Blog Archives

Veterans Memorial Forum On Target

community parkIf you read this blog with any regularity (which we appreciate), you will recall our article announcing a Veterans Memorial Forum on February 6th. That forum, really a community workshop, gave the public the first taste of the proposed all-branch memorial to be located at the Veterans Sports Park complex.

I was pleased to see a number of veteran and non-veterans attending the meeting. Tustin Mayor, Chuck Puckett and Councilman Al Murray also attended in support of the project. And, although it made for a small and congenial group, the veterans made their voices heard. The city presented two possible proposals, one with an eagle atop an obelisk and another with military department flags surrounding a star.

Puckett at Design Forum resized

Mayor Puckett Speaking in Support

An advantage of the small crowd was the informality in which the meeting was held. Veterans from The American Legion Post 227 were present and gave their opinion on the proposals. And there was plenty of opinion to go around.

Suggestions ran the gamut from criticism of a “flag adorned” seating bench to asking why there would be no flags around the one design proposal. After a 45 minute open discussion, it was clear the design group had it’s task cut out for them in marrying the ideas presented into a unified memorial theme.

A few weeks later, on February 23rd, the public was invited to a second forum to see what the design team had come up with and to make some final suggestions.

Although an even smaller crowd appeared (I blame this on poor publicity by the city), about the same number of veterans were there.

A presentation of the final proposal (sorry, we don’t have a picture) drew ooohhhs and aaahhhhs from the group. The design team had come up with a beautiful design that incorporated many of the features of the two original proposals. And, while there was still some work to be done, the overall concept drew a round of applause from the group.

This Tuesday, one of the items on the Tustin City Council agenda is the renaming of the park that will host the veterans memorial from Legacy Park to the Veterans Memorial Park at Tustin Legacy. We, of course, endorse this move and the memorial itself as a way for the city to say thank you to its veterans past, present and future.

HeroesHallLogoNow, if that isn’t enough, the Orange County Fair Board recently received approval to go ahead with their Heroes Hall veterans museum. The museum will be housed in a World War II Army barracks that was very nearly demolished. Instead, it was moved to a new location on the fairgrounds and will house artifacts from Orange County’s military history. The fairgrounds, where the museum will operate, is a former Santa Ana Army Airfield that was used to train pilots and bombardiers. The museum, which won’t be ready before the fair season, will have a presentation for fairgoers this year. One of the main proponents for this museum is Fair Boardmember, Nick Berardino who manages the public employee union and is a Marine Vietnam Veteran.

With all our cities and county are doing to preserve the military history of our county, there are a number of detractors.

The city of Irvine is currently planning a state-sanctioned veterans cemetery to be located on the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva introduced a bill last year that would make it possible to build that cemetery as a state VA project. Builders and devlopers quickly soured on the idea and attempted to derail the project by forcing it to the South County area.

Veterans, who number by the tens of thousands in Orange County alone, quickly rallied behind the project and effectively shouted down the opposition. While not calling them greedy directly, veterans pointed out the obvious: the old MCAS El Toro is the most natural location for a veterans cememtery.

Of course, the attacks have come anew. This time, a small contingency of the Asian community in Irvine is mounting opposition. Circulating a petition, the detractors are saying that most Asians are against having a cemetery, veterans or otherwise, in their neighborhood. So far, the campaign is going nowhere fast.

Claiming to have respect for OC Veterans, they go on to say how the human rights and “cultural tolerance” should trump common sense as to where to locate a cemetery to honor the county’s veterans. As we said, it is going nowhere fast with only 466 signators. There is also a Blogspot blog urging folks to attend the Irvine City Council meeting to address the issue. Perhaps our friends at The Liberal OC can tell us how many have spoken in opposition at the Irvine Council meetings.

It is pretty apparent that most people are proud of the military history and the vital role in protecting our country that Orange County has had over the years. With three major bases in the county during World War II and after, the military has left its stamp (and blimp hangars) on our land. And we want to hang onto that rich part of our history through memorials, museums and, yes, even cemeteries.

The planned memorial at the Tustin Veterans Sports Park will be our city’s contribution to this legacy. If you have the time and consideration, please email or call your city councilmembers. Their email addresses can be found here. Better yet, attend the next city council meeting and voice your support for the memorial.

On The City Council Agenda – January 20, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartUnless the councilmembers suddenly get an urge to actually discuss something, it looks like it will be a fairly short meeting of the Tustin City Council on Tuesday. Councilman Bernsein, are you back yet? Chuck missed you.

