City of Mission Viejo’s “spin” response to Rose Parade float entry

Thanks to coverage in the Orange Juice blog and the OC Register (Sunday Aug 24th) the city of Mission Viejo is starting to feel the heat regarding their full court press to enter a float in the 2009 Tournament of Roses parade.
The Mission Viejo City e-newsletter, received last night, contains some questionable information. In their newsletter they state that this is “our 20th anniversary of cityhood, which provides the ideal time to reinstate a community tradition.”

Question?  What is the significance of the number 20 used to justify a float?
We have been a city since March 31, 1988. Why hasn’t ANY prior city council entered the parade to promote this “community tradition?”

MV statement: “Professionally built and “self built” float design and construction costs typically start at $200,000. Budgets vary according to size, design sophistication and varieties of flora material. The city budgeted $300,000 to construct a professionally built float that is comparable to the size and quality of the nine prior entries.”
Gilbert response: The nine prior entries were selected and paid for by the Mission Viejo Company to sell thousands of homes as the “California Promise.” That was ALL private, not taxpayer, funding. As stated before, we are currently built out.

For those who have read my series covering other city Tournament of Roses entries let me recap the responses received directly from those organizations or city staff.

Burbank’s budget for their “Three D Double Feature” float  $67,500

City of Cerritos budget for their entry “Camelot a Knight’s Tale,”  is $228,000

Huntington Beach “centennial celebration” Budget $200,000. Donations received (as of my July 7th post) $110,000. It’s a no brainer. Do the math.

LaCanada-Flintridge’s “Mechanical Melodies” 2009 entry has a city budget of $15,000. Note: They won the 2008 “self-built” entry for best “animation & motion.”

Long Beach’s budget for “Passport to the Pacific” float has a “cap of $115,000 for design and construction”

Roseville’s budget for their “centennial float” has a budget of $200,000 of which $105,000 was already raised (by Aug 5th). Note: They are using the same vendor.

City of Sante Fe Springs. While they will not have a float in the 2009 parade their contract with the same builder for 2008 was $230,000 of which half was covered by contributions. Their 2007 float was 100 percent covered by donations.

Sierra Madre. “We are a non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to entering a float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade. We are totally “Self-Built”–we design, construct, decorate and raise the necessary funds to produce our float every year. Funding is achieved through donations, memberships and local fundraising activities.
Beautiful. That’s a true example of “community involvement” without the use of taxpayer money.

City of Torrance, using Fiesta Parade Floats, the same builder as we have selected, has budgeted $130,000. Their TRFA volunteers have multiple fundraising activities including a fall boutique next week.

FYI. Rotary Intl.  “Rotarians in the United states, Canada and the Caribbean donate all of the money to pay for the float.”

In the MV newsletter, received on August 25th, it states “the city will unveil its float design concept in September. The City’s Rose Parade Float Committee provided critical insight, visual reference and on-going feedback to the designer in order to develop a float design that represents life in Mission Viejo that represents life in Mission Viejo while ensuring the design relates to the official Tournament of Roses theme.
Folks. Our city council has yet to see a contract or design yet there is no question that Fiesta Floats has already invested a sizable amount of design time into this proposed project. In my telephone discussion with city Manager Dennis Wilberg, who is an official with the Tournament, he admits that “legally, you are absolutely correct” adding “we have not selected a design yet” and that “there is no contract. ” In closing Dennis stated “legally we can back out.”

Togetherness? This has been a “stealth” project for which the Ad Hoc committee is marching down Colorado Blvd in advance of public awareness or council approval. Yet they claim this will bring the community together? We already have successful community events that are held in Mission Viejo that are not an hour to two hour drive to the San Gabriel Valley. Bunny Days, Fun With Chalk, performances at the Norman P Murray Center, the annual Walk Against Drugs, etc.

In their newsletter they claim that our “unique “hometown” feel still survives thanks to continuing traditions like the Rose Parade.” For the past several years the city of Mission Viejo has been acknowledged as the safest city in America (under 100,000 population). All of our tract homes have been sold since the MV Company left town 20 years ago which was the last time a MV float was entered. The city of Mission Viejo has never participated in the Rose Parade since day one yet they include the Parade as part of our city success. I respectfully disagree.

Not to pick on our prior city manager but let me quote him when a council member questioned his spending $6,286 for a new desk and pad he replied saying “The desk will be here long after I’m gone.”

He was right. Dennis uses that desk today and it cost less than $7,000. That’s a big difference than spending $300,000 for 30 seconds of TV coverage for a float that, once the post event float visiting ends, will be stripped to the shell which we do not get to keep. We are leasing the truck-bed for 2009 that will be stripped for someone else to use in 2010.

As I called each of the other cities they mentioned ongoing promotions to raise funds from sale of T-shirts and pins to collecting pennies in jars (city of Roseville).

As the August 25th MV e-Newsletter states “the City submitted an application last year to participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade and was invited to take part in the renowned parade, which only selects up to 50 floats from corporations and communities.”

Juice readers. Once again we have an example of a city being “reactive” rather than “pro-active.” They claim to having applied last year yet, until reading all of our coverage, made no requests for community financial participation.

Let me give one example. Our city sends out quarterly news magazines called “Mission Viejo Outlook.” In my hands is a copy of the Summer 2008 issue. If they truly wanted citizen, service club and merchant fundraising participation, as confirmed by most of the above cities, why did City manager Wilberg fail to include a single request for offsetting fundraising by our local service clubs and business sector in his first page commentary?

Readers. They are now engaging in “damage control.” A group of us devoted around 18 months changing the community message board sign every week. We have since been replaced by a costly electronic sign. Ask anyone who drives by that La Paz corner if the city ever promoted a call for float volunteers on that new sign. They will now, once they read this latest post.

Note: The next meeting of the Mission Viejo city council will be Sept 2nd at 6 p.m. My sense is that a design will be presented for fast track approval before the public has an opportunity to review the proposed Contract for design and construction of same.

About Larry Gilbert