Category Archives: Tustin City Council
OK, the city definitely fixed the video issue they had a couple of weeks ago that kept the May 7 council meeting from being published on the website for almost two weeks. That, of course, makes me wonder if there really was a problem or were they trying to delay the public finding out about something.
Tuesday’s city council meeting was mostly routine with some of what Mayor Al Murray dubs his “favorite things”. Hewes Middle School and Fire Chief Richter got their 15 minutes of fame and Al got to act the big shot mayor again. One thing for sure, Murray needs to obtain an abridged edition of Roberts Rules of Order and read it. He is clueless in how to call for a vote and had to be corrected several times by both the city attorney and his colleagues. It gets a bit tedious after awhile.
As expected, there was nothing to report from the Closed Session and the council, surprisingly, only asked to pull one item from the Consent Calendar, the minutes from the May 7th meeting. Councilmember Gomez had an issue with something she reported on during her council comments.
On to the Regular Business where there were a slew of Second Readings including the ordinance on the so-called minor text changes in the Tustin City Zoning Code which we reported on earlier. That and the approval of the special tax refunding bonds for Community Facilities District 04-1 were voted and approved unanimously.
When it came to Item 8, a tax levy on certain properties in one area of the Legaqcy properties, Councilman John Nielsen again recused himself from the discussion due, we think, to his purchasing or owning property in the area. So, I guess those rumors of him actually living with his girlfriend in South County are just that.
Mayor Murray, who seems to have trouble understanding Roberts Rules of Order, was all set to breeze through this for his buddy but Councilmember Beckie Gomez asked for discussion on the issue. Her concern, as is ours, is the fact that, not only is this tax being levied on unsuspecting homeowners without their consent, it has no end date. “I am a bit concerned about this special tax, with the intent that it’s indefinite. There is no number of years such as Mello-Roos you pay it out for 20 years or whatever…“
She went on to say that she understood the city does not receive the same property tax as in other parts of the city but, she would like to see a review every 5 years or so. She said that, although this council may not be here anymore, “I think the record should reflect that it isn’t necessarily an indefinite type of tax.”
Surprisingly, City Manager Jeff Parker agreed with her. In making a brief explanation of the reason for the tax, he said the city council had the authority to demand that and even sounded as if he approved of the “5 years or so” Gomez suggested. Unfortunately, Mayor Murray, who seems to think future staff and councils will remember this forgettable moment just because they discussed it, asked that it be put into the record rather than made a part of the ordinance as it should have been. Even worse, Gomez approved of that move rather than take the time to do it right. So, I guess we’ll see in five years whether that review actually takes place. The roll call vote was unanimous with Nielsen recusing himself. Good luck you suckers in the Legacy that were sold a bill of goods.
Items 10 & 11, regarding the land swap with the community college district and construction of a new street also brought some discussion over the amount of traffic that would be generated by the new street. Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack advised the council on a last minute letter received the day of the meeting. That letter was not in the staff report but Elizabeth was kind enough to send us a copy. The letter, from the city of Irvine, basically lamented their concerns over traffic and asked the city to include a larger area for traffic study. Binsack explained the issues had been answered, at least to Tustin’s satisfaction and said nothing further would be done at this time (how many ways can we say it, Irvine?). These items passed unanimously after discussion.
Without further ado, the item concerning the stipends for commissioners and their removal upon attainng a city elected office was read and passed with Councilmember Gomez dissenting. As we said before, apparently the Fab Four didn’t want the same thing to happen to the commissioners, who actually spend a good deal of time on city business, as happened to the city council in regard to stipends. Gomez rightfully questioned this but was met with the wall of silence in her protest.
The final item of the night was the Legislative Report and it was, again, councilmember Gomez who showed she was the only one with an independent mind on the dais. While the Fab Four were willing to be led blindly by their collective noses, Gomez asked for time to study the bills they were supporting and opposing. Lawyer Kendig, who is always in a hurry to align himself with staff, indicated there was an urgency factor in responding to the letters.
Now, most of my loyal readers know that Councilman John Nielsen is a lifelong Boy Scout and will fall all over himself to praise, publicize and applaud the BSA to the point where one might wonder who he actually works for. All I can figure is it must be like the Skull and Bones Society – one has to be in on the secret to know why all the members have that stupid smirk on their face.
Anyway, the motion on the Boy Scouts passed 4-1. Both of the other letters passed unanimously.
Not much in the way of councilmember comments although the Podiatrist Councilman must not have gotten much sleep (and his exciting dissertation on his political life and tie wardrobe was putting us to sleep). For those that don’t know, Channel 7 came to the Creme Pan Bakery in Old Town where Mayor Murray and Councilmember Gomez helped represent the city along with a slew of kids from our high schools. Although my daughter wasn’t there, the Foothill High School Madrigals sang a song or two and made us proud.
We have a couple of weeks before the next exciting installment of the Tustin City Council. In the meantime, join us for the Annual Tustin Chili Cookoff on June 2. The first chili tasting is on me. Also, please join in one of the many upcoming memorial services in the county on Memorial Day. You will find me at the Westminster Memorial Park where various veteran and community organizations, including the last of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will lay wreathes at their military memorial.
