Category Archives: Tustin City Council
On the Agenda
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.
Purple is not My Color
Ah, you have to love the bravado by which Governor Newsom holds his news conferences. If you were watching at noon, he makes a big deal out of taking his mask off whenever he steps up to the microphone. I wonder how many times he has practiced that move in front of the mirror.
So now, we head back into the most restrictive mode, Purple Tier, because who knew there would be a fall spike in Covid cases? I did, I did…..and you did, too, probably. For something that isn’t the flu, this virus certainly acts like the flu. And, we have been responding like it is a flu. Common sense tells people at risk to avoid crowds and go out only when necessary. Yes, we are all wearing masks (well, most of us). We may have defined social distancing but really….didn’t you do that last year with people you suspected had the flu? I mean, who wants to get sneezed on….
I hope you enjoyed eating inside at our fine restaurants. They will be forced back outside in 24 hours (rather than 72) because Newsom pulled what he likes to call the “emergency brake”. As we head back out, I expect some of them to close not because of a lack of outdoor space but because of a lack of outdoor heaters. While many restaurants, notably in the District and the Marketplace, own their own heaters or have them permanently installed, most of our eateries do not. Restaurateurs were grateful to the city, county and state bureaucracy in giving them outdoor space and making it easy to obtain the proper permits (ABC requires a Covid permit to serve alcohol outside the normal boundaries of a restaurant). The now familiar orange barricades in the streets of Old Town don’t look like they will disappear anytime soon.
Not that I’m complaining. I really think the outdoor dining has caught on and folks I see dining in Old Town seem to really be enjoying themsleves. Of course, that was before the cold snap and the lack of heaters. Unfortunately, we can’t expect the restaurants to suddenly come up with them. Patio heaters are expensive to purchase – if you can find them. They are also getting suddenly expensive to rent, due to price-gouging by those that had the foresight to purchase them in the hope of making a quick buck. So, you may have to say goodbye to your favorite dining spot for awhile. There’s always delivery…
Also say goodbye to your favorite gym, movie theaters, spas, and a host of other businesses that were allowed to reopen just a few short weeks ago.
Then there is the threat of the curfew. Yes, our dear leader is flexing his muscles again and said that a statewide curfew is a very real possibility. Now, before you conservatives get all riled up about how the “lawsuit” eliminated his ability to make executive orders, it didn’t (next time read the fine print). It has, in fact, better defined what he can and can’t do. He can’t make law but he can make orders that affect the welfare and safety of the state. And implementing curfews is one of those time honored orders that governors have been making for safety and security reasons almost forever. So, if he implements it, don’t expect the courts to overturn it. To my knowledge, Los Angeles is the only place considering a curfew on their own. That could change under the governor’s order.
On the other hand, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, who has previously stated he is not the mask police, is not likely to enforce a curfew. Barnes deputies patrol unincorporated area and a third of the incorporated cities in the county.
Will Tustin enforce the curfew? I think that depends on whether the city council gets behind it. Tuesday’s council agenda only has one non-consent item on it. Curiously, it is for a renewal of the city’s current ordinance regarding Covid restrictions. I’m not sure if they can amend the agenda at this late date but they should just so they can discuss this latest state update. Otherwise it will be another two weeks or more before they address the issue. Hopefully, they will at least discuss the possibility of a curfew and and their possible response.
Oh, I almost forgot. Governor Newsom apologized for joining that birthday party for his friend last week. He spent most of the apology justifying the actions and saying “everyone makes mistakes”. I guess my concern was that he was looking like he was snickering the whole time.
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.