Team Tustin is at it again, slinging tons of mud at their percieved enemies while hoping some of it will stick. The name was adopted by Tustin City Candidates John Nielsen, Allan Bernstein and Chuck Puckett to show they are united in their campaign for the three Tustin City Council seats up for grabs in November. The “Team” recently debuted new yard signs around town, showing the three in ballot format with check marks next to their names.
Last week, a mailer denigrating opposing candidates Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram was mailed to Tustin Voters along with another mailer touting Team Tustin’s virtues. Both mailers came from a shadowy organization with the homey name of Tustin Residents United. We wrote about that piece here and showed the organization is merely a shill for the Orange County Business Council who, through OCBIZPAC, donated $10,000 dollars to TRU. They were the only donors to the organization, who shares an accounting address with Nielsen, Bernstein and Puckett. So, even though the mailer has the standard disclaimer about independent expenditures, it doesn’t take too much to connect the dots and see where this came from. If you need a pointer, however, just check Nielsen’s website which lists his many business endorsements and his fiancial forms which show large numbers of business donors.
The Team is apparently pretty worried about Worley-Hagen and Waldram, however. Two more hit pieces were sent to Tustin voters this week. The first one was a general mailer to all households, aimed at Tracy Worley-Hagen, and is full of the typical half-truths and outright lies one expects to find in a hit piece. In speaking with Worley-Hagen about the allegations, she says two of the allegations concerning dinners were cleared with the FPPC as an oversight in accounting. She corrected the paperwork and paid a small fine. All councilmembers are given “police like” badges, so we don’t know where that came from. Perhaps Nielsen can explain it because he has probably been issued at least one as well. Oh, and did he return his councilman’s badge when he received his mayor’s badge? We’re betting not.
The other hit piece was apparently mailed only to Tustin Republicans and included the “Liberal Agenda” of the Worley-Waldram team. The piece likens them to the Obama administration and calls Waldram a public employee union member. Waldram is a union member and a public employee – with the Tustin Unified School District. His benefactor, as they call it in the mailer, is Tustin Unified School District Board Member, Lynn Davis. Davis is called out as being behind multi-million dollar lawsuits against the city. I suppose that is true, as he has probably voted in the lawsuits between the city and the school district over grading and the Heritage School property.
For their part, Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram are running a clean campaign and have refused to engage “Team Tustin” in their mudslinging tactics. Both are running on a fiscally conservative platform and a promise to bring sanity and civility back to the city council dais. That is something we would like to see and something Nielsen, Bernstein and Puckett don’t seem to be interested in.
The good news is, you only have ten days before the elections and the end of the political scheming for another couple of years.
I was originally going to title this piece, “Thug Politics is Alive and Well in Tustin” but Brenda McCune over at OC Political beat me to it. So. I had to come up with some catchy title of my own. In any case, if you live in Tustin, you know what I am talking about.
Is it coincidental that almost all of the political hit pieces go out from the post office on the same day? The hit piece McCune complained about in her article, was sent the same time as hit pieces in Tustin and many other cities. Quite frankly, I thought Nielsen and “Team Tustin” as they call themselves, might forgo this bit of juvenile politics and actually run a clean campaign that would extol the virtues of the candidates. After all, Nielsen claims he signed the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.We are not sure when he did that but, according to the City Clerk’s office, only two people signed the pledge and Nielsen was not among them. Even if he signed the CFCP in a previous race, he is being as disingenuous with the voters as when he leads them to believe he is a happily married man. But, you’ll have to ask Erin Nielsen about that.
Instead, we got a mailer that, at first glance, makes you think it is from opposition candidates, Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram. It has their names boldly in yellow against a black background and a picture of them to the side. All of the allegations made in the mailer are either stretches or outright lies. It is not very damning, to say the least.
In a response to the hit piece, Tracy Worley-Hagen issued a response denying all of the allegations. From her website:
All of these allegations are untrue. These are simply desperate measures by desperate people who are desperately trying to hold onto their last shreds of power. I continue my pledge to the people of Tustin to run a clean campaign and, should I be re-elected, to represent them with honesty, transparency and civility.
