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On The City Council Agenda – June 3, 2014

sex offender squadA tough issue facing the Tustin City Council Tuesday will be the repeal of the majority of its local sex offender ordinances. As you may have read, the California Appeals Court has struck down most local sex offender laws and both Irvine and Orange have repealed their ordinances. Tustin is following suit by repealing that part of the ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from entering city parks.

Don’t worry, your children are safe. The ordinances in question were rather far reaching and unnecessarily built upon state law which already effectively limited sex offenders from entering parks and schools without permission. At the time, the city jumped on the Republican bandwagon to enact mostly superfluous laws. The appeals court simply put the onus back on the state (where it should be) to enact appropriate laws and get rid of the checkerboard of (sometimes) confusing local ordinances. Police will still be able to do their job without the perceived rights violations that could potentially occur. Yup, I hate to say it, sex offenders have rights, too.

Tustin police will also be able to enforce the residency restrictions of state law as well.

Before tackling the regular business of the day, however, the city council will meet to discuss the proposed budget for  the coming fiscal year. This budget workshop will convene at 4 pm in city council chambers and the public is invited to comment and discuss the proposals. I am still looking through the documents myself. The summary gives a flat, conservative picture of the city’s approach to finance. At the outset, I would simply ask them to take a closer look at items they purchased out of the reserve fund last year and ensure like items are budgeted for. The reserve should stop being used as a slush fund for pet projects. You can see the proposed budget here.

Back under Regular Business, the city council will consider a proposal by the Community Development Department to increase the budget for a consultant by $100,000. The purpose is to develop a downtown commercial core plan. The council previously approved more than $60,000 for the study. In publishing the RFP, they apparently discovered consultants aren’t cheap.

We still believe the study could best be done by city planners with perhaps a minimum of outside help. Unfortunately, City Manager Jeff Parker and Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack are intent on maintaining the Republican cant to privatization, even for projects where it is obvious city planners have an advantage.

The last item of Regular Business is one close to my own heart. Item 15, Consideration of Supporting Assembly Bill 1453 – Orange County Veterans Cemetery. Through the history of the El Toro and Tustin Marine air bases, our city has a long history of serving veterans. The closest veterans cemetery is Riverside National Cemetery near March Air Force Base.

Sharon Quirk-Silva’s Assembly Bill 1453 would authorize the construction of a state veterans cemetery in Orange County. The latest proposal would place a veterans cemetery on El Toro property, a situation faced by an unenthusiastic Irvine City Council who have gone as far as to hire a Feng Shiu consultant. Apparently, cemeteries are not consistent with a Feng Shui lifestyle.

Anyway, it took awhile but Tustin city fathers must have read my blog asking for support for Silva’s bill. Yes, this deserves discussion as to where it will be located. But, we owe it to our veterans to give them a final resting place in their own county.

Special Meeting – 4:00 pm

Workshop on proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.

Closed Session – 5:30 pm

Conference with Legal Counsel – 2 items each of initiation and exposure to litigation

Liability Claim – Maria Teresa Dunn Clam No. 14-02

Conference with Real Property Negotiators – TUSD

Regular City Council Meeting – 7:00 pm


Student Government Day 2014 – Ethan Banks, Amy Coulter, Olivia Bancroft, Alison Greenberg

“Everyday Hero” – Jim Carson, Orangewood Children’s Foundation

Public Hearing

Annual Levying of Assessments – Tustin Landscape and Lighting District for Fiscal Year 2014-15

Consent Calendar

Review City Conflict of Interest Code – City Manager

Call for Election – November 4, 2014 – 2 council positions

Approve Grants of Easements Southern California Edison over portions of roadways and parcels of Tustin Legacy properties.

Regular Business

Request for Appropriation – Downtown Commercial Core Plan, Consutant fees and agreements. Additional funds requested.

Exclusive Sales Listing Agreement – CBRE Inc. for Tusting Legacy Area 4

Repeal of Sex Offender Ordinance – Repeals certain sections of city code to conform with recent court of appeals decisions.

