It was a reasonably quiet hall for Tuesday’s city council meeting. Part of that was due to the fact that neither Councilmember Beckie Gomez or John Nielsen was in the house. I suspect more of it was due to the boring nature of the agenda items, however.
With two councilmembers absent, there weren’t enough backs around to pat for Public Hearing Item No. 1. This item is one of the biggest residential developments to date on the MCAS property. And, while everyone was buzzing about it, the mayor announced the (yes) vote on the item would be postponed until the next meeting when all members of the council could be here.
The second hearing item on the CDBG funds was a non-issue with almost no discussion and a quick vote to accept. Likewise, with the consent calendar where, if Gomez had been there, we might have seen the police vehicle purchase pulled for some type of discussion. At least this moves one of Mayor Murray’s goals to enhance public safety (more on that later).
Who’s Got the Money?
The regular session highlights included a report on the CAFR. Finance Director, Pamela Arends-King gave the city council a bit of good news, letting them know the city is in the black due to sales tax and other revenue resources. She also let them know there were no audit findings. Maybe Pam is worth that extra 5% after all. Needless to say, the bewildered city council (remember, Beckie wasn’t there) had no questions or comment other than to thank the “team” for what they do.
For what it is worth, the Finance Department has done an outstanding job, although we suspect it is more to do with the city riding the economic recovery train than any magic coming form the cubicles. The finance department, giving the mid-year budget review also gave us good news concerning the economic recovery and its impact on revenue. Of course, what is taken in is spent. The best news was that reserves would not be dug into as deeply and the reserve funding would rise to 31 percent.
A significant item Tuesday, at least for those of us in Old Town Tustin, was the request to advertise for a consultant to develop what the city is currently calling a “commercial core plan”. We like it. Now Mayor Murray needs to remember that, regardless of how boring the meeting (and how few of the public are in the room), many of us watch on cable TV or the video and the presentations are often as important for the publicity they generate as informing the council. So, next time they want to do a presentation just say, “Oh, by all means…”
After listening to Elizabeth Binsack’s presentation, though, we wonder why they need a consultant. Binsack outlined a pretty comprehensive plan for the downtown area and it wouldn’t take much to flesh it out. The selected consultant would be required to work with a city staff steering committee, taking input from community focus groups and workshops. Sounds pretty in-depth and something that could be done in-house. Now, if they could just get going on the residential area with the second unit ordinance they promised.
We get it, Chuck
You know it is an election year. people start doing odd but obvious things to promote certain cronies for office. It’s no coincidence that Al Murray was unanimously elected Mayor by his peer for a second year. Mayor sounds slightly better than Councilman on the ballot.
And, we really didn’t need Chuck Puckett’s thirty second dissertation on how great Al is and what a wonderful speech he is going to give at the Mayor’s Inaugural Speech later this year, and how he just can’t wait for the State of the City speech… well, you get the drift. This is the most animated I’ve seen Chuck since he took office.
Murray himself is playing it safe. His recently stated goals for the coming year are about as non-committal as it can get.
Touching on what he will do for public safety and for seniors, he establishes a strong tie with both by building on what is already there. CALEA Accreditation was earned on former Tustin Chief Scott Jordan’s watch. It had been a long time coming and, frankly, the city council can do little to help. Let’s hope Interim Chief Celano is up to the task. If Murray really wanted to solidify public safety, he would push City Manager Jeff Parker into finding a permanent Chief.
The Senior Center at Peppertree Park is but one facet of what the city needs to help the senior community here in Tustin. Our city is growing, however, and a better aim might be to establish another center elsewhere in our town.
But, we will take the bocce ball courts, thanks.
Murray has not forgotten to let his business cronies know that he will be looking for support from them this year. Goal two is to improve and facilitate economic development through business attraction and retention. We love the goal. We just hate how some of it has been to the detriment of the residents over the past few years.
Murray has also stated that he wants to implement a transparent and sustainable community outreach (communication) program. Yes, a new website would be nice. What would be better is a Public Information Officer that will speak to the public, press and blogs, even when they don’t always have nice things to say about them. With a city manager that refuses to speak to anyone critical of city management (the city manager in particular), it is difficult to see how Murray intends to accomplish this. A bright, shiny new website will only go so far in establishing transparency and open government. A PIO who can take the occasional public hit would be better.
And while I am glad to see the Mayor wants to recognize our military history, perhaps he should start by asking former (and current) councilmembers why they did away with one of the finest Veteran’s Day parades, whittling it down over the years to a small celebration that, had it not been for our local American Legion Post 227, would have died even sooner. The city did everything in its power to quash any celebration of our military history. For several years, there was bad blood between the Legion leadership and the city. And, nothing has really been done to effectively change the situation.
Mayor Murray probably won’t have to worry. He is about as safe and sane as Red Devil fireworks. And, during his tenure, he has shown that he can stand up to the pressure of leadership. The devastation of the killing spree that wound up in Tustin last year was an example. Murray conveyed the collective despair of our city while keeping the public informed. And, except for the occasional bewildered look when the finance director drops a 40 page summary on his desk, he manages to take care of the city business. And, he doesn’t carry a stupid dog with him when he rides in parades.
We hear there will be no mudslinging from either of the two incumbents running this year. Whether that deal holds together will probably depend on who runs against them. But both Murray and Gomez are in a pretty safe place right now. Let’s just hope Nielsen stays too busy with his pending divorce to “help” Al.
TRU (Tustin Resdidents United) is NRI (No Residents Involved)
I’m sure it was only select households that received the latest mudslinging campaign literature from that ominous non-organization known as, “Tustin Residents United”. As we previously established, TRU has nothing to do with the residents of Tustin and plenty to do with the business interests who are desperate to maintain control of the Tustin City Council. The prize, of course, is the Tustin MCAS property and other lucrative business opportunities in Tustin such as the infiltration of our parks by AT&T. If John Nielsen, Jerry Amante and their up and coming cronies have it their way, the prize will go to their business friends, many of whom paid for the privilege of future votes through their direct and indirect contributions to campaign funds and, so-called, independent expenditure PACs.
