private contractor this year. So, if we can’t actually get control for 20 years, then they are lying to the community just to get them to sign their petition and later vote for incorporation based on a lie. If the ILGC has different information to indicate that we might be able to get control before 2039 then it would seem this might be a good selling point.


Questions five and six basically relate to what we’ll call “probable cost overruns” for an incorporated city. Right now the ILGC’s preliminary financial feasibility study has projected revenue and expenditures, which when averaged out over the years 2022-2026, show that average revenue over those five years is $12.7 million, and average expenditures are also $12.7 million. How do we not go bankrupt if there is another “Old Fire”, or some kid gets severely injured at the Skate Park and we get sued beyond our liability insurance coverage? Is this the kind of stuff that will make our property taxes go up? Because, how the hell else are we expected to pay for “probable cost overruns”?


The seventh question is about how the new city expects to provide any decent parks and recreation programming with the $300,000 we would be taking back from Rim Parks and Rec. Rim Parks has already sent a letter to LAFCO indicating that this budget reduction could likely cause them to become financially insolvent. So, not only would we be providing a rather crappy parks and rec for the new city, but we may also be ensuring that all the other parks/rec activities for other areas of the mountain would be disappearing. I’ve heard accusations coming from the ILGC side that Rim Parks and Rec has done a poor job; but I’ve heard from several on our side that they have had wonderful experiences with their children in the programming offered by Rim Parks for years. What right do we have to screw that up for the 20,000+ people who won’t be incorporated, or to provide a crappier experience for those who will be incorporated? This it total hubris on the part of the ILGC; and some of us happen to believe that the only reason taking over parks and rec is in the preliminary feasibility study is to support the lie that we’ll be able take control of the lake. We at least have a right to know what the ILGC thinks can be done with a paltry $300,000.


The eighth question is about all these grants we keep hearing about from the ILGC side that we’ll be able to get that we won’t be able to get if we’re not a city. They can’t even tell us specifically what grants from which entities in what amounts to help do what. They can’t tell us because they don’t know. I know they don’t know because grants is what I do for a living. They can’t name me one grant that I can’t get for a local nonprofit so long as that nonprofit has the right experience. And even as a city they won’t be able to get these grants until after they can prove the city has the right experience, which means they need more money than they have budgeted to create that experience. Just the staff alone to design a grant program, write the grant proposal, and administer the grant will cost the new city over $500,000 a year – where is that money in the feasibility study? It’s not.


The last question is about how to ensure that property taxes aren’t going to go up. Of if they need to go up later, what might that look like? One of the research experts on our side has indicated that we haven’t had a newly incorporated city in California in over three decades who hasn’t at least doubled property taxes during the first few years after incorporating. I personally know one retired gal up here who lives on the financial edge of ruin month after month, barely keeping food in the fridge most months. If her property taxes double she will either have to sell and move off the mountain, or die of starvation in her home. I know another gal, only through Facebook, who throws up a GoFundMe page every time a kitchen appliance stops working or her brakes go out. I can’t imagine how she will handle another $1,000 a year in property tax. Personally, I can handle the finances if my taxes double, but this is a piece of information I have a right to know in order to inform my decision on this issue. And every person up here deserves to understand that this is a very likely event, and that property owners can expect their taxes to double within five years, and the folks who rent deserve to realize that when the taxes double it’s going to get tacked on to their rent.


These are all questions that folks need answers to in order to make informed decisions about how to vote on this issue. And if you can’t see the relevance of these questions, I darn sure hope you don’t intend to run for city council.


And finally, I want to define what constitutes a liar in my culture, while allowing that “I don’t know” is always an acceptable response to any question so long as it’s the truth.

  • If you know that an answer to a question should be five paragraphs and you only give two sentences – you’re a liar.
  • If you tell me a thing you think I want to hear in order to gain my acceptance of things I might not otherwise appreciate if you hadn’t told me the first thing – you’re a liar.
  • If you tell me a thing is possible but you really don’t know from first-hand information or experience that it is possible – you’re a liar.
  • If you have three reasons that you wish to do a thing but you only tell me the reason that you believe will gain my approval – you’re a liar.
  • If your response to a question is defensiveness – you’re a liar.
  • If your response to a question is to answer a question I didn’t ask – you’re a liar.
  • If you start a response with “well I was told” and you didn’t bother to check the veracity of that untruth – you’re the liar, not the nameless third person who told you.
  • And finally, if you refuse to provide any answer at all – you’re a liar.

So for everyone on the ILGC, if the shoe fits – zip it up and wear it!!

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John Kirby - Questions for Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee Members 06-15-19

[note: pdf of this editorial is available at bottom of page for download and sharing.]


 

A few questions for the Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee (ILGC):

Mr. Mellinger, I saw your article in the Alpine Mountaineer yesterday  about “not signing the petition unless”. I’m not mad at what you wrote.  Thank you for clearing that up from the leadership level. If you could  do a class with your volunteers so they can reflect what you wrote when  collecting signatures that would be great.


The community does  have a few more questions that we would like some straight answers on  from the ILGC. And just so you know, answers like “I/we don’t know” or  “we can’t promise that” are acceptable answers. At least they give the  community the knowledge that there is some unaddressed variable to  consider in their decision making process. 


Let’s start with some questions for individual committee members:

Mr. Mellinger, or should I say Pastor Mellinger, what are you hoping to  gain from leading this effort? Why are you even involved in trying to  create a government? I, and many other folks on this mountain, fought to  defend the principles enshrined in the Constitution of the United  States of America – one of which is the separation of church and state.  We declared our independence from Britain due in part to the “marriage”  of the Crown and the Church, which brought about significant oppression  and repression of people and institutions who did not agree with the  decrees issued as a result of that “marriage”. And while I don’t think  any of us would begrudge a person of any religion their right to have a  say in their own government, I would hope that you can see why many  might fear a local theocracy when the leader of a religious institution  has his hand in forming a local government. That hasn’t worked out too  well for Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, etc.


Mr. Garcia,  I won’t call you pastor though I have seen places online that suggested  you have undertaken ministerial studies, but since you work for an  organization that is tax exempt as a church, I ask you the same  questions that I just posed to Pastor Mellinger. I also have a few other  questions for you in particular. 


First, Thousand Pines  Christian Camp is registered with the IRS as a church, though I don’t  see in your programs and activities on your website where you actually  have public church services. I see where you provide a lot of stuff that  for-profit camps offer up here – and then pay taxes on their earnings.  And of course, as church, you aren’t even required to report income and  revenue on IRS Form 990 as other nonprofits must. Can you please explain  to the community what makes your camp’s organization as a church ok? 


Second Mr. Garcia, I’ve also learned through a little research that you  formed a company in 2014, Monterey Bay Holding Company LLC, with an  original address that appears to be right across the street from  Thousand Pines. You’re the only name affiliated with the LLC. Your  website says you provide technology business solutions, and yet I find  no internet footprint of Monterey Bay Holding Company doing any actual  work – oh, except that your company is the one who holds the domain name  for the Incorporate Lake Gregory website. I did find on one of the  business profile websites that your company did about $52,000 in  business last year; can you tell us what the nature of that business  was? Maybe who you did it for? I mean, come on, the words “Holding  Company” all by themselves bring up thoughts of bad Steven Seagal  conspiracy theory movies.


Third Mr. Garcia, I’ve also noted that  the current address for the Monterey Bay Holding Company is the same  address that was used on the incorporation documents for Incorporate  Lake Gregory. I’ve also noted that the address is owned by  Transformation Ministries – who, coincidentally, list Mr. Mellinger’s  church and your camp within their holdings. This seems like an awful lot  of church trying to form a government. Is Transformation Ministries  aware of all this Incorporation stuff? I’m also curious about why  Monterey Bay Holdings had to be a Limited Liability Company – if you’re  not actually doing any work, what liability did you need to limit?


Mr. Short, since you’re an attorney and you’re on the ILGC, I’m curious  – why was the Registration and the Statement of Information for the  forming of the Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee with the California  Secretary of State done on LegalZoom? Couldn’t you have done that  yourself? And, why is the Agent for Service of Process noted within  those documents also LegalZoom? Couldn’t that have been handled by you  also? Or, were you also trying to limit some level of personal  liability? Or perhaps you were simply trying to ameliorate the  appearance of a conflict of interest in case you were ultimately asked  to be the new City Attorney should we incorporate? Are you willing to  stipulate on the record that neither you, nor your law firm will accept  any paid role in the new city for at least the first five years after  incorporation? This would totally alleviate some of the concerns that  have been expressed by the community.


Mr. Johnstone, I read the  article in the Mountain News from May of last year about you and your  family returning to the mountain. I saw that you were then active with  the Rotary and the Chamber, and wished that you had time to be involved  with some other organizations up here if you only had the time. I only  have one question for you, sir. What about this whole incorporation  effort did you find so important that you created time that you  apparently didn’t have last May? I mean, you’re still involved with  Rotary, the Chamber, and you still manage a busy grocery store, right?


Now, here are some questions that any of you on the ILGC can take a whack at if you so desire:

1. One of the primary concerns among some folks is that upon  incorporation that Land Use and Zoning ordinances will be created that  allow for increasing the commercial footprint, and/or allowing for  larger multi-family homes than are currently allowed, and that will  allow for more destruction of forest land in order to build more stuff.  What guarantees can you give us that this won’t occur? I have some  ideas, but thought I’d hear what’s already in your collective head  first.

2. Will all five of the ILGC members stipulate on the  record that you won’t run for any of the initial city council seats, nor  will you accept any paid role in the new city for the first five years  after incorporation?

3. Since you are collecting donations that  you are telling folks will be tax deductible retroactively upon  receiving an IRS 501c3 determination letter, and that determination has  still not been provided by the IRS, Are you prepared and willing to  return any donations received to the donors if you are not ultimately  granted tax exempt status?

4. One of your key selling points to  the community is that we can get control of Lake Gregory. You know,  because we’ve told you several times, that the county is in the midst of  a bidding process right now that will ultimately end up with a private  contractor having the lake for the next 20 years. Are you involved with  any consortium of entities currently bidding to gain this contract? Have  you spoken with the county about this, and are you aware if the county  is going to put an “out clause” in that 20-year contract so they can  take it back and give to the new city if we incorporate? How do you  propose to get the lake back for us prior to the year 2039 if neither  answer is yes?

5. We also know that in your preliminary financial  feasibility study you intend to contract with County Fire to continue  providing fire and emergency medical services to the new city. The $4  million-ish you have budgeted is for normal day-to-day operations of the  current level of services. You also know, or should, that the Old Fire  in 2003 had an aggregate cost of over $1.2 Billion, and the county had  to pony up some portion of that cost overrun from normal day-to-day  operations. You also know that we’ve had a lot of fires up here over the  past few years that have necessitated CalFire, other counties, and a  couple of out-of-state crews coming in to help. These also incurred  additional costs to the county. So my question – if we’re contracting  with the county for the normal day-to-day – is the county going to pay  the cost overruns for every fire up here, or is our new city going to  have to pay for that? If so, how does that fit into the budget?

 6. You’re also proposing that we contract with the Sheriff for police  services; I believe that was around $5-6 million each year. I’m curious –  have you looked at other areas that contract with Sheriff and County  Fire for their services to actually learn how much those contracts  increased in price year over year? I believe you’ve budgeted 3% a year  for increases in expenses, but is that really realistic for police and  fire services? And especially with fire – were there any significant  spikes in those contracting costs the year after a major fire in these  other areas? We would like to see some data on this. Actually, we’d  really like to know if you’ve even considered this? I will be looking  for the data myself in the coming weeks.

7. Oh and the whole  Parks and Rec thing – I’ve seen numbers flying around Facebook that  we’ll get around $300,000 to take away from Rim Parks and Rec so that we  can run our own parks department. What type of programs do you have in  mind that you’re going to be able to implement with $300,000? I do lots  of program/service budgeting in my daily work life. A generally workable  ratio is 60% of budget to salaries and fringe benefits, and 40% to  other costs. So that $300,000 will give you about $180,000 for 3 badly  paid staff people, about $45,000 for administrative overhead, and about  $75,000 for program specific costs. So, what are your three poorly paid  staff people going to do parks and recreation-wise for the other 11,359  people in our new city for roughly $75,000?