Consideration for Support of Assembly Bill 1453 and Reaffirming Support for Proposition 13 – Resolutions to support Sharon Quirk-Silva’s proposal to establish a veterans cemetery in Orange County. Second resolution would reaffirm city support of Prop 13.

On The City Council Agenda – May 6, 2014

Hidden Agenda ClipartIt’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.

Closed Session

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

Regular Session

Public Hearing Item 1

Community Develpment Block Grant Funding Allocation, Fiscal Year 2014-15 Action Plan. $688,674. Proposed recipients include:

Boys & Girls Club

Senior Meals

Graffiti Removal

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.

Regular Business

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, March 5, 2013

political junkets

My apologies for not staying up to date for the past week. I am still recovering from inuries sustained in a traffic accident. The plastic surgeon did a great job (I look just like Sean Connery) and I have the firefighters at Station 21 as well as the accident investigators and motor officers of Tustin PD to thank for their timely response. As I am on the mend, I’ll get back into the swing of things.

The Tustin City Council faces their longest and probably busiest agenda of the year so far. Let’s just hope the Podiatrist Councilman can keep up without an iPad.

Rather than the usual closed session preceding the regular meeting, the council will hold a special meeting at 4:30 pm to interview candidates for three open seats on the Planning Commission. Election and appointments will also be conducted.

I just spoke with the city clerks office who informed me that 18 candidates have filed for the three open seats. All the commissioners whose seats are up have filed for reappointment. In order to allow enough time for interviews, the city pushed back the interviews for the other commissions to late in March. Let’s hope 2 hours is enough time.

Although the incumbents are heavily favored in this match, the city council could decide to bring in fresh faces that are not aligned with the old guard. It is the current commission sans Chuck Puckett which, amidst local opposition, approved a heavily modified CUP for the Wilcox Manor. That modified CUP was appealed directly to the city council where a number of councilmen have admitted conflict of interest. This lack of the planning commission to handle their own issues is, to our mind, an excellent reason to choose new blood.

The Regular Meeting of the Tustin City Council will commence at 7:00 pm beginning with presentations and pubic hearings.

The Public Hearing concerns the annual evaluation and acceptance of the Action Plan for the Community Development Block Grant prepared by staff. At stake is $590,000 in funding. No action is expected on the item other than to hear testimony from interested parties.

A major issue sure to come up is the us of the Tustin Community Foundation as the manager of the CDBG funds. Erin Nielsen, director of the Tustin Community Foundation, is the wife of Councilmember John Nielsen. Nielsen earlier this year recused himself from discussion on the Wilcox Manor CUP referencing his relationship to TCF and their fundraising activities at the Wilcox. Erin Nielsen, for her part, receives about $32,000 a year according to court documents. When we reported on this conflict last year, there were conflicting statements made by the city and the TCF concerning their exact role in the management of these funds. When we accused the parties of collusion, TCF issued a curt statement in their newsletter saying they do not “manage” the funds. That was sort of backed up by Community Development Director, Elizabeth Binsack, who said the purpose of having two hearings was to give those who did not qualify the first time around, another chance for a slice of the pie. As we stated then, however, we found it hard to believe the TCF wasn’t in fact, the manager of the funds.

Add to this a whole slew of conflicts of interest. While the relationship of the Nielsen’s is enough, Mayor pro tem, Chuck Puckett, is a past president of the TCF Board. And, Planning Commissioner Steve Kozak, who has applied for re-appointment to the commission, is a current member of the board. Who else? How about Linburgh McPherson, co-owner of the Wilcox who is currently listed as their Vice-president, Resource Development, a catchy title for the chief fundraiser.

In any case, if the city council really wants to show they no longer favor the TCF arrangement (and, why should they since our two protagonists are reportedly divorcing) they could return to the previous process of having a Citizens Participation Committee to handle administration of the funds. The council may well take a different direction considering the staff report makes no mention of TCF.

