Category Archives: Local Government

Business as Usual?

For most of the country, the election is finally over. Months of constant harassment and obnoxious commercial after commercial are, thankfully, over. Now, if we could just do something about those equally obnoxious Medicare supplemental insurance commercials.

Here in our town Tustin, there has been a definite shift to the left. Beckie Gomez has reclaimed a seat on the dais, joining Leticia Clark. This is still a liberal minority and not the first time we have had two female liberals on the city council (women of color is a big plus). Gomez was also part of the progressive platform on her last stint on the council. That didn’t work so well for a variety of reasons, including her apparent preference for the policies of the city elites over those of her constituents or her liberal ally. We’ll see how things pan out this time.

Ryan Gallagher (no relation) is a non-starter. A good portion of his campaign was financed by the same wonderfully dark money as his compatriots. His list of endorsements, unsurprisingly, contains a veritable who’s who of former city officials that nearly sunk this city with their clown show a few years ago. He will most certainly join the conservative Austin Lumbard and Barry Cooper to effectively block any meaningful actions by the left.

And, that’s a shame. For the first time I can remember, the city council is made up entirely of city residents who are old enough to make sound decisions while being young enough to have some innovative ideas. Their combined expertise could be put to great use to move our city forward in developing the rest of the Legacy and as it navigates the dangerous waters of…well, water. Poseidon, the developers of that nasty, desalination plant in Huntington Beach, are pushing strong for something we don’t need that will surely affect the water rates of every homeowner in Tustin. Governor Newsom, for whatever reason, is onboard; so much so, that he fired Santa Ana Water Board member, William von Blasingame, who spoke out against the project and replaced him with….Letitia Clark.

The assumption, of course, is that Clark is a proponent of the project. Most certainly, those who rallied behind von Blasingame have now had their voices squelched, even if Clark is opposed or neutral to desalination (I can’t find where Clark has made a statement, one way or the other). She could be a new voice but I doubt Newsom appointed her without checking this out. I mean, come on…California’s would-be dictator is known for appointing advocates to his various causes and policies. So, it is doubtful Clark would be neutral on the issue.

More importantly is where Clark may be headed. By all accounts she is well educated in the right fields (political science, public administration) and, with the most recent governor’s appointment, connected to the right people. Clark has four more years to work with Tustin. Her first four have obviously helped her politically, even though she has not really accomplished that much during her tenure. That could change now that she has a strong ally in Gomez.

For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to the the first of the year and a “new” city council. There is much to accomplish and it could be done if the city council would work cooperatively, learn to compromise and -most importantly- reign in and take control of city staff.

Good luck, Councilmembers Clark, Gomez, Lumbard, Cooper & Gallagher. You will need it.

All the Kings Horses

As if we didn’t have enough to concern ourselves with the pandemic, now we get to add another wildfire or two on top of that. We’re fortunate to have some of the best firefighters in the country working for us. That’s a post for another time.

If one were to look at the current state of elections in Tustin, one might think we are having a crisis in leadership. I mean, we have 9 candidates vying for 3 council seats with one incumbent running for re-election. It seems to be a trend, though. Westminster has five candidates running for two seats. Westminster is rife with allegations of corruption and back office deals. So, it’s no wonder they have plenty of candidates to seek office.

Like us, the city of Garden Grove has 9 candidates running for 3 council seats and the mayor’s office. Five of the candidates are running for mayor. Garden Grove has little in the way of corruption but has a huge agenda this coming term, contending with issues like the sale of the Willowick Golf Course (which is curiously located in Santa Ana) and the possible economic collapse of the Habor Blvd. corridor.

Besides the number of candidates running, Tustin also shares another commonality with Garden Grove. There is a lot of campaign money, both light and dark, backing the candidates. And that money is one thing that should alert folks to who they should vote for.

I know a good number of readers have already voted. I haven’t been in a hurry to post this I mean, we have less than a week to go before the official “election day”. And, quite frankly, it’s not my job to tell you how to vote. I just want every eligible person in Tustin to actually vote. For those who haven’t voted yet, I have a few things for you to ponder in case you are having trouble making up your mind. I mean with 9 candidates, which I don’t recall us ever having for a single election, a person needs to cut the field down. Now mind you this is my own way of thinking, your mileage may vary.

