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Veterans Memorial Forum On Target

community parkIf you read this blog with any regularity (which we appreciate), you will recall our article announcing a Veterans Memorial Forum on February 6th. That forum, really a community workshop, gave the public the first taste of the proposed all-branch memorial to be located at the Veterans Sports Park complex.

I was pleased to see a number of veteran and non-veterans attending the meeting. Tustin Mayor, Chuck Puckett and Councilman Al Murray also attended in support of the project. And, although it made for a small and congenial group, the veterans made their voices heard. The city presented two possible proposals, one with an eagle atop an obelisk and another with military department flags surrounding a star.

Puckett at Design Forum resized

Mayor Puckett Speaking in Support

An advantage of the small crowd was the informality in which the meeting was held. Veterans from The American Legion Post 227 were present and gave their opinion on the proposals. And there was plenty of opinion to go around.

Suggestions ran the gamut from criticism of a “flag adorned” seating bench to asking why there would be no flags around the one design proposal. After a 45 minute open discussion, it was clear the design group had it’s task cut out for them in marrying the ideas presented into a unified memorial theme.

A few weeks later, on February 23rd, the public was invited to a second forum to see what the design team had come up with and to make some final suggestions.

Although an even smaller crowd appeared (I blame this on poor publicity by the city), about the same number of veterans were there.

A presentation of the final proposal (sorry, we don’t have a picture) drew ooohhhs and aaahhhhs from the group. The design team had come up with a beautiful design that incorporated many of the features of the two original proposals. And, while there was still some work to be done, the overall concept drew a round of applause from the group.

This Tuesday, one of the items on the Tustin City Council agenda is the renaming of the park that will host the veterans memorial from Legacy Park to the Veterans Memorial Park at Tustin Legacy. We, of course, endorse this move and the memorial itself as a way for the city to say thank you to its veterans past, present and future.

HeroesHallLogoNow, if that isn’t enough, the Orange County Fair Board recently received approval to go ahead with their Heroes Hall veterans museum. The museum will be housed in a World War II Army barracks that was very nearly demolished. Instead, it was moved to a new location on the fairgrounds and will house artifacts from Orange County’s military history. The fairgrounds, where the museum will operate, is a former Santa Ana Army Airfield that was used to train pilots and bombardiers. The museum, which won’t be ready before the fair season, will have a presentation for fairgoers this year. One of the main proponents for this museum is Fair Boardmember, Nick Berardino who manages the public employee union and is a Marine Vietnam Veteran.

With all our cities and county are doing to preserve the military history of our county, there are a number of detractors.

The city of Irvine is currently planning a state-sanctioned veterans cemetery to be located on the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Former Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva introduced a bill last year that would make it possible to build that cemetery as a state VA project. Builders and devlopers quickly soured on the idea and attempted to derail the project by forcing it to the South County area.

Veterans, who number by the tens of thousands in Orange County alone, quickly rallied behind the project and effectively shouted down the opposition. While not calling them greedy directly, veterans pointed out the obvious: the old MCAS El Toro is the most natural location for a veterans cememtery.

Of course, the attacks have come anew. This time, a small contingency of the Asian community in Irvine is mounting opposition. Circulating a petition, the detractors are saying that most Asians are against having a cemetery, veterans or otherwise, in their neighborhood. So far, the campaign is going nowhere fast.

Claiming to have respect for OC Veterans, they go on to say how the human rights and “cultural tolerance” should trump common sense as to where to locate a cemetery to honor the county’s veterans. As we said, it is going nowhere fast with only 466 signators. There is also a Blogspot blog urging folks to attend the Irvine City Council meeting to address the issue. Perhaps our friends at The Liberal OC can tell us how many have spoken in opposition at the Irvine Council meetings.

It is pretty apparent that most people are proud of the military history and the vital role in protecting our country that Orange County has had over the years. With three major bases in the county during World War II and after, the military has left its stamp (and blimp hangars) on our land. And we want to hang onto that rich part of our history through memorials, museums and, yes, even cemeteries.

The planned memorial at the Tustin Veterans Sports Park will be our city’s contribution to this legacy. If you have the time and consideration, please email or call your city councilmembers. Their email addresses can be found here. Better yet, attend the next city council meeting and voice your support for the memorial.