Although councilmembers may wish to pull items from the Consent Calendar, most items appear to be routine or, at the least, have funding attached. The synchronization of signals on First Street/Bolsa Avenue is a multi-jurisdictional project requiring funding from all participants. Tustin’s part is $42,000 and, if it helps traffic flow, is well worth it.

Perhaps Mayor Al Murray will pull Item 9, an agreement to transfer ownership of Ari, one of Tustin’s police canines if only to give him proper recognition for his retirement. He has served the TPD for over 6 years and I am sure his service will be missed. His current handler, Officer Eric Kent, will take possession and provide him a great home with, what we hear, a couple of other family dogs. Good luck in retirement, Ari. TPD’s newest canine, Elko, will have big shoes….uh, paws to fill.

We are not sure if the Community Development Department is trying to pull (another) fast one with Item 10. They bring up some “minor” changes to the guidelines for hearing officers for administrative citations. We approach this with natural suspicion since things have gone mostly south for Binsack and her crew after the Fairbanks prevailed in their property rights case. And, it is always suspicious when staff are unwilling to show you the draft. So, why even bring the issue up? There is little doubt the city wishes to stack the deck in their favor for future administrative hearings. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.

Item 11, on the Regular Business Agenda, a request for travel by the Podiatrist Councilman, bears discussion. The Association of California Cities-Orange County, a renegade association created by local entities for what they saw as a lack of interest in Orange County’s problems by a larger state organization, is sending a joint delegation with the Orange County Business Council (who donated to Bernstein and his two councilmen buddies) on a political junket to Sacramento. We would have an issue with this type of travel anytime the city is facing budget shortfalls as it currently is. But, as luck would have it, Mayor Al Murray is also attending on OCTA’s dime, making this an absolutely unnecessary for crony Bernstein on the Tustin taxpayer dollar. Why do we need two delegates attending this junket? Or, as it is a joint endeavor by ACCOC and OCBC, why isn’t OCBC, who will surely benefit the most from the meeting, footing the bill? All of this when the city council delves into reserves to balance the budget. We got rid of city council pay but other perks still remain. I bet you they won’t be staying at the Best Western or eating at McDonalds.

Item 12 should be of particular interest to folks living or thinking of living in the Legacy. This item, without apparent need of approval from residents, creates another Community Facilities District to levy more taxes on homeowners who choose to buy in the area. Mello-Roos has been the favored method of obtaining funding for infrastructure for the MCAS property and has been the subject of much argument as to whether folks are getting their money’s worth for taxes paid.

As we said before the Closed session, with the usual suspects, will come after the Regular Session to facilitate the Planning Commission interviews. The main item of interest is the commencement of labor negotiations for all line staff and public safety employee unions.

Public Hearing Items

Community Development Block Grant Subrecipients Performance Evaluation and Potential Reallocation of Funds

Consent Calendar

Approve Plans and Specifications re: Roadway and Sidewalk Repair – The annual plan for the repair of roads and sidewalks within city limits. Authorizes City Clerk to advertise for bids.

Approve First Street/Bolsa Avenue Sginal Synchronization – Authorizes agreement with OCTA and several cities plus expenditure of $42,000 for Tustin’s share of project.

Agreement to Transfer Ownership of Police Canine Ari – Caretaker Officer to pay the city $1 for transfer.

Request for Travel Approval – To allow Councilmember Bernstein funding for travel to Sacramento for ACCOC/OCBC joint junket.

Approve Creation of Community Facilities District 13-01 – Authorizes city manager to petition for creation of CFD on parts of Tustin Legacy property.

Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance No. 1426 – Approves Specific Plan Amendment 2012-002 re minor text amendments of the MCAS Tustin Specific Plan.

Closed Session

Conference with Legal Counsel – two each, initiation and exposure to litigation.

Labor Negotiations – TMEA, TPMA, TPOA, TPSSA and unrepresented employees.