Monthly Archives: July 2012
It is one of those rare “5th” Tuesdays where there are no scheduled city council or commission meetings in Tustin. So, I thought we’d take a look around at what’s happening with our neighbors around us. Before we do that, I have a couple of items to discuss.
First, I would like to clear up an error I made in my recent post about the candidates for Tustin City Council. We have spent a considerable time hinting about former mayor and councilman Chuck Puckett’s faux pas with the city credit card and lingerie shows during his first term on the dais. I received an in-depth report on the issue from a reader who prefers to remain anonymous. From the email:
Chuck ran successfully in 1990 along with Leslie Pontious, a local travel business woman. They both served four years and then ran for re-election in 1994. As far as I know there was absolutely no problem during their first terms.
But, in 1994 the re-election campaign, they were attacked and accused of abuse of city credit cards and misuse of city cell phones. Chuck was accused of having regular lunches in a… restaurant which featured models in skimpy lingerie. He worked in the building at that time. He was charged with using a city credit card at these luncheons…. These charges were not proven. He did not resign but he and Leslie both lost the election.
So, there is the best story I have on Chuck and the lingerie scandal and, as far as I know, the correct one as this comes from an impeccable source. I see no need to push this any further with innuendo. Beside, I am sure I have enough on Puckett with his relationship with Amante and his cronies.
Who Watches the Watchers?
I am sure, by now, you have heard of the scandals racking Orange County government offices. Former Public Works Director, and Santa Ana City Councilman, Carlos Bustamante, resigned from his position, with Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackauckus, hot on his heels with a warrant for his arrest. When Bustamante resigned he took along a hefty golden parachute in return for a promise not to sue the county. What a laugh, as it turns out, as he then wound up doing the perp walk for the citizens of the Real OC. Bustamante is out on $100,000 bail (later reported to have been changed to $0) but he has not shown for any public appearances of the Santa Ana City Council. Bustamante did appear for arraignment on Thursday in OC Superior Court where he pleaded not guilty to 12 felony counts related to sexual assaults on female co-workers.
So, who allowed this to happen? Look no farther than County Chief Executive Officer, Tom “Tommy Boy” Mauk. Mauk, who has been mired in
other scandals related to bonuses and promotions for manager cronies in the county, really stepped in it this time. The Board of Supervisors called Mauk on the carpet. After giving him a pass on the unwarranted promotions, the Gang of Five finally decided they had enough. Over three days of closed sessions, it was beginning to look, quite frankly, like Mauk would get yet another chance. Instead, we find they were haggling over price. Where else, except in managerial circles, will you find a person who should be fired on the spot for such ludicrous behavior, negotiating a golden parachute? As if he hadn’t taken the county for enough during his misdeeds. Mauk must have suddenly realized his possible legal problems if all those women who were sexually assaulted by Bustamante decide to sue, as he has also procured indemnity and a lawyer at the tune of $300 an hour. Let’s hope the Board has enough sense to set a cap. The County’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Franz, was appointed interim CEO on a 4-1 vote with Supervisor Shawn Nelson dissenting. Hmm, I wonder what Shawn knows that we don’t?
Clowns to the West of Me
Bustamante is not the only one who is making a name for himself in a not so glamorous way. Santa Ana Councilwoman, Claudia Alvarez, has also been in hot water this past year. Alvarez, reportedly the council bully, got the anti-Semite award of the year for comparing Irv Chase and his brother to Hitler and accusing them of ethnic cleansing in the Hispanic-dominated 4th Street retail corridor. Like any good politician who has made a major gaffe, she blew it off saying, “I do want to apologize to the Chase family for whatever reason they found my comments offensive. That was not my intent.” Whatever reason? Chase, A Jew, is also the son of Holocaust survivors. I think the reasons for being offended were pretty obvious, Claudia. Even the ADL called for her resignation.
So now, Alvarez thinks all is forgotten and the good folks of Santa Ana should give her a shot at an unprecedented fourth term in office. Actually, it would have gone further because she argued the clock had been reset when the good people of Santa Ana changed their term limit ordinance from two to three terms. When outside counsel advised that she was not eligible, Alvarez crony, Max Madrid filed a lawsuit against City Clerk Maria Huizar, on her behalf asking the court to force Huizar to allow Alvarez to pull papers for the election. The judge took one quick look and restated the obvious: Alvarez is ineligible to run again. A win-win for the citizens of Santa Ana. Watch out, though, we hear Alvarez has now set her sights on a school board seat. As if it wasn’t enough to have her bully the citizens directly, now she gets a chance to have your kids learn what anti-Semite means.
