Death and Taxes
Apologies for not doing my usual writeups on the latest Planning Commission meeting but tax day is rearing its ugly head and I want to stay ahead of the curb for once. My tax forms sent off, electronically of course, I can focus on our local issues. Here’s a recap of what has happened in the past few weeks.
Although there wasn’t much on the agenda, the March 17th Tustin City Council meeting went on longer than expected. A good chunk of it was taken up by a presentation by Police Chief Charles Celano. Celano who gave a “year in review” PowerPoint on the most recent activities and plans of his department.
Notably, crime is down thanks in large part to the CTAPS crime analysis program implemented under former chief Scott Jordan. In his typical low key style that I’ve come to like, Celano lauded both sworn and professional staff of his department and laid the blame for the general reduction in crime squarely on their backs. He delivered well-deserved praise for his people for their work.
Celano has had to weather his share of criticism in the past. It wasn’t too long ago outside rabblerousers invaded the city council chambers in an attempt to discredit the department. There were also attempts to turn low key events into high profile lawsuits (wonder if the plaintiff is the same Reznek from Huntington Beach fame).Those efforts have, so far, fallen far short due in large part to the professional efforts of the department.
Prior to the police presentation, citizens spoke during the public comment section of the meeting to garner support from the city council for a proposed Community Facilities District for the Columbus Square area of the Tustin Legacy properties. A sizable group of residents were in the chamber as one of them, Paul Callahan, spoke about the Heritage School situation.
As you recall, new residents are paying for a school they can’t use. Heritage Elementary School was supposed to open in 2011. When the school district finally announced the opening of the campus, it was to say they would be moving Hillview Continuation High School and Sycamore Adult School to the new digs.
That, of course, didn’t set well with the residents, who had moved there expecting to send their kids to local schools, or the Tustin City Council. The city council, which had a longstanding feud with the school district due largely to former councilman Jerry Amante and his puppet John Nielsen, wielded more taxpayer money by suing the school district again. Claiming the Columbus Square kids would have to go to other schools with predominantly minority populations, the city whined the residents were being cheated.
Someone should have mentioned the demographics to Nielsen and Amante before they shot their mouths off, not that it would have done much good. Nielsen, for his part, got up in a subsequent city council meeting and groused about being called a racist. Hey, if the shoe fits….
Since those dark old days, the city and the school district have kissed and made up. That was due in large part to Amante’s departure and Nielsen’s apparent inability to garner enough support to keep the fight going. The winners and losers were Tustin taxpayers.
All the while, though, the good folks at Tustin Unified School District were enjoying the public flogging of the city council, even as they plotted their own evil scheme against the residents by moving Hillview and Sycamore.
So, here we are in 2015 and the school district, no doubt feeling the pressure, has announced their intention to open the Heritage campus for its original purpose as an elementary school… in 2016. Yes, the district wants another year to get things as they should have been all along. I know it’s shocking but school district officials actually lied to the residents and taxpayers in the area when they said the Hillview move to Heritage was temporary. I mean, how long does it take to build a tennis court or two?
Apparently, it takes 5 years. Oh, and don’t expect Hillview to move out right away. We heard it through the grapevine that the school district has no intention of moving Hillview out before they open the site to elementary school age children. It will be a co-campus with both continuation high school students and elementary students sharing the grounds. We can’t find out for sure because the school PIO, Mark Eliot, has refused to answer our past emails (and, we gave up trying).
City Manager Jeff Parker shed some light on the issue at the end of the city council meeting.
“In part of that process was that we’ve already sent a letter to the school district saying we’re in line of thought that they move forward with the CFD [Community Facilities District]. A Community Facilities District is something that the school district actually forms, not the city. So, I wanted to make sure the public understands the process there.”
Parker wanted to make sure folks know who to blame in case something screws up. In following comments, he also made sure everyone knew the city remains a majority property owner in the area and, of course, it is the property owners who cast votes to form a CFD. That shouldn’t be too difficult to sell, even to the residents. They are, after all, desperate for a school they can actually use. Maybe the city should make the re-opening of Heritage as an elementary school exclusively, as a condition for their vote. In fact, that may be what the city is laying the groundwork for as Parker disclosed the working group that will “set the guidelines” for the CFD. In any case, don’t expect things to go that smoothly.
What they should be doing is working above board to insure the residents who desperately need these schools are informed. In reality, what will probably happen is the city attempting to influence the school district AGAIN in how they run their schools. Surely, transparency can’t be on their mind as the “committee” consists of TUSD and city officials with no representation from the affected residents. And, while I think it was underhanded of the district to actually pull the bait and switch the city earlier accused them of, it is just as reprehensible to believe the city should have any say in how schools are run. Leave that to the experts.
