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On (and Off) the City Council Agenda – February 18, 2014

LAA StadiumA hat tip to our friend, Dan Chmielewski, of The Liberal OC who related that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could someday become the Los Angeles Angels of Tustin. Hmmm, the name just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Anaheim Angels.

In any case, owner Arte Moreno’s mouthpiece claims they are in preliminary talks concerning a possible stadium at the MCAS base. The LA Times story, which Dan quotes from, says team officials met with Tustin officials last week concerning the deal. The team declined to say whether they met with other Orange County cities or not.

Don’t hold your breath if you think the Angels would land here. Their lease, which has an out clause beginning in 2016, is tenuous in Anaheim as the city has balked at the proffered deal that includes a giveaway of hundreds of millions in tax dollars and development fees. I doubt Moreno is likely to give Tustin any better deal and would expect a lot in return. I would consider this “leak” of information as a not-so-clever ploy by their negotiation consultants to put pressure on Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait.

Likewise, don’t expect anything to be said at the Tuesday Tustin City Council Meeting. There is no agenda item either on the Closed Session or Public Agenda. And, we have to wonder what part of the Brown Act covers discussions with baseball teams? It is a bit weird that a gentleman came to the last meeting to discuss the possibility of establishing a minor league baseball stadium and baseball camp. Maybe that was the cover story.

The Tustin City Council does have a fairly full agenda this week. You can tell it is spring as negotiation will begin with all of the major employee unions in the city. Tustin’s non-safety employees negotiations are handled by the Orange County Employees Association. It’s sad to see that, for the past several years, the employee unions have been willing to accept the City’s claim of poverty when dealing with them while they lavish raises and promotions on the executive managers. The union’s chief negotiator, Frank Flavin, is an experienced negotiator who, perhaps, they are not listening to when it comes to holding out for a better deal.

Discussion will also ensue over 4 items of property, all on the MCAS. We were told that the deal with the Army Reserve Center is not complete and there are some issues being haggled over. We think the deal is pretty good and will put the Army in a more suitable section of the development. Still, we have to wonder why they brought out the big guns, which were reportedly moved onto a parking lot near the District.

On the Public Meeting Agenda, TPD Officer Tim Carson will receive the MADD “Deuce” award. This award is given to law enforcement officers who make more than 25 DUI arrests in a year. We are proud of Officer Carson but sorry to see that we have so many drunk drivers in our midst.

The sole Public Hearing is an item held over from the previous meeting. It concerns a development agreement for 375 single family homes on the MCAS property. It is quite a large development and, while Councilwoman Beckie Gomez was probably not missed, John Nielsen was also AWOL and I am sure the Three Amigos needed another back to pat.

Most of the Consent Calendar consists of routine maintenance items. Items 6 & 7 stand out only because it raises an issue with cell towers. The two items have to do with communications site license agreements with T-Mobile and Cingular Wireless. The agreements are to continue running equipment at Tustin Sports Park. Our issue with licenses of this type is the cut the city’s cellular consultant, ATS Communications, receives for their services. The licenses, which terminate previous leases, allows for 20% of the proceeds to go to ATS for their “services”. Outside of promoting the interests of the various cellular companies, we’re not sure where they are earning their money. And, to allow that to go on ad finitum, is unconscionable.

Three items under Regular Business will wrap up the evening, unless someone decides to discuss their talks with the Los Angeles Angels coming to Tustin.

Item 9 – Purple Heart City Designation is a proposed resolution designating Tustin as a Purple Heart City that cares about it’s veterans who were wounded or killed. As I said in a recent post, this would seem a lot more sincere if the City were to seriously reach out to this city’s military history and veterans that made it. How about establishing a local veterans advisory commission that could work toward honoring the living and the dead?

Item 10 – Authorize Request for Deferral is a request to send a letter asking for a deferral of grant funds from Measure M2 for a detention basin and wetlands on the MCAS property. The delay is due in part to design issues. It would seem like a routine issue but, bureaucracy requires council approval.

Item 11 – Adopt Resolution ordering preparation of the Engineer’s Report. This is the annual levy of the Tustin Landscape and Lighting District. Another routine item that probably could have been placed on the consent calendar.

That’s it for the week. It is anyone’s guess if the city council will discuss the Angels meeting. Although the meeting should have been with City Manager Jeff Parker, I can’t see how Al Murray couldn’t drag himself away from his regular coffee cops morning to get a chance to hob nob with sports folks.

