Category Archives: In the News
As expected, last night’s Tustin Planning Commission meeting was lackluster to say the least. City staff did manage to stretch the meeting by presenting a comprehensive discussion during the public hearing phase of the meeting. How much does one need to know about an existing business that wants to expand its business endeavor?
Far from a shoe-in CUP, even the applicant showed up to ask questions, mostly regarding signage. During the discussion we discovered the city has an odd idea of what constitutes a window sign (black is the color of my sign). The Commissioners had no problem passing the CUP, pleased with the notion the business is staying in Tustin.
It was kind of nice to hear Community Development Department guru, Elizabeth Binsack, discuss the increase in interest in commercial filming in Tustin. Saying that people like the Old Town Tustin area because it reminds them of other places(?). Okay……., moving right along….
OC Supes Too Close To Call
We got a bit of disconcerting news in this morning’s internet read. The Liberal OC and others are reporting that Lou Correa is losing the race for Orange County Supervisor, by two votes, to Janet Nguyen protegé Andrew Do. That’s a scary thought that we would have to put up with an all Republican Board for another four years.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Although the turnout was less than 20 percent of the eligible voters in the district, there are still provisional votes to count. As well, Correa’s bill, SB29 chaptered last year, allows for late arriving vote-by-mail ballots to be counted under certain circumstances. In any case, Correa has enough money in his coffers to force a recount, as he most likely will.
It’s a Numbers Game
That brings us to our own upcoming off-year election. Senator Mimi Walters is now Congresswoman Mimi Walters, having won the seat last year. In her wake, she leaves us with a tough choice between Republicans.
Former county supervisor, John Moorlach, is breaking his former promise of years ago to run for the 37th Senate Seat. Moorlach, when he was running for Orange County Supervisor mentioned he was not a career politician as he inferred the BoS seat was his only goal. Well, this comes from a typical two-faced politician who also kept his pension intact to the last moment while cursing public employees for having the nerve to take theirs. At that, Moorlach’s pension, since his days as county treasurer, was paid for completely by the taxpayers while most public employees pay their fair share.
Moorlach likes to put on this “aw shucks” face while he speaks of ethics. Indeed, his own behavior has shown he thinks ethics are great…..for everyone else. His poor record regarding the handling of crooked and morally incompetent employees as well as his attempt to keep multi-million dollar IT contracts with his business cronies while costing the taxpayer huge sums, demonstrate his functional inability to govern.
Don Wagner, the other guy, makes no qualms about it. He is a career politician and has his sights set on the same seat. The difference between him and Moorlach is that Wagner is not ethically corrupt. Well, he is a Republican, but hey….
Wagner is also an attorney but we won’t hold that against him. Some of my best friends are attorneys (the rest are cops). He began his political career as a trustee of the South OC Community College district before winning the 70th Assembly District Seat. In that capacity, he has already served the Tustin community and has a deep understanding of legislative practices and our needs.
Wagner has been successful in getting several bills he sponsored or co-sponsored signed into law. Many of these benefit or protect folks in commercial transactions and matters of wills and trusts. No specific bills for Tustin but, he did get a bill signed slowing down traffic around horses in Orange Park Acres.
With no Democrats or Libertarians entering the race, the choice comes down to the lesser of two evils. Wagner is a true proponent of transparency in government while Moorlach’s idea of transparency is rather opaque, as can be seen by his eight (long) years on the county Board. I think the choice is clear, who should represent us in the Senate.
Of course, if Wagner wins the seat, Moorlach would have another seat to go for. There are actually three candidates – we just didn’t bother to mention the third non-viable candidate. So, the primary election takes place on March 17, less than two months from now. If no one wins 51 percent of the votes (we suspect one of them will), it will go to a final vote, with even fewer voters turning out for that, on May 19th.
Uhoh, Where’s Jerr-i-o?
If you have wondered what happened to the infamous Il Duce II, Jerry Amante, the former mayor is still hanging around. A hat tip to The Liberal OC for
warning letting us in on Jerry’s whereabouts (like the Lib, we keep our friends close and our enemies closer – also in front of us). It seems Jerry is hosting an internet radio show called The City Square on PodBean. The show is apparently a production of the Association of California Cities-Orange County. You might remember that Amante was a key player in getting Orange County to take their ball from the bigger Associated Cities sandlot and start a league of their own.
Now, Jerry gets to tout his baby to an audience of tens of listeners who stumble across the internet address, mostly by accident. If you want a laugh, listen in to the podcast. With Jerry’s distinctive rant, you can tell when you are on the right station.
