For once, there is not much on the Closed Session agenda for the upcoming Tustin City Council meeting on Tuesday. Don’t expect any report from the city attorney. At the meeting two weeks ago, everyone on the dais attempted to dodge the bullet when a speaker, during public comments, brought up noise and traffic at the Wilcox Manor. The Mayor Puckett couldn’t foist it off on the police chief fast enough. The good news is, Silent Mike and Lindburgh have been complying with the terms of their conditional use permit and Tustin PD reports no glaring discrepancies. In fact, there have been only three complaints, all apparently resolved.
The sole Public Hearing on the Regular Agenda is Item 1, Community Development Block Grant 2015-20120. This year, the city is required to submit the 5 year Consolidated Plan that identifies community needs and proposals for funding.
The draft list prepared by city staff is pretty extensive and includes parks, parklets and expansion of Old Town parking. It also includes street and infrastructure improvements and rehab.
Some of the more interesting proposals include economic development of Tustin, particularly the Old Town area. A lot of time and effort by staff has recently been put into developing a plan of sorts for the development of Old Town. Unfortunately, until there is some movement by principal property owners, it’s doubtful there will be much more construction taking place. Still, its good to see the city finally paying attention to our legacy.
All currently funded projects previously selected for this three year period by the Tustin Community Foundation will continue to receive CDBG money.
There is not much on the Consent Calendar to be concerned about. Most items are administrative and recurring. Item 7, Renewal of Field Services 4/10 Work Schedule, is a renewal of a pilot project from the past few years for field service personnel to work 4/10 schedules during daylight savings time. This is a union negotiated item that should probably become permanent.
Item 8, Approval of Operator Services Agreement for Carnival Rides- The previous agreement with Shamrock Shows expired and the city is preparing to sign with Brass Ring Amusements for rides and concessions. The new agreement also pushes more money into city coffers with the city’s take beginning at 25% of gross receipts. It’s interesting to note the city now requires background checks on all carnival employees due to an issue a few years back.
Brass Ring Amusements, by the way, is pretty well established and is scheduled to run more than 15 California fairs this year. So, expect a quality ride.
Under Regular Business, the city is finally going to utilize the event center they established at the old Regal Theater in the Tustin Market Place. Item 9, Recommendation of the City Use of 12 Events at the Community Center, recommends 12 city sponsored events to be held at no charge to the city.
The ad hoc committee of Councilmembers Gomez and Nielsen came up with a list of spine-tingling events that will include (in no particular order) a talent contest, a youth film festival and a new (did I say free?) place to hold the State of the City Address.
The final item on the agenda is Item 10, Formation of Veterans Advisory Committee/Commission. Normally, I would be cheering the formation of anything for veterans. But, this is a topic brought up by none other than, Mayor pro tem, John Nielsen. There are a couple of reasons for concern.
First, is Nielsen’s apparent collaboration with his ally, former councilman Jerry Amante. Amante, if you recall, had a feud with The American Legion Post 227 that subjected them to some humiliation and all but eliminated the color guard ceremonies that were being held in council chambers each month.
That rift between the Legion Post Commander and the city council began as a small tiff when, way back in 2001, Legionnaires came to the rescue by reviving their post and touching off the first (in a long time) Veterans Day parade down El Camino Real. I witnessed the buildup and slow degradation of what was hailed by the OC Board of Supervisors at the time as “Orange County’s Veterans Day Parade”, into a less substantial day in the park due mostly to the hostility of the city council toward veterans. I’m not even sure there is a celebration in Tustin anymore.
Should we mention their one-time desire to do away with the blimp hangars?
A second reason for suspicion -and that ties in handily to vet loving by John- is the rumor recently making the rounds that John Nielsen may make a run for the California Assembly. Normally, I would dismiss a notion like this as someone’s idea of a nightmare on Elm Street. That is, until I heard it from two distinctly different sources, one of whom does not live in the city.
So, is Nielsen simply paying homage to veterans in order to regain some traction here on the home front? Certainly, he has lost interest in any business the council conducts, as it is apparent he has been treading water, at least since the election. We did email Nielsen on his intentions but he has, so far, refused to respond to us.
