Monthly Archives: November 2012

Sheriff Hutchens: “I Have Breast Cancer”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department released a press statement yesterday afternoon following a press conference where Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced she has breast cancer.

On November 9, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer was caught early and is curable. It will require a treatment program and a few constraints with some of the activities I regularly handle over the next 6-8 months, “said Sheriff Hutchens.

At the end of that time, I will be back to my usual self. I will stay fully engaged with my duties and responsibilities as Sheriff-Coroner of Orange County and I plan to run for a second term in 2014.

As always, it is an honor to serve as your Sheriff and I thank you all for your continued support.

While we may disagree with the sheriff on her restraint of certain fundamental rights in the county, she has proven to be a changing force in the OCSD. She has presented leadership where there was a distinct lack in the past. And, her department continues to improve and move forward in spite of budgetary constraints. We know she can beat this and we look forward to her continued leadership for our sheriffs department.

Goodbye, Good Luck, Good Riddance

(updated 12/03/12 – ed.) We have risen from our Thanksgiving hibernation.

The main reason last week’s Tustin City Council meeting took so long was because it turned into a love fest for Hizzoner, councilman Jerry Amante. While Mayor Nielsen’s acknowledgment of Bill Campbell took only a minute or two, He lavished so much praise on Amante, I thought for a minute he was married to him. Campbell spent more time talking about himself than John did, which begs the question, what will John do without Jerry’s hand up his backside making his mouth move?

John lavished praise on Hizzoner as he listed the long political history of the two while still trying to convince the public that Amante is a dedicated public servant who served the city of Tustin well. Calling him “the most dedicated public servant that I’ve seen in the city of Tustin”, Nielsen said he puts it all in. Before he got too far, he called on others to lavish praise on Amante as well. OC Supervisor Bill Campbell, our district’s lame duck county supervisor, spent some time articulating Jerry’s broad thinking when it came to regional issues. Of course, he must have been talking about Amante’s dedication to pushing the Foothill Extension that would have torn up thousands of acres of coastal environment for the sake of another toll road. Or, was he talking about his regional thinking of implementing a toll road on the I-405 to allow him and his cronies (that could afford it) to ride in style to the airport?

So, the night went, with several politicians singing the praises of Amante and sometimes, as in Assemblymember Don Wagner’s dissertation, throwing a bone to Councilmember Gavello. Wagner was the most gracious to Deborah, in fact, asking her to come down and join him at the podium for a photo op. Yes, it was getting pretty sappy in the council chambers and I even saw a tear or two from Jerry, probably crying over the fact he wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to do away with term limits while he was still in office. All in all, the evening was extended by a full 27 minutes while John, who is probably wondering who will help him speak in full sentences now that Jerry is gone, and others lavished praise on Il Duce. There was more during council comments and we heard Beckie even gave him a kiss. eeyuwhhh….

Yes, Jerry “Hizzoner” Amante has managed, in eight years (we won’t speak about his time on the Planning Commission), to do quite a bit for our little city that was outlined by his Republican fan club. We thought it might be nice to reminisce on the other things Jerry has managed to do for us as well. Now, this blog has only been around for about a year and a half. In that time, Amante and his wrecking crew have managed to do their fair share.

For example, Jerry was the focus of only the second recall attempt of a City Councilmember (that we know of) in Tustin’s history. In fact, it was his acerbic demeanor toward the citizens he serves as well as his poor treatment of other councilmembers that caused a small band of intrepid citizens to start a grass-roots movement to recall Hizzoner. The recall fizzled in its final moments when the proponents fell a few hundred signatures shy of the required number to implement a recall vote. But

Although Mayor John Nielsen extolled Hizzoner’s fiscal conservativeness, the facts speak for themselves. This year, as in the previous year, the Amante led city council dipped into city reserves in order to balance the budget. Cost this year? Four million dollars.

