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Isn't Tustin Already Occupied?Few people have not heard of the Occupy (insert city) movement. Fueled by Twitter, Facebook and other social media, the movement has swept the country.  Several weeks ago I saw a Twitter feed that gave an indication that the movement may be coming to Orange County. It has finally arrived.

The so-called “leaderless” movement” began with Occupy Wall Street a couple of months ago when people of all ages and backgrounds flooded Wall Street in peaceful demonstration. The police were overwhelmed. They had no idea what to do with hundreds of protesters who were actually demonstrating in a way that would have made Martin Luther King proud. So, some cops did what cops do best and pepper-sprayed and arrested the demonstrators.

By now though, it was too late, as this has grown into a nationwide grassroots effort by people of nearly every class peacefully demonstrating for the cause. There are no color or religion lines. The people involved are not particularly Republican, Democrat or any other political party (more than one Ron Paul sign has been seen). The message is not even all that clear. It is just people who are tired of the same thing that has been happening in our country. They are tired of their voices being drowned out with money and rhetoric from the far Left and the far Right. They claim they are the 99% that want to be heard and, perhaps, they are right.

The far Right seems to be the most upset with the demonstrations, which have taken place in New York, Chicago, Denver, Washington DC, and dozens of other places across the country (this is actually a worldwide movement, but that is another story). Some have laughed at it. Some have written it off.  Cal Watchdog writer, Katy Grimes, stated the Sacramento Occupy movement has cost the city $13,000. Really? She then goes on to say there she saw the protest dwindle from two hundred to seven “on a park bench”. Hmmm, that’s almost $2,000 per protester. Must be the overtime. Katy would like to write the protest off as inconsequential but she chose to write about it. Thanks for keeping the publicity up, Katy.

Occupy finally wound up on our doorstep about 2 weeks ago when, suddenly, Twitter keywords of #OccupyHuntingtonBeach and #OccupyIrvine began showing up in the time lines. It was almost comical to read Tweets, often accompanied by a photo, of a sole individual in a Guy Fawkes mask standing on a corner in Irvine holding a sign. Twitter feeds started getting busier with keywords relating to Orange County, urging folks to come out and support the movement on October 15th for a “Global Day of Revolution”.

So, October 15th came. The people came to Irvine, about 250 from one report. The cops came, about 5 or 6 from what could be seen. It was peaceful and even semi-organized. The leaders of this leaderless movement are working without compensation or apparent organization. However, I suspect there are a few and at least some of them know each other. The main job of the leaders seems to be keeping the message out there with the public and keeping it fresh. The police advised the group, late last night, they would not be able camp in the park or even stand in the park. In fact, they told them they had to move to the sidewalk until 6 am and had to keep moving or be arrested for loitering. It was clear the cops were worried. They were so concerned, they posted at least 2 officers at the civic center to quell any potential overnight riots that might have happened with the 20 remaining protesters. Well, I guess they can wear them down. Beside, after all, this is Irvine we are talking about.

October 22nd is supposed to move all the individual Orange County Occupiers into The Civic Center area of Santa Ana for one, huge occupation. The police are gearing up by watching old You Tubes of the Wall Street protest. I’m sure Shawn Nelson is polishing his gun and dusting off his CCW permit, just in case.  The homeless will probably join in, if only for the fact that they can get a free meal or two and some much needed hygiene items. The “unorganizers” are calling for assistance with food, hygiene, tents, sleeping bags and other items that will be needed to keep what they expect will be a large encampment or occupation of the Civic Center area. Will the Santa Ana Police let them stay if they protest in a peaceful manner? Some cities have kicked them out, some have allowed them to stay until they tire of them. It should be interesting to see what happens here.

If you want to get an idea of what is going on without actually going to Irvine or Santa Ana, join the Occupy OC Facebook Page or, if you want up to the minute, sometimes blow by blow, reports then join them on Twitter. In the meantime, I hope we don’t #OccupyTustin. I have enough to do getting ready for my daughter’s first homecoming dance.

Something Worth Voting For

Two of the items I touched upon in last week’s City Council Agenda were introduced by Mayor Jerry Amante.  With some mystery, Amante agendized discussion of council benefits, stipends and gifts and the possibility of having citizens determine these matters through referendum. Although Tustin has been fortunate to have, what is considered to be, a relatively open city government, it has had issues over the past few years regarding stipends and benefits for city leaders. Councilmember Deborah Gavello, in particular, has had her problems with the Orange County Register revealing what some would call lavish expenditures.  And, like Matt Cunningnham at Red County, I have a hard time getting into a tizzy over councilmember’s benefits (unless we are talking Bell). However, allowing the citizens of Tustin to have a direct hand in determining council compensation is a great idea.

I am not sure how far Boss Tweed Amante, who is termed out and will not be affected by any changes, wants to take this. It is certainly better than the old method whereby the outgoing council was responsible for setting the incoming council pay. And, it would certainly clear up any ambiguity Gavello or her attorney may believe there is in current law.