Jokers to the North
Up to the Northwest of us, the city of Anaheim is brewing for a fight. So far, this year, there have been over 7 officer involved shootings in Orange County’s largest city. On July 21st, officers shot an unarmed man on Anna Street. This sparked protests at the city council meeting and a brief but intense riot erupted in the area surrounding city hall. The Voice of OC reported that, at one point, police were overwhelmed and took over an intersection. Scenes on the evening news showed enraged protesters, driven further into anger by scenes of a K-9 attacking people (reportedly an accident) and another officer shooting rubber bullets at a family with small children. One could argue why parents would bring their children to a mob scene but, in its early stages, this was a peaceful protest. Who would have thought things would turn ugly?
To make matters worse, another young man, this time a known gang member with a gun, was killed in a confrontation with police. The young man, Joel Acevedo, reportedly shot at officers as he was stopped in a stolen car.
There were two significant and very stupid reactions to the entire situation. The first was by Anaheim Police Chief, John Welter, when I heard him trying to excuse his officers’ actions during the riot by saying that “outside influences” had come into their fair city and instigated trouble. Yeah, that’s it. “People from,… uh,… Los Angeles…. yeah, that’s it… they, uh, came in here and rabble-roused our citizens and then took off to let them take the brunt of police action.” Oh, please, John. Certainly you could have come up with better excuses than that, considering there was not one shred of evidence that could possibly lead to that conclusion. The “accidental” unleashing of the K-9 in the crowd was pretty believable, unless you watched the video. They say history repeats itself. I certainly see the similarities between the Anaheim video and this one taken almost 50 years ago. They just traded their fire hoses in for more modern weapons.
The second stupid reaction to the Anaheim protests and riots was made by, none other than city councilwoman, Gail Eastman. Eastman claimed in a message posted on an Anaheim blog, that the unrest in Anaheim was a “big time win” for her and her cronies. This was because it prevented the City Council from considering ballot initiatives that would affect future corporate tax giveaways the city council has become famous for by allowing the citizens to vote on future subsidies. It also kept them from considering a ballot initiative to change the current at-large voting system to a ward-system. The July 24th meeting was the last time they could vote to place either measure on the ballot in November. Eastman later apologized for her remarks, claiming a long tension-filled night, inappropriate use of a common phrase and the “wrong choice of words.” The mailing list she posted to is private so, she may have thought her remarks would only go to her constituents. Like-minded individuals, I am sure.
Stuck In the Middle Again
So here we are. A sleepy little burg in the geographical center of Orange County. I apologize for not checking with the city clerk’s office on Friday to see if anyone new had filed or pulled papers. So far, we have former mayor Chuck Puckett, Amante crony Allen “Doc” Bernstein and current mayor John Nielsen. David Waldram, a candidate in previous years, has also stated his intention to pull papers but, at last check, has yet to do so. One possible candidate, whom we shall not mention by name, has told me they have decided not to run. I hope they will change their mind as we need good, strong candidates who will properly represent all of the citizens of Tustin. The lineup so far seems to be the good-old-boys club headed by Hizzoner, Jerry Amante.
Hey, I know it was a long post, especially if you clicked on all the links. But, I don’t often write about those around us (why would I, its Our Town Tustin?). This was a good opportunity to show that, no matter how crazy things may get here in Tustin, thank God we live here and not there.
Strap in and get ready for a rough ride. The first three folks to actually pull papers as candidates for Tustin City Council are incumbent, John Nielsen, “Dr.” Allan Bernstein and Tustin Planning Commissioner, Chuck Puckett. Bernstein and Puckett pulled papers the same day. I have to wonder if they held hands while walking into the City Clerk’s office. To no one’s surprise, John Nielsen pulled his papers a few days later.
This, of course, led us to wonder when Puckett would resign his seat on the planning commission. He did not keep us in suspense as he announced his candidacy at the planning commission meeting, saying that he had pulled papers and would resign next week when he files his papers. He went on to say that he has served on the planning commission for over twelve years during two different periods. We also know that Puckett is a former city councilman and mayor who resigned amid scandal.
As they were closing the meeting in memory of the Aurora, Colorado victims, Chuck mentioned he had come from Aurora 37 years ago. He said the site of the shootings, although not built up when he lived there, was only a mile from where they lived. So, Chuck and I have something in common as I come from Denver, Colorado which right next door to Aurora.
Bernstein, although out and about with his cronies, has not had a good photo taken of him yet. So, I can’t supply you with the wanted poster. However, he sent an email out along with a flyer for his first fundraiser at the Wilcox Manor. Again, no photo but he does state that he has been in Tustin for 36 years and is a “physician”. Hmm, the only Doctor Allan Bernstein we have in Tustin is a Podiatrist working out of a 1st. Street office. A podiatrist is about as much of a physician as a chiropractor. If you don’t believe me, believe the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons who are fighting to have the change made official in regard to Medicaid. I guess you can call yourself anything you want when running for office.
