Category Archives: Politics

Election Upda….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

nail-bitingOK, so we are down to the wire on another fist-clenching, nail-biting off-year election. This time candiates are vying for Mimi Walter’s 37th State Senate District seat. Walters, as you may remember, has gone on to the United States Congress.

Battling it out for the sole seat are three Republicans and one Democrat. The Republicans, Assemblyman Don Wagner, former OC Supervisor John Moorlach and political aide Naz Namazi, are the only names on the ticket. The sole Democrat is Louise Stewardson of Huntington Beach, Stewardson, who lists her occupation as nurse, is running a write-in campaign claiming she was unaware that there would not be a Democrat in the race. Thanks for stepping up.

Among the three Republicans, Assemblyman Don Wagner is the most experienced, having served as our district representative in the California Assembly. He has been attacked by his nemesis, John Moorlach for taking union money, in violation of the Baugh Manifesto, and for being soft on a variety of issues near and dear to Republcan Hearts. Several websites have been put up claiming Wagner supports amnesty for illegal immigrants, has taken Maui junkets on union tabs, etc.

Of course we know the Baugh Manifesto is selectively enforced. Janet Nguyen took union money (after she had already been caught once and gave it back). Kris Murray of Anaheim was reported to have taken union money. Wagner, for his part, supposedly said he thought the manifesto was only for local elections….yeah, right…. you go with that, Don.

Moorlach, for his part, lives and breaths the Baugh Manifesto. He can afford to. He will soon (if he isn’t already) collect a sizeable county pension. Yes, this is the same Moorlach who, since taking office as a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has taken every oportunity to drag down the 17,000 employees and their unions by attacking county pensions. Whenever he was asked about his own pension which, by the way was paid 100 percent with taxpayer dollars (rank-and-file employees pay a sizeable portion into their pension funds), he would state that he earned it and he was only taking what was offered.

And, for a non-professional, non-career politician, Moorlach spent the last half of his last term in office shopping for another elected office he could land in. At various times over the last two years, he “explored” a run for Congress, Governor (or was it Lt. Governor?) and even his old job with the county. Every one of those “explorations” ended abruptly when Moorlach couldn’t find backing within his own ranks.

Wagner has actively worked in the state legislature for the past five years. He sits on several key legislative commitees including Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security, Revenue and Taxation and Judiciary where he serves as Vice-Chair. One of the best things about Wagner, that most Republicans hate, is his willingness to cross the aisle when necessary to get the job done. That’s not to say he isn’t a diehard elephant. It just tells me he will do what is necessary to get the job done (shades of Lou Correa).

If campaign funding is any indicator, Don Wagner is, by far, the best financed of the two candidates. He had a sizeable war chest when he entered the race and is still far ahead in fund-raising. Moorlach, desperate to find fault -any fault- with his nemesis, pointed out the facts the best way he knows how. Using statistics that only a CPA could understand, he demonstrated how his fundraising has outpaced Wagner’s. Still, the bottom line John is that Wagner has more money. Lots more.

As far as campaigns go, this one has been lackluster at best. I’m not sure if that is because Moorlach doesn’t know how to run a campaign or if the two are waiting the inevitable runoff race in May to really start slinging the arrows. Although Democrat, Louise Stewardson could offer an alternative for die-hard Democrats who would vote on principle, it is Naz Namazi who would likely siphon votes from both Wagner and Moorlach. She could deflect enough votes to force a runoff as an outright win requires 50% plus one vote.

As to the campaigns themselves? I don’t get cable TV so I have no idea if either Moorlach or Wagner are running television ads. I have heard nothing on radio either, probably because I listen mostly to my iPod when I drive. We here in Tustin have, thankfully, been plastered with few yard signs. In fact, here in Old Town, I have seen two from each candidate. Most of the political blogs are split between the two. Curiously, two of the blogs tout Moorlach but, when you look closely, it is because they are paid political consultants. One blog is fighting with itself as the owner/editor supports Moorlach but a chief contributor to the same blog supports Wagner – as do we.

