Category Archives: state government
It’s another one of those 5th Tuesday weeks where there is no city council or planning commission meeting. We were going to bring you another “around the county” article but something over at the Liberal OC caught our eye.
Recently, our good friend Chris Prevatt was involved in a traffic accident and was laid up with a busted wing. He wrote an interesting article about a subject that is near to my heart, homelessness. Specifically, Chris wrote about a recent editorial criticizing Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano for his sponsorship of Assembly Bill 5, now coming to be known as the Homeless Bill of Rights Act.
From Chris’ article:
To their horror, as the Register’s editorial writers see it, the Bill would grant the homeless new rights in California, including sleeping on sidewalks.
The authors of this misguided assault on compassion, assert that “as American citizens, homeless people already benefit from every right in the actual Bill of Rights. But this measure would, for instance, allow them to sleep on sidewalks, in parks and other public spaces and would require that city governments provide them with bathrooms and showers.”
Well it seems to me that the freedom to lay down and rest when one is tired is a basic human right even though it is not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights. If you were to, in daylight hours, lay down a blanket, or mat on a park lawn or bench to take a nap you would not be breaking any laws. Such a violation only occurs when you do so at night. The laws our cities, like Santa Ana, have enacted to discourage the homeless from hanging around, are specifically targeted to prevent homeless people from engaging in a basic right to sleep during the night, The mere act of using a blanket to keep themselves warm, or a mat to cushion against the hard ground, breaks the law.
Chris goes on to enumerate the issues regarding sleeping in the park (or other places) and the problems that being homeless brings with that. He then asks if not here, where?
It brings to mind the plight of our own homeless here in Tustin. They are a small group who you may occasionally see walking around or sitting in the park. They maintain a low profile around town. Apparently, not low enough for some of our councilmen. In recent years, the Tustin City Council has enacted anti-homeless ordinances that are obviously geared toward driving the homeless out of our city. Like every good city, Tustin has an anti-camping ordinance that prohibits camping in public places. These ordinances are constitutional because they do not discriminate you and I, along with the homeless, cannot camp in the park… as if you and I would. And, recently, the city council passed an ordinance that effectively prohibits panhandling on every street the homeless gain their income from.
Chris points out that Ammiano’s bill does not grant new rights per se. It only guarantees that they be treated like human beings and cut some slack, considering their situation. One thing it would also do is to eliminate the justification of the homeless camping on private property in front of businesses, again, along with the accompanying issues that brings. I would think that alone would bring the Republicans around. Instead, they would be happy to continue to have the police harass the homeless with useless citations that are written for the simple act of trying to live in our community. That is shameful in any book. Ammiano’s bill is far from perfect. With a little consideration, it can go a long way toward establishing some sense of dignity to the less fortunate among us while increasing public safety. And, it won’t cost a whole lot either. So you see, Republicans, there is something for everyone.
(This article appears in the January 10, 2013 edition of the Tustin News – ed.) You could hardly pick up a newspaper or turn on a news broadcast these past few weeks without hearing about the Fiscal Cliff the country is facing. Here in Orange County, many cities, including Tustin, are facing their own fiscal cliff of sorts.
According to an Orange County Register story, the state recently demanded “that 19 Orange County cities and the county itself turn over a combined $263 million in unused funds previously earmarked for low- and moderate-income housing.”
“Some cities have already paid up, including Anaheim and Buena Park,” the article says. “Others are fighting the demand, saying the state’s calculations are wrong.”
Tustin’s share of that is $14.3 million dollars. The deadline to turn over the money was December 13th. Although there has been no mention of it on the agenda, the city has taken steps to return or justify the retention of the funds.
Tustin City Manager Jeff Parker said that at the time of the state’s request, $7.5 million dollars remained in the redevelopment fund with no foreseeable plans for use by the city. It has already been returned to the state.
The remaining $6.5 million dollars has been handed over to the state under a protest procedure, he said. Hopefully, that money will be returned as it had been earmarked for low and moderate income housing on the MCAS property.
Councilmembers Chuck Puckett and Beckie Gomez, and Mayor Al Murray did not return calls for comment.