The Closed Session, which begins at 5:30 PM, hosts the usual suspects. Several discussions regarding existing or potential litigation include a long standing case, now an appellate case, between the city’s old Redevelopment Agency and the Department of Finance. And, while the city attorney decided to keep the wraps on the case, we’ve been able to surmise it involves several million dollars of disputed RDA funds. It turns out the parties reached an agreement in December and we should soon see this issue drop off the radar.

Redevelopment agencies were dissolved by law back in 2011. Unfortunately, as is the usual case with a half-baked legislature, they only did half the job and made up for it by creating, so-called “successor agencies”. Much of this was in the middle of the state attempting to remain solvent by grabbing as much tax money from cities and counties as possible. This, of course, generated millions of dollars in business for lawyers which, I’m sure, our city attorney is happy to keep going as long as possible.

Most of the Regular Session items are on the Consent Calendar. Perusing the Demands and Payroll, the only item of interest is the apparent high cost of our mylawyercontract city attorneys at Woodruff, Speadlin & Smart. Perhaps City Attorney David Kendig is trying for partner. Total cost of our attorney services this month is $17 thousand and change. That’s apparently in addition to the $34 thousand plus the lawyers charged for Successor RDA work and other legal fees hidden sprinkled throughout the report. You’ll have to be the judge of whether we are getting our money’s worth.

Most of the other items on the agenda are routine business and we doubt they will generate much discussion. Item 6, Long Range Property Management Plan and Item 7, Amend and Reinstate the Working Capital Loan, etc., are two more pieces to the puzzle left by the RDA. We know the city council would love the legislature to reinstate the RDAs in California. Like most cities, they have been dragging their feet and crossing their fingers in hopes of resurrection. With any luck, they will run out of excuses and money to play with and disappear completely before that happens.

Two items will round out the Regular Business. Item 8, Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2014 is the annual financial analysis of the city. I’m not much for numbers but you can read the report here. The short version is here.

Item 9, Commission Vacancies, lists the expiring terms of the Planning, Community Services and Audit Commissions. There are three terms expiring on each. Most of these carry a tidy stipend for a bit of community service. As soon as they are posted, we’ll let you know (along with who has applied).

That’s it for this meeting. We’ll let you know if anything interesting happens…..or anyone shows up for the meeting.

By the way, welcome back Chief Cellano.

On the City Council Agenda – January 6, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartHappy New Year to all.

Let’s be glad we still live where the city council is willing to at least give the appearance of listening to the residents of its community. In Los Angeles the city council has come under fire by community activists for letting in too much efficiency to the public forum.

On the home front, this week’s agenda is brief and pretty much to the point. Only the usual suspects inhabit the Closed Session Agenda and even the sole Public Hearing Item on the Regular Agenda is pro forma for this time of year. I will say, looking at staff reports on other items, it appears the city council and Angels owner, Arte Moreno, are close to finishing up a deal on Legacy Property. I doubt it will be for the new stadium, however (did I hear a collective sigh from the dais?).

The Supplemental Law Enforcement Services Grant is a regular January agenda item required by the feds to obtain funding under Citizens Option for Public Safety (COPS). The Chief, or acting chief, is asking for authorization to use the proceeds to staff a crime analyst position for the ninth year. Nothing new here, move along.

Item 4, Destruction of Records, is always a sore point with me. The city supposedly went to an electronic format for the storage of records awhile back. No mention of it here so, we don’t know if the records that are being requested for destruction will be saved electronically. Perhaps the council will care enough to ask.

Item 5, Selective Traffic Enforcement Program, is asking to use the proceeds from another grant for the purchase of replacement equipment. 5 LIDAR (think laser speed detection) units as well as various equipment for DUI enforcement are included. Again, nothing special……except…..

It seems the request memo was signed by Steven Lewis, “Acting Chief of Police”. So, where’s Chief Cellano? I sent an email to City Manager Jeff Parker who has not responded. No mention of any personnel action on the agenda…..hmmmm.

The only other item on the agenda, under Regular Business, is a request for a temporary sign program at the Tustin Legacy. At a cost of nearly $300 thousand dollars, the city council might want to consider an investment in permanent signage instead. This is especially true since, according to the Agenda Report, “staff will be returning with a permanent sign program in the near future…”. I love how the city manager’s staff love to spend other people’s money to make themselves look good.

