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It’s Endorsement Time in Our Town Tustin

The Beer Drinking ElectorateA couple of things happened in short order that reminded us it is time to make our endorsements of local candidates, propositions and measures. One, was the endorsement of Tracy Worley-Hagen, Chuck Puckett and John Nielsen for Tustin City Council by the Orange County Register. The second item was notice we received that absentee ballots have been mailed by the Registrar of Voters. Since those folks tend to vote as soon as they get their ballot, or not at all, we just wanted to be able to throw in our two cents.

As we have said in the past, we will leave recommendations for Federal and most State races to others. Chances are, you wouldn’t like my picks anyway (remember, Libertarian..). We have plenty to say about the local races and, as we go over them in the next week or so, we will put them on a new “Endorsements” page you can use as the handy-dandy OTT voters guide.

City Council

2012 Tustin City Council Candidate Tracy HagenTracy Worley-Hagen – We agree with the OC Register that Tracy is, by far, the most experienced candidate fielded for city council. She was mayor for 4 of the 12 years on the council. She was instrumental in obtaining the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station base at a no cost transfer to the city, making this one of the last bases to be transferred that way. As a councilmember, she sat on the boards of the Orange County Fire Authority, the Sanitation District and the Transportation Corridor Authority. “When I saw that one of our councilmembers chose not to run again, I felt my experience was needed during this critical time in our city.”

One of the most pressing issues to her is to mend fences with the school district and bring the lawsuits to and end. “They’ve cost the taxpayers over $2 million in legal fees.” She accurately pointed out the lawsuits have become a personality clash with the losers being the Tustin Taxpayer. Tracy has been active in the schools and the community and has kept watch at city hall, where she says the council acrimony against the public and each other has to stop. Tracy says she understands the true nature of the current fiscal status of the city, and that she will work to restoring the city to good fiscal health. She says that every line item in the budget needs to be looked at for trimming and she is willing to take a hard look at everything including further pension reform.

Chuck Puckett– Chuck loves Tustin and we like Chuck. I first met him at a fundraiser for Worley-Waldram. He is an approachable guy who, incidentally, also has prior experience on the city council.

Puckett’s chief concerns are maintaining Tustin’s great public safety record and making Tustin more business-friendly. He is a member of the Tustin Chamber of Commerce and would like to see another abatement of the business license and building permit fees which he sees as a great enticement for businesses looking for a home.

No one seemed to be asking Puckett directly, what he would do to end the taxpayer abuse with the lawsuits between the city and the school district. We did, and his response was encouraging. He believes the lawsuits have gone on too long and cost the taxpayers too much money. If elected, he says he would do everything possible to encourage both sides to sit down and reach a settlement before trial. In our minds, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Chuck has been extremely active in community politics and civic affairs almost since he moved here. He is a co-founder and past president of the Tustin Community Foundation and recently resigned from a stint on the Tustin Planning Commission to run for city council. Along with his four years on the council, one as mayor, Puckett has also spent over 12 years on the Tustin Planning Commission. He makes sure to be seen at community events, such as the Tustin Tiller Days and the Chili Cookoff. He has been named “Tustin Man of the Year”. And, he shows up for meetings of the city council and planning commission to stay on top of the local politics. A highly approachable candidate, it remains to be seen what he would do about the foul atmosphere in city council chambers but we could hope his affablitly would spread across the dais.

If we have concerns about Chuck, it is that he has aligned himself with “Team Tustin” a nickname we heard Puckett, John Nielsen and Allan Bernstein have given themselves. Nielsen, has done nothing to squelch the harsh words that frequently cross the dais and, in some cases, has even taken part. And, while he has occasionally opposed Jerry Amante on issues, he has fully endorsed the current dysfunctional state between the city and the school district.

2012 Tustin City Council Candidate David WaldramDavid Waldram – David would be the freshman councilman on the dais. He is a lifelong Tustin resident and has chosen to raise his family here. I am corrected in a previous article I wrote as David says he is a full-time teacher and runs the video production on the side. Waldram previously ran for city council in 2010 and was beaten by Beckie Gomez in a close race where the last 100 votes counted. A gracious loser, he did not ask for a recount and instead decided to wait for another day. Although he has not sat on any commissions or committees for the city, he is involved in community affairs with The Boy Scouts and through his church.

Waldram’s focus is on public safety and the school district lawsuits where he told me the personality clashes have to stop. He is appalled with the behavior of the sitting council toward the public and each other. Waldram believes that political discourse can take place in a polite climate that takes in every citizen’s view.

Also Rans

John Nielsen, who the Register did endorse, is our current mayor and is up for re-election. There are a lot of things to like about John and a lot not to like. As we mentioned, Nielsen has done little to repair the divisiveness on the dais and has sometimes taken part in bashing other councilmembers. He has also done nothing to stop the lawsuit abuse on the city’s side. He has a real problem following Robert’s Rules of Order. However, he does approach most issues that come before the council in a deliberative, thoughtful manner. We just wish he was a bit more of an independent thinker that would tell the noise machine to his right to sit down and shut up once in awhile.