What if the state refuses to return the money? “We may file a lawsuit against the state relative to the $6.5 million,” Parker said.
That could, at least give them a bit of breathing room and, face it — thanks to the long running lawsuits against Tustin Unified School — they are getting to be experts at frivilous litigation.
One thing is for sure: Paying the funds back could be a real financial problem for the city, although Parker assured me the bulk of the $6.5 million was paid out of land use funds with just a small amount coming from the General Fund reserves. He maintains that reserves are still above 20 percent.
At the beginning of this year, then-mayor John Nielsen promised to keep city reserves above 15 percent. It is quite possible that goal will be just a pipe dream when the state is through.
Although I don’t usually write about political issues outside of Orange County, I still try to keep track of what is going on around us and report any interesting items to my readers. One of my main sources of information, over the years, stems from my union days when I frequented Sacramento on a regular basis.
Scott Lay is the author of Around the Capitol, a very informative political news service he started several years ago. Scott is the CEO of Community College League of California, a lobbying group for community colleges. A high school dropout, he credits the community college system right here in Orange County for getting him back on track to earn his Bachelor and Law Degree from UC Davis. Since then, he has given back to them through his lobbying efforts. He founded the ATC website more or less as a lark and it sparked into a full service site with more than 4,000 subscribers and a few thousand more non-subscribers who faithfully follow Scott’s witty wisdom as they utilize the site to track legislative bills and the legislature themselves in a way that we can all understand. In other words, he makes sense of the (often) nonsensical world of Sacramento politics.
So today we have a few poll results on statewide measures I thought you would be interested in. These all come from Scott’s site so credit should be given to him for promulgating the information:
POLL POSITION: Today brings a polling hat trick, with the Public Policy Institute of California, LATimes/USC Dornsife, and CBRT/Pepperdine and releasing results. PPIC tested Props 30, 31, 32,
and 38. LAT/USC releases Props 30, 32, 37, and 38 today, and CBRT/Pepperdine tested all eleven in its online poll. LAT//USC will release results for 34 and 36 later this week.
PPIC: n=993 likely, landline/cell, 10/14-10/21/2012, +/- 4.0%
LAT/USC Dornsife/Greenberg: n=1440 likely, landline/cell, 10/15-10/21/2012 [crosstabs]
Proposition 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
Public Policy Institute of California
Proposition 31: State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
Public Policy Institute of California
Prohibits Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Prohibitions on
Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.
Public Policy Institute of California
Proposition 37: Genetically Engineered Foods. Mandatory Labeling. Initiative Statute.
Proposition 38: Tax for Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.
Public Policy Institute of California
The LAT/USC/Greenberg poll gives three different results for most ballot measures–one with a quick summary, one after title and summary, and one after “supporter/opponent” arguments. In each case, I reflect the percentages of likely voters after title and summary.
There is a lot more information on Scott’s site. Although I subscribe to his email list and website, it is not necessary to do so to access all of the great features of Around the Capitol (Subscriptions are nominal and cover his costs). In fact, you can get on his mailing list for free and you will get ATC delivered right to your computer each day. He is one of the few non-partisan voices out there willing to give the straight dope on California politics along with a healthy dose of humor. We give Scott and his website a hearty endorsement.
Except for a few items, the Tuesday City Council Meeting should be pretty routine. Because of the Strategic Planning Session, which we’ll get to in a minute, it looks like the Closed Session will be pushed off to the end of the evening. And, there are no surprises in Closed Session so I wouldn’t wait around for a report, especially since they are adjourning directly to the August 14th Special City Council Meeting. Besides, I’ll report on anything earth shattering.
The afternoon will actually start off with a Strategic Planning Workshop beginning at 3 pm. The agenda sounds more impressive than interesting. If you were ever involved in the aerospace industry, then you have been through this. In industry, it has gone by such catchy names as Total Quality Management, Quality Circles, and Zero Defects. Someone finally found a way to market the idea to government and they have managed to reinvent it. If you would like to see what your city envisions doing (as opposed to what they actually do, sometimes), take a look at the draft here. The workshop is put on by a nationwide firm called Management Partners, a consulting service whose laundry list of clients includes no less than 16 OC cities and the County of Orange. It may be interesting but I think I’ll just watch the video so I can skip the commercials.
