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On The City Council Agenda – June 4, 2013

agendaSorry 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.

Welcome to the Police State

Big Brother is WatchingThanks go to John Seiler at Cal Watchdog for writing about this interesting twist on the Patriot Act gone awry.

It seems that two young Irish folks, on their way to a vacation in Hollywood, California, were barred from entering the United States after a joke tweet that they were going to “destroy America” and “dig up Marylin Monroe”.

Leigh Van Bryan, an Irish national, was handcuffed along with his companion, Emily, and kept under armed guard in a cell with those accused of, shall we say, more heinous crimes, the nature of which, you would want to keep them out. The exact tweet, according to the Daily Mail, was, “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?”

They were allowed to make their way through passport control at LAX before they were detained by armed agents. According to the Daily Mail,

Despite telling officials the term ‘destroy’ was British slang for ‘party’, they were held on suspicion of planning to ‘commit crimes’ and had their passports confiscated.

While being questioned on this tweet, he was also asked about another tweet that essentially said they were going to “Hollywood Bloulevard and digging Marilyn Monroe up!” This tweet was a direct reference to The Family Guy, an American produced sitcom cartoon.

Altogether, Leigh and his friend, Emily, spent 5 hours in custody while Homeland Security Agents questioned them and, apparently, looked for the shovel they were going to use to desecrate Ms. Monroe’s grave with. They then spent another 12 hours in a holding cell waiting for a return flight to Europe.  Never mind the fact that our Homeland Security Agents should have better things to do than prevent grave robbing and harrassing young kids on vacation, the article really points to a more ominous issue, as Seiler pointed out.

We are supposed to be relatively free in our private lives to conduct our business and our personal affairs, free from general restraint of the government. This should also mean that we should not be subjected to general spying by our government or intrusion on our personal affairs. While it can be argued that Twitter and Facebook are somewhat public, it does not mean the Feds should be in everyone’s business checking each tweet or posting. Quite honestly, tactics like these, where Homeland Security is surveilling the Twitter universe looking for any threat however small, has some serious 4th Amendment issues involved.

But, this is how it has gone, ever since that fateful day in New York. It wasn’t long before the Government used the fear instilled in every American to institute a “Homeland Security” department through the Patriot Act. I still get chills up my spine when I hear these words because it reminds me of a certain regime during World War II and their justifying everything in the name of the “Fatherland”. And, over the years, even though the threat has been dealt with, the Government continues to spy on its people and do so with impunity justifying it in the name of, well, homeland security. Obama had the opportunity to eliminate or largely change the Patriot Act. Most people assumed he would. Instead, he showed just how paranoid the entire Federal Government has become  toward its own people when he renewed the Act. He has even gone further to strengthen the Act (Oh, and lets not forget the REAL ID Act) and eliminate 4th Amendment rights through recent executive orders that allow detention without justification. Yes, that’s right. You can now be detained and held in secret without due process if they suspect you are an enemy of the state. Forget habeus corpus, forget due process, forget any semblance of your rights.

I wonder what George Washington would think?

So, there you go. We berate Syria, Egypt and other countries because they stifle freedom by turning off Twitter and censoring Facebook in the name of their national security We cry foul when China decides to censor Google searches in the name of national security. At the same time, our own Government, one which is supposed to be the servant of the people, not its enslaver, is doing the same thing to us. And, it is because we stood by and did nothing as a couple of young kids from England, on holiday, were misunderstood by Big Brother and sent home branded enemies of the state.

Like John Seiler said, welcome to 1984 — in 2012.