On the City Council Agenda – November 19, 2013

Hidden Agenda ClipartWe didn’t bother to post the agenda for the Planning Commission last week due to its brevity and lack of interest. The only item of note was an item on AT&T utility cabinets for servicing their U-Verse internet and cable-like system. It seems the city’s resolution of their video issues was short-lived as, a week later, the video is not up so we can’t report on the outcome. We’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday’s Tustin City Council meeting should be a bit more interesting with several items of interest, both on the Consent Calendar as well as the Regular Business Items.

Not much on the Closed Session for the City Attorney to report on even if there is any movement. There is one new item listed as existing litigation regarding the estate of an individual and the police department.

Police had previously declined to discuss the case publicly, stating potential litigation as the reason. TPD did have an encounter with the young man, nineteen year old Paul Quintanar, prior to the accident that took his life. No one has been charged in the incident.

There are also several continuing negotiations concerning MCAS property and swaps with both the TUSD and the US Army Reserve.

The Regular Meeting Agenda is headed by three presentations including one for outgoing Audit Commissioner Richard Hilde.

One glaring item on the Consent Calendar that may be pulled for discussion is Item 4, City Option to Retain or Delegate Authority for Award of Ambulance Contract. Currently, the city retains the authority and, judging from the issues the county is having with its ambulance services, it sounds like it might be a good idea for the city to retain that authority rather than delegate it to the County. The staff report indicates city staff feel the same way.

We’re not sure if Item 5, AB109 MOU on Realignement which would authorize a bank of overtime cash is just for purposes of obtaining what OC Supervisor Janet Nguyen calls, “free money”. AB109 involves the realignment of responsibilities of post-release supervision of prisoners to the community. Previously, most of this was handled by state parole agents. It is now handled almost exclusively by county probation officers.

In reading the agenda report for this item, we found the city has assigned a “Compliance Detective” to monitor the activities of released offenders. Of course, this is what the Orange County Probation Department, who has a full-time deputy probation officer assigned to Tustin, does. So, we’re not sure why the need for additional manpower in this area. We do recognize the detective also monitors sex and drug registrants, not a bad thing in our book.

Under Regular Business, city staff have finally answered all the questions the city council had when they last addressed a recommendation to appoint City Finance Director, Pamela Arends-King as the city’s Treasurer. As we’ve noted before, we endorse the idea of Arends-King being officially appointed to the position. We are opposed, however, to the hefty $8,000 increase in pay, particularly since the previous City Treasurer, George Jeffries, did the same job for half the amount.

The staff report indicates a savings to the General Fund and the Water Enterprise Fund of $19k but they provide no evidence, other than “because we said so”, of the savings. Where is the transparency to the public when calculating these so-called savings?

It seems Boss Tweed Parker is cementing his executive relationships at taxpayer cost.

Item 8, Business License Program, is a request by city staff to continue to use a questionable company to assist them in business license compliance. MAS, a company that has made a living off cities by making it a practice to offend the business owners, has a checkered history in collecting fees for errant businesses who have failed to obtain a license to operate in the city.

When the city first contracted with MAS to collect delinguent business license fees and taxes, we foretold the issues they would have. Businesses have reported harassment and unqualified accusaitons as they have been contacted by MAS representatives who have combed the city on a witch hunt for transgressors. The backlash to the city appears to be catching up with them as they back track on collections.

The proposed recommendation involves refunds and reassessments of the operations. What it should involve is a complete investigation into the business practices of the contractor to determine whether this is appropriate action for a city like Tustin, who purports to be business friendly, to be conducting.

To deflect attacks from the root problem, the staff report addresses the questions asked by the city council regarding business licensing for realtors. The city currently has a policy in place that seems adequate. Perhaps they should leave well enough alone and concentrate on MAS operations.

That’s it for this week’s meeting. We’ll try to keep you posted on any changes.

Closed Session

Conference with Legal Counsel

Two items each Exposure to and Initiation of Litigation.

Existing Litigation – Marie Sales on Behalf of Paul J. Quintanar v. City of Tustin et al.

Confernence With Real Property Negotiators

MCAS properties, 14 lots, OC Property Company (Cushman Wakefield).

Price and Terms of Payment APN: 430-391-12, 430-391-09, and 430-391-03, Tustin Unified School District.

Property Address/Description 2345 Barranca Pkwy and 15 acres of the N/E corner of Red Hill Avenue and Warner Avenue – Army Reserve negotiating.