Shades of Tammany Hall

smoking-460x307Yup, the smoke-filled backrooms behind bars have not faded into the distant past. At least, not here in Orange County.

Yesterday, the ever-declining-in-viable-news Orange County Register reported that shadow politics is alive and well here in the Real OC. If you’ve ever wondered how Tustin City Mayor Chuck Puckett arrives at his decision to deny appoint a fellow councilman a seat on a meaningful political committee or board (think OCTA), he has help.

Every year in November, representatives of the various city councils meet in conference to decide who will be added to what sitting boards. These boards and committees run everything from water and sewage, to transportation (think OCTA again), to even library boards. In fact, membership on almost any oversight board that is not directly elected by the good citizens of Orange County, is likely to be filled here, (now, try not to laugh) in the murky depths of the shadow government.

And, they’re in trouble.

Apparently, this super-secret cabal met November 13th at the Hilton to see who would sit where. And, it seems the Orange County Board of Supervisors is not happy about certain alleged Brown Act violations and they have called the cities out to rectify the situation. Specifically, the BoS is unhappy with the failure to give proper notification of the meeting, as required by law. The answer, of course, is to rescind all appointments and set a new, properly noticed meeting.

The “City Selection Committee” is actually the responsibility of the Clerk of the Orange County Board. So, one would think the whole thing would  be watched closely to make sure all the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted. Unfortunately, as this political body is prone to do, they sluff off the tough jobs to others, providing little or no oversight, assuming it will run itself. And, when things fall apart or as in this case laws are violated, they do their best to blame others.

In this case, the other is the “League of California Cities” which had been coordinating the the meeting for years until Orange County left the LCC for the “more conservative” ACC-OC. You see, whenever the local government doesn’t like the way things are going, they just pick up their ball and go to another sandlot. They apparently don’t think the public cares enough about day-to-day politics to notice. After all, they’ve been getting away with it this long, haven’t they? And, in the case of starting the ACC-OC, they weren’t going to have the rest of California tell Orange County how to run their show.

The apologists at the Register tried to tone down the violations by saying that not everyone in the room was aware of the apparent transgressions. Then Tustin Mayor, Al Murray, reportedly asked if the meeting had been noticed and he received an affirmative answer. Technically speaking they were right. The meeting had been noticed – to the city council and other political bodies. It just hadn’t been notice to the general public, as required by the Brown Act. Methinks Al, being a retired cop and all, should have investigated further.

At stake here is hundreds of thousands of dollars in stipends and benefits. Oh, you didn’t think that just because you all voted stipends for the city council out of existence they still didn’t get perks, did you? Don’t be silly. Of course there is still money to be made – and lots of it. All paid by you and me, the taxpayers of this county.

For example:

  • Al Murray, OCTA Board of Directors – $5,900 (2013)
  • John Nielsen, OC Sanitation District – $4,921 (2013)
  • Chuck Puckett, Transporation Cooridor Agency – $4,829 (2013)

I’ve written about this in the past when the (of) late Jerry Amante (who also made a heck of a lot of money in stipends) was mayor.

Of course, there are plenty of non-compensated board positions to be had as well. Otherwise, where would the conservative bastion stick their liberal counterparts and enemies of the (Republican) state? Case in point: Beckie Gomez, who has a somewhat perennial seat on the library board and a few other non-prestigious and unpaid committees. Republicans like John Nielsen and Chuck Puckett are not about to go against the tide and nominate liberal members of the council to paying (and influential) positions. Never mind that Gomez refused to take benefits when offered by the city when Nielsen and his cronies continued to gobble them up.

Of course, this leads us to question our own backroom politics. Prior to attending the November meeting Murray, who was mayor then, had to have some guidance on choosing the right man….er, person… for each board assignment. He certainly didn’t do it in a vacuum. So, where on the list of meetings for the past year, is the one where committee assignments were discussed in public? Going back through the archives, there is no record of a “pre-assignment” meeting. You don’t think our own city council would have violated the Brown act (again), do you? Maybe we’ll put a call in to Chuck or Al and ask them.

As a result of the outing by the OCR, the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, Susan Novak, told the Register she would be taking over the duties as the committee’s recording secretary. She also said a new meeting would be set up after the holidays to re-appoint members to the various boards. Care to bet who will not be nominated to a paid board position? A hint: she’s a she.

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