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Around The County

It is one of those rare “5th” Tuesdays where there are no scheduled city council or commission meetings in Tustin. So, I thought we’d take a look around at what’s happening with our neighbors around us. Before we do that, I have a couple of items to discuss.

First, I would like to clear up an error I made in my recent post about the candidates for Tustin City Council. We have spent a considerable time hinting about former mayor and councilman Chuck Puckett’s faux pas with the city credit card and lingerie shows during his first term on the dais. I received an in-depth report on the issue from a reader who prefers to remain anonymous. From the email:

Chuck ran successfully in 1990 along with Leslie Pontious, a local travel business woman.  They both served four years and then ran for re-election in 1994.  As far as I know there was absolutely no problem during their first terms.

But, in 1994 the re-election campaign, they were attacked and accused of abuse of city credit cards and misuse of city cell phones. Chuck was accused of having regular lunches in a… restaurant which featured models in skimpy lingerie.  He worked in the building at that time. He was charged with using a city credit card at these luncheons…. These charges were not proven.  He did not resign but he and Leslie both lost the election.

So, there is the best story I have on Chuck and the lingerie scandal and, as far as I know, the correct one as this comes from an impeccable source. I see no need to push this any further with innuendo. Beside, I am sure I have enough on Puckett with his relationship with Amante and his cronies.

Who Watches the Watchers?

I am sure, by now, you have heard of the scandals racking Orange County government offices. Former Public Works Director, and Santa Ana City Councilman, Carlos Bustamante, resigned from his position, with Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackauckus, hot on his heels with a warrant for his arrest. When Bustamante resigned he took along a hefty golden parachute in return for a promise not to sue the county. What a laugh, as it turns out, as he then wound up doing the perp walk for the citizens of the Real OC. Bustamante is out on $100,000 bail (later reported to have been changed to $0) but he has not shown for any public appearances of the Santa Ana City Council. Bustamante did appear for arraignment on Thursday in OC Superior Court where he pleaded not guilty to 12 felony counts related to sexual assaults on female co-workers.

So, who allowed this to happen? Look no farther than County Chief Executive Officer, Tom “Tommy Boy” Mauk. Mauk, who has been mired in

Courtesy Orange County Register

other scandals related to bonuses and promotions for manager cronies in the county, really stepped in it this time. The Board of Supervisors called Mauk on the carpet. After giving him a pass on the unwarranted promotions, the Gang of Five finally decided they had enough. Over three days of closed sessions, it was beginning to look, quite frankly, like Mauk would get yet another chance. Instead, we find they were haggling over price. Where else, except in managerial circles, will you find a person who should be fired on the spot for such ludicrous behavior, negotiating a golden parachute? As if he hadn’t taken the county for enough during his misdeeds. Mauk must have suddenly realized his possible legal problems if all those women who were sexually assaulted by Bustamante decide to sue, as he has also procured indemnity and a lawyer at the tune of $300 an hour. Let’s hope the Board has enough sense to set a cap. The County’s Chief Financial Officer, Bob Franz, was appointed interim CEO on a 4-1 vote with Supervisor Shawn Nelson dissenting. Hmm, I wonder what Shawn knows that we don’t?

Clowns to the West of Me

Courtesy Chris Prevatt, The Liberal OC

Bustamante is not the only one who is making a name for himself in a not so glamorous way. Santa Ana Councilwoman, Claudia Alvarez, has also been in hot water this past year. Alvarez, reportedly the council bully, got the anti-Semite award of the year for comparing Irv Chase and his brother to Hitler and accusing them of ethnic cleansing in the Hispanic-dominated 4th Street retail corridor. Like any good politician who has made a major gaffe, she blew it off  saying, “I do want to apologize to the Chase family for whatever reason they found my comments offensive. That was not my intent.” Whatever reason? Chase, A Jew, is also the son of Holocaust survivors. I think the reasons for being offended were pretty obvious, Claudia. Even the ADL called for her resignation.