8. Then we’ve heard  multiple times from microphones, and seen a couple of times in your  printed materials that we can get grants as a city, that we can’t get as  an unincorporated area, so we can help our seniors; our folks who  suffer from addiction, mental illness, and/or homelessness; and help  build/improve our infrastructure, etc. Can you tell us please, which  government agencies or private foundations are giving what grants, for  what services, in what amounts, in what timelines? And, can you tell us  where in your current feasibility budgeting you have accounted for the  staffing necessary to find the current year grants, write those grant  proposals, and manage any resulting programs/services? Because just in  case you’re not aware – you’re going to have to have these staff in  place, and having provided similar services for some period of time  (which changes from one grant program to another but generally 2-7 years  of experience is required by the entity (city) applying for the grant)  to even be eligible to submit a proposal in the hopes of getting a grant  for anything.

9. Another major concern is that our taxes  (property, sales, fire, all of them) will go up in order to avoid the  bankruptcies experienced by almost every newly incorporated city of our  size over the past 30 years. What guarantees can you give us that our  taxes won’t go up, at least not any more than they might have under the  county’s control?


I’m sure we’ll have more direct questions as  this process moves forward, but if y’all could start by answering these  it would be cool. And, if anyone reading this has questions you want to  add, please do so in the comments and I’ll include them in my next post.


John Kirby - More on the Debate to Incorporate or Don't Incorporate 06-06-19

  [Note: pdf copy of this is available for download at bottom of page]


More on the To Incorporate or Don’t Incorporate debate:


There is so much going on with this whole debacle in so many community spaces, Facebook groups, post office tables, and grocery store aisles that it must be impossible for the average person to keep up with what’s real, what’s true, what’s conjecture, and what’s just total crap. It’s difficult for me and I’ve somehow managed to put myself right in the middle of all this drama. I’m going to try to explain all of it, as I understand it, as things sit right now. And, I’m not going to do it from a place of anonymity, nor from some birdbrained Facebook pseudonym. Anybody, whether you’re against incorporating as a city or wholly for incorporation, is free to engage with me in comments, via private message on Facebook, or via personal email (crestlinewriter@gmail.com) – so long as you do so openly. You know who I am, it’s only fair that I know who you are. I don’t even care if you use cuss words or express negative emotions towards me. So, you should probably pour that large mug full of coffee, put your reading spectacles on your face, and grab the comfortable Adirondack chair, ‘cuz this is going to be a long one.


The first thing I want to address is that I’ve only lived here for four years. I’ve heard it outright said by a few, and implied by many on the pro-incorporation side that since I haven’t lived here for 30 years that I shouldn’t have a say in the future of this community. My response to this contention is that if you’re living in a house you’ve owned for 10, 20, 30, years or more and you’re paying taxes on an assessed home value of less than what I paid for my home in 2015 – you’re counting on my way higher property taxes to make your financial feasibility study pencil out. You’re counting on MY MONEY to make this whole thing work. If everyone in this proposed area of incorporation were paying Prop 13 taxes on a 30-year old mortgage this entire conversation would not even be taking place. My voice should count as strongly as my money.


Next, let’s go right to the Incorporate Lake Gregory advertisement of which they are so proud, you can find it on their Facebook page. Here is some of the exact language from that ad:

“The people of the Lake Gregory area are passionate about our community and share a dream of small-town mountain living. As supporters of incorporation, we believe local control can better protect and enhance that dream.” And another quote from the ad:

“This is the moment to act to safeguard what we love about our community and help it thrive. Towns that incorporate enjoy more financial opportunities, some of which are just emerging.”

So, let’s deconstruct these two parts of this ad. If you take a read through the 130-page preliminary feasibility study that the Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee (ILGC) intend to submit to LAFCO along with their petition, you will note that they’re proposing to keep the Sheriff for police services, county fire for fire and emergency medical services, take over oversight/control of the all the existing municipal services (sanitation, water, roads and infrastructure), and all they really propose to change and take an actual active hand in controlling are Parks and Recreation District, and Building and Planning. Right now let’s talk about Building and Planning, because that is at the crux of the two parts of the ad I quoted above.


One of the main proponents of incorporation, Mick Hill, is the owner of a construction company up here, and owns at least a few pieces of property he would like to develop into commercial ventures. He has also, according to two reliable sources, offered on multiple occasions to donate whatever portion of the initial $100,000 needed to push this effort forward through LAFCO that the committee is unable to raise from your donations to their cause. Mr. Hill has been heard to say at various microphones that he misses the Crestline he grew up in, and he wants it back. He has also been heard by people as he has gone around the community to yard sales this past holiday weekend to tell folks that he wants to build hotels, more retail businesses, etc. so that our community can thrive. Which is it Mr. Hill? Do you want to increase the commercial footprint of our community, or do you want the old quiet Crestline that had uninsured bathtub races running down Lake Drive? I’m not sure both are possible.


And guess what? The commercialization of our community isn’t allowable under the current Crest Forest Community Plan, nor will it be allowable under the newly forming Countywide Plan which will likely replace all the current land use and zoning ordinances across San Bernardino County by the end of the year – might take a little longer. (I’m an Indian. My primary concern with this whole process is the gutting of the protections for the forest currently imbedded in both plans.)


I’m guessing some of y’all just asked yourself, “What the heck is he talking about these plans?” Let me explain:

Land use and zoning ordinances are local laws which dictate what type, if any, structures can be built within a community, and where they can be built. Sometimes there are particular areas where special considerations need to be made, like in the San Bernardino National Forest. There are 14 of these particular areas throughout our county. One of those areas is us, and the county Planning Division, several years ago, went through a very long process of community meetings, focus groups, public comment on a draft plan, finalizing that plan, and adopting it in order to provide the protections that WE SAID WE WANTED AS A COMMUNITY for our little hamlet of Crest Forest. 


This plan is called the Crest Forest Community Plan. This plan is a blend of at least three different sets of what I will call “stuff”. This stuff included:

1. Generic ordinances and policies that are common to the other 13 special districts and the entire rest of the county. These include things like adherence to the building codes so new construction includes appropriate wiring so your electrical system doesn’t burn your house down; and things like you can’t make a personal residence into a group home for sex offenders without a Conditional Use Permit.

2. Land use ordinances and zoning maps specific to the Crest Forest area. If you notice, the vast majority of commercial businesses in our area are located along Lake Drive, and along that strip in the Valley of Enchantment where Cindy’s restaurant is/was (haven’t been there in a few months, but heard it might be closing.) Limiting businesses along these two corridors is by design, our design – not the county’s edict. We asked for those protections and we got them. Also included are things like we must use building materials reflective of our mountain community, this means Rite Aid can’t come in an put up a concrete monstrosity on Lake Drive and create a visual disharmony for our residents, or our tourists. These parts of the plan also keep builders from building multi-unit rental properties without certain restrictions and permissions being in place. They can’t build a 3-bedroom “granny flat” in the backyard of a single family lot. This is the stuff of land use and zoning, again that we asked for and got included in this plan.

3. The third part of the Crest Forest Community Plan is what I’ll call “cool stuff we’d really like to see sometime”. These are things that neither counties nor cities really actually do with taxpayer money. They may do these things on occasion with grant money from various entities, but not with tax money. These are things like bike paths and more hiking trails for our community and tourists to enjoy. Low level street lighting for ambiance (rather than public safety) along Lake Drive. There are a lot of these things in the current plan.


So, when I met with Mr. Mellinger (the Chairperson for the Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee) some days ago I expressed my concern that Mr. Hill and other developers may hold a desire to do away with the current Crest Forest Community Plan. Mr. Mellinger told me that the county already had plans to do away with it, and would not be including any protections for the special desert and mountain regions within San Bernardino County. I immediately emailed Lewis Murray, County Supervisor Rutherford’s field supervisor for our mountain if you’re not aware. Mr. Murray put me in touch with Karen Watkins, one of the planning analysts in the County Planning Division who is working on the new Countywide Plan for land use and zoning. You can find the documents I’m about to discuss here: www.countywideplan.com. Karen spent over an hour on the phone with me taking me through a compare/contrast discussion between our current plan and the new plans the county is working to finalize. I then spent several hours reading the detail between both the old and the new. 

So, here is what is happening with the new plan possibly going into effect later this year:

1. Those generic ordinances I discussed above from all 14 special districts and the countywide current plan are all being moved into the new Countywide Plan, instead of repeating hundreds of pages of this generic crap in all 15 current documents. Basically, this removes a bunch of pages of extraneous generic stuff from our Crest Forest plan. Yes, we will still have a Crest Forest Plan, it will just be shorter because all the generic crap will be in a different document.

2. The land use ordinances and zoning maps will continue to provide all the protections WE ASKED THEM FOR in both the old Crest Forest Community Plan, and have asked for again during the process over the last year or so during the County Planning Division’s new community forums and focus groups. If you go to the website I noted above, click on “Your Community” on the left side of the screen, then scroll down a bit and you’ll see “Mountain Communities”, under which you can click on “Crest Forest Communities” and you can review documents related to this whole process there. If you don’t see a document I name hereafter, just email me and I’ll send it to you. One of the documents is a Matrix that shows in the left column the protections/ considerations we asked for in the old plan and in the right column it tells us where that particular protection/consideration is addressed in the newly proposed plan. Everything from the old plan is there, along with some even stronger protections in some areas that didn’t exist in the old plan – despite what some members of the pro-incorporation side are telling folks in the community.

3. That “cool stuff we’d really like to see sometime” has all been moved into the “Communities Action Guide” specific to our area. Remember, this is the stuff that I said earlier that cities and counties just don’t do with taxpayer dollars. This is stuff that counties and cities sometimes do with grant money from some federal and state agencies, or more often from public or private foundations; but, this is really stuff that local nonprofits do all across the nation – nonprofits like the Crestline Communities Development Alliance. Mr. Hill and others have noted in writing and in public speaking that there are “grants we can only get if we are a city”. This is simply not true. 


Maybe they truly don’t understand this is not true, but perhaps if they had talked to the community at large when they first thought of this incorporation idea – they might have run across me. I’m a nonprofit development director by trade. I’ve managed over $100,000,000 in grant funding for various programs, services, and community projects over the last 15 years of my career. I do grants for a living folks. More on this later. 


Anyway, the Communities Action Guide list every single one of these “cool stuff” items, and gives a suggested course of action for the community to come together and how to proceed to make these things happen. I live here. I’m happy to write grants to help achieve these things. And even on the rare occasion when a grant is only available to a government division, I’m pretty sure if I offer my normally $200/hour services free of charge to the County – they’ll let me write it for them to administer the money for our projects; I’ve done this with several cities and counties over the years.


So, based on this I don’t see any reason to incorporate as a city. We’re already protected from destroying our little mountain town. But, there are other parts of planning and building. One of those other parts is the Building Code itself. The Building Code is that part of the law which tells contractors the engineering specifications to which they must adhere when building a building – how many 2x4s must be in a wall brace, what gauge of wire they have to use for your bathroom light fixture, or the diameter of pipe going to meet your sewer line or septic tank. As a city we can’t make these requirements easier, we can only make them more difficult. So, I reckon this part of Planning and Building isn’t the reason we want to incorporate.


This leaves us with the permitting and inspection process. Now, here is a county-sucking thing I’ve heard from both sides of the incorporation debate. If you’re not aware of how this works – if you’re trying to open a new business but, let’s say, the bathroom in your space doesn’t meet current codes for the Americans with Disabilities Act – a wheelchair can’t fit through the door. Now you have to draw plans for how you’re going remodel the bathroom. You go down to the County Planning and Building Division, show them your plans, and ask for a building permit. (Apparently they are sometimes really slow in issuing the permits.) You finally get the permit and start tearing out a wall to widen the doorway, and oops, you find 40-year old asbestos in the wall. 

Now you have to stop and go back to the planning division and ask for permit to remove the asbestos, and wait for the asbestos removal contractor to finish removing the asbestos; after which, you have to schedule the County Building Inspector to come make sure all the asbestos is gone. Now you can move the light switch to make room for the wider door for the wheelchair; but before you can finish you have to schedule the Building Inspector to come make sure the wiring for the light switch is correct, after which you can build the new doorframe and hang your new door. Then you have to schedule the Building Inspector again so he can come approve the whole job. Then you can open your business – if they don’t find some other stuff wrong that nobody ever said anything about before – and now you have to tear up an entire floor or some other stupid crap – after you get another permit, and schedule more inspections, etc. And apparently, the Building Inspector is really slow to schedule inspections. Ugh!! I can see where contractors get frustrated; and this doesn’t only happen in businesses, it also happens when you’re trying to remodel your kitchen. I don’t, however, see that this happens often enough to warrant adding a whole new level of government, even if community activism can’t get the county to change their operational structure to ameliorate these issues.


