Apologies for being MIA the past few weeks. We’ve had family business to take care of and, as most of you know, the blog is a passion not a career. In any case, there hasn’t been much happening politics wise during the first part of June. I hope everyone enjoyed the Annual Chili Cookoff and the Tustin Police Open House. Both events are highlights of our town Tustin. On to the business at hand.
As far as activity, there will probably be more for the Tustin City Council to do during Closed Session(s) than during the Open Session meeting. The city council will consider several possible exposures to litigation plus the current litigation with the state over RDAs.
It looks like City Manager Jeff Parker will don his negotiator hat to work on several parcels of Legacy property as well. Under negotiation is price and terms.
On the Regular Meeting Agenda, a presentation will be made to the city for last year’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (they are rather pretty). Pamela Arends-King and her cadre deserve a lot of credit for keeping the finances straight in our town.
The sole Public Hearing Item 1, is on rate increases for solid waste. In other words, the monopolistic CR&R is asking for a rate increase to haul our trash. Locked into a ten year contract, we don’t have much choice unless the city council finds a majority protest. That’s not likely considering Mayor pro tem John Nielsen is in their pocket. Citizens could fill the council chambers to overflowing and they would still vote the rate increase.
The Consent Calendar holds no surprises with the usual items listed for approval. Tustin PD is asking to destroy certain records no longer needed for investigative purposes. Nothing to see here, move along….
Under Regular Business, Item 9- Budget Appropriations and Salary Schedule, the council will be asked to approve three resolutions for the city, housing authority and salary schedule for the coming year. Not much to see at this time other than general budget items. You can see the resolution and appropriations here.
Likewise, Items 10, Appropriation Limit for Fiscal Year 2015-2016, and Item 11, Successor Agency Resolution No. 1502, are budget items that set limits and other issues for the city and the Successor Agency to the defunct Redevelopment Agency. I know the city council holds out hope for successful litigation on RDAs but, let’s face it- they were play toys for the conservative branch that did little more than dole out corporate welfare. Goodbye and good riddance.
If there is anything of real interest on the agenda, it is the final Closed Session meeting. Labor negotiations are in full swing and it looks like there may be lots to talk about. Sales tax and other revenue are up and the city future is looking good with development of the old base property in full swing. After all of the cuts and sacrifices our well paid employees have made (except for Jeff Parker who secured a pretty sweet deal when he came on board as the highest paid employee) they may deserve a bit of a raise. Let’s see how they fare this year.
You might have wondered why Our Town Tustin didn’t write up the city council agenda for yesterday. That’s because the councilmembers had an odd moment when the most important guys wouldn’t be there. You are so lucky, though. They were nice enough to move it to the “Special” city council meeting tonight. The meeting has also been moved up to 6 pm with the closed session following immediately after.
The Consent Calendar has the usual items for approval as well as a request to approve plans and specifications and authorization for bid advertisement for Phase II of the Edinger Avenue Well. The well is located near MIcrocenter and Tustin’s “hotel row”. The project is already funded and, hopefully, the drought won’t last forever (except for Allan Bernstein who seems to think it is here to stay). Of course, anytime a well is drilled in Tustin, you have to wonder what kind of water you’ll get.
Item 4 is the first reading for a proposed Permit Parking Ordinance for Carfax, Utt, Woodlawn, Charloma, Mitchell and Veeh Drive between Mitchell and Nisson. I am not a fan of permit parking but understand that, sometimes, it is the only way to bring non-resident parking and the resulting problems under control in a neighborhood. Tustin has a reasonable process for permit parking that costs the residents nothing and makes minimal impact for visitors. Still, this may get pulled for discussion to make sure everyone understands the ramifications.
The police department conducted a survey in the area and found that, on most of the streets, the vehicles belonging to residents were outnumbered by non-resident vehicles. It would be interesting to see a survey conducted six months after permits are issued to see the change.
Under Regular Business, it looks like one of our developers is reneging on promised construction. Item 6, Tustin Gateway Hotel and Retail Development Amendment 3 will allow that to happen, for a price.
The retail area near our spiffy new hotels is behind on construction efforts and, if I am reading the staff report correctly, the developer is willing to pay a fine rather than complete construction as requested. So, the city makes a cool $75,000 and we get to stare at empty space.
Likewise, the city is in a bit of hot water (pun intended). Item 7, Adoption of Urgency Ordinance No. 1457 Revising the Water Management Plan, is a result of Governor Jerry Brown’s edict that Californians adopt measures that would result in a 25% water saving effort over 2013 levels. Cool.
Only problem is, Tustin has been using quite a bit more, thumbing our collective noses at the drought. So now we have to come up with a plan that saves 28% over 2013. Yes, while everyone should have been staying the drought course, we’ve been squandering our water. Bad Tustin….bad, bad, Tustin.
The staff report is the result of the Water Workshop held on May 5, 2015. And, although the presentation put together by public works director Doug Stack gave an excellent overview of the situation in Tustin, the rest of the workshop was merely a dog and pony show for the city councilmembers to show their ignorance when it comes to conservation.
