Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The first signs of fall are upon us here in our sleepy little hamlet. Not satisfied with the changing color of our trees, we take it a step further. The signs are there. Yes, the first sign that tells of things to come is the big orange public works sign located on Eastbound Irvine Boulevard announcing detours and traffic delays along the main streets of Tustin. Next come the obligatory, if temporary, signs along my street marking it as a “No Parking” zone for the entire following Saturday. If the wind is right, you may even get a whiff of something fried in the air.

Of course, I am talking about the 54th Annual Tustin Tiller Days, held each year about this time. This is the epitome of country fairs, complete with a parade down Main Street, community booths, food and great carnival rides. My family and I have gone each year since moving here. It is the highlight of the year and by far the best event anywhere in Orange County.

Although Tiller Days officially begins on Friday night, everyone on Main Street knows the fair is not really in session until the parade starts Saturday morning.  And that is where my family has the edge. Not only does the parade go right by our house but, bright and early Saturday morning, we will hear the horn toots, drum beats and sounds of bands getting ready for their moment in the spotlight as buses full of musicians park in front of our house, spilling out fife and drummer. The excitement builds and we will have already been up for awhile, as we get ready to enjoy a great morning eating breakfast and enjoying the passing parade. And, we are famous. One year, the Girl Scouts marched up the street, stopped in front of our house and yelled “Hi, Porch People!” Could this be the origins of the flash mob cult?

No matter what you plan to do this weekend, make it a point to join the expected crowd of 70,000 fellow fair goers at Columbus Tustin Park. Better yet, get a good seat along Main Street at 10 am on Saturday and enjoy the parade with us. Elysse James from the Orange County Register has all the particulars in a great article that can be found here.

Planning Commission Meets Tonight

Looking on the agenda for the Tustin City Planning Commission tonight, the issue of Tattoo Parlor regulation has returned. This issue was tabled at the last meeting of the Commission for what Chairman Jeff Thompson referred to as “time management” issues (Maybe he had to make an Angels game later). The Commission is expected to approve the ordinance as recommended in the Agenda Report. Unless you are just vehemently opposed to body are facilities, this is a non-issue. The Commission and staff have done a good job of insuring the safety of our residents while facilitating possible purveyors of the art to practice their craft.

In regular business, the Commission will approve the minutes of their workshop on non-conforming structures that was held before their last meeting. I have been waiting for these minutes as there was no video available, for some reason, and the whole discussion is a mystery. OK, not really, as there was an agenda, the meeting was an open meeting and the public was allowed to attend. Also, there should be a transcript of the discussion around which we may ask the city for. We’ll keep you posted.

Unfortunately, we will not have those minutes before the commission acts on Agenda Item 5, regarding non-conforming structures. This ordinance has the potential to change the face of Old Town Tustin historical residences. The issue came to the forefront because of the Fairbanks property. Although that property has been specifically excluded, every other structure in Old Town has the potential to be affected. In looking over the agenda reports and verbatim minutes of a city council meeting held on the matter, it appears the intention may be to place the burden of proof regarding non-conforming and alleged illegal structures on the homeowner. Hopefully, the planning commission will scrutinize this ordinance before sending a recommendation to the city council. Every resident of Old Town should attend this meeting.

Everything else appears to be run of the mill stuff. It should be a quick meeting. As always, we will report to you, one way or the other.

Taking the Fun Out of Family Fun Night

Photo Courtesy of Four Provinces

One item on the Tuesday Tustin City Council agenda came and went without much notice.

Several months ago, the manger of Old Town establishment Beach Pit BBQ approached the city council with an idea for a family fun night. He envisioned an alcohol-free environment of vendors, arts & crafts and kids games along two blocks of El Camino Real. It has been a successful model in other cities like Huntington Beach and Fullerton, which has  had a weekly, seaonal street fair for over 15 years. It has been a long overdue idea for Tustin.

The promoters began soliciting support from local residents and merchants in the area along El Camino Real south of Main St. Issues needed to be worked out about blocking traffic and accessibility by businesses and the residents who live on that section of the street.

Not surprisingly, some of the residents looked upon the idea as a weekly intrusion. One resident stated that his 80 year old mother would have a hard time with the weekly event and worried about access in an emergency. None of this was unexpected. We often forget that some of Tustin’s oldest homes are tucked in between the businesses along El Camino Real. It’s not unreasonable for them to expect the same right to privacy as any other resident in Tustin. And, these folks graciously put up with the 30,000 plus crowd that shows up each year for the Annual Chili Cookoff held in the same area.

What was surprising was the amount of resistance by local Merchants in the Jamestown and the Bally’s shopping centers, who stood to directly benefit from the street fair. Complaints centered primarily around the day of the week, Thursday (one merchant did offer that Monday would be a better day for them), and the location, which they feared would impact parking.

It’s important to note that no one really had an objection to holding the street fair. It was that they did not want it on that section of the street. Yes, we have NIMBYs in Tustin too.