Now we can talk about taking control of Parks and Recreation. One of the contentions coming from the Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee (ILGC) is that we can only get control of Lake Gregory if we incorporate as a city; and in one sense they’re correct. If we ever want to be the decider-in-chief over everything concerning our lake then we have to be in charge of our own Parks and Rec division, and we have to negotiate with the county to take stewardship of the lake and over Lake Gregory Regional Park. One of the many concerns I’ve heard in my four years here is that local residents are mad that we have to pay for parking, and fishing, and water parking, and everything else lake related. And, while I’ve never heard anyone on the ILGC say that we would be able to make the lake free for residents, the implication that this is so is all over their messaging. The reason the County put the lake out for bid to private contractors years ago is because the County was losing between $500,000 and $750,000 every year trying to operate it and keep it no/low cost for residents. So even if we “take it back” it still won’t be free for us folks living up here without the new city losing around half a million dollars a year. But, even this is a moot point for the next 20 years, because the county is in the bidding process right now looking for a new private contractor with whom they intend to sign a 20-year contract to operate the lake. We won’t be able to negotiate to get it back until your newborn child is a sophomore in college.


Here’s the kicker for me about the whole lake taking back thing. If our “leaders” on the ILGC were really concerned about taking back the lake – WHY AREN’T THEY BIDDING ON THAT CONTRACT AS I TYPE? The Crestline Community Development Alliance (a local nonprofit with significant history with members of the ILGC) could have been looking at this probable opportunity for years. (I’ve read the Request for Proposal the county put out for this bid process.) The requirements of the bidding proposal could have been met by creating partnerships with local businesses and nonprofit organizations, and a line of credit for emergency operational purposes could have been established in partnership with major donors like Mick Hill and our very own credit union up here. These are the kinds of future planning and partnership building that city governments do all the time. Governments look toward the future and plan for it to ensure the best probable use of taxpayer dollars in partnership with local businesses and nonprofit organizations all the time. I would think that if the ILGC wants to lead us into cityhood – they should at least have been able to look at how an actual community effort to take control of the lake might work, and show us they know how to strategize stuff like this. They haven’t done that.


There have also been statements and implications from the ILGC and proponents of incorporation that the county is corrupt and inept. There are 58 counties in California. Each county has their own LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission). So I find it very interesting that the ILGC hires a consultant who was a former LAFCO manager for the county they insist is so corrupt and inept. Couldn’t you have found a LAFCO consultant from a non-corrupt county?

Furthermore, if your consultant were any kind of a consultant – the first question she should have asked you was if/how you have communicated your intentions with the community you intend to affect with this incorporation. There are 11,362 people in the area proposed for incorporation. There were a total of 90 signatures submitted to start this whole preliminary feasibility study process back in November 2018. Did it ever occur to the ILGC that the other 11,272 people in the area might have liked to hear about this before you started the process on their behalf? And now there is this rush to the 2020 ballot. We have to get the 25% of registered voters to sign the petition that says we are in favor of incorporation, so that we can submit our preliminary feasibility study and the petition to LAFCO, so that LAFCO has time to complete their study, and a probable $500,000 Environmental Impact Report (for which LAFCO can take out a loan on our behalf if ILGC doesn’t raise that much money and we have to pay it back from our tax dollars if we do become a city but the ILGC didn’t tell us any of this when they asked us to sign their petition), so we have time to submit to the Board of Supervisors to include on the 2020 ballot.


And the ILGC can’t understand why people are angry and scared? If you want to alleviate the angry and scared in our community – that your actions have caused – then push your timetable out to get this on the ballot for 2022. Give the people you decided NOT to inform the same couple of years you’ve had to digest some real information and do some of their own research. As the old adage goes, “if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” And I would add that it is worth doing ethically.


Oh, and that loan I mentioned above that LAFCO can request on our behalf – the “Don’t Incorporate” side brought this up online a few weeks ago. The ILGC has responded a few times saying there would be no loan. Then their Chairperson, William Mellinger, notes in a response the other day that he just learned last week that if they are unable to raise enough money to get this through LAFCO that LAFCO could request a loan on our behalf. Guess when I learned about this potential loan liability to any newly formed city – when I took the time to read the 450-page LAFCO Policy and Procedure Manual a few weeks ago when I first heard about this effort to incorporate. I have to ask, why didn’t the Chairperson or, for that matter, the entire ILGC read the LAFCO Policy and Procedure manual two years ago when this incorporating idea popped into their collective mind? Or, did they read it? If they didn’t take the time to read it then I have to believe they’re likely to be just as inept in running a new city as they accuse the county of being. If they did read it and didn’t tell us about this little ditty then I have to believe they may end up being just as corrupt as they accuse the county of being.


Right now one of the sub-issues frustrating me is this petition going around. If you actually read the petition, it says that the undersigned are in favor of all the activities it will take to incorporate. I’m not going to cut/paste the petition here (this thing is already going to be ridiculously long) in this writing. I’m also not going to tell anyone reading this diatribe that you should or shouldn’t sign it. I’m only going to suggest that you don’t listen to anything anyone for or against tells you about what the petition is for – please read it, then decide if you want to sign it. If they don’t get 25% of the registered voters in our area to sign it then this whole process ends. If they do get 25% then it, along with the preliminary feasibility study go to LAFCO to continue this process; and while there would be a public comment and grievance process prior to going to the County Board of Supervisors for approval to get on the ballot there is still no guarantee it won’t get on the ballot.


One of the arguments going around says, “Sign the petition even if you’re not in favor of incorporation because LAFCO’s study will find out how much of our tax money is actually being spent on us and how much isn’t coming back to our community. The county won’t tell us this information otherwise.” Guess what folks – we have a law called the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Any citizen of the United States of America can do a FOIA request to the County of San Bernardino to get all this revenue and expenditure information from the county specific to our area, and the county must comply or they are in violation of federal law. If they give us false information pursuant to a FOIA request they are also in violation of federal law. And guess what, a FOIA request doesn’t cost between $100,000 and $1,000,000. It basically costs whatever it takes to pay for paper and ink with the County’s copy machine. We don’t need a LAFCO study to get this information. And if the would-be city leaders of a new city don’t even know how to employ a FOIA request, how much more do they need to throw into their learning curve to be ready to run a city government?


I know. I’m being mean and sarcastic and casting the occasional implied aspersion. Folks being mean and angry and name calling on Facebook has been used as the primary excuse by the ILGC for not engaging with this conversation on Facebook. They tell us to come to their next community meeting and ask questions, which they will answer in their controlled environment. But you don’t have the space to seat 11,000 people anywhere. You also don’t dedicate enough time to fully discuss any one question or concern at your forums or coffee klatches. And you need to face the reality that Facebook activism has been used to bring down world leaders in Egypt, and Libya, and foment a civil war in Syria. Facebook activism has brought about federal corruption investigations right here in the United States. Facebook is a fact of life that you will have to deal with as a city leadership, and I reckon you better start learning how to deal with it now before this crap goes to a ballot box. If you can’t deal with people being mean online, and figuring out how to address misinformation, conspiracy theories, and conjecture here – how the hell do you expect to deal with it in a live city council meeting or planning commission hearing when there is a contentious issue on one of those agendas. You can’t just pack up your gavel and go home, you have to deal with it. The best you can do then is table it for the next meeting. But right here, and right now – we’re not going to let you table anything. Your timetable toward 2020 is forcing us to be mean, because that’s how most people behave when they are frustrated, angry, and scared. And the frustrated, angry, and scared running through our community right now is your fault.


And now to the point of contention that the county doesn’t spend on us what we pay in taxes. I don’t know if they do or not. I haven’t done a FOIA request to find that out. Here’s what I do know. I know that some people believe that if we had more control over our tax dollars that we could afford additional police coverage for our area because “crime is so high here.” Really, crime is so high here? I’m sorry some homeless tweakers are stealing your aluminum cans, or rifling through your car that you left unlocked and stealing your cassette tapes, while other parts of the unincorporated areas of the county are picking up murdered bodies once a week or more. And my God, why should I have to spend my tax dollars on extra emergency medical services in some other part of the county because some 3-year-old gets shot in a drive-by? I don’t mind if some of my tax dollars go to afford better protections or medical responses to a community overrun by gang violence and other crimes against the person. It seems like the Christian thing to do; and if that’s a Christian principle then I can accept that one, even though I’m not a Christian. 


And then there is the Old Fire back in 2003 that cost in the vicinity of $1,200,000,000 (yes, that’s billion). I know the county didn’t foot that entire bill, but they certainly ponied up more than the $18,000,000 or so that collected from us in taxes that year to fight that fire and help us recover afterward. And since the ILGC proposal is to contract with county fire for our future services, guess who will still bear the brunt of those extra fire costs for all future fires – other tax payers who don’t live on our mountain, that’s who. I’m just guessing here, but I’m thinking we’re at least breaking even, if not a little ahead on this point folks.


I’ve heard from the proponents of incorporation that they haven’t heard any good reason not to incorporate. My riposte is, “I’ve not heard any good reason to incorporate.” The only thing incorporation does in my mind is to open the door to more localized corruption either now or in the future. And if you’ve ever paid close attention to government corruption scandals – corruption is always local. Familiarity breeds corruption. Corruption occurs when two people/entities have a relationship which causes ethical lines to be crossed where money, property, and prestige are central to an issue. If we want to keep the corruption off of our mountain for the long haul – incorporating as a city is not the way to ensure that.

(OK, I have to stop typing now because half of you have stopped reading anyway, and my fingers hurt.)

Letter to LAFCo from Rim, Park District

  [Note: A pdf copy of the original letter is available for download at the bottom of the page]


May 24, 2019


Local Agency Formation Commission

Samuel Martinez

1170 West 3rd Street, Unit 150

San Bernardino, CA 92415-0490 


Subject: Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition for Proposed Incorporation of the Town of Lake Gregory


Dear Mr. Martinez: 


The Rim of the World Recreation and Park District is in receipt of LAFCO’s Notice of Intent dated May 1, 2019, concerning a local group’s intent to incorporate the Town of Lake Gregory. The subject Notice of Intent indicates the proposed reorganization will include detachment from the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District.


The Rim of the World Recreation and Park District is an independent special district formed in 1985 and encompasses approximately 110 square miles of land located within the beautiful San Bernardino National Forest and generally comprises Lake Gregory and Lake Arrowhead, and the unincorporated areas of Crestline, Twin Peaks, Blue Jay, Lake Arrowhead, Agua Fria, Crest Park, Rim Forest, Deer Lodge Park, Grass Valley Lake, Cedar Glen, Sky Forest, Enchanted Forest, Fredalba, Smiley Park, Running Springs, Green Valley Lake, and Arrowbear Lake. 


The Rim of the World Recreation and Park District has a rich history that began with an idea from a group of residents desiring a higher level of recreational services for the entire mountain communities. Today the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District is effectively managed and operated by a resourceful and dedicated Park District staff. In addition to the staff, the District thrives from the generous efforts provided by our dedicated recreation contractors who tirelessly conduct recreational classes and help coach sporting and health activities for the entire mountain communities. With the limited resources and funding entrusted by our mountain residents, the District continues to provide numerous recreational programs and sports activities for the entire mountain communities of all ages, including community events, such as the Run through the Pines, which is the oldest organized running event in California. The District is proud of its acquisitions and maintenance of sixteen (16) community parks (inclusive of the new park facility in Green Valley Lake), senior programs, and after-school activities.  The District currently operates three (3) community centers available for use by the general public. Our newest and largest community center was made possible through a partnership with the Rim of the World Unified School District – the Lake Gregory Education & Community Center located on the easterly shore of Lake Gregory. The Lake Gregory Education & Community Center now includes a new Mountain Teen Center - free of charge for our local middle and high school students.   