The city apparently fixed the video problem they had with the May 7th meeting and the video is finally up for viewing. We’ll let you know if we find anything interesting that we haven’t already reported on. We are wondering if the issues had to do with their recent changeover to allow direct downloading of the video, something we applaud as a step toward a more open government.
May 21st could be a busy day for the city council. The Closed Session, which begins at 5:30 pm, makes no mention of labor contracts. Negotiations have been in progress for the past couple of weeks. Most of the employees in the city are represented by the Orange County Employees Association. The grapevine tells me the city may be looking for increased pension payments as they are in a hurry to catch up the unfunded liability. City employees belong to CalPERS, not the County pension system, OCERS. Too bad. OCERS is doing quite well at this time, even though the OC Board of Supervisors would like the voters to think otherwise.
Most of the Closed Session will discuss property negotiations on the MCAS base. The fact they are discussing terms is a good sign the development of the base is finally picking up. As we said before, the best thing the last city council could do was to make the city its own master developer for purposes of developing and selling the property. It seems when that occurred, development picked up drastically.
The Open Session begins with presentations to Hewes Kids, OCFA Fire Chief Keith Richter and the National Student Leadership Council of SADD. Chief Richter was recently awarded the Fire Chief of the Year Award by the Metropolitan “Metro” Fire Chiefs Association. Undoubtedly, the city council will bestow a certificate or two on him as well.
Two items on the Consent Calendar deserve discussion. The first is the contract with the Orange County District Attorney to prosecute violations of city code. The DA provides prosecution for the city for any violation of state law without cost (the people vs. etc. etc…). Violations of city ordinances, on the other hand, must either be handled by the city attorney or the district attorney under contract. Now, I could really slam the ineptness of the city attorney here but his law firms expertise is in government not criminal law. So, he is off the hook.
The DA has proposed a contract with a reasonable rate increase ($150 p/hr Attorney & ($84 p/hr Clerical) that we doubt the city could find elsewhere. The indication is the OCDA’s services are rarely needed and the contract is based on use rather than time. It is interesting to note the burden of deciding prosecution remains with the DA rather than the city. This is the same as it would be for any felony prosecution.
Item 4, Asset Capitalization Threshold, should also be pulled for discussion. There is a (very) brief discussion on the issue in the staff report that outlines the issue. The economy has outgrown the previous amounts used for capitalization of short and long term assets. City staff are proposing new thresholds but, we question how they came up with those numbers. In fact, judging the economy from a consumer standpoint, we wonder if the new thresholds may be too low considering the skyrocketing cost of infrastructure constructions nowadays.
The final item on the consent calendar is the Quarterly Investment Report. Since the passing of George Jeffries, responsibility for investment of city funds has been delegated to Finance Director, Pamela Arends-King. We’ll reserve judgment as this is her first time out. Suffice it to say the funds are intact.
While most of the Regular Calendar consists of Second Readings of various ordinances affecting MCAS property, one item stands out as a bit of good news for homeowners.
The Approval of Issuance of Special Tax Refunding Bonds should be good news for some homeowners in the Tustin Legacy. About 563 homeowners will see their Mello-Roos lowered by a tax refunding bond. If you are a glutton for punishment, read the 232 page staff report that details the background and refunding of the money. Of course, all of this assumes the economy will continue to improve, a hedgy bet at best.
A second reading will also be heard on amending an ordinance to allow city commissioners to remain on their commissions until such time as they are elected to city office or replaced by the city council. This change will not only bring the city in line with most other cities policies in Orange County, it actually makes sense. One item of contention at the March meeting when this was first discussed was commissioner compensation. If we had to guess, we would say the current city council is not happy with the way the previous council screwed them in regard to compensation.
When Jerry Amante first proposed the voters have a say in compensation, it was clearly a tactic to hurt Councilwoman Deborah Gavello, whom he considered his arch nemesis. That he could care less about the city and future councilmembers, who largely foot the bill for their own expenses, was obvious. By shaming them into compliance, he convinced John Nielsen and Al Murray, both of whom were on the council at the time, into voting to place an ill-conceived ballot measure before the voters that eliminated compensation for city councilmembers. This has placed an undue financial burden on all of them and could hurt the city when it comes time to find otherwise qualified candidates for office.
Seeing the damage it has done so far has apparently caused the Gang of Four to reconsider compensation and not do the same thing to city commissioners. This makes the city commission seats, as influential as they are, a more palatable choice for those who choose to serve the city in a volunteer basis.
The final item, as usual, is the Legislative Report. Staff are recommending support for several bills in Sacramento.
The first, AB229, is specifically geared toward creating tax districts and, in Tustin’s case, on former military base property. Essentially, when redevelopment agencies went away last year, it left Tustin in limbo regarding financing of infrastructure on base property. They joined other government entities who had former base properties in legislation that would allow them to continue to operate similarly structured enterprises. This is, of course, an end run around the demise of redevelopment agencies and is actually RDAs on steroids. We have to wonder why Democrats continue to give gifts of bad public policy to the Republicans.