I firmly believe that most offices of government, up to Congress should be considered a citizen government. This is particularly true of local government. city councils and, indeed, even county board of supervisors should have full-time jobs and not be dependent on stipends and benefits from their part-time work as keepers of the keys. While professional legislators have overrun state and local government, usually to the detriment of the citizens they supposedly serve, cities and counties should never succumb to such a scheme.

It is hard to say what good old Jerry will come up with. Fresh from his triumph over those gullible Tustinites who would dare to oppose his tyranical form of governance, this may be an effort to paint himself as the altruistic politician he so often claims to be. If he will accept a few suggestions, here is my two cents:

  • Stipends should reflect a reasonable amount to allow for time spent on city matters. Let’s not forget, however, the intention is not to create a job, but to draw volunteers to public service. At the same time, the citizens, in a rage over some perceived action or inaction by the council, should not be allowed to make wide-ranging changes in compensation. Perhaps a cap of plus/minus 10% should be the limit for any change in stipend during any term set by law.
  • Benefits should be considered separately and not subject to the same cap as stipends. I mean, do you really expect or want a candidate to consider running for the position of city council based on whether they will be able to obtain health benefits? I am not sure whose idea it first was to propose any benefit other than a stipend for local elected officials but the idea stinks, plain and simple. Better the officials are given a “personal benefits account” (subject to certain rules) that could be used to further the official’s outreach to the community. After all, these are elected officials, not employees.
  • This should be a recurring referendum that is automatically placed on the ballot during council election years. This eliminates the confusion caused by midstream changes. It also makes it easy for the budget committee to forecast council expenses. Choices should be “raise”, “lower” or “no change”.

Jerry also has asked staff to come up with a more strict policy for councilmembers regarding gifts and gratuities. He believes the starting (and ending) point should be the policy currently in place for city staff. Whether this is practical or not, remains to be seen. I am willing to look at what the staff come up with before commenting. However, all of this is a step in the right direction.

It is good to see that Amante is at least attempting to be thoughtful as he moves into his final year of office. Oh yes, we have no doubt he will continue as Hizzoner through the end of his term.

Devore and Spitzer Battle it Out on Twitter

The dust has settled on the county redistricting plan and Tustin is firmly entrenched in the middle of Orange County Board of Supervisors District Three. Bill Campbell is termed out and a small war of words is heating up between two early candidates for the job. I am speaking, of course, about Todd Spitzer and Chuck Devore.

It is literally a small war of words because their battleground is the the social networking and micro-blogging service, Twitter. Twitter allows a person to send short messages of 140 characters or less to their followers. Short and concise are keywords on Twitter. Wikipedia describes it as the “SMS of the internet”. But, it is much more than that. It is micro-blogging at its best.

I was an early adopter of Twitter. In fact, I opened an account a year or so after it hit the internet and, like most early users, had no idea what to do with it. I had no followers, didn’t know what a hashtag was and forget trending. But, I had an account and, before long, I actually had tweeters following me. For the average, everyday user it’s a fun social tool. For a serious blogger it is a necessity. I get some of my best information from Twitter. Bloggers thrive in the tweeting world. And, the race between Devore and Spitzer is a prime example.

Chuck Devore joined Twitter in 2008 and, had been an avid user even before he announced his candidacy for the Third District.  Chuck tweets all things political with a conservative viewpoint. If you want to know how Devore feels about any political topic local, state or federal, I suggest you follow him at @ChuckDevore. Chuck is thoughtful and usually well reasoned. One thing you can do on Twitter is tweet directly to one or a number of users, even if they are not following you. It is one of the most powerful features of the service. Ask Chuck a question or give your opinion to him and you are likely to hear back from him, and often many of his followers, almost immediately (unless he is busy watching the GOP debates). Chuck comes into his own on Twitter.

But, it’s Devore’s active Twitter campaign against Spitzer that is noteworthy. Shortly before both of them formally declared their candidacy, Devore started in early and was attacking Spitzer for his record of supporting labor unions. He attacked Spitzer’s vote in favor of expanding public safety pensions during his previous stint as a Supervisor, even though he was joined by the other conservatives on the board who also voted to approve them.

Unfortunately, Devore overstepped the bounds of good sense when he jumped on Spitzer’s “union junket” to Las Vegas.

@ToddSpitzerOC parked $54,150 in embarrassing Labor $ into a slush fund used for Vegas trip. See: #ocgop

It turns out, the junket was the annual Baker to Vegas race, a famous endurance event that attracts teams of law enforcement officers from all over the world. Spitzer says his expenditures went to support the DA’s team which he claimed was a proper use of the funds.Devore still has mud on his face from that faux pas as the local prosecutors association backed Todd and everyone in blogworld (except CalWatchdog) blasted Devore.

Although Spitzer has a Twitter account, until recently, he has not been nearly as active on it, apparently preferring more traditional (and easier to understand) forms of communication such as his website and Facebook page. In fact, Todd tweets an average of once every two days compared with Chuck’s nearly five per day ( if anyone is interested, I average 1 per day but I didn’t really start tweeting until two years ago). Still, Todd has managed to slip in a zinger or two and he tweets more often these days. He outed Devore for financing his housing in Sacramento with the per diem lawmakers receive for personal expenses while in Sacramento.

