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On The City Council Agenda – January 20, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartUnless the councilmembers suddenly get an urge to actually discuss something, it looks like it will be a fairly short meeting of the Tustin City Council on Tuesday. Councilman Bernsein, are you back yet? Chuck missed you.

The Closed Session, which begins at 5:30 PM, hosts the usual suspects. Several discussions regarding existing or potential litigation include a long standing case, now an appellate case, between the city’s old Redevelopment Agency and the Department of Finance. And, while the city attorney decided to keep the wraps on the case, we’ve been able to surmise it involves several million dollars of disputed RDA funds. It turns out the parties reached an agreement in December and we should soon see this issue drop off the radar.

Redevelopment agencies were dissolved by law back in 2011. Unfortunately, as is the usual case with a half-baked legislature, they only did half the job and made up for it by creating, so-called “successor agencies”. Much of this was in the middle of the state attempting to remain solvent by grabbing as much tax money from cities and counties as possible. This, of course, generated millions of dollars in business for lawyers which, I’m sure, our city attorney is happy to keep going as long as possible.

Most of the Regular Session items are on the Consent Calendar. Perusing the Demands and Payroll, the only item of interest is the apparent high cost of our mylawyercontract city attorneys at Woodruff, Speadlin & Smart. Perhaps City Attorney David Kendig is trying for partner. Total cost of our attorney services this month is $17 thousand and change. That’s apparently in addition to the $34 thousand plus the lawyers charged for Successor RDA work and other legal fees hidden sprinkled throughout the report. You’ll have to be the judge of whether we are getting our money’s worth.

Most of the other items on the agenda are routine business and we doubt they will generate much discussion. Item 6, Long Range Property Management Plan and Item 7, Amend and Reinstate the Working Capital Loan, etc., are two more pieces to the puzzle left by the RDA. We know the city council would love the legislature to reinstate the RDAs in California. Like most cities, they have been dragging their feet and crossing their fingers in hopes of resurrection. With any luck, they will run out of excuses and money to play with and disappear completely before that happens.

Two items will round out the Regular Business. Item 8, Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2014 is the annual financial analysis of the city. I’m not much for numbers but you can read the report here. The short version is here.

Item 9, Commission Vacancies, lists the expiring terms of the Planning, Community Services and Audit Commissions. There are three terms expiring on each. Most of these carry a tidy stipend for a bit of community service. As soon as they are posted, we’ll let you know (along with who has applied).

That’s it for this meeting. We’ll let you know if anything interesting happens…..or anyone shows up for the meeting.

By the way, welcome back Chief Cellano.

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On The City Council Agenda – September 2, 2014

CSHSRA Barrel Racing Champion, Heather Eckman

CSHSRA Barrel Racing Champion, Heather Eckman

A fairly brief agenda greets our intrepid Tustin City Council this Tuesday after their brief hyatus. Hopefully, during their time off, they enjoyed the great production of Peter Pan put on by the Tustin Area Council on Fine Arts through their Broadway in the Park program. I had the pleasure of volunteering for TACFA (security, of course) which let me see firsthand just how much work and effort is put into presenting a professional play to the community.

Prior to the Regular Session, the councilmembers will convene at 5:30 to discuss the Ultra-Double Secret Closed Session items. Among them, notably, is the labor negotiations for so-called unrepresented managers and executives. I don’t know if we will see anything come of this tonight (we should – everyone has had weeks to prepare). Expect it to remain as low key as possible as the city council eventually awards juicy raises to their executive cronies. All this will be possible, of course, because the rank and file continue to get the short end of the stick, even while the city improves financially.

Other items on the Closed Session include the usual Legal Counsel issues and Real Property Negotiations for three sets of property. I assume these are all on the MCAS property even though the city insists on clouding addresses with lot and tract numbers when most of these now have street addresses attached to them.

In the Regular Session, the presentations are liable to take up as much time as the rest of the agenda. One of these, Heather Eckman, Barrel Racing, is to recognize the hard work of a young equestrian who took the top spot in Barrel Racing in the California High School Rodeo Association and went on to compete in the National High School Rodeo Finals In Rock Springs, Wyoming, this year. According to the records on the NHSRA website, the Beckman High School Sophomore came in a strong 12th place among nearly 100 competitors. Her time was only one and a half seconds behind the winner. Congratulations, Heather, for your outstanding work.

It should be interesting to see how the Tustin Housing Authority conducts a meeting and annual report all within the confines of the Consent Calendar. In fact, we’re not even sure it’s legal. Nonetheless, that’s how they plan to do it. So, if you have something to say about the THA, stay on your toes or it could slip past you.

Also on the Consent Calendar is the replacement of a variety of city vehicles that have reached the end of their natural lives. The vehicles include field trucks and autos used for parking control. According to the staff report, the vehicle purchases have been budgeted for.

