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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.

Election Upda….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

nail-bitingOK, so we are down to the wire on another fist-clenching, nail-biting off-year election. This time candiates are vying for Mimi Walter’s 37th State Senate District seat. Walters, as you may remember, has gone on to the United States Congress.

Battling it out for the sole seat are three Republicans and one Democrat. The Republicans, Assemblyman Don Wagner, former OC Supervisor John Moorlach and political aide Naz Namazi, are the only names on the ticket. The sole Democrat is Louise Stewardson of Huntington Beach, Stewardson, who lists her occupation as nurse, is running a write-in campaign claiming she was unaware that there would not be a Democrat in the race. Thanks for stepping up.

Among the three Republicans, Assemblyman Don Wagner is the most experienced, having served as our district representative in the California Assembly. He has been attacked by his nemesis, John Moorlach for taking union money, in violation of the Baugh Manifesto, and for being soft on a variety of issues near and dear to Republcan Hearts. Several websites have been put up claiming Wagner supports amnesty for illegal immigrants, has taken Maui junkets on union tabs, etc.

Of course we know the Baugh Manifesto is selectively enforced. Janet Nguyen took union money (after she had already been caught once and gave it back). Kris Murray of Anaheim was reported to have taken union money. Wagner, for his part, supposedly said he thought the manifesto was only for local elections….yeah, right…. you go with that, Don.

Moorlach, for his part, lives and breaths the Baugh Manifesto. He can afford to. He will soon (if he isn’t already) collect a sizeable county pension. Yes, this is the same Moorlach who, since taking office as a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has taken every oportunity to drag down the 17,000 employees and their unions by attacking county pensions. Whenever he was asked about his own pension which, by the way was paid 100 percent with taxpayer dollars (rank-and-file employees pay a sizeable portion into their pension funds), he would state that he earned it and he was only taking what was offered.

And, for a non-professional, non-career politician, Moorlach spent the last half of his last term in office shopping for another elected office he could land in. At various times over the last two years, he “explored” a run for Congress, Governor (or was it Lt. Governor?) and even his old job with the county. Every one of those “explorations” ended abruptly when Moorlach couldn’t find backing within his own ranks.

Wagner has actively worked in the state legislature for the past five years. He sits on several key legislative commitees including Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security, Revenue and Taxation and Judiciary where he serves as Vice-Chair. One of the best things about Wagner, that most Republicans hate, is his willingness to cross the aisle when necessary to get the job done. That’s not to say he isn’t a diehard elephant. It just tells me he will do what is necessary to get the job done (shades of Lou Correa).

If campaign funding is any indicator, Don Wagner is, by far, the best financed of the two candidates. He had a sizeable war chest when he entered the race and is still far ahead in fund-raising. Moorlach, desperate to find fault -any fault- with his nemesis, pointed out the facts the best way he knows how. Using statistics that only a CPA could understand, he demonstrated how his fundraising has outpaced Wagner’s. Still, the bottom line John is that Wagner has more money. Lots more.

As far as campaigns go, this one has been lackluster at best. I’m not sure if that is because Moorlach doesn’t know how to run a campaign or if the two are waiting the inevitable runoff race in May to really start slinging the arrows. Although Democrat, Louise Stewardson could offer an alternative for die-hard Democrats who would vote on principle, it is Naz Namazi who would likely siphon votes from both Wagner and Moorlach. She could deflect enough votes to force a runoff as an outright win requires 50% plus one vote.

As to the campaigns themselves? I don’t get cable TV so I have no idea if either Moorlach or Wagner are running television ads. I have heard nothing on radio either, probably because I listen mostly to my iPod when I drive. We here in Tustin have, thankfully, been plastered with few yard signs. In fact, here in Old Town, I have seen two from each candidate. Most of the political blogs are split between the two. Curiously, two of the blogs tout Moorlach but, when you look closely, it is because they are paid political consultants. One blog is fighting with itself as the owner/editor supports Moorlach but a chief contributor to the same blog supports Wagner – as do we.

It’s a sad but true fact that election cycles never end. If Moorlach wins the seat outright -an unlikely event- Wagner will remain in place for the rest of this term. As an admitted career politician, he will then likely look for a local or statewide seat to land in. If Wagner wins outright, Moorlach, who at one time claimed he would not seek higher office, will have another bite of the pie. He only has to carpetbag into Wagner’s Assembly district (anyone got a guest house in Old Town for rent?) to get a second chance.

