Author Archives: Jeff Gallagher

On the City Council Agenda – December 16, 2014

Hidden Agenda ClipartThere were no surprises in the recent off-year elections. Al Murray and Beckie Gomez were re-elected to their respective posts as were the TUSD incumbents. It is disappointing to see that not much has changed since the days of Il Duce Amante and his reign of terror over the city.What I am talking about, of course, is the obvious disrespect the good ol’ boys show the only female on the dais by not electing her Mayor for at least one term. It not only shows their true color as chauvinists but borders on discrimination as they are all cut from the same political cloth. Fortunately, the Mayor’s post, in this city, is largely ceremonial with the setting of the agenda probably the most important task. Yet, the Funtastic Four could not see fit to give up even that small amount of power to a woman.

That said, we’ll congratulate Mayor Chuck Puckett to his (re-)ascension to the throne. Anyone care to guess who the next mayor will be?

In closed session tonight, the council will have opening discussions on upcoming labor negotiations with city unions. After the fabulous way they treated the upper crust management last year, everyone should be expecting a reasonable raise. City negotiators lamented the low sales tax return and the high cost of running the city last year, using it as an excuse to not cut a square deal with the employees. That excuse has run its course. We’ll see if the employees are willing to take a stand for a raise this year.

Likewise, in closed session, the city has several property negotations to discuss. This includes a property swap with the Tustin Unified School District. Also under discussion is property negotiations with Arte Moreno’s group, Pacific Coast Investors. The line item says, “Price and Terms of Payment”. Let’s hope it is not for the new Angels-of-Anaheim-at-Tustin stadium. And what is the status of those negotiations, anyway?

First up on the Regular Session, after the usual opening prayer and Closed Session report, is a presentation to Tustin Community Foundation from the website, Great Nonprofits. TCF has been named a Top Rated 2014 charity by them. It’s nice but doesn’t really mean much. Great Nonprofits appears to base their selection on consumer reviews. Think Yelp for charities. I read a few of the more than three pages worth of “reviews” and find them…..well, contrived.

There is a great article on a more believable charity oversight website that sheds some light on the GNP website and their review model. Charity Watch had this to say about their process:

At first, this may seem like a good idea. After all, consumers commonly use reviews on sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor to help them choose restaurants and hotels. What is wrong with using crowdsourced reviews to help donors pick nonprofits?

One problem is that reviewing nonprofits is far more complex than reviewing consumer products and services. When a customer at a restaurant pays for a meal, he can smell, taste, and experience it. In contrast, when a donor gives to a charity, he pays for goods or services that someone else receives. His review is often not based on any firsthand knowledge of the quality or efficiency of the charity’s programs.

As an example, Charity Watch points out that the Childhood Leukemia Foundation received a “nearly perfect score” from GNP while their own website rated it an “F” because and in-depth look at their finances revealed dismal performance in areas that count. And, while Doctors Without Borders received an “A” rating from Charity Watch, GNP gave it a mere 3.5 stars (out of 5) due to two poor reviews, neither of which was of a significant issue pertaining to their actual performance. Neither Charity Watch or Charity Navigator rate TCF. Charity Navigator does not rate charities with less than a million dollars in revenue.

Oh, and of the 32 reviews, 30 of which are five star, only one is from a recipient. The rest are written by volunteers, board members and others with significant ties to TCF. Curiously, two reviews from volunteers rated the foundation as only four star. What’s up with that?

Now, we’re not saying Tustin Community Foundation is a poor choice. On the contrary, TCF has done some nice things here in Tustin. What we are saying is, awards from questionable sources might better be forgotten than noted in a public city council meeting.

On the Consent Calendar:

Item 5, Establish Prima Facie Speed Limits on City Streets, is the result of required studies by the state. Streets are required to be surveyed for appropriate speed limit changes in order for the city to continue to use radar and other traffic control methods. Eleven streets have been designated for increased or establishing speed limits. Interestingly, sixteen segments, including most of Newport Avenue North of Irvine Boulevard, have recommendations to lower the limit. The rest will be unaffected. Some of these changes are in rather unobtrusive locations so, make sure you remain aware lest you be stopped by one of Tustin’s Finest.

Item 11, Community Development Department Office Reconfiguration, is really an item that could wait until next year. The darling of the City Council, Elizabeth Binsack, is requesting an additional $68,000 in her coffers to accomplish the remodel which, quite frankly, should not be coming out of additional reserves. This sort of smacks of the Jerry Amante iPad debacle (where are those iPads, anyway?) where funds were allocated for a folly. Expect this item, as well, to be approved without comment. It’s nice to be the apple of someone’s eye.

Under Regular Business, several items stand out for discussion. The first is Item 14, Local Appointments List which publishes for the first time, the list of appointment to OCTA, the Water and Sewer Boards, as well as a slew of other paid and non-paid appointments. The Mayor has an opportunity to redeem himself and his cronies by appointing their arch-nemesis to at least one important (and paying) board position (not that the Library Board isn’t important). He could but don’t expect him to. Chuck has never been one to rock the city boat.

Other Regular Business items include a grant application to the National Endowment for the Arts to assist in funding the Tustin Pioneers Recognition Program and the transfer of city owned property to the Orange County Rescue Mission.

The Tustin Pioneers Recognition Program, if you recall, would allow the city and certain organizations to recognize important historical figures of Tustin’s rich history. The perceived method would be the erection of a bust of the noted individual in or near the location related to that person. An interesting idea, especially if you can get someone else to pay for it. It’s questionable whether that should be the taxpayer, however.