We do agree with the city’s opposition to AB667 which would require an Economic Impact Report in “economic assistance areas”. This is essentially a “rent control” for businesses that would require a superstore, such as Wal-mart, to study the economic impact on small businesses in a city before they would be allowed to build a superstore. On its face this is protectionism at its worst and should be defeated. What makes this bill even more ominous is the fact the city could be allowed to conduct the so-called study itself, leaving business development even more prone to corruption than it already is. The fact is, there are already enough impediments to business, big and small, that no more should be required by law. Two previous bills like 667 were vetoed by the governor. Support and opposition are typically aligned with unions and business.
Likewise, we agree with the city in their opposition to SB323 which would exclude tax exemptions for private non-profit organizations whose membership requirements exclude certain classes of citizens. SB323 is clearly aimed at the Boy Scouts who continue to exclude gays from their organization. In doing so, the author of the bill, Assembly Speaker John Perez, who is openly gay, is willing to chance the disbanding of other organizations that cannot meet the strict definitions of membership in their organization. This is nanny state government at its worst. Better the BSA debate should remain in the public opinion arena rather than rely on implementation of socialist laws that serve a narrow purpose.
That’s it for the week. If you attend the meeting this week, drop me a line and give me your thoughts.
Happy Cinco de Siete. The bad news is, my desktop is in for repairs and will, hopefully, be out by this next weekend. Of course, depending on the cost, a new one may be in order. In the meantime, I will struggle to get out posts with the reliable but anachronistic netbook. Isn’t it amazing that, just a few years ago, the netbook was the hottest thing on the market? Now, they are right up there with…desktop computers.
It looks to be a busy night for the Tustin City Council as they hold a couple of public hearings preceded by a slew of feel good presentations. The presentations are likely to be lengthy with lots of pomp and circumstance (emphasis on pomp).
The first public hearing is to establish a new Community Facilities District and accompanying mello-roos tax for an area of the Tustin Legacy. You might think this a routine issue but, it is a timely one for the city. It should be unsurprising that, the vote on establishing a CFD, when there are no residents in the location, falls to the landowners, in this case, the city. So, why wait until there are pesky homeowners to get in the way of establishing a tax base? Trust me, the entire hearing is pretty much pro forma for establishing the CFD and it is doubtful there will be much input from the public. It is probably a good thing the staff know what they are doing. That way the Four Amigos only need to say “yes”. One thing the folks moving in should know is this is a forever tax that will be passed on to future landowners owners. That tax will increase by two percent per year ad infinitum.
The second Pubic Hearing concerns the disposition of the Community Development Block Grant funding allocation. As you know, in the past we have been critical of the method used by the city council to disseminate CDBG funds. Specifically, the relationship of members of the city council to the executive director of the Tustin Community foundation which the city used to manage funds was questionable, to say the least.
Most recently, a committee made up of city staff members evaluated the current funding and made recommendations that can be found in the staff report. Of course, I am always amazed that, with funding and programs the community depends on we would allow city staff, most of whom live elsewhere, to determine what is best for us. In the end, worthy projects are being recommended for continued funding, including Human Options, Laurel House and Mercy House, all of which go to assist those most in need in our community.
One item I find interesting is the “Old Town Study” which is funded at $27 thousand dollars. This study appears to be a marketing study to see how the city can eke the most tax dollar out of the cultural overlay district. Could this project be the one to take precedence over the recent community development project to determine changes in the Old Town zoning regarding guest houses and second units? When an inquiry was recently made by a resident, they were told the guest house ordinance would be completed some time in the future, that it wasn’t a priority for city staff at the time. Really? Perhaps the city staff, which we have shown time and again is out of touch with city residents, should rethink that. More in a future article.
All in all, the proposed CDBG update is in order, regardless of how we got there, and it should pass muster with the residents of the city. It should be interesting how much back slapping the city council does before approving it.
The third Pubic Hearing has caused quite a bit of discussion both on the dais and in the community. Chad Ortlieb has managed to segue the Wilcox Manor issue in with the zoning amendments when they were before the city planning commission and he may show up at this meeting to discuss the issues again.
While the ordinance was being considered by the planning commission, more than 50 comments were received and supposedly considered by the commission. The city attorney attempted to block Ortlieb’s critical letter based on a timeframe until Ortlieb demonstrated that he actually was within legal limits. That in itself should tell you how desperate city staff are to get these amendments in. Why the hurry? In any case,it would not surprise me to see a few more comments at the public hearing and I imagine we will see another appearance by Lindburgh MacPherson who is sweating bullets over the Wilcox Manor CUP application being kept in the limelight when he hoped it would fade into oblivion. Sorry, Lindburgh, we still don’t want your dog and pony show in Old Town.
Item 7 on the Consent Calendar is to appropriate supplemental funds for the completion of Tustin Ranch Road and other road improvement projects. It appears to be a housekeeping issue more than anything else but, I’m no accountant so you may want to look at the agenda report yourself.
That’s about it. Unless you are a glutton for punishment, come late and go home early. By the way, the agenda doesn’t mention it but, I could have sworn The American Legion Pot 227 was back in good standing. If so, the should provide they best presentation: our Flag.
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.