Suffice it to say, the water in Tustin may taste terrible but it is healthy, according to the Public Health Goals 2010-2012 report as presented at the July 2nd Tustin City Council meeting by Water Services Manager, Art Valenzuela.
It seems we aren’t the only ones who are unhappy with the five percent raise being considered for Police Chief Scott Jordan during this session. Councilmember Beckie Gomez pointed out that, last year, Jordan received a five percent raise that was supposedly for a two year period. She let the cat out of the bag (sorry it took so long to get to this) and said the chief, in spite of the raise that was supposed to keep him here, has now chosen to leave the city.
So, the city decided to give him a parting gift of another five percent raise….. for what? Gomez, as the only true fiscally responsible person sitting ont he dais, pointed out the absurdity of this. Saying that her comments were not about his work performance, she said the raise reflects a ten percent raise in less than a year. “I think it would be inappropriate to add another five percent because that would be ten percent in just over a year, and that’s not what we’ve done in respect with our other employees.”
Gomez made a motion to bifurcate the item in order to vote separately on Jordan’s raise. Surprisingly, Councilmember John Nielsen provided the second for Gomez’ motion. Now, here is where it gets interesting.
First, Gomez had to explain the motion to the Podiatrist Councilman because he has trouble understanding anything that isn’t drawn in pictures. They also had to wake up Chuck so he could vote with the block. I’m not sure if Nielsen was just being nice or if he really agreed with Beckie on this one. In any case, Nielsen and Gomez were the only votes in favor of deciding these issues separately.
In a moment of absurdity, Councilmember Chuck Puckett showed his ignorance in moving the entire item saying, “We have an excellent city manager and city police chief.” Yes, Chuck, we did until the police chief decided to leave. So, where does it make sense to give him a parting gift of 5 percent? And, where was the public discussion of the proposed raises for the deputy city manager and the departing chief? Apparently, that is not part of the open government plan in the City of Tustin. Of course, that doesn’t matter to Puckett who, again, showed he either doesn’t read the material presented or he doesn’t care when he thought they were discussing the city manager when, in fact, the proposal included the Deputy City Manager.
The other item we would like to have seen called out by Gomez was subitem 3 of item 6 that further cements Parker’s ability to abridge employment hiring rules at his discretion. However, the item was pointed out to the city employee’s union and they were not concerned either. Good luck when new hires are no longer represented by the union.
The final items on the agenda were the agreements with the unions representing the Tustin Police Officers, Police Management and the Police Support Services. The union representing the rank and file employees in the city, Tustin Municipal Employees Association, have reached impasse (although the city won’t admit it) and talks have been suspended as far as we know. Apparently, they are the only ones ticked off about the shenanigans between the corrupt city council and the executive managers over their incentive pay.
Although no one is talking the sticking point, we think, may be the city’s desire to accelerate the increased payments by employees to pay their full share of the cost of their pensions. Previously, they had agreed to a timetable for coming to full payment. But the city, impressed by non-existent data that puts the city at risk for pensions, asked for employees to pay their full share beginning this year. Of course, this is without the benefit of a raise to offset the cost, such as Chief Jordan received last year and Deputy City Manager Charles Robinson will receive just as soon as Parker can sign the papers. And, don’t forget, now that Parker has full authority, he does not need to notify the city council or anyone else about Robinson’s raise.
To their credit, the city will increase the Flexible Benefits payments in the second year. However, with the expected increase in costs for healthcare, this is probably a wash.
Regardless of the kudos the city council lavished on the staff and employees for coming to resolution, don’t expect the TMEA to roll over any time soon. My sources tell me they are prepared to sit it out as long as necessary. They are not happy about the lack of leadership shown by the conservative council who continue to lavish raises and benefits on executive and mangerial employees while ignoring the rank and file. This council meeting showed their continued disdain for employees in the city and for labor in general.
Sorry for the late post but, after all, I am on vacation this month. Julie and I are planning to head to New Mexico later this week and it has been a chore getting the new motorcycle ready for the trip. One doesn’t realize the number (and cost) of accessories they have accumulated over the years until they have to replace them. If you would like to see what and where we will be up to, you can read about it here.
Other issues are hindering my posting as well. It seems the software plugin I relied on for so many years to assist me in making accurate posts has stopped working and the designers are no longer supporting it. It’s kind of like going back to tubes from ICs in respect to the ease and speed of posting articles. Bear with me.
This week’s Tustin City Council agenda is pretty full. It may take a while to get through and I may just show up for the meeting just to get a glimpse of our city council. I, for one, would like to see if this boring bunch is actually still breathing.