Could we forget how Jerry and his crew managed to sidestep the cellular tower issue at Cedar Grove Park with T-Mobile while still maintaining the integrity of the cellular service plan? Although hundreds of citizens who live in the area protested the installation of the towers in their local park, the city council did absolutely nothing to prevent T-Mobile from having its way with the city. In fact, Amante and his hit man, Al Murray, were adamantly in favor of the design review. Had it not been for the rare split with Nielsen, who voted against the installation, it would have sailed through like most Amante led items. Behind the scenes, however, was the fast work of the three amigos as T-Mobile filed a Federal lawsuit and the city folded like a house of cards by refusing to defend the lawsuit.

Not so for the lawsuits between Tustin Unified School District. Jerry was instrumental in causing the entire debacle between the city and the school district. Responding to the city’s threats to stop construction on school projects around the city, the school district was forced to sue the city and the result was lawsuits and cross-suits by both sides to the tune of over two million dollars in taxpayer money. This year, one of the lawsuits brought by the Jerry and the city, was laughed out of Riverside Superior Court where the city sought a change of venue in hopes of a friendlier climate. The judge chastised the city for bringing lame arguments that would not hold water with a first year law student to the table. We chastised the good ol’ boys for their racist attitude when they allowed racially derogatory remarks to be entered into the record.

Should I mention the iPads? But, of course. It was Jerry’s grand idea, while the city was facing a multi-million dollar shortfall, to bring the city council into the 21st century by having the city buy iPads for councilmembers. This wasn’t a line item on the budget and the cash was pulled from the same reserves used to balance the budget. And, while Hizzoner said the iPads would save thousands of dollars in taxpayer money, no one around the city could tell me if it saved a dime.

Let’s not forget how much our fiscally conservative mayor cost the city to hire a new city manager when Amante lackey Bill Huston retired then, only to fire the guy just a few months into the job. We don’t have an exact amount because we couldn’t get ahold of the original contract but, suffice to say, David Biggs -who now works as city manager for Carson, California- came out smelling like a rose with a six figure golden parachute. We got saddled with nearly another year of Huston while the headhunters were busy looking for someone stupid enough to work for Amante and his crew.

Enter Jeff Parker.

Parker, who was hired in November of last year and, through sharp negotiations skills managed to cull a sizable salary and benefits package that included being placed on the old 2%@55 retirement plan, exploded onto the scene like a dull firecracker. He was apparently hired more for his ability to acquiesce to the bully Amante rather than his management skills. He fully joined in to the Amante fan club, in fact, and supports every lawsuit Hizzoner has pushed for. Well, lawsuits are much more important than being fiscally conservative, right?

Unlike Biggs, our old City Attorney, Doug Holland, saw the writing on the wall and resigned. Rumor has it that he and Amante did not exactly see eye to eye on the school district lawsuits either. In his resignation letter, Holland simply stated he could not work for Tustin and his other client Palm Springs at the same time with the same “high level” he expected of himself. So, it made sense to dump Tustin, which is right around the corner from home and keep Palm Springs, ninety miles away. Sure. We’ll go for that. Or, we could go for our original conspiracy theory that Amante was cleaning house of all who would dare oppose him. At least he did not dump the entire law office of Woodruff, Spradlin & Smart as we thought he might. Instead, he found another lackey, David Kendig who is more than willing to shine Hizzoner’s Italian stilettos while dodging our phone calls.

If we thought Jerry might wind down toward the end of his political career (he failed miserably at his bid for the state assembly) with little fanfare, he managed to make his mark in other ways that would set his fiscally conservative approach to terrorizing governing, in stone.

Remember Lisa Woolery? A few years ago, Jerry tagged Lisa to be the city’s public information officer and his personal publicist. It was hard to believe that Tustin would need a full-time communications officer. It wasn’t so hard to believe that Hizzoner would need all the help he could get in the publicity arena. So, Lisa spent a great deal of time espousing the transparency in government of the city and spent as much time trying to keep Amante in a good light. The only problem is, even Lisa couldn’t make chicken soup out of chickens….. well, you know what I mean. Despite her efforts, Amante’s true nature shone through and in the end, her efforts were for nought.