There were other issues, mostly surrounding the city’s involvement (or non-involvement) with assembling and dismantling traffic barriers and changing the light timing at Main and El Camino Real. After several months of discussion, the matter was finally tabled indefinitely at Tuesday’s council meeting. A staff report stated the initial proponents of the idea had withdrawn their application for a permit until a permanent location, possibly on private property, could be found.

I am sorry to see this idea delayed further. I remember the Fullerton Street Fair has been a great success and something that our family looked forward to each week when we lived there. Everyone, including the city council, seemed to like the idea. The city staff should be commended for their work with the promoters of the idea. In the end, no one could find a way around the costs and objections.

Hopefully, someone, perhaps a local non-profit group, will come forward with a viable solution. I would suggest they look at using the same lot as the Wednesday morning Farmers Market. They might even be able to use neighboring 3rd Street for additional space as that would involve barriers but no change in traffic lights, etc. And, as far as I know, there are no residents on that street other than the lofts, which can easily be accessed from both  Main Street and Prospect Avenue. That’s my two cents.

In any case, the idea of a family fun night may have suffered a setback. But, hopefully, it is not dead. I know I am not alone in looking for better, healthy ways to spend time with my family and, hopefully, we will see this item on the agenda in the near future.

When 1st Amendment Rights Collide

Like any good Constitutionalist, I have been following the trial of the “Irvine 11“. The trial, which began last week pits competing 1st Amendment rights against each other.

Last year in February, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was invited by several campus groups, including  “Anteaters for Israel”, to speak on the UC Irvine campus. The speech was political and sure to be controversial, as it encompassed the Israeli state and the issue of Palestinian statehood. It was expected that there would be a protest of some sort by pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli groups.

The group centered in the spotlight consisted of members of the Muslim Students Union. Eleven members of the group, including three students from UC Riverside, participated in the protest which consisted of slogans shouted out by each protester, one after the other with the intention of expressing their views of Oren’s speech. The protesters were, of course, escorted out of the audience by campus police, who were waiting en masse in the aisles. They were patted down and arrested. University officials subsequently sanctioned the Muslim Student Union and the specific individuals involved. That’s as far as it should have gone, but it didn’t.

For whatever reasons, the Orange County District Attorney’s office chose to prosecute the protesters for disrupting the Israeli ambassador’s speech. The specific charges were, conspiracy to disrupt a meeting and disrupting a meeting, both misdemeanors that could result in fines and probation. It did not take long for the case to gain international recognition and support, with several youtube videos going viral and even  Jewish news services apparently supporting the students’ rights.

Why?

Because, universally, the world recognizes the Muslim Students right to free speech.

Our forefathers were wise men. I believe that the Constitution, as written, is as valid today as it was over 200 years ago when George Washington said, “I don’t expect this Constitution to last more than 20 years.” George wasn’t infallible, just a great Father of our Country. If he were alive today, he would be proud that our Constitution has not only lasted this long but has been the framework for numerous other constitutions of countries around the world. He would also be proud that our Constitution has lasted largely untouched for so long. We have the oldest unchanged government in existence. In fact, constitutions change so frequently that over 100 have been  written since 1970. Even our old “friend”, France, has had 10 governments in the same timeframe. El Salvador has had 36 written constitutions since 1824.

The protection for our Constitution has been attributed to the first Ten Amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights. The 1st Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Pretty plain speaking, as the framers of the Constitution were. The 1st Amendment is a fundamental right of the people and cannot be abridged.

But, what about when two parties claim 1st Amendment Rights to free speech as the parties in this case have? Where is the line drawn? If we look at history, then we can find the answer. When I was (much) younger, Angela Davis was the communist du jour, speaking often at the Berkley campus of UC. Her speeches were radical, insightful, and downright unamerican. I was a patriot and had just joined the military service during Vietnam. To me, her speeches at the time bordered on traitorous activity. She had been arrested several times for her open advocation of communism and Ronald Reagan attempted to have her barred from teaching at any US university. I look back and see that I had a narrow view of an intelligent  and thoughtful person. At the time, she was respected by many intellectuals around the world. 40 years later, she has my respect. And, so do the Irvine 11.

I may not agree with their message. However, I will defend with my life their right to convey their message in a peaceful manner. That is because free speech is fundamental to a free society. While we may be reminded of the old adage that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, that was not the case here. These students, in the best tradition of university protest, made a unique display of demonstration and stood for what they believe in. It does not matter if you or I believe their message. Whatever the message, they had a right to be heard. And, the Orange County District Attorney and the University of California Irvine chose to squelch those rights. We, as a free society, cannot allow that to happen.

What about Michael Oren’s right to speak? Let’s not forget that he was able to complete his speech and, although the prosecution says he did not get to finish the question and answer session afterward, the defense says his real reason for leaving so early was because he wanted to attend the Lakers game. In fact, the defense was barred from showing the jury a photo of Oren with Kobe Bryant. Go figure. The case is in the jury’s hands at this writing.

If you have a view, disparate or concurrent, please comment.

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