If there was anyone to cut immediately, it would be Kurt Bensinger and James Peres. The allegations of mismanagement of campaign funds by the FPPC is a good start. Our good friends over at the Liberal OC had quite a bit to say about the letter sent to the DPOC concerning the issue. Bensworth and Peres have denied any wrongdoing (of course) and blamed their campaign finance manager. Their campaign statements and ensuing multiple amendments make it difficult to see exactly what and from where they received contributions. What a hoot. C’mon guys, the buck stops here. You are ultimately responsible for every dollar (or contribution in kind) your campaign take in. If a person can’t manage their own finances, why would one let them manage the city?

Then there is our retread and what looks to be career politician in the making, Beckie Gomez. If the name sounds familiar it’s because she already spent two terms doing virtually nothing on the Tustin City Council except agreeing with the conservative good ol’ boys on almost every issue that came up. She was supposed to be the liberal voice speaking out for the little guy…uh person while the Three Amigos pushed through their agenda of business over community.

What’s worse is, to keep her name politically alive, Gomez got elected to the OC Board of Education to wait out the term limits thing. And now she is back for round two. Her qualifications make her much better suited to her current job. If she returns to the council dais, we can just expect more what we had. Some of what we can expect is, she will be beholden to the county firefighters association, Tustin Police Officers Association and assorted trade unions, all of whom have contributed heavily to her campaign, directly or through PACs.

Speaking of career politicians, there is current city council person and second term candidate, Leticia Clark. Reading the leading line on her campaign website one would think she has been the shining star of the city council. In reality, she hasn’t made any waves and, from the looks of things, we could expect the same from her in the future. There is this: she is probably one of the most educated persons we have ever had on the city council. Maybe if the people of Tustin were to elect a little more of a moderate crowd to the dais, she could better accomplish what she aims for…. I mean, her platform sounds good but she has had four years to work on it and what has she accomplished?

That leaves five other candidates. Of those, we have one candidate who is far and above the rest in campaign donations with an astounding $128,000 in the campaign chest. Actually, it is much more than that because I didn’t include the last minute reports of donations for Lee Fink.

I had a brief social media conversation with Lee concerning the fact that most of his donors seem to be lawyers. Logically, of course, lawyers are going to back lawyers. He has some pretty hefty donors in there that upped his funding but at least we didn’t see any businesses that do business with the city. That’s a big plus in my book. My only concern is the amount of campaign funding (and expenditures) he received. Fink is probably a record holder for the recipient of funds for a small city council campaign. That leads me to wonder if he is just another career politician in the making (move over, Beckie).

Lee is also a homegrown politician, so there’s that.

Another big recipient of campaign funding is Jorge Valdes. Valdes is another lawyer who received a considerable amount of the $90,000 or so he has reported from his peers. However, the red flag goes up when I see the typical contributions from the OC Biz PAC, a purveyor of dark money, and the sizeable number of auto dealers from the Tustin Auto Center who have contributed. Valdes has also received large contributions from the OC GOP, Lincoln Club and -what could only be assumed a dark money outlet- the “Taxpayers for a Sustainable Economy” (I haven’t checked them out yet but I will). Beholden to business or responsible to the community? You have to make that decision.

One person stands out from the crowd. Chris Cusac is a veteran and a local businessman. He appears to be running a largely self-funded campaign and has relied heavily on non-monetary contributions. He owes allegiance to no business or union. And he seems to be the only one who thinks we need a guiding hand and not significant change. From his website: “Cris is running to make sure our community remains as amazing as it currently is.” Chris has the kind of credentials I like to see in local candidates. Tustin Community Foundation, Veterans Advisory Committee, Chief’s Advisory Board, etc. Although he has only been here 6 years, he has made the most of it and I would think he would put a lot of thought into decisions that have to be made in the coming months.

So there you go. I’m not telling you who I voted for (I voted today) and I won’t tell you who to vote for. At least you have a little more information on some of the candidates (some weren’t worth mentioning). Pick wisely. You’ll have to live with them for the next four years. Oh yeah, there is one other thing: For more than 25 years, our city council has been primarily conservative (bad form to say R & D words in a non-partisan race). Maybe we ought to try a slight shift to the left. Consider it anyway. The fate of the city is in your hands.

