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We Are Not A House Of Prostitution

BocceBellasIt looks like this week’s meeting of the Tustin Planning Commission has been cancelled. So, let’s talk about what happened at last week’s Tustin City Council meeting. It was fairly short, at just over an hour, and half of it was taken up by the public hearing on an appeal for a massage parlor license.

As you probably recall, the Planning Commission tackled this issue a few weeks ago and denied a license for a “day spa” at a location where the cops had previously busted the business owners for prostitution. Day spa, by the way, seems to be the euphemism for massage parlor. It’s unfortunate because legitimate spas have a hard time overcoming the stigma attached to this.

The City Council heard the appeal and I was surprised at, not only the number of people that spoke in favor of this appeal, but also who spoke. Prior to discussion by the public was a presentation by city staff on the prostitution bust last year of the previous business as well as testimony by one of the Tustin PD officers who investigated the massage parlor in a sting operation. It was so cool when the cameras were diverted so the undercover officer couldn’t be identified. I would have opted for altering his voice as well just in case he ever works on phone sex stings.

Surprisingly, one of the first to speak in favor of the appellant was the owner of the building where the massage parlor planned to do business. Mary Ann Miller and her husband both attended the meeting to decry the way the city was treating the applicant. Miller made sure everyone knew her husband is not only a businessman in Tustin but also a former city councilman who “sat in those seats up there”. She also made sure to mention how she has also been involved in the community they live in. In her own words, she stated she and her husband are fine, upstanding citizens of Tustin.

Miller went on to say that her building has had a spa tenant for the past ten years and never had a problem….at least that she heard about. She said she would check the landscaping and other maintenance issues but, apparently, it wasn’t until recently that she went to enter the building using her key and found the locks changed. Huh. She stated that she never once heard anything about “the prostitution issue”.

Miller stated she was confronted by the building owner from next door who she claimed to know well (except the person didn’t know her) and was asked if she was the madame of the massage parlor. “I didn’t even know what she was talking about”, claimed Miller. She went on to lament how her and her husband were being found guilty without a trial and they knew nothing about the prostitution.

According to Miller, the city is holding that against them as they attempt to rent the building out to the new spa business. Complaining that their livelihood is at stake, saying that she interviewed the new prospective tenants, she has found them to be of good character and decided they wouldn’t be involved in prostitution like the former tenants.

Too bad she didn’t read my blog or she might have seen how the new tenants of good character are tied directly to the old, disreputable tenants.

It’s interesting our state legislators are about to wrestle with this problem – again.

According to Capitol Alert, cops and cities are hoping the legislators will work out the kinks in massage parlor regulation that is scheduled to sunset soon. A sunset oversight committee of the business and professions committees will review the upcoming debate over the California Massage Therapy Council that was created to assist in regulating the industry. Unless action is taken, the Council will discontinue and massage licensing will revert entirely to local control.

Since it was created, the CMTC has certified and licensed massage practitioners and given general oversight to the industry. The idea was to eliminate the “bad” elements and legitimize the practice. By and large, the industry backed the CMTC hoping for some continuity in regulation that, up to then, had been mostly ineffective

The new regulations and licensing established by the CMTC do not seem to have worked as advertised and now, many in the industry as well as the League of California Cities is asking legislators to restore some local control. That’s because businesses that utilize massage therapists certified by CMTC are not subject to the same scrutiny as those who don’t. So, all a massage business has to do is to hire “legitimate” therapists or have their own certified and then have them do what they want them to.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve the problem in an industry driven by sex slavery or who employ those who are forced into prostitution for financial need. These are the stark realities that the legislature has, so far, chosen to mostly ignore.

So, forgive me if I have little concern for the Millers financial plight.

Others, mostly on the Miller’s side, spoke in favor of the appellant even though it was clear there was a tie with the previous owners who had been busted for prostitution. And, while I heard everyone saying give her a chance, what I really heard was the jingle of coin in the background, telling me the real reason for supporting a shady business such as this.

Now, the real kicker was when the spokesperson for the appellant stood up at Councilperson Gomez’ invitation and lamented how the poor appellant (who did not speak because she doesn’t speak English very well) was the victim of the previous owner who told her everything was fine. It cost her $80 thousand to find out it wasn’t fine. So, by their way of thinking, Tustin should approve the license. Hey, I know Tustin is reported to be a business friendly town but…..

It took the City Council all of three minutes to deny the appeal and uphold the denial. It would have gone faster but John Nielsen had to take a page from the Jerry Amante playbook and do a little grandstanding about a subject he obviously knew nothing about.