Topping the agenda on the Closed session are the labor negotiations with all of the city’s employees, including the police. Most of the city’s staff are represented by the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA). My sources tell me the city is refusing to negotiate any kind of raise for the rank-and-file and is looking to get the employees to pay more into their retirement than they already do. Hopefully, the employees’ chief labor negotiator, Frank Flavin, is aware of the recent antics of the city council giving Chief of Police Scott Jordan a 5% raise supposedly to keep him from moving on. The joke in that is, where would he go? Almost every city in the state has diluted their public safety retirement benefits to the point where it would be downright stupid for Jordan to think of leaving.
We also hope Flavin knows of the recent changes and creation of several high level positions that allowed City Manager Jeff Parker to effectively hide raises for many executive and managerial positions in the city. Most of these, of course, have been in the Community Development Department. It would be interesting to see how many new hires have been employed by Parker using his 21st Century Hiring scam. Of course, this in itself is something that should be challenged by the unions as an illegal tactic to get around the city hiring rules.
Also on the Closed Session is the usual exposure to litigation and Real Property negotiations with Cushman Wakefield, Pacific Standard Homes, the US Army and one private party. The discussion with the US Army concerns 15 acres of property in a swap that will allow the city to sell off the current Army Reserve Center on Barranca Parkway for further expansion of the District. It’s curious that City Manager Jeff Parker is acting as the chief negotiator for the city on this. Could it be we are seeing the OJT for his next job as a real estate consultant for local government?
The city budget is also scheduled to be adopted by the city council. It’s doubtful that the Podiatrist Councilman has the faintest idea of what is involved in budgeting so don’t expect him to do anything but nod and follow the lead of his mentor Chuck Puckett. Puckett probably has better knowledge of the budget but my bet is on Councilmembers Nielsen and Gomez who, with the experience they have with the city, are the best experts behind City Manager Jeff Parker, to determine if the numbers add up. Assuming these two have thoroughly vetted the proposed budget, don’t expect any fireworks over the issue.
Conference with Legal Counsel, Initiation/Exposure to Litigation – 2 cases each.
Labor Negotiations – TMEA, TPPSA (both by OCEA), TPOA & TPMA, public safety, Unrepresented Employees.
Conference with Real Property Negotiators – 4 items including one private party for the Tustin Housing Authority
Consider Levying of Annual Assessments for the Tustin Landscape and Lighting District 2012-2014 – Recommendation is to adopt a resolution setting the annual levy amount for the district.
Approve the Annual Measure M2 Eligibility Submittal Package – Annual report certifying the city’s compliance for eligibility for transportation funds.
Approve Plans and Specifications and Authorize Advertisement for Bids for the McFadden Avenue and Irvine Boulevard Rehabilitation Projects – Both items have been budgeted and funded in the amount of $358,000 plus funding from Santa Ana and M2 funds. Projects should be completed by the end of the year.
Adopt 2013-2014 Budget – Adopt the 2013-2014 city budget including all anticipated revenue from Special Revenue Funds and Water Enterprise Funds in the amount of $130, 612, 228. Also included is an adoption of the Tustin Housing Authority budget of $265, 800. The housing authority budget includes personnel costs of $155,000. We will be dong an in-depth analysis of the budget in the near future.
Successor Agency Resolution Appropriating Funds for the Successor Agency for 6 months of the Fiscal Year – The Successor Agency (to the Redevelopment Agency) budget is $5,144,447 drawn from anticipated revenues of the Successor Agency. Most of this budget ($4.6 million) is for debt service on the old Redevelopment Agency and is paid from the Redevelopment Trust Fund.
That’s it for the week. As I said, we most likely be at the meeting tonight and possibly have coffee afterward at one of the local coffee shops. Watch my Twitter feed @keepdapeace for the location.
I am so glad the city is kind enough to videotape and publish the city council meetings so I can sit in the comfort of my own home to wade through the thicket of self-congratulatory muck. Besides, since the departure of Boss Tweed Amante and Deborah Gavello, the meetings have been decidedly dull. Nonetheless, as we recover from our accident, I felt obliged to report on Tuesday night’s meeting.
First things first. The meeting was attended by our newly crowned Miss Tustin, Shea Marie Frates, and part of her court. Mayor Al Murray presented them with a congratulatory certificate and the few in attendance gave them a round of applause. Good Luck, ladies, you may need it. Now, I admit, even the thought of Miss Tustin receiving a certificate would not get me to come to the meeting in person. But, then, neither would the rest of the meeting which was pretty run-of-the-mill.
I was glad to see Item #6, Approval of Agreement with Municipal Auditing Services, pulled. The main question I had which, apparently did not bother anyone on the council, was why this contract, potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, was not put out to bid. It seems the firm was found the usual way by a bunch of finance people discussing it at a finance officer association meeting (I can see that conversation). The contract, which is open-ended and has no renewal date, calls for MAS to get a 40% cut of profits from scofflaw business owners who do not pay their license fees on time. Claiming this was a standard fee, supposedly justifies not going out to bid.