Businesses along the corridor of Interstate 5 through Tustin and Irvine beware. Meetings are being held for so-called public input for the proposed widening of the I-5 corridor through our town Tustin. The meetings are important to you for a variety of reasons.
Although the Orange County Transportation Agency is touting the project as a needed measure to relieve traffic on one of the most heavily traveled freeways in Southern California, the project is about more than just traffic.
To the south of us, cities and residents are struggling with the same issue with the widening of the I-405. Although the recent opening of the carpool flyovers between the 405, 605 and 22 freeways has helped in transitioning traffic in a safer manner, it hasn’t done much to change the overall flow which sees nearly 400,000 vehicles a day through some areas.
Three options were initially proposed for the widening of the 405. The first two involved adding lanes and carpool lanes to the existing highway. The third, touted by former councilman Jerry Amante who was the Tustin representative to OCTA at the time, was the creation of toll lanes (and the demise of carpool lanes). When the pubic outcry made it clear that toll lanes were not an option, the OCTA Board of Directors (mostly) back pedaled and settled on increasing the number of carpool and general purpose lanes, all of which would be free.
That wasn’t the end of it, however. In 2014 Caltrans, which has final say over virtually any freeway project, announced that toll roads were the only method that would improve traffic on the 405 through the county in a manner sufficient to satisfy the Feds. Members of the OCTA Board that favored toll lanes were overjoyed. Those that did not, including virtually every city along the proposed expansion, were not. OCTA, which had earlier promoted then disenfranchised themselves from toll lanes, quickly jumped back on the HOT train. At this point, OCTA fully supports the toll lane alternative which, by the way, would include the existing flyovers from the 605 and 22 freeways.
So, how does this affect the I-5 through Tustin?
Obviously, the same thing could, and probably would, happen to the I-5. For some reason, Caltrans believes that money losing, under utilized toll roads are the way to increase traffic through high impact areas. You can bet the writing is already on the sound wall for high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. It stands to reason that, according to their logic, anything less would not serve the government public needs.
The push for HOT lanes is obvious. No matter how little income they generate, HOT lanes income goes directly to the government. In order to alleviate the concerns of the various city councils, OCTA will, no doubt, offer to share a sizeable chunk of the change generated with the affected cities. In Tustin, one only has to wave the carrot in front of a gullible city council to get their attention.
The real rub for many is the fact that we already paid for this expansion. M2 funding is supposed to pay for public highway improvements. Measure M funding paid for some of the first improvements with the Feds (read, your personal income taxes) making up the rest. The same is true for the I-405 proposed expansion as well as the I-5 proposal. During the I-405 discussions, it was clear taxpayers do not want to pay twice for the same road improvements.
Caltrans is interested in one thing and it has nothing to do with how you and I perceive traffic issues. Federal money is at stake in all of these projects. Most highway improvement projects rely on matching grants from the Feds. If Federal guidelines are not met, in this case regarding traffic flow, the state would find it difficult to fund major projects.
There is no doubt, though, that Caltrans sees the dollar signs as well. Toll roads seem like an attractive way of generating cash. After all, in the eastern and some midwestern states, toll roads are more common than free highways. But, easterners have grown up on toll roads. Californians have not been so “lucky”. In fact, toll roads were virtually non-existent until the 1990’s when State Route 91 implemented a public/private toll road system to charge for the privilege of travelling a 10 mile stretch of highway between Orange and Riverside Counties. That “partnership” has since devolved into a government function that has never made enough money to pay for the lanes it took over.
And that is the real issue that is coming before voters in Orange County. Caltrans, apparently with vested authority, will tell Orange County what to do with local taxpayer money by forming toll lanes on the I-405 – and the I-5 through Tustin. Public concerns be damned, you will pay twice to build a road most of you will never be able to use.
There is a possibility Caltrans could be thwarted in their efforts. It begins with us, however. By turning out in force at the upcoming meetings, residents of Orange County, particularly Tustin and Irvine, can tell the authorities that toll roads is not an alternative on a public highway. Yes, we need relief from the already overcrowded highway lanes traversing our city. But, those lanes should be paid for completely with Measure M funding that had already been approved for the projects, not with the “enhancement” of toll roads which will never pay for themselves but will certainly allow the elite of the county to travel unencumbered.
You can bet Al Murray, current Tustin representative to OCTA will be there. He needs to hear from Tustin and other Orange County residents how toll roads are not the answer. He needs to hear how he should be seeking the assistance of our state legislators to prevent or, at least provide oversight of, any proposed toll road project. And Caltrans, which is sponsoring the meetings, needs to be told to keep their hands off our local tax money.
