Monthly Archives: February 2012

Board of Supervisors Take Steps to Preserve Blimp Hangars

Courtesy of Tustin Preservation Conservancy

A hat tip the Tustin Preservation Conservancy for the heads up on an agenda item that should be of interest to our town Tustin.

Item 37 on the Orange County Board of Supervisors agenda for Tuesday, February 28, 2012, had a long title that, for our purposes, can be whittled down to the future prospects for the Tustin MCAS hangars. These hangars, built as part of the old Marine Corps Air Station, were used to maintain and service blimps during World War II. After the war, the hangars, which stand 17 stories high, were used for a variety of maintenance tasks and other occasional uses. In fact, you may have seen them in the backdrop of more than a few recent movies. The hangars were placed on the National Historic Register in 1978.

The Board of Supervisors was asked to consider a concept plan for the North hangar and surrounding area to be used as a regional park. This is a big deal for our town as the South hangar, which was offered to the city, will be torn down. Before you cry “foul”, the city did a lot of work in trying to save the hangar and find a profitable use for it. The cost of upkeep for these buildings has been pegged at $150,000 per year and that is just to have someone tighten the bolts that hold it together. So, the city was faced with trying to find uses for the structure that would pay for its upkeep and attract a wide community interest. Those attempts were unsuccessful and the South hangar is now slated for destruction.

Jerry Ruben from Sightline Productions spoke as the potential developer of the park concept for the hangars and the surrounding area. He said his company is more than willing to work with the county in developing the location as a park and veterans center, among other uses. His company appeared to be the only one, so far, to present a comprehensive proposal and he urged the Board to accept the concept and allow his company to work on the project.

Tustin Councilmember, Jerry Amante, along with City Manager Jeff Parker and Councilmember Al Murray all attended the meeting to represent the interests of our town. Jerry, apologizing for Mayor John Nielsen’s unavoidable absence,  spoke eloquently of the history of the base and the iconic nature of the hangars. He asked the Board to seriously consider the proposal before them and to allow the concept of the 84 acre park to take form. He also talked about the Legacy Business District and the housing that has been built so far as well as the future housing on the old base which is being managed by the city. “When you stand in those hangars, it is daunting”, Jerry said, “To save it is a mission for us”. Jerry further spoke of the iconic nature of the hangars and how this project would give the community a special park that would look back on the history of the Marine Corps in Orange County. He also said the city was looking forward to working with the county on the design and construction of the project.

Tustin City Manager, Jeff Parker, made what I believe is his first public appearance on behalf of our town Tustin. He added to Jerry’s discussion by saying how the proposal would add to the city of Tustin and be a benefit to the entire Orange County community.

Our own Linda Jennings, President of the Tustin Conservancy, spoke as well to the historical aspect of the hangars and the prospects of turning the North hangar into a park along with the surrounding land. “The hangars serve as a public monument to what has been described as America’s greatest generation.” She spoke of how, since 2005, many tours through the hangars have taken place but that, recently, the tours stopped because the Navy no longer provides a caretaker for the buildings. She applauded the efforts of the Board of Supervisors and Sightline Inc. executives for developing the proposal.

A lot of ideas for the Tustin hangars have been tossed around over the years. Through all of them has been the idea of preserving the history of the base and providing a historical military museum as well as a place for veterans and veterans services. Adding the possibility of having USA Water Polo and a training facility for ice hockey is also included in the plan. Although Chairman John Moorlach questioned the feasibility of developing the park during austere times, none of the Supervisors seemed to be against it and a unanimous vote was cast to go forward with the project.

We at Our Town Tustin look forward to seeing this project move forward. As Councilmember Amante said, it is a daunting task but one we think well worth the effort. It will not be an overnight project. One of the most important things to take place with this first step, however, is an effort to preserve at least one of the hangars. Future generations living in Orange County will be able to enjoy a sight we in Tustin have come to enjoy, for years to come, thanks to the vision of the Tustin City Council, the Orange County Board of Supervisors and folks like our own Linda Jennings.

