It’s In The Bag

Kids, Don't Try This at Home

Kids, Don’t Try This at Home

Ah, yes, I still hear them cheering when Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the first-in-the-nation statewide ban on plastic bags. Saying, “We’re the first to ban these bags and we won’t be the last,” Brown crowed that it was the miracle cure that would clear our landfills and beaches of the noxious bags.

I hate ‘em. Plastic bags, I mean. They are not environmentally friendly and are a threat to wildlife. My wife and I do our best to bring our own bags to the store when we shop. It doesn’t always work out, though. Sometimes, we miscalculate and wind up with a mix of our own and the plastic thingies from Albertsons. And, paper bags would be better all around.

And, up until recently, it looked like we were all headed in the same direction come this July 1st, whether we liked it or not. That was the scheduled date of implementation for major grocery stores and pharmacies to comply with the law by getting rid of plastic bags. Of course, they could still offer you a paper store bag.

That paper bag would cost you ten cents, however. My wife and I found out how this works last year when we took a road trip to Petaluma (don’t ask). On the way, we stopped at a San Francisco Trader Joes. After marveling at the escalator just for shopping carts, we shopped for groceries. On checkout, the cashier asked for our bags.

“Bags?” I mumbled. “We didn’t know….”,  shuffling my feet and thinking we would have to carry out the groceries in our hands. Not to worry. The kindly cashier was happy to produce a bag – at the cost of ten cents. Thus, we were introduced to the San Francisco local bag ban.

Now, it looked like what was good for San Francisco, Huntington Beach and a host of other cities in and out of Orange County, would be good for the entire state.

That is, until the plastic bag manufacturers got together and collected signatures. Enough signatures -over 800,000- were gathered within the time frame and submitted to the state. The state has certified the referendum and it will now appear on the 2016 ballot.

This particular law has local ramifications, of sorts. Durabag Company Incorporated, is located in Tustin, off Redhill and Edinger. It is a small business by most standards but they have been around awhile and they employ a number of people in the manufacture of plastic bags and paper materials. According to a press release last year, Durabag joined several other local bag manufacturers in a “Bag the Ban” alliance to squelch the bill prior to enactment. According to the alliance, 2,000 jobs are at stake.

Well, I suppose sacrifices have to be made although I wouldn’t necessarily include jobs of mostly lower-middle class workers in that. Yes, durabag (and probably the other manufacturers) produce other goods, notably paper bags and boxes. But, there would still likely be some loss.

Then, there is the ten cent a paper bag tax fee incentive to bring your own bags. I suspect that, unless you are already environmentally prone to supplying your own bags, a user fee is not going to do much to coerce you. And, there is the question as to whether the ban really works. If it does, why are a host of cities who enacted local bag ban ordinances now contemplating repeal?

Our own Huntington Beach, saw their city council chamber filled with supporters and detractors in a January meeting. Their ban could be lifted in May if some councilmembers have their way. Other cities in California and across the nation (in cities a lot more environmentally conscious than ours) are considering the same move to repeal their bag bans.

In any case, it looks like we are safe from the statewide bag ban for now. With the Secretary of State’s certification of signatures, the issue is headed to the voters in 2016. It is anyone’s guess whether the law will be overturned. And, even if it is, other cities could join the more than 100 California communities that have enacted local ordinances to ban plastic bags.

Could Tustin be on that list?

Veterans Need Not Apply (Or Die)

Veterans-CemeteryTuesday’s Planning Commission meeting has been cancelled for lack of interest agenda items. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a meeting, however. Don’t forget, the Parks and Recreation Commission is holding a design forum for a veterans memorial this afternoon beginning at 4:30 pm in the city council chambers. It should be interesting to see how many show up on a Monday afternoon a half hour before the normal close of a business day. Thanks for the planning, staff.

Wed to the idea of a Veterans Memorial at the appropriately renamed Veterans Memorial Park, is a veterans cemetery for Orange County. Initially proposed by veterans and opposed by NIMBYs, then assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva was instrumental in bringing legislation that would pave the way for a veterans cemetery “somewhere” in Orange County.

That “somewhere”, of course was a plot of land on the former MCAS base now being bulldozed for subdivisions and not-so-great parks. a 105 acre parcel of land has been identified on the property to be developed as a potential final resting place for the county’s many veterans who have settled here.

It didn’t take long, however, for the opposition to rear its collective ugly head. What was surprising is the tactic they took.