Two items on the Regular Business Calendar will round out the evening. Both items will be to give final approval over construction projects. I’m glad to see the city council rejected city staffs’ proposal some time ago to forego council approval of construction projects. I think it is important the public be kept aware when projects like this are completed. Having it come formally before the city council keeps it in the public spotlight and keeps things above board.

As I said, short and sweet. It should be interesting to see how longwinded some of the councilmen get when reporting their activities.

Addendum

Hey, if you are looking for something to do tomorrow morning, come on down to Classic Burger on Tustin Village Way between 8 and 9 am for Chief Charlie Cellano’s second Coffee with a Cop. The first CWAC (hmmm…maybe not such a great acronym) was held a few weeks ago at Kean’s Coffee and was a huge success. The meet and greet is a great way to get to know your local police officers who patrol your area. You have questions? They have answers.

Also on the ticket for tomorrow is the dedication and grand opening of the Bocce Ball courts at Peppertree Park. The courts are part of an improvement grant and will add another facet to Tustin’s world-class recreation facilities. The ribbon cutting will be a 5 pm with remarks offered by Mayor Al Murray. The new courts are located adjacent to the Senior Center.

 

On The City Council Agenda – February 4, 2014

help-wanted-classified-adWhat does the city of Tustin and the County of Orange have in common? With a record low number of applications the city, much like the Grand Jury, is having trouble filling their commissions with qualified cronies applicants. With a suggested extension for interviews, the council will not have to bother with adding to an already full agenda.

The city council may be spending as much time on Closed Session items as they will with the Public Session. One item, Edison Relocation on Barranca Parkway, is listed separately on the Conference with Legal Counsel, indicating it is an important item. We’ll try to find out more and let you know.

New claims by Tustin resident Abid Hussain, Jesse Magana, Wilhelmina Zuckerman and Karen Stewart will be considered (and probably rejected) by the city. There are also two ongoing cases to be discussed. One of these is People v. Douglas Trumble. Trumble was arrested in 2013 for sale/possession of narcotics. The case was recently dismissed in Orange County Superior Court. Wonder what they have to talk about?

The final items on the Closed Session agenda have to do with property purchases and swaps, all on the MCAS property. The city recently concluded a deal that would move the US Army Reserve Center over by the OC Sheriff’s Academy and other like institutions. Ever since the city has taken over as Master Developer, things have been moving nicely on the old base.

Two Public Hearings head up the open session agenda. The first is a handshake on the development of 375 detached homes on the east side of the MCAS property. The hearing will include information on the taxes and facility fees to be paid. Standard Pacific Homes is the developer.

The second item, which could garner some public comment is for the Community Development Block Grant funds. Staff is asking to reallocate funds from administration to development of projects such as the Bocce Ball courts recently approved by the planning commission. Funds will also be reallocated to “way finding signage” for Old Town Tustin.

Some of the money will also go to developing a master plan for Old Town Tustin to encourage economic development. Although I appreciate that the city has made it easier (in some ways) to start a business inside of Old Town, we are always wary when the Community Development Department takes an interest in any way. The results are mixed and often to the detriment of the Old Town neighborhood.

Item 7 on the Consent Calendar – Police Department Vehicle Purchase, should be pulled for discussion. Supposedly, the vehicles are being replaced due to high mileage and/or safety issues. The mileage on these vehicles is far from extreme, with the highest mileage vehicle being a 2006 Dodge Durango at 69k. With staff requests to pull reserve funds (see later) to pay bills, it doesn’t make much sense to replace vehicles simply because they are a few years older, particularly since these are “undercover” vehicles. No safety issues have been articulated so we figure is it just our cops wanting to be in style?

Normally, we would grouse about the fact the city did not shop locally. Unfortunately, it looks like our local dealers weren’t interested in bidding.

Under Regular Business, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2013 will be available. Our accounting firm should be on hand to answer any questions concerning the report.

I wonder if they would also comment on why city staffers are now revising the budget on the mid-year review and asking to draw heavily from reserves? Item 14 Fiscal Year 2013-14 Mid-Year Budget Review has staff asking for an additional $4 million dollars from various reserve funds ($2 million from water funds alone).

While some of the expenditures, such as unexpected costs for water purchases could not be foreseen, others could. These include the relocation of sewer lines on Tustin Ranch Road and appropriation of equipment that should have been placed in the original budget proposal. Drawing from funds during a recovery phase is not the way to appropriately manage city finances. It’s a wonder the city is crowing about saving money while digging into reserves. The staff report justifying the added draws can be found here.

The final item on the agenda is to authorize the advertisement for a consultant to develop a Commercial Core Plan for Old Town Tustin. We are glad to see this on the agenda as the city has, for too long, neglected the commercial revitalization of Old Town. Perhaps this will also get Elizabeth Binsack to also bring the second unit issue back to her desk for further consideration this year.

