Category Archives: Politics
Two Public Hearings head up the Tustin City Council meeting tonight. Prior to that, the dais will be treated to several presentations, including one for The American Legion Boys State Program made by The American Legion Post 227. We understand they fielded two candidates to Sacramento this year for a week of running a shadow government. Our personal opinion is they could do a much better job than our current crop of legislators.
The first Public Hearing will be to issue water revenue bonds in the amount of $15 million dollars. The money is ostensibly to be used for repair/replacement of the Simon Ranch Reservoir Booster Pump Station and Pipeline as well as the Tustin Avenu Well Replacement Project.
If we recall correctly, these items had been the subject of approved water bonds several years earlier when Deborah Gavello was around. It could just be a coincidence, however. Let’s not forget the city has allegedly been considering the purchase, either directly or indirectly, of desalinated water from the planned Poseiden Plant under negotiation in Huntington Beach. One has to wonder why anyone in this part of Orange County, with such a vast aquifer, would require water that reportedly will be selling for three times the price of local water.
One thing we agree with is the city’s consultants who have determined that, if you must issue bonds, this is a great time to do it, while rates are low.
The second Public Hearing will be on the City’s Housing Element Update. This is probably more technical than reality driven. A public workshop was held in April and the results have been incorporated into the proposed plan. Most of the response had been in the area of updating the plan for affordable and special needs housing. You can see the report here.
A couple items on the consent calendar should be pulled for discussion.
The first is Item 5, which calls for the electronic storage of records. It is a great idea and we are surprised out Community Development Director is just now thinking about it (although the last time the city got rid of records, they tried to use it against an Old Town Resident).
This deserves discussion if only for the fact that there is no indication the project went out to bid. Further, the item description is a bit confusing and it is unclear until one looks at the resolution whether it is for both the scanning and destuction (it is) or just the destruction of the documents. The report also states there is no fiscal impact. We seriously doubt ECS is providing their services for free. Likewise, it’s doubtful the city will just dump these records in the trash. Using a document destruction company will engender costs. And, have either been budgeted for or are funds expected to come out of reserves?
The city seems to be struggling with the strategic plan. Item 8 calls for a rejection of all recently received bids on the graffiti abatement contract. The reason? Staff can’t keep their records straight and allegedly put out obsolete data on the RFP.
The only other Item of note on the Agenda, is Item 9, Recommendation of the Finance Director’s Appointment as the City Treasurer. We previously said it would be a wise move for the city council to appoint the Finance Director, Pamela Arend-King, as the permanent Treasurer for the city. However, we do not see the minimal added duties as warranting an increase in salary of over $8 thousand dollars plus a commensurate boost in pension benefits.
If you remember, our former City Treasurer George Jeffries, a well-respected member of the financial and (Republican) political community, netted a salary of $4 thousand dollars a month for the exact same duties that Arends-King would be taking on as an addition to her “regular” duties.
There is no other justification for such a raise during this phase of the city’s economic recovery. It is also a slap in the face to the rank-and-file employees who just recently concluded a largely give-back contract with the city that resulted in zero pay raises for the majority of employees. Don’t look to this lazy city council to do anything but acquiesce to the will of the new Boss Tweed, Jeff Parker.
That’s it for the week. If this was too much doom and gloom for you, we will remind you that Tustin Tiller Days is coming this weekend at Columbus Tustin Park. Don’t forget the annual Tiller Parade down Main Street in Old Town Tustin. We will be in our usual place on our front porch ready to say hi to the good councilmembers. We wonder how many will be willing to face Our Town Tustin. C’mon, guys, we just want to say hi.
After the train wreck of the Tustin City Council meeting two weeks ago, tonight’s meeting should be relatively quieter and shorter. Yes, 5 hours, even during Jerry Amante’s regime, would be considered a marathon for these folks. It’s a wonder Chuck and the Podiatrist Councilman didn’t fall asleep. After all, it did go past their bedtime.