The city is currently in Stage 2 water conservation efforts but staff emphasized the strong possibility of going to Stage 3 if the 28% reduction isn’t achieved. The emergency ordinance was also necessary since the courts have ruled out the use of punitive water rates for scofflaws.
The final discussion item on the agenda is Item 8, Proposed Biannual Program and Financing Plan for fiscal years 2015-2017. This is doublespeak for going to a two year budget. I’m not sure what the impetus is for doing this other than it will make it easier to hide unexpected expenditures from the residents.
The budget is already difficult enough for most laymen to follow. Going to a two year budget under the guise of prudent fiscal management is a smokescreen. Each year there are multiple requests for expenditures from reserve funds. As our economy recovers, it seems our city fathers now want to inhibit the so-called transparency the city website touts.
Don’t worry, it’s a done deal regardless of how you feel about it. It just goes to show, they really don’t want you to know how they spend your money.
Anymore, it is not just the city of Tustin we have to worry about. With the recent failed court case, Orange County may be facing some serious challenges to its budget next year. The annual budget workshop is coming to town 10 am May 24th at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room in the Hall of Administration, 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, California. This will be followed June 11th & 12th for Budget Hearings and the subsequent Budget Adoption on June 25th.
The official press release for the budget hearing process states:
You are invited to the 18th annual County of Orange Budget Workshop. Community members are encouraged to learn about the County’s budget process and anticipated issues. The County’s Chief Financial Officer and County staff will discuss:
- 2013-2014 Budget Overview
- Affordable Care Act
Dr. Michael Riley Director, Social Services Agency
This is your chance, as a resident, to have some input into the budget process. As we said, given this years bad news on the property tax take back by the state, many program and agency funding schemes may be up in the air. While no one wants to see lifeline programs shut down, they are often the first to go. That could have a drastic effect on the fragile economic recovery Orange County is seeing. The budget workshops are there for citizens to express their views on what available funds should provide for the county’s citizens.
The annual Budget Workshop is scheduled for Tuesday at 4:00 pm ahead of the regular Tustin City Council meeting. We are still pouring over the proposed budget and a couple of things have already jumped out at us.
Remember how we told you the rumored shortfall in revenue was anywhere from 2 to 6 million dollars? According to the summary of the proposed budget, the loss due to the demise of corporate welfare…..er, redevelopment, is just under 6 million.
The proposed budget also relies heavily on city reserves which, earlier this year, Mayor Nielsen told me they would try to reinforce. Now, it seems while they reinforce, they will also be using it to pay the bills. There is a tradeoff in that the city is attempting to keep service levels up for city residents. The city is also depending on higher projected sales tax revenues which may or may not appear. However, they do admit this is a volatile revenue that could go up or down.
It also looks like Christine Shingleton, in her new role as Assistant Executive Director, is fully funded for the coming year. As we’ve said before, they need to rid themselves of the extra help if they want to balance the budget.
The city council meeting will convene at 7 pm with just a few noteworthy items. On the Consent Calendar is the resolution for Candidate Statement Fees. This item also discusses Jerry’s Folly, the measure that would let voters decide if councilmembers will continue to receive compensation for their service. We will have a lot to say about this particularly egregious issue in the coming months leading up to the election in November. By the way, for those of you wondering, the time for candidates to file begins July 16th. We will be checking regularly for new filers and will keep you updated a they come in.
Also on the consent calendar is Item 11, Master MOU between the City of Tustin and the County of Orange for Public Safety Realignment and Post-release Community Supervision. Of course, you can thank Governor Brown for this mess as they release prisoners with almost no oversight. In some counties, such as LA, the duties will be divided between the Sheriff and the Probation Department. Unfortunately, they are overrun with DJJ parolees from several years ago (thanks, Arnie) and will have a difficult time dealing with this new influx. Here in Orange County, we have already seen a more than 150 percent increase in the number of parolees released and prisoners returned under realignment.
Under Regular Business, the two major items also come from Hizzoner. Item 13, City Council Attendance Policy, is a direct attack on Councilmember Deborah Gavello who has required absences due to medical reasons. The proposed policy, which is sure to be adopted by the Gang of Three, has no direct effect on a councilmember. They could receive a reprimand (oooohhh, I’m scared…..). Better that than having to hear Hizzoner squawking from his end of the dais.
Item 14, Teleconferencing of City Council Meetings will probably not fare so well, although it would resolve many of the absence issues of the past as well as allow councilmembers who are traveling to continue to participate. The issue is in complying with the requirements to teleconference.
We apologize for not getting this out earlier. Our usual day for writing the agenda posts is Sunday. But, as it was Fathers Day, my family requested I man the BBQ and sate their appetites. In a couple of weeks we will be on the road for vacation. We have scheduled campgrounds that have WiFi so we will be writing form the road. Let’s just hope the city website doesn’t crash.