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This One’s on Me

You know, it is bad enough to see a crackpot racist like Villa Park Councilmember, Deborah Pauly, actually have the nerve to run for the Third District Orange County Board of Supervisors seat. She had little enough chance of winning the spot (or even a credible number of votes) as it is. Her dismal fundraising efforts so far are equaled only by her slim list of endorsements. We can only figure that endorsing Pauly on his way out of the state was Chuck Devore’s final flip of the middle finger to Todd.

A tip of the hat to the OC Weekly for showing us that, just when you don’t think you can fall any farther into the den of iniquity, well….. you can. It seems that a year ago, February 5th, Deborah and her hubby, James, were having a night out at a local restaurant where they must have inadvertently toasted Todd Spitzer. As they left the parking lot, they ran smack into a DUI checkpoint run by the Orange Police Department. According to the OCW story, James attempted to avoid the checkpoint by swerving into a driveway and crashed his Porsche on to the curb, getting stuck in the process. After he unstuck his car, he was stopped by an Orange Police Officer who asked why he collided with the curb. Pauly replied that he did not [hit the curb]. As an old DUI cop myself, I wish I was a bird on the wire listening to this conversation as the officer blithely pointed out the damage and oil leaking from the car.

From the OC Weekly:

“I smelled a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from James’ person,” Plascencia wrote. “I saw James’ eyes were bloodshot, water, and they had a glossy appearance…I heard James slur his words heavily as he spoke.”

While Plascencia tried to administer a DUI test, another officer twice told Deborah to stay in the Porsche. James was so drunk that Plascencia repeatedly had to stop simple tests “for his safety” because James was swaying so much and nearly falling on his face. When Plascencia asked James which DUI test he’d prefer, he replied “Neither,” then yelled to Deborah–who was trying to walk to her husband despite having been told to stay near the bashed-up Porsche a third time–“he needed to submit to a blood or breath test.”

That could have been it. Deborah could have, and probably should have, shut her mouth and grabbed her phone to call a taxi. Instead, she asked if she could be allowed to drive her husband’s car home. Officer Armando Plascencia, who made the arrest, would not allow her because he also recognized the signs of inebriation in Deborah Pauly. And, in case you are wondering, OC Weekly bills this cop as the “Wilt Chamberlain of DUI arrests.” So, I think he would know an intoxicated person when he sees one.

The article goes on to say that James Pauly tried to slip off his handcuffs and he had to be further restrained by buckling him into the unit with his seatbelt (but, you would have done that for his safety anyway, right Armando?). He did finally take the blood test and was shown to have a BAC of .17. Now, remember, the legal limit is .08.

Deborah Pauly wears her conservative Christianity like the scent of Chanel No. 5. On her Twitter feed, which she recently blocked me from following, she has such interesting tidbits as,

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

“You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.” – Abraham Lincoln, great conservative president

“Muslim Terrorists Are Pure, Unadulterated Evil.”

Oh my goodness! Look at all of @toddspitzeroc’s churlishly furious tweeting while I was busy @ my Wednesday morning Bible study.

Well, there was nothing in there about drinking and driving. And, strictly speaking, she did have a designated driver. But, someone should have told her Abe Lincoln was a teetotaler.

To be fair, the article never says what Deborah Pauly ultimately did. And, contrary to what some may think, she did not seem to use her powerful position as a councilmember of a neighboring city….uh, town…. to try to wrangle her and her husband out of the mess they found themselves in. And, she did not decide to run for the Third District until way after this incident. And, it could have been a whole lot worse had she been the one behind the wheel. That’s a whole lot of ands.

Oh yeah, Tweeting? She has three times as many followers as Todd. Of course, she probably blocked him, too.

For Todd Spitzer’s part, he has not said a word about this incident, most likely because he knows it would serve no further purpose. Gale Bates, in a recent letter to the OCR editor said, ” The most egregious argument Todd Spitzer used was sexist when he said Deborah “Pauly is unsuited for office because of her temperament.” Of course, Todd could have said many things about Pauly to demonstrate her unsuitability for any office, let alone the Third District Supervisor. But, he didn’t have to. Pauly said, and did, it all.