So Chuck Devore admits he took the per diem to finance his second residence in Sacramento. Now that there is…

Newsflash, Todd, Devore isn’t the only assemblyman to ever do that.

Todd also has his own style. He rarely attacks Chuck directly but prefers to set the record straight when it is skewed by his opponent. He also likes to tout his own fundraising ability compared to his opponent, raking in $100,000 to Chuck’s $70,000 in the first part of the year. As both Chuck and Todd like to remind everyone in Twitter world, Todd also has a sizable bank account of campaign funds from his assembly days and later during his shunted effort to run for Orange County District Attorney.

Devore would like to paint Spitzer as just as much a union lackey as any democrat. The only thing is, it just doesn’t come out that way. Spitzer has signed on to GOP headmaster Scott Baugh’s “no union campaign money”. He also says that, while he did vote for enhanced pensions during his first tenure as Supervisor, he certainly would not do that today, knowing what he knows now. What Devore doesn’t seem to get is that the endorsements have less to do with money than with the man.  Spitzer gets all of the public safety union endorsements because he likes public safety, touts law and order in his Republican oriented ideology and public safety likes him. They really like him. Get this, even our own mayor, Jerry Amante, likes Todd.

So, This looks to be an interesting race between two well-known and well-liked Republicans. No Democrats in sight. But, why would a democrat waste their money on a foolish quest in this bastion of republicanism? Still, you never know. In any case, if you want to see bare knuckles digital fighting at its best, sign in to Twitter and follow @ChuckDevore and @ToddSpitzerOC. I promise you some interesting dialogue over the next year with plenty of commentary from us.

Oh, and you can follow us on Twitter at @keepdapeace.

A $50,000 Party for Cement

It’s too bad we are not in the 4th District for the Orange County Board of Supervisors. It is beginning to look like Shawn Nelson is the only one of the Gang of Five that has any sense at all. Not that I agree with him on everything, but he did get it right on one agenda item on Tuesday.

It seems the Board of Supervisors wants to throw a party to celeberate the opening of a parking lot. OK, it is a big parking lot. In fact, it services a large number of commuters and is a shining exampleSNA New Parking Structure of progress. I am talking, of course, about the newly completed parking structure at the John Wayne Airport. Anyone who has traveled from John Wayne in the past few years knows this parking lot (along with terminal space) was badly needed. But, spending $50,000 for the grand opening? Ridiculous.

Back to Shawn Nelson, he immediately questioned this saying it’s “a ridiculous illusion that people would be fired up about the terminal.” He said it made no sense to reward contractors for doing what they were supposed to do. He also questioned the airport’s use of half their marketing budget for one event. In his weekly email newsletter, Shawn was the only member of the Gang of Five to discuss the event. “…flight prices and availability are stronger measures to increase ridership than a grand opening event. In addition, any event expenses should be the responsibility of the vendors who stand to benefit by showcasing their products and services.” That sounds right to any good conservative.

Not surprisingly, John Moorlach defended the celebration saying that it was important to commemorate an “architectural creation”. Huh? John, it’s a parking lot, not a Frank Lloyd Wright building. It’s not unique. In fact, it looks a lot like the parking lot on the other side of the terminal buildings which looks a lot like parking structures throughout the county. Clearly, it does not take much “creativity” to get John into a partying mood. But then, he is an accountant. Oh, did we mention that the airport is in his district? “You have to have a little pomp and circumstance.” Yeah, now we get to the truth. John probably dreams of a big brass band behind him on the podium as he pontificates about the virtues of using non-union, outsourced labor to build the gleaming monolith and how this parking lot will symbolize the freedom Orange County’s citizens will feel each and every time they drive into it at $2 an hour. Usually the only thing I’m thinking about by that time is whether I’ll get the gentle hands treatment by the TSA folks.

Airport officials weakly pointed out that it was not just about parking. It was about food, too. Presumably, they meant that reporters and the media (I am thinking CNN here) would be touring the new food court we’ve all heard about in recent months. Gosh, that sounds exciting and a real good reason to spend $50,000 of taxpayer money… not. I don’t know about you but, when I am looking for a place to eat, the last place I would think of is the airport terminal with it’s 8 overpriced fastfood joints and 3 overpriced honky tonks peddling authentic Wolfgang Puck fare. I can get Starbucks in 180 other locations around Orange County (6 right here in Tustin alone). So, again, not for food and certainly not when the County is looking at a $48 million dollar shortfall this year due to the shenanigans played in Sacramento during budget season.

In the end, it was suggested that $25,000 be spent in airport (again, read taxpayer) funds, hoping that matching funds from “parking lot gala event sponsors” be found for the other half. Shawn and the Littlest Princess, Janet Nguyen (surprise again) chiming in with “nayes” were outvoted by the majority which, not surprisingly, included Campbell and Bates who, along with Moorlach, seem to have no problem partying on the taxpayer dime.

Oh, and don’t expect to be invited to this gala event unless you are one of Orange County’s beautiful people… or, at least a Republican in good standing.

If you haven’t read enough about this yet, here is an excellent story from our friends at The Voice of Orange County.