Others running? We know from conversations that David Waldram will be running. He has established a campaign account and a website. He just needs to get down there and pull papers. Incumbent Councilmember, Deborah Gavello is still keeping it close whether she will run for another term. I am sure she is looking at the field to see who else, if anyone, would continue the reign of terror on the dais. We also have heard some other names that may be running but we will wait until they pull papers. They have promised me first dibs on the announcement. We’ll hold them to it and keep you informed as we get more information.
If you are planning to attend the Tustin Planning Commission meeting this Tuesday, you may want to have someone keep the car running. By the looks of the short agenda, you probably won’t be there long. That is, unless you are one of the residents or businesses along First Street. Then, you may wish to read the Agenda Report on the First Street Specific Plan and attend the meeting. The plan has not been updated since 1985 and Elizabeth Binsack’s staff are recommending a facelift. It has always been the intention of the city to eventually eliminate the residential uses along First Street and create a neighborhood commercial zone. Of course, that has not happened and, by the looks of it, probably won’t in our lifetime.
Over the years, the original plan has served well to keep the status quo. So, apparently, the update would be to eliminate earlier identified “expansion areas” of commercial activity into residential areas and fix zoning issues that cause confusion. These seemingly minor incursions, as noted by the draft, would be met with strong opposition from residents in the area anyway.
In any case, Binsack’s staff have created, what appears at first glance to be, an excellent update to the First Street Specific Plan that actually maintains the neighborly atmosphere of the street and will allow the continuation of small businesses that have become a fixture along that lane. The only issue we might take with the Plan is the consistent reference that First Street is no longer a major thoroughfare. While Irvine Boulevard may have higher density traffic, due to the easy access to the freeway, First Street continues to be a vital thoroughfare between Tustin and Santa Ana, with similar zoning and activity in both cities.
Now, if we could just get Newport Avenue put through.
So, all of this brings us to the burning question: Why are we having a meeting of the planning commission? They cancelled the last meeting due to lack of agenda items. This agenda has three items, none of which require immediate action. So, why are we wasting staff resources and taxpayer money? Did the commissioners miss having dinner together? Does Jeff Thompson’s kids need a new pair of shoes (those DC Universe Converse aren’t cheap)?
Once thing is for sure. Commissioner Chuck Puckett has pulled papers to run for the Tustin City Council. Section 1305 of the Tustin City Code states:
a. Non-Eligibility of Candidate to Serve as Commissioner
No person shall be appointed to serve or to continue to serve as a member of any commission of the City on whose behalf there has been filed nomination papers for the office of City Councilman and the election therefor is pending.
b. Resignation of Commissioner Council Candidate
Any member of any commission of the City on whose behalf there has been filed nomination papers for the office of City Councilman shall immediately resign from his position as commissioner. In the event such resignation is not filed by said commissioner, his appointment shall be terminated as of the date of filing of nomination papers.
Now would be a good time, Chuck. Although you could conceivably continue until the final filing date in August, resigning at this meeting will allow Jerry…, uh, John…, I mean, the city council…, to appoint a new member (who will also consistently pander to the business community) to the Commission and allow you more time to locate a restaurant that still has lingerie shows. Hopefully, you can find one in Tustin, so you can live by our slogan.
An Open Letter to Mayor John Nielsen and the Tustin City Council
Dear Mayor Nielsen,
At the Tuesday night meeting of the Tustin City Council, you expressed outrage that the newspapers and blogs would attack you over the Heritage Elementary School lawsuit. You thought it unfair that the press had labeled you and the city council as racist because of a pleading entered by the city in Orange County Superior Court outlining their complaint against the Tustin Unified School District. I can’t help but notice, you timed your remarks so as to preclude any immediate response from the audience by including them in “Mayors Comments” at the end of the session. I felt a response was necessary, to keep the record straight. As such, I choose to respond here.
You began your comment (which begins at timemark 1:09:12) on the issue by saying that you were the one who originally set up a meeting between the city and school district to hammer out an agreement. You also said:
I’ve been a great supporter of Tustin Schools for many years. My children have grown up in Tustin public schools from kindergarten and have graduated through high school. They’ve attended Nelson Elementary, Utt Middle School and Tustin High School, both of my children graduated from Tustin High, and this dispute is very disconcerting and has been for the last two years.
But, in the most recent legal battles that we’ve had, the city has tried to protect its residents and Tustin Legacy by trying to preserve a newly built neighborhood school as an elementary school. That school was paid for by those residents, by millions of dollars in fees, mello-roos. And, we engaged in that in order to have that elementary school so they could use it for their kids, which they anticipated they could have until it was changed and the carpet pulled out from under them, so to speak. But, you know, there are differences between agencies and institutions and people don’t always agree on things, but, you know, I’ve been fairly patient throughout this and haven’t said a whole lot.