Cleaning Up Our Act

Yeah, I know. It’s been awhile since I’ve been around but I’ve been busy….honest. I’ve also been retired for a few years. And there really hasn’t been much going on around our town Tustin to write about. It’s not like the old days of cell towers and credit cards.

Of course, that’s all about to change. I mean, when was the last time we saw 9 candidates for 3 slots on the city council? I can tell you, it has not happened in the 25 years I’ve called Tustin my home.

We also don’t have a typical crew of candidates. The crop includes a potential retread (nothing new there huh, Chuck?), an incumbent (who, form what I’ve seen has never found a vote she can say “no” to), 2 candidates accused of FPPC violations (because they, apparently, can’t count), and a lawyer or two (funded by lawyers). We’ll get into all that soon enough. You either haven’t voted yet, in which case stay tuned or, you already voted and there’s nothing to see here – move along….or stick around and see what you missed while doing your research on the candidates.

Well, this post was really to tell you that we apologize for not being around when we probably should have. I mean, we took all that time way back when to meet the local gadfly politicians and all….

We have cleaned up our links and updated the calendar pages the best we can. Of course, during COVID we can’t go anywhere anyway. Now, if we can figure out how to tune into a current city council meeting from the comfort of our own home…

Salty Waters

Water issues are nothing new for Orange County or for Tustin in particular. Not too long ago, we were in a drought and the city council was standing behind draconian water saving measures that we, largely are still following. Funny thing is, through all the odd/even, two-day-a-week, four-day-a-week watering schedules we had, our town has always been somewhat conservative in our use of the precious commodity (except for my former neighbor who took great delight in watering my car in the driveway at whatever time it was parked there). So, I have to wonder what is going to happen next in the wonderful world of water.

Of course, we no longer have the drought to deal with. And, although the possibility of another dry spell looms ever present, no one is talking about a lack of water. That is, except, Poseidon and Governor Newsom.

For 20 years, Poseidon Water Inc., which has offices conveniently placed in Huntington Beach, has been pursuing their dream of a desalination plant to be located on the shore of Orange County in the space of an old electrical generating plant. Claiming to be the water savior of OC, they are touting a multimillion dollar facility that would take in 100 million gallons of water a day and spew forth 50 million gallons of fresh, clear drinking water…..and 50 million gallons of salty brine back into our already screwed up coastal water.

Poseidon claims they want to relieve Orange County of their dependence on imported water. What they really want to do, of course, is relieve every rate payer of their spare cash in the form of drastically increased water rates. Cost of desalinated water is astronomical, compared to the cost of water imported from the north and Colorado River. Let’s not forget the Tustin Water Department operates 14 wells around the city which supplies a good portion of our water from the aquifier beneath our feet.

So, what am I getting at? The governor who, as I said, is in love with desalinated water, really wants the Poseidon plant to be built. He wants it so badly that he has taken out a major stumbling block to the project in the form of a Santa Ana Water Board member, William von Blasingame. Von Blasingame is a critic of the water desalinization plant and has publicly questioned it’s necessity. Poseidon, which has sunk over a half billion dollars in lobbying money (that’s cash in the pockets of politicians) into getting this project approved, has a friend in Newsom (we wonder how much of that cash has gone into his altruistic pockets). Newsom, seeing the project possibly derailed by the water board, has taken action by replacing von Blasingame with someone who, I can only speculate, will be willing to play ball or, at the least, not make waves.

That person is our own city councilmember, Leticia Clark. Clark, a first term councilmember running for a second term, has been selected by Governor Newsom to replace von Blasingame. One look at Clark’s resume’ reveals a hopeful career politician hoping to garner support not from her community but from her political affiliations. Since her appointment, she has refused to speak with the press about the Poseidon issue and has not publicly stated her position. Well, gee. Let’s put 2 plus 2 together and see if we can come up with a likely position. With the appointment to a regional board by the governor, comes favors owed. Don’t expect Clark to take the interests of the residents of Orange County into consideration when the governor comes a knockin’. And if she rolls with Newsom on an unnecessary water deal, one has to wonder what else she would do for the sake of her political career.

The Voice of OC has several excellent articles on the reality of the desalination plant. You can find them here.