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On the Agenda, December 18, 2012

Hidden Agenda ClipartAs the year comes to a close, the new Tustin City Council is tying up loose ends and preparing for another year. Among other things, they will have one last opportunity before year end to discuss the lawsuits between the city and the school district. Here is an opportunity to turn thing around and stop the idiocy that has overshadowed the council chamber for the past couple of years.

Open session will also see the awarding of the contract for construction of the Legacy Fire Station and a land swap deal for the District and the Army Reserve which is asking to rebuild a reserved center on the old MCAS property. Sidewalks and street improvements are also on the agenda.

Closed Session

Items 1 & 2 – Conference with Legal Counsel, Initiation and Exposure to Litigation

Item 3 – Conference with Legal Counsel, Existing Litigation – Tustin Unified School District v. City of Tustin

Consent Calendar

Item 3 – Award of Construction Contract, Tustin Legacy Fire Station – Staff recommendation to award bid to lowest bidder, Erickson-Hall Construction Company for $4.1 million dollars.

Item 4 – Approve Cooperative Agreement with OCTA for SLPP funding of projects – Four projects including one held jointly with Santa Ana are slated for funding under this program. All funding is matched by M1-M2 funds.

Item 6 – Annual Review and Adoption of Investment Policy – With Deborah Gavello out of the way, the city council is free to continue to allow George Jeffries to illegally invest funds in accounts he should not be investing in. Of course, never mind the fact that the city appears to be Jeffries only client these days. He is way past is prime and city manager Jeff Parker should be looking at succession planning in this area.

Regular Business

Item 8 – Tustin Response to EA/DFNSI for Army Reserve Center – Apparently the city is not happy with the proposed exchange of property with the District and the subsequent construction of the Army Reserve Center on Barranca Parkway. They are proposing the Army either swap land for another parcel off Redhill and Warner or submit their plans to the city to ensure compliance with federal and state clean water acts. This is pretty laughable seeing as how the city is already on the losing end of a lawsuit with the Tustin Unified School District over these same issues. One has to wonder how much taxpayer money this city council will squander in lawsuits with the U.S. Army. OK, you really have to read the letter here to understand the joke.

Item 9 – 2013 Mayoral Appointments List – The annual list of council appointments to various boards and authorities can be found here. Most of these are of little consequence to the proposed members as they have no fiscal impact. However, if you thought city council members would not be compensated for their time, guess again. Even though Measure HH did away with city council compensation, it did not do away with board and authority remuneration. Beckie Gomez, who is probably still incensed that her gladhanding did not even net her the pro tem position, is the sole loser here with virtually no paid positions to her credit. At least she is consistent.

On the other hand, the Fab Four will net handy stipends of anywhere from $9,000 to $15,300 per year for attending meetings for everything from transporation to sewage. In many cases, this will be on top of health and retirement benefits. It looks like former mayor John Nielsen will pick up some nice change as he is slated for a couple of these jobs. He will need it as I hear he was recently terminated from his employment. Rumor also has it a moving van was seen near his home of record. Laughably, Nielsen has also been nominated by Mayor Al Murray to be the liaison for Tustin Unified School District. I guess Murray is even less interested in resolving the problems with the school district than Amante was.

In the final meeting of the old year, the city council has chosen to live the words from a famous George M. Cohan song, Always Leave Them Laughing When You Say Goodbye. We look forward to many new laughs from the Fab Four and their misguided DINO in 2013.

Where is the Video?

courtesy of

(Update: The city finally posted the video. Still, we have to wonder why all the problems with technology-ed.)

It seems the past few months have been tough on the City’s video production department. Once again, we attempted to access the video only to find it has not been posted yet. It is too bad because there was actually, from what we hear, quite a bit to report on. We did hear that the council discussed the absence policy and it was voted 3-1, with Gomez dissenting, to send it back to staff for development. As we said before, the policy will have little effect and was simply another bullying tool for a forgetful Jerry Amante.

And Amante, of course, had another of the Gooderham shills show up at the meeting to pooh-pooh Deborah for her absences. Steve Gooderham said he believed Gavello to be derelict in her duties. Really? As far as I know, she is still conducting council business which, as we all know, is mostly conducted outside of the council chambers. So, perhaps Steve and his wife Pam, who both are diehard Jerry fans by the way, can come up with some specific instances where she is derelict. Maybe they can borrow Jerry’s iPad for an interactive presentation, since they paid for it. Maybe, they could run for City Council.

Also on the agenda was the telecommute policy. In a recent email conversation with Deborah Gavello, I learned that, after a discussion on the pros and cons with the city manager, she had specifically asked not to agendize the item. So, where this even came from, I don’t know, other than possibly Jerry again in his desire to take down Deborah. In any case, the council did the right thing to receive and file the issue as the agenda report made it clear there would be too much difficulty in dealing with the issue while maintaining compliance with the Brown Act.

