OK, the city definitely fixed the video issue they had a couple of weeks ago that kept the May 7 council meeting from being published on the website for almost two weeks. That, of course, makes me wonder if there really was a problem or were they trying to delay the public finding out about something.
Tuesday’s city council meeting was mostly routine with some of what Mayor Al Murray dubs his “favorite things”. Hewes Middle School and Fire Chief Richter got their 15 minutes of fame and Al got to act the big shot mayor again. One thing for sure, Murray needs to obtain an abridged edition of Roberts Rules of Order and read it. He is clueless in how to call for a vote and had to be corrected several times by both the city attorney and his colleagues. It gets a bit tedious after awhile.
As expected, there was nothing to report from the Closed Session and the council, surprisingly, only asked to pull one item from the Consent Calendar, the minutes from the May 7th meeting. Councilmember Gomez had an issue with something she reported on during her council comments.
On to the Regular Business where there were a slew of Second Readings including the ordinance on the so-called minor text changes in the Tustin City Zoning Code which we reported on earlier. That and the approval of the special tax refunding bonds for Community Facilities District 04-1 were voted and approved unanimously.
When it came to Item 8, a tax levy on certain properties in one area of the Legaqcy properties, Councilman John Nielsen again recused himself from the discussion due, we think, to his purchasing or owning property in the area. So, I guess those rumors of him actually living with his girlfriend in South County are just that.
Mayor Murray, who seems to have trouble understanding Roberts Rules of Order, was all set to breeze through this for his buddy but Councilmember Beckie Gomez asked for discussion on the issue. Her concern, as is ours, is the fact that, not only is this tax being levied on unsuspecting homeowners without their consent, it has no end date. “I am a bit concerned about this special tax, with the intent that it’s indefinite. There is no number of years such as Mello-Roos you pay it out for 20 years or whatever…“
She went on to say that she understood the city does not receive the same property tax as in other parts of the city but, she would like to see a review every 5 years or so. She said that, although this council may not be here anymore, “I think the record should reflect that it isn’t necessarily an indefinite type of tax.”
Surprisingly, City Manager Jeff Parker agreed with her. In making a brief explanation of the reason for the tax, he said the city council had the authority to demand that and even sounded as if he approved of the “5 years or so” Gomez suggested. Unfortunately, Mayor Murray, who seems to think future staff and councils will remember this forgettable moment just because they discussed it, asked that it be put into the record rather than made a part of the ordinance as it should have been. Even worse, Gomez approved of that move rather than take the time to do it right. So, I guess we’ll see in five years whether that review actually takes place. The roll call vote was unanimous with Nielsen recusing himself. Good luck you suckers in the Legacy that were sold a bill of goods.
Items 10 & 11, regarding the land swap with the community college district and construction of a new street also brought some discussion over the amount of traffic that would be generated by the new street. Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack advised the council on a last minute letter received the day of the meeting. That letter was not in the staff report but Elizabeth was kind enough to send us a copy. The letter, from the city of Irvine, basically lamented their concerns over traffic and asked the city to include a larger area for traffic study. Binsack explained the issues had been answered, at least to Tustin’s satisfaction and said nothing further would be done at this time (how many ways can we say it, Irvine?). These items passed unanimously after discussion.
Without further ado, the item concerning the stipends for commissioners and their removal upon attainng a city elected office was read and passed with Councilmember Gomez dissenting. As we said before, apparently the Fab Four didn’t want the same thing to happen to the commissioners, who actually spend a good deal of time on city business, as happened to the city council in regard to stipends. Gomez rightfully questioned this but was met with the wall of silence in her protest.
The final item of the night was the Legislative Report and it was, again, councilmember Gomez who showed she was the only one with an independent mind on the dais. While the Fab Four were willing to be led blindly by their collective noses, Gomez asked for time to study the bills they were supporting and opposing. Lawyer Kendig, who is always in a hurry to align himself with staff, indicated there was an urgency factor in responding to the letters.
Now, most of my loyal readers know that Councilman John Nielsen is a lifelong Boy Scout and will fall all over himself to praise, publicize and applaud the BSA to the point where one might wonder who he actually works for. All I can figure is it must be like the Skull and Bones Society – one has to be in on the secret to know why all the members have that stupid smirk on their face.
Anyway, the motion on the Boy Scouts passed 4-1. Both of the other letters passed unanimously.
Not much in the way of councilmember comments although the Podiatrist Councilman must not have gotten much sleep (and his exciting dissertation on his political life and tie wardrobe was putting us to sleep). For those that don’t know, Channel 7 came to the Creme Pan Bakery in Old Town where Mayor Murray and Councilmember Gomez helped represent the city along with a slew of kids from our high schools. Although my daughter wasn’t there, the Foothill High School Madrigals sang a song or two and made us proud.
