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On The Agenda Of The Not-So-Special Tustin City Council Meeting, May 20, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartYou might have wondered why Our Town Tustin didn’t write up the city council agenda for yesterday. That’s because the councilmembers had an odd moment when the most important guys wouldn’t be there. You are so lucky, though. They were nice enough to move it to the “Special” city council meeting tonight. The meeting has also been moved up to 6 pm with the closed session following immediately after.

The Consent Calendar has the usual items for approval as well as a request to approve plans and specifications and authorization for bid advertisement for Phase II of the Edinger Avenue Well. The well is located near MIcrocenter and Tustin’s “hotel row”. The project is already funded and, hopefully, the drought won’t last forever (except for Allan Bernstein who seems to think it is here to stay). Of course, anytime a well is drilled in Tustin, you have to wonder what kind of water you’ll get.

Item 4 is the first reading for a proposed Permit Parking Ordinance for Carfax, Utt, Woodlawn, Charloma, Mitchell and Veeh Drive between Mitchell and Nisson. I am not a fan of permit parking but understand that, sometimes, it is the only way to bring non-resident parking and the resulting problems under control in a neighborhood. Tustin has a reasonable process for permit parking that costs the residents nothing and makes minimal impact for visitors. Still, this may get pulled for discussion to make sure everyone understands the ramifications.

The police department conducted a survey in the area and found that, on most of the streets, the vehicles belonging to residents were outnumbered by non-resident vehicles. It would be interesting to see a survey conducted six months after permits are issued to see the change.

Under Regular Business, it looks like one of our developers is reneging on promised construction. Item 6, Tustin Gateway Hotel and Retail Development Amendment 3 will allow that to happen, for a price.

The retail area near our spiffy new hotels is behind on construction efforts and, if I am reading the staff report correctly, the developer is willing to pay a fine rather than complete construction as requested. So, the city makes a cool $75,000 and we get to stare at empty space.

Likewise, the city is in a bit of hot water (pun intended). Item 7, Adoption of Urgency Ordinance No. 1457 Revising the Water Management Plan, is a result of Governor Jerry Brown’s edict that Californians adopt measures that would result in a 25% water saving effort over 2013 levels. Cool.

Only problem is, Tustin has been using quite a bit more, thumbing our collective noses at the drought. So now we have to come up with a plan that saves 28% over 2013. Yes, while everyone should have been staying the drought course, we’ve been squandering our water. Bad Tustin….bad, bad, Tustin.

The staff report is the result of the Water Workshop held on May 5, 2015. And, although the presentation put together by public works director Doug Stack gave an excellent overview of the situation in Tustin, the rest of the workshop was merely a dog and pony show for the city councilmembers to show their ignorance when it comes to conservation.

The city is currently in Stage 2 water conservation efforts but staff emphasized the strong possibility of going to Stage 3 if the 28% reduction isn’t achieved. The emergency ordinance was also necessary since the courts have ruled out the use of punitive water rates for scofflaws.

The final discussion item on the agenda is Item 8, Proposed Biannual Program and Financing Plan for fiscal years 2015-2017. This is doublespeak for going to a two year budget. I’m not sure what the impetus is for doing this other than it will make it easier to hide unexpected expenditures from the residents.

The budget is already difficult enough for most laymen to follow. Going to a two year budget under the guise of prudent fiscal management is a smokescreen. Each year there are multiple requests for expenditures from reserve funds. As our economy recovers, it seems our city fathers now want to inhibit the so-called transparency the city website touts.

Don’t worry, it’s a done deal regardless of how you feel about it. It just goes to show, they really don’t want you to know how they spend your money.

Oooops!

sorryEvery once in awhile, we make a boo boo which our readers are more than happy to point out.

In this case, we erred slightly when we told you that Melissa Figge of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy was going through the neighborhood, passing around flyers on the Conservancy’s opposition to the code amendment for second units appearing on Tuesday’s city council agenda.

Linda Jennings of the Conservancy Board emailed me to state, emphatically, the flyer did not say the Conservancy opposed the ordinance. “The flyer only says that we want everyone to hear the proposal and express their opinion”, she wrote.