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Mayor and Former Mayor Have a Problem With Ethical Behavior

Courtesy of Pepperdine.edu

The local newsfeeds are aglow with the word that several Orange County city councils have violated ethics and conflict of interest laws. Our Town Tustin happens to be one of them. In fact, a Tustin resident, Matthew Delaney, is said to have initiated the complaint against 40 councilmembers in various cities because those councilmembers voted themselves onto paid regional boards without batting an eye.

Mayor John Nielsen and former Mayor Jerry Amante have received warning letters from the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding the practice of naming themselves to various regulatory boards that affect the county. This includes the Orange County Sanitation District where, in 2011, Mayor John Nielsen received $4,250 for attending meetings.  OCSD board members receive $212.50 per meeting with a 6 meeting per month maximum. Other boards the councilmembers appoint themselves to include the Southern California Association of Governments, which pays $120 per meeting for a maximum of 8 meetings per month. The Foothill Transportation Corridor Board also pays $120 per meeting with a maximum of  18 meetings per quarter. You can see how this adds up to quite a sizeable sum for certain councilmembers who hoard the paid positions as Jerry and his Kids have.

It gets more interesting, however. You remember we reported on the January meeting in which John Nielsen and his puppetmaster, Jerry Amante, ran a shell game to ensure the good old boys were re-nominated to the same paid boards. What many did not see unless they watched the video was that City Attorney, David Kendig, had proposed a “new” method of nominating and voting on members for the boards. The new method required nominated members to leave the room so the rest of the council could vote on them. This effectively eliminated each nominee from voting on him or herself and that effectively cured the violation.

Looking back, we see how Kendig did his job in protecting the conservatives he panders to on the city council from liability. But, where was the transparency the city likes to tout on their website? That did not seem to come into play here as there was no explanation of why there was a change. In fact, the entire discussion during the meeting centered around how the city was being proactive by implementing this new policy. Did John and Jerry receive those letters from the FPPC prior to this action being taken? While we don’t know for sure because we have not received a response from the city to our request for the letters, it is a pretty good bet they at least knew they were going to receive some kind of sanction.

Unfortunately, the Right side of the dais was a bit more on top of it than the Left. During the vote for the Orange County Fire Authority seat, when it seemed they reached an impasse, Jerry nominated two people for the position, one from each side of the dais, thereby eliminating the draw and insuring that their man Al would get the position. Deborah, in a slap your forehead moment, realized after the fact what the boys had done. Of course, the real issue was whether Beckie Gomez, who claimed to covet at least the alternate position to the Fire Authority Board, actually went along with them when she was nominated and left the room. I don’t think it was even past Beckie that she had no chance of getting the board seat and that she ensured Al Murray the seat by accepting the nomination.

So, maybe it is four to one after all.

Now, it is rather interesting that the council took up the issue of the Community Development Block Grant, a fund of money given to the city each year by the Feds for the purpose of enhancing life in Tustin. While I looked at the report that shows the money is awarded to many local entities, including the Boys and Girls Club, I have to wonder if they spread the money a little too thin. A few people I have spoken with have voiced the same concern.

But, what is really disconcerting is the fact that the CDBG money is given to the Tustin Community Foundation to administer. That in itself is not a problem. What is a problem is the fact that Mayor John Nielsen’s spouse, Erin Nielsen, is the Executive Director of the TCF. I checked with my political rabbi concerning any conflicts of interest regarding this issue. What he told me was, while their may be no specific conflict of interest that rises to the level of a violation, there is certainly the perception of one anytime there is a direct relationship between entities such as this.

Again, here we have a city that claims transparency in everything it does and then is not forthcoming in dealings that involve some of their councilmembers. It is unfortunate that no one came forward at the Tuesday city council meeting to raise the issue. And, of course, not that it would have done any good. By now, we are all used to Jerry and his Kids getting their way, even when they have to use subterfuge like this.

So, here we have it. A city that touts transparency. They are more than willing to show you the books. But, when it comes to a bit of dirty laundry, they fix the problems that arise and hope nobody will notice. This time, Jerry, John and Al, we noticed.