We have a couple of weeks before the next exciting installment of the Tustin City Council. In the meantime, join us for the Annual Tustin Chili Cookoff on June 2. The first chili tasting is on me. Also, please join in one of the many upcoming memorial services in the county on Memorial Day. You will find me at the Westminster Memorial Park where various veteran and community organizations, including the last of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will lay wreathes at their military memorial.
The city apparently fixed the video problem they had with the May 7th meeting and the video is finally up for viewing. We’ll let you know if we find anything interesting that we haven’t already reported on. We are wondering if the issues had to do with their recent changeover to allow direct downloading of the video, something we applaud as a step toward a more open government.
May 21st could be a busy day for the city council. The Closed Session, which begins at 5:30 pm, makes no mention of labor contracts. Negotiations have been in progress for the past couple of weeks. Most of the employees in the city are represented by the Orange County Employees Association. The grapevine tells me the city may be looking for increased pension payments as they are in a hurry to catch up the unfunded liability. City employees belong to CalPERS, not the County pension system, OCERS. Too bad. OCERS is doing quite well at this time, even though the OC Board of Supervisors would like the voters to think otherwise.
Most of the Closed Session will discuss property negotiations on the MCAS base. The fact they are discussing terms is a good sign the development of the base is finally picking up. As we said before, the best thing the last city council could do was to make the city its own master developer for purposes of developing and selling the property. It seems when that occurred, development picked up drastically.
The Open Session begins with presentations to Hewes Kids, OCFA Fire Chief Keith Richter and the National Student Leadership Council of SADD. Chief Richter was recently awarded the Fire Chief of the Year Award by the Metropolitan “Metro” Fire Chiefs Association. Undoubtedly, the city council will bestow a certificate or two on him as well.
Two items on the Consent Calendar deserve discussion. The first is the contract with the Orange County District Attorney to prosecute violations of city code. The DA provides prosecution for the city for any violation of state law without cost (the people vs. etc. etc…). Violations of city ordinances, on the other hand, must either be handled by the city attorney or the district attorney under contract. Now, I could really slam the ineptness of the city attorney here but his law firms expertise is in government not criminal law. So, he is off the hook.
The DA has proposed a contract with a reasonable rate increase ($150 p/hr Attorney & ($84 p/hr Clerical) that we doubt the city could find elsewhere. The indication is the OCDA’s services are rarely needed and the contract is based on use rather than time. It is interesting to note the burden of deciding prosecution remains with the DA rather than the city. This is the same as it would be for any felony prosecution.
Item 4, Asset Capitalization Threshold, should also be pulled for discussion. There is a (very) brief discussion on the issue in the staff report that outlines the issue. The economy has outgrown the previous amounts used for capitalization of short and long term assets. City staff are proposing new thresholds but, we question how they came up with those numbers. In fact, judging the economy from a consumer standpoint, we wonder if the new thresholds may be too low considering the skyrocketing cost of infrastructure constructions nowadays.
The final item on the consent calendar is the Quarterly Investment Report. Since the passing of George Jeffries, responsibility for investment of city funds has been delegated to Finance Director, Pamela Arends-King. We’ll reserve judgment as this is her first time out. Suffice it to say the funds are intact.
While most of the Regular Calendar consists of Second Readings of various ordinances affecting MCAS property, one item stands out as a bit of good news for homeowners.
The Approval of Issuance of Special Tax Refunding Bonds should be good news for some homeowners in the Tustin Legacy. About 563 homeowners will see their Mello-Roos lowered by a tax refunding bond. If you are a glutton for punishment, read the 232 page staff report that details the background and refunding of the money. Of course, all of this assumes the economy will continue to improve, a hedgy bet at best.
A second reading will also be heard on amending an ordinance to allow city commissioners to remain on their commissions until such time as they are elected to city office or replaced by the city council. This change will not only bring the city in line with most other cities policies in Orange County, it actually makes sense. One item of contention at the March meeting when this was first discussed was commissioner compensation. If we had to guess, we would say the current city council is not happy with the way the previous council screwed them in regard to compensation.
When Jerry Amante first proposed the voters have a say in compensation, it was clearly a tactic to hurt Councilwoman Deborah Gavello, whom he considered his arch nemesis. That he could care less about the city and future councilmembers, who largely foot the bill for their own expenses, was obvious. By shaming them into compliance, he convinced John Nielsen and Al Murray, both of whom were on the council at the time, into voting to place an ill-conceived ballot measure before the voters that eliminated compensation for city councilmembers. This has placed an undue financial burden on all of them and could hurt the city when it comes time to find otherwise qualified candidates for office.