And your city council does not seem to care about the potential for abuse of our business community by a bunch of cut-throat collection agents. Doing a bit of due diligence, it was not hard to come up with those who are not so satisfied with MAS’ collection techniques. Even Councilmember Gomez, who pulled the item for discussion, wasn’t concerned about abuse and, instead, asked simply about how far back a business would be penalized for not obtaining a license (5 years plus 3 years penalties, in case you are wondering).
None of the other Consent Calendar items I suggested to be pulled for discussion were but Councilmember John Nielsen asked that Item 8, concerning a resolution to accept dedication of property in Tustin Legacy for streets, be discussed. Could it be he is planning or has already purchased his new home? We heard that, sometime after the election, he finally stopped cohabitating with his estranged wife and was living down by the Legacy. In any case, Nielsen asked the item to be pulled due to a potential conflict. That at least adds credibility to his residency here in the city, something that more than a few of my readers have questioned.
The 5 Year Strategic Plan was next up for discussion. The city contracted with Management Partners last year to develop a 5 year strategic plan that would guide the city in all aspects of governemt. I don’t recall the cost for this report but the result was, decidedly, non-specific to Tustin. The plan is a generic document that, save for inserting the name Tustin in appropriate places, could have been purchased or plagiarized from multiple sources on the net. The glad handing and pats on the back from the councilmembers was pretty interesting to watch. Councilmember Beckie Gomez was the only one to give credit where it was due: with the executives and staff that actually helped put the report together.
Now, regardless of the resulting report, I will give then Mayor John Nielsen credit for coming up with a laudible idea for a strategic plan. Although not a new one, it was refreshing for the city of Tustin, which has been wracked by bureaucrats intent on imposing their idea of what the city should be on Tustin residents, to now add what amounts to driving instructions to the mix. Although the plan is generic in structure, it is a start. My main concern, that Mayor Al Murray brought up in his remarks, is how the city will now define the term “transparency”. To date, the city believes all they have to do to remain transparent is post a page of financial information on their website. Will they now take the word to heart or will they continue to conduct business behind the smoke and mirrors effects that have become the hallmark of city government? Time will tell whether they actually use this document as a benchmark or toss it in the trashcan when it become too difficult to follow.
An interesting presentation was made by City Attorney David Kendig during discussion of Item 12, Removal of Commissioners from Office Upon Running for City Council. It seems, we are the only ones who require the resignation of a commissioner who files papers for city council office. Kendig pointed out that, although there has been a rule regarding this and commissioner term limits since 1972, the latest rule has only been in effect since 2007.
Although Kendig outlined a variety of actions the city council could take on the matter, including one we favor that would allow a commissioner to continue serving until and if he or she is elected to the city council, his report focused on a staff recommendation that would make no changes to the current policy but provide a specific method and timeline for selecting a replacement. After a twenty minute discussion which included Councilmember Gomez complaining that the policy addresses only the Planning Commission and not other city commissions, and John Nielsen not seeing the point of removing commissioners at all, the Podiatrist Councilman was called upon to comment and utterly failed to comprehend the issue.
Then the real issue arose. Councilmember Gomez asked the question of why, since the city council no longer receives stipends, the city commissiners continue to recveive compensation. Nielsen’s lame excuse that the city council received benefits as well, so the issue is “apples and oranges”, didn’t really fly. According to him, it was a “transparency” issue and referred to the financial statements candidates are required to file as proof there are no conflicts.
Now Al Murray, who hasn’t had an original thought since he joined the city council, agreed with Nielsen regarding the financial statements and went even further to say that it was incumbent on all of them as public officials to state any conflicts of interests. Sure….except, that did not prevent any of the Three Amigos from receiving financial assistance from the Orange County Business Council or its other entities trying to pass themselves off as concerned citizens during the boys most recent bid for city council.
Gomez gained an ally after the Podiatrist Councilman woke up and figured out what everyone was talking about. But, even though he agreed that commission stipends needed a second look, his comments regarding integrity were laughable. Let’s not forget this is the guy who, during his bid for city council, posted a Facebook photo showing him on the city council dais underneath the city logo looking, for all intents and purposes, like he was a sitting councilman. Likewise, he was seen running around last year’s Chili Cookoff sporting a campaign button with the city logo on it and, underneath in small letters the disclaimer, “candidate”. In any case, he needs to go back to reading his notes so he can complete a sentence.
In the end, the vote was 4-1, with Councilmember Gomez dissenting, on a motion made by Nielsen to change the ordinance to allow commissioners continue to sit until such a time as they are actually elected to the city council.
We had hoped for some interesting stuff during the councilmember comments but were, instead, treated to a drudging monologue about the Podiatrist Councilman’s trip to various water and sewage treatment plants (At least he went back to reading off his notes rather than trying to wing it). I only got through part of it before moving on to Councilmember Gomez who is much more interesting to listen to.