Category Archives: Local Government
Tuesday night’s Tustin City Council meeting left us a little teary eyed as councilmembers Chuck Puckett and Alan Bernstein were bid goodbye in typical Tustin style. Accolades flowed for Chuck and Alan….at least until the glitch in software overcame the technical expertise of staff and the video came to a crashing halt. For those of you that did not get to see the video, you can find it here in it’s entirety. Chuck spent more than 20 years in service to our community. I don’t think he will sit still for very long (Alan either, for that matter).
The final act of a short agenda was the swearing in of three “new” councilmembers: Newbie Ryan Gallagher, veteran Beckie Gomez and, returning lame duck Letitia Clark. Immediately after the obligatory swearing in ceremonies, Clark was named Mayor for the 2021 year. It could have been another first for Tustin, had Gomez accepted the pro tem position but she graciously side-stepped the honor and it was given to Austin Lumbard. Lumbard was elected to the city council in 2018 and deserves the position, ceremonial as it is. Still, it might have been nice to shatter the image of the “good ol’ boys” club with an all-female lead cast.
The makeup of the new council is diverse. Healthcare professional, engineer, public affairs and yes, even a lawyer. That, hopefully, will work in their favor as they have a lot to tackle this coming year. Covid-19, if you haven’t heard, is not going away anytime soon. Just today, Governor Newsom made good on his promise to effectively shutdown California again. Saying that cases have spiked and hospitals throughout the state will be overwhelmed before Christmas, Newsom split the state up into five regions and stated that any region with less than 15% available ICU beds will be shutdown.
Orange County is well below that number with only about 66% of its ICU and 69% of hospital beds in use (as of November 30th). Unfortunately, the Southern California Region that Orange County is lumped in with includes Los Angeles, San Diego and extending up the easter side of the state to Mono County. It’s a sure bet that at least some of those counties are overwhelmed as this is written. Enjoy this weekend (even with a shutdown notice, we have two days). It will likely be your last for awhile.
Back to Tustin….
I noticed most of our city councilmembers place a high priority on public safety. It was the most often cited plank in candidates’ platforms, probably because it resonates well with most people. Tustin, however, is considered a “safe” city ranking 76 on the Safewise blog. Of course, our neighbor to the south is either #1 or #12, depending on which list your use. And, gosh, a total of 11 Orange County cities ranked in the top 50. Add to that, crime is down all over the country (at least until the September riots). And, have you seen our police department? Accredited, well-rounded training, top notch professionals, both civilian and sworn staff. Chief Stu Greenberg inherited one of the best police departments in the state.
All of this is to ask, do we really need a focus on public safety?
What we really need, and this city council has the combined expertise to make happen, is development of the Legacy property. Yes, we’ve been plugging along, improving piece by piece. But, we’ve had that land in our possession for 20 years. And less than half the old base has been developed. Of course, we are lucky that former city manager, Jeff Parker, was astute enough to see that our so-called “master developer” was jerking the city around and took the reins from them oh so many years ago. Since then, the city has seen development occur ever so slowly.
The District was a brilliant idea and might have been a hit save for the fact it opened in 2007, right around the time of the Great Recession. All of a sudden, the housing bubble burst and the last thing people were looking at were overpriced housing on suspect contaminated land in the middle of Orange County. So, there the base sat….and sat……and sat…..
Well, things did finally pick up but it seems the pace has been a bit slack. This city council needs to take the lead and get development rolling again. Housing is at a premium in the state and, especially, in Orange County. The city should be focusing on both housing and business development of the base property and leave Chief Greenberg to do what he does best.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. Watching today’s Newsom News update on the pandemic, I realized something that I should have known all along… no matter how bad things get, it is always (and I mean always) possible for things to get worse.
Last week, reeling from the revelation that he is not above the law, Governor Newsom made a public apology for his faux pas at the Blanchisserie Française restaurant in Yountville (do I still need to tell you where that is?). I remarked that the smirk on his face belied his attempt to look honestly apologetic.