Seeing the damage it has done so far has apparently caused the Gang of Four to reconsider compensation and not do the same thing to city commissioners. This makes the city commission seats, as influential as they are, a more palatable choice for those who choose to serve the city in a volunteer basis.
The final item, as usual, is the Legislative Report. Staff are recommending support for several bills in Sacramento.
The first, AB229, is specifically geared toward creating tax districts and, in Tustin’s case, on former military base property. Essentially, when redevelopment agencies went away last year, it left Tustin in limbo regarding financing of infrastructure on base property. They joined other government entities who had former base properties in legislation that would allow them to continue to operate similarly structured enterprises. This is, of course, an end run around the demise of redevelopment agencies and is actually RDAs on steroids. We have to wonder why Democrats continue to give gifts of bad public policy to the Republicans.
We do agree with the city’s opposition to AB667 which would require an Economic Impact Report in “economic assistance areas”. This is essentially a “rent control” for businesses that would require a superstore, such as Wal-mart, to study the economic impact on small businesses in a city before they would be allowed to build a superstore. On its face this is protectionism at its worst and should be defeated. What makes this bill even more ominous is the fact the city could be allowed to conduct the so-called study itself, leaving business development even more prone to corruption than it already is. The fact is, there are already enough impediments to business, big and small, that no more should be required by law. Two previous bills like 667 were vetoed by the governor. Support and opposition are typically aligned with unions and business.
Likewise, we agree with the city in their opposition to SB323 which would exclude tax exemptions for private non-profit organizations whose membership requirements exclude certain classes of citizens. SB323 is clearly aimed at the Boy Scouts who continue to exclude gays from their organization. In doing so, the author of the bill, Assembly Speaker John Perez, who is openly gay, is willing to chance the disbanding of other organizations that cannot meet the strict definitions of membership in their organization. This is nanny state government at its worst. Better the BSA debate should remain in the public opinion arena rather than rely on implementation of socialist laws that serve a narrow purpose.
That’s it for the week. If you attend the meeting this week, drop me a line and give me your thoughts.
Anymore, it is not just the city of Tustin we have to worry about. With the recent failed court case, Orange County may be facing some serious challenges to its budget next year. The annual budget workshop is coming to town 10 am May 24th at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room in the Hall of Administration, 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, California. This will be followed June 11th & 12th for Budget Hearings and the subsequent Budget Adoption on June 25th.
The official press release for the budget hearing process states:
You are invited to the 18th annual County of Orange Budget Workshop. Community members are encouraged to learn about the County’s budget process and anticipated issues. The County’s Chief Financial Officer and County staff will discuss:
- 2013-2014 Budget Overview
- Affordable Care Act
Dr. Michael Riley Director, Social Services Agency
This is your chance, as a resident, to have some input into the budget process. As we said, given this years bad news on the property tax take back by the state, many program and agency funding schemes may be up in the air. While no one wants to see lifeline programs shut down, they are often the first to go. That could have a drastic effect on the fragile economic recovery Orange County is seeing. The budget workshops are there for citizens to express their views on what available funds should provide for the county’s citizens.
The other day, we were riding down El Camino Real when we noticed construction workers walking around Jabberwocky… well, sort of. There wasn’t much of it to walk around since, sometime in the recent past, they tore down nearly the entire building, leaving only the facade up.
It’s unfortunate that the building, one of the oldest in Tustin, was burned so badly back in 2011 that many thought it would be lost completely to the annals of history and the collective memories of our local historians. But, as luck would have it, the building, originally a doctor’s office built around 1885, was saved from the wrecking crew. Well, some of it, anyway.
As you can see from the pictures, the entire building, save for the facade has been torn down. This was considered the safest way of preserving a piece of Tustin history while allowing the owners to also build a new up-to-code building that woud pass muster and Elizabeth Binsack’s code-busters. Architecural work was completed last year by local historic achitect, Nathan Menard. Menard is a well-known designer (or redesigner) of both historic buildings and newer buildings where the historical aspect of an area is important. His plans for the Jabberwocky continue that effort.
When I approached the bulding, I almost laughed out loud. This is the classic facade of the old western town with the unadorned building behind it. There isn’t much right at the moment. The construction is focusing on foundation right now and it gives one the idea of how large the building will be (it isn’t). I would say not much more than the old building itself although Nathan assured me it will be adequate for the owner’s needs.
And, what will the owner do? As far as I know, plans are to reopen the Vintage Lady, the store that was located there at the time of the fire. The owner has rented the store almost continuously to others since 1985 and lives in the home to the rear. The store, which has been determined to be historically significant due to the rare construction type, will probably never make it to the National Register. But, thanks to the owner’s perseverance and the help of Menarch Architecture, Tustin will continue to enjoy the Jabberwocky.