Going back over the flyer, it does say just that at the bottom of the flyer. And, nowhere does it flatly state the Conservancy is opposed to the ordinance. However, it does outline a variety of issues that the ordinance would affect such as parking density and rental income for owners of second units.

If I were to read this without having a conversation with Melissa or anyone else from the Conservancy, I would infer (as I did) the Conservancy is opposed to the ordinance. To be fair, however, I’ll take Linda’s word for it that the Tustin Preservation Conservancy merely wants those living in Old Town to be informed and to speak their mind at the city council meeting.

So, did they?

Who knows? The city, which has had their share of problems with their video system managed to recess before the presentation by city planner Scot Reeskin and did not restart until Councilman John Nielsen started blathering about mother-in-law houses. I’m sure John was trying to get a point across. He just wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

Once again, Linda Jennings came to the rescue saying there were about 50 folks from OTT. Only a few spoke, with most of them against the ordinance. Linda said, “One mother was very moving, talking about why she moved here and how she doesn’t want to see it change.”

I also heard Lindburgh McPherson of the Wilcox Business Plaza in the West OTT spoke….in favor of it, of course. McPherson, and his buddy Silent Mike, are all for anything that will ruin the flavor of Old Town if it will make a buck for someone.

Councilman Nielsen did manage to blurt out his feelings on the parking issue, one that most of us have a concern about. But, it was Councilwoman Beckie Gomez who took it a step further by saying the parking in Old Town is already something the city should be looking at even without this ordinance. Calling it a dangerous situation, Gomez called for more parking enforcement and further resolution to the parking problems Old Town is experiencing.

Gomez also clarified what she thought was a misconception that the affordable housing mandate was being laid on the backs of Old Town residents. Saying the city is addressing the issue in different parts of the city, she inferred that was not the case. I’m not sure if whe misunderstood the issue or wanted to make sure they were being fair.

It was the city that raised the affordable housing mandate in the ordinance. The inference was clear that this was part of the ordinance. But the mandate is citywide, not just for Old Town. And if, as Gomez says, the city already has affordable housing in other parts of the city, why would it even be necessary to address it at all in Old Town, one of the most unaffordable areas? Old Town owners will charge a premium for the privilege of living in their historical district. I seriously doubt anyone would accept an affordable housing mandate on their second unit.

Gomez also pointed out that, if more than a few owners decide to build second units, it would definitely affect the character of the historical district, a concern shared by most of us.

After extended discussion with the city staff, the council voted to continue the item until a time when the staff could figure out parking and other issues associated with it. I’m not sure where that puts the status of the ordinance as normally there would be two readings and a vote to enact. But these folks, in an effort to not create liability on themselves, have to make even the easiest ordinance difficult. What this really told me is that no palms have been greased, ala the OC Business Council and John Nielsen. Perhaps they are waiting for someone to show up with money in hand.

In other business, the city council voted to approve the Veterans Memorial Preferred Concept Plan. This presentation by city staff went off without a hitch and councilmembers got a nice view of the concept.

Allan Bernstein commented that the inclusion of a Purple Heart Memorial at the park was absolutely imperative. We agree. We were also surprised that Allan could say the entire thing without glancing at his notes (or was that the Dodger score on his iPad?).

City Manager Jeff Parker Let us know exactly what and who is behind the drive for Assembly Bill 1217. This bill would reduce the number of members on the OCFA Board and give the County a larger say while reducing the same in cities like ours. Assemblyman Tom Daly, a well known lacky for the public unions, is carrying water for the Orange County firefighters union who hope to have more access to the Board (read influence during negotiations), according to Parker.

Parker said that every city who is a member of the board has opposed this measure. That is, except for Santa Ana, which would get an automatic vote at the table. Some omen, Jeff. Saying the city managers and city councils were trying to send a message, Parker essentially said the state has no business getting into the workings of a local district. Well, looking at Daly’s history with unions, it is no wonder why he is sponsoring this bad bill. The city council voted to send their own message by opposing the measure.

On The City Council Agenda – March 17, 2015

Bernstein LeprechaunHappy St. Patrick’s Day! I expect everyone to look a little Irish at the polls Tuesday. And, if you plan to drink beer, do me a favor and don’t let them put the food coloring in it to make it green. Real Irishmen don’t drink green beer.