In other business, the city council discussed the lease for the new fire station 37 which will take the place of the old fire station on Service Road. Questions regarding response time from the new station to the old areas traditionally served were answered and everyone was reassured that they would continue to receive great service from our fire department. Interestingly, Councilman Nielsen asked that the item be pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion and then recused himself. We had previously opined that he had just bought or rented a place on the base, pending his divorce. Hopefully, he won’t keep us in suspense much longer.

The only other noteworthy item (in our opinion) on the calendar was to approve the construction of the Bocce Ball courts at Peppertree Park. It will cost almost $117 thousand but the smiles on our seniors faces as they roll those colored balls will be priceless.

On the City Council Agenda – March 4, 2014

sex slavery statisticsIt is looking a little racy for the Tustin City Council this week even though the agenda is pretty slim.

On the Closed Session, the usual suspects appear with two each conferences with legal counsel on the initiation and exposure to litigation. There may be more soon, considering the city denied the claims of several folks last meeting. To boot, I am sure the lawyer from Anaheim representing the family of Robert Villa is wasting no time in preparing his case.

There are also three other claims up for consideration by the council. Don’t expect to see resolution on any of these as the city’s usual modus operandi, no matter how legit the claims, is to force the claimant to court in the hopes they won’t bother.

There are also several conferences with real property negotiators on the agenda. One of these is with the Tustin Unified School District. Among other things, the two entities are discussing the continued use of Heritage School as a continuation high school and administrative offices for the district. I was told the school district may open the school (with or without the continuation school) for it’s original intended use even though they may not have the number of students they like. A combo use could help alleviate the perceived situation by the Columbus Square folks but I wonder how they would feel about their kids going to school alongside “those” kids.

A Public Hearing heads up the Open Session Agenda with the Appeal of Denial of Massage Establishment Application for Tustin Day Spa. Regular readers will recall the Planning Commission tackled this issue a few weeks ago along with a permit for another spa. Both of these were requests from folks that had connections with spas that were shut down by the Tustin Police Department last year for criminal activity. The Planning Commission denied the applications and, hopefully, the City Council will do the same.

Surprsingly, the Consent Calendar has nothing noteworthy on it. Oh, wait, there is that vehicle purchase of three utility trucks and a rotary lawn mower. The city will be using the State contract to purchase the trucks so I guess I can’t gripe (like I normally do) about their purchasing out of the area. In fact, I volunteer to drive one of the trucks down from Elk Grove for them. At least the lawn mower purchase is local. At over 12 years minimum age each, at least they got their money’s worth for the old trucks (unlike the PD)

Oops. There is also the lease for the new fire station on the Legacy property that will replace the old station on Service Road. OCFA gets the place rent free for services rendered. It should be interesting to see what, if anything is done with the old station.

That’s it for the week. I hope the owner of the day spa requesting reconsideration isn’t holding her breath for support of her appeal. Most folks in Tustin would be just as happy not having these types of business around. If anything interesting happens at the meeting, we’ll be sure to write about it.

On (and Off) the City Council Agenda – February 18, 2014

LAA StadiumA hat tip to our friend, Dan Chmielewski, of The Liberal OC who related that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could someday become the Los Angeles Angels of Tustin. Hmmm, the name just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Anaheim Angels.

In any case, owner Arte Moreno’s mouthpiece claims they are in preliminary talks concerning a possible stadium at the MCAS base. The LA Times story, which Dan quotes from, says team officials met with Tustin officials last week concerning the deal. The team declined to say whether they met with other Orange County cities or not.

Don’t hold your breath if you think the Angels would land here. Their lease, which has an out clause beginning in 2016, is tenuous in Anaheim as the city has balked at the proffered deal that includes a giveaway of hundreds of millions in tax dollars and development fees. I doubt Moreno is likely to give Tustin any better deal and would expect a lot in return. I would consider this “leak” of information as a not-so-clever ploy by their negotiation consultants to put pressure on Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait.

Likewise, don’t expect anything to be said at the Tuesday Tustin City Council Meeting. There is no agenda item either on the Closed Session or Public Agenda. And, we have to wonder what part of the Brown Act covers discussions with baseball teams? It is a bit weird that a gentleman came to the last meeting to discuss the possibility of establishing a minor league baseball stadium and baseball camp. Maybe that was the cover story.

The Tustin City Council does have a fairly full agenda this week. You can tell it is spring as negotiation will begin with all of the major employee unions in the city. Tustin’s non-safety employees negotiations are handled by the Orange County Employees Association. It’s sad to see that, for the past several years, the employee unions have been willing to accept the City’s claim of poverty when dealing with them while they lavish raises and promotions on the executive managers. The union’s chief negotiator, Frank Flavin, is an experienced negotiator who, perhaps, they are not listening to when it comes to holding out for a better deal.

Discussion will also ensue over 4 items of property, all on the MCAS. We were told that the deal with the Army Reserve Center is not complete and there are some issues being haggled over. We think the deal is pretty good and will put the Army in a more suitable section of the development. Still, we have to wonder why they brought out the big guns, which were reportedly moved onto a parking lot near the District.