It’s a sad but true fact that election cycles never end. If Moorlach wins the seat outright -an unlikely event- Wagner will remain in place for the rest of this term. As an admitted career politician, he will then likely look for a local or statewide seat to land in. If Wagner wins outright, Moorlach, who at one time claimed he would not seek higher office, will have another bite of the pie. He only has to carpetbag into Wagner’s Assembly district (anyone got a guest house in Old Town for rent?) to get a second chance.

Of course, he may have to run up against our own Tustin Councilman John Nielsen who, we hear, is doing his own exploration of sorts.

In all likelihood, neither candidate will win the necessary +1 and they will be forced into a runoff. Then we get to do it all over again. Only, expect a lot more yard signs and a lot more mudslinging from both candidates. That’s when we’ll see whether Moorlach’s financial finagling rings true or whether it really does come down to who has the most money in the bank.

If you need further evidence to get off the fence, consider that John Moorlach has a couple of dozen endorsements, mostly from “former” elected officials. Only one fellow supervisor, Shawn Nelson, was willing to endorse him. Not even Jerry Amante would come out with an endorsement.

On the other hand, Wagner has the endorsement of every Countywide elected official, including Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, OCDA T-Rack and OC Supervisor Michelle Steele. Newbie Senators Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen have endorsed him along with a slew of other legislators. Oh yeah, even Mayor Chuck Puckett has endorsed Wagner.

Wagner has also run his campaign without the aid of crackpots like Deborah “I hate Muslims” Pauley and the advice of idiots like Mario “Maynard” Manero. You remember him. He’s the one that talked Moorlach into spending thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to take away the pensions of sheriffs deputies then ran and hid when it didn’t work out the way he thought it would. I wouldn’t want him for my lawyer either. John doesn’t seem to mind.

In any case, if you haven’t sent in your absentee ballot, please do so. And, if you are like me and prefer to cast your vote the old fashioned way, I’ll see you at the polls – provided you can make it by seven in the morning.

Yes, There’s a Meeting

Jeff Thompson Meeting for MeetingThe Planning Commission will have a pretty short meeting Tuesday, with only one item on the calendar. That, of course, is barring any lengthy comments from the public. There is also an ominous “presentation” by Elizabeth Binsack at the end of the evening regarding an unnamed subject.

The sole item of interest is on the Consent Calendar and, unless someone pulls it for discussion, it will pass along with the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes. The item, a request for a Use Determination and Conditional Use Permit, would allow Golubitsky Fencing Center to establish a training facility in a light industrial business park on Edniger Avenue near Redhill.

I’m not sure why it needed a sales pitch but, the description of the facility discusses Golubitsky’s involvement with fencing and his awards which includes a silver medal at the Olympics. In any case, it’s a great addition to the recreational venues available to Tustinites and the location is appropriate.

That’s probably a good thing because they have been operating out of this facility for awhile now and the city apparently just caught up with them. The location requires a CUP because “fencing” doesn’t appear in the city codes as an allowable activity (how short sighted). In any case, the city seems to like the idea hence the placement on the Consent Calendar.

Hot on the heels of the recent opening of the new El Camino Cafe in the Del Rio Building in Old Town Tustin, the city has finally released the draft Commercial Design Guidelines for the Cultural Resources District. If you are a glutton for punishment, the 194 page document can be found here. Remember, I warned you.

According to the introductory letter, the guidelines will be used for property preservation and development within the overlay district. It will also:

…provide enhancement or appendix for other city codes for features such as:

  • Business identification signs to help preserve and enhance the character of Old Town Tustin.
  • Tips for energy efficiency to promote sustainability in your project or property.
  • Ideas for landscaping on private property and the public right of way, and suggestions for improving the overall street environments.
  • Photos and graphics that help explain improvements that can be made to properties.
  • Resources and websitelinks to make it easier to find additional information.