The city is looking at selling two four-plex apartment buildings it owns to Orange County Rescue Mission. The $533,000 price tag is probably well below market value but is the original cost to the city. The city also derives nominal rent they will be foregoing. The tradeoff is helping at-risk veterans. And, although the city will carry the loan for the property at a nominal three percent, the note will diminish so that OCRM will, in effect, owe nothing on the proeprty. The only issue would be that the property was initially purchased by the city for the extension of Newport Avenue to the south. Should that project ever come to fruition (we’re banking on a “no” from the other property owners), the city will take the property back.

So, there you go. It’s good to be back in the saddle…..er, back at the keyboard. We look forward to another year of mediocrity from the Tustin City Council as we forge ahead into another year. May you all have a Happy Christmas and/or Chanukah and a prosperous new year.

Wherever You Go, Whatever You Do

avoid DUI

Do me a favor and don’t be a victim to stupidity. Drunk driving is a serious offense that can easily exceed $10,000. And, don’t believe so-called DUI attorneys claiming a high success rate. There is a reason cops are successful in stopping drunks. And, the breath or chemical test is pretty proof positive, with the old days of fooling the test with Listerine a thing of the past.

With that in mind, here is a schedule of DUI activities from the Orange County Sheriff:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Lt. Jeff Hallock, 714.904.7042

JHallock@ocsd.org

 

Winter Holiday Mobilization Schedule of Operations

SANTA ANA, Calif. (December 12, 2014) – The Southern California Avoid DUI Task Force is announcing its upcoming enforcement operations for the Winter Holiday DUI Campaign.  The following schedule of operations, dates, and locations are provided for broadcast.

 

DUI / Driver’s License Checkpoint   

  • Friday December 12, 1900-0300, Cities of Garden Grove, Placentia & Tustin
  • Friday December 19, 1900-0300, Cities of Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, Mission
    Viejo, Orange & Garden Grove
  • Saturday December 20, 1900-0300, City of Laguna Beach
  • Saturday December 27, 1900-0300, Cities of Westminster & Santa Ana
  • The City of Anaheim will be conducting additional DUI / Driver’s License Checkpoints with dates TBD.

 

DUI Saturation Patrols

  • Friday, December 12, 2000-0300, Cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Irvine and La Habra
  • Saturday, December 13, 2000-0300, City of Irvine, Laguna Beach, Anaheim, Tustin and Brea
  • Tuesday, December 16, 2000-0300, City of Anaheim
  • Thursday, December 18, 2000-0300, City of Anaheim
  • Friday, December 19, 2000-0300, Cities of Anaheim & Costa Mesa
  • Saturday, December 20, 2000-0300, Cities of Anaheim & Irvine
  • Tuesday, December 23, 2000-0300, City of Anaheim
  • Saturday, December 27, 2000-0300, Cities of Anaheim, La Habra & Orange
  • Tuesday, December 30, 2000-0300, City of Anaheim
  • Wednesday, December 31, 2000-0300, Cities of Anaheim, Irvine, Placentia, Westminster and Brea
  • The City of Fountain Valley and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department will be conducting additional Saturation Patrols with dates to be determined.

We’re Baaaaaccckkkkkk…….

ImBackAs you may have noticed, I’ve been on hiatus. I was enjoying myself on vacation, so much so that I kept extending it. What started as a three day camping trip to the Grand Canyon, turned into a 9 day trip across California. In fact, if you are interested to see what we were up to, you can read about our travels here. For those not so inclined, suffice it to say it was relaxing and enjoyable.

It was also nice to get away from the keyboard for awhile. In fact, I not only stopped blogging, I also stop reading other blogs (except for excerpts in my emails). It was a nice three months off, indeed. But, it’s time to get back to the reality of life.

I see we didn’t really miss much. The recent election reported the lowest turnout of the century. Add to this the fact that Councilmembers Beckie Gomez and Al Murray ran unopposed, I suspect Tustin was among the lowest. And, although I didn’t pay much attention, I suspect incumbent school board members were re-elected without fanfare. That’s not to say the votes weren’t needed but, with no pressing measures or opposing candidates, I could understand why voters didn’t bother.

In any case, we are back and ready to blog about Tustin past, present and future. So, sit down, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

On The Planning Commission Agenda – September 9, 2014

old town tustin signIt’s party time in Tustin. At least, the Tustin Planning Commission will be making a determination for another community facility in the Tustin Marketplace tonight during a public hearing.

Edwards Theaters recently vacated the building on the Tustin side of the Marketplace. The area, according to the staff report, is 23,000 square feet. The city decided we need a building in the area and has negotiated an agreement with the Irvine Company that will allow the building to be used for anything from staff meetings to quinceneras.

The agreement would also allow further development of the remaining area as well as eliminate fees the Irvine Company has chaged in the past for two other retail centers in the area.

We’re not sure whether the city actually needs another community center (to be called the “City of Tustin Community Center at the Marketplace”. We haven’t heard anyone from the east side of town complaining about a lack of facilities and, quite frankly, the city shouldn’t be in the business of creating and maintaining rental space.

That said, the amendment to the agreement does appear to make it easier for other retail areas to be developed. Fees charged are consistent with other facililties the city operates and the city will be given use of the the facility for community events without cost.

The only other item on the agenda is a second Public Hearing for a zone change and Conditional Use Permit. The parcel in question is the small respite park located on El Caminor Real south of Main Street. The parcel is owned by the citty and the front third of it has been used as a small park since 2007.

This park is a gem of Old Town and the only ones who should have any complaint, if any, would be the property owners on either side. One question that should be asked is, what will the city use the remaining 100 feet of land behind the park for? It seems odd the city wouldn’t find a use for it. We can think of at least one – a community garden that locals could grow vegetables in. Such use would be consistent with the respite park.

So, another exciting week in the City of Tustin. With the approval of the first public hearing, the city should have its hands full planning events for the new community center. It should be interesting to see what kind of events will find their way there.

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