The hit pieces, which carry a reported cost of nearly $20,000, have largely been funded by the Orange County Business Council through their BIZPAC (we’re small potatoes… they’ve laundered nearly $80k in the Anaheim City Council race). Interestingly, the Orange County Jobs Coalition, which has the same Los Angeles address as BIZPAC has sunk another $25,000 into the hate mail campaign against Worley-Waldram. Orange County Firefighters Association, a strong supporter of Nielsen, by the way, unloaded $7,000 into TRU as a way to support their candidate who, I am sure, signed the Scott Baugh manifesto that says, thou shalt not take union money. So much for that promise as well. Finally, we have the OC Taxpayers Association, a veritable who’s who of wealthy Republican business leaders in Orange County, who donated another $10,000 to the cause. That’s (I’m willing to do the math for you) $50,000 of big business money coming into the Team Tustin campaign. Not one dime has been contributed by a “resident”. Of that money, roughly half has been spent in hate mail literature that has bombarded your mailbox the past two weeks. With another week to go and more than $25,000 left in their warchest, expect a last minute onslaught of hate mail to come your way from TRU. Do you think John is worried?
He appears to have outdone “Physician” Allan Bernstein in the fundraising department as he recently received a huge contribution of $5,000 from the Committee for Improved Public Policy. With previous contributions, they have donated $7,000 to his campaign. Of course, this is the same shill organization that donated heavily to Jerry Amante and his failed campaign for the Assembly.
The good news is, the latest hit pieces only regurgitate the same, tired story that Waldram is a “union man” bankrolled by a wealthy patron who likes to sue the city. And it’s true. Waldram will proudly tell you himself, he is a public school teacher (did he teach John’s kids?) and his “wealthy benefactor” is Tustin Unified School Board member, Lynn (no e) Davis, who voted along with the rest of the board to sue the City when they attempted to flex their power. It also regurgitates Tracy’s minor faux pas with the FPPC that was resolved to the state’s satisfaction. So, they still have no smoking gun, no epiphany (and you would think John would have had one, moving to that new church in Newport Beach).
While Team Tustin has chosen to fight a dirty campaign through the thinly veiled “Tustin Residents United”, the other two candidates have refused to engage them. For their part, Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram are sticking to the pledge they signed to run a clean and fair campaign. Their latest mailer, which is scheduled to come out this week, is probably the strongest statement against Team Tustin they are likely to muster and I give them kudos for that.
It is less than a week before E-Day. Many of you, I know, have already voted by mail. Hopefully, you did so uninfluenced by the plethora of hate mail that has hit your mailbox. For those old school voters who, like us, will be trudging their way to the precinct to cast their vote, I say, read the back of the latest and probably last Worley-Waldram mailer. It speaks volumes in just a few words.
Oh, and if you need help with the vote, check out our endorsements page which outlines our picks for candidates and measures.
Team Tustin is at it again, slinging tons of mud at their percieved enemies while hoping some of it will stick. The name was adopted by Tustin City Candidates John Nielsen, Allan Bernstein and Chuck Puckett to show they are united in their campaign for the three Tustin City Council seats up for grabs in November. The “Team” recently debuted new yard signs around town, showing the three in ballot format with check marks next to their names.
Last week, a mailer denigrating opposing candidates Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram was mailed to Tustin Voters along with another mailer touting Team Tustin’s virtues. Both mailers came from a shadowy organization with the homey name of Tustin Residents United. We wrote about that piece here and showed the organization is merely a shill for the Orange County Business Council who, through OCBIZPAC, donated $10,000 dollars to TRU. They were the only donors to the organization, who shares an accounting address with Nielsen, Bernstein and Puckett. So, even though the mailer has the standard disclaimer about independent expenditures, it doesn’t take too much to connect the dots and see where this came from. If you need a pointer, however, just check Nielsen’s website which lists his many business endorsements and his fiancial forms which show large numbers of business donors.
The Team is apparently pretty worried about Worley-Hagen and Waldram, however. Two more hit pieces were sent to Tustin voters this week. The first one was a general mailer to all households, aimed at Tracy Worley-Hagen, and is full of the typical half-truths and outright lies one expects to find in a hit piece. In speaking with Worley-Hagen about the allegations, she says two of the allegations concerning dinners were cleared with the FPPC as an oversight in accounting. She corrected the paperwork and paid a small fine. All councilmembers are given “police like” badges, so we don’t know where that came from. Perhaps Nielsen can explain it because he has probably been issued at least one as well. Oh, and did he return his councilman’s badge when he received his mayor’s badge? We’re betting not.
The other hit piece was apparently mailed only to Tustin Republicans and included the “Liberal Agenda” of the Worley-Waldram team. The piece likens them to the Obama administration and calls Waldram a public employee union member. Waldram is a union member and a public employee – with the Tustin Unified School District. His benefactor, as they call it in the mailer, is Tustin Unified School District Board Member, Lynn Davis. Davis is called out as being behind multi-million dollar lawsuits against the city. I suppose that is true, as he has probably voted in the lawsuits between the city and the school district over grading and the Heritage School property.
For their part, Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram are running a clean campaign and have refused to engage “Team Tustin” in their mudslinging tactics. Both are running on a fiscally conservative platform and a promise to bring sanity and civility back to the city council dais. That is something we would like to see and something Nielsen, Bernstein and Puckett don’t seem to be interested in.
The good news is, you only have ten days before the elections and the end of the political scheming for another couple of years.