The most serious allegation against Worley-Hagen is one of political corruption. We asked her about it and she said, “I amended my forms in 2005 to correct a simple accounting error regarding 2 dinners and payed a nominal fine, similar to when someone makes a mistake on their income tax returns. Once the FPPC received my corrected forms and payment they immediately issued a statement of resolution.”
Wow. That’s some corruption. Of course, the mailer makes it seem like much more than that.
David Waldram has not responded to the piece. However, there was little they could say about him, beyond being accused of being a puppet for Worly-Hagen. The most the two of them have done together is to hold joint fundraisers throughout the city. He has continuously maintained an independent view and, in fact, does run a business out of his home. The two of them are running together on a platform of bringing back civility to Tustin politicss. His “full-time government employee” status is that of a public school teacher at Tustin High School. In fact, he teaches government classes. Most public teachers I know are full-time government employees. So, there is no shocking revelation there.
I have to tell you that, if this is the best “Team Tustin” could do, they are hurting for any dirt on the opposition campaign. And, they are not coming up with much. And, although Nielsen, Puckett and Bernstein will readily disavow themselves of any knowledge of the flyer, it does not take much to put two and two together.
First, unlike Worley-Waldram, there have been no other independent expenditures for campaign literature for this race. The anti Worley-Waldram piece was accompanied by another piece extolling the virtues of the “Team Tustin” candidates.
John Nielsen is touted as a strong fiscal conservative. But, the facts speak for themselves. He fully supports the lawsuits between the city and school district, placing the blame and resolution squarely with the district. He also forgets to mention that the council he sits on voted to bring multiple, frivolous lawsuits against the school district in response to their sole lawsuit. Let’s not forget he, along with Jerry Amante, also voted themselves high end Apple iPads that were paid from reserve funds. Oh, yeah, and didn’t John help balance the last two or three budgets by dipping into those same reserves?
Voters who received the mailers may notice something else. Both the Worley-Waldram hit piece and the “Team Tustin” mailer were sent from the same organization, Tustin Residents United, which lists a private post office box in Tustin as their headquarters address. No physical address and no actual location or staff. That’s because there really is no Tustin Residents United. It is a sham organization set up, apparently, by a political accountant with ties to “Team Tustin” to make independent expenditures for candidates at their behest. These types of expenditures are not supposed to be controlled or discussed with the candidates. Is that what really happened here?
Tustin Residents United, like any campaign organization, is required to fill out a Form 460 advising contributions taken in and expended either as contributions to or on behalf of political candidates. TRU’s only income for the past reporting cycle is from the Orange County Business Council’s BIZPAC who donated $10,000. In the same reporting period, they paid $250.00 for accounting services to Barrett Garcia and $1500 to Powers Communications to Support John Nielsen. OCBC is a lobbying organization for the business community. And, you might note on Nielsen’s website that most of his endorsements come from the business community, both those in Tustin and those that (hope to) do business in Tustin. This is on top of those businesses that would not lend their name but would happily hand out cash to fund his campaign.
It’s also interesting that Tustin Residents United, which obviously has nothing to do with residents, shows an address of record on the Form 460 in San Juan Capistrano, rather than the post office box in Tustin. Guess what the address of the accountant Barrett Garcia is? Yes, the exact same address. Barrett Garcia is a well-known accountant in political circles. The company also does political accounting for Chuck Puckett and Allan Bernstein, so you can see the direct connection between “Team Tustin” and Tustin Residents United. It isn’t much of a reach to see who really controls this so-called independent expenditure political action committee.
For Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram’s part, they appear to be running a clean campaign. Their mailer was a simple two-sided affair that pledged fiscal responsibility and to restore civility to the circus that has become de rigueur at Tustin City Council meetings. They have both signed the fair campaign pledge and appear to be sticking to it. This hit piece, along with the recent theft of campaign lawn signs by an anti-Worley-Waldram zealot, shows the concern “Team Tustin” has over the campaign. Even the bastion of Orange County journalism, the Register, refused to endorse Bernstein, saying Worley-Waldram had more experience and would serve the public better. As we have said, Bernstein, who bills himself as a “physician” when he is a podiatrist, should heal himself from foot-in-mouth disease as he honestly believes that city councilmembers actually have some say in school district board elections.
I’ve been watching a new show on TV called, “Copper”. It’s about New York City during the Tammany Hall era. The most recent show had folks buying votes with drinks, having them vote multiple times for dead people and beat down voters at the poll who dare to vote for the opposition. The thug politics of the era are alive and well in the city of Tustin.
A couple of things happened in short order that reminded us it is time to make our endorsements of local candidates, propositions and measures. One, was the endorsement of Tracy Worley-Hagen, Chuck Puckett and John Nielsen for Tustin City Council by the Orange County Register. The second item was notice we received that absentee ballots have been mailed by the Registrar of Voters. Since those folks tend to vote as soon as they get their ballot, or not at all, we just wanted to be able to throw in our two cents.
As we have said in the past, we will leave recommendations for Federal and most State races to others. Chances are, you wouldn’t like my picks anyway (remember, Libertarian..). We have plenty to say about the local races and, as we go over them in the next week or so, we will put them on a new “Endorsements” page you can use as the handy-dandy OTT voters guide.
Tracy Worley-Hagen – We agree with the OC Register that Tracy is, by far, the most experienced candidate fielded for city council. She was mayor for 4 of the 12 years on the council. She was instrumental in obtaining the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station base at a no cost transfer to the city, making this one of the last bases to be transferred that way. As a councilmember, she sat on the boards of the Orange County Fire Authority, the Sanitation District and the Transportation Corridor Authority. “When I saw that one of our councilmembers chose not to run again, I felt my experience was needed during this critical time in our city.”
One of the most pressing issues to her is to mend fences with the school district and bring the lawsuits to and end. “They’ve cost the taxpayers over $2 million in legal fees.” She accurately pointed out the lawsuits have become a personality clash with the losers being the Tustin Taxpayer. Tracy has been active in the schools and the community and has kept watch at city hall, where she says the council acrimony against the public and each other has to stop. Tracy says she understands the true nature of the current fiscal status of the city, and that she will work to restoring the city to good fiscal health. She says that every line item in the budget needs to be looked at for trimming and she is willing to take a hard look at everything including further pension reform.
Chuck Puckett– Chuck loves Tustin and we like Chuck. I first met him at a fundraiser for Worley-Waldram. He is an approachable guy who, incidentally, also has prior experience on the city council.
Puckett’s chief concerns are maintaining Tustin’s great public safety record and making Tustin more business-friendly. He is a member of the Tustin Chamber of Commerce and would like to see another abatement of the business license and building permit fees which he sees as a great enticement for businesses looking for a home.
No one seemed to be asking Puckett directly, what he would do to end the taxpayer abuse with the lawsuits between the city and the school district. We did, and his response was encouraging. He believes the lawsuits have gone on too long and cost the taxpayers too much money. If elected, he says he would do everything possible to encourage both sides to sit down and reach a settlement before trial. In our minds, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Chuck has been extremely active in community politics and civic affairs almost since he moved here. He is a co-founder and past president of the Tustin Community Foundation and recently resigned from a stint on the Tustin Planning Commission to run for city council. Along with his four years on the council, one as mayor, Puckett has also spent over 12 years on the Tustin Planning Commission. He makes sure to be seen at community events, such as the Tustin Tiller Days and the Chili Cookoff. He has been named “Tustin Man of the Year”. And, he shows up for meetings of the city council and planning commission to stay on top of the local politics. A highly approachable candidate, it remains to be seen what he would do about the foul atmosphere in city council chambers but we could hope his affablitly would spread across the dais.
