Category Archives: elections

Keeping the Status Quo

Dullsville-Snooze Alert-

It is going to be  a pretty boring election season in the city of Tustin this year. Either everyone in Tustin is too busy to worry about the political bent of the city council (they are all Republicans) or they are happy with the way things are going. Face it, it has been a slow two years around Our Town Tustin, ever since Boss Tweed Amante left. John Nielsen has settled down and become less interested in city politics. Our old friend Chuck Puckett has returned to the dais along with newbie Alan Bernstein whom we hope will learn eventually to look up from his notes once in awhile (wing it, Alan).

It is hard to believe that four years have gone by since Mayor Al Murray and Councilwoman Beckie Gomez were first elected. Both came to the dais under the ominous shadow of Jerry “Boss Tweed” Amante, who held a firm grip on the city, issuing edicts and offering regular rants against his detractors. The Liberal OC often referred to him as “Il Duce” both on and off the record. And, Amante never got it. He hated the residents of Tustin (where he resides), hated the women he was forced to share the dais with and loved his dogs. When Jerry was around, there was always something to write about. When he left…. well, things got a bit more boring.

That, of course, has been good for Tustin. After Amante’s departure, the city council was able to clear their collective head and get down to the mundane business of running the city. And, except for the occasional powerplay by City Manager Jeff Parker or Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack, the city has run pretty smoothly on their watch. About the only real issue over the past four years is the epitomal collapse of the old town area when a CUP was granted to the boys at Wilcox Manor to run a convention center wedding venue. That controversy (assisted by yours truly) outlined what is wrong when politicians who have a direct benefit from a business, help that same business to make money at the expense of others’ privacy and well-being.

All this leads us to the latest news from the city. As I said in the beginning, either no one cares or no one knows. Al Murray and Beckie are the only ones to file nomination papers for Tustin City Council. As such, they will run unopposed, meaning you can save yourself a trip to the polls unless the other issues we’ll bring up over the next few months matter to you.

Regardless of my criticism, I have always liked Al and Beckie. Al is a retired police captain from Irvine and his most pressing decision since he has been in office is where to have coffee (usually Keane’s, usualy with cops). That’s not to say he can’t make a decision. He just hasn’t had to since he has been in office. Originally an Amante yes man, Murray has a great quality of getting along with just about everyone, admirer and detractor alike. And, he is pretty darn good at calming a collective angry crowd. And when the stuff hit the fan, during one of the most infamous crime sprees to hit Orange County, he was the man every mayor wished they could be in time of crisis.

It has been my pleasure to know Beckie Gomez over the past few years. A closet Republican, she has shown a willingness to work with everyone on the council (including Jerry) even though the council has consistently refused to give her any of the cherished paid board or committee positions. Little did they know Gomez is quite happy with her Library Board appointment. Gomez has demonstrated that she is interested in the welfare of Tustin chiefly as a place to live and secondly as a place to do business. During Amante’s frequent rants, she proved to be a calming influence even when Nielsen and Palmer were also ganging up on their nemesis, Deborah Gavello. If she did not always back Gavello’s play, it was because she had a direction of her own to follow.

So, what will the future bring to Tustin? Perhaps, over the next two years, more mediocrity. Barring an infield play by Arte Moreno or the collapse of the pending cemetery deal at the Great Park, the MCAS property is all but disposed of. I am sure there will be controversy over the fate of the blimp hangars to jazz things up a bit. As the city is showing its age, perhaps it’s about time the city council took the Old Town Tustin bit out of Elizabeth Binsack’s mouth (before she finds a way to bulldoze it completely) and take a good hard look at revitalizing the downtown area. Both Fullerton and Old Town Orange have experienced a renaissance with myriad antique shops and second hand resellers replaced with chic restaurants and venues that draw a diverse crowd. Downtown Tustin’s time has come and, without the past controversy to impede them, this city council could make a lasting mark on the place we all love.

One rumor in the wind: Will John Nielsen, who has had his share of personal and public controversy while in office, choose to resign during his term as we have heard he may? That would open some interesting avenues, and some of those have the Amante smell.

A Homeless Governor?

neel and norbyWould you vote for the homeless guy for governor?

I like gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari. He has some good ideas and, during the primaries, did not seem too worried about spending his money to make sure you got the message. Of course, his campaign coffers are nearly depleted now and it’s questionable how much he will be able to spend on his future campaign against Jerry Brown.

