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.
Sorry for the late writeup of the city clown – uh, council agenda. I’m on vacation for the month and articles may be a bit spotty. I’ll do my best to keep you updated.
Depending on the pontifications of our glorious leaders, the city council meeting should be a couple of hours due mostly to two publich hearings. Prior to that is a presentations to SOCAL Water Polo. I admit, I am a fan and we have a great team at Foothill.
The Closed Session, I am sure, will be dominated by discussions over the pending labor contracts. I understand the city is holding fast on monetary issues. I doubt the union is letting them forget the raise given to Chief Jordan and the raises-by-change-in -title of other mid and high level ranking managers over the past year. All of the unions, including TPOA, worked with the city to reduce pension costs. However, rumour has it, they are looking to get as much up front as they can to pay their obligations. Don’t expect the city council to do anything other than rubberstamp the city manager’s recommendation.
Speaking of, City Manager Jeff Parker will be discussed tonight as his performance evaluation is on the list. I’m sure our city council will speak glowingly of him. The fact is, he has spent most of his tenure consolidating his power and creating allies. His recent move to abolish the pesky hiring process in favor of one that makes it easier to hire his friends and cronies was a major coup for Jeff. It should be interesting to see how many high level managers will be hired under his “21st Century hiring process” over the next year.
Public Hearing Item 1 is a levy on the lighting facilities district that comes up every year. Unfortunately, there was a glitch that did not give adequate time to publish the hearing according to the law. They are recommending a new date be set for the next city council meeting on June 18th. It’s unclear whether they will hear any testimony tonight but the resolution states any protests to the levy must be made in writing. Interesting to note Parker is also calling himself the ex-officio city clerk. I guess he hasn’t found an adequate crony to hire yet.
Public Hearing Item 2 is a much less forward way to lob city obligations onto an unsuspecting public. This time, the city is targeting the first time homebuyer.
When RDAs were abolished by the state Tustin, like other entities, scrambled for every way they could to make up the difference in lost funding (we are still trying to justify lost funding for something that should never have happened to begin with). The latest ploy takes a jab at low income, first time homeowners who bought property under the city’s program. In addition to the usual costs of refinancing a home purchased under the program, city staff are recommending Tustin become only the third city to charge a fee for processing the paperwork. By their own admission, most cities in The Real OC do not charge the “subordination fee”. In fact, Tustin had to reach out as far as Fresno to find a “comparable” city.
Understanding that our city fathers, sans Beckie, are made up of well-to-do Republicans who take a dim view of the riff-raff in housing authority property, this travesty will, in all likelihood slap our new homeowners in the face. One has to wonder if anyone will show up to decry this deplorable act. Certainly, the city council as a body could gain some points here if they were to turn this down. But, don’t hold your breath.
Consent Calendar Item 5 is approval of an agreement to transfer equipment from the Municipal Water Disctrict of Orange County to the city. Money for the 2,000 gallon potable water trailer comes from a grant under the Urban Area Security Initiative and will be used for disaster services. It is a pretty straightforward arrangement and I am not sure why it required an 87 page staff report for justification. Oh, wait… that’s because the contract is 84 pages long. And, you wanted to know why California taxes are so high.
Items 6 and 7 are to approve plans and specifications for revamping the intersection at Enderle and Vandenberg, as well as reconstructing the bike trail along Newport Avenue. The latter is welcome even though the current trail is in very good condition. It would be nice to see an extension of this trail in both directions. Construction of the bike trail is scheduled to begin in August and be completed in two months.
The only Regular Business on the agenda is an item amending the Disposition and Development Agreement between Irvine Company’s Legacy Villas and the city. The only change is to require Legacy Villas to pay the backbone infrastructure fees up front.
That’s it for tonight’s city council meeting. We would attend but we will be at our daughter’s last choir concert for her high school singing career, cheering her on. There is no doubt the sounds of the choir are preferable to the caterwauling to be heard in city council chambers.
A special treat for those who can make it, is the city’s occasional tour of public and private projects throughout the city. The upcoming tour will be held prior to tonight’s Planning Commission meeting. The initial tour will meet at city hall. If this tour is like previous ones, there are limited seats on the city limo so expect to take your own car. Stops will be at: Rawlings Reservoir –5:15, Marriott Hotels and Retail Site –5:45, Fire Station #37 –6:15, Tustin Ranch Road –6:25, Coventry Court at Columbus Square –6:35, Return to City Hall –6:50. You should try to make a seat on the bus. I hear Elizabeth made cookies.
The regular Planning Commission meeting will be held at 7:00 pm with a fairly quick agenda. There are no public hearings scheduled and the Consent Calendar consists of only the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes.
Item 2 under Regular Business is the Proposed Amendment of the Tustin Subdivision Ordinance. This is a first look at the amended code the Community Development staff have drafted. They are asking the issue be discussed and set for a Public Hearing. According to the Staff Report, the update will remove outdated language, ensure consistency with state language concerning subdivision law and “process streamlining.” According to the report, the third item is the most significant. In any case, most of it won’t apply to Joe Resident other than the responsibility for all subdivision, including lot line adjustment and final tract and parcel map applications, would be placed under the Community Development Department rather than Public Works.
Item 3, Commendation Nomination, recognizes Old Town properties that deserve special merit. Although the city can make an award quarterly, for some reason there has not been a commendation since 2010. The latest to be recognized is the Primrose House at 138 North B Street, owned by Kevin and Sarah McGee. We have to agree with Lucy Burch, who nominated the home for the award. It’s a beautiful home and a gem of the neighborhood. Congratulations.