If we have concerns about Chuck, it is that he has aligned himself with “Team Tustin” a nickname we heard Puckett, John Nielsen and Allan Bernstein have given themselves. Nielsen, has done nothing to squelch the harsh words that frequently cross the dais and, in some cases, has even taken part. And, while he has occasionally opposed Jerry Amante on issues, he has fully endorsed the current dysfunctional state between the city and the school district.
David Waldram – David would be the freshman councilman on the dais. He is a lifelong Tustin resident and has chosen to raise his family here. I am corrected in a previous article I wrote as David says he is a full-time teacher and runs the video production on the side. Waldram previously ran for city council in 2010 and was beaten by Beckie Gomez in a close race where the last 100 votes counted. A gracious loser, he did not ask for a recount and instead decided to wait for another day. Although he has not sat on any commissions or committees for the city, he is involved in community affairs with The Boy Scouts and through his church.
Waldram’s focus is on public safety and the school district lawsuits where he told me the personality clashes have to stop. He is appalled with the behavior of the sitting council toward the public and each other. Waldram believes that political discourse can take place in a polite climate that takes in every citizen’s view.
John Nielsen, who the Register did endorse, is our current mayor and is up for re-election. There are a lot of things to like about John and a lot not to like. As we mentioned, Nielsen has done little to repair the divisiveness on the dais and has sometimes taken part in bashing other councilmembers. He has also done nothing to stop the lawsuit abuse on the city’s side. He has a real problem following Robert’s Rules of Order. However, he does approach most issues that come before the council in a deliberative, thoughtful manner. We just wish he was a bit more of an independent thinker that would tell the noise machine to his right to sit down and shut up once in awhile.
And, as we have said before, we are still waiting to hear what anyone has to say about Dr. Allan Bernstein. Although we note he was mentioned in the Register endorsements and Waldram was not, they don’t seem to say much about him either. Having no community or civic experience we can see, other than an unverified claim that he was involved with the Boy Scouts. He is the only candidate who still does not have a website up and running. At a recent Tustin Republican women’s forum, he said that he would work to implement term limits on the TUSD which shows us how he feels about the lawsuits and makes us wonder if he knows which race he is running in.
So, here are our picks. If our opinion means anything to you (and even if it doesn’t), we endorse Tracy Worley-Hagen, David Waldram and Chuck Puckett for the Tustin City Council. Whether you agree with us or not, we hope you will get out and vote on election day. If you are an absentee voter and would like to hear about the local measures and bonds coming before the voters, you may want to wait before filling out your ballot and sending it in.
We are heading to the Extraterrestrial Highway for our annual run to the Little Al’ e Inn. Depending on the interference from the UFO’s you may or may not hear from us for a few days.
Tustin City Council Candidates, Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram, have hit the ground running with back to back fundraisers all over town. Waldram held a separate fundraiser to kick off his campaign a few weeks ago at his home. Following that, Tracy Worley-Hagen joined him for a fundraiser held at the Loveland residence in Tustin Ranch. A large crowd of supporters joined them for discussion, food and to hear the candidates speak about their views on the city.
Waldram and Worley-Hagen then held a fundraiser at the Hewes House in Old Town Tustin on Friday, Septbember 14th, where they kicked off their joint campaign with new yard signs sporting the Worley-Waldram logo. Both candidates have said they are concerned over the real budget issues of the city and the ongoing disparagement of residents who try to speak against the council majority.
This is an interesting experiment in city politics because the two candidates, running together, are politically disparate. As Waldram pointed out to the sizable crowd, he is not interested in walking a party line, he is interested in doing what is best for the city. Worley-Hagen echoed that sentiment.
Tracy Worley-Hagen is a veteran city council member and 4 time mayor of Tustin. She was instrumental in obtaining the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station base at a no cost transfer to the city, making this one of the last bases to be transferred that way (apparently, the Feds have finally wised up and realized the land they transfer is worth something).
The Worley-Waldram campaign will be holding another fundraiser on Thursday, September 20, 2012 from 6:30-8pm at the Machado home.