And, as we have said before, we are still waiting to hear what anyone has to say about Dr. Allan Bernstein. Although we note he was mentioned in the Register endorsements and Waldram was not, they don’t seem to say much about him either. Having no community or civic experience we can see, other than an unverified claim that he was involved with the Boy Scouts. He is the only candidate who still does not have a website up and running. At a recent Tustin Republican women’s forum, he said that he would work to implement term limits on the TUSD which shows us how he feels about the lawsuits and makes us wonder if he knows which race he is running in.

So, here are our picks. If our opinion means anything to you (and  even if it doesn’t), we endorse Tracy Worley-Hagen, David Waldram and Chuck Puckett for the Tustin City Council. Whether you agree with us or not, we hope you will get out and vote on election day. If you are an absentee voter and would like to hear about the local measures and bonds coming before the voters, you may want to wait before filling out your ballot and sending it in.

We are heading to the Extraterrestrial Highway for our annual run to the Little Al’ e Inn. Depending on the interference from the UFO’s you may or may not hear from us for a few days.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

You may not have heard but, John Nielsen held a Town Hall meeting a couple of weeks ago. You may not have heard because, as Councilmember Beckie Gomez pointed out at the last city council meeting, it was not very well advertised. In fact, it appeared to be pointed directly at Old Town residents rather than the community as a whole. John claimed notice went out to OTT residents, but I never saw anything myself… neither did anyone else I talked to. Maybe, Lindburgh and Michael got an email.

It was a rather mundane affair that turned out to be more of a campaign effort for the good Mayor than a vehicle for communication between the city and its residents. While Nielsen, who could not have spoken had it not been for the PowerPoint presentation, rambled on about how much the city has done to improve the Old Town Business District (there was some dissension about that), the friend I was with pointed out the glaring absence and then sudden appearance of certain members of the council and council candidates.

Now, it is my habit -borne from my years as a peace officer- to scan any room I enter for possible threats. Along with checking my rear view mirror (I’m thinking about changing cars weekly) much more frequently, that has become even more imperative since I began blogging in Our Town Tustin. When I entered the community meeting room at the library, I’m pretty sure I saw Councilmember Beckie Gomez among the several city staffers and local talent I recognized. I did not notice any of the others. Of course, I did not expect to see Deborah because of the date. However, I did notice that neither of John’s cronies were around. And, while I did see council candidates, David Waldram and Tracy Worley-Hagen, I did not see the other two candidates, Chuck Puckett and Allan Bernstein- that is, until a few minutes later.

As my friend pointed out, John spotted Waldram and Worley-Hagen in the audience and suddenly ran out of the room, cellphone in hand, into the hallway. Although I wasn’t privy to his phone call, it was just a few minutes later when his cronies showed up, en masse, to make the rounds. I’m sure the sudden phone call and subsequent appearance of “Team Tustin” and the Three Amigos could have been a coincidence.

And, John got free publicity out of the whole thing. After all, who do you think picked up the tab for the cookies and milk?

Worley – Waldram Kick Off Their Campaign

Tustin City Council Candidates David Waldram and Tracy Worley-Hagen

Tustin City Council Candidates, Tracy Worley-Hagen and David Waldram, have hit the ground running with back to back fundraisers all over town. Waldram held a separate fundraiser to kick off his campaign a few weeks ago at his home. Following that, Tracy Worley-Hagen joined him for a fundraiser held at the Loveland residence in Tustin Ranch. A large crowd of supporters joined them for discussion, food and to hear the candidates speak about their views on the city.

Waldram and Worley-Hagen then held a fundraiser at the Hewes House in Old Town Tustin  on Friday, Septbember 14th, where they kicked off their joint campaign with new yard signs sporting the Worley-Waldram logo. Both candidates have said they are concerned over the real budget issues of the city and the ongoing disparagement of residents who try to speak against the council majority.

This is an interesting experiment in city politics because the two candidates, running together, are politically disparate. As Waldram pointed out to the sizable crowd, he is not interested in walking a party line, he is interested in doing what is best for the city. Worley-Hagen echoed that sentiment.

Tracy Worley-Hagen is a veteran city council member and 4 time mayor of Tustin. She was instrumental in obtaining the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station base at a no cost transfer to the city, making this one of the last bases to be transferred that way (apparently, the Feds have finally wised up and realized the land they transfer is worth something).

The Worley-Waldram campaign will be holding another fundraiser on Thursday, September 20, 2012 from 6:30-8pm at the Machado home.

Worley-Waldram Event Flyer

Campaign Season is in Full Swing

As the kids head back to school (I can’t get that Staples jingle out of my head) and the leaves begin to fall here in Tustin, campaign season is already in full swing. Most of the candidates have had a fundraiser or two in the past few weeks and more are heading your way.

New candidate, “Dr.” Allan Bernstein, has had two fundraisers that we know of, one at the Wilcox Manor and the other at that bastion of Republicanism in Old Town, Quinn’s Old Town Grill. And, just remember, you may be able to buy the “Best of” designation from the Orange County Register (who’s the judge?) but you can’t from the OC Weekly where the people speak. And, as far as I know, Quinn’s hasn’t even made the finals at the OCW in any year since they have been Council Candidate Bernstein Illegally Poses as Councilmemberopen. We were invited to the party but, somehow, I doubt we would have gotten in the door.