Regular Business Agenda

Consent Calendar

Item 4, City Option to Retain or Delegate Authority for Award of Ambulance Contnract.

Item 5, Master MOU Between City of Tustin and County of Orange for Public Safety Realignment and Post Release Community Supervision Authorized Expenditures.

Regular Business Items

Item 6, Approve Agreement with the City of Irvine, et al, to Fund the Peters Canyon Wash Channel Water Capture and Reuse Pipeline.

Item 7, Recommendation of the Finance Director’s Appointment as the City Treasurer.

Item 8, Business License Program.

On The City Council Agenda – November 5, 2013

Hidden Agenda ClipartWith only one public hearing item on the agenda, the upcoming meeting of the Tustin City Council has no hidden surprises for the us particularly since the one potential controversy will be postponed again until later this month.

The Closed Session lists the usual suspects in conference with legal counsel for  two each items of exposure and initiation of litigation. One item under consideration of particular interest is the Department of Finance case that has been pending for several weeks.

The bulk of the Closed Session will consist of real property negotiations, mostly for MCAS property. It includes discussions with the Tustin Unified School District. It seems the friction between the two has been eliminated and the city and district are moving past Heritage.

The city is also negotiating with the US Army Reserve Center to complete a land swap that would free up the land next to the District that is currently housing the reserve center. We can see the city’s reasoning but, after visiting the center during the recent Veteran’s Stand Down, we’d be hard pressed to see why the Army would want to give up nice buildings on frontage property without some hefty compensation.

On the Regular Meeting agenda, three presenations are scheduled. One of these is from Lisa Telles of the Transportation Corridor Agencies. We figure anything she has to say, she will be preaching to the choir. This city council continues to buck the majority opinion in this county regarding the proposed Foothill Extension as well as OCTA’s revival of the toll road idea for the 405 Freeway carpool lanes.

The sole Public Hearing item on the agenda is a run-of-the-mill ordinance adoption for the California Building Code. With few exceptions, the city generally follows the state guidelines on code matters. Those exceptions center mostly around the low rainfall and hot climate we find ourselves in. The limitations center on building materials suitable for the area (think untreated wood shingles, for one).

As we said, the sole item of possible controversy on the agenda has, once again, been postponed until November. Item 4, City Treasurer Appointment, will be continued to the next meeting supposedly to allow staff to continue their research and review.

The city treasurer’s position has been vacant since the death of George Jeffries in April. City Finance Director, Pamela Arends-King was appointed interim treasurer at the time. We have been in favor of Arends-King taking over the duties of Treasurer but not at a rate and benefit increase amounting to over twice what was paid Jeffries. Parker’s previous recommendation of an $8,000 raise of the finance director to take over what is, arguably, a minimal addition of duties, is absurd. The city recently raked the line staff employee union over the coals, demanding takeaways and offering virtually no raises. Parker continues to reward high level management with the savings, lavishing newly retitled positions and raises for their fealty.

At the October 1 meeting, Parker offered another alternative that was not in the staff report. That would be to incorporate the Audit Commission as another “set of eyes” for city investments. This seems a wise thing to do, although as Parker pointed out, city’s are highly restricted in their investment lattitude since the Orange County Bankruptcy days.

It’s curious that Parker fibbed to the public and the city council when remarking that the city would save money by keeping the City Treasurer’s job in-house. How do you do that and give your crony an $8k raise? Apparently, even Councilmember Gomez is content with this raid of public funds as she made no mention of it at the October meeting.

Of the Regular Business items, the item regarding Commissioner Interviews and Appointments Process may initiate substantial discussion. However, it is the item before that, the Second Amendment to Amended Orange County Fire Authority Joint Powers Agreement, that should raise a few eyebrows.

On its face, the proposed amendment seeks to establish equity payments between OCFA member cities that belong to the Structural Fire Fund (paid through property tax) and Cash Contract Cities (such as Tustin). What the agreement glosses over is the issues between Irvine and OCFA.

Earlier this year, the city of Irvine sought refunds of money paid, declared its intent to withdraw from OCFA in 2020 and establish its own fire department. According to an article in the OC Register, the city felt it was being overcharged by $35 million dollars a year. OCFA says it is closer to $18 million. The rift has caused concern for the Authority as both sides say that Irvine’s participation is vital to the financial health of OCFA.

Even the players appear a bit shaky as they are also asking for authority to seek court approval of the amendment.

