Shades of Things to Come?
Barring emergencies, the Tustin City Council and Planning Commission will not meet again this year. In fact, the city has closed shop until after the new year. Hopefully, the police department will see a calm end of the year and we won’t see any firey crashes or folks too unhappy with their Christmas gifts.
Although the year passed quickly, we did have our fair share of problems. I don’t think the folks on Nisson Road will forget the sudden gathering of SWAT vehicles and cops looking for an armed suspect in a shooting near their apartment buildings.
In February, Tustin PD responded to a domestic violence call at apartments in the same area and were confronted by an armed suspect. The suspect was subsequently shot and killed, triggering protests both in the streets and in the city council chamber. Lawsuits have been filed and the DA is investigating. However, under their policy, the results of the investigation may never be known.
City fathers also had problems with the Orange County DA’s ill-conceived Sex Offender statute. After it failed to pass the smell test with the courts, various cities -including Tustin- quickly moved to repeal their ordinances that were mostly fashioned after the county’s. To date, nothing has taken it’s place. Oh, don’t worry. The state has laws the police can continue to enforce that will protect your children….and probably better than anything our used-car-salesman DA could come up with.
Our new Chief of Police, Charlie Cellano, may think he stepped into it. Fortunately, he is a veteran of the Tustin PD and (presumably) knew what he was getting into when he took over from Scott Jordan. The new chief was sworn in in February. You may not have noticed because, as he revealed to me in an interview, he has a rather unique style of management that encourages officers to work with residents. His “Coffee with a Cop” program has officers meeting and greeting at local coffee shops in an effort to make them look more approachable. Now, if we could just get the city council from showing up and trying to steal the show.
Police did make the city safer for us all when, sometime in October, they contained a rampaging Emu that had escaped it’s pen in Old Town Tustin. The police report claimed their was no threat or danger to public safety but, you know how those Emus are when they get riled. Rumor had it some officers were later asking for beak-proof vests but that hasn’t been substantiated.
And, of course, those of you who are into fantasy baseball, the new year continues to hold hope for the Angels moving to Tustin. Earlier in the year, team owner Arte Moreno broke off talks with Anaheim about renewal of their stadium lease. Moreno then made a big show of holding talks with other cities, including Tustin. The city council finally revealed they were in discussion with the owner about the move. Their attempt to laugh it off has been squelched by the continued Closed Session discussions with Moreno’s front corporation, Pacific Coast Investors.
I wouldn’t hold my breath. Moreno could be trying to put pressure on Anaheim. He has also spoken with Irvine, a more likely relocation of the team. If he is serious about making a move, he will most certainly demand a new tax-payer paid stadium out of the deal. That would put pressure on a city known better for its hometown neighborhoods than its entertainment prowess.
Old Town Tustin has also received renewed attention by the city. Normally, given the Community Develpment Department’s previous hatred of the area, I would tell you to be afraid, be very afraid. But, it seems our CDD Director, Elizabeth Binsack, has changed her stripes and is now looking to revitalize the area. A series of city sponsored outreach meetings have sparked interest by the residents and businesses of Old Town.
The ambitious plan includes making it easier to build on residential lots by changing the status of “granny flats” and apartments. As well, the city commissioned a study and a series of community meetings to engender support for an Old Town revitalization effort. The city has held two such meetings over the year and plans to hold at least one more.
Of course, part of this effort is due to cost. The effort is likely to cost the city a bundle of money, should proposals be realized. And, the likely increase in tax base from the sales will not dissuade Binsack from seeking further underwriting either through taxes or bond issues. Good luck with that.
So, although we had a few stumbles as we draw our city out of the depths of recession, things are looking brighter as we look ahead. It’s hard to believe our town now numbers over 78,000 residents. That’s an increase of 20,000 since I moved here in 1995. And we aren’t done yet. Since city manager Jeff Parker took back the reins of master developer of the Tustin Legacy, develpment of new tracts, homes and apartment buildings has taken off. Next year shows no signs of abatement.
While we’re at it, we’ll give kudos to Jeff Parker for his overall management of the city. While we can be (and are) harsh critics of individual issues that may come up, Parker and this city council led by Al Murray, have done a pretty good job of keeping the city on track through some pretty scary times. Let’s hope they keep it up.
And whichever way they go, we’ll be there putting their feet to the fire. Happy New Year.