If this is a numbers game and numbers are the driving force, it should be obvious to everyone involved that toll roads are grossly underutilized, making zero real impact on traffic, existing or future. One only has to travel the 91 freeway during rush hour to see the negligent impact money-losing toll roads have on the morning commute. Toll roads benefit only one segment of population, the rich and famous who can afford it.
And, if anyone wants to look at the “success” of the 73/241/261 “private” toll road debacle, remember that the Transportation Corridor Agencies have refinanced bond measures multiple times to extend the payment schedule due to underutilization of those highways. So, why would it be different with the I-405 or I-5? If tolls are implemented, they are here to stay.
If there is a ray of hope. it is likely to be in the form of legislation, like then assemblyman Allen Mansoor’s in 2014 to block toll roads, at least on the I-405 and I-5. In order for that to happen, Orange County residents need to make it clear to their lawmakers (both local and at the state level) that toll roads are an unacceptable solution to the traffic problem. Again, that starts with attending the meetings and voicing a collective opinion.
There are two scheduled meetings for the I-5 project. The first was held January 26th in Irvine . The second meeting, on January 28th at 5pm is a bit closer at Tustin High School in the cafeteria, 1171 El Camino Real, Tustin. Judging from the locations, it seems OCTA, which is putting on the “informational” meetings, does not expect a huge crowd. They might be surprised, depending on the publicity these meetings receive.
Yes, this is the early stages of this project. Without early involvement by concerned citizens, however, OCTA may roll over again on the toll road issue. And, this time, they may have more ammunition in the form of the I-405 project.
It seems our Attorney General, Kamala Harris, has set her sights on the upcoming U.S. Senate race to replace Senator Barbara Boxer. The election of Harris who, over the years has been tied to every possible political seat, including the next Governor and a possible replacement for Eric Holder, would be a win-win for conservative Californians. California gun rights groups have whined over her draconian rules over firearms since she first took office. Making Bill Lockyear look like Charlton Heston, she has effectively locked down manufacturers by making admission to the Approved Handgun List nearly impossible.
Of course, this hasn’t been without backlash from the gun folks. I haven’t looked for exact numbers but it seems more lawsuits have been fought and won during
her tenure as AG than any other, at least in recent history. That’s good news for gun-toters here, especially when the courts slapped down the CCW laws. Unfortunately, the Democratic backhand is so strong, most counties have not changed their stance and still restrict issue of permits. With Harris’ departure, perhaps that will change.
According to Cal Watchdog, her likely rivals for the Senate seat would be former LA Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa and hedge-fund broker Tom Steyer. We agree with them that Steyer, a billionaire, could outspend Harris but money doesn’t always buy an election. Just ask some of our recent contenders for governor. You still have to have charisma and, as the darling of the California Democratic Party, Harris has plenty of that.
If Harris does win, the real question is, who will Jerry replace her with? Gun-toters, be careful what you wish for.
As long as we are talking about Federal seats, I might as well break the news to you. Remember the other day when I told you we were spared from any more stupid off-year elections? Well, I spoke too soon.
As former Senator Mimi Walters has crossed the rotunda to join the ranks of Congress, the 37th District Senate seat is, once again, open. It should come as no surprise that the only candidates for the seat are both staunch Republicans (are there any other kind nowadays?). Former county supervisor John Moorlach has finally landed on this spot to continue his non-career political…..career. We only say this because, years ago when he was running for OC Supervisor, I recall him saying he did not plan to make a career out of politics. He did, however, manage to make a career in management AND politics in Orange County, thus allowing him to collect a sizeable county pension for the rest of his life.
The other contender is Don Wagner who currently represents Tustin and Irvine in the California State Assembly. Don is also a career politician having first
served locally on the South OC Community College District. He is an attorney (we won’t hold it against him) and lives in Irvine. He is also a member of the Federalist Society, a libertarian constitutional group.
Of the two, Wagner is by far the best candidate. For one thing, he is homeboy….well, almost. At least he lives in Irvine which is closer than Huntington Beach. He gets high ratings from business organizations and, surprisingly for a Republican, Civil Liberties and Civil Rights folks. His ratings on fiscal conservativeness lead me to believe he is a responsible Republican who is willing to cross the aisle to get the job done – in other words, a libertarian.
True, Wagner has voted mostly along party lines in the Assembly. One would expect that from either side. He has also supported common sense bills in mental health, openness of charitable organizations and allowing medications to be administered in schools. Nothing fancy but, still.
