With 25 meetings, including those very special meetings where the public was not invited, the Tustin City Council is on the verge of calling it a wrap. I was about to bet my readers they would not hold a final meeting on December 18th but history shows this is the meeting they slap each other on the back for a job well done and pick each other (or mostly so) for mayor and mayor pro tem.
In the meantime, this week’s agenda starts off with the usual Closed Session Items. We notice that they have not apparently made much progress on any of these, particularly the issue with the Army Reserve Center swap that was a feature item in Regular Business exactly one year ago. At that time, the Army made it clear they were not interested in a swap and were quite happy with what they had. I guess everyone has their price. The city just hasn’t hit theirs yet.
Regular Business will start off with The American Legion Post 227 posting the colors. Their Color Guard, by the way, has won awards at The American Legion State Conventions in the past.
Under Public Hearing Items, the city will have the second reading and adoption of State Buildling Codes, a procedure that is mostly formality. As the city was having problems (again) with posting the video of the last meeting, I’m not sure if anyone even bothered to show up for this. In any case, staffers recommend passage.
The second item, is a routine funding for COPS. $100,000 is slated to be received by the department. No real changes to how the department intends to use the money for a Crime Analyst position and related software. Except for complaints by former councilmembers, most of us think the police department does a pretty good job of allocating resources where they are most needed.
Under Regular Business, the council will be asked to approve an amendment to the classification and compensation plans to award the Director of Finance, Pamela Arends-King, a whopping $8,000 raise for essentially doing what she has always done, manage the finances of the city. The staff are correct in their report that it will save the city money. But, considering the Finance Director was already probably checking the previous Treasurer’s work, did she really rate a raise, particularly when every other line staff took it in the short end during contract negotiations?
After the fiasco caused by the city’s use of a shady collection agency to catch business license scofflaws, the staff have come up with a proposed ordinance to exempt real estate agents from obtaining business licenses. The recommendation is to pass the ordinance on a single reading and be done with it. I guess they are hoping to sweep the whole issue under the rug.
The final issue at hand for our busy city council is to select the new mayor and mayor pro tem for the coming year. As usual, I have no doubt this years selections have been made and they do not include the sole female on the dais. That’s a shame because, out of all of the bodies on the city council, Beckie Gomez has proven to be the most level headed among the crew. But, intelligence and experience have no bearing here. The most likely candidate for Mayor is, of course, Chuck Puckett. Chuck has the experience although we suspect he will be about as effective as the current mayor in conducting city business to the betterment of our residents. At least Chuck returns our phone calls.
What we really have to worry about is that they will make the Podiatrist Councilman the
Podiatrist Mayor pro tem. That would leave him as heir-apparent next year. That is a scary thought…
We didn’t bother to post the agenda for the Planning Commission last week due to its brevity and lack of interest. The only item of note was an item on AT&T utility cabinets for servicing their U-Verse internet and cable-like system. It seems the city’s resolution of their video issues was short-lived as, a week later, the video is not up so we can’t report on the outcome. We’ll keep you posted.
Tuesday’s Tustin City Council meeting should be a bit more interesting with several items of interest, both on the Consent Calendar as well as the Regular Business Items.
Not much on the Closed Session for the City Attorney to report on even if there is any movement. There is one new item listed as existing litigation regarding the estate of an individual and the police department.
Police had previously declined to discuss the case publicly, stating potential litigation as the reason. TPD did have an encounter with the young man, nineteen year old Paul Quintanar, prior to the accident that took his life. No one has been charged in the incident.
There are also several continuing negotiations concerning MCAS property and swaps with both the TUSD and the US Army Reserve.
The Regular Meeting Agenda is headed by three presentations including one for outgoing Audit Commissioner Richard Hilde.
One glaring item on the Consent Calendar that may be pulled for discussion is Item 4, City Option to Retain or Delegate Authority for Award of Ambulance Contract. Currently, the city retains the authority and, judging from the issues the county is having with its ambulance services, it sounds like it might be a good idea for the city to retain that authority rather than delegate it to the County. The staff report indicates city staff feel the same way.
We’re not sure if Item 5, AB109 MOU on Realignement which would authorize a bank of overtime cash is just for purposes of obtaining what OC Supervisor Janet Nguyen calls, “free money”. AB109 involves the realignment of responsibilities of post-release supervision of prisoners to the community. Previously, most of this was handled by state parole agents. It is now handled almost exclusively by county probation officers.
In reading the agenda report for this item, we found the city has assigned a “Compliance Detective” to monitor the activities of released offenders. Of course, this is what the Orange County Probation Department, who has a full-time deputy probation officer assigned to Tustin, does. So, we’re not sure why the need for additional manpower in this area. We do recognize the detective also monitors sex and drug registrants, not a bad thing in our book.
Under Regular Business, city staff have finally answered all the questions the city council had when they last addressed a recommendation to appoint City Finance Director, Pamela Arends-King as the city’s Treasurer. As we’ve noted before, we endorse the idea of Arends-King being officially appointed to the position. We are opposed, however, to the hefty $8,000 increase in pay, particularly since the previous City Treasurer, George Jeffries, did the same job for half the amount.
The staff report indicates a savings to the General Fund and the Water Enterprise Fund of $19k but they provide no evidence, other than “because we said so”, of the savings. Where is the transparency to the public when calculating these so-called savings?
It seems Boss Tweed Parker is cementing his executive relationships at taxpayer cost.