In the event the detachment moves forward as proposed, it would result in an approximate $271,000 annual loss to the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District budget – which equates to over 35 percent (35%) of the District’s $770,000 parcel tax funds. The proposed detachment would result in a devastating financial hardship to the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District. In other words, the detachment will cause severe cutbacks of recreation programs, a potential increase in fees, deferred maintenance and/or possible closure of park facilities, and staff layoffs. Assuming all practical and extreme measures are unsuccessful, the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District would revert to the County of San Bernardino, which would oversee the dissolution of the District. 


Local Control and Partnership:

It is important to note that the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District understands how important local control is to the mountain communities. The District was founded on that very same desire. There are many partnership success stories between park districts and cities. For example, the Hesperia and Jurupa Park Districts are two in the local area that continue to operate successful recreation and park districts independent of their sister cities.


Park districts are unique because there are no boundaries when it comes to park district services. Park districts do not limit access to programs, services, and facilities based on where someone lives or works. That is not always the case with services provided by incorporated cities, such as police services, fire protection services, code enforcement, building and safety, planning and zoning, animal control services, trash collection services, water and sewer, etc.  


To help preserve the quality of life of all mountain residents, the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District strongly believes keeping the District whole with agency partnerships is in the mountain communities’ best interest. 


As you are aware, the District was voted in by the entire San Bernardino mountain communities by more than a 2/3 vote, and the District has continued to improve how it delivers park services to the entire mountain communities. The District is also proud of its accomplishments made over the years with its limited resources, including the development of a progressive 5-year facility maintenance plan for all park facilities. The District has also instituted fiscally sound policies and procedures which have enabled the District to routinely adopt balanced budgets every year and helped generate a $700,000 reserve balance. Finally, the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District staff and contractors are honored to have received several distinguished awards for its outstanding recreation programs, budget process, and management accomplishments.  


The Rim of the World Recreation and Park District is looking forward to receiving LAFCO’s full support to ensure the District is not financially harmed by the proposed incorporation effort. To that end, the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District is requesting a thorough fiscal impact analysis/cost benefit analysis be produced which shall include the actual impacts that the District will incur as a result of the detachment proposal. In addition, the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District is requesting LAFCO include in its required service reports all options available for park services (inclusive of those highlighted in this letter), not just the detachment proposal.  


Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or would like to meet with me and my team.


Sincerely,


Karen Reams

General Manager/CEO

Rim of the World Recreation and Park District

Feasibility Study Analysis Update - David Enos

   

Feasibility Study Analysis 05-25-19 David Enos

   

[pdf available for download at bottom of page]

   

   

Recently I decided to do some research on why incorporation is an unwise and potentially dangerous idea. I decided to use ILG’s (Incorporate Lake Gregory’s) feasibility study to demonstrate why as well as research from other sources. I’d like to share my findings with you. The Feasibility Study can be found here: https://incorporatelakegregory.org/ - scroll down to the “downloads” section to find the “Feasibility Study and Exhibits (pdf)”. I’d like to point out the cost of just getting the ball rolling (stated on this webpage): “Your support will help cover the costs of investigating the fiscal feasibility of cityhood for our community (costs include: up to $20,000 in LAFCO application fee, $60,000 feasibility study, $20,000 in consultant fees, etc.)”. $100,000. We have a hard enough time just raising funds for Jamboree Days. For those that want the short version of this, scroll down to “So let’s recap”. You can download this in PDF format at www.PreserveCrestline.com.


Starting on Page 1 of the study (bold type is to direct your attention, I make comments in italics where pertinent): - In October 2015, the Local Agency Formation Commission for San Bernardino County (LAFCO) presented the report prepared by the Rosenow Spevacek Group (RSG) related to the Preliminary Incorporation Feasibility Analysis for the Rim of the World communities. The report identified its intended purpose to provide a guidepost for future discussions, not conclusive evidence on feasibility, yet it was considered to be just that – evidence that incorporation would not be feasible without substantial change in the historical sharing of revenues in San Bernardino County (it’s not possible without some of the tax money you are paying to the county to be shared with the city).

- Amidst concern that ownership of Lake Gregory was going to be transferred to another outside agency, several citizens came together with the aim to protect our local interest in the lake (ILG states in this video at 2:20 https://www.facebook.com/themountainreporter/videos/2480882755506459/?hc_location=ufi that there is a supposed threat of the lake being sold. Even with incorporation, the county still owns the lake, the San Moritz Lodge and the Ballfield Park). Because only a town council or a special district can negotiate with the County for control of the lake (there is no legal verification of this statement, no proof, no online link to a statute that backs up this claim; Green Valley Lake is not incorporated, they aren’t worried about this, and we have never worried about this before. If the county sells the lake to someone, it’s not like they are going to take it with them. What’s the worry?), we formed Incorporate Lake Gregory and began examining the feasibility of cityhood. Incorporation puts the decision making for our community here with our community (No. It puts the decision making in the hands of a few people).

- Everyone involved in this effort to this point, just as those who join, see the many ways that incorporation brings the following and more:

●A stronger bond in who we are as a community; (just the discussion of incorporation has created strife)

● Local control of our assets; (again, no guarantees or verification of having control over the lake; Lake Arrowhead and Green Valley Lake are not incorporated; how are they avoiding being sold? Perhaps that’s the solution we should be after)

●People charged with the duty of addressing our immediate concerns, such as public safety and infrastructure; (there is very little crime here compared to other cities)

Page 2: - In determining compliance with Government Code Section 56720, the Commission finds that a "reasonable reserve" is a contingency fund equal to 10% of the projected general and special funds of the new city. (this is not much of a reserve)

   

- Dissolution of County Service Areas 18 (Cedarpines Park), County Service Area 68, CSA 70 Zone R-2 (Twin Peaks – part of Twin Peaks), R-23 (Mile High Park) and R-44 (Sawpit Canyon) (All will be absorbed into a single city)

Page 3: - “Dissolution of County Service Areas” above - These agencies will be extinguished, and their operations assumed by the new municipality (Again, all will be absorbed into a single city).

1.The incorporation ballot measure is proposed to include the conditions:

a. That the City Manager, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and City Attorney will be appointed rather than elected;

2. A ballot measure that allows the community to choose the name of the future town as either Town of Lake Gregory or Town of Crestline (if you are in Twin peaks, for example, part of it will now be absorbed into the new town).

PG 4: - The population of the incorporation area was derived from a report developed by the staff of LAFCO from the ESRI Business Analyst software as of September 15, 2018, showing that for 2018 the population of the proposed Town of Lake Gregory was 11,362 full-time residents within 4,589 households. (the residential population is much greater than the population of local business owners and workers, and although this may be good for business, it doesn’t follow it’s good for the residents as well).

PG 6: - The new city would adopt services such as finance, human resources, business registration (along with business license fees), land use administration, planning, building and safety, code compliance, fire hazard abatement, fire and paramedic along with a special tax of Zone FP-5), and police through general ad valorem taxes. Local parks programs would be paid for by ROWPRD special tax of $22 per parcel and ad valorem share from CSA 18 and charges for service. Regional facilities would be paid for by concessions and a share of the general ad valorem tax. Local street lighting would be from the general ad valorem tax. Regional state water project would be from the general ad valorem tax and a special tax (which is undefined here). Domestic water from fees and charges for water used as well as CVWD’s share of the general ad valorem tax. Sewer from fees and charges for collection and treatment and share of the general ad valorem tax. From Transportation network, the arterials and collector, local county maintained roads, from transportation tax from the state of California. Local non-county maintained roads from a share of the general ad valorem tax and special taxes approved by voters. From flood control and drainage, the local drainage facilities and regional facilities are paid for by a share of the general ad valorem tax. Solid waste collection will be through fees and charges, the local waste transfer station will be paid for by a share of the general ad valorem tax and a special tax of $85.14 per parcel. Schools will be paid for with a share of the general ad valorem tax but not through the new proposed ‘Town of Lake Gregory’. (note that special taxes – some per parcel – are listed 5 times here; also very important, note the large amount of things paid for by ad valorem taxes. We’ll get to what that is in a minute as well as why it’s so important.)

PG 7: Should the incorporation be approved by LAFCO and the election be successful, the new Town would have a transitional year (anticipated to be December 2020 to June 30, 2021) in which the County would continue to provide some services and receive some revenues for those services (mentioned because the transitional year is not a true representation of the city’s budget; and remember your taxes pay for the county services too).

   

- Following is a description of the revenue sources for the proposed Town of Lake Gregory. These estimates have used Fiscal Year 2017-18 data which has been increased for the Transition Year (initially by 6% and moving forward by 2% for revenues and 3% for expenses) to accommodate a projection for the Transition Year of Fiscal Year 2020-21 and beyond. (from the start it is estimated our expenses will outpace our revenues, meaning eventually taxes will have to be raised to meet the expenses)

PG 8: - GENERAL AD VALOREM PROPERTY TAX - Government Code Section 56810 sets forth the methodology required to determine the property tax share attributable to the proposed new Town from the County General Fund. (The General Ad Valorem Property Tax IS your property tax, which is based on a percentage of your home’s assessed value. THIS IS IMPORTANT. See this: https://www.propertytax101.org/articles/calculatepropertytax.php. The most important thing on the “Property Tax Share Transfer” chart? Right at the bottom – Property Tax Share to Town: 21.33%.

Which means you are still paying the lion’s share of your taxes to the county, you ARE NOT replacing the county. The county gets its taxes too - 78.67%.Now you are paying the county government AND the new city government.)

PG 9: - Transient Occupancy Tax for the County of San Bernardino is currently set at 7%. The new Town of Lake Gregory will succeed to this special tax that will be a condition of approval for its formation. In addition, it was identified by the County in its presentation of the data that collections are projected to increase, since entities such as AirBNB are collecting the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) for its users rather than relying on property owners to provide payment. (They will be collected by the new town should Crestline incorporate).

- The general ad valorem tax share of County Service Area (CSA) 18, CSA 68 and CSA 70 Zone R-2 are identified from the audits for these agencies and are listed for general discretionary use.

- For the districts identified for detachment, there are two types of revenues identified in the Preliminary Feasibility Study – general ad valorem taxes that are general fund sources and special taxes that are restricted in their use. The Spreadsheet identifies these two types of revenue streams distinctly:

PG 10: - General Ad Valorem share of detached districts – the revenues from the general ad valorem taxes of the detaching districts were determined using the data from the Property Tax Division provided during the RSG study, evaluated by the Tax Rate Areas included in the incorporation.

- The Special Tax revenues (where are these special tax revenues listed, what are they for) associated with the detaching Rim of the World Park District and SBCFPD Zone FP-5 were determined by the estimated number of private parcels within the proposed Incorporation and their affected area.

- The number of businesses was estimated as 200. (The number of estimated local Crestline businesses. Again, businesses and workers versus residents – will one benefit more from incorporation than the other? Worth some thought)

(Page 11 is the same as page 36. We’ll get there in a moment. Page 12 is where expenses are discussed.) Page 13 - 14: - TOWN COUNCIL Pursuant to the provisions of Government Code Section 36516, Town Council members can be paid up to $300 per meeting of the Council. This calculation allows for 16 meetings per year and minor council-related expenses. This calculation does not include the provision of other benefits to council members that may be authorized by law.


   

- ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES The Administrative Services/City Clerk Division will include the following positions: Chief Financial Officer/City Clerk, a Finance Officer/Human Resources Analyst, Information Technology Specialist and three Accounting Clerk/Customer Service Representatives. Expenses also include the costs for professional services to audit the sales tax, transient occupancy tax and property tax receipts, preparation of the annual audit, bank charges, postage charges and office expense.- CITY ADMINISTRATION The expenses identified for City Administration include the cost of the salary and benefits for the City Manager (with a higher benefit rate than other employees) and Administrative Assistant, the expenses for conduct of regular Town Council meetings (notice and publication), travel and memberships, and the cost of the elections. (Remember from page 3, the City Manager is NOT elected)

- CITY ATTORNEY The Incorporation proposal identifies that this will be a contract position and the expenses in this category are identified for the transition year as 300 hours at $300 per hour and 600 hours at $300 per hour for the first full year of operation. This hourly rate is then increased by 3% per year for the forecast retaining the number of hours. (Remember from page 3, the City Attorney is NOT elected)


  

- COMMUNITY SERVICES The Community Services Division will allow for contract staffing to accommodate the ebbs and flows of the development review process to be fully funded by fees and charges. Full-time staffing positions include Community Services Director, Principal Planner, Code Compliance Officer, Permit/License Specialist, and Administrative Assistant. The costs for this division include the mandatory requirement for the preparation of the General Plan, Housing Element and Environmental Impact Report within the first four full-years of operation. This full expense is estimated at $800,000, applied as $200,000 per year.- PUBLIC WORKS/ENGINEERING It is anticipated that this division will assimilate the positions from the subsidiary districts’ general managers for the administration of the districts, overseeing the roads functions funded by the restricted revenues and handling the operation of park and recreation programs transferring from the Rim of the World Park and Recreation District. Expense will commence with the first full-year of operation.

