Monthly Archives: April 2012

On the City Council Agenda, May 1, 2012

Sorry this is late getting out. I have been gone all weekend doing my duty to the Diabetes Foundation Ship to Shore Ride in Long Beach and the Gearing Up For Abused Kids ride here in Orange County this past weekend. We promise to get back in the groove.

There are a few items of interest on this week’s City Council Agenda. Heading up the list is the ever-increasing-in-length, Closed Session Meeting that convenes at 5 pm. We are not sure if items 1 and 2 are the same from the past several meetings or if they are rotating. As they are closed session items, I guess we will have to wait to find out.

There is only one new liability claim this week from Newport Gasoline. However, there are the usual items listed under item 4, Conference with Legal Counsel. We do know that one of the Tustin v. TUSD lawsuits was scheduled to begin in April and has been postponed until July, thanks to the judge going on vacation. So much for our day in court.

This is also the time of year for labor negotiations and Tustin is in full swing, having had a couple of meetings so far. We will keep you updated with any information we may hear that way. Could it be coincidence that Chief of Police, Scott Jordan, is having his performance evaluation at the same time? We would be shocked to find he receives anything less than stellar from the City Council. That said, this would also be a poor time for the Council to consider a raise for the Chief considering the state of fiscal problems facing the state, county and city. Even though we are in pretty good shape, the way to stay there is to be prudent in fiscal issues.

On the Regular Meeting Agenda, expect some discussion on the Community Development Block Grant for 2012-2013. This Federal grant funds graffiti removal, and some parks and recreation activies for kids. It also funds a youth coordinator position. Mostly the CDBG helps the city meet its mandate for servicing low-income families and other activities that might not be otherwise viable. It is a pretty wide-ranging grant of (this year) $587, 277.00. As County Supervisor, Janet Nguyen would say, it’s free money. The Tustin Community Foundation, who’s executive director is Tustin Mayor John Nielsen’s wife Erin, has been the money manager since 2007. There is nothing on their website as to the grant at this time. However, city staff have gotten together and made a recommendation as to the allocation of some of the funding. You can find that in the Staff Report starting on page 4.

Item 10 is the only Regular Business item agendized for the meeting. This is a proposed ordinance regulating solicitation on public rights of way and private property. Essentially, this ordinance would outlaw all those pesky homeless people and solicitors in front of the big box stores that try to get your attention everytime you walk in and out. And, while I agree that businesses, no matter how large or small, should be allowed to have their entrances free of people dressed in uniforms of all kinds (or no uniform at all) asking for money from their patrons, it is disconcerting that the City Council thinks they can regulate away the homeless among us without addressing the real issues at hand. Most of us are familiar with the recent issues the County and the city of Santa Ana are going through in trying to provide more housing for their homeless. It is questionable whether laws are the answer to dealing with an issue of basic humanity. That said, the city claims that only a small number of streets would be affected. Is it coincidence that all of proposed streets to be made off limits are high traffic streets that draw panhandlers for the potential cash flow?

One side-effect of the solicitation ordinance as it is proposed will be that any residential door-to-door solicitors would now need a permit from the city (don’t worry, I checked and Girl Scouts would still be able to hock their cookies). The city claims that criminals are disguising themselves as solicitors and going door-to-door committing crimes of all types of heinous nature. This, of course, has had a negative impact on each and every one of us. There are many examples of behavior from both homeless and the door-to-door solicitor types in the Staff Report outlining why this ordinance is needed.

We don’t really have a problem with most of this ordinance, other than we believe it is just another tool to push the homeless around and give the police a reason to hassle them when they really aren’t bothering anyone. In the whole of 2011, the police department states they receive 45 complaints of panhandlers on the roadway, causing a hazard or interfering with traffic. Really? Out of how many hundreds of thousands of calls for service, they received a whole 45 that would generate enough interest to enact a new ordinance?

As far as the door-to-door solicitation goes, the police department states they received 60 calls regarding solicitors. Again, out of how many thousands of calls for service? The staff report states, “In recent years there have been many documented cases in California and throughout the nation where residents were victims of heinous crimes including rape, robbery, and murder in which the perpetrators were persons claiming to be solicitors and committed the crimes in the victim’s place of residence.” What the report doesn’t state is how many of those crimes have been committed under the guise of solicitation here in our town. That’s because the answer would be zero. And, zero is not a compelling number when you are trying to make a (straw) argument.

