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.