PG 15: - ANIMAL CONTROL The contract cost for this service is estimated using the information contained in the RSG Study, divided by the population of that study and then multiplied by the population of the proposed Town of Lake Gregory. This expense was then increased by 6% to provide for the first full year of operation cost, and then maintained across the forecast.

- LAW ENFORCEMENT The estimated County Schedule A contract was presented for Fiscal Year 2019-20 and has been increased by 6% to bring the projection into the first full year of operations following incorporation with a 3% annual increase thereafter. The proposal provides for an increased level of service utilizing two patrol deputies on duty 24/7 with supplemental traffic relief during the day. It is anticipated that the Town will provide for the co-location of a substation at Town Hall to allow for direct access by the community; however, this will be a consideration of the Town Council once incorporated. Fuel and maintenance costs not included in the proposal have been estimated using the costs for the City of Big Bear Lake.

PG 16: - (The important figure to pay attention to here is the $5,596,363 bill for law enforcement by 2026. These are new jobs we will have to pay for. And the salaries compound yearly by 3% every year.)

   

- FIRE PROTECTION/EMERGENCY MEDICAL RESPONSE State law requires a municipality to provide for fire protection but does not define the level of this service. The proposal for incorporation of the Town of Lake Gregory anticipates that responsibility for the provision of fire protection/emergency medical response will return to the Town (more expense).

- As shown on the chart that follows, this projection provides for three-man crews to be funded for Station 25 and the payment for one-half the cost of a three-man crew at Station 26, cost for administration, station expense and Household Hazardous Waste Contract.

PG 17: (The important figure to pay attention to here is the $4,523,992 bill for fire/emergency medical by 2026. These are new jobs we will have to pay for. And the salaries compound yearly by 3% every year.)

- NON-DEPARTMENTAL EXPENSE The forecast includes a line item for non-department expense to cover such miscellaneous items as Association Dues, rent, utilities not assigned, LAFCO apportionment charges, cost for the State Board of Equalization filings and streetlights. This expense is increased in the second full-year of operation and thereafter by 3% (again, expenses compound yearly by 3%).

PG 18: (The important figure to pay attention to here is the $13,074,844 bill for Non-Departmental expense by 2026. These are new jobs we will have to pay for. And the salaries compound yearly by 3% every year.)

PG 19: - However, there is the potential to return to newly incorporating cities the discretionary funding they lost during the recession and the passage of SB 89 by the State to address the financial repercussions of the recession in 2011. (This is a big “if” – no guarantees)

PG 20: - Should this legislation pass, it would increase the estimated discretionary revenues of the proposed Town annually as shown on Exhibit C. (proving it’s a big “if”)

PG 21: - REVENUE NEUTRALITY: (This is attempting to show the transfer of revenues from the county to the new city will have zero impact financially.) This statutory requirement indicates that the revenues lost to the County should match the service obligations transferred. There are no current policies in place by either LAFCO or the County related to this process known to the Incorporation proponents. Therefore, the calculation related to revenue neutrality is estimated as follows in compliance with the statute (this is an estimate, NOT based on past policies). The sum of the calculation shows a minor positive impact to the County General Fund (even in this very conservative table, the county receives $88,017 positive cash flow, which is MORE of our tax money. Also, notice the words “Potential Revenue Neutrality Payment” – this is not fact, only a possibility.) Therefore, no revenue neutrality payment is included in the forecast (the county receiving $88,017 of our taxes as positive cash flow is NOT neutral).

PG 22: - TRANSPORTATION RELATED SUBVENTIONS AND TAX REVENUES The law requires

that all County-maintained roads within the incorporation boundary will transition to the Town’s ownership and responsibility. This transfer will also include the local drainage facilities as well. The January 23, 2019 letter from County Public Works Department – Transportation Division identifies that

   

81.71 miles of county-maintained roads will transition to the new Town of Lake Gregory. Included within the assumption of service will be the transfer of Yard 7 to the new Town for its road operations. In addition, incorporation will include the transfer of ownership and responsibility for the local drainage system and the maintenance of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit currently managed by the County Public Works for the San Bernardino County Flood Control District. The question of the costs associated with the local drainage operation and maintenance along with the NPDES permit has been posed to the County Administrative Office; to date, no response on the increase in revenue transfer and cost has been provided (this feasibility study is therefore incomplete). It is assumed, at this time, that these costs and revenues to support them will be roughly equal (never assume anything, get actual figures).

PG 23: - The following financial data identifies the revenues and expenditures for each type of road maintenance effort. The rates for the receipt of the restricted transportation related subvention revenues are two times that of the City of Big Bear Lake based upon its current population of 5,512 (From page 2: “In order to qualify for incorporation, the community in question must contain a minimum of 10,000 people.” How did Big Bear Lake become a city then?) as defined by the State Department of Finance (roughly ½ of the Town of Lake Gregory).

PG 24: (In this table it’s important to note the 2% year-over-year increase in taxes under “TOTAL REVENUE” from 2022 ($1,409,111) to 2026 ($1,564, 409). While property values are projected to drop, gas prices will rise (along with their taxes). Rising gas prices and taxes affect almost everything – the costs of almost all goods and services go up to make up the difference as delivery becomes more expensive.)

PG 25: - It has been estimated (again, an estimate, not concrete) that the Town of Lake Gregory would receive a proportionate share of the Capital Improvement reserves from the County Public Works Department.

- The costs for maintenance shown below will be managed by the Town’s Public Works Department and provides for the estimated expenses for annual maintenance and/or snow removal as follows: (On the table, note the figures continue to increase up to 2026; and well beyond 2026, one would guess):

$950,991 for general town maintained roads, $177, 235 for Non-town maintained roads. Personally, I do not trust these figures since a single small creek crossing in the Valley of the Moon cost $110,000 to repair. We were assessed an extra tax by the county to cover future road expenses as a result of this.

There was a meeting of the residents of Valley of the Moon at Lake Gregory Church to discuss the extra tax as a result of the road collapse over the small creek. Any resident of Valley of the Moon can attest to the cost of the repair for this small creek crossing. How many creek crossings are there in Crestline? I don’t know, but page 22 of the feasibility study lists 81.71 miles of county-maintained roads. The figures listed as being enough to cover the costs of maintenance and snow removal seem woefully inadequate.)

- SUBSIDIARY DISTRICTS The Crestline Sanitation District and the Crestline Village Water District are proposed to become subsidiary districts of the Town of Lake Gregory. The Board of Directors of each district and the administration of each agency will fall under the umbrella of the Town (current staff positions for both will be transferred to the new town), such as customer service, legal counsel, finance, etc.

   

PG 26: - CRESTLINE SANITATION DISTRICT (In this table, note that under “NON-OPERATING REVENUE” property taxes are listed. They are depending on property tax (Which is based on a percentage of current home values) as a source of revenue. Also note the increase in salaries and benefits (under “EXPENDITURES”) from 2013 – 2018, roughly $500,000.)

PG 27: (In this table, under “Water Services/Turn Shut off Charges”, be aware that even if you turn off your water you are charged a monthly fee of roughly $30 just to have the hook up. You have to pay it, you cannot ever not pay the $30. This does not happen in other cities, like Long Beach for example). Also, again, note “Property Tax and Assessment” listed under “NON-OPERATING REVENUE”. The table also does not define what “Other Income” or “Miscellaneous Income” is in this category. And note the general upswing in salaries from 2013 – 2018.)

PG 36 The same table as page 11. Note how much is property tax: the Property tax as it is listed as well as anything that says ad valorem tax. Worth noting is the year-over-year end increase in taxes listed (2%) while the year-over-year increases in salaries (under Year Over Increase”) for the new government positions is 3%. From the start, expenses increase faster than income. More than likely, transient occupancy taxes, code compliance, zoning, permitting, etc., will probably be implemented more aggressively since the town will now need that revenue to make its ever increasing budget. They did not explain what the Off Highway License Subvention is. Community development charges also escalate with time. How long is the Community Development Block Grant supposed to last as grants are never open- ended? What happens at the end of the five years? Does the grant continue? Now look at the “TOTAL REVENUE” listed by 2026: $13,308,439. Compare that to the “TOTAL EXPENDITURES” listed by 2026: $13,074,844. The balance of $233,599, arrived at by subtracting the total expenditures from the total revenue, is not much of a cushion. One good lawsuit against the city would wipe it out and put us in a horrible financial position. By 2026, the already high starting salaries that continue to compound fiscally by 3% annually will cost us this much:

City Administration - $482,764 

City Attorney - $202,592 Administrative Services - $813,113

Community Services - $571,003 (incidentally, this figure goes down with no explanation. As I said, you don’t get all these new positions without it costing you somewhere. Will they be cutting community services to pay for other things like new salaries? A valid question)

Public Works - $544,164

Without even continuing, just with the jobs listed above (no fire, no police), the total comes to

$2,613,636. These salaries will compound every year at 3%. Automatic 3% increases (or cost of living increase) in the private sector are almost non-existent. According to this study, it’s an automatic 3% increase, whether your job performance is great, mediocre or poor.

PG 37: In this table, the “TOTAL REVENUE” from various gas taxes goes up annually by 2% until by 2026 the total revenues are $1,564,409. Now look at the cost for maintenance and snow removal (which is increased 6%). By 2026 the cost will be $1,008,050. Subtracting $1,008,050 from $1,564,409 yields a net of $556,359 (NOT $556,358; incorrect accounting here).

   

PGS 38-41 Lists the new positions created by the new city government which start at a high salary and

increase every year forward by 3%. Again, this automatic increase rarely happens in the private sector.

PG 42 A table on Revenue Neutrality. On page 21 it states the county receives $88,017 positive cash flow; in this table on page 42, the Net Revenue Impact to County is $185,030. Which is it?

PG 43-46 Again, a big “if” about the passage of AB 818.

PG 47-47 Reiterates the transfer of government duties and the funding sources. Note the HUGE majority of the funding sources come from the “General Ad Valorem Tax” – in other words, your property taxes.

PG 48-49 How much of the current property taxes you pay will go to the town – 21.33% (at the bottom of page 49). This means that the majority of your property taxes STILL go to the county; specifically, 78.67%. The new city WILL NOT REPLACE the county.

PG 50 The Property Tax Share Transfer from ROTW – 2.395%. Not much.

PG 51-56 The county’s budget through fiscal year 2018-2019 as it applies to different departments (each page is a different department).

PG 67-70 Law enforcement salaries. By 2026 our costs will be $5,596,363, with the salaries

compounding yearly by 3%.

PG 71-73 Fire department salaries. By 2026 our costs will be $4,523,992, with the salaries compounding yearly by 3% (the percentage increase IS NOT written on this page).

So let’s recap:

- On page 7, the feasibility study states there are yearly rising rates of “2% for revenues and 3% for expenses”, indicating that raising your taxes will eventually be a necessity to cover the expenses for the added new local government rising faster than the revenues.

- On page 6, finance, human resources, business registration, land use administration, planning, building and safety, code compliance, fire hazard abatement, fire and paramedic, police, local parks programs, regional facilities (along with concessions), local street lighting, regional state water project, domestic water (along with fees and charges), sewer (along with fees and charges),local non-county maintained roads, local drainage facilities and regional facilities, the local waste transfer station, and schools are paid for through special taxes, and more substantially and importantly, general ad valorem taxes.