Jerry must have thought so too, as the city council decided they didn’t need a full-time PIO after all. Instead of letting Woolery go, though, they cut her hours to a part-time position. It didn’t take her long to get the idea and cut the cord.

Well, the year is over as is Jerry Amante’s long reign of terror on the dais. No one here will miss his (half) wit as Mayor Nielsen and Councilmember Gomez seem to think they will. And, even though we have all Republicans on the dais, we are ever hopeful that Councilman-elect, Chuck Puckett, will hold true to his word to work toward a better Tustin. In any case, he and the podiatrist councilman will have a great time figuring out who sits next to Beckie.

Dinosaurs are Popular in Tustin

I got a note from Jenny Grich of the Tustin Public Schools Foundation. As you know, they put on the Annual Dinosaur Dash that has become part of the tapestry of life here in Tustin. Participation rates right up there with Tiller Days and the Chili Cookoff. This year’s event was held on November 4, 2012. Held at the Tustin Marketplace, the event draws thousands of people a year to run and, this year, ride the mean streets of Tustin Ranch for a few hours. Jenny wanted me to let everyone know how much they appreciated the participation and the sacrifice of the local residents who have to put up with the traffic and noise. I, of  course, would like to think the residents don’t mind as they came out to participate.

This year, Jenny tells me, they had 7,233 people particpating in the event. Some rode, some ran and some walked. There were even more people who attended the even expo at the Marketplace. “We do not know how much money we made yet, since that will take some time, but with the number of sponsors we had and the number of smiling faces at the event, we know that it was just a complete success.”

The Foundation also apologized for the shortage of t-shirts, saying they had 1.000 more runners than last year. If you did not get one, email them at info@tpsf.net with your bib number and size. They will make sure you get one.

The best part is, the money goes back to Tustin schools and affects many of the programs of our kids.

By the way, if you qualified for an award at the event, you can pick it up at the TPSF office. Great going and we look forward to seeing everyone next year.

SARAH Feeds the Tustin Homeless

Darth Vader asked me to post this.

SARAH, that’s the Spiritual And Religious Alliance for Hope, sent out their most recent newsletter. There is a blurb about helping out at the Thanksgiving Feast for those less fortunate, Thursday, November 22, 2012, in Peppertree Park. They are, of course, looking for volunteers to help out in two hour shifts between the hours of 8am and 5pm. They promise guest speakers and entertainment. To volunteer for this event, call TyRon Jackson at 714-363-6621. Yes, this is the TyRon of local fame. You may even get to meet him.  For more information on SARAH go here.

TyRon called me to introduce himself and to let me know all about the upcoming Feast. He says this is his fourth year organizing the event and, this year, he wanted to go over the top. So, instead of renting a hall or using Hometown Buffet as he has in the past, he called the city and rented Peppertree Park….. the entire park…… for the entire day. He says he is expecting quite a crowd. And, while volunteers are needed, he really wants to emphasize the “community” of this event.
“No one will be turned away”, says Jackson. “We had a tremendous outpouring of generosity from folks that will allow us to feed everyone.” He wouldn’t say how many he is expecting. But, this is his fourth year organizing this event and I trust the fact that he rented the entire park for this event. He has planned speakers and entertainment, hoping for a great day. “The weather will be perfect,” says Jackson, whose Facebook page says he is a Behavior Intereventionist for TUSD. He is also touted as a singer, actor and all-around good guy. We agree.

Jackson promises that no one will be turned away. While he wants to serve the less fortunate among us, he also wants this to be a day of community and coming together for a common purpose. We can’t volunteer as we will be serving turkey dinner to 15 or so of Orange County’s youngest criminals. But, if you have a few hours to spend volunteering, TyRon could use you. If you  are not up to singing for your dinner, just enjoy the food as, like he says, he has plenty to go around.

 

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