This week, while disseminating even more bad news, he looked honestly humble and worried. The hour long newscast basically came down to this: the numbers are rising faster than they did over the summer and we don’t know what to do about it. Two weeks ago, during his covid update, Newsom just barely mentioned how the numbers were rising in many counties and how the state may have to take action to reverse the trend. The next day, 40 counties were demoted back to the purple tier. This week, all but one county returned to purple tier.
Today, Newsom talked about how the numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate. Somewhere in his discussion he mentioned how the state might have to shut down again as they did in March. He quickly added that the shutdown would be with “modifications”. So, don’t be surprised if tomorrow you are hit with a big fat stay-at-home order. This seems to be part of the Newsom plan so he can claim that he warned everyone.
To defer an immediate attack by the press, Newsom quickly moved on to how the state was going to help the little businesses by deferring sales tax payments and offering SBA loans. Loans based on employee strength were also mentioned. That’s great, really great…except, most businesses won’t have to worry about deferring sales tax as they aren’t selling anything. And although Newsom spoke of easy to get business loans, they won’t do much good when the loan can’t be paid back due to lack of business. So, these promises he makes about helping the economy are just as shallow as his scientific knowledge of viruses.
Clearly, Newsom has botched this for the beginning. He is not alone. Much of the leadership across the country has taken the same tack – shut down the economy, bring everything to a standstill and wait it out. The hope was, if we wait long enough, the virus will just pass us by. Any scientist worth their salt knows that is not how it works. By shutting the economy down at the beginning of the year, the government simply put off the inevitable spread to a later time. That time seems to be now.
Yeah, yeah, I know. We should have had a vaccine by now. And, honestly, I was surprised we got one as quickly as we did. But supply chains and the government bureaucracy being what they are, one had to know it would not come quickly. So, of course, we are still awaiting distribution. And, who gets is first? I can tell you it won’t be you or me. (Rightfully) It will be the healthcare and frontline workers first. You and I will have to wait until at least the second quarter of next year. I can pretty much bet that Gavin, as an essential worker, will be at the head of the line.
So, do we continue to shutter our economy? At this point, it may not matter, the damage is done. It will take years to recover from what we have lost. Many local businesses will never recover; many are gone already. Of course, that doesn’t include Gavin Newsom and the elite who run the country. It doesn’t include Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. It could include you and me, along with our 401k’s and IRA’s that will surely suffer a hit by the time this is done. When and if this is ever over, I hope we all think it was worth it.
Pat yourself on the back, members of the Tustin City Council. You got through another year without much trouble; at least none that we noticed with the pandemic breathing down our necks. The city is lucky to have you. What, with all the remote meetings that most people couldn’t figure out how to log into, you could have really done some damage and you didn’t. Thank you.
The last meeting of the year is pretty pro forma. Send off the lame ducks and welcome the new crew in their place. Letitia Clark will be hanging around for another 4 years. She will be joined on the dais by veteran Beckie Gomez and newcomer Ryan Gallagher. Of course, you have those bastion of good ol’ boys, Barry Cooper and Austin Lumbard, to round things out. it should be an interesting year.
Tustinites finally righted a terrible wrong foisted on them eight years ago by Three Amigos. As a parting shot of total disrespect to the city of Tustin and the remaining city council members, then Mayor Jerry Amante talked his cronies into putting a salary elimination proposal on the ballot. At the time, the city was pretty fed up with the boys and that dissatisfaction resonated -in the form of a yes vote- with the electorate of the city. I’m sure I saw Jerry skipping with glee down the sidewalk of city hall as he left for the last time. Too bad he didn’t slip and break his neck.
Fast forward to 2020 and, lo and behold, the residents of this fine city saw the error of their ways. In an overwhelming 2 to 1 vote in favor, salaries were restored to the Tustin City Council. Rightfully, the stipend the city councilmembers will be paid is sans the old healthcare and retirement benefits. It will be above and beyond any out-of-pocket expenses paid by the city. Considering the amount of work a city councilmember does, even in our quiet burg, the $600 per month stipend is well deserved. Don’t spend it all in one place, guys.