- On page 8, the general ad valorem tax is defined as property tax. This is important because much of the additional new local government will be paid for by your property taxes, which are based on current home values. And current home values are at an all time high, any real estate agent can tell you the

   

market is softening. In fact, statistical analysis reveals that home prices roughly fall every 12 to 18 years. Look particularly at the graphs on these pages:

http://www.doctorhousingbubble.com/california-rally-in-home-prices-california-home-prices-2013-tips- for-mania-buying/

https://www.rclco.com/publication/rclco-u-s-real-estate-market-outlook-for-2013-and-beyond-slow- growth-recovery-continues/

https://talkmarkets.com/content/us-markets/real-estate-cycles--international-value?post=83357

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/hh-wp-images/sites/1112/Real-Estate-Housing-Cycle-Graph.jpg

What does this mean for you? Well, the last real estate crash was in 2007-2009. Ken Heebner predicted then (dated July 5, 2006) that housing prices may drop as much as 50%: “As Ken Heebner, who manages the $1.2-billion CGM Realty Fund said this summer to the Wall Street Journal, “A significant decline in prices is coming. A huge buildup of inventory is taking place, and then we’re going to see a major problem in hot markets like California, Arizona, Florida and up the East Coast. These markets could fall 50% from their peaks.”

https://www.profitconfidential.com/economic-analysis/how-the-tune-changes/

Here’s a link to the original article: "Surviving a Real-Estate Slowdown"

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB115204791463597636

Fast forward to today and we find a Wall Street Journal article dated January 10, 2019, entitled “Economists See U.S. Recession Risk Rising”. It states that a “survey finds more than half of economists see a downturn by 2020”. Additionally, an article from Gord Collins dated April 24, 2019 entitled “US Housing Market Crash” states that "A new Wall Street Journal report puts the odds of a recession at their highest level in 7 years, at 25%. Previously, economists forecasted 2020 as the year of the collapse." The proposed new city government is hugely dependent on General Ad Valorem Taxes (defined on page 8 as our property tax). Our property taxes are based on current home values. The positions that depend on ad valorem taxes include finance, human resources, business registration, land use administration, planning, building and safety, code compliance, fire hazard abatement, fire and paramedic, police, local parks programs, regional facilities, local street lighting, regional state water project, domestic water, sewer, local non-county maintained roads, local drainage facilities and regional facilities, the local waste transfer station, and schools. Since our proposed city budget is hugely dependent on General Ad Valorem Taxes (our property taxes)...and since our property taxes are based on current home values...AND the ILG committee is talking about adding many more new government positions which have high salaries that compound fiscally by 3% every year (more debt)...AND the feasibility study states that expenses will rise faster than revenues...how does this demonstrates fiscal responsibility? https://www.wsj.com/articles/economists-see-u-s-recession-risk-rising- 11547132401?fbclid=IwAR0cbePNXIbPCa-6x0NgbKh-t2cc7DeMQe0QB33Zsnt8TXZC83- HUXsTUYw

   

https://gordcollins.com/real-estate/us-housing-market-crash/?fbclid=IwAR0KX1Cur02ZEN8b_YLL- iJVjt1QDTbbvOMe9UFE5Ibcaj51hMAdWipwD7Q

In fact, there are MANY other sources citing a slowdown in the housing market: https://www.housingwire.com/articles/48454-this-housing-market-clue-predicts-pending-economic- slowdown?fbclid=IwAR30OLhtheLQcGZTA5-W58A0emnEg1rAaT_Ug6Rg69td4DsKAFwdNqngyrE

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/07/26/housing-market-slows-down-real-estate- housing.html?fbclid=IwAR1MtWmJ0Tvzv1PiDnBX4X7s5JrTvmZZS0apDry7YBywt7TjBAeEbjmo5u0

https://abc7.com/realestate/southern-california-sees-first-drop-in-housing-prices-in-7- years/5273314/?fbclid=IwAR2iUqtU7v2GAkMg6VRPMMQYVFy 3cJ8hCYztDnchIELbt0O3A_rQb_ 9mY

Compounding the problem is the fact that an estimated 80 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck (“Living Paycheck to Paycheck is a Way of Life for Majority of U.S. Workers”): http://press.careerbuilder.com/2017-08-24-Living-Paycheck-to-Paycheck-is-a-Way-of-Life-for-Majority- of-U-S-Workers-According-to-New-CareerBuilder-Survey

This exactly corresponds to what Dave Ramsey states in his Financial Peace University course.

The underemployment rate for recent college graduates is also higher than before the last crash (“Underemployment for recent grads worse today than in early 2000s”): https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/underemployment-for-recent-grads-worse-today-than-in-early- 2000-s-180429491.html

AND, we have more personal debt now than at the height of the 2007-2009 crash (“Household Debt Makes a Comeback in the U.S.”): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/business/dealbook/household-debt-united-states.html

As shown above, in all probability we are heading into another recession/real estate crash (similar to 2007-2009, which will make property values drop ALONG WITH general ad valorem taxes). Adding to this misery is the fact that Americans are worse off financially today, we have MORE PERSONAL DEBT, are MORE UNEMPLOYED than before 2007, AND we are talking about adding yet ANOTHER layer of government with more expense due to all the new added local jobs (which have automatic yearly 3% compounding salary increases). Given all these economic indicators, it will most likely be the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression (since it was said the last one was the worst since the Great Depression and this one coming up shows worse economic signs than 2007). We are entering into uncharted territory in our lifetime and a real concrete reason to NOT want to add another layer of government with automatic compounding 3% salaries every year. We are heading into potentially the worst economic disaster we’ve seen yet and are talking about increasing our debt. Not only is this unwise, it is dangerous and could potentially bankrupt the city. While both incorporated cities and unincorporated towns will suffer from the recession, do we really want to add to our financial burden with the additional high salaries (compounding in interest 3% annually) that come with the new government?

   

Even in a great economy we will be on the hook for an ever increasing salary bill while our revenue will always trail behind expenses.

Incidentally, there are those that insist this will not cost you more in taxes. Not so. We will now be paying the county AND the new city government (the new local government WILL NOT REPLACE the county as ILG has stated). See pages 48-49 above to see how 78.67% of your taxes will still go to the county. What ILG is inferring is that you won’t pay more in taxes because they will use existing taxes. To illustrate my point, let’s use common personal financing and budgeting. Suppose you get a fixed income of $100,000 (the analogy is the feasibility study’s revenues/ad valorem taxes, which grow in percentage LESS than expenses). Imagine your current expenses are $60,000, which means your profit margin/discretionary income is $40,000. Now, suppose you buy a new car (the analogy here is of course an added new layer of city government) for $30,000. Now your profit margin/discretionary income is only $10,000. Suppose your income then drops in half (as Ken Heebner predicted in the real estate crash of 2007-2009). Your income is now substantially less than your expenses, but unlike a car payment, you will NEVER pay it off in full, you will ALWAYS be on the hook for these expenses AND they compound every year by 3%! What have you increased by buying a new car? Your debt load. In the case of incorporation, you will increase your debt load with the new government positions. What pays for the new government positions? TAXES. Therefore, adding another layer of government will increase your debt load/reduce your discretionary income. Government debts are paid for by taxes, therefore, more debt load = more taxes, less discretionary income. This is a recipe for your taxes to be increased earlier in the future as you will have less discretionary income coupled with revenues rising slower than expenses. Just because you can do something (at the moment) doesn’t mean you should.

Other points to consider:

- Ask “how much will it cost?” because it all costs money. You don’t get something for nothing – ever. For example, will there be a new layer of government that didn’t exist before, true or false? Will this new government create many new government positions that didn’t exist before that will require lots of taxpayer money to fund, true or false?

- Many of us moved here to get away from city life and the bureaucracy associated with it.

- Our community existed all this time without incorporation. What's so bad about living here under the present conditions? What exactly needs to be so imperatively fixed? We have problems like EVERY other community, incorporated or not. Most seem to be happy with the state of affairs in Crestline and we wouldn't trade it for anywhere else. Many of us have an “if it isn't broke, don't try to fix it” attitude.

- Incorporation promoters cite a rise in crime. Crime statistics, like other statistics, ebb and flow, up and down. If you look at our crime statistics compared to other cities, most of us would take Crestline over anywhere else. Crestline isn’t exactly a haven for the criminal underworld. The police do a great job.

- The fire department also does a great job! Most of our homes are still standing. Thank you, firemen.

- Some have cited the county misappropriates funds. The idea seems to be that this happens all the time; it does not. Remember there will never be a perfect government, even a local one. Virtually every town, incorporated or unincorporated, has its own problems and/or corruption. Our town will not be different from any other incorporated city. And WE DO get funds from the county: that's how we got the sidewalks, the new library, the skate park, the dam repair, etc. NO ONE can claim the county did something illegal with our money. And a local government does not guarantee corruption won’t happen:

  

http://www.citymayors.com/politics/us-corrupt- mayors.html?fbclid=IwAR0IFYDIOB0PNkQ0_AvFcwYVVZ5Dw_y6m5sVgvMVXzo9vbJqG2Cu_mY mkK4)

Incidentally, this is just mayors only. We’d all like to believe "this would never happen here". Cityhood is no guarantee there will be no corruption; in fact, it's more probable because there's yet one more level of government (more people) where corruption can occur. Some may argue that it’s a small percentage of cities that suffer from corruption. Want a 100% guarantee there will be no corruption at the local level?

Don’t have a local level. We need LESS government, not more. Less people in government = less possible corruption.

- It has not been defined what happens to our taxes after 5 years. What happens after five years? Do they increase? And how often has a tax been implemented AND THEN rescinded later? We worry about new taxes, fees, fines, and permits involved in the creation and maintaining of a city.

- Cityhood does not guarantee protection from bankruptcy; in fact the extra expense may expedite it. The cities of San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes (which was incidentally cited as a reference for the feasibility study) attest to this:

https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/07/mammoth-lakes- bankruptcy.html?fbclid=IwAR1nAtixSBjgtqBLmE3jd282FURKNNjqlKG_p6DuoRPfqBryuEWGYd46x 9A

https://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-story-behind-san-bernardinos-long- bankruptcy.html?fbclid=IwAR0fDhmijZJ80Iakp83Sx_jAl1Zqaapi3EKURJU14zt390UdR_CZ--C5fQQ-

- There is no mention of a fund for lawsuits against the city. A good slip and fall lawsuit can easily turn into millions of dollars. Note on page 36 that by 2026 the difference between the total revenue and total expenses is only $233,599. One good lawsuit against the new city or the collapse of property values will easily wipe this cushion out.

- Common sense dictates that incorporation is very expensive, both short and long term. The costs and risks outweigh the benefits, specifically the additional costs of cityhood and the possibility of corruption. More government is NOT the solution. Our highest debt as a nation? Government. It surpasses personal debt.

- A vote for this is a vote for the unknown. It could be great, or it could be the worst decision we make. This kind of risk is only worth it if life here is so intolerable that anything would be better than the current situation. For most local residents, it’s not.

- Finally, if you enjoy the way things presently are and do not understand the new proposal, feel it’s unwise, incomplete, or has a lot of “ifs” with no concrete backing, you should probably not vote for it.