It looks like another short session for the Tustin City Council Tuesday evening. I hope everyone takes the time to vote in the election to replace Mimi Walters for the California Senate. With any luck, we wil have a clear winner and forego another runoff election in May. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t have another election this year. If Don Wagner is elected, there will be yet another state office to deal with in his vacant Assembly seat.

Closed Session

The Closed Session Agenda is fairly short with the usual litigation issues up for discussion and only one real property negotiation for what looks like MCAS property.

Consent Calendar

Likewise, the Consent Calendar is short with only six items. Aside from the usual items, the city will ask for approval on:

Item 4 – Approval of Consultant Agreement with Risk Management Professionals Inc. to update the city’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. This is a pro forma requirement for federal funding. The plan is required to be updated every five years. The $29,000 cost has been budgeted according to the staff report.

Item 5 – Approval of Amendment to Joint Agreement for 800 Megahertz Countywide Coordinate Communications System. As far back as I can remember, even in the old days of the low band police radio system, the Orange County Sheriffs Department has provided communications services for virtually all police and county services. About 12 years ago or so, the county converted to an 800 Mhz system that was designed to provide cellular service similar to cellphones. It took a few years for the bugs to be worked out (there are still some, in my opinion) but, overall, the system seems to be working well. It is expensive though and Tustin is required to pay its fair share for services rendered.

That cost is $2.7 million dollars over a five year period, placing us 16th in highest cost out of 54 agencies that use the system. For our money we get new police consoles and new software for all our radios. The Chief uses cool terms like “P25 compliance” and “System Extension” to sell the city council on a system we have no choice but to support. And, the truth is, we do get our money’s worth. Today’s communications system is light years ahead of the old system used when I was chasing down police calls with my CHP surplus radio in my ’68 Charger. Ah, the good old days.

Regular Business

If there was a reason for attending the city council meeting this Tuesday, it would be to hear the sole item on the Regular Business Agenda.

Item 7 – Tustin Police Department Year in Review is the annual presentation to the community on how our police department is doing. Looking at the Power Point presentation Chief Celano has prepared, I would say they are doing a bangup job for us.

Some highlights inlcude:

  • Continuation of Accredited Status with CALEA. Tustin is one of only three county departments and twenty statewide departments to gain accreditation.
  • Exceeded crime reduction goals due to CTAP (crime analysis) implementation
  • 176 DUI arrests
  • 57 Felony gang arrests

Add to that the community efforts made by Chief Celano since taking office. His “Coffee with a Cop” program has been well received and he previously told me plans to continue the program. According to the presentation, Tustin is also looking at body-worn camera for its officers and upgrading the Emergency Operations Center.

We are fortunate to have a great police department that we can be proud of. Yes, there are outside detractors that have attempted to disrupt and discredit. Overall, the record speaks for itself. Celano has a great community philosphy that works well for a man who likes to maintain a low-key status.

As we said, it is a short evening, hardly worth going to city hall for. Of course, if you have cable TV, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home. Now, if we could just get Councilman Bernstein to learn how to Tweet from the dais.

Don’t forget to vote. If you haven’t sent in your ballot, drop it in the mail today or drop it off at the local polling place to have it registered. I’ll be at the poll bright and early so I can vote on the way to work. That way, I get my cool “I voted” sticker.

On the City Council Agenda, June 5, 2012

There is a busy session for the City Council coming up this week. The highlight of the evening is the approval of the Federal Court Order regarding the design review for the T-Mobile West wireless facility in Cedar Grove Park. The residents of Tustin Ranch have battled this issue for several years and, it looked like they would win when the City Council approved the appeal to deny the design review in October of last year. That was thwarted when T-Mobile sued the city, saying they had no right to deny the design review. And, faster than Jerry Brown’s hi-speed rail project, the city agreed to a stipulation that allows the whole project to proceed.  I am sure Jerry Amante is thrilled to death that he won another one for his cohorts at ATS. Did I say ATS? Why yes, I did. ATS is the city consultant that developed the cellular overlay plan for our town. It appears they are the big winners as, for their efforts in this particular case, they will receive 25% of the proceeds or $86,444 from a total contract for this single location of 345,776. That’s fiscal responsibility at its best.