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Veterans Memorial Forum Scheduled

Save the Date Keep February 9, 2015 open, especially if you are a veteran. The Parks and Recreation Department has sent out a press release announcing a “Veterans Memorial Design Forum” to be held in the Tustin City Council Chambers at 4:30 pm that day.

According to the press release:

This is an opportunity to provide input on the proposed Veterans Memorial to be constructed at the future 31.5 acre Veterans Sports Park (assuming the city council approves the name change) later this summer.

Tustin has a long and personal history with the military. It is unfortunate that our leaders of late have little to do with that history. While I won’t say anyone has disrespected the military presence there has been little, aside from the monthly Presentation of the Colors by The American Legion Post 227, to promote our history. This memorial is long overdue and, judging from the number of veterans, Blue Star and Gold Star families in the area, it is something our town deserves to have.

Our current memorial sites consist of a simple flagpole and plaque on the corner of Prospect and 1st Street, nestled in the corner of a childcare building. ErectedTustin War Memorial originallyt in 1958 and updated in the ’70’s, it has long been neglected, even by those who know of its existence. The memorial lists casualties of World War II and the “Forgotten War” (Korea). How many of our men and women have been lost to later wars?

It is important that the city understand this memorial needs to come from the hearts of the citizens that live here and not bureaucratic government hack, most of whom do not live in the city. Any memorial should be a tribute to the armed forces, primarily the USMC, who have been killed in service to their country. At the same time, it should honor the dead and those still unaccounted for in all of our wars.

If you are a veteran or the family of a veteran, it is imperative you attend this meeting or contact the city with your opinion on the memorial. You can bet they already have a design in mind. It is up to us to make sure our fallen brothers and sisters are honored in a manner befitting our heritage.

On The City Council Agenda – Tuesday February 3, 2015

Unless items are pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion, Tuesday’s Tustin City Council meeting should be fairly short. Of course, short is a relative term when it comes to this council, who often discuss issues of little or no relevance just to hear themselves speak. If you doubt my words, watch the “councilmember comments” for thHidden Agenda Cliparte complete rundown of where they’ve been.

The Closed Session has the usual suspects but is also populated with a number of, what appear to be, associated claims. Stephanie Loy, Laura Hernandez, Jose Franco, Kaitlyn Kim and Jessica Ma filed claims late last year with the city.

Management Works has filed the first claim of the year. Management Works is the property manager for the Park Magnolia Apartment Homes on on Tustin Village Way off Williams Street. Gangs are prevalent in the area, so it should be interesting to see what the claims are and to see if they are actually related. I don’t usually take the time to visit the city clerk’s office but this may be worth the effort.

Most items on the Consent Calendar are routine. It is good to see the city recognizing their support of veterans by renaming the soon-to-be Tustin Legacy Park to Veterans Sports Park. This 33 acre park will encompass sports fields that include softball, football and soccer fields. There will also be a Veterans Memorial which the city is asking for help from the community on. Plans for the park can be seen here.

Item 5, Grant Application for Housing Related Parks Program, is a request to apply for another parks grant related to affordable housing. Frontier Park has already benefited from a previous grant and city staff believe there will be more money availbable this time around. Most grants like this require matching local funding. According to the staff report, this one does not.

You can expect quieter disruptions during underground street work should Item 9, Purchase of Hydro Excavator, be approved. The machine selected by the public works department would be quieter and less disruptive when having to dig underground. Of course, it all comes at a cost of nearly half a million dollars but, hey. It’s budgeted for.

The final item of the Consent Calendar and one that should certainly be discussed, would establish another “limited term” position, this time for a Principal Plan Check Engineer. Reading the brief agenda item would lead us to believe this is project specific. I wonder how many of Elizabeth Binsack’s other limited term positions she has asked for still work for the city? I’m actually surprised to see this since City Manager Jeff Parker has the apparent authority to hire anyone he wants, anytime he wants.

The sole item under Regular Business may take some time to discuss, as it should. The Mid-Year Budget Review should raise some eyebrows just for the (un)expected requests for reserve funds. Regardless of the fact we may be above reserves (Parker should be willing to tell us), it is ridiculous that reserve funds are being used mostly for items that should have been accounted for properly.

Except for comments on their reported whereabouts by the individual councilmembers, that would appear to be it for the week. We’ll let you know if they have anything interesting to say.

Shades of Things to Come?