On the City Council Agenda – October 1, 2013
Two Public Hearings head up the Tustin City Council meeting tonight. Prior to that, the dais will be treated to several presentations, including one for The American Legion Boys State Program made by The American Legion Post 227. We understand they fielded two candidates to Sacramento this year for a week of running a shadow government. Our personal opinion is they could do a much better job than our current crop of legislators.
The first Public Hearing will be to issue water revenue bonds in the amount of $15 million dollars. The money is ostensibly to be used for repair/replacement of the Simon Ranch Reservoir Booster Pump Station and Pipeline as well as the Tustin Avenu Well Replacement Project.
If we recall correctly, these items had been the subject of approved water bonds several years earlier when Deborah Gavello was around. It could just be a coincidence, however. Let’s not forget the city has allegedly been considering the purchase, either directly or indirectly, of desalinated water from the planned Poseiden Plant under negotiation in Huntington Beach. One has to wonder why anyone in this part of Orange County, with such a vast aquifer, would require water that reportedly will be selling for three times the price of local water.
One thing we agree with is the city’s consultants who have determined that, if you must issue bonds, this is a great time to do it, while rates are low.
The second Public Hearing will be on the City’s Housing Element Update. This is probably more technical than reality driven. A public workshop was held in April and the results have been incorporated into the proposed plan. Most of the response had been in the area of updating the plan for affordable and special needs housing. You can see the report here.
A couple items on the consent calendar should be pulled for discussion.
The first is Item 5, which calls for the electronic storage of records. It is a great idea and we are surprised out Community Development Director is just now thinking about it (although the last time the city got rid of records, they tried to use it against an Old Town Resident).
This deserves discussion if only for the fact that there is no indication the project went out to bid. Further, the item description is a bit confusing and it is unclear until one looks at the resolution whether it is for both the scanning and destuction (it is) or just the destruction of the documents. The report also states there is no fiscal impact. We seriously doubt ECS is providing their services for free. Likewise, it’s doubtful the city will just dump these records in the trash. Using a document destruction company will engender costs. And, have either been budgeted for or are funds expected to come out of reserves?
The city seems to be struggling with the strategic plan. Item 8 calls for a rejection of all recently received bids on the graffiti abatement contract. The reason? Staff can’t keep their records straight and allegedly put out obsolete data on the RFP.
The only other Item of note on the Agenda, is Item 9, Recommendation of the Finance Director’s Appointment as the City Treasurer. We previously said it would be a wise move for the city council to appoint the Finance Director, Pamela Arend-King, as the permanent Treasurer for the city. However, we do not see the minimal added duties as warranting an increase in salary of over $8 thousand dollars plus a commensurate boost in pension benefits.
If you remember, our former City Treasurer George Jeffries, a well-respected member of the financial and (Republican) political community, netted a salary of $4 thousand dollars a month for the exact same duties that Arends-King would be taking on as an addition to her “regular” duties.
There is no other justification for such a raise during this phase of the city’s economic recovery. It is also a slap in the face to the rank-and-file employees who just recently concluded a largely give-back contract with the city that resulted in zero pay raises for the majority of employees. Don’t look to this lazy city council to do anything but acquiesce to the will of the new Boss Tweed, Jeff Parker.
That’s it for the week. If this was too much doom and gloom for you, we will remind you that Tustin Tiller Days is coming this weekend at Columbus Tustin Park. Don’t forget the annual Tiller Parade down Main Street in Old Town Tustin. We will be in our usual place on our front porch ready to say hi to the good councilmembers. We wonder how many will be willing to face Our Town Tustin. C’mon, guys, we just want to say hi.
On The City Council Agenda – June 4, 2013
Sorry for the late writeup of the city clown – uh, council agenda. I’m on vacation for the month and articles may be a bit spotty. I’ll do my best to keep you updated.
Depending on the pontifications of our glorious leaders, the city council meeting should be a couple of hours due mostly to two publich hearings. Prior to that is a presentations to SOCAL Water Polo. I admit, I am a fan and we have a great team at Foothill.
The Closed Session, I am sure, will be dominated by discussions over the pending labor contracts. I understand the city is holding fast on monetary issues. I doubt the union is letting them forget the raise given to Chief Jordan and the raises-by-change-in -title of other mid and high level ranking managers over the past year. All of the unions, including TPOA, worked with the city to reduce pension costs. However, rumour has it, they are looking to get as much up front as they can to pay their obligations. Don’t expect the city council to do anything other than rubberstamp the city manager’s recommendation.
