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.
Anymore, it is not just the city of Tustin we have to worry about. With the recent failed court case, Orange County may be facing some serious challenges to its budget next year. The annual budget workshop is coming to town 10 am May 24th at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room in the Hall of Administration, 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, California. This will be followed June 11th & 12th for Budget Hearings and the subsequent Budget Adoption on June 25th.
The official press release for the budget hearing process states:
You are invited to the 18th annual County of Orange Budget Workshop. Community members are encouraged to learn about the County’s budget process and anticipated issues. The County’s Chief Financial Officer and County staff will discuss:
- 2013-2014 Budget Overview
- Affordable Care Act
Dr. Michael Riley Director, Social Services Agency
This is your chance, as a resident, to have some input into the budget process. As we said, given this years bad news on the property tax take back by the state, many program and agency funding schemes may be up in the air. While no one wants to see lifeline programs shut down, they are often the first to go. That could have a drastic effect on the fragile economic recovery Orange County is seeing. The budget workshops are there for citizens to express their views on what available funds should provide for the county’s citizens.
Happy Cinco de Siete. The bad news is, my desktop is in for repairs and will, hopefully, be out by this next weekend. Of course, depending on the cost, a new one may be in order. In the meantime, I will struggle to get out posts with the reliable but anachronistic netbook. Isn’t it amazing that, just a few years ago, the netbook was the hottest thing on the market? Now, they are right up there with…desktop computers.
It looks to be a busy night for the Tustin City Council as they hold a couple of public hearings preceded by a slew of feel good presentations. The presentations are likely to be lengthy with lots of pomp and circumstance (emphasis on pomp).
The first public hearing is to establish a new Community Facilities District and accompanying mello-roos tax for an area of the Tustin Legacy. You might think this a routine issue but, it is a timely one for the city. It should be unsurprising that, the vote on establishing a CFD, when there are no residents in the location, falls to the landowners, in this case, the city. So, why wait until there are pesky homeowners to get in the way of establishing a tax base? Trust me, the entire hearing is pretty much pro forma for establishing the CFD and it is doubtful there will be much input from the public. It is probably a good thing the staff know what they are doing. That way the Four Amigos only need to say “yes”. One thing the folks moving in should know is this is a forever tax that will be passed on to future landowners owners. That tax will increase by two percent per year ad infinitum.
The second Pubic Hearing concerns the disposition of the Community Development Block Grant funding allocation. As you know, in the past we have been critical of the method used by the city council to disseminate CDBG funds. Specifically, the relationship of members of the city council to the executive director of the Tustin Community foundation which the city used to manage funds was questionable, to say the least.
Most recently, a committee made up of city staff members evaluated the current funding and made recommendations that can be found in the staff report. Of course, I am always amazed that, with funding and programs the community depends on we would allow city staff, most of whom live elsewhere, to determine what is best for us. In the end, worthy projects are being recommended for continued funding, including Human Options, Laurel House and Mercy House, all of which go to assist those most in need in our community.
One item I find interesting is the “Old Town Study” which is funded at $27 thousand dollars. This study appears to be a marketing study to see how the city can eke the most tax dollar out of the cultural overlay district. Could this project be the one to take precedence over the recent community development project to determine changes in the Old Town zoning regarding guest houses and second units? When an inquiry was recently made by a resident, they were told the guest house ordinance would be completed some time in the future, that it wasn’t a priority for city staff at the time. Really? Perhaps the city staff, which we have shown time and again is out of touch with city residents, should rethink that. More in a future article.
All in all, the proposed CDBG update is in order, regardless of how we got there, and it should pass muster with the residents of the city. It should be interesting how much back slapping the city council does before approving it.
The third Pubic Hearing has caused quite a bit of discussion both on the dais and in the community. Chad Ortlieb has managed to segue the Wilcox Manor issue in with the zoning amendments when they were before the city planning commission and he may show up at this meeting to discuss the issues again.
While the ordinance was being considered by the planning commission, more than 50 comments were received and supposedly considered by the commission. The city attorney attempted to block Ortlieb’s critical letter based on a timeframe until Ortlieb demonstrated that he actually was within legal limits. That in itself should tell you how desperate city staff are to get these amendments in. Why the hurry? In any case,it would not surprise me to see a few more comments at the public hearing and I imagine we will see another appearance by Lindburgh MacPherson who is sweating bullets over the Wilcox Manor CUP application being kept in the limelight when he hoped it would fade into oblivion. Sorry, Lindburgh, we still don’t want your dog and pony show in Old Town.