DullsvilleBarring emergencies, the Tustin City Council and Planning Commission will not meet again this year. In fact, the city has closed shop until after the new year. Hopefully, the police department will see a calm end of the year and we won’t see any firey crashes or folks too unhappy with their Christmas gifts.

Although the year passed quickly, we did have our fair share of problems. I don’t think the folks on Nisson Road will forget the sudden gathering of SWAT vehicles and cops looking for an armed suspect in a shooting near their apartment buildings.

In February, Tustin PD responded to a domestic violence call at apartments in the same area and were confronted by an armed suspect. The suspect was subsequently shot and killed, triggering protests both in the streets and in the city council chamber. Lawsuits have been filed and the DA is investigating. However, under their policy, the results of the investigation may never be known.

City fathers also had problems with the Orange County DA’s ill-conceived Sex Offender statute. After it failed to pass the smell test with the courts, various cities -including Tustin- quickly moved to repeal their ordinances that were mostly fashioned after the county’s. To date, nothing has taken it’s place. Oh, don’t worry. The state has laws the police can continue to enforce that will protect your children….and probably better than anything our used-car-salesman DA could come up with.

Our new Chief of Police, Charlie Cellano, may think he stepped into it. Fortunately, he is a veteran of the Tustin PD and (presumably) knew what he was getting into when he took over from Scott Jordan. The new chief was sworn in in February. You may not have noticed because, as he revealed to me in an interview, he has a rather unique style of management that encourages officers to work with residents. His “Coffee with a Cop” program has officers meeting and greeting at local coffee shops in an effort to make them look more approachable. Now, if we could just get the city council from showing up and trying to steal the show.

Police did make the city safer for us all when, sometime in October, they contained a rampaging Emu that had escaped it’s pen in Old Town Tustin. The police report claimed their was no threat or danger to public safety but, you know how those Emus are when they get riled. Rumor had it some officers were later asking for beak-proof vests but that hasn’t been substantiated.

And, of course, those of you who are into fantasy baseball, the new year continues to hold hope for the Angels moving to Tustin. Earlier in the year, team owner Arte Moreno broke off talks with Anaheim about renewal of their stadium lease. Moreno then made a big show of holding talks with other cities, including Tustin. The city council finally revealed they were in discussion with the owner about the move. Their attempt to laugh it off has been squelched by the continued Closed Session discussions with Moreno’s front corporation, Pacific Coast Investors.

I wouldn’t hold my breath. Moreno could be trying to put pressure on Anaheim. He has also spoken with Irvine, a more likely relocation of the team. If he is serious about making a move, he will most certainly demand a new tax-payer paid stadium out of the deal. That would put pressure on a city known better for its hometown neighborhoods than its entertainment prowess.

Old Town Tustin has also received renewed attention by the city. Normally, given the Community Develpment Department’s previous hatred of the area, I would tell you to be afraid, be very afraid. But, it seems our CDD Director, Elizabeth Binsack, has changed her stripes and is now looking to revitalize the area. A series of city sponsored outreach meetings have sparked interest by the residents and businesses of Old Town.

The ambitious plan includes making it easier to build on residential lots by changing the status of “granny flats” and apartments. As well, the city commissioned a study and a series of community meetings to engender support for an Old Town revitalization effort. The city has held two such meetings over the year and plans to hold at least one more.

Of course, part of this effort is due to cost. The effort is likely to cost the city a bundle of money, should proposals be realized. And, the likely increase in tax base from the sales will not dissuade Binsack from seeking further underwriting either through taxes or bond issues. Good luck with that.

So, although we had a few stumbles as we draw our city out of the depths of recession, things are looking brighter as we look ahead. It’s hard to believe our town now numbers over 78,000 residents. That’s an increase of 20,000 since I moved here in 1995. And we aren’t done yet. Since city manager Jeff Parker took back the reins of master developer of the Tustin Legacy, develpment of new tracts, homes and apartment buildings has taken off. Next year shows no signs of abatement.

While we’re at it, we’ll give kudos to Jeff Parker for his overall management of the city. While we can be (and are) harsh critics of individual issues that may come up, Parker and this city council led by Al Murray, have done a pretty good job of keeping the city on track through some pretty scary times. Let’s hope they keep it up.

And whichever way they go, we’ll be there putting their feet to the fire. Happy New Year.