The last item, as a reminder, Linda Jennings of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy, appeared at the city council meeting to announce the formation of a GoFundme account for the restoration of the Jabberwocky. This Tustin landmark was restored from the ground up by the owner using local historic architect, Nathan Menard and other folks. There’s about $10,000 that was not covered by the insurance. Linda reminded folks they could help by donating whatever they could afford to the restoration effort by going to the Jabberwocky site (or see the link in our sidebar) . So far the effort has raised over $3,000 toward their goal.
On The City Council Agenda – June 17, 2014
Sex Offenders and Hangar Reuse highlight the agenda for the Tustin City Council this week.
The Tustin City Council will consider the appropriation of $369 thousand dollars for consultant services to perform an assessment of the Tustin MCAS hangar under its control. The consultant, Page and Turnbull, Inc., have specific experience in assessing the hangars, having completed an assessment of two similar hangars at Moffett Field in 2006.
It’s difficult to say what the favored disposition currently is at the City. During Boss Tweed Amante’s reign, several sham discussions were held to a pre-determined outcome that the hangar would be razed in favor of other land use. However, a few years ago, the County of Orange, which controls Hangar Number One, decided reuse of the hangar as part of a larger regional style park was high on its list. Perhaps that will be the catalyst for Tustin to make an effort to keep our beloved hangars.
In any case,the consultant agreement will get the ball rolling as a necessary item for final disposition of the hangar. I will tell you, if the Moffett Field report is a telltale, things don’t look good. Keep your fingers crossed.
Sex offenders are a bit easier, though harder to swallow, for our intrepid council. The final item on the agenda is a second reading of the ordinance repealing the sex offender ordinance enacted a few years ago. Although no one (except the sex offenders themselves) is happy about this, all is not lost. As we reported earlier, state law should be adequate to protect our kids. And, I’ve noticed over the years taking my daughter to the park, parents are the best police. Expect a lot of discussion, nonetheless.
In Closed Session, the city council will discuss the work of our contract attorney, David Kendig. In our opinion, the city needs to put out an RFP for legal services. Kendig is a hack attorney whose sole purpose in life is to draw a paycheck and pander to the city council majority. Woodruf, Spradlin & Smart have been the city attorneys for many more years than it should have. The citizens of Tustin should have been alerted to the conflicts a few years ago when former city attorney (working for the same firm) Doug Holland abruptly resigned saying he could no longer adequately represent the city. At the time, we opined the city should go out to bid for a new law firm. That didn’t happen and I would assume the the Amigos are pleased as punch with Kendig. Let’s just hope they haven’t already sealed the deal for a bigger payoff to the firm.
Public Employment – Performance Evaluation of the City Attorney
Student Safety Month – Steve Shirk, DCH Tustin Acura
2014 Water Awareness Poster & Slogan Contest
Development Agreement – City of Tustin and South Coast Community College District (land swap)
Establish Tustin Community Facilities District 2014-1 – Conduct “election” and establish CFD for portions of Tustin Legacy under development. Procedure allows the city to establish a CFD with a sham vote of the “property owner” prior to actual development and sale, leaving new homeowners on the hook for $29 million dollars in bond debt.
Adopt Resolution 14-43 – Adds Tustin Ranch Road extension and Warner Avenue to list of eligible streets for added federal and local funds.
American Red Cross Shelter Agreement – Permits the use of Miller Center, Senior Center and Coliumbus Tustin Gym as Red Cross emergency shelters.
Adopt Resloution 14-47 – Reaffirm support for Prop 13.
Approve Tustin Legacy Park Master Plan – First step in approving 31.5 acre multi-use park in Tustin Legacy.
General Municipal Election Candidate Statement Regulations – Establish the authority and timeframe for candidate statements for the municipal election.
Consultant Services Agreement Hangar No. 2 – Provide funds for procuring Page and Turnbull Inc. to perform a re-use and structureal assessment of Hangar No. 2 at the former MCAS
Appropriation Limit for Fiscal Year 2014/15 – Adopt a fiscal limit of $73,045,518. This is not the actual budget, just the fiscal limit.
Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance No. 1444 – Repeals certain sections of the Tustin City Code pertaining to registered sex offenders in parks and other areas frequented by children.
On The City Council Agenda – May 6, 2014
It’s been a nice but short vacation since the Tustin City Council had an extra week off this past month. And, while the last meeting in April was extremely short, don’t expect that to happen again, at least for awhile.
Highlighting the agenda this week is a second go at implementing a land exchange between the city and the Army Reserve that would, in effect, move the Army Reserve to another parcel of MCAS property off Warner Avenue and Redhill. The deal had already been agreed upon a few months ago but, the bureaucracy is never satisfied. The Feds wanted a few changes to documentation and to the deal itself. City staff assure us the essentials are the same and the most important issue for the taxpayer, a no cost swap, is intact.