As far back as October of last year, a local blog urged the city of Irvine to relocate the proposed cemetery anywhere but…..Irvine. Well, OK, they just didn’t want it next to their house as they had paid lots of money for their property and they were afraid a veterans cemetery would lower their home value. But, except for cool places like Musick Honor Farm and alleged contamination near proposed high schools, Irvine is mostly neighborhoods. And parks. And technology centers.

On the Talk Irvine forum, one of the discussions which appeared last year, was on the location of the veterans cemetery. That discussion, begun in July of last year has recently been renewed with the appearance of an anti-veterans cemetery petition. The pro and anti cemetery discussion has mostly centered around Feng-Shui, Asian Culture and….property values. And, while many of the contributors have supported the building of a veterans cemetery, quite a few thank the veteran in one sentence and then, in the same sentence, denounce the idea of a final resting place for them.

Another Irvine blog, run by and for the Asian community, also makes a deal out of Asians, housing and cemeteries. This blog could be largely discounted as other blog entries clearly mark it as a special interest section.

Now, it seems, there is a petition circulating in Irvine that would set signatures to paper in an effort to stop the project. We were unable to obtain a copy of the petition but our friends at The Liberal OC did.

The petition relies on scare tactics and misinformation to lure people into signing it. Among other misleading statements the petition says:

2. ….Most of the residents lived (sic) next to the cemetery are Asians. In Asian culture it is taboo to place a cemetery next to homes or close to urban area (sic).

While the “taboo” issue is debatable, what is not debatable is the fact that the largest Vietnamese community in the United States lives in and around (and also utilizes) Westminster Memorial Park. In fact, one section of the park is dedicated to the Asian community and specifically respects their culture.

3. Many Irvine residents did not know about this cemetery until October, 2014.

Well, the proposed cemetery has been in the works for several years, thanks to The American Legion District Commander, Bill Cook, and others. It was in the news and there were meetings, including a meeting with the author of the Bill authorizing the cemetery Sharon Quirk-Silva. In fact, it was hard not to hear something about it.

4. In the next 100 years, the development of the west Coast (sic) of the United States will be largely supported by the Asian investment and immigrants.

Really? So, Latin America and Europe will have less influence than Asia? While we all drive Asian cars, this statement is a bit presumptuous. But, say it was true. Does anyone honestly think the Chinese won’t invest in California, indeed the entire west coast, because there is a veterans cemetery in Irvine?

5. The cemetery will drive down home values and increase blight.

So, according to the petition authors, the Cypress-Los Alamitos-Rossmoor area is blighted because of Forest Lawn Cypress. North Santa Ana is blighted because they have two cemeteries across the street from each other. Orange Park Acres is blighted with low house prices due to Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, a double whammy because its run by the dreaded Roman Catholic Diocese. Even Corona del Mar property values have been drug down by the Pacific View Memorial Park because it is smack in the middle of their high-end housing. Wow. Who knew?

The petition closes by stating the proposed cemetery is in the wrong location because it is too close to homes, a high school and the urban center [I kid you not],veterans cemetery and at a highly populated area.

They go on to offer their help in “finding a better location to create a win-win situation.”

Newsflash, Irvine petition writer and your allies – There is no better location than a former Marine Air Base with deep ties (much deeper and longer than the Asian community) to Orange County. The El Toro Marine Base saw hundreds of thousands of veterans of every branch of service pass through its gates over the years. There is a fierce pride among the residents, veteran or not, in that legacy.

The petition author(s) talk about disrespect to the Asian community. What about the disrespect shown to the veterans through the circulation of this petition? As Sharon Quirk-Silva said on her Facebook Page, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion….. To say that a veteran cemetery will cause blight is disrespectful.”

Veterans (including myself) have fought long and hard to establish a cemetery within the boundaries of Orange County. There are only two suitable locations for a cemetery, in my opinion. It’s unfortunate Tustin has chosen to haggle over a baseball stadium rather than a cemetery. They’d probably have a better chance of securing the latter.

I won’t pull the, “if you don’t like it, leave” card. I will say, let the majority prevail. In the current scenario, that looks like the pro-cemetery folks. Don’t worry, though. The cemetery is a long way from having the first hero buried there. You’ll have plenty of time to get used to it – or move.

Veterans Memorial Forum Scheduled

Save the Date Keep February 9, 2015 open, especially if you are a veteran. The Parks and Recreation Department has sent out a press release announcing a “Veterans Memorial Design Forum” to be held in the Tustin City Council Chambers at 4:30 pm that day.

According to the press release:

This is an opportunity to provide input on the proposed Veterans Memorial to be constructed at the future 31.5 acre Veterans Sports Park (assuming the city council approves the name change) later this summer.

