Posted by Jeff Gallagher
With 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.
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
1. Ordinance 1435 Amending Certain Chapters of Building Code Related to California Building Standards With Recommended Exceptions.
4. City Treasurer Appointment – (recommend continuance to November 19th)
5. Second Amendment to Amended OCFA Joint Powers Agreement.
6. Commissioner Interviews and Appointment Process – Establish a subcommittee process for selecting potential commissioner candidates.