So now, Alvarez thinks all is forgotten and the good folks of Santa Ana should give her a shot at an unprecedented fourth term in office. Actually, it would have gone further because she argued the clock had been reset when the good people of Santa Ana changed their term limit ordinance from two to three terms. When outside counsel advised that she was not eligible, Alvarez crony, Max Madrid filed a lawsuit against City Clerk Maria Huizar, on her behalf asking the court to force Huizar to allow Alvarez to pull papers for the election. The judge took one quick look and restated the obvious: Alvarez is ineligible to run again. A win-win for the citizens of Santa Ana. Watch out, though, we hear Alvarez has now set her sights on a school board seat. As if it wasn’t enough to have her bully the citizens directly, now she gets a chance to have your kids learn what anti-Semite means.

Jokers to the North

Up to the Northwest of us, the city of Anaheim is brewing for a fight. So far, this year, there have been over 7 officer involved shootings in Orange County’s largest city. On July 21st, officers shot an unarmed man on Anna Street. This sparked protests at the city council meeting and a brief but intense riot erupted in the area surrounding city hall. The Voice of OC reported that, at one point, police were overwhelmed and took over an intersection. Scenes on the evening news showed enraged protesters, driven further into anger by scenes of a K-9 attacking people (reportedly an accident) and another officer shooting rubber bullets at a family with small children. One could argue why parents would bring their children to a mob scene but, in its early stages, this was a peaceful protest. Who would have thought things would turn ugly?

To make matters worse, another young man, this time a known gang member with a gun, was killed in a confrontation with police. The young man, Joel Acevedo, reportedly shot at officers as he was stopped in a stolen car.

There were two significant and very stupid reactions to the entire situation. The first was by Anaheim Police Chief, John Welter, when I heard him trying to excuse his officers’ actions during the riot by saying that “outside influences” had come into their fair city and instigated trouble. Yeah, that’s it. “People from,… uh,… Los Angeles…. yeah, that’s it… they, uh, came in here and rabble-roused our citizens and then took off to let them take the brunt of police action.” Oh, please, John. Certainly you  could have come up with better excuses than that, considering there was not one shred of evidence that could possibly lead to that conclusion. The “accidental” unleashing of the K-9 in the crowd was pretty believable, unless you watched the video. They say history repeats itself. I certainly see the similarities between the Anaheim video and this one taken almost 50 years ago. They just traded their fire hoses in for more modern weapons.

The second stupid reaction to the Anaheim protests and riots was made by, none other than city councilwoman, Gail Eastman. Eastman claimed in a message posted on an Anaheim blog, that the unrest in Anaheim was a “big time win” for her and her cronies. This was because it prevented the City Council from considering ballot initiatives that would affect future corporate tax giveaways the city council has become famous for by allowing the citizens to vote on future subsidies. It also kept them from considering a ballot initiative to change the current at-large voting system to a ward-system. The July 24th meeting was the last time they could vote to place either measure on the ballot in November.  Eastman later apologized for her remarks, claiming a long tension-filled night, inappropriate use of a common phrase and the “wrong choice of words.” The mailing list she posted to is private so, she may have thought her remarks would only go to her constituents. Like-minded individuals, I am sure.

Stuck In the Middle Again

So here we are. A sleepy little burg in the geographical center of Orange County. I apologize for not checking with the city clerk’s office on Friday to see if anyone new had filed or pulled papers. So far, we have former mayor Chuck Puckett, Amante crony Allen “Doc” Bernstein and current mayor John Nielsen. David Waldram, a candidate in previous years, has also stated his intention to pull papers but, at last check, has yet to do so. One possible candidate, whom we shall not mention by name, has told me they have decided not to run. I hope they will change their mind as we need good, strong candidates who will properly represent all of the citizens of Tustin. The lineup so far seems to be the good-old-boys club headed by Hizzoner, Jerry Amante.