And, while we don’t really have an issue with a requirement for a solicitor’s permit as most cities have, we do take issue with the Live Scan Fingerprinting which, when we last checked, cost in excess of $120.00. Not business friendly at all and totally unnecessary in our view, considering no crimes of this type have been reported.

That’s it for this week. Pretty ho-hum as cities in Orange County go. But, this is our town and we like it that way.

Tustin’s Gavello Elected Vice-President

Natalie Gavello and her mom, Tustin Councilmember Deborah Gavello Photo courtesy of The Liberal OC

If you suddenly felt a 3.0 earthquake, it was probably Boss Tweed Amante falling off his chair after reading the title to this article. A hat tip to our good friends at The Liberal OC for a heads up on this great story. No, it isn’t our good councilmember who was elected. It was none other than her lovely daughter, Natalie who is a sophomore at Cal and was elected Vice-President of Academic Affairs. They must have felt some déjà vu  as she received about the same number of votes as her mom when she ran for Tustin City Council.

From the Lib:

A little more about Natalie, who I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Gavello fundraiser last summer.  She is a sophmore at Cal majoring in Statistics/Consumer Behavior.  Natalie is a member of the Delta Gamma sorority.  In her new elected position, she’s a member of Cal’s executive board which consists of four people, a president and three VPs.  Her entire political party ran together as a slate and won all four seats so I’m not entirely sure what the fifth seat in the headline of the photo refers to here. The slate self funded their own campaign and Gavello earned 4,896 votes against three other candidates.  Her margin of victory over the next closest candidate was more than 1,000 votes.

Natalie attended the following Tustin Schools: Ladera and Tustin Ranch Elementary Schools and Pioneer Middle School.  She then auditioned and got into Orange County High School of the Arts in the Musical Theater Program in Santa Ana, she ultimately focused on acting.  She ran for and was elected for President for OCHA’s entire Student Body in her senior year.

Additionally, Natalie Gavello served as the President of the Make a Wish Club, and was the developer of the school’s club carnival, which she created, designed, and worked with administration and pulled off a fantastic event at OCHA in 2010.

More importantly, Natalie Gavello helped her mother campaign.  She knocked on doors asking for the votes for her Mom. One woman in old town called Deborah Gavello on her cell phone, and said she was voting for Gavello just because of Natalie’s work.

This is a great achievement for a young lady just getting started in life. Her mother, Deborah, is justifiably proud of her (although not proud enough to give us a heads up, hmmm) accomplishment as you can see by her beaming face in the photo. We hope that Natalie will continue the family tradition and possibly run for office in  the future. She appears to have the same grit her mom does and, she can draw from her experience when she has to fire back at the good old boys.

Now, here is a challenge to the far right of the dais: This is the daughter of one of your own, like it or not. I think a special recognition at an upcoming City Council meeting, even a presentation by our Mayor (if Boss Tweed would allow it) is in order. Assuming that won’t happen, I hope our town Tustin will join me in congratulating this young lady for her win. May she go on to  be an influence at Cal. Go Bears.

On the Planning Commission Agenda, April 24, 2012

Planning Commission Chairman, Jeff Thompson

Planning Commission Chairman pro tem, Chuck Puckett

First things first. Congratulations to Jeff Thompson and Chuck Puckett for their re-appointment to the Planning Commission. We like them both and feel that, overall, they have done a pretty good job for our town Tustin. Apparently Jeff’s minor faux pas last year was forgotten by Boss Tweed Amante.

Heading up the Planning Commission Agenda for this Tuesday is a Public Hearing on one of our favorite subjects, cellular towers. This time it is pretty inconsequential as it is a modification to an existing cell tower and an increase in the number of transmitters at the site. It will also increase the height of the tower by 4 feet. No one driving by the site, a couple of business buildings on the North side of Edinger Avenue West of Redhill, is likely to notice the change as it blends in nicely with the buildings. All of the equipment and the tower are on private property as well. This should be a no-brainer unless one of our anti-RF folks laments about the increased energy being radiated across Currie Middle School.