But, when I see in the newspaper that the TUSD is declaring us as racist and, by reference, the neighborhood in Tustin Legacy as well, I get very perturbed. And, frankly, it’s despicable and it doesn’t do anything to solve anything. I know we disagree but, name calling and playing the race card is certainly not the way to solve those differences. I’m even more concerned that, frankly, the Orange County Register would print this, with scurrilous accusations without any foundation. Instead of trying to inflame people in this community, we should be trying to bring them together. We should try to heal and we should try and work together as much as we can. And, if we have differences, let’s please be civil about it. Let’s not get it down to calling names at each other. Let’s just do what we need to do to get through this. I’ve been quiet on this. I’m usually a patient man. But, when I see that I am being called a racist, I get a little upset.
Let’s clear up a few things here. You claimed the Register made scurrilous accusations that had no foundation. It was my original article on the city’s loss of the Heritage School lawsuit, which the city initiated, that first stated the issue of race. The Orange County Register could not ignore the fact as it had been published and was circulating widely in the community. I, along with other community bloggers, urged reporter, Elysse James and her editor, to publish the article both on-line and in the OCR print edition. It was, in fact, the city that provided the foundation by alleging harm to children who were forced to attend overcrowded minority-ridden schools, not the school district. In a pleading submitted by the city, the city council alleged:
Elementary school age children who live in the vicinity of the school, including children living in the transitional housing provided at The Village of Hope and the Tustin Family Campus, to date, have been forced to attend overcrowded elementary school in other neighborhoods further away from their homes. But for the Project, those students would be able to attend class at the neighborhood elementary school planned, paid for, and built for their use. These overcrowded elementary schools include W.R. Nelson Elementary, Jeane Thorman Elementary, and Benjamin Beswick Elemenatary. These schools serve predominately minority populations.
Do I think you are a racist, Mayor Nielsen? In your diatribe, you wrongly lashed out at school officials who you say called you a racist. Yet, that is clearly not what Tustin School President Jonathon Ablelove was implying when he called the wording inflammatory. He, along with thousands of others who read this wonder what this paragraph, written by city attorneys and approved by the city council, added to the city’s argument for the lawsuit. If it did not have racial overtones, if it added nothing to the argument, why was it included?
Quite frankly, Mayor Nielsen, I am disappointed in your response. You could have come to the table and said, “They misinterpreted what we wrote”, or, “What we meant was this…”. You could have apologized for allowing a racially insensitive remark to get past the council in closed session. You could have even asked the city attorney for an explanation. The community would have accepted that and moved on.
Instead, you chose the typical conservative route. You stated your credentials as a fine, upstanding citizen of the community; how you have been involved for 10 years with city politic; how your children have all gone to and graduated from Tustin schools. You even mentioned Nelson Elementary school (mentioned in the pleading as one of those overcrowded schools) and then said, “I don’t care what the papers say, I am not a racist!” Well, the words, “These schools serve predominantly minority populations”, without any further explanation from you as to why they were allowed into an official court document submitted by the city, stand as evidence of the racially insensitive nature of the city council’s attitude.
I would also like to point out another error in your complaint toward us. You stated that the newspapers, by reference, called the Tustin Legacy population racist as well. Untrue. Nowhere in my article on Our Town Tustin or the excellent article written by Elysse James of the Orange County Register, did we allege the citizens of Tustin Legacy to be racist. Again, this must be your conservative logic putting 2 and 2 together to make 5. While I cannot speak for Ms. James, I can certainly tell you that I feel the citizens of Tustin Legacy, who only want to see the school they paid for used for the original purpose, do not feel that way and nowhere in any discussion of the issues has that ever been brought up by or against them. You speak of inflammatory remarks but, isn’t that what you attempted to do with the citizens of Tustin Legacy in having them believe they were called racist?
No, you and the city council stand alone in this matter.
The overriding tone of your message (besides, ‘I am not a racist’) is one of working together to resolve the issues that have gone on far too long. On this we can agree. Recently, the judge overseeing the original lawsuits in Orange County, continued the case again, this time until January of 2013. One has to wonder about the timing of that. Perhaps the judge is also hoping that, over the next year and possibly with new blood on the city council, cooler heads will prevail and the two entities can resolve this dispute without going to trial. It is not too late, Mayor. You have, by all accounts, an unwinnable situation. You can take that patience, which you espouse, and put it to good use by putting aside partisan politics and resolving this issue.
John, I have met you. We have spoken at length on various city matters. You are an intelligent, thoughtful man who, I think, has the best interest of the city at heart. Your allegiance to Councilmember Amante aside, you make fair decisions most of the time. This is one of those times you need to be your own man and act as mayor of this city. Quit trying to divert attention from this. Own up to it and apologize to the families of Tustin for, what amounted to, a racially insensitive remark that served no purpose whatsoever.