Item 8, Business License Program, is a request by city staff to continue to use a questionable company to assist them in business license compliance. MAS, a company that has made a living off cities by making it a practice to offend the business owners, has a checkered history in collecting fees for errant businesses who have failed to obtain a license to operate in the city.
When the city first contracted with MAS to collect delinguent business license fees and taxes, we foretold the issues they would have. Businesses have reported harassment and unqualified accusaitons as they have been contacted by MAS representatives who have combed the city on a witch hunt for transgressors. The backlash to the city appears to be catching up with them as they back track on collections.
The proposed recommendation involves refunds and reassessments of the operations. What it should involve is a complete investigation into the business practices of the contractor to determine whether this is appropriate action for a city like Tustin, who purports to be business friendly, to be conducting.
To deflect attacks from the root problem, the staff report addresses the questions asked by the city council regarding business licensing for realtors. The city currently has a policy in place that seems adequate. Perhaps they should leave well enough alone and concentrate on MAS operations.
That’s it for this week’s meeting. We’ll try to keep you posted on any changes.
Conference with Legal Counsel -
Two items each Exposure to and Initiation of Litigation.
Existing Litigation – Marie Sales on Behalf of Paul J. Quintanar v. City of Tustin et al.
Confernence With Real Property Negotiators
MCAS properties, 14 lots, OC Property Company (Cushman Wakefield).
Price and Terms of Payment APN: 430-391-12, 430-391-09, and 430-391-03, Tustin Unified School District.
Property Address/Description 2345 Barranca Pkwy and 15 acres of the N/E corner of Red Hill Avenue and Warner Avenue – Army Reserve negotiating.
Regular Business Agenda
Item 4, City Option to Retain or Delegate Authority for Award of Ambulance Contnract.
Item 5, Master MOU Between City of Tustin and County of Orange for Public Safety Realignment and Post Release Community Supervision Authorized Expenditures.
Regular Business Items
Item 6, Approve Agreement with the City of Irvine, et al, to Fund the Peters Canyon Wash Channel Water Capture and Reuse Pipeline.
Item 7, Recommendation of the Finance Director’s Appointment as the City Treasurer.
Item 8, Business License Program.
We are back from our Annual Area 51 Ride. Give us a few days and you can read what we have been up to over on our travel blog, The Road Less Traveled.
This week’s Tustin City Council meeting agenda is long only because of the number of items on the Consent Calendar. There are also several presentations including one for our neighbor on B Street for “Outstanding Old Town Property”, an award occasionally given by staff to owners of property in Old Town.
Presentations follow the Closed Session which will include discussion on property owned by the Tustin Unified School District.
A couple of things stand out on the Consent Calendar. The first is Item 6, Award Contract for Catch Basin Insert Cleaning. Readers of this blog will remember there was a minor fiasco several months ago when it was discovered by the city that the required catch basin cleaning was not being performed by West Coast Storm. The city quickly moved to terminate the contract and place the next highest bidder, United Storm Water, into service for the remainder of the contract year.
United Storm Water has now been selected as the best (and only) bidder for services. Apparently, no one really wants to service our storm drains as United was the only one of 5 companies to respond to the RFP. One has to wonder if the city wouldn’t be better off doing this in-house.
Item 8, Police Department Vehicle Purchases, has the city replacing 7 TPD vehicles. We previously questioned why the city continues to go outside our own businesses to make purchases. However, after looking at the offers from Tuttle-Click at $3,000 higher than McPeek’s, we can understand why. This could be a win-win situation if Tuttle-Click really wanted the city’s business.
Oh, wait. Did I misread this or did the city? On the staff report, they say the quote from Tuttle-Click is $29,942.78. But, in reading the quote, the price shows as $27,281. That could be before tax but, even then the numbers don’t add up. Perhaps the staff could clear things up for us.
Other items on the Consent Calendar include Advertising for bids for the Frontier Park water splash pad to replace the amphitheater and a rental agreement for the Del Amo Avenue building owned by the city.
Frontier Park construction would begin early next year. The amphitheater has been underutilized the past few year, according to staff, and has drawn “an undesirable element”. The city likes splash pads for the kids as we have a number of them around town.
The only Regular Business item on the agenda is Item 12, Business License Program. Several months ago, the city council authorized the use of an outside company to “assist” the business license staff in locating scofflaw businesses that had failed to obtain a city license. Municipal Auditing Services solicited the city for their business and, once procured, they set about harassing and intimidating businesses in Tustin that were suspected of not paying their fees.
The program has been an apparent success as the city seems to have no intention of getting rid of MAS. But, there seems to have been enough of a backlash that city staff are now recommending an amnesty program that would take the bite off small businesses, the ones who have suffered the most under this program.
Of course, the methods used by MAS, and that have either not been reported to the city or not been complained about, is the canvassing of business neighborhoods for errant business owners. it’s also doubtful staff are including all complaints in the staff report, only those whose response can be substantiated (in their minds, anyway). One has to wonder about the other complaints.
MAS has been the target of numerous complaints in other cities that have used their services. City Manager Daryl Parish of Covina stated, “If there has been some error in communication, then obviously we want to clear the air on that.” His answer? Require businesses that have been contacted by MAS to sign an affidavit saying they don’t do business in the city. Here is what one business told MAS they could do with their affidavit. Perhaps the city council should take a closer look at this rather than just look the other way.
That’s it for this week. I won’t even wager the length of the meeting. This City Council has become increasingly lazier as they choose to convey power to the Boss Tweed Parker. It would be no surprise to see eventual meetings held by teleconference.
I guess I shouldn’t give them any ideas.