On the Public Meeting Agenda, TPD Officer Tim Carson will receive the MADD “Deuce” award. This award is given to law enforcement officers who make more than 25 DUI arrests in a year. We are proud of Officer Carson but sorry to see that we have so many drunk drivers in our midst.

The sole Public Hearing is an item held over from the previous meeting. It concerns a development agreement for 375 single family homes on the MCAS property. It is quite a large development and, while Councilwoman Beckie Gomez was probably not missed, John Nielsen was also AWOL and I am sure the Three Amigos needed another back to pat.

Most of the Consent Calendar consists of routine maintenance items. Items 6 & 7 stand out only because it raises an issue with cell towers. The two items have to do with communications site license agreements with T-Mobile and Cingular Wireless. The agreements are to continue running equipment at Tustin Sports Park. Our issue with licenses of this type is the cut the city’s cellular consultant, ATS Communications, receives for their services. The licenses, which terminate previous leases, allows for 20% of the proceeds to go to ATS for their “services”. Outside of promoting the interests of the various cellular companies, we’re not sure where they are earning their money. And, to allow that to go on ad finitum, is unconscionable.

Three items under Regular Business will wrap up the evening, unless someone decides to discuss their talks with the Los Angeles Angels coming to Tustin.

Item 9 – Purple Heart City Designation is a proposed resolution designating Tustin as a Purple Heart City that cares about it’s veterans who were wounded or killed. As I said in a recent post, this would seem a lot more sincere if the City were to seriously reach out to this city’s military history and veterans that made it. How about establishing a local veterans advisory commission that could work toward honoring the living and the dead?

Item 10 – Authorize Request for Deferral is a request to send a letter asking for a deferral of grant funds from Measure M2 for a detention basin and wetlands on the MCAS property. The delay is due in part to design issues. It would seem like a routine issue but, bureaucracy requires council approval.

Item 11 – Adopt Resolution ordering preparation of the Engineer’s Report. This is the annual levy of the Tustin Landscape and Lighting District. Another routine item that probably could have been placed on the consent calendar.

That’s it for the week. It is anyone’s guess if the city council will discuss the Angels meeting. Although the meeting should have been with City Manager Jeff Parker, I can’t see how Al Murray couldn’t drag himself away from his regular coffee cops morning to get a chance to hob nob with sports folks.

On The City Council Agenda – January 21, 2014

Hidden Agenda ClipartI hope everyone is having a great Martin Luther King Day. We are finally cooling off as the rest  of the country embraces another round of freezing weather. It is days like this that remind me why I live in our town Tustin.

It seems the city and the US Army have finally come to an agreement on a property exchange. For more than a year, the city has been pestering the Feds to exchange their current real estate, next to the District Shopping Center, for another parcel located near Warner and Redhill. The idea, of course, is to allow the District to expand while keeping the Army Reserve Center within the confines of the city. Actually, I think the city council could care less about the Army but they do want to serve their masters at the District. Sales tax, after all, is the bread and butter of a city.

This works out for all parties as the Army was in the process of planning new facilities at the current reserve center. According to the staff report, those efforts will now be directed toward the new location. The Army has agreed to submit their plans for comment and to obtain grading permits. This should be interesting over the next few years to see what happens if the plans don’t conform to Elizabeth’s vision. The city has a habit of holding up the permit process when they don’t like what they see. The Army, on the other hand, has a habit of not caring about permits, etc.

Oh yeah, and the “no-cost” agreement includes $170,000 payment to the feds by the city for they cost of the transfer. They also have to make sure water and sewage are in place.

The rest of the agenda has the usual suspects. Along with the final discussion on the Army property swap, there are two other issues, including on between the city and the school district.

Staff are asking the one Public Hearing Item on a development agreement for a 375 home housing tract on the MCAS property be continued to next month due to legal issues. Expect this to be worked out and back on the agenda.

There is little on the Consent Calendar of real interest. However, it should be noted the staff are planning a bocce ball court at Peppertree Park. A great addition that I’m sure our senior will appreciate. But, why only two courts? Oh, and staff may want to revisit the proposed resolution as, according to that, the original intention was to establish a water play area.

Item 13 on the consent calendar is for a grant application for federal funding for parks related programs. The $260,000 grant can be used for virtually anything park related. Staff have already targeted Frontier Park for the bulk of the proceeds. This is one item that could probably use some discussion either now or when the grant is approved.

That’s it for this week’s Tustin City Council meeting. The year is starting off by cleaning up old issues. With an election year up for grabs and two city council seats up for grabs, lets hope it stays that way so our intrepid heroes can concentrate on the important stuff.

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