Of course, he may have to run up against our own Tustin Councilman John Nielsen who, we hear, is doing his own exploration of sorts.

In all likelihood, neither candidate will win the necessary +1 and they will be forced into a runoff. Then we get to do it all over again. Only, expect a lot more yard signs and a lot more mudslinging from both candidates. That’s when we’ll see whether Moorlach’s financial finagling rings true or whether it really does come down to who has the most money in the bank.

If you need further evidence to get off the fence, consider that John Moorlach has a couple of dozen endorsements, mostly from “former” elected officials. Only one fellow supervisor, Shawn Nelson, was willing to endorse him. Not even Jerry Amante would come out with an endorsement.

On the other hand, Wagner has the endorsement of every Countywide elected official, including Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, OCDA T-Rack and OC Supervisor Michelle Steele. Newbie Senators Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen have endorsed him along with a slew of other legislators. Oh yeah, even Mayor Chuck Puckett has endorsed Wagner.

Wagner has also run his campaign without the aid of crackpots like Deborah “I hate Muslims” Pauley and the advice of idiots like Mario “Maynard” Manero. You remember him. He’s the one that talked Moorlach into spending thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to take away the pensions of sheriffs deputies then ran and hid when it didn’t work out the way he thought it would. I wouldn’t want him for my lawyer either. John doesn’t seem to mind.

In any case, if you haven’t sent in your absentee ballot, please do so. And, if you are like me and prefer to cast your vote the old fashioned way, I’ll see you at the polls – provided you can make it by seven in the morning.

On the City Council Agenda – March 3, 2015

highway robberyWelcome to the Monday morning edition of Our Town Tustin. It was a quiet weekend around the home office. We were originally supposed to cook in the American Legion Riders annual chili cookoff but the impending (but never appearing) rain kept us at bay.

And, this morning, we awakened to some disturbing news just outside our city limits. The El Zocalo Mexican Steakhouse on Tustin Avemue and First Street was the scene of a shooting. The suspects and victims were arguing when at least one suspect pulled a gun and began blasting. Patrons of the steakhouse subdued the suspect and held him for police. According to Channel 5 news, one person died at the scene and four people were sent to Western Medical for treatment.

The Tustin City Council should have a fairly easy week with a light agenda. On the Closed Session, The city council will look at three Liability Claims -Sara Barba, Joseph Lujan and Rudy Gomez. The city is also in discussion with the School District over MCAS land. It’s unclear whether it is the land swap deal they were working on.

Besides the usual items on the Consent Calendar, Item 6 – Rename the Future 31.5 Acre Tustin Legacy Park, would ask the city council to rename the future sports park to Veterans Sports Park at Tustin Legacy. We’ve been following the progress of the proposed Veterans Memorial at the park for the past few weeks.

Renaming this sports park will allow the city to name the future linear park the Legacy Park. We think it is a nice touch and probably deserves some special recognition from the city council. Just don’t let the two-face John Nielsen talk about it. His past record, aligning with Jerry Amante, shows he has little care about our veterans beyond using them to further his own political agenda.

In other business on the Consent Calendar, City Hall will be getting a new HVAC system at the cost of $250,000. According to the staff report, the money was budgeted during this fiscal year.

The sole item under Regular Business is Item 6, Water Deposit Policy and Adoption of Resolution No. 15-10. This resolution will allow the Tustin Water Department to collect additional deposits from those they deem as deadbeats.

Now, I can’t remember how much of a deposit our household paid when we moved in to Tustin. I’m not sure if they still have my money or not. The current fee structure for deposits is, basically, “first and last month”. In other words, if your average water bill is $100, you would pay a $200 deposit with a $50.00 minimum required.

Under the proposed structure, the new deposit schedule could cost a customer from one to two-and-a-half times their average bill. In addition, if a customer fails to pay on time twice in a two year period, they will be required to furnish the maximum deposit.

Of course this new fee structure, which city staff claim will protect the city, will actually hurt the most vulnerable among our residents. Those with little or no credit will be hurt the most while the well-to-do get away with a returned, minimal deposit. So, how is this helping the city to accomplish any goal?