Hey, I know it was a long post, especially if you clicked on all the links. But, I don’t often write about those around us (why would I, its Our Town Tustin?). This was a good opportunity to show that, no matter how crazy things may get here in Tustin, thank God we live here and not there.

Is Jerry Amante Really Il Duce?

Our friend, Dan Chmielewski over at the Liberal OC, has been the subject of hot debate on another blog, The New Santa Ana.

Most readers are probably aware by now that Santa Ana Councilmember, Claudia Alvarez, has been the subject of many articles and news programs concerning her recent anti-Semitic remarks directed at a couple of Santa Ana business owners. In the aftermath, she has apologized to the people of Santa Ana, the Jewish community and the ADL. Of course, the people she hasn’t apologized to are the ones she should have started with, the Chases who were the target of her remarks in a public meeting. The Liberal OC has written a couple of articles concerning the matter and has been vocal about Alvarez and the Santa Ana Council’s failure to act against her on behalf of the citizens of Santa Ana.

Well, that stirred up a hornet’s nest because, as you may also know, Dan frequently writes about Tustin and the antics of our esteemed mayor, Jerry Amante. He often calls Jerry, who is of Italian (Sicilian, really) descent, “Il Duce”. This has rankled the writers of the New Santa Ana blog  who have written a hit piece on Dan for his use of the nickname because it has been attributed in the past to the infamous Benito Mussolini. Their assertion is that Mussolini was a mass murderer and they infer that he was part of the “ethnic cleansing” that took place in that part of the world against the Jews. Well, sort of.

It is true that Mussolini liked to be called “Il Duce”. So, his friends called him that. It has never been shown that it was widely used by the people except maybe in fear of the dictator and his henchmen. It is also true that he was a mass murderer and committed war crimes.

What isn’t true is that he was part of the ethnic cleansing. In fact:

Things began to change in 1938 for Italian Jews. Mussolini, in his craven desire to please the Fuhrer, initiated a comprehensive anti-Semitic campaign at the urging of the Nazis, including miscegenation laws and a media campaign against Jews. Jews were forbidden to teach in schools. Foreign Jews living as refugees in Italy were rounded up and confined in internment camps. However, these camps were a lot more like the Japanese-American internment camps than the Nazi death camps.

Thousands of Jews seeking refuge went to Italy and Italian-occupied territories because they knew that they were likely to be protected rather than persecuted. In general the Italian people did not buy into the government’s anti-Jewish policies, though Italian intellectuals were curiously silent.

To be clear, The Liberal OC wrote and commented on the issue of Alvarez and her anti-Semitic remarks, not on the general state of the Axis during World War II. The name Mussolini, while infamous, does not carry the same historical stigma that the name of Hitler does. When people think of Hitler, they think of the Holocaust. When they think of Mussolini, they think of the dictator of Italy, an Axis member, and the lackey of Hitler. So, the analogy is a bit of a stretch to say the least. Let’s add to this that Dan’s wife is of Italian descent. He asserts that his use of the word is simply as, “the leader”. In fact, Il Duce means “the leader” or “duke”. I seen no reason to take it otherwise. There is also the matter of the legal issues between Dan and Art Pedroza, the owner of the New Santa Ana blog that is probably the real fuel for this unwarranted attack.

Face it. Nowadays, bloggers are not always nice people. We have our opinions and we let them be known, often in not so nice terms. This blog usually refers to Amante as Boss Tweed and refers to his running of the city as Tammany Hall Tustin. It isn’t meant to denigrate the Irish-Americans that made up that era. It is meant to signify the severity and methods Amante uses in imposing his will on the citizens of this city and the employees of city hall. These digs are meant to entice and keep the reader engaged. And, as was said elsewhere in the blogosphere, Alvarez is a public, elected figure who elected to say what she did in a public forum while representing the community. Dan is a businessman and journalist, representing his own views.

So, if you hear any of the right wing noise from the West whining about this, you know it is just hot, blowing wind. Turn on your air conditioner.