On the Agenda, February 21, 2012

Redevelopment is dead. There, I said it. It seems even the Tustin City Council agrees, finally. Running dueling agendas, the City Council will meet as both the Council and the “Successor Agency to the Tustin Community Redevelopment Agency”. An accurate, if somewhat lengthy, title (perhaps Elizabeth Binsack can come up with a cool name). At a meeting in January, the City Council went about the business of transferring assets and obligations to a successor agency. The new agency will, presumably, only be able to handle the current affairs of the old RDA with no new obligations. A tough blow to Jerry and his Kids, who thought RDA money would see them and their business cronies thought the tough times. Now, we will see just how much business is willing to put into business ventures in Tustin without the aid of corporate welfare.

A bit of advice to Councilmember Gavello. Item 4  on the special meeting agenda establishes bank accounts and signatures. I know you hate Jeffries but just go with the flow on this.

On to the City Council regular meeting agenda.

Closed Session

There are the usual suspects on the Closed Session agenda, including T-Mobile which has sued the city over the design review of a cell tower in Cedar Grove Park. By now, a response should have been made to the initial petition. The petitions and all pleadings are public knowledge, by the way. So, we would suggest the city consider placing the documents on-line for full disclosure. That is, unless the city has something to hide.

There are also three lawsuits between the City and Tustin Unified School District. The oldest of these is scheduled to be heard in Orange County Superior Court in April. Two councilmembers have assured me they hope for a resolution before this goes to trial. With control over school construction at stake, and considering the apparent conflict of state law, I doubt TUSD is inclined to settle this beforehand. Certainly Tustin’s lame attempt at a settlement, which appeared to be more of an effort to garner public support, would not be the basis for a permanent agreement.

The final lawsuit is one filed by Doug Poling against the city. No word on the specifics but it does involve the National Junior Basketball Association. I have asked them to comment.

Labor Negotiations

It is that time of year again. The seven and a half labor unions representing Tustin employees will come again to the table to discuss wages and benefits. I was sure at least the TPOA and TPSSA had multi-year agreements so this may just be salary re-openers. We will keep an eye on things and let you know of any developments. At least the city is smart enough to bring in a hired gun to negotiate rather than let city staff do it.

Open Session

Public Hearing

The first item on the open session agenda is a public hearing for the Community Development Block Grant. This is a federal program to return funds to communities to be used to “provide decent housing, suitable living environments and expand economic opportunities” for low and moderate income persons. This year, the city gets $587,277 in grant money. The city is required to hold two hearings, one of which will be Tuesday night. Of course, the City Council can disregard any testimony by the public and make up their own minds as to how the money will be spent. And, it seems, the staff have already made up their minds as to how remaining money from 2009 should be spent. A quick look at the goals and objectives shows worthy projects around our town.

One in particular is “Helping homeless persons…” Unfortunately, this is a low priority. It must be because of the low number of homeless persons we have residing in our community. It might be a worthy goal to get the few we supposedly have (I suspect we have more than the two hundred claimed in the agenda report) to make that final step off the streets and into housing. However, there are lots of worthy projects on the plate for CDBG money and not enough money to go around. In fact, the city will receive approximately 20% less funding this year than last. I am not one for welfare of any kind but this is, after all, our money and should be returned to the communities.

Regular Business Items

Item 12, Planning Commission Authority- Redevelopment Agency - It appears the City Council will vest some decision making authority in the Planning Commission regarding former RDA property. Hmmm. Could this be where Jerry ends up after his stint on the council? Hopefully, they will take a serious look at those term limits for planning commissioners.

Item 13, Commission Appointments – In Jerry’s current endeavor to leave a lasting mark on Tustin, the various Commission appointments have become the focus of the council. Applications and interviews have been postponed while the council decides on term limits. Councilmember Gavello, in an effort to bring the issue into perspective, has asked for a background report on the appointment process. Good show, even if they disregard you Deborah. You are doing the right thing.

Item 14, 2011-2012 Mid-year Budget Review – Are they kidding? sub-item 3 asks for a supplemental appropriation of $585,651 to cover capital project expenditures. How about the City Council start by giving back its iPads?

All in all, it should be an interesting meeting. I remind our readers that we only have 10 1/2 months of Jerry’s rule (sure, John… we know you are mayor…).

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