Jerry’s Olive Branch Wilts
We received word today that the City of Tustin, ala Boss Tweed Amante, has extended an offer to settle the lawsuits between the city and the school district. Two lawsuits have been filed, one each by the city and the district. The first suit was brought by the school district in response to the city’s heavy-handed approach to the district’s refusal to submit to the authority of the city for construction issues. As a further response to that lawsuit, filed last year, the city changed its ordinance that had stood for years, allowing other government entities the ability to forgo the permitting process.
In the second suit, brought by the city in August of this year, Tustin claimed a “bait and switch” by TUSD when they built Heritage Elementary School. Due to the poor economy and the lack of development of the old Tustin MCAS, the district elected to move Hillview Continuation High School, along with some administrative offices, to the Heritage site rather than open as an elementary school. TUSD claimed the move was temporary, while the city of Tustin claimed a conspiracy in which this was the district’s evil plan all along and that the move would be more permanent. The truth lies somewhere in between as TUSD has not stated how long the site will house Hillview but contends that it will be moved back to the original site in North Tustin when construction is completed on the Hillview property.
The so-called olive branch held out by Boss Tweed Amante is not much. In fact, it is rather wilted from the start. What he and his henchmen propose is that both parties drop all lawsuits against each other, each side pay their own legal fees and costs to date and that the school district reopen Heritage in 2012 as the intended elementary school, presumably to service the Columbus Square residents who now must bus their children (according to Amante) to schools far away. Nice.
Apparently, Jerry wasn’t listening when the school district said the reason the elementary school didn’t open in the first place was due to the low population in the area. The school would have opened with 75 or so students when it required more than 300 to run the school even half way efficiently. Had TUSD not relocated the Hillview students so that construction could proceed, the school probably would not have opened at all. That, according to the school district, would have been a waste of facilities and would have led to quicker deterioration of the buildings through non-use.
In a letter, dated October 16th, Superintendent, Gregory Franklin, reiterated that the current uses for Heritage were temporary and that the school will reopen as an elementary school when development of the area resumes and there are adequate students. In that same letter, he put to rest Tustin’s contention that traffic and parking issues would be a problem, stating that most of the students were either dropped off or took the bus. This appears to be correct as there are no known parking issues at the school. Franklin also answered concerns of residents who questioned why some schools had opened with less than ideal student numbers.
I am all for the two sides putting down their swords and settling their differences out of court. Over a million dollars has been spent on legal fees by both sides that the taxpayer must foot the bill for. Although one of the lawsuits has been rescheduled to April of next year, a settlement would be preferable and less costly in the long run.
As of now, TUSD has not responded to the offer. It would be safe to assume, however, the offer will be rejected as the school district has made it clear that Heritage cannot open with the proposed population. Jerry knows this. So, that puts his motives for making the offer in question. And, if Franklin is smart, he has to wonder what Hizzoner has up his sleeve should TUSD decide to do what the city asks. Franklin should remember that Jerry never says what he means and he never means what he says. Rumor has it he fired his last City Manager, David Biggs, because Biggs had the audacity to suggest the city settle with the district. That cost the city taxpayers a princely sum in severance pay and benefits negotiated by our fiscally conservative mayor and his cronies on the dais. That makes this “offer” highly suspect.