In a way, I am sorry to see Chuck Puckett and Alan “Doc” Bernstein go. They have served the city well, even though Alan had trouble making a two line speech without looking at his notes. Chuck is an oldtimer and brought a wealth of knowledge to the dais, even though he associated himself with the conservatives. I honestly think it was his years of expertise and public service that moved the city council along most of the time.
So, for the first time in a long time, we have a fairly young city council that, I hope, will work together in keeping our city the great place it is to live. The most immediate threat to that, of course, is keeping our businesses afloat during the pandemic. Another immediate threat that needs to be reigned in is city staff. This city council has an opportunity to take a more hands on approach to city business, making sure the city manager and his staff are in tune with the residents of the city, not doing things the way they see fit. That will be helped along by some internal staff changes that have recently occurred. It wouldn’t hurt if they made a few more.
What with three new councilmembers and reinstatement of stipends for the work expected of them, Tustin City Council is off to a good start. I’m sure Chuck is wishing them well (after he breathes a sigh of relief) as the step up to the dais. We wish them good luck in their coming term. And, you can be assured we’ll hold their feet to the fire.
It seems like only yesterday we were sitting at the restaurant table, enjoying a glass of wine, laughing with friends and celebrating birthdays. Oh, wait that wasn’t us. That was Governor Gavin Newsom who, as has been typical, ignored the rules he has been touting for 8 months and had a grand old time with friends at the The French Laundry Restaurant in Yountville (that’s Napa for you peasants).
Never mind that he got caught red-handed with photos of him going bare-faced and everything. He actually had the nerve to go on television and , with his most insincere smirk, said that he “owned” the mistake and that was that, you should just forget about it because we all make mistakes, right? Right…..
So, I did something I rarely do, I actually watched the conference where he apologized, gave alarming statistics and said something to the effect that he was “studying” the use of curfews by Germany and Saudi Arabia. That was actually double speak for “we’re going to implement curfews in California,” because -two days later- he did.
In implementing his order for the curfew, Newsom said, “It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges. We’ve done it before and we must do it again.” Now mind you, I’m not sure this applies to Newsom or the elite in Orange County. Although Tustin issued a press release, it basically referred to the governor’s press release. Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce can shed some light on this.
Of course, there are a couple of questions. For one, it has been my observation that most businesses are already closed by 8pm. I work on the other side of the county several nights a week and often find myself looking for someplace besides the usual fast food joints to get a meal on the way home. It is a rare night when anyone is open. So, I kind of wonder just how much this curfew will accomplish. Does Covid-19 actually become more virulent between the hours of 10pm and 5am? Will I need to double mask?
Then, of course, there is enforcement. Countywide, Sheriff Don Barnes has reiterated his long standing view on the issue. “At this time, due to the need to have deputies available for emergency calls for service, deputies will not be responding to requests for face-coverings or social gatherings-only enforcement,” read a statement from the Sheriff’s office. Barnes had previously said his deputies would take an inform and educate approach to mask enforcement.
Here in Tustin, things are a bit vague. Back in March, when we shutdown the county, the city issued a press release stating that non-essential businesses must be shut. Other than that, there was no discussion of enforcement or any other action to be taken by the police or code enforcement. if TPD arrested anyone for violating the shutdown, I’m not aware of it. The governor’s strike teams didn’t even show up, darn it.+
I suspect, as of Saturday night, it will pretty much be business as usual from 10pm to 5am. Most businesses in the city already close much earlier than that. I doubt the SWAT team will descend on the outdoor patio of Roma d’ Italia if there are a few lingering customers finishing off their wine. And don’t expect your mother-in-law who likes to take late night walks through old town with her corgie to suddenly disappear when armed men dressed in black suddenly fly out of an SUV and whisk her away. Not gonna happen.
Chief of Police, Stu Greenberg, has not issued a press release regarding the curfew. I doubt that his office will, as much as I doubt he will direct his officers to take any enforcement action at all. That’s not to say if you are out and about past 10pm and are acting like an idiot you won’t be stopped. I’m sure at that point the fine officers of our city will pay some attention to you. But, walking your dog after 10pm. Well, that’s essential, isn’t it?