The only other thing we heard was there was a young Boy Scout who had the longest award sash anyone has ever seen. I heard 131 awards and he should be very proud of his accomplishments. I am sure our own Boy Scout (I am being serious here), John Nielsen was beaming. Congratulations to all of those who received presentations. If we ever get to see the video, maybe we will publish names to go along with our report.

First Fireworks Show at Tustin City Council

Did he really say that?? At the Tuesday Tustin City Council meeting, Mayor John Nielsen presented the entire Tustin High School football team with certificates for winning the CIF Championship. Toward the end to the presentation, John told the Tillers Coach, “Win another one. I’ll probably still be mayor”. Really, John? Was this your ESP in action? Or, did you have one of those secret meetings with the Gang of Three where it was decided you would run for two terms as mayor? Well, I guess you have to win the election first.

And that’s how the fireworks began for the evening.

Councilmember Beckie Gomez asked to pull Item 5 from the consent calendar. This item was a change order for current construction at City Hall. After Gomez asked a few innocuous questions, Councilmember Gavello then asked exactly what the city was getting for its $281,000 contract. A city staffer explained that the construction was ongoing and outlined the changes being made to accommodate office space for the city finance department. Gavello was concerned that, after a contract had been let for construction, changes were being snuck in after the fact. Of course, Nielsen interrupted Gavello during her questioning and patted the staff on the back for the fine job they did while chiding her for having the nerve to question staff doing their job. Really, John. Are you going to take up where Boss Tweed Amante left off?

Apparently, not. Jerry, not about to be upstaged by his former black ops guy and just because he’s no longer mayor, took the floor to double-whammy Deborah by telling her that this contract was nothing new and that she should just sit down and shut up while the big boys ran the show. Hey Jerry, news flash: When a contract is let and then changes are made after the fact, particularly if those changes will result in additional cost, it is the responsibility of the entire city council to question the issue and make sure that the changes are for good cause. Should Deborah or the rest of the City Council be asking these questions or should they just “trust” staff? And where was Councilmember Beckie Gomez during this discussion? She obviously brought up the issue for a reason. But then backed off asking deeper questions. No surprise there. I have to tell you, the staffer’s explanation sounded like double talk to me, even though he said he could “handle the question”. Gomez, in her usual style, sat quietly because that appears to be how she gets along with the Gang of Three while still seeming to answer to her constituency. Good luck with that, Beckie. Your non-support is noted.

Now, what was really laughable was when Boss Tweed, yelling and screaming from the dais, actually accused Gavello of grandstanding. Well, Jerry, if there is anyone who would know grandstanding, it would be you. You are, after all, the master.

So, it seems that, even though John Nielsen may not play the heavy, he is more than willing to allow Boss Tweed Amante to continue to batter Councilmember Gavello. We thought he would be better than that and be a little more in control of the dais. Wishful thinking on our part, obviously. At least Jerry called her by her appropriate title, something he rarely did while mayor.

So, here we have it. Another year of fireworks at the Tustin City Council. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that Amante will fizzle out. We already know he’s a dud.

Christmas Comes to Tustin

It’s that most wonderful time of the year and our town was in quite a festive mood. I am talking, of course, about the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Old Town. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been able to attend this great event. In fact, the last time I was able to make it was when the ceremony was held down on El Camino Real.

Nowadays, the event is held in the library courtyard and it has not lost any of its hometown feel as bell ringers, carolers, reindeer and good ol’ St. Nick lead us up to the main attraction, the lighting of Tustin’s “official” Christmas tree.

Courtesy of Four Provinces

Of course, most of the usual suspects were there. As I walked around with my daughter, I ran into our newest Mayor pro tem, Al Murray. He was gracious enough to pose for a picture with my daughter. I congratulated him on his “promotion” and truly wished him well. No political discourse, no questions. Heck, I don’t even think he knew who I was. And, I wanted it that way because I am still hoping he will sit down with me to chat about his vision for Tustin.

Of course, a few minutes later, I ran into John Nielsen. I suspect John does know me because he looked at me with the all-encompassing scrutiny of a politician who has long fielded barbs. Perhaps he could just tell he was shaking handss with a blogger. In any case, I distinctly felt him tense up when we shook hands. Relax, John, I just want your perspective, too.

As my family and I took in the boutique and the great kids games the community had put together, it reminded me of what a great community we have. Events like this keep that hometown atmosphere that people my age missed after coming to the Great State of California.

When it came time to light the tree, Santa made his grand entrance and the city politicos made their way to the stage. Mayor John Nielsen and Al Murray were introduced along with councilmember Beckie Gomez and the Grinch…. uh, I mean, Councilmember Jerry Amante and Debor….. oh, wait… MIA again. Last I heard, our ever-absent councilmember was frequent flying to Seattle. Too bad. She missed a great ceremony and probably one of the few opportunities to get a picture with both her and Jerry in it.

All in all, it was a great evening with neighbors and friends from a great town. So, here is all of us from Our Town Tustin, wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a very Prosperous New Year.