Bernstein is sort of an enigma around town. He first appeared at the Tustin Chili Cookoff sporting a judges badge and a pin that looked a lot like the City Seal of Tustin with the word, “candidate” underneath. He has also sent out campaign material with a photo of him on the dais of the Tustin council chambers with the Tustin City Seal above his head. Both of these are campaign violations but no one seems to be too concerned as we have notified the OC District Attorney’s Office. Maybe a call to the FPPC? Bernstein had $2700 in his campaign account as of June 30,2012

David Waldram held a kickoff event at his home a few weeks ago, complete with bounce house for the kids. Waldram had a nice turnout for his inaugural event with folks stopping by for hot dogs and lemonade. David spoke about his idea of service of as councilman, promising true fiscal responsibility and civility on the dais. He is also an outspoken opponent of the TUSD lawsuits and has publicly stated he will do all he can to settle the issues. As TUSD School Board President, Jonathan Ablelove appears to be a supporter, I would say that will be doable, should David win a seat. David recently told me that his website is now fully functional. You can see Waldram and his platform here. Waldram had less than a thousand dollars in his campaign account as of June 30, 2012.

Tustin City Council Candidates David Waldram and Tracy Worley-Hagen

Last week, Tracy Worley-Hagen held a joint fundraiser with David Waldram at the Loveland Residence and they confirmed they will run as a “team” for two of the three open seats. Attending the fundraiser was school board president Jonathan Ablelove and Tustin City Councilmember Beckie Gomez. The mixer allowed the two to discuss their concerns about the current state of the city and its finances.

Tracy is a former mayor and councilmember of Tustin, holding office from 1994-2006. She was elected Mayor and Mayor pro tem by her peers 4 times during her tenure. During that time, she also served on the boards of OCFA, the Transportation Corridor Agency and the Sanitation District. She is also active in the community as a member of the Assistance League, The AAUW and the Tustin Ranch Homeowners Association III President.She is also active with the schools and, like Waldram, is appalled at the city’s poor relationship with the school district that has allowed millions of dollars to be wasted over a pig fight. Several school board members have endorsed her candidacy.

Tracy’s website shows an extensive list of endorsements from all facets of our community. Her website, written more in a blog fashion (I like), has her campaign issues and her background as well. Worley-Hagen had just over $13,000 during the latest reporting period.

David Waldram and Tracy Worley-Hagen will be holding another fundraiser at the Hewes House on September 14, 2012 from 5-7:30 pm.

Chuck Puckett is another retread from the Tustin City Council. He was Mayor in 1991 and, until recently, was chair of the planning commission.

Planning Commission Chairman pro tem, Chuck Puckett

Puckett is a long time Amante crony and appears to be interested in keeping a business friendly climate as a priority. He also takes a more moderate view of the TUSD lawsuits saying that he will “strive to obtain a better relationship” with the school district. He does not give any indication that he would work to resolve the lawsuits. Like Allan Bernstein, Chuck also held a fundraiser at the Wilcox Manor. Don’t these conservatives just love Old Town?

I met Chuck at a recent event at the Hewes House where he spent a few minutes telling me I had him all wrong. He has promised me an interview and we’ll publish that down the road. Chuck’s website could use some updating in some areas and is a bit difficult to navigate. But, he has everything up there to give you the big picture. I would look at his endorsement page which, aside from the usual Republican suspects, includes the Marconi Automotive Museum. Now, didn’t Chuck vote on a few things for them as Planning Commissioner? Oh, and lookie, there’s Steve and Pam Godderham, too. In the latest reporting cycle, Chuck reported just under $4,000 in the bank.

Incumbent Mayor John NielsenThe final candidate for Mayor, uh, I mean, city council, is none other than John Nielsen. Right after being elected mayor for this year, John foretold his re-election as he said he would be mayor again next year. Well, maybe. He has a few hurdles to jump. For example, his website is woefully out of date. He boasts a slew of endorsements, many from businesses and conservative Republican associations, but the page has not been updated since 2010. His positions have also not been updated, which is why he apparently has not said anything about the lawsuits. He did, however, discuss them with me in an interview earlier this year. At that time, he defended everything the city council had done so far in regard to the school district.

John may have too many irons in the fire, including a divorce he filed for in April of this year. Yet, he has had photo ops with Erin Nielsen, his wife, since then. It’s interesting to note that no paperwork beyond the initial filing has been completed. He may have decided to wait until after the election to make it known or (we hope) Erin and he have reconciled.

In any case, John has plenty of cash, which may explain why he has not had a fundraiser yet. In his most recent filing, he reported having over $20,000 to ensure his re-election to the city council. It also shows heavy funding from businesses throughout Tustin and Orange County. Assuming voters are willing to overlook his family issues, he shouldn’t have any trouble defending his spot on the council.

So, that’s the latest snapshot of our five candidates for Tustin City Council. As things progress, we will keep you updated. By the way, don’t look for campaign filings on the city’s transparency page of their website. They have not been posted even though everyone turned theirs in by August 1st. Go figure.