David Enos - Feasibility Study update 05-25-19

  

Feasibility Study Analysis 05-25-19 David Enos

[pdf of this editorial is available for download at bottom of page]




https://www.profitconfidential.com/economic-analysis/how-the-tune-changes/

Here’s a link to the original article: "Surviving a Real-Estate Slowdown"

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB115204791463597636

Fast forward to today and we find a Wall Street Journal article dated January 10, 2019, entitled “Economists See U.S. Recession Risk Rising”. It states that a “survey finds more than half of economists see a downturn by 2020”. Additionally, an article from Gord Collins dated April 24, 2019 entitled “US Housing Market Crash” states that "A new Wall Street Journal report puts the odds of a recession at their highest level in 7 years, at 25%. Previously, economists forecasted 2020 as the year of the collapse." The proposed new city government is hugely dependent on General Ad Valorem Taxes (defined on page 8 as our property tax). Our property taxes are based on current home values. The positions that depend on ad valorem taxes include finance, human resources, business registration, land use administration, planning, building and safety, code compliance, fire hazard abatement, fire and paramedic, police, local parks programs, regional facilities, local street lighting, regional state water project, domestic water, sewer, local non-county maintained roads, local drainage facilities and regional facilities, the local waste transfer station, and schools. Since our proposed city budget is hugely dependent on General Ad Valorem Taxes (our property taxes)...and since our property taxes are based on current home values...AND the ILG committee is talking about adding many more new government positions which have high salaries that compound fiscally by 3% every year (more debt)...AND the feasibility study states that expenses will rise faster than revenues...how does this demonstrates fiscal responsibility? https://www.wsj.com/articles/economists-see-u-s-recession-risk-rising- 11547132401?fbclid=IwAR0cbePNXIbPCa-6x0NgbKh-t2cc7DeMQe0QB33Zsnt8TXZC83- HUXsTUYw

   

https://gordcollins.com/real-estate/us-housing-market-crash/?fbclid=IwAR0KX1Cur02ZEN8b_YLL- iJVjt1QDTbbvOMe9UFE5Ibcaj51hMAdWipwD7Q

In fact, there are MANY other sources citing a slowdown in the housing market: https://www.housingwire.com/articles/48454-this-housing-market-clue-predicts-pending-economic- slowdown?fbclid=IwAR30OLhtheLQcGZTA5-W58A0emnEg1rAaT_Ug6Rg69td4DsKAFwdNqngyrE

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/07/26/housing-market-slows-down-real-estate- housing.html?fbclid=IwAR1MtWmJ0Tvzv1PiDnBX4X7s5JrTvmZZS0apDry7YBywt7TjBAeEbjmo5u0

https://abc7.com/realestate/southern-california-sees-first-drop-in-housing-prices-in-7- years/5273314/?fbclid=IwAR2iUqtU7v2GAkMg6VRPMMQYVFy 3cJ8hCYztDnchIELbt0O3A_rQb_ 9mY

Compounding the problem is the fact that an estimated 80 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck (“Living Paycheck to Paycheck is a Way of Life for Majority of U.S. Workers”): http://press.careerbuilder.com/2017-08-24-Living-Paycheck-to-Paycheck-is-a-Way-of-Life-for-Majority- of-U-S-Workers-According-to-New-CareerBuilder-Survey

This exactly corresponds to what Dave Ramsey states in his Financial Peace University course.

The underemployment rate for recent college graduates is also higher than before the last crash (“Underemployment for recent grads worse today than in early 2000s”): https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/underemployment-for-recent-grads-worse-today-than-in-early- 2000-s-180429491.html

AND, we have more personal debt now than at the height of the 2007-2009 crash (“Household Debt Makes a Comeback in the U.S.”): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/business/dealbook/household-debt-united-states.html

As shown above, in all probability we are heading into another recession/real estate crash (similar to 2007-2009, which will make property values drop ALONG WITH general ad valorem taxes). Adding to this misery is the fact that Americans are worse off financially today, we have MORE PERSONAL DEBT, are MORE UNEMPLOYED than before 2007, AND we are talking about adding yet ANOTHER layer of government with more expense due to all the new added local jobs (which have automatic yearly 3% compounding salary increases). Given all these economic indicators, it will most likely be the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression (since it was said the last one was the worst since the Great Depression and this one coming up shows worse economic signs than 2007). We are entering into uncharted territory in our lifetime and a real concrete reason to NOT want to add another layer of government with automatic compounding 3% salaries every year. We are heading into potentially the worst economic disaster we’ve seen yet and are talking about increasing our debt. Not only is this unwise, it is dangerous and could potentially bankrupt the city. While both incorporated cities and unincorporated towns will suffer from the recession, do we really want to add to our financial burden with the additional high salaries (compounding in interest 3% annually) that come with the new government?

   

Even in a great economy we will be on the hook for an ever increasing salary bill while our revenue will always trail behind expenses.

Incidentally, there are those that insist this will not cost you more in taxes. Not so. We will now be paying the county AND the new city government (the new local government WILL NOT REPLACE the county as ILG has stated). See pages 48-49 above to see how 78.67% of your taxes will still go to the county. What ILG is inferring is that you won’t pay more in taxes because they will use existing taxes. To illustrate my point, let’s use common personal financing and budgeting. Suppose you get a fixed income of $100,000 (the analogy is the feasibility study’s revenues/ad valorem taxes, which grow in percentage LESS than expenses). Imagine your current expenses are $60,000, which means your profit margin/discretionary income is $40,000. Now, suppose you buy a new car (the analogy here is of course an added new layer of city government) for $30,000. Now your profit margin/discretionary income is only $10,000. Suppose your income then drops in half (as Ken Heebner predicted in the real estate crash of 2007-2009). Your income is now substantially less than your expenses, but unlike a car payment, you will NEVER pay it off in full, you will ALWAYS be on the hook for these expenses AND they compound every year by 3%! What have you increased by buying a new car? Your debt load. In the case of incorporation, you will increase your debt load with the new government positions. What pays for the new government positions? TAXES. Therefore, adding another layer of government will increase your debt load/reduce your discretionary income. Government debts are paid for by taxes, therefore, more debt load = more taxes, less discretionary income. This is a recipe for your taxes to be increased earlier in the future as you will have less discretionary income coupled with revenues rising slower than expenses. Just because you can do something (at the moment) doesn’t mean you should.

Other points to consider:

- Ask “how much will it cost?” because it all costs money. You don’t get something for nothing – ever. For example, will there be a new layer of government that didn’t exist before, true or false? Will this new government create many new government positions that didn’t exist before that will require lots of taxpayer money to fund, true or false?

- Many of us moved here to get away from city life and the bureaucracy associated with it.

- Our community existed all this time without incorporation. What's so bad about living here under the present conditions? What exactly needs to be so imperatively fixed? We have problems like EVERY other community, incorporated or not. Most seem to be happy with the state of affairs in Crestline and we wouldn't trade it for anywhere else. Many of us have an “if it isn't broke, don't try to fix it” attitude.

- Incorporation promoters cite a rise in crime. Crime statistics, like other statistics, ebb and flow, up and down. If you look at our crime statistics compared to other cities, most of us would take Crestline over anywhere else. Crestline isn’t exactly a haven for the criminal underworld. The police do a great job.

- The fire department also does a great job! Most of our homes are still standing. Thank you, firemen.

- Some have cited the county misappropriates funds. The idea seems to be that this happens all the time; it does not. Remember there will never be a perfect government, even a local one. Virtually every town, incorporated or unincorporated, has its own problems and/or corruption. Our town will not be different from any other incorporated city. And WE DO get funds from the county: that's how we got the sidewalks, the new library, the skate park, the dam repair, etc. NO ONE can claim the county did something illegal with our money. And a local government does not guarantee corruption won’t happen:

  

http://www.citymayors.com/politics/us-corrupt- mayors.html?fbclid=IwAR0IFYDIOB0PNkQ0_AvFcwYVVZ5Dw_y6m5sVgvMVXzo9vbJqG2Cu_mY mkK4)

Incidentally, this is just mayors only. We’d all like to believe "this would never happen here". Cityhood is no guarantee there will be no corruption; in fact, it's more probable because there's yet one more level of government (more people) where corruption can occur. Some may argue that it’s a small percentage of cities that suffer from corruption. Want a 100% guarantee there will be no corruption at the local level?

Don’t have a local level. We need LESS government, not more. Less people in government = less possible corruption.

- It has not been defined what happens to our taxes after 5 years. What happens after five years? Do they increase? And how often has a tax been implemented AND THEN rescinded later? We worry about new taxes, fees, fines, and permits involved in the creation and maintaining of a city.

- Cityhood does not guarantee protection from bankruptcy; in fact the extra expense may expedite it. The cities of San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes (which was incidentally cited as a reference for the feasibility study) attest to this:

https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/07/mammoth-lakes- bankruptcy.html?fbclid=IwAR1nAtixSBjgtqBLmE3jd282FURKNNjqlKG_p6DuoRPfqBryuEWGYd46x 9A

https://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-story-behind-san-bernardinos-long- bankruptcy.html?fbclid=IwAR0fDhmijZJ80Iakp83Sx_jAl1Zqaapi3EKURJU14zt390UdR_CZ--C5fQQ-

- There is no mention of a fund for lawsuits against the city. A good slip and fall lawsuit can easily turn into millions of dollars. Note on page 36 that by 2026 the difference between the total revenue and total expenses is only $233,599. One good lawsuit against the new city or the collapse of property values will easily wipe this cushion out.

- Common sense dictates that incorporation is very expensive, both short and long term. The costs and risks outweigh the benefits, specifically the additional costs of cityhood and the possibility of corruption. More government is NOT the solution. Our highest debt as a nation? Government. It surpasses personal debt.

- A vote for this is a vote for the unknown. It could be great, or it could be the worst decision we make. This kind of risk is only worth it if life here is so intolerable that anything would be better than the current situation. For most local residents, it’s not.

- Finally, if you enjoy the way things presently are and do not understand the new proposal, feel it’s unwise, incomplete, or has a lot of “ifs” with no concrete backing, you should probably not vote for it.

Observations by Josie Barley

                           [Note: pdf copy available for download at bottom of this page]  


Feasibility:

Incorporate Lake Gregory (ILG) and its contractor, Kathleen McDonald, have conducted a study of research to assess whether incorporation is feasible. [download of study at bottom of page]

McDonald stated in her video presentation at a recent meeting that she could NOT attain, nor will be able to attain in the future, the necessary factual information to determine if incorporation is feasible.

McDonald also stated, that regardless of the revenue capacity or possible grant monies the new city MIGHT be able to qualify for, Incorporation’s city budget would begin with a deficit of monies to sustain the costs of a city budget, and that deficit would remain for the first unspecified few years.

It should be noted that Ms. McDonald was the Executive Director of LAFCO who signed off on the feasibility study commissioned by County Supervisor Janice Rutherford in 2015-16, which ultimately determined incorporation was NOT feasible.

Ms. McDonald now says there were errors in that 2015 study, although she signed it at the time in her professional capacity.


Law Enforcement:

ILG states that the sheriff’s department only has two deputies on shift for the entire area of the mountain they cover, which is from Silverwood Lake to the furthest boundaries of Green Valley Lake. This is NOT TRUE.

        Day Shift Weekdays: There are four deputies, a Watch Commander Sergeant, an Administrative Sergeant, two detectives, and a Lieutenant.

        Night Shift Weeknights: There are four deputies and a Watch Commander Sergeant, and a detective on call.

        Weekend Day & Night Shift: There are four deputies and a Watch Commander Sergeant, and a detective on call.


On all shifts, the detectives, administrative sergeant, and lieutenant are on call for any critical incident that warrant more sheriff personnel. Additionally, the entire sheriff department resources are on call if needed, which include the diving team, aviation division, SWAT team, homicide investigation division, crimes against children division, search & rescue services, and so much more. 


Presently there are sheriff volunteer forces available which are significant for social events, regular patrol, missing persons, or critical incidents such as drownings at Lake Gregory through the COPs, Search & Rescue and Chaplain volunteer corps.


Once the area incorporates the law enforcement resources will be limited to the contract restrictions of only two deputies. Any other law enforcement personnel or services would be at additional – and most likely higher – costs, not accounted for in the feasibility study.

The area actually has more law enforcement support and coverage now than would be attained than if incorporated.


This model more than likely applies to fire and other community services as well. 


Josie Barley

05-17-19

Steve Wood - Crestline Village Water District

  

   [Note: pdf copy available for download at bottom of this page]  


One of the many concerns I have regarding Incorporate Lake Gregory is how it will affect the local Water District; Crestline Village Water District. I have worked for the District for 25 years, I am the Field Supervisor, and have seen it grow into the best Water District on the mountain. 


The Incorporate Lake Gregory Preliminary Feasibility Study Analysis has Crestline Village Water District paying near $650,000.00 in 2022 and a 2% raise each year with the total being $722,000.00 in the year 2026. This information was located on page 12 of the Feasibility Study under Miscellaneous Fund costs for the District. Apparently they’re saying it is going for Administrative Services. Crestline Village Water District is a Non-Profit and is ran by a Board of 5 Directors, who are appointed by our rate payers. They have done a wonderful job in understanding the importance of our infrastructure and the customer service needs of our rate payers. Now they are going away, and we will be under a City Council. 


In 1986, Crestline Village Water District started installing its own Mains, Services, Fire Hydrants, etc instead of using outside contractors and without any loans. The District is debt free which allows it to charge lower rates to its rate payers. 