Overall, having a comprehensive set of guidelines is important, particuarly to Old Town residents and businesses. Historically, however, city staff has taken a heavy hand toward anything that doesn’t meet their own personal standard of how the area should look. In addition, the city has a history of showing favoritism to certain residents and businesses. These folks have either been influential because of their standing in the community (not necessarily a bad thing) or their political contributions (a bad, bad thing).

Evidence the fact of the city’s real intent is in the draft guidelines. At one point in the introduction, the dissertation reads:

The Guidelines are intended to serve as a “yardstick” against which proposed projects may be measured. The Guidelines are not intended to be strict development standards as are found in the Zoning Ordinance. It is recognized that not all design principles or criteria may be workable or appropriate for each project, but all applicable projects are encouraged to follow the Guidelines to the greatest extent possible. Therefore, they may be interpreted by the City with some flexibility when applied to specific projects.

This, of course, gives the city an out in regard to how forcefully they will enforce the guidelines against individual businesses. In other words, if you are in, you are in – if you are out, you can kiss your project goodbye.

And, the issue comes to the forefront in regard to “new infill development”. Albeit, there are few lots in the business district in Old Town that are vacant, we do have some. A recent example is the Del Rio building that was built on the old Riteway Dry Cleaners. That lot had a business and an apartment on the rear of the lot. When the new owners wanted to develop the lot, they asked for a business on the first floor with a residence on the second floor (presumably owner-occupied). The city nixed the plan, saing that further contaminant testing would be required than was already accomplished. It should be interesting to see if they require the same depth of testing for the proposed restaurant and living quarters being built on the old auto parts store lot next to Mrs. B’s.

So, will the public or local business owners chime in on the draft plans? They should as this document will (or shold) be used to regulate future business and building in Old Town Tustin. This is probably the most important step toward reahbilitation of the area that should be as viable as the historic downtowns of Fullerton and Orange. And, it’s all in the hands of a (so-called) trusted few.

On the Planning Commission Agenda – February 25, 2014

paperbag guy

Only Known Photo of Sam Altowaiji

Jeff Thompson 2

Jeff Thompson

There is not much happening on the Planning Commission agenda this week. After last week’s near riot at the Tustin City Council meeting, the city staff are probably thankful for a little boredom.  There are no public hearings but city staff will present the draft of the Commercial Design Guidelines for the Cultural Overlay District.

The Agenda Item states the draft is ready to be released on the city website and to stakeholders for a 30 day review period. Interestingly, the city does not consider the local residents of Old Town to be stakeholders. As this is our area of town, one would think they are interested in what the city intends to do with it, commercially or otherwise. Of course, the residents of the area have never been much of a consideration for the Community Development Department.

We only have a copy of the memo to the Planning Commission to go on as well. Apparently, the city didn’t think enough to include any presentation or the guidelines handbook itself. So, we’ll just have to wait until the city updates their website.

If the memo gives us any hint, the design guidelines are established to keep a sense of continuity in Old Town (a good thing) while allowing a degree of flexibility in design and use of materials. The handbook will also address “adaptive reuse” where a historic structure is repurposed for another use. This sort of happened at the Utt Juice Building where the original structure was torn down and live/work lofts were built. Some of the brick used in the original structure was reused in the facade of the new building. Hey, at least it is something.

In any case, the CDG is also supposed to go hand in hand with the RDG (Residential Design Guidelines). Maybe after this, they can finish up the second structure issue.

The only other item on the agenda, this week, is the 2013 General Plan Annual Report for the MCAS Tustin Specific Plan. The plan is required to be approved by the city council and staff are asking for permission to send it along. This is a routine item but, in case you haven’t seen it before (or your a glutton for punishment)  you can access is here. Warning, it is 213 pages long.

That’s it for the week. Congratulations to Sam and Jeff for their reappointment. It’s no real surprise and one wonders, if the incumbents were re-applying, why they bothered extending the timeframe for folks to apply to the commission. A lot of good applicants in the field that had their bubble burst thinking they might have a shot. That’s politics.