One other item of note, Old Town residents received a Notice of Publice Hearing on a code amendment. The hearing, to be held February 24, 2015 at 7 pm (Planning Commission Meeting), will be to hear public comment on a proposal to change second residence requirements. The proposed amendments would eliminate “accessory guest rooms” or what most of us would call, “granny flats”. in lieu of establishing new guidelines for 2nd residential units on lots. If you can only go to one meeting, this may be the one.
This Tustin City Council didn’t leave me much to work with this April Fool’s Day. In fact, the Closed Session is likely to take longer than the Regular Session this week. The Closed Session also had a last minute add-on to discuss the performance evaluation of City Manager Jeff Parker. For what it’s worth, we think he has done a pretty good job other than his almost constant dipping into reserves to pay for items that should have shown up on the budget. Don’t expect discussion in the Regular Session as it has not been agendized.
The rest of the Close Session consists of the usual suspects. Two each items of Initiation and Exposure to Litigation. These have been there awhile along with the case between the Tustin Successor Agency and the State Department of Finance.
Three new liability claims for the group to vote no on. Katharine Saetang, Rogelio Preciado and Camille Kramer can get their attorney on as the city council rarely accepts a damage claim. Should there be a breakthrough, we’ll let you know.
Likewise, discussions with the Tustin Unified School District continue. When we last spoke to officials over at TUSD, they had been trying to determine a way to open Heritage School as had been promised. The current use is for a continuation school and administrative offices (last we heard). There have been rumors the school would co-open for regular school even though they might not have the required number of students. This is on the heels of the recent approval for 327 homes on the base property although we’re not sure how that will affect it. The closed session item may discuss this but there is also the prospect of opening another school or two on the base property which is more likely in line with this week’s topic.
Two items on the Consent Calendar stand out. Item 3, would approve the plans and specs for the Williams Street Storm Drain Project and send it out to bid. The project is CEQA exempt, according to the staff report as it replaces current drains. Depending on how you read this, they have budgeted from $550,000 to $750,000 (someone tell Doug Stack about transparent government).
Item 4 is a request to appropriate undesignated reserve funds to improve land owned by the city and leased to Tustin Auto Center merchants for storage of excess vehicles. Our concern, of course, is the appropriation of reserve funds for something that, perhaps the merchants themselves should be paying for. The request or subsequent approval should come as no surprise as the city justifies any raid of reserve funds by using the Janet Nguyen “free money” concept.
Item 6 of Reglar Business is a first reading of an ordinance relating to recycling of construction debris. The ordinance will eliminate specifics that have had to be revised yearly since the inception of CAL GREEN by the state and, instead, will invoke language referencing state law. Security Deposit amounts, apparently, will be determined later.
A late entrant to the Regular Business session is Item 7, an update on the county ambulance RFP. Earlier this year, the state ripped the OCFA on their ambulance selection process. Most of it appears to be paperwork related but there has been a question of some contract cities not selecting the top-ranked ambulance services which would void liability claims to the state.
Part of the issue concerns a fee for Advance Life Support when county paramedics are called to a transport scene. County Supervisor Shawn Nelson called the fee an insult and Supervisor John Moorlach likened it to double taxation saying, “Why am I being charged twice, when I’m paying for the whole infrastructure?” Todd Spitzer, Supervisor for Tustin, didn’t have much to say about the fee itself but did think Supervisors should sit on the panel that will review the ambulance companies (like they don’t have enough work).
In any case, it does not appear to be a call by the city itself as to which company will service Tustin. Perhaps Al Murray will be able to shed a little light on the issue.
That’s it for the week. As usual, we will report on anything interesting that may happen at the meeting.
Welcome to a brand new year and the same old city council. I hope someone told the Podiatrist Councilman about the apparent change in the Agenda. The Closed Session, which normally begins at 5:30 pm, prior to the Open Session, has been moved to the end of the evening. It doesn’t appear to be a permanent change as the current Agenda says the Closed Session will resume it’s regular spot at 5:30 pm on the 21st.
After the usual Presentation of Colors by our friends at The American Legion Post 227, there is a presentation by the White Cane Society regarding Glaucoma Awareness Month.
