For once, there is not much on the Closed Session agenda for the upcoming Tustin City Council meeting on Tuesday. Don’t expect any report from the city attorney. At the meeting two weeks ago, everyone on the dais attempted to dodge the bullet when a speaker, during public comments, brought up noise and traffic at the Wilcox Manor. The Mayor Puckett couldn’t foist it off on the police chief fast enough. The good news is, Silent Mike and Lindburgh have been complying with the terms of their conditional use permit and Tustin PD reports no glaring discrepancies. In fact, there have been only three complaints, all apparently resolved.
The sole Public Hearing on the Regular Agenda is Item 1, Community Development Block Grant 2015-20120. This year, the city is required to submit the 5 year Consolidated Plan that identifies community needs and proposals for funding.
The draft list prepared by city staff is pretty extensive and includes parks, parklets and expansion of Old Town parking. It also includes street and infrastructure improvements and rehab.
Some of the more interesting proposals include economic development of Tustin, particularly the Old Town area. A lot of time and effort by staff has recently been put into developing a plan of sorts for the development of Old Town. Unfortunately, until there is some movement by principal property owners, it’s doubtful there will be much more construction taking place. Still, its good to see the city finally paying attention to our legacy.
All currently funded projects previously selected for this three year period by the Tustin Community Foundation will continue to receive CDBG money.
There is not much on the Consent Calendar to be concerned about. Most items are administrative and recurring. Item 7, Renewal of Field Services 4/10 Work Schedule, is a renewal of a pilot project from the past few years for field service personnel to work 4/10 schedules during daylight savings time. This is a union negotiated item that should probably become permanent.
Item 8, Approval of Operator Services Agreement for Carnival Rides- The previous agreement with Shamrock Shows expired and the city is preparing to sign with Brass Ring Amusements for rides and concessions. The new agreement also pushes more money into city coffers with the city’s take beginning at 25% of gross receipts. It’s interesting to note the city now requires background checks on all carnival employees due to an issue a few years back.
Brass Ring Amusements, by the way, is pretty well established and is scheduled to run more than 15 California fairs this year. So, expect a quality ride.
Under Regular Business, the city is finally going to utilize the event center they established at the old Regal Theater in the Tustin Market Place. Item 9, Recommendation of the City Use of 12 Events at the Community Center, recommends 12 city sponsored events to be held at no charge to the city.
The ad hoc committee of Councilmembers Gomez and Nielsen came up with a list of spine-tingling events that will include (in no particular order) a talent contest, a youth film festival and a new (did I say free?) place to hold the State of the City Address.
The final item on the agenda is Item 10, Formation of Veterans Advisory Committee/Commission. Normally, I would be cheering the formation of anything for veterans. But, this is a topic brought up by none other than, Mayor pro tem, John Nielsen. There are a couple of reasons for concern.
First, is Nielsen’s apparent collaboration with his ally, former councilman Jerry Amante. Amante, if you recall, had a feud with The American Legion Post 227 that subjected them to some humiliation and all but eliminated the color guard ceremonies that were being held in council chambers each month.
That rift between the Legion Post Commander and the city council began as a small tiff when, way back in 2001, Legionnaires came to the rescue by reviving their post and touching off the first (in a long time) Veterans Day parade down El Camino Real. I witnessed the buildup and slow degradation of what was hailed by the OC Board of Supervisors at the time as “Orange County’s Veterans Day Parade”, into a less substantial day in the park due mostly to the hostility of the city council toward veterans. I’m not even sure there is a celebration in Tustin anymore.
Should we mention their one-time desire to do away with the blimp hangars?
A second reason for suspicion -and that ties in handily to vet loving by John- is the rumor recently making the rounds that John Nielsen may make a run for the California Assembly. Normally, I would dismiss a notion like this as someone’s idea of a nightmare on Elm Street. That is, until I heard it from two distinctly different sources, one of whom does not live in the city.
So, is Nielsen simply paying homage to veterans in order to regain some traction here on the home front? Certainly, he has lost interest in any business the council conducts, as it is apparent he has been treading water, at least since the election. We did email Nielsen on his intentions but he has, so far, refused to respond to us.
One other item of note, Old Town residents received a Notice of Publice Hearing on a code amendment. The hearing, to be held February 24, 2015 at 7 pm (Planning Commission Meeting), will be to hear public comment on a proposal to change second residence requirements. The proposed amendments would eliminate “accessory guest rooms” or what most of us would call, “granny flats”. in lieu of establishing new guidelines for 2nd residential units on lots. If you can only go to one meeting, this may be the one.
Heading up the Tustin Planning Commission agenda for Tuesday is a request for a Conditional Use Permit for an indoor recreational training facility. The proposed business, Tustin Strike Zone, will be located in a business area on Walnut near Tustin Ranch Road.
The facility will have two batting cages and associated areas for conducting business and training. It seems the business owner has done his homework and there shouldn’t be any problem with the CUP. It’s not a stadium but it’s a start. Eat your heart out, Arte.
Under Regular Business, the planning commission will take a look at a draft program to honor noteworthy Tustin citizens with bronze busts placed in various public locations throughout the Old Town area. It appears the entire process would be overseen by a committee made up of members of the historical society, preservation conservancy, the planning commission and others appointed by the city council.
I’m not sure if the included list of 25 notable “pioneers” is all inclusive. One thing is apparent – that Silent Mike and Lindburgh figure prominently in this operation. One of the items included in the draft is an estimate from Art Bronze in Burbank for a bust of Columbus Tustin at the cost of $10,355 drawn on Lindburgh McPherson and the Tustin Area Historical Society. I guess the catering and wedding venue business is paying off for them.
The project is, in fact, a worthy one. However, the draft guidelines could use some work. The guidelines call for one artist (presumably for continuity) and, as I said, includes some 25 pioneers. Some of these lack historical background and others are questionable as to their contribution to the growth of Tustin. And, what happens when others, not mentioned in the original guidelines, are nominated?
Hopefully, there will be plenty of comment and question from the commission, although I seriously doubt any of them have more than a passing interest in this project.
The final item for review is the approval of the 30 day review period for the Draft Cultural Resources District Commercial Design Guidelines. The planning commission is being asked to provide comment and notice of the 30 day public review of the 191 page draft. The draft is a comprehensive guide to structures in historical conext for the Old Town area.
According to the guidelines, the purpose of the document is to:
…promote the City’s goals to preserve, protect, safeguard, and enhance the existing character of historic or culturally significant structures within the Cultural Resources District, in addition to historic properties outside of the District, and to improve the District’s contribution to the City’s economic base.
The guidelines are a necessary part of an overall program to maintain the city’s “Certified Local Government” standing that allows the city to better preserve historically significant buildings and properties.
That’s it for the Tustin Planning Commission. The meeting should not be a marathon although discussion of the two Regular Business items could (and shold) take some time. Like the city council, the planning commissin hasn’t had much to deal with in the way of controversy this year. That’s probably a good thing as anyone on the commission looking to move up to the city council would find a tough road this term with both incumbents intending to run for another term.
We’re fine with that.
As if once wasn’t enough, the Tustin City Council has decided to have another do over. Last Tuesday’s city council meeting resulted in the re-election of Al Murray as Mayor and Chuck Puckett as Mayor pro tem for the coming year. While not