A recent stunt, however, has me wondering if he isn’t just another johnny-come-republican.

Allegedly, the multi-millionaire took a Greyhound bus and $40 to Fresno where he spent a week as a homeless guy looking for work. Backpack in hand, he supposedly trudged the streets of Fresno dragging along his toothbrush and videographer. Of course, one has to wonder if prospective employers asked why a homeless guy would need a videographer.

Calling it one of the “hardest weeks” of his life (really?), the investment banker talked about his experience on MSNBC. Going with only one shower for the week, the scruffy mogul also wound up eating at a homeless shelter (I wonder if he paid them for the meal).

Kashkari, who in the past was mistakenly identified by his enemies as a dreaded “Muslim” (He is really Hindu), has been trying all kinds of interesting ways to get free publicity. According to the LA Times he has crashed teachers union conferences, visited churches in South LA and marched in gay pride parades.

The homeless trick takes the cake, though.

Kashkari is going to have to step up his game if he plans to be a serious Jerry Brown contender. Trailing in the double digits, I doubt Brown sees him as any real threat. And, why should he? Stick your head outside the Orange Curtain, and Brown is immensely popular with the voters on both sides of the street. If you can get past his Hi-Speed-Rail-To-Nowhere boondoggle, he has done a remarkable job for a former space-case and shown that he really does have the Pat Brown gene.

In the meantime, Kashkari is demonstrating that he is more interested in publicity stunts than outlining any real plan to fix what doesn’t need fixing – unless you are a super rich investment banker type looking to make more money off the backs of poor Californians. Or, maybe Kashkari, like Meg Whitman before him, thinks money can buy the election.

Oh wait, in that case, throw in the towel now. Governor Brown has twenty-two mil in his campaign account and it doesn’t look like he will have to do any borrowing. Neel, on the other hand, is broke.

What this really shows us is that either Republicans are notorious cheapskates and won’t help fund Kashkari’s all-but-doomed bid or, they just see the writing on the wall. In any case, this may not be the last time you hear about a hair-brained stunt from Kashkari.

One thing I wonder about though. Why did Kashkari feel it necessary to travel to Fresno to demonstrate his homeless prowess. We have a huge homeless encampment right here in Santa Ana.

Maybe he was afraid he’d run into Chris Norby.

 

Gotcha!

leland yee

Our story has been updated below – jg

Shocking news coming from the state capitol this morning where Senator Leland Yee has been indicted on bribery and public corruption charges. At the same time of his indictment, Scott Lay of Around the Capitol reports a series of arrest warrants were executed in San Francisco and across the Bay Area on known and suspected gang members.

At the same time, searches of the Chinatown office of the Gee King Tong Free Masons are being conducted. This is, reportedly, in conjunction with the arrest of known gang member, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. Chow has previously renounced his gang affiliations after being honored by Senator Diane Feinstein and others for civic achievements.

Yee apparently turned himself in at the Federal Building this morning after being informed of the charges. Yee is running for State Controller agains fellow Democrat, Alex Padilla. The Sacramento Bee states that Yee, a child psychologist, is best known for legislation regarding video game violence and open records laws.

Yee has recently been criticized for his legislation regarding solitary confinement of juvenile offenders. Author of a bill that would have required the intervention of a psychiatrist in order to place a ward in their cell for more than an hour at a time, Yee’s bill was subsequently amended to allow for wider latitude of the use of “room time” as a consequence for uncontrollable behavior.

The arrest of Yee follows on the recent departures of Senators Rod Wright and Ron Calderon. Calderon is under investigation for bribery and corruption charges while Wright has recently been convicted of perjury and voter fraud. This leave the Democractic Senate in a lurch as their supermajority goes down the drain.

Republicans, of course, are calling for their heads and demanding all three leave the Senate. As of this writing, they are all on paid leave of absence, drawing a salary but not attending to state business. Republicans appear to be as slow to grasp the concept before them as the Democrats are to understand what they have lost, according to an LA Times editorial last week:

Apparently the ramifications haven’t sunk in yet, because Democrats are still acting as if they can run roughshod over Republicans. They can’t. Without their supermajority, Democrats lost an opportunity to pass SB 27, the dark-money bill. The legislation was proposed after two groups linked to conservative bankrollers Charles and David Koch funneled $15 million to California campaigns in 2012. The bill would have closed loopholes in current law by requiring that nonprofits that make at least $50,000 in political expenditures in a year must reveal their donors, and independent campaign committees that raise $1 million must publish a list of their top 10 contributors.