The Consent Calendar hosts the usual mundane items that don’t usually warrant discussion. There should be a bid award to International Computing Systems of Buena Park for construction of the water element at Frontier Park. Past discussion on this item estimated the cost at $115,000. ICS came in with the lowest bid at $148,500. The money comes from Community Development Block Grant funding and the extra amount was secured by staff. This may warrant discussion so that staff can explain how funds that were previously allocated were supplemented. If this is a reallocation of funds from other projects, there may be a problem.
Another construction project on the Consent Calendar is the Warner Avenue and Armstrong Avenue Extensions that will connect Redhill, Tustin Ranch and Barranca Parkway near the District. The projects are ready to bid, although it isn’t clear how this will affect or be affected by the Army’s refusal to give up their current Reserve Center site as the city has been trying to talk them into the past year or so.
An item that definitely deserves discussion, even at this early date, is the jet fuel pipeline construction listed in Item 5 of the Consent Calendar. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners is proposing to construct a 5 mile long pipeline through south Tustin to connect existing pipelines to John Wayne Airport.
The city had quite a bit to say about the proposal. The construction would extend from a connection point at Edinger Avenue and Tustin Ranch Road and head roughly south on Redhill Avenue near the airport. The construction consists of motor-operated valves and the pipeline.
City staff have reviewed the project and prepared a letter concerning the Initial Study. Most of the issues appear to be based on assumptions from the company concerning the construction hours and location of equipment storage. Staff have also asked for a public outreach campaign to affected residents and businesses to keep them informed of the project. A sound idea, in our opinion.
As the Initial Study was just issued, it doesn’t look as if this project is looming to close to the horizon. Hopefully staff will continue to demand diligence from the parties involved. Oh, and in case you are worried about the sudden appearance of jet fuel in your backyard from seeping pipelines, several have crisscrossed Tustin over the years without problems.
Still, a little discussion from the city council informing the citizens of this project couldn’t hurt.
Of the two items under Regular Business, the Mayoral Appointments to Committees prove the most interesting.
Of the thirteen seats on committees, boards and agencies up for grabs, only five net the councilmen any cash or benefits (we won’t include lunch or dinner in these). And, coincidentally, those five seats will continue with the 2013 appointments:
- Foothill /Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency ($120 p/meeting, 18 meetings per quarter) Puckett/Murray
- Orange County Fire Authority ($100 p/meeting, 12 meetings per year) Murray/Puckett
- Orange County Sanitation District ($100 p/meeting, Up to 6 meetings per month) Nielsen/Bernstein
- Orange County Vector Control ($100p/meeting, 12 meetings a year ) Bernstein
- SCAG Southern California Assocation of Governments ($120 p/meeting, up to 6 meetings per month) Nielsen
Thrown in as a bone for her good behavior, Beckie Gomez picks up an alternate spot on the Newport Bay Watershed Executive Committee to go with her 4 other non-paid appointments. And, while this may not be a paid seat, it is one of the more important ones in the county.
You can see all the appointments for the various seats here. If anyone thinks being an unpaid councilman is easy (or, in some cases, free) they should take a close look at this.
We did notice an apparent discrepancy on the official Form 806 the city is required to turn in to the state. The form lists John Nielsen and Chuck Puckett as the OC Sanitation District Representatives with a stipend of $100 per meeting. Yet, the Orange County Sanitation District website shows board stipends to be $212.50 per meeting plus mileage. Considering our councilmembers like to tout their “free” service, it is a pretty blatant error.
John Nielsen, fulfilling his role as OCSD board member, was paid nearly $5,000 for his participation on the board in 2012, the most recent full year reported by the OCSD. He is, by no means, the most highly paid either. That honor goes to Councilman John Anderson of Yorba Linda who made $12,301 dollars for his contribution to the cause. Not bad for a part-time job. Anderson, you may recall, was the subject of a failed recall attempt after the city council voted to oust their city PD in favor of the OCSD. I wonder how that would play out here?
Nonetheless, you can see that the city council, despite voters nixing salaries and benefits last year, can be a lucrative position. That’s, of course, if you are willing to play ball with the council majority. For the past few years, Beckie Gomez has been given seats on boards without stipends. Likewise, Deborah Gavello, as the arch nemesis of John Nielsen and former councilman Jerry Amante, was given no worthwhile appointments, paid or otherwise.
That’s it for the upcoming city council meeting. We will do our best to report back any worthy information we glean from the meeting. Thanks for reading.