In any case, Tustin could be the beneficiary of equity payments in some years. And, as we all know, our city council loves money regardless of the consequences or where it came from.

Closed Session

Conference with Legal Counsel – Exposure & Initiation of Litigaton, 2 items each.

Conference with Real Property Negotiatiors – Multiple Lots on MCAS, Two Parcels w/TUSD, Tustin Housing Authority parcel on Newport Avenue, Land swap with US Army Reserve.

Joint Regular Meeting

Public Hearing

1.  Ordinance 1435 Amending Certain Chapters of Building Code Related to California Building Standards With Recommended Exceptions.

Consent Calendar

4.  City Treasurer Appointment – (recommend continuance to November 19th)

Regular Business

5.  Second Amendment to Amended OCFA Joint Powers Agreement.

6.  Commissioner Interviews and Appointment Process – Establish a subcommittee process for selecting potential commissioner candidates.

On The City Council Agenda – October 15, 2013

agendaWe are back from our Annual Area 51 Ride. Give us a few days and you can read what we have been up to over on  our travel blog, The Road Less Traveled.

This week’s Tustin City Council meeting agenda is long only because of the number of items on the Consent Calendar. There are also several presentations including one for our neighbor on B Street for “Outstanding Old Town Property”, an award occasionally given by staff to owners of property in Old Town.

Presentations follow the Closed Session which will include discussion on property owned by the Tustin Unified School District.

A couple of things stand out on the Consent Calendar. The first is Item 6, Award Contract for Catch Basin Insert Cleaning. Readers of this blog will remember there was a minor fiasco several months ago when it was discovered by the city that the required catch basin cleaning was not being performed by West Coast Storm. The city quickly moved to terminate the contract and place the next highest bidder, United Storm Water, into service for the remainder of the contract year.

United Storm Water has now been selected as the best (and only) bidder for services. Apparently, no one really wants to service our storm drains as United was the only one of 5 companies to respond to the RFP. One has to wonder if the city wouldn’t be better off doing this in-house.

Item 8, Police Department Vehicle Purchases, has the city replacing 7 TPD vehicles. We previously questioned why the city continues to go outside our own businesses to make purchases. However, after looking at the offers from Tuttle-Click at $3,000 higher than McPeek’s, we can understand why. This could be a win-win situation if Tuttle-Click really wanted the city’s business.

Oh, wait. Did I misread this or did the city? On the staff report, they say the quote from Tuttle-Click is $29,942.78. But, in reading the quote, the price shows as $27,281. That could be before tax but, even then the numbers don’t add up. Perhaps the staff could clear things up for us.

Other items on the Consent Calendar include Advertising for bids for the Frontier Park water splash pad to replace the amphitheater and a rental agreement for the Del Amo Avenue building owned by the city.

Frontier Park construction would begin early next year. The amphitheater has been underutilized the past few year, according to staff, and has drawn “an undesirable element”. The city likes splash pads for the kids as we have a number of them around town.

The only Regular Business item on the agenda is Item 12, Business License Program. Several months ago, the city council authorized the use of an outside company to “assist” the business license staff in locating scofflaw businesses that had failed to obtain a city license. Municipal Auditing Services solicited the city for their business and, once procured, they set about harassing and intimidating businesses in Tustin that were suspected of not paying their fees.

The program has been an apparent success as the city seems to have no intention of getting rid of MAS. But, there seems to have been enough of a backlash that city staff are now recommending an amnesty program that would take the bite off small businesses, the ones who have suffered the most under this program.

Of course, the methods used by MAS, and that have either not been reported to the city or not been complained about, is the canvassing of business neighborhoods for errant business owners. it’s also doubtful staff are including all complaints in the staff report, only those whose response can be substantiated (in their minds, anyway). One has to wonder about the other complaints.

MAS has been the target of numerous complaints in other cities that have used their services. City Manager Daryl Parish of Covina stated, “If there has been some error in communication, then obviously we want to clear the air on that.” His answer? Require businesses that have been contacted by MAS to sign an affidavit saying they don’t do business in the city. Here is what one business told MAS they could do with their affidavit. Perhaps the city council should take a closer look at this rather than just look the other way.

That’s it for this week. I won’t even wager the length of the meeting. This City Council has become increasingly lazier as they choose to convey power to the Boss Tweed Parker. It would be no surprise to see eventual meetings held by teleconference.

I guess I shouldn’t give them any ideas.