Not Just No But, HELL No!

Credit: The Liberal OC

Credit: The Liberal OC

Union Rejects County Offer

The doors on the Orange County Employees Association had barely closed at the end of Friday’s business day when the word went out by phone and email that members of the county’s largest public union had overwhelmingly turned down the Board of Supervisors’ “last, best and final offer”.

The rejection comes at the heels of the slim acceptance by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, who voted to approve a contract that forces deputies to pay their fair share of county retirement costs.

OCEA Spokesperson, Jennifer Muir, said that county employees saw the offer for what it was – an attempt to bully them into accepting a bad deal against threats that, if they didn’t accept, politicians on the Board of Supervisors would make it worse for them in the future.

The Board of Supervisors proposed these cuts at the same time as they accepted a pay raise for themselves—a raise that just showed up on their paychecks and was awarded retroactively to July.And it happens at the same time as they continue voting to approve multi-million dollar contracts to their campaign contributors.

Supervisors Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach, a career politician with an eye on Federal Office, both said the offer was warranted by the $73 million dollars in property tax disputed by the state last year. Moorlach stated, “We’re dealing with a situation where the state has made our budget gong forward very austere.

What was not lost on either side was the fact that county managers would receive a 1.25 percent raise after going through mediation following the county’s last, best and final offer to that group. Also receiving a raise this year would be the Board of Supervisors themselves, who got an automatic 1.4 percent raise as their pay is set to that of judges. Although it was Governor Jerry Brown who set that in motion, it is the county that will pay for their raises through the General Fund.

Moorlach quickly set about doing damage control by publicly announcing his effort to see if he could turn down the raise. However, it is not likely to erase the fact that, for years, he refused to give up his county pension, saying he would wait until the law was changed before he would give it up. At the time, Supervisors’ pensions were funded one hundred percent by the county.

Both Nelson and Moorlach, the only Supervisors to respond to the union’s rejection, neglected to say the $72 million dollar property tax dispute they blamed for the no-raise offer, was the direct result of the Board’s failure to mitigate the dispute despite legal counsel to the contrary.

From a Voice of OC article:

When the county officials financed the billion-dollar bankruptcy in 1995, state officials allowed them to send a portion of their vehicle license fees directly to bond holders. But in 2007, when the county refinanced its debt, the legislative authorization for the special license fees was not included.

Despite warnings that the authorization should be quickly reestablished, county legislative leaders, lobbyists and staff did not act. The intercept, as its known, was not addressed in any subsequent county legislative platform or by the county’s main lobbyist, Platinum Advisors.

The general consensus at OCEA is, the real problem is the sour relationship the Republican Party keeps with the state legislature. Indeed, more than one Orange County Republican legislator has suffered the wrath of an unkind Democratic majority. Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a former Assemblyman, was forced into an office in the Capitol that is so small it is often referred to as “the doghouse”.

OCEA General Manager, Nick Berardino, was succinct in a written statement to union members. Saying corruption investigations and “pay-to-play tactics” caused the Board of Supervisors to target county workers who stood up to them and exposed corrupt practices. “It’s just like last year, when the Grand Jury issued reports about the “culture of corruption” in Orange County Government. The Board responded, he said, by attempting to cut their pay.

In his message, Berardino called for a cleanup of the corrupt practices and said that union members will stand with the Grand Jury and law enforcement agencies in cleaning up the county.

Berardino is also the subject of an assault investigation by the Santa Ana Police Department. County negotiating officials allege Berardino threatened and pushed a negotiator at the last bargaining session when the County’s ultimatum was delivered. Santa Ana Police are not forthcoming with information. OCEA says that no assault occurred and the County is grandstanding to bolster its position.

The next step for union members, who have not seen a raise in more than seven years, is mediation. If mediation does not result in a satisfactory agreement, arbitration will follow. A final resolution could be as much as a year off.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 350 other followers