The only other item on the agenda is an update on the projects and plans coming in front of the Community Development Department since January. Some items of interest

  • Changes to the Tustin Auto Center, including Tustin Toyota taking over the old Joe’s Garage and Hyundai taking over the old Tustin Chevrolet dealership.
  • The office building on the corner of Yorba and Irvine Blvd. This building that burned down last year has had the demolition completed and permits have been issued for new construction. Hopefully, the new will complement the old that was left untouched by the fire.
  • A new 7-11 Market on Newport Avenue. Plans are under review.
  • New Car Wash on Edinger Avenue. This was an issue of contention, mostly by a neighboring car wash that seemed to view it as a threat to his business.
  • The Meyers Building on El Camino Real, a beautiful addition to the Old Town business district. The building is partially occupied.
  • The proposed Del Rio Building, across the street on the old Riteway Cleaners property in Old Town. Design issues have held up progress on this building. Again, this will be a nice addition to Old Town if the CDD will get it together and approve submitted plans.
  • Mixed-use Hotel Project – We recently wrote about this project. It is located near the Micro Center on Edinger and is a needed addition to Tustin. We currently do not have any mid or upscale hotels with adequate facilities for business and pleasure.
  • Parking Requirement Exception for Old Town Business District. This change to the in-lieu parking fees will make it easier for Old Town businesses to build or remodel.

Among other items reported are changes to the MCAS Specific Plan that will, hopefully, jumpstart development for the old base property. Both the City Council and the Planning  Commission have spent a huge amount of time on the MCAS property, including the development of the District Shopping Center, which has had its’ share of problems in attracting and holding on to retail stores. This aggressive stance is what is needed to market the area and entice developers into building.

Of course, one of the best things the city did this year was to waive construction and business license fees through July, 2012 on most new construction. So far, over $248,000 in license fees have been waived. This includes 4,670 existing business license renewals and 469 new business licenses. I would say the economy in Tustin is recovering nicely.

That’s it for the meeting. Hopefully, it will be short and sweet so we can let those hard working Commissioners get back to their families.

CPUC Approves Smart Meter Opt-out

A hat tip to the OC Watchdog today on their reporting on the approval of SCE’s smart meter opt-out option. We have blogged several times about the Stop OC Smart Meters folks and their efforts to stop the installation of the SmartGrid technology SCE has begun using in Southern California. We were happy to receive our Smart Meter several weeks ago and have been analyzing our own electrical usage with the web tools provided. However, not everyone has been enamored with the idea of having what is, essentially, a cellphone blasting through their homes with RF radio waves. There have also been privacy concerns raised as well as other issues as to just how SCE plans to control the electrical usage in your house in the future with other so-called smart appliances hooked up to the grid.

From the Watchdog:

The California Public Utilities Commission today approved a smart meter opt-out option for customers of Southern California Edison who want to switch back or keep their current meters.

Smart meters are part of the new Edison SmartConnect grid. They connect to “a secure wireless network” that SCE says gives customers greater control to manage their usage – even from a cellphone, many miles from home. Smart meters are also read remotely, so employees don’t have to trek to the house to read the meter.  By the end of this year, 5 million smart meters are slated to be installed in Southern California.

A little over a month ago we talked about the controversies surrounding the new system and smart meters which led to customers asking for the opt-out option.  Some consumers are worried about radio frequency radiation from the new meters, some have challenged their accuracy and others say the meters are an invasion of privacy.  The PUC has received hundreds of complaints about the new meters.

Edison has downplayed those concerns, citing studies showing that the meters are safe and accurate.

But since our first post more Orange County residents have contacted us expressing similar concerns.

Ken Devore, director of Edison SmartConnect, said SCE has been willingly participating for months in CPUC’s proceedings. “We absolutely support customers having a choice,” Devore said.

Customers who chose the opt-out option will have to pay an initial fee of $75 and then a monthly fee of $10. Devore said that currently only 28,000 customers have indicated an interest in the opt-out option. In the March 30 proposal that we mentioned in our last piece, though, SCE estimated 61,000 would take the opt-out.

You can read the details at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/EFILE/PD/161688.pdf.

Some customers and groups such as Stop OC Smart Meters who want to opt-out feel that they shouldn’t have to pay to keep their old meters.

“The fact of the matter is the previous form of meters are not the standard anymore,” Devore said. “The new standard is smart meters. The old meters require labor that smart meters don’t.”

That extra labor, maintenance, and additional costs incurred to regulate the old meters is SCE’s reasoning for charging customers. Devore and SCE believe it is only fair. The costs are subject to change and during phase two of SCE’s proceedings with the CPUC new rates may be applied to residents opting out.

So, now it appears you will have a choice. But, that choice will come at a price should you decide to keep your old meter. The only customers who are eligible, by the way, are those who placed themselves on the delay list or currently do not have a Smart Meter installed. For the rest of us, we can go to the website and review quite a bit of fascinating information about our electrical usage.

What do you think of SCE’s new opt-out plan? Do you think the fee is reasonable?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 326 other followers