The final item on the agenda is a followup discussion of the city tour. Since we can’t be there for the tour itself, I am hoping some of our more notable residents will attend and provide feedback to the Planning Commission on all of the projects.
That’s it for, what should be, an interesting evening. We’ll be watching the video (assuming they don’t muff it again) and let you know of anything of interest.
OK, the city definitely fixed the video issue they had a couple of weeks ago that kept the May 7 council meeting from being published on the website for almost two weeks. That, of course, makes me wonder if there really was a problem or were they trying to delay the public finding out about something.
Tuesday’s city council meeting was mostly routine with some of what Mayor Al Murray dubs his “favorite things”. Hewes Middle School and Fire Chief Richter got their 15 minutes of fame and Al got to act the big shot mayor again. One thing for sure, Murray needs to obtain an abridged edition of Roberts Rules of Order and read it. He is clueless in how to call for a vote and had to be corrected several times by both the city attorney and his colleagues. It gets a bit tedious after awhile.
As expected, there was nothing to report from the Closed Session and the council, surprisingly, only asked to pull one item from the Consent Calendar, the minutes from the May 7th meeting. Councilmember Gomez had an issue with something she reported on during her council comments.
On to the Regular Business where there were a slew of Second Readings including the ordinance on the so-called minor text changes in the Tustin City Zoning Code which we reported on earlier. That and the approval of the special tax refunding bonds for Community Facilities District 04-1 were voted and approved unanimously.
When it came to Item 8, a tax levy on certain properties in one area of the Legaqcy properties, Councilman John Nielsen again recused himself from the discussion due, we think, to his purchasing or owning property in the area. So, I guess those rumors of him actually living with his girlfriend in South County are just that.
Mayor Murray, who seems to have trouble understanding Roberts Rules of Order, was all set to breeze through this for his buddy but Councilmember Beckie Gomez asked for discussion on the issue. Her concern, as is ours, is the fact that, not only is this tax being levied on unsuspecting homeowners without their consent, it has no end date. “I am a bit concerned about this special tax, with the intent that it’s indefinite. There is no number of years such as Mello-Roos you pay it out for 20 years or whatever…“
She went on to say that she understood the city does not receive the same property tax as in other parts of the city but, she would like to see a review every 5 years or so. She said that, although this council may not be here anymore, “I think the record should reflect that it isn’t necessarily an indefinite type of tax.”
Surprisingly, City Manager Jeff Parker agreed with her. In making a brief explanation of the reason for the tax, he said the city council had the authority to demand that and even sounded as if he approved of the “5 years or so” Gomez suggested. Unfortunately, Mayor Murray, who seems to think future staff and councils will remember this forgettable moment just because they discussed it, asked that it be put into the record rather than made a part of the ordinance as it should have been. Even worse, Gomez approved of that move rather than take the time to do it right. So, I guess we’ll see in five years whether that review actually takes place. The roll call vote was unanimous with Nielsen recusing himself. Good luck you suckers in the Legacy that were sold a bill of goods.
Items 10 & 11, regarding the land swap with the community college district and construction of a new street also brought some discussion over the amount of traffic that would be generated by the new street. Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack advised the council on a last minute letter received the day of the meeting. That letter was not in the staff report but Elizabeth was kind enough to send us a copy. The letter, from the city of Irvine, basically lamented their concerns over traffic and asked the city to include a larger area for traffic study. Binsack explained the issues had been answered, at least to Tustin’s satisfaction and said nothing further would be done at this time (how many ways can we say it, Irvine?). These items passed unanimously after discussion.
Without further ado, the item concerning the stipends for commissioners and their removal upon attainng a city elected office was read and passed with Councilmember Gomez dissenting. As we said before, apparently the Fab Four didn’t want the same thing to happen to the commissioners, who actually spend a good deal of time on city business, as happened to the city council in regard to stipends. Gomez rightfully questioned this but was met with the wall of silence in her protest.
The final item of the night was the Legislative Report and it was, again, councilmember Gomez who showed she was the only one with an independent mind on the dais. While the Fab Four were willing to be led blindly by their collective noses, Gomez asked for time to study the bills they were supporting and opposing. Lawyer Kendig, who is always in a hurry to align himself with staff, indicated there was an urgency factor in responding to the letters.
Now, most of my loyal readers know that Councilman John Nielsen is a lifelong Boy Scout and will fall all over himself to praise, publicize and applaud the BSA to the point where one might wonder who he actually works for. All I can figure is it must be like the Skull and Bones Society – one has to be in on the secret to know why all the members have that stupid smirk on their face.
Anyway, the motion on the Boy Scouts passed 4-1. Both of the other letters passed unanimously.
Not much in the way of councilmember comments although the Podiatrist Councilman must not have gotten much sleep (and his exciting dissertation on his political life and tie wardrobe was putting us to sleep). For those that don’t know, Channel 7 came to the Creme Pan Bakery in Old Town where Mayor Murray and Councilmember Gomez helped represent the city along with a slew of kids from our high schools. Although my daughter wasn’t there, the Foothill High School Madrigals sang a song or two and made us proud.
We have a couple of weeks before the next exciting installment of the Tustin City Council. In the meantime, join us for the Annual Tustin Chili Cookoff on June 2. The first chili tasting is on me. Also, please join in one of the many upcoming memorial services in the county on Memorial Day. You will find me at the Westminster Memorial Park where various veteran and community organizations, including the last of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will lay wreathes at their military memorial.