Well, there is one. The deposits are held by the city and may be invested. So, the City Treasurer will get to play with your money while they while away their time at the stock market. In the meantime, folks who struggle to pay their water bill each month, much less a long term deposit, will have their money tied up for at least two years. That’s real customer service for you.

Hopefully, the city council comments will be short and sweet so we don’t have to listen to them drone on about their exciting time at other community meetings. If they do, just remember that, in almost every case, they are touting their ability to make money from their positions as councilmembers, through the stipends they receive for the extracurricular activity.

On The Planning Commission Agenda – February 24, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartUpdated 2/23/15 10:00 pm – 

Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting agenda has only five items on it with two of those being routine Consent Calendar issues. Unless someone raises an issue with the 2014 General Plan Report, it should sail through on the vote.

Less likely to just sail through without comment is the Public Hearing, Item 3, Code Amendment 2015-01 – Second Residential Units in the Cultural Resource District. Two years ago, the city held community workshops on modifying second unit and guest home ordinances in Old Town Tustin. It looked like they would continue working on the matter when, suddenly, the project was dropped. The city’s response to inquiries was, “the study will be completed sometime but it is not a priority.” Huh.

So, the project languished for another year after workshops that more than 40 people attended. Supposedly, another workshop was held in 2013 but we can’t find any record of that or who may have attended. The project foundered again until the city revived the issue without warning or notice for this meeting.

In all, the proposed ordinance will eliminate the construction or remodeling of accessory buildings into guest rooms. At the same time, many of the former restrictions on 2nd units will be lifted, including that of minimum lot size. The proposed ordinance would also:

  • Eliminate maximum lot coverage (formerly 30% of rear and side yards)
  • Require one garage or carport parking spot
  • Maximum size limited to 50% of primary dwelling not exceeding 600 square feet

Everything else would remain the same as the existing ordinance for 2nd units. Current, legal guest houses would be allowed to continue with the same restrictions (including the dreaded deed restriction) or, if they conform to the new ordinance, would be allowed to be reclassified at the owner’s option.

The down side, of course, is the probable increase in traffic and population in Old Town. The proposed ordinance would allow 149 more properties in Old Town to construct 2nd units. It’s doubtful that many folks are clamoring for building permits, though. So, the impact would likely be minimal.

In any case, it would help to eliminate the embarrassing situation the city found itself in a few years ago when the Community Development Department, doing then Mayor Jerry Amante’s bidding, attempted to deconstruct apartments built behind a home on Pacific St. The resulting rancor soured many Old Town residents on the city and their nanny-state attitude. It didn’t help that the city spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on their vendetta.

In an about face, the city has worked with the residents of Old Town to craft a workable ordinance that will enhance property values, increase income to the city through property tax values, and allow property owners to enhance their properties with minimal interference from the city. That’s a win-win situation. Thanks, Elizabeth.

Under Regular Business, we mistakenly thought Item 4, Tustin Historic Register Nomination, was the first of the city pioneer busts to be erected. A little closeer look, of course, reminded us of the historic plaque program and the Tustin Historic Register.

The nominee for the plaque designation this time is the home at 178 North C Street. Known as the “Knapp House“, the home was constructed in 1920 and is listed in the Register as a California Bungalow. It is a beautiful house and a treasure in our Old Town area. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the walk over to C Street. Heck, make an evening of it and wander over to Morey’s Place on El Camino for dinner.

According to supporting documents, the Knapp sisters lived at the residence, the last one passing away in 1975 at the age of 96. It seems we have some long-lived residents here. Must be the water.

The final item on the docket is Item 5, Withdrawal of CUP and Design Review for an antenna farm that would have been located in a storage facility near Tustin Ranch Road. Verizon Wireless had been planning a new cellular antenna when they suddenly decided to drop the application. Not sure why.

If you live in the Old Town area or have an interest in our Cultural Resources District, you may want to join the party on Tuesday at 7 pm just to make sure “new” items don’t make their way into the proposed 2nd unit ordinance.

We spoke with a few residents this evening who are concerned about the 2nd unit ordinance. If the Planning Commission thought it would be an easy night, they better cancel any after meeting plans. I get the feeling there will be plenty said during public comment from both sides of the issue.

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