This week’s meeting begins with the usual Closed Session items, mostly having to do with litigation. A little more information has leaked on the agenda showing that one of the cases the City Attorney is considering is with the Department of Finance.
Also on the agenda is a conference with the real property negotiators concerning undeveloped property on the MCAS base off Redhill and Warner Avenues. The city appears to be in negotiations for price and terms for several lots in the area.
On the Consent Calendar, the Annual Tustin Housing Authority report shows the city owns about 300 units for ownership and rent. We have complained the number is low for the size of our city but the city seems satisfied to accommodate the minimum number of low and moderate income folks, even if it does not satisfy actual need. You can read the report here.
Also on the Consent Calendar is an item for design and construction of a bocce ball court at Peppertree Park. A great idea and location considering the number of seniors that come to the Senior Center each day. The bocce ball courts are sure to get plenty of use.
The final item on the Consent Calendar is approval to purchase the computer and VOIP equipment from the low bidder, GovPlace. They also happen to be a local provider based in Irvine. The contract is for $334 thousand dollars for equipment only and was budgeted last year.
On the Regular Business Agenda, the City Council will officially open invitations to applicants for the Audit Commission. Mr. Richard Hilde has resigned. The notice will be placed in the newspaper and the city’s website. There is also a current interest list of folks that will be notified.
The big ticket item, in our opinion, on the agenda is the Strategic Plan Update for the City Council. Presumably, this is where the city manager tells the council how great they are doing in implementing the Plan. Unfortunately, the part of the plan that deals with “obtain[ing] feedback from and strengthen our partnership with the community” has predictably taken a back seat to the more important issues like increasing the bed tax now that we have a couple of real hotels in the area.
And, although the report says the city has completed the accountablity and communication portion of the plan (it is posted ont he website), it is a bit soon to decide whether the city will actually take this part seriously or whether they are just paying lip service to it. We expect the latter.
Everything else on the plan, from improving customer service to fixing the website is “in progress”. Has anyone been asked to provide feedback on services? Makes you wonder who they are asking. In any case, the city’s lackluster response -despite the number of “in progress” notations- is predictable and saddening. After all, this plan was approved nearly a year ago. And, as we said back then, a plan is just a plan until it is actually implemented.
Better late than never, the Tustin City Council will adjourn in the memory of local resident, Jack Miller, who passed away in July 2013. Along with helping to create the 911 system, Jack is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force where he separated as a 2nd Lieutenant. Fly High, Jack.
Conference with Legal Council – 2 items each Initation of and Exposure to Litigation
Conference with Real Property Negotiators – Tustin MCAS Property
Tustin Housing Authority – Annual Meeting and Report
Acceptance of Public Improvement – Authorization to file notice of completion for Cedar Grove Park Playground Renovation
Approve Consultant Services Agreement – Design services for bocce ball court at Peppertree Park
Declaration of Surplus Property
First Reading – Ordinance no. 1430 Proposed amendments to the Tustin Subdivision Code
Audit Commission Vacancy – Set interview date and publication of required notices
California HERO Program Resolution – Adopt HERO program to facilitate loans and low interest for green projects
Stategic Plan Update – Report on strategic plan adopted in 2012 regarding implementation and recommendations
That’s it for this week’s city council meeting. I hope your Labor Day weekend was as enjoyable as ours.
The Voice of OC ran an article today on a meeting held in Santa Ana over the weekend. The meeting was a first for Santa Ana officials and residents who numbered over 200. The meeting, held at the local senior center, allowed residents to discuss and give input on a variety of topics ranging from public safety to job training for young people.
The meeting was apparently a result of the new sunshine ordinance enacted last year by the Santa Ana City Council. At the time the ordinance which, among other things required adequate notice of meetings and community input during early phases of development projects, was called a “red-tape” proposal by Mayor Miguel Pulido. Opposed to any form of open-access government, Pulido said the ordinance would hinder development.
