The City Folds. Where Was the Transparency?

I just got back from my fishing trip and my mailbox is abuzz with the news. First, I got a comment from reader “Cedar Grove Loses” who said the City Council caved on the T-Mobile lawsuit. If you remember, we wrote about T-Mobile’s multi-faceted attempt to install a cellular site at Cedar Grove Park. After several years of design reviews, in which a site that was originally meant to house multiple cell company equipment, the Tustin Planning Commission lamely went against the wishes of the community and approved the design review. The issue was promptly appealed to the Tustin City Council who, in a moment of clarity, voted to deny the review. Of course, Hizzoner, Jerry Amante, blasted the rest of the council, sans his hitman, Al Murray, for not taking T-Mobile’s money and running. Well, Jerry was never much in touch with the real residents of Tustin, right? And, we did tell you that T-Mobile would pay a small fortune in lease fees so that Jerry could re-fund the reserves which he drew down to buy toys for the city council? In Al’s defense, at least he was concerned about the safety aspect, even though we thought it a bit overreaching.

In any case, T-Moblie, after complaining about those mean people in Tustin Ranch that they attempted to appease with multiple design reviews, said they would plant their cell tower on the puiblic right-of-way where the city would have no say. They inferred they intended to make it really ugly, too, just to spite the area residents. Of course, they lied. Their next stop was in Federal Court where they filed a lawsuit, alleging the city could not prevent the inevitable.

And, apparently, they were right. Or, at least, the city was not willing to do the right thing and oppose the lawsuit any further. Funny how they will squander money on lawsuits they can’t possibly win against the school district, but will readily roll over when the Feds come a knockin’.

On May 8, 2012, settlement and stipulation documents were filed with the Federal Court. They became effective when the judge signed them. What the stipulation order says is that the city council’s denial of the design review is moot and the planning commission’s approval under Resolution No. 4163 stands as if there had been no appeal. This effectively allows T-Mobile to continue with the licensing process. It does not necessarilly mean they will get approval. Not only must they obtain the proper licensing, they must comply with all of the requirements of Resolution No. 4163. Also, this may re-open pending design reviews in other neighborhood parks.

Now, all of this is disconcerting, I admit. It looks grim for the folks in Tustin Ranch who fought long and hard to keep this monstrosity out of their parks. It is even more disconcerting that we are talking about a third-rate cellular carrier whose total income is dwarfed by the Big Three.

But, how can one explain the fact that the City of Tustin, who touts their transparency and even has a “Transparency in Government” web page, did not issue a press release or even post a comment on their website or through their social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. Even worse, the litigation, which had shown up on the city council agenda since its inception, suddenly disappeared and no action on, what was apparently a closed session item, was reported by the city attorney. Could it be because Hizzoner, still pulling the strings of city staff who willingly do his bidding, did not want it publicized for fear the citizens of Tustin Ranch might rise up again and cause them problems before T-Mobile could get to work?  After all, the stipulation order became effective on May 8, 2012. The important date here, however, is June 17, 2012, which is the time limit for the city to rescind all the denials and allow construction to begin. There is no denying that the city hoped to have T-Mobile placated and in construction mode before the citizens of Tustin Ranch could storm the council chambers.

All is not lost. There is a lot of leeway for the city to act, or more precisely, not act. The residents of the area, should be vocal in making their opinion on just how underhanded the city acted in this matter and their apparent attempt to prevent the opposition in Tustin Ranch from discovering the acquiescence of the city council in this matter. A good time to do that would be on Friday between the hours of 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm which Mayor John Nielsen has established “office hours“. We suggest you call first as he may be MIA this week. On the chance that he is not, perhaps someone will ask him why he caved on an issue he felt strong enough to support in public and why the city attempted to hide the issue from the public. If you cannot make it to his office, you can always email him and the other councilmembers. Their email addresses can be found here. Just don’t expect to get an answer. We have been trying to get them to answer us by email for months with no success.

Thanks again to “Cedar Grove Loses” for letting us know just how much our city council thinks of the residents of our town Tustin.

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About Jeff Gallagher

My day job is a peace officer for the 2nd largest law enforcement agency in Orange County. I live in and love Tustin where my family and I have resided for the past 17 years. I am a highly moderate libertarian that despises hardcore Republicans, Democrats and anyone else who is not willing to compromise for the good of the people.

Posted on May 22, 2012, in Local Government, Politics, Tustin City Commissions, Tustin City Council and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.

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