Category Archives: politics
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.
Parking And Water – What The City Says
No Planning Commission meeting tonight. There is a hearing tonight at the Tustin Unified School District Headquarters at 6 pm regarding the establishment of a Community Facilities District 15-1, presumably on Legacy subdivisions. Taxes, I hear, will be ridiculously high for questionable results although the district will throw around current buzzwords like “magnet school” and “STEM”, to get everyone excited. How about we just worry about the three R’s for the time being? In any case, it beats another bond issue being foisted on a gullible public.
I had occasion to attend last week’s meeting of the Tustin City Council. Two agenda items resulted in a full house in the council chambers. Most of the attendees were there to voice their opinion on the proposed parking permit ordinance. The city is proposing to establish another permitted parking zone in a residential area near Redhill Avenue and Nisson Road.
Surprisingly, the public speakers were split about evenly for and against the ordinance. And, while most of those speaking against the ordinance were among those that would be adversely affected, some of them were the residents whose parking is currently impacted.
A presentation by Public Works Manager, Chris Aldovar, revealed the city has caused its own problem by establishing a previous permit parking ordinance in an adjacent neighborhood. Predictably, that ordinance drove the excess parking further down the road to its present location.
The usual arguments in favor of permit parking were cited. A residents survey complained of noise, trash certain unsavory characters hanging around at all hours of the night, etc., all of which has contributed to a diminished quality of life for residents. A check by the city showed that an average 65 percent of the cars parked in the proposed six block area were non-resident.
About half of the speakers came out in favor of the ordinance. Most complained of the same thing: trash, noise and people doing nasty (do I need to spell this out for you?) things in public. Used condoms were mentioned alongside the McDonalds wrappers.
Predictably, most of those that spoke against the ordinance lived in the nearby apartments. One college student complained she lived with two roommates in an apartment with one assigned parking space. She said she used to park close by until permit parking forced her to move down the street. She asked residents to look at her story as typical. She doesn’t like parking on another street that requires her to walk, sometimes late at night, to get to and from her car. But, she says, she has no choice. Permit parking will just move her and the problem to another neighborhood.
The city presentation itself revealed the shell game of permitted parking where the establishment of parking permits in one neighborhood simply moves the problem a few streets over. When those residents get fed up, they petition for permit parking and on and on..
Old Town Tustin residents are familiar with this. Permitted parking was established on Main Street west of Pacific Avenue several years ago. That contributed to the already burdened street parking on Main and streets north of Main. In the same way, the city admits that extending the permit parking area to the six block residential area will undoubtedly push the excess cars to new unpermitted areas.
That is, unless a permanent resolution is found.
One idea brought up by a resident was to have the city purchase several vacant storefronts in the area and turn them into paid parking. As he put it, for a nominal fee each month, these folks could have parking and the city would be able to recover costs.
Of course, no answer as to how the city would pay for the lots and improvements. Would property owners want to give up valuable commercial real estate? And, would people pay for something they receive for free by parking on the street. It also would not fix the problem citywide. And, judging from the number of increasing requests for permitted parking zones, it is only a matter of time. Taxpayers may rightfully complain the problem was caused by apartment developers years ago who legally were able to limit the number of parking spaces according to the number of bedrooms per apartment. Nowadays, that is not a good indicator of how many cars apartment dwellers will bring with them.
One solution a public speaker came up with is one the city deliberated years ago. That would be to require a permit to park for any residential area. Quite a few cities in California have gone the route of permit parking for most, if not all, residential parking areas (Stanton and Orange are two in Orange County). Some are more restrictive than others, requiring permits for anyone parking more than two hours at any time of the day or night.
The city of Orange has a system that charges residential streets to establish permit parking. The current fees to establish permitted parking are under consideration to be raised to $2500. The cost supposedly covers city costs to establish the zone. Permit parking in Orange is 24 hours a day.