On the other hand, Councilman Vince Sarmiento said the law should have been in place years ago and could have prevented the “park poor” image Santa Ana now has.
We first wrote about the Santa Ana ordinance in September of last year, seeing the law as a big step toward making amends to a citizenry the city council had largely ignored. At the time, we wrote the biggest reason for having an ordinance of this type:
If you have to ask why an ordinance like this is needed, it was summed up when Councilmember Carlos Bustamante asked SACReD organizer Ana Urzua what she would gain by knowing who the councilman is meeting with, she replied, “So we know we cant trust you.”
At nearly the same time as the Santa Ana proposal came before their council, then councilwoman Deborah Gavello asked that a sunshine ordinance be agendized for discussion at the Tustin City Council meeting. John Nielsen, a Jerry Amante protege’, nixed the idea, saying the city was already working on a strategic plan that included an ethics component. That plan, however, did not mention anything about an anti-lobbying piece that Gavello felt key to the issue.
It was pretty obvious the idea of bringing sunshine into the city of Tustin was not going to go far, particularly considering the acrimony between Gavello and the rest of the council. Unfortunately, the city’s Strategic Plan, when it was unveiled, had obviously been worked over by the city staff, who did not appreciate the findings of Management Partners. The authors of the plan found a lot to be concerned with in the ethics department and said so publicly.
There was a lot of hoopla and backslapping by the city council when the strategic plan was finally approved. But, there has been no update since the plan was implemented and we are kind of wondering if the whole idea has been cast to the sidelines.
At the time Gavello introduced the idea publicly, that our city might be working more in shadow than in sunlight, we agreed with other community leaders that an ordinance was in order. Now, as our neighbor to the West, Santa Ana, has come to terms with their own ordinance, they are seeing the benefits to allowing the public freer access to city government.
As residents spoke, city officials wrote their opinions on large paper sheets, easily consuming dozens of them. The youth education and recreation topic alone received more than 100 ideas scribbled on yellow Post-its.
It was all part of a process that is new to Santa Ana: a strategic plan.
Santa Ana has elected to take the ideas of their residents, rather than only developers business owners as Tustin has done, to shape the future of their city. And, while their sunshine ordinance leaves a lot to be desired, it is obvious that city leaders are not doing just the minimum to comply with the law. Rather, they are taking the matter into their own hands and letting sunshine flow where the shadows of government used to lurk.
In a blow for freedom, the California Supreme Court ruled that Orange County’s exemption from public records law is illegal.
The case stems from a request to Orange County by the Sierra Club for access to their computerized satellite mapping system. The system, which cost millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, was originally offered to the Sierra Club for a third of a million dollars. The Club refused, saying that the database is a public record and, therefore the county should follow the California Public Records law in making it available at cost.
Lower courts aligned with the county and ruled against the Sierra Club who then took the issue to the California Supreme Court. In ruling for the Sierra Club, the court said Orange County must provide access to the system at the actual cost of duplication.
We hold that although GIS mapping software falls within the ambit of this statutory exclusion, a GIS-formatted database likethe OC Landbase does not. Accordingly, such databases are public records that, unless otherwise exempt, must be produced upon request at the actual cost of duplication.
While this ruling specifically addresses a single public record it should, by inference, affect access to all public records in the state. That is good news for the media in general.
In a public records case last year, the city of Anaheim resisted a request for archived emails from city records. When pressed by the Voice of OC, the city then attempted to extract a $19,000 fee for reconstructing the records which had been deleted. Voice of OC and Californians Aware threatened a lawsuit in that case. The emails were allegedly destroyed in response to the Voice of OC’s request.
The City of Tustin has been particularly generous in granting access to public records. In one case where the number of records requested by Our Town Tustin resulted in several binders of information, we were given access in the City Clerk’s foyer rather than insist on charging for duplication. So, while this ruling may not do much for us directly, it will certainly insure the doors remain open for future access.