The other big ticket item the city council will look at is Item 18 that would offer an early retirement incentive to current employees. The idea is that the city would save money by leaving vacant position unfilled and by filling some of the needed positions with new hires who, by coincidence, would have lower tier benefits. The Agenda Report for the item shows some pretty significant savings as well as some pretty hefty retirement incentives of 7% of an employee’s salary on top of their regular retirement. This is equal to 3 years of service, by the way. A nice way to reward employees and subjugate others who did not play ball with the establishment. Also, no where in the agenda report did we see the cost of administering this program. Frankly, this smells of another one of the Gang of Three’s programs to shift money to their private sector friends while fleecing the taxpayers of Tustin. Until savings can be demonstrated in writing, there should be no agreement.

The Closed Session has plenty to offer as well. This is the super-sized negotations with nearly all of the city’s represented employees in the mix. We hear things are not going as smoothly as the city would like. While they laid a five percent raise on the Chief of Police, they are claiming a two million dollar budget deficit will require drastic cuts and layoffs. Oh, and let’s not forget in the midst of all of this, the city still keeps our favorite retired former city manager, Bill Huston, as well as his former assistant, Christine Shingleton on the payroll. There is definitely fat-trimming to be had. But the executives and electeds should be looking toward the top and not the bottom.

Hopefully, one of the councilmembers on the left of the dais will have sense enough to pull Item 9 from the consent calendar. This is one time I would strongly suggest the city council spend a few extra dollars and go outside the city attorney’s office to have lawyers who understand the term, “conflict of interest” and “or the appearance thereof”. Unfortunately, the city council is supposedly the “reviewing body”. So, I doubt there will be much to discuss.

Closed Session

  • Conference with Legal Counsel – One each for exposure to litigation and initiation of litigation.
  • Labor Negotiations – All of the associations representing city employees.
  • Conference with Legal Counsel – City of Tustin v. Tustin Unified School District (two lawsuits), Mira Properties v. City of Tustin, T-Mobile West v. City of Tustin (Federal District Court)
  • Conference with Real Property Negotiators – MCAS property

Public Hearing

  • Consider levying of Annual Assesments for the Tustin Landscape and Lighting District 2012-2013 – Consideration a change of levy fees on the district (Tustin Ranch area) to cover a projected deficit in costs of maintenance.

Consent Calendar

  • Item 6, Award Construction Contract for Frontier Park Energy Efficiency Improvements – Staff recommend the contract be awarded to the lowest bidder, Global Power Group.
  • Item 8, Tustin Sports Park Baseball Diamond #2 Renovation – Staff recommend the contract be awarded to Lehman Construction as the lowest bidder. There is no discussion in the Agenda Report as to the “construction credits” to be authorized as the lowest bidder came in higher than projected estimates.
  • Item 9, Review of City’s Conflict of Interest Code – Biennial review of the code. This action will authorize the city manager or designee to review and report back to the city council. We strongly recommend the city manager utilize the services of an outside attorney to make recommended changes.

Regular Business

  • Item 13, Adopt Resolution to Approve Plans and Specs for Construction of Tustin Legacy Fire Station – Authorizes the City Clerk to advertise for bids for the new (relocated) fire station near the District.
  • Item 14, Federal Court Order Approval of Design Review…T-Mobile West at Cedar Grove Park – Formal adoption of the design review to allow T-Mobile West to pursue construction of the wireless facility in Cedar Grove Park. Sorry, Tustin Ranch.
  • Item 15 Approve a Modified Project Funding Approach and Award the Construction Contract for Tustin Ranch Road Phase 2 – Due to the demise of Redevelopment Agencies and the inability to pay for the improvements as originally planned. Creative financing at its best.
  • Item 17, Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance Regulating Various Forms of Solicitation on Certain Public Rights of Way, and Private Property and Acts of Trespass on Private Commercial Property – This is an anti-homeless ordinance carefully crafted to keep you and me from also soliciting money on major roadways throughout Tustin.
  • Item 18, Offering the Public Agency Retirement Services Early Retirement Incentive Program to Eligible Employees to Achieve Budget Savings – PARS is a private entity the city would contract with to offer early incentive bonuses to eligible employees as an inducement to retiring. The plan would allow the city to keep unfilled vacancies caused by the program and also reduce salary and benefits by offering new hires lower tier benefits.
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