Speaking of, City Manager Jeff Parker will be discussed tonight as his performance evaluation is on the list. I’m sure our city council will speak glowingly of him. The fact is, he has spent most of his tenure consolidating his power and creating allies. His recent move to abolish the pesky hiring process in favor of one that makes it easier to hire his friends and cronies was a major coup for Jeff. It should be interesting to see how many high level managers will be hired under his “21st Century hiring process” over the next year.
Public Hearing Item 1 is a levy on the lighting facilities district that comes up every year. Unfortunately, there was a glitch that did not give adequate time to publish the hearing according to the law. They are recommending a new date be set for the next city council meeting on June 18th. It’s unclear whether they will hear any testimony tonight but the resolution states any protests to the levy must be made in writing. Interesting to note Parker is also calling himself the ex-officio city clerk. I guess he hasn’t found an adequate crony to hire yet.
Public Hearing Item 2 is a much less forward way to lob city obligations onto an unsuspecting public. This time, the city is targeting the first time homebuyer.
When RDAs were abolished by the state Tustin, like other entities, scrambled for every way they could to make up the difference in lost funding (we are still trying to justify lost funding for something that should never have happened to begin with). The latest ploy takes a jab at low income, first time homeowners who bought property under the city’s program. In addition to the usual costs of refinancing a home purchased under the program, city staff are recommending Tustin become only the third city to charge a fee for processing the paperwork. By their own admission, most cities in The Real OC do not charge the “subordination fee”. In fact, Tustin had to reach out as far as Fresno to find a “comparable” city.
Understanding that our city fathers, sans Beckie, are made up of well-to-do Republicans who take a dim view of the riff-raff in housing authority property, this travesty will, in all likelihood slap our new homeowners in the face. One has to wonder if anyone will show up to decry this deplorable act. Certainly, the city council as a body could gain some points here if they were to turn this down. But, don’t hold your breath.
Consent Calendar Item 5 is approval of an agreement to transfer equipment from the Municipal Water Disctrict of Orange County to the city. Money for the 2,000 gallon potable water trailer comes from a grant under the Urban Area Security Initiative and will be used for disaster services. It is a pretty straightforward arrangement and I am not sure why it required an 87 page staff report for justification. Oh, wait… that’s because the contract is 84 pages long. And, you wanted to know why California taxes are so high.
Items 6 and 7 are to approve plans and specifications for revamping the intersection at Enderle and Vandenberg, as well as reconstructing the bike trail along Newport Avenue. The latter is welcome even though the current trail is in very good condition. It would be nice to see an extension of this trail in both directions. Construction of the bike trail is scheduled to begin in August and be completed in two months.
The only Regular Business on the agenda is an item amending the Disposition and Development Agreement between Irvine Company’s Legacy Villas and the city. The only change is to require Legacy Villas to pay the backbone infrastructure fees up front.
That’s it for tonight’s city council meeting. We would attend but we will be at our daughter’s last choir concert for her high school singing career, cheering her on. There is no doubt the sounds of the choir are preferable to the caterwauling to be heard in city council chambers.
George Jeffries, City Treasurer, Dies
George Jeffries, Tustin’s long time City Treasurer, died suddenly last week. Jeffries, who had not been ill and was not known to be under a doctor’s care, reportedly died from a heart attack on Tuesday.
City Manager Jeff Parker said that at least one of the city councilmen wad mildly concerned saying the octegenarian looked under the weather. Parker said it was a shock and many of the staff were saddened by his sudden death.
Jeffries held the position of City Treasurer for more than 16 years. He was also involved with Orange County investnents, sitting on at least one advisory board for the county as well as the retirement system. During the past eight years, he was often the center of discussion for the city council as Deborah Gavello fequently complained of questionable investments she felt were illegal for the city. Gavello often called for his removal but the Jerry Amante led majority managed to keep him in place despite the criticism.
Parker said the city will not be affected by Jeffries death and they will be able to continue management of the investment funds. “George had a conservative approach to investments and both Pam and I have signature authority”,referring to city Finance Director, Pamela Arends-King. He said the council has not discussed a replacement but several options could be considered. One of those options could be to appoint the Finance Director as treasurer. “They do that in other cities”, Parker Said.
Memorial services for Jeffries will be Friday, April 19th at 11:00 am at Calvary Chapel on Tustin Avenue across from Western Medical Center.