If the Incorporation happens, the new City Council will take over Crestline Village Water District and will make all the decisions in the future. The City Council will have total control of your District. The money they will take is not theirs; it is the rate payers and it should stay with the Water District. Once the City Council has control, they can raise the water rates to whatever amount they choose. 


I cannot see the individuals who are pushing for the Incorporation have any experience in running a Water District. They do not have Certifications in Water Treatment or Water Distribution. A City Council may not know anything about a Water District, or how it should be ran. I know this is just one part of the Incorporation, but it’s a big one. Without the proper management of funds, personnel, and upkeep of the Districts infrastructure, it will slowly deteriorate. 


The Mutual Water Companies that are in the city boundaries at this time are not included in this Incorporation and will keep total control of their Company. 


Steve Wood

05-15-19

Brenda Meyer - Thoughts on Incorporation Feasibility Study in re Housing Market

                         [Note: pdf copy available for download at bottom of this page] 

    

I'd like to call your attention to some interesting points regarding the feasibility report that has been published supporting incorporation.


At the first information mtg on March 30th, the question was asked about what income/expenses were used to formulate the report and it was stated they could only access 2017/18 fiscal year from SB County. My concern is that 2017/18 was the highest income producing year in real estate in the past 10yrs. We are already experiencing a softening in the housing market. So, we should all be concerned that the feasibility study was based on income that is not likely sustainable as the housing market shifts. And according to the feasibility report, the first 3 yrs would be in the red while the required reserves continue to build up. 


This doesn't leave room for the unexpected or potential legal challenges. Our local housing industry is facing challenges with obtaining/keeping fire insurance at affordable rates throughout the mountain communities. This is already affecting property values and potential sales. Industry professionals, including myself, have been speaking to our state insurance commissioner without any results. For the past several years, we have seen out of state insurers come in and replace companies that refuse to write policies due to higher fire risk. After policy rate increases year after year, we are seeing these out of state insurers refuse to write policies and many of us that have had policies for decades, are receiving cancellations. Insurance options are becoming more and more limited and expensive. 


This is just one concern as it relates to income from property taxes. There are many, many others. 


I encourage everyone to respectfully ask questions and speak up. Our community members and property owners, whether or not they live in the community, deserve transparency and facts before we are asked to heavily invest in the possibility of another layer of government.   


 [first published 04-09-2019]

image1

John Kirby - Open Letter to Incorporate Lake Gregory

                        [Note: pdf copy available for download at bottom of this page] 



An open letter to the Incorporate Lake Gregory Committee and the business people supporting this effort:

I’ve been following this effort loosely since it first came to my attention, and finally attended the town hall you conducted at the San Moritz Lodge on April 24th. I should probably start with the fact that I am opposed to incorporation for reasons which I’ll explain later; and the likelihood of me changing my mind with any amount of input is negligible at best. If, however, the community ultimately gets to vote on this and the majority agree that incorporation is the way to go – I will whole heartedly support the newly formed municipality, however unhappy my support might make some of the would-be leadership over time. I will support it because I hold firm beliefs about representative democracy as outlined in the Constitution of the United States of America. I spent nine years as an Infantryman in the U.S. Army in defense of the ideals enshrined in the Constitution, so I can do no less than support those ideals today. And if you truly want a representative democracy in the form of a city/town government, I think you would do well to familiarize yourselves with how the Constitution lays this stuff out. It’s actually rather cool when an engaged citizenry avails themselves of all the rights and responsibilities afforded them within our political structure.

You have, as a committee, done a rather poor job of explaining to the community what is happening with your current exploration toward possible cityhood. Yes, I’ve read your website. I’ve read the feasibility study. I’ve read the LAFCO regulations many times over the years. Part of what I do for a living keeps me in the depths of government regulations and processes. None of this is a foreign language to me. This is not the case for the vast majority of folks in our unincorporated town.
You see, here’s how a representative democracy is supposed to work, as it was explained to me in elementary school growing up in Oklahoma:
We were colonial citizens of England answering to the whims of King George III. We got tired of his constant interference in our lives and livelihoods, and his ever-increasing taxes. So, we dumped the tea into Boston Harbor, Thomas Paine started stirring up more shit in the local press, the minutemen tamped the powder down in their muskets, and the patriots of the soon-to-be United States of America kicked the crap out of the British army. Then we officially formed our own government from the Continental Congress which we started in 1774 (two years before the Revolutionary War), with the goal of ensuring less government interference and taxation. We elected local representatives to carry our collective voice to the Continental Congress.
We elected “Clem” to represent us – not because Clem had a degree in poli-sci, not because he had a successful business and lots of money, and not because the planning commission kept telling him no; but because he had a large family that could handle his farm while he rode his horse to Philadelphia. Clem and the rest of the congressmen (representatives) would talk about different ways we might handle different things. Clem would ride back and tell us about all the talking that was going on and ask us how we thought he should vote. Often, we would come up with ideas that Clem and the other representatives hadn’t thought about, and he would ride back to Philly and tell the other representatives about our ideas. They would all talk about the new ideas and the ones they already had in mind, narrow it down, and back Clem would come to explain it all to us. We’d say, “Go vote this way, Clem.” Clem would ride back to Philly and vote, and come back and tell us how the government had decided to work on our behalf.
It was a slow process that, if you noticed, we started talking about as a community two years before we decided to fire King George and take control of our own money, our own growth, and our own development.
Y’all didn’t do that – start talking to us as a community, until after you had already started an exploratory process to “fire” the County of San Bernardino. And, you have so complicated the discussion since with 130-page studies, one-way communication in the beginning, and your own version of bureaucratic talking points that many of the folks in the community are confused, scared, feel like you’re shoving a solution down their throat for a problem they didn’t know existed (and still don’t), and they’re angry. I think it would behoove you to take a step back and engage with the community, otherwise you risk losing this effort before LAFCO even makes a decision on feasibility.
What I heard at the town hall was basically that most everything will pretty much stay the same. The tax dollars that currently go to the county will start coming to the new city, and our new city will then pay the same Sheriff’s Department to provide police services. We’ll pay the same Fire Department for fire and emergency medical services. We’ll take over all the county equipment and facilities and start repairing and plowing our own roads. We’ll assume oversight of the same water folks, sewer folks, trash folks. And maybe – just maybe – someday we’ll take control of Lake Gregory.
Lake Gregory, the implications in the discussions I’ve heard around town are that we’ll be able to let locals go to the lake for free if we can take it back from the county. Here’s something you should know if you don’t already know it – the county was losing $500,000 - $750,000 a year operating the lake, which is why they decided to contract it out to the private sector. That contract gave the operator a couple years to start making a profit, then required the operator to pay a percentage of profits, or $300,000 per year to the county (whichever was greater) for the opportunity to run the lake. So yes, since we wouldn’t have to pay the county for the privilege of running our own lake we might be able to lower the costs for locals but, we still won’t be able to make it free without losing the same amount or more than the county was losing when they contracted it out. If you don’t know and understand this, it makes you incompetent. If you do know this and have simply not shared this reality with the community – it makes you disingenuous at best, and a charlatan at worst. Neither makes you look very good.
So, what I was left with at the town hall was that the County Planning Department is broken. It takes too long to get a restaurant open, and/or they keep telling me no on development projects I propose. If we become a city then we can take control of our own zoning, planning, and development.
Guess what – remember that Constitution I was talking about? It gives us rights as citizens to make our voices heard to change/fix our government and its processes. If the Planning Department is taking too long to get their job done, this is a grievance. We have the right to petition our government for “redress of grievances.” If they ignore us, we have the right to “peaceably assemble” (protest). We have freedom of speech, which could be exercised at the podium at the Planning Commission meetings, and at the County Board of Supervisor’s meetings. We have freedom of the press – we can write articles, give interviews for other writers to write articles, we can get local TV news involved. This is what an engaged citizenry does when their government isn’t doing what it is paid to do. Just because one piece of the government is broken isn’t a reason to replace the entire government. Fix it. We have that right, and we have that responsibility.
We all know that it took over a year for a restaurant to get an operating permit/license. We were all waiting in eager anticipation for those burgers and fries. What we don’t know, because you haven’t actually told us, is why it took so long. You implied at the town hall that it was for lack of a wheelchair accessible bathroom. Was the building permit taking too long? The inspection process? Or was it remediation that needed doing because of the age of the building, and was that expense exorbitant? If you want us to believe that the Planning Department is broken beyond repair, then you need to give us the details so we believe the change you seek is needed. But frankly, I don’t believe the change that is needed is a city government. I can just as readily believe that the county was saving lives by enforcing health codes at a new restaurant.
We’re told, by you, that we need to be in charge of our own zoning codes and community planning/development so that we can preserve our local community. It sounds like maybe that preservation is already happening by the County Planning Commission saying no to some development projects here on the mountain. Have you read the “Crest Forest Community Plan”? This is a plan embedded in the overall County General Plan that covers the various zoning plans, districts, and regulations for the entire county. We are one of 14 districts with our own special plan due to the need, and the community desire, to protect and preserve our mountain community, and to provide additional layers of protection for the lives of the residents, tourists, animals, and plants. This plan, which was adopted in 2007, was developed with significant input from the residents of our community. You can read the 70-page document here: http://www.sbcounty.gov/Uploads/lus/CommunityPlans/CrestForestCP.pdf
Personally, I’m very satisfied with the protections already in place enshrined within this document; and from what I have seen in the four years I’ve lived up here full time – the County is doing a pretty good job of maintaining the protections mandated in this document. If there is a greater level of protection and preservation you want for our community, please tell what it is? Otherwise, we’re left with conspiracy theories about rich developers who just want to write their own zoning and planning codes/regulations so that a local planning commission can’t be mean to them and tell them no every time they want to build something that the community doesn’t feel belongs in our forest.
And by the way, if there is a development project you have in mind that is not in line with the existing “Crest Forest Community Plan” talk to us about it before you go to the planning commission. If you can convince the community that it is a good idea, and alleviate any fears of the immediately surrounding families, you might even get a couple hundred of us to go to the planning commission meeting with you to voice our support for you to get a conditional use permit to move forward with your development. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this strategy succeed. And, it will save you the effort of authoring your own zoning codes and regulations.
I’ve also seen in some of your handouts from other meetings, and heard at the town hall, that cities can get grants to help with homelessness and drug addicts that unincorporated areas can’t get. Now you’re really in my ballpark. Social service type grants (substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, family counseling, etc.) don’t go to cities and counties; they go to what are known as Health Jurisdictions. The health jurisdiction serving our mountain community is the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. The only way for us to compete for these grants directly is to start our own health department, and that amount of money is certainly not identifiable in your current feasibility study. What makes me an expert in this area? I’m a nonprofit development director specializing in program design and grant writing in substance abuse and mental health treatment, homeless services, primary health care, and other social services. My grant portfolio is over $100 million over the past 15 years. 85% of that is government grants.
There are other grants available to cities from both the federal and state governments surrounding community development, land development, bolstering existing emergency services, etc. that we might compete for, and as I said earlier, should the community ultimately get to vote on incorporation and we do become a city – I’ll gladly throw my hat in the ring to help identify and write these grants. But, we need to be clear as to what types of grants we’re actually talking about if this is to help our residents make a decision on how to vote if LAFCO approves your plan.
My husband and I moved up here from Long Beach about four years ago. We were tired of the city. We were tired of the politics necessary to get something done as simple as repaving an alley. And whether we were fighting our own city council for or against something affecting our own home or neighborhood, or I was fighting any number of city councils surrounding projects related to my work in nonprofit social services, we were just tired of living amidst the cacophony. We decided to check out Crestline. The first time we started driving up Waterman and got North of 40th street, I could feel all the “cityness” and stress just leave my body. I felt the serenity I had been missing for decades before I even reached Old Waterman Canyon. I knew we were home. I want my home to stay the way it is. If something comes up that makes me mad at my County Supervisor, I don’t have to bump into them at Goodwin’s. If the County Planning Commission makes a decision that saddens me, I don’t have to break bread with them at the Bear House. If something is important enough to get my dander up, then it’s important enough for me to go down the hill and address it – whether that’s speaking at a microphone at a Board of Supervisors meeting, or just getting to Costco because Goodwin’s charges way too much for steak. I’m afraid that if we have our own city/town council that way too much crap is going to become important enough to enough people up here that I will lose that serenity. I simply don’t want that.
John Kirby
Crestline [First published 04/27/2019]