Yee’s status is unclear and we will have to wait to see how sure the Feds are of themselves. This definitely puts a hammer on Yee’s aspirations and it appears another career politician will bite the dust, regardless of the eventual outcome. Yee for his part has yet to say anything about the charges. It should be interesting if he come out fighting or just slinks away to hide in Chinatown.

Update- March 26, 2014 1:10 pm- The Sacramento Bee is reporting the FBI showed up early at the Capitol with a search warrant for Yee’s office, carting away 9 boxes of evidence. The FBI showed up bright an early at 7 am and took nearly 5 hours to search and accumulate their booty. The FBI, in true LEO fashion, asked reporters to refrain from photographing their faces. Here’s the video from Sac Bee:

 

 

Retreads

do_oveAs if once wasn’t enough, the Tustin City Council has decided to have another do over. Last Tuesday’s city council meeting resulted in the re-election of Al Murray as Mayor and Chuck Puckett as Mayor pro tem for the coming year. While not unprecedented, it was a bit surprising as we expected Chuck Puckett to ascend to the top spot.

Our biggest fear was assuaged in that the Podiatrist Councilman was given neither position. Beckie Gomez, of course, was not even considered since her political leanings are far from the right side of the dais.And John Nielsen, who has shown his own brand of disdain for Tustin residents over the years, has his hands full with his not-so-secretive year and a half long divorce proceedings from Erin.

It’s not coincidental that Murray was re-elected by his peers. The Mayor is up for re-election this coming year and it is anyone’s guess Jeff with Councilman Al Murray Interviewwho will run against him and Beckie Gomez. The most recent campaign statements filed with the city show both accounts with minimal balances. We doubt there will be much change with end of year filings as campaigning and its associated fundraising probably won’t heat up until March or April.

And, although the voters ignorantly did away with council stipends, thinking it would straighten up the city council, no one should believe there are altruistic motives for running. As of the end of this year, Al will have made $6,000 as a member of the OCTA Board where, last we heard, Tustin’s official position has been to wholeheartedly support toll lanes for the 405 Freeway.

We understand Al doggedly made every meeting of the Orange County Fire Authority Board which means he made another $3600 for his “service” (it is difficult to tell as the OCFA website is about as transparent as the lead shielding at San Onofre…oh, wait…) Murray also sits on the renegade Association of Cities – Orange County, which was formed at the behest of Jerry Amante and other dissidents after they were slapped down by the Orange County Grand Jury. Finally, Al stands to make $11,000 or so for sitting on that board as well.

Not bad for a volunteer position. We’ll have a complete rundown of just how much each councilman (Beckie did not reap one dime for her service and refused city supplied medical benefits) made in the near future.

Mind you, we are not really opposed to Al’s reappointment. On the outside he is, for all intents and purposes, what a typical small town mayor should be – affable, congenial and willing to show up at every event, big or small, in the city. His retirement means he can devote as much time as needed to attending functions and read the entire agenda, even without an iPad. As a single source, he has not been the root cause of any of the last few years of acrimony engendered by some of his colleagues. In short, he is a pretty good guy, if a little short-sighted when it comes to fulfilling his responsibility to the people who actually live here.

There is no doubt that, with a second appointment as mayor, Al Murray will run for a second term. Beckie Gomez has not given any indication whether she will run. She has been able to stay the course against an often overwhelming, and frequently obnoxious, bunch of good o’ boys. to at least keep a light on at city hall. As an incumbent, she would most likely win a second term without much effort and the “boys” are not likely to mount much of a campaign on anyone’s behalf to usurp her.

Although Murray’s tenure has been mostly limp, he has managed to irk the residents of Old Town with the Wilcox Manor debacle. Old Town should have expected this play, however, if for no other reason than payback for the city’s (read Elizabeth Binsack’s) loss against Brett Fairbanks.

Hmmmm. Well, I was going to write a future article on the progress of the city but, I think I just did. In any case, it should be interesting to see who gets appointed to what (paid) board for the coming year. And, of course, we still have to report on how much all of our city council members made this year, offering their services for free.

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