Although construction of new Reserve facilities will take some time to complete (I’d say at least two years), the city has agreed to a lease back of the existing facilities to the Army at no cost to them. Relocation of the Reserve Center is a win-win for the city and the Feds. Let’s hope it sticks this time.
If you plan on buying one of the recently approved homes being built by Standard Pacific, expect to pay for the privilege through a Mello-Roos tax being pondered at tonight’s meeting. The City Council will no doubt go along with staff recommendations to saddle new homeowners in the area with a $29 million dollar bond issue to finance what should be financed by the developers and the city.
The tax includes infrastructure for the TUSD as well. However, an opt-out clause would lower the tax should the school district decide to finance their own CFD in the same area. Either way, the new homeowner should be wary as the CFD(s) could cost a significant amount with a questionable return. Our opinion is that Mello-Roos should have been eliminated along with Redevelopment Agencies.
In other business, city staff are recommending a change to city ordinances in regard to Waste Reduction and Recycling Plans. As new state laws have been effected, city ordinances require modification. As staff anticipate future changes to state CALGreen laws, they are suggesting incorporating future changes by reference. A great idea as long as staff stay on top of future changes.
Conference With Legal Counsel – Initiation and Exposure to Litigation, 2 items each.
Conference With Legal Counsel – Existing Litigation
Conference With Real Property Negotiators
MCAS Property – Tustin Unified School District
Boys & Girls Club – 580 W. 6th St.
MCAS Property – South Orange County Community College District
MCAS Property – Pacific Coast Investors
U.S. Army Reserve – Land swap, current facilities for equal parcel located at Warner & Redhill
Public Hearing Item 1
Community Develpment Block Grant Funding Allocation, Fiscal Year 2014-15 Action Plan. $688,674. Proposed recipients include:
Boys & Girls Club
Laurel & Mercy House
Parks and Recreation Department
Public Facilities Improvements
CDBG money will also be used to finance the Old Town Study.
Resolution 14-30 – Accept Armstrong Avenue and Warner Avenue Improvements.
CIP NO. 10048 – Accept Improvements for the Tustin Legacy Fire Station Relocation Station No. 37.
Request Travel Approval – Mayor Murray to travel to Washington DC with OCTA, ACC-OC and the Orange County Business Council for unspecified purposes. Cost of conference is $2,800 including travel expenses. The only thing we have to wonder is, whose interests will Murray be advocating for since he is a member of all three entities. For that matter, why isn’t ACC-OC, a quasi-governmental PR agency funded solely by represented cities, or OCTA paying Murray’s way?
On The City Council Agenda – January 21, 2014
I hope everyone is having a great Martin Luther King Day. We are finally cooling off as the rest of the country embraces another round of freezing weather. It is days like this that remind me why I live in our town Tustin.
It seems the city and the US Army have finally come to an agreement on a property exchange. For more than a year, the city has been pestering the Feds to exchange their current real estate, next to the District Shopping Center, for another parcel located near Warner and Redhill. The idea, of course, is to allow the District to expand while keeping the Army Reserve Center within the confines of the city. Actually, I think the city council could care less about the Army but they do want to serve their masters at the District. Sales tax, after all, is the bread and butter of a city.
This works out for all parties as the Army was in the process of planning new facilities at the current reserve center. According to the staff report, those efforts will now be directed toward the new location. The Army has agreed to submit their plans for comment and to obtain grading permits. This should be interesting over the next few years to see what happens if the plans don’t conform to Elizabeth’s vision. The city has a habit of holding up the permit process when they don’t like what they see. The Army, on the other hand, has a habit of not caring about permits, etc.
Oh yeah, and the “no-cost” agreement includes $170,000 payment to the feds by the city for they cost of the transfer. They also have to make sure water and sewage are in place.
The rest of the agenda has the usual suspects. Along with the final discussion on the Army property swap, there are two other issues, including on between the city and the school district.
Staff are asking the one Public Hearing Item on a development agreement for a 375 home housing tract on the MCAS property be continued to next month due to legal issues. Expect this to be worked out and back on the agenda.
There is little on the Consent Calendar of real interest. However, it should be noted the staff are planning a bocce ball court at Peppertree Park. A great addition that I’m sure our senior will appreciate. But, why only two courts? Oh, and staff may want to revisit the proposed resolution as, according to that, the original intention was to establish a water play area.
Item 13 on the consent calendar is for a grant application for federal funding for parks related programs. The $260,000 grant can be used for virtually anything park related. Staff have already targeted Frontier Park for the bulk of the proceeds. This is one item that could probably use some discussion either now or when the grant is approved.
That’s it for this week’s Tustin City Council meeting. The year is starting off by cleaning up old issues. With an election year up for grabs and two city council seats up for grabs, lets hope it stays that way so our intrepid heroes can concentrate on the important stuff.