Moorlach, on the other hand, has done one thing well. He predicted the bankruptcy of Orange County at the fiscal hands of an imbecile. Now, he didn’t really do anything about it (because he couldn’t) but he did predict it. Well, that’s not really true. He did join the ranks of the elected as County Treasurer, thus establishing the foundation for his lucrative pension.
Beyond that, Moorlach has spent most of his time blathering from the dais. More often than not, he has failed to gain the consensus of other conservatives when dealing with the problems of the county and, in fact, has done more to contribute to the corruption and shadow government that we all know really runs Orange County, than he has to clean up the mess. He has effectively blocked any effort to bring transparency to local government during his tenure. And, he has managed to alienate the rank-and-file civil servants that he hates with a passion. Wow. Talk about an oxymoron (emphasis on moron).
Moorlach’s vehemence against public employees, particularly public safety, has caused him to take bad advice from his mensa friends and promote frivilous lawsuits. Even when county counsel opposed it, Moorlach was insistent the county sue the sheriffs deputies association over pensions. Apparently, Moorlach and his bud Mario Mainero were the only ones who could see the truth. Riggghhhhttttt………
Of course, he refused to to act as a responsible leader and give up his lucrative county pension while he actively campaigned to get rid of what he characterized as unsustainable pensions for rank-and-file workers. And, while inroads have been made in the OC pension wars, they had little to do with him.
In fact, it was the Orange County Employees Association led by Nick Berardino, that led the charge to bring pensions under control. Nick deftly introduced the idea of hybrid pensions, brougt proposed bills to the legislature and assisted with the IRS bureaucracy to get pension reform into the county. He then let the board of supervisors take most of the credit.
Now, I know this is going to come as a shock but, the special election to fill Walter’s vacant seat is the only thing on the ballot. Still, in Orange County’s own special way, the machine will roll. Instead of finding new ways to get voters to vote from the comfort of their own home (like internet or phone voting), they will roll out the precinct gear and voting machines to “empower” citizens to exercise their lawful right. Yard signs, although not nearly as many, will sprout from the most unlikely places. Will we see a debate? I sure hope so. Wagner would clean the floor while Moorlach blusters and fidgets in that condescending “gosh, gee” way of his while not really saying anything of substance before the audience falls asleep from boredom.
The special election is March 17, 2015. We strongly suggest you mark your absentee ballot for Don Wagner before sending it in. Do it when you get it, lest you forget.
It seems our lives have been taken over by elections. It is a rare season when there is not an election going on somewhere in the county. So, of course, before we even have a chance to recover from our New Years hangovers, the first election of the year has been set. Fortunately, we will not have to endure the throes of candidate campaigns (and their gaudy yard signs) in our town Tustin.
However, as odd as it may seem, Our Town Tustin dot com has readers all over the county (and country, as it turns out). Supervisor votes are also a matter of countywide concern regardless of the district of origin and the vast majority of the decisions they make affect all of us. With that in mind, we endorse Lou Correa for the post of 1st District County Supervisor. Lou has a proven track record in both the county and Sacramento during his most recent stint as Senator. He is a Democrat with a willingness to cross the aisle when necessary to effect resolution to issues that affect all of us.
The press release from Lou’s campaign center says it all:
It’s been an honor to work for you as your State Senator. Now, I respectfully ask for your support as your County Supervisor.
In the Legislature, my priorities have been jobs, public safety and public education. My work has earned me endorsements from respected leaders and organizations, including:
- Sheriff Sandra Hutchens
- District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
- Orange County Professional Firefighters Association
- Orange County Business CouncilI helped cut taxes on small businesses and stopped unnecessary regulations. As a result of my work, I’ve been honored by the Orange County Taxpayers Association and named the California Small Business Association “Legislator of the Year.”
I’ve made our schools better and sager. I brought more education money and local control back to Orange County. I also co-wrote the new law to protect our children from heinous crimes. That’s why the California School Boards Association made me their “Legislator of the Year”.
It’s been an honor to represent you during these difficult economic times. Now, I’d like to bring my understanding of our communities to work for you as County Supervisor.
No one will work harder. I respectfully ask for your vote.
This will be a low turnout election due to its off-off-year status. Not many people are inclined to even fill out the absentee ballot because they don’t percieve this as an “important” election. Nothing could be further from the truth. The county board of supervisors regulate our everyday lives. They have a direct effect, even more so than the feds, on our lives. And, in a time when so many of the actions of the BoS are coming into question, it is even more important to have supervisors you can trust to do the right thing.
So, here’s the advice of OTT – call your friends who live in Santa Ana, Westminster, Garden Grove and tell them to get out and vote.