“And, Heeeeeere’s Johnny”
For the first time I can remember, the video for the Tustin City Council meeting was not immediately available. It still isn’t. So how am I, as a loyal Tustinite and vociferous blogger, supposed to find out what happened last night? Well, fortunately for you and me, I have spent some time forging relationships with the folks in our town Tustin. One of them is the city’s Communications Director, Lisa Woolery. She was kind enough to send me a press release regarding last night’s meeting. I am going to save the committee assignment details for a later post because I think it is important to see what occurred (or did not occur) at the meeting where the assignments were made.
John Nielsen made his debut as Mayor of the city of Tustin at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. I have an informal chat coming up with our new Mayor this week. But, he has already answered some of my questions. John, who is in the middle of his first term on the council, issued a statement regarding his goals for the coming year. “It is an honor for me to serve my community on the Council, and I take my leadership role as Mayor very seriously,” Nielsen stated in the meeting.
Among his enumerated goals are:
1. Create Tustin’s first multi-year strategic plan to guide the direction of the City. The process will include integral roles from the City Council, staff, and the public.
2. Find creative ways to keep the Tustin Legacy development moving forward despite the elimination of Redevelopment Agencies as mandated by the California State Supreme Court. This will include completion of the Tustin Ranch Road extension and early development parcels.
3. Give greater access to the Mayor by having regular office hours for face-to-face meetings with the public.
4. Safeguard our City’s general fund by implementing an ordinance that mandates a 15% or greater reserve.
John is clearly borrowing on his business acumen in developing a strategic plan to help guide the council and city. Strategic plans, setting both long and short-term approaches will be useful in keeping the city on track and the council focused.
I also like the fact that Nielsen intends to keep “regular” business hours where the public can meet with him. I suspect John already spends a good deal of time at city hall performing his duties as a city councilman. It’s nice to know that he thinks enough of the citizens of the city he governs that he wants to be able to meet with them and share their views.
John’s biggest challenge, on his listed goals will be keeping Tustin Legacy development moving forward. As the California Supreme Court dealt their recent double-whammy death blow to redevelopment agencies, cities have been scrambling to figure out how they are going to complete already funded projects. Tustin Legacy previously relied on RDA money for nearly all of its development.
Of course, I was delighted to hear the demise of this rampant form of corporate welfare. Each year, your tax dollars are diverted from schools and more necessary services the city could and should be providing, to make payments on bonds floated in the name of promised prosperity. Proponents believe that RDA money has brought in necessary jobs and development to California cities. But, a study conducted years ago on RDAs said that, although redevelopment projects supported better than average property tax growth, generally they didn’t increase fast enough to justify their share of local taxes. Although I think it presents some challenges, cities around the state should eventually find a better way to bring development into their boundaries. And, that may be John’s and the city council’s most difficult task.
If I could add two more goals that our good Mayor should attempt this year, one would be to settle the issues, once and for all, between the city and the school district. With two lawsuits being heard in two different counties, the council does not need the distraction as they tackle bigger problems in a year that, hopefully, will see new growth and progress in Tustin. The most important thing Nielsen (and the folks at TUSD) should keep in mind is the taxpayer is on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and court costs as these lawsuits progress.
The other goal I would ask John to attempt is to eliminate the rhetoric and hyperbole that has, more often than not, led to argument and discontent on the dais. The Mayor is charged with leading the meeting. It should be led with efficiency and decorum. The antics of the previous mayor has brought the derision of numerous blogs, including this one. Nielsen has an opportunity to put an end to that, once and for all.
So, is this a good start to a good year? I’m still waiting on the video to see whether Councilmember, Deborah Gavello, incurred the wrath of the righteous before I answer that. Furious tweets from a friend at the meeting indicated their may have been some fireworks. The proof is in the pudding…., er, video.