That’s it for this weeks meeting. I recently upgraded my U-verse from DSL so my speed increased from slow-as-mollases to just plain slow. Now you know why I want AT&T to get approval for those darn boxes. In any case, I should be back to being able to view the meeting videos in a timely manner so that I can report back to my readers. Now, if I can just get my computer to cooperate.

On The City Council Agenda, June 18, 2013

SnafuMS_0277Sorry for the late post but, after all, I am on vacation this month. Julie and I are planning to head to New Mexico later this week and it has been a chore getting the new motorcycle ready for the trip. One doesn’t realize the number (and cost) of accessories they have accumulated over the years until they have to replace them. If you would like to see what and where we will be up to, you can read about it here.

Other issues are hindering my posting as well. It seems the software plugin I relied on for so many years to assist me in making accurate posts has stopped working and the designers are no longer supporting it. It’s kind of like going back to tubes from ICs in respect to the ease and speed of posting articles. Bear with me.

This week’s Tustin City Council agenda is pretty full. It may take a while to get through and I may just show up for the meeting just to get a glimpse of our city council. I, for one, would like to see if this boring bunch is actually still breathing.

Topping the agenda on the Closed session are the labor negotiations with all of the city’s employees, including the police. Most of the city’s staff are represented by the Orange County Employees Association (OCEA). My sources tell me the city is refusing to negotiate any kind of raise for the rank-and-file and is looking  to get the employees to pay more into their retirement than they already do. Hopefully, the employees’ chief labor negotiator, Frank Flavin, is aware of the recent antics of the city council giving Chief of Police Scott Jordan a 5% raise supposedly to keep him from moving on. The joke in that is, where would he go? Almost every city in the state has diluted their public safety retirement benefits to the point where it would be downright stupid for Jordan to think of leaving.

We also hope Flavin knows of the recent changes and creation of several high level positions that allowed City Manager Jeff Parker to effectively hide raises for many executive and managerial positions in the city. Most of these, of course, have been in the Community Development Department. It would be interesting to see how many new hires have been employed by Parker using his 21st Century Hiring scam. Of course, this in itself is something that should be challenged by the unions as an illegal tactic to get around the city hiring rules.

Also on the Closed Session is the usual exposure to litigation and Real Property negotiations with Cushman Wakefield, Pacific Standard Homes, the US Army and one private party. The discussion with the US Army concerns 15 acres of property in a swap that will allow the city to sell off the current Army Reserve Center on Barranca Parkway for further expansion of the District. It’s curious that City Manager Jeff Parker is acting as the chief negotiator for the city on this. Could it be we are seeing the OJT for his next job as a real estate consultant for local government?

The city budget is also scheduled to be adopted by the city council. It’s doubtful that the Podiatrist Councilman has the faintest idea of what is involved in budgeting so don’t expect him to do anything but nod and follow the lead of his mentor Chuck Puckett. Puckett probably has better knowledge of the budget but my bet is on Councilmembers Nielsen and Gomez who, with the experience they have with the city, are the best experts behind City Manager Jeff Parker, to determine if the numbers add up. Assuming these two have thoroughly vetted the proposed budget, don’t expect any fireworks over the issue.

Close Session

Conference with Legal Counsel, Initiation/Exposure to Litigation – 2 cases each.

Labor Negotiations – TMEA, TPPSA (both by OCEA), TPOA & TPMA, public safety, Unrepresented Employees.

Conference with Real Property Negotiators – 4 items including one private party for the Tustin Housing Authority

Public Hearings

Consider Levying of Annual Assessments for the Tustin Landscape and Lighting District 2012-2014 – Recommendation is to adopt a resolution setting the annual levy amount for the district.

Consent Calendar

Approve the Annual Measure M2 Eligibility Submittal Package – Annual report certifying the city’s compliance for eligibility for transportation funds.

Approve Plans and Specifications and Authorize Advertisement for Bids for the McFadden Avenue and Irvine Boulevard Rehabilitation Projects – Both items have been budgeted and funded in the amount of $358,000 plus funding from Santa Ana and M2 funds. Projects should be completed by the end of the year.

Regular Business

Adopt 2013-2014 Budget – Adopt the 2013-2014 city budget including all anticipated revenue from Special Revenue Funds and Water Enterprise Funds in the amount of $130, 612, 228. Also included is an adoption of the Tustin Housing Authority budget of $265, 800. The housing authority budget includes personnel costs of $155,000. We will be dong an in-depth analysis of the budget in the near future.

Successor Agency Resolution Appropriating Funds for the Successor Agency for 6 months of the Fiscal Year – The Successor Agency (to the Redevelopment Agency) budget is $5,144,447 drawn from anticipated revenues of the Successor Agency. Most of this budget ($4.6 million) is for debt service on the old Redevelopment Agency and is paid from the Redevelopment Trust Fund.

That’s it for the week. As I said, we most likely be at the meeting tonight and possibly have coffee afterward at one of the local coffee shops. Watch my Twitter feed @keepdapeace for the location.