One important item you may want to take a look at is the Analysis of Strengths, Limitations, Opportunities and Threats or, SLOT for short. It has already turned my initial impression of Management Partners around. There were no surprises in Tustin’s strengths: great parks, community pride, safe community, diverse business, strong staff, etc. All the things you would expect to see from a community like ours.
But, the “L” part. Well, let’s just say I thought it was just me. I mean, with the things I write about the city, I don’t expect to be invited into city hall and given a cool cup of water on a hot day. But, when MP ran their focus groups, guess what they found? Limitations included:
- Poor Relationship with TUSD
- City Hall not customer friendly (hint: cold cup of water?)
- Community outreach – needs improvement
- Not enough cooperation and civility between city council members
- Little to no staff development or succession planning
A big one has been that the city has been so focused on developing The District business area, they have neglected other businesses in the city; Old Town is not as vibrant as it could be. We can certainly agree with that although lately, we have seen more interest by the city in developing businesses in Old Town with the recent approval of two new buildings in the area that will bring people to the Old Town area for more than just the Art Walk and Chili Cookoff. The changes in parking requirements have been innovative, to say the least. We hope this is a trend and not an anomaly.
And, you know, it is one thing when this blog and certain community leaders are aware of the discord among councilmembers in both public and private. It is quite another when MP’s focus groups show the exact same thing. We had hoped that, when John Nielsen assumed the Mayoral duties, there would be new civility on the dais. Instead, we found Nielsen unwilling to speak out on the absurdities of his colleagues. Of course, he has no problem publicly lashing out at legitimate press sources who question his motives.
Ooooh, lookie. Under Opportunities, they seem to disagree with our City Council on the development of Tustin Legacy and the hangar re-use as well. Can someone make sure the councilmembers are awake and listening to this part of the presentation? We have been harping for years about the re-use of the hangar and the fact that this city has been more interested in tearing down what Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack apparently considers an eyesore, rather than work with businesses and the community on generating interest in reuse. The County of Orange is going ahead with a plan to create a park around their hangar. Perhaps a partnership would be in order to save both hangars as a substantial and visual part of our history. It would be a shame to have to answer a visitor’s question, “The pictures showed two hangars. Where’s the other one?”
There is plenty under the “Threats” category as well. So, this may be an interesting workshop after all. And, this is all before the regular City Council meeting which, thankfully, should be short.
Item 7, Approval of an Exclusive Agreement to Negotiate with Regency Acquisition, may generate some interest from the Legacy folks. I have been listening to complaints that the city is now modifying plans to allow more apartments and fewer single-family homes than originally planned. All those folks the city says they are protecting with the TUSD lawsuits, are not happy about the new mix. It seems the city commands the TUSD to “do as I say, …”
Item 8, Legislative Report Affirmation of City’s Compliance with the Brown Act is probably one of the most important items they could have agendized. The Brown Act mandates that city’s follow certain rules regarding Closed Sessions. The city is reimbursed by the state for the cost of implementing the Brown Act. Unfortunately, what the State giveth, the State can taketh away (hey, I’m writing this on Sunday). In this case, they suspended parts of the Brown Act to save some money. This could give cities an opportunity to close their doors even more to the public than they already do.
In the case of Mayor John Nielsen, he has chosen to do the right thing (most cities have) and have the city continue to follow the Brown Act in its entirety. The resolution before the City Council reaffirms their committement to follow the Act. Let’s hope Hizzoner doesn’t see his chance and filibuster. Cost to the city to pay for full implementation is $38,000. I know that’s a lot of iPads. But, it is cheap to keep the windows open and the sunshine on government.
As I said, it should be a long strategic planning session followed by a short city council meeting. The City Council meets again in special session on August 14th, the same day the Planning Commission is scheduled to meet. That could be for Closed Session only, however. We’ll keep you posted.