Item 7 on the Consent Calendar is to appropriate supplemental funds for the completion of Tustin Ranch Road and other road improvement projects. It appears to be a housekeeping issue more than anything else but, I’m no accountant so you may want to look at the agenda report yourself.
That’s about it. Unless you are a glutton for punishment, come late and go home early. By the way, the agenda doesn’t mention it but, I could have sworn The American Legion Pot 227 was back in good standing. If so, the should provide they best presentation: our Flag.
If you are one of the dwindling customer base that still pays to have the Orange County Register delivered to your door, you have already heard the news. If you are, like me, a non-paying pariah that was happy with navigating the smothering ads produced on the Register website in order to access the pre-filtered news, you are in for sticker shock.
The Register announced that, beginning today, the website will implement a paywall, web-speak for charging to access their website. “”It is unfair to our paying (print) subscribers that someone else is
getting our content for free,” said Eric Spitz, president of Freedom Communications Inc., which owns the Register. Citing facts that newspapers across the country have been implementing paywalls to shore up profits in a dwindling market, where advertising revenue has fallen and costs have increased, the Register actually believes the change to a paying venue will increase readership.
This is not the first plunge into pay for play access for the newspaper. Several years ago, it introduced an on-line version of the newspaper (which we assume is still available) for those customers who preferred a traditional newspaper in digital format. The on-line version seemed to have full content available but allowed viewers to quickly access content of interest to them through hot-links to specific pages and sections.
Recently, the newspaper chose to block access to its local city newspapers, such as the Tustin News, from all but their loyal subscribers. This followed their edict to stop free delivery to homes that did not subscribe to the regular daily paper. If you are like me, this is not big loss. When Aaron Kushner first purchased Freedom Communications, which publishes the Register, he vowed to make a more readable newspaper and increase print circulation. Among the changes made were more readable and interesting local city newspapers. The Register immediately reversed the layoff trend that decimated their award-winning newsroom and began hiring staff from around the country.
Also touted was the new look of the local throw away papers like the Tustin News. Promising more relevant content that would be of interest to the residents, the newspapers took on a redesigned tabloid style with more color, more local sports and local columnists. It also took on a lot more advertising than under the previous owners. Even the electronic version sported huge, full-page ads taking up the last third of the paper.
And, while there was plenty of increased content regarding local sports and quite a few local guest columnists (including yours truly), the city newspapers have severely lacked what local, hometown newspapers around the country cut their teeth on: local news and discourse. Look in any of the city newspapers produced by the Register and you will find a distinct lack of reporting on all but the most benign topics. There is no real reporting on the city council meetings or planning commission. Notably missing is political discourse in the so-called opinion pages. So, again, no big loss on anyone’s part.
It was probably inevitable, regardless of who holds the reins, that the Register would attempt to eke profit out of anything it can. It is, after all, a business. It’s business, however, is running smack into the wall of the blogosphere where more and more people are turning to for news and information. Why pay to read the Orange County Register when you can click a link on your computer or tablet and read Orange County news from The Liberal OC or Costa Mesa News from the Bubbling Caldron. If you are to the right, you can read Cal Watchdog and to the left, the Orange Juice Blog. Of course, if you want to read anything political, particularly if it has to do with our corrupt city government, you can read it here. All of this, of course, is free and will remain so.
The “new” OC Register will give you a seven day free trial after which you will be required to subscribe. Subscriptions will mirror the print newspaper in that 7 day a week subscribers will have 7 day a week access and weekend only subscribers will have weekend only access. The alternative is to shell out two bucks a day for daily access, when you want it. The website will continue to give you the weather and, presumably, all the advertisement you can stomach.
There is, supposedly, a plus side to the new program. The new “membership” will give subscribers access to other goodies:
Spitz said he hopes to build Register readership, both print and online, through a new membership program, Register Connect. The program gives seven-day subscribers added value through access to other events and activities.
For example, the Register’s Golden Envelope program, unveiled in November, allowed seven-day subscribers to designate a $100 gift cheque for advertising in the newspaper to the charity of their choice. In addition, full-week subscribers also will be eligible for free Angels baseball tickets and restaurant gift certificates on a regular basis.
Spitz is assuming these “value-added” premiums will help increase readership. We think it is pretty sad to have to rely on gimmicks rather than good reporting and an outdated method of delivery to justify cost in the hopes of gaining subscribers.
I gave up the onus of monthly subscription to any daily newspaper years ago. The Register attempted to entice me back by offering “Sunday Only” service for 6 months and then, never stopped delivery. That’s OK, my wife likes the coupons and my daughter likes the comics. As long as it is for free….. Me? I’ll stick with the blogs. I find them much more truthful and forthcoming without the expense.