Tustin has a long and personal history with the military. It is unfortunate that our leaders of late have little to do with that history. While I won’t say anyone has disrespected the military presence there has been little, aside from the monthly Presentation of the Colors by The American Legion Post 227, to promote our history. This memorial is long overdue and, judging from the number of veterans, Blue Star and Gold Star families in the area, it is something our town deserves to have.

Our current memorial sites consist of a simple flagpole and plaque on the corner of Prospect and 1st Street, nestled in the corner of a childcare building. ErectedTustin War Memorial originallyt in 1958 and updated in the ’70’s, it has long been neglected, even by those who know of its existence. The memorial lists casualties of World War II and the “Forgotten War” (Korea). How many of our men and women have been lost to later wars?

It is important that the city understand this memorial needs to come from the hearts of the citizens that live here and not bureaucratic government hack, most of whom do not live in the city. Any memorial should be a tribute to the armed forces, primarily the USMC, who have been killed in service to their country. At the same time, it should honor the dead and those still unaccounted for in all of our wars.

If you are a veteran or the family of a veteran, it is imperative you attend this meeting or contact the city with your opinion on the memorial. You can bet they already have a design in mind. It is up to us to make sure our fallen brothers and sisters are honored in a manner befitting our heritage.

Nyahh Naaah Nuh, Nah, Nah

Calvin-thumb-on-noseOK, they didn’t really thumb their noses at the Bishop Vann. But, North Tustin residents did get a bit of good news at the January 13th Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting. If you ever drive on Newport Avenue north of 17th Street, you have seen the large, empty lot, owned by the Diocese of Orange, that was earmarked for a Catholic-oriented senior living facility. In past years, my family bought live Christmas trees off this lot (now, do you remember?). We previously wrote of a victory by the Foothill Communities Association to overturn a spot-zoning attempt by the county board of supervisors. That court victory quickly turned to defeat when an appeals court reversed the decision.

Saying the face of the county had changed, it was necessary to address the concerns of senior citizens. Three justices on the 4th Appellate Court concurred and the hard work of the FCA legal team was undone. Interestingly, the county did not pursue the issue. It was the diocese’ management partner, Kisco, that sought the appeal. Of course, millions of dollars in expected income were at stake.

All of the expense and work were futile, it seems, as the OC BoS headed by soon-to-be Chairman Todd Spitzer derailed the proposed project by moving to rescind the Senior Residential Housing Zoning designation. Supported by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, the board voted 4-0 in favor of the change. The recommendation must still go before the planning commission but Supervisors made it clear they expect the recommendation to come back in favor of FCA.

I emailed Richard Nelson, spokesperson for the Foothill Communities Association, asking what the chances were the action would stand court scrutiny. He inidcated he felt it would. In any case, kudos to the North Tustin folks who saw this fight to this point. I remember seeing them protesting in front of the property as well as sending out information. Heck, before this, I didn’t even know there was an FCA.

For his part, Todd Spitzer came through for the community under his governance. We like to rag on Todd (mostly because he presents such a tempting target) but he has proven loyal, both this term and his previous years on the board, to the community and the county. Now, if he would just take a lesson from his cohort Shawn Nelson on how to be lo-pro, he’d stay off the radar of the OCW and OTT. Maybe just an occasional cigar fest at the house, Todd. Todd, by the way, was last mentioned in the OCW “Best of 2014″ as part of the Best Political Battle with his nemesis Susan “Dragon Lady” Kang-Schoreder over the ongoing fight for the district attorneys office when T-Rack leaves.

The foothills folks are also in the middle of a nasty water fight with their current provider. Unhappy with the high cost of water provided by Golden State Water,black-tap-water activist residents embarked on a campaign to change water companies.

Two years ago, FCA made a presentation to the community of a plan to change water providers from GSW, a private utility, to a public utility (looks like Irvine Ranch Water District is the favored candidate). Citing costs that have skyrocketed since 2003, it looks like GSW is proposing even higher rates in the not too distant future.

The biggest obstacle is, of course, money. Proponents are suggesting bonds to purchase GSW assets that serve the area. From the looks of things, residents aren’t too keen on something that could actually cost them in the end.

One thing that may help is the bad publicity GSW has garnered from one of their other customer communities. Folks in Gardena aren’t too happy with GSW as black, foul smelling water has been issuing from their taps and toilets. The results can be seen on this video. If that doesn’t compel them to find a solution, I don’t know what will.

So, what else are those nefarious rebels in the foothills up to? You can find out by checking out their website, maintained by Rick Nelson, at www.fcahome.org.

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