Tustin has taken a less restrictive approach so far, prohibiting parking during the hours of 2-6 am without a permit in those affected areas. Currently, there is no charge to homeowners either to establish the zone or to disseminate permits. The establishment of fees might cut down on residents establishing restricted parking simply for elitist purposes.
If you want to weigh in on this, the city must hold another reading of the ordinance before implementation. You can get in your two cents worth at the next meeting of the city council scheduled for June 2nd.
The second major issue before the city council was water. The city council considered an emergency ordinance to establish changes to the Tustin City Code revising the city’s water management plan.
Several speakers expressed misgivings over the proposed ordinance and the city’s management of water resources in general. The first speaker complained that, even if all residents conserved another 25 percent of water, it would only result in a 2 percent reduction overall due to 90 percent of the water being used by the city and commercial entities.
It was pretty funny watching Chuck Puckett stumble over the reading of the ordinance, saying the governor was mandating a 25 percent decrease and that, through waterwise applications, the city of Tustin only had to cut back 28 percent. Huh?
It gets better.
Councilman Al Murray actually had the nerve to call Councilman Allan Bernstein a “water guru”. Seriously? OK, he actually said the city was “lucky” to have two water gurus on the council, Doctor Allan Bernstein and John Nielsen.
John Nielsen, who sits on the Orange County Sanitation District, spoke about the mandate from the governor’s office (not the extra 3 percent though). Asking, “Is it fair? No.” He emphasized that, like it or not, the city needs to do it as it is a state mandate.
Nielsen also advised what the sanitation district is doing with reclamation. He said the district is currently putting 70 million gallons a day back into groundwater replenishment. They are looking to increase that to 130 million gallons a day (You decide if that’s a good thing. Remember, we’re talkng poop here). OK, John attained guru status. I was impressed with that as much as the fact he obviously stays awake at the OCSD meetings.
Bernstein, on the other hand, shoots his mouth off without thinking. At times seeming to babble, he says Tustin is at the forefront of conservation and preparing for drastic measures through capital projects and by moving the city into more elaborate conservation measures. I presume he means by moving us from Stage 1 to Stage 2 (there are 4 stages….you don’t want to know what stage 4 is). As the water guru, though, he says nothing about the extra 3 percent over the mandate Tustin is required to conserve or how we got ourselves to this point. Embarrassing, to say the least.
Bernstein truthfully stated that he mentions the drought (more precisely, water) at each meeting. He should, he is not only our representative on the Water Advisory Committee of Orange County, he is Tustin’s own water guru. Oh, the Water Advisory Committee of Orange County (WACO for short) is just that – advisory. Their topics for discussion have included such exciting issues as, “An Introduction to the Colorado River Board of California” (April 10th), “Remote Sensing Tools for the 21st Century” (March 6th) and the nail-biting “Two Elephants in the Room – Salton Sea and Owens Valley” (January 9th). Bernstein ended his discussion with exactly how we got where we are (3 percent behind everyone else, to be exact). The city actually determines, through cutting edge technology, the exact amount each blade of grass on city-owned land needs and then delivers it, no more, no less. Guru stuff, to say the least.
The real water guru, of course, is Public Works Director, Doug Stack. Sporting a spiffy new goatee, Stack gave his usual intelligent, if pithy, discussion on water use and how much we actually
steal receive from our friends from the north. Stack proved to be the most informed on how and where conservation is needed and what the city is actually doing to conserve water.
The emergency ordinance making revisions to the water conservation codes was adopted unanimously. There was not doubt it would be but, then, we all know we need to conserve. If you don’t just drive down Redhill Avenue north of the 5 and you will see what days you are allowed to water your lawn. No word on when the water police will come to inspect your drip irrigation.
The next meeting of the city council will be Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Until then, take a word from the waterwise gurus and conserve.
Death and Taxes
Apologies for not doing my usual writeups on the latest Planning Commission meeting but tax day is rearing its ugly head and I want to stay ahead of the curb for once. My tax forms sent off, electronically of course, I can focus on our local issues. Here’s a recap of what has happened in the past few weeks.
Although there wasn’t much on the agenda, the March 17th Tustin City Council meeting went on longer than expected. A good chunk of it was taken up by a presentation by Police Chief Charles Celano. Celano who gave a “year in review” PowerPoint on the most recent activities and plans of his department.
Notably, crime is down thanks in large part to the CTAPS crime analysis program implemented under former chief Scott Jordan. In his typical low key style that I’ve come to like, Celano lauded both sworn and professional staff of his department and laid the blame for the general reduction in crime squarely on their backs. He delivered well-deserved praise for his people for their work.
Celano has had to weather his share of criticism in the past. It wasn’t too long ago outside rabblerousers invaded the city council chambers in an attempt to discredit the department. There were also attempts to turn low key events into high profile lawsuits (wonder if the plaintiff is the same Reznek from Huntington Beach fame).Those efforts have, so far, fallen far short due in large part to the professional efforts of the department.
Prior to the police presentation, citizens spoke during the public comment section of the meeting to garner support from the city council for a proposed Community Facilities District for the Columbus Square area of the Tustin Legacy properties. A sizable group of residents were in the chamber as one of them, Paul Callahan, spoke about the Heritage School situation.
As you recall, new residents are paying for a school they can’t use. Heritage Elementary School was supposed to open in 2011. When the school district finally announced the opening of the campus, it was to say they would be moving Hillview Continuation High School and Sycamore Adult School to the new digs.
That, of course, didn’t set well with the residents, who had moved there expecting to send their kids to local schools, or the Tustin City Council. The city council, which had a longstanding feud with the school district due largely to former councilman Jerry Amante and his puppet John Nielsen, wielded more taxpayer money by suing the school district again. Claiming the Columbus Square kids would have to go to other schools with predominantly minority populations, the city whined the residents were being cheated.
Someone should have mentioned the demographics to Nielsen and Amante before they shot their mouths off, not that it would have done much good. Nielsen, for his part, got up in a subsequent city council meeting and groused about being called a racist. Hey, if the shoe fits….
Since those dark old days, the city and the school district have kissed and made up. That was due in large part to Amante’s departure and Nielsen’s apparent inability to garner enough support to keep the fight going. The winners and losers were Tustin taxpayers.
All the while, though, the good folks at Tustin Unified School District were enjoying the public flogging of the city council, even as they plotted their own evil scheme against the residents by moving Hillview and Sycamore.
So, here we are in 2015 and the school district, no doubt feeling the pressure, has announced their intention to open the Heritage campus for its original purpose as an elementary school… in 2016. Yes, the district wants another year to get things as they should have been all along. I know it’s shocking but school district officials actually lied to the residents and taxpayers in the area when they said the Hillview move to Heritage was temporary. I mean, how long does it take to build a tennis court or two?
Apparently, it takes 5 years. Oh, and don’t expect Hillview to move out right away. We heard it through the grapevine that the school district has no intention of moving Hillview out before they open the site to elementary school age children. It will be a co-campus with both continuation high school students and elementary students sharing the grounds. We can’t find out for sure because the school PIO, Mark Eliot, has refused to answer our past emails (and, we gave up trying).
City Manager Jeff Parker shed some light on the issue at the end of the city council meeting.
“In part of that process was that we’ve already sent a letter to the school district saying we’re in line of thought that they move forward with the CFD [Community Facilities District]. A Community Facilities District is something that the school district actually forms, not the city. So, I wanted to make sure the public understands the process there.”
Parker wanted to make sure folks know who to blame in case something screws up. In following comments, he also made sure everyone knew the city remains a majority property owner in the area and, of course, it is the property owners who cast votes to form a CFD. That shouldn’t be too difficult to sell, even to the residents. They are, after all, desperate for a school they can actually use. Maybe the city should make the re-opening of Heritage as an elementary school exclusively, as a condition for their vote. In fact, that may be what the city is laying the groundwork for as Parker disclosed the working group that will “set the guidelines” for the CFD. In any case, don’t expect things to go that smoothly.
What they should be doing is working above board to insure the residents who desperately need these schools are informed. In reality, what will probably happen is the city attempting to influence the school district AGAIN in how they run their schools. Surely, transparency can’t be on their mind as the “committee” consists of TUSD and city officials with no representation from the affected residents. And, while I think it was underhanded of the district to actually pull the bait and switch the city earlier accused them of, it is just as reprehensible to believe the city should have any say in how schools are run. Leave that to the experts.
The last item, as a reminder, Linda Jennings of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy, appeared at the city council meeting to announce the formation of a GoFundme account for the restoration of the Jabberwocky. This Tustin landmark was restored from the ground up by the owner using local historic architect, Nathan Menard and other folks. There’s about $10,000 that was not covered by the insurance. Linda reminded folks they could help by donating whatever they could afford to the restoration effort by going to the Jabberwocky site (or see the link in our sidebar) . So far the effort has raised over $3,000 toward their goal.
On the City Council Agenda – March 3, 2015
Welcome to the Monday morning edition of Our Town Tustin. It was a quiet weekend around the home office. We were originally supposed to cook in the American Legion Riders annual chili cookoff but the impending (but never appearing) rain kept us at bay.
And, this morning, we awakened to some disturbing news just outside our city limits. The El Zocalo Mexican Steakhouse on Tustin Avemue and First Street was the scene of a shooting. The suspects and victims were arguing when at least one suspect pulled a gun and began blasting. Patrons of the steakhouse subdued the suspect and held him for police. According to Channel 5 news, one person died at the scene and four people were sent to Western Medical for treatment.
The Tustin City Council should have a fairly easy week with a light agenda. On the Closed Session, The city council will look at three Liability Claims -Sara Barba, Joseph Lujan and Rudy Gomez. The city is also in discussion with the School District over MCAS land. It’s unclear whether it is the land swap deal they were working on.
Besides the usual items on the Consent Calendar, Item 6 – Rename the Future 31.5 Acre Tustin Legacy Park, would ask the city council to rename the future sports park to Veterans Sports Park at Tustin Legacy. We’ve been following the progress of the proposed Veterans Memorial at the park for the past few weeks.
Renaming this sports park will allow the city to name the future linear park the Legacy Park. We think it is a nice touch and probably deserves some special recognition from the city council. Just don’t let the two-face John Nielsen talk about it. His past record, aligning with Jerry Amante, shows he has little care about our veterans beyond using them to further his own political agenda.
In other business on the Consent Calendar, City Hall will be getting a new HVAC system at the cost of $250,000. According to the staff report, the money was budgeted during this fiscal year.
The sole item under Regular Business is Item 6, Water Deposit Policy and Adoption of Resolution No. 15-10. This resolution will allow the Tustin Water Department to collect additional deposits from those they deem as deadbeats.
Now, I can’t remember how much of a deposit our household paid when we moved in to Tustin. I’m not sure if they still have my money or not. The current fee structure for deposits is, basically, “first and last month”. In other words, if your average water bill is $100, you would pay a $200 deposit with a $50.00 minimum required.
Under the proposed structure, the new deposit schedule could cost a customer from one to two-and-a-half times their average bill. In addition, if a customer fails to pay on time twice in a two year period, they will be required to furnish the maximum deposit.
Of course this new fee structure, which city staff claim will protect the city, will actually hurt the most vulnerable among our residents. Those with little or no credit will be hurt the most while the well-to-do get away with a returned, minimal deposit. So, how is this helping the city to accomplish any goal?
Well, there is one. The deposits are held by the city and may be invested. So, the City Treasurer will get to play with your money while they while away their time at the stock market. In the meantime, folks who struggle to pay their water bill each month, much less a long term deposit, will have their money tied up for at least two years. That’s real customer service for you.
Hopefully, the city council comments will be short and sweet so we don’t have to listen to them drone on about their exciting time at other community meetings. If they do, just remember that, in almost every case, they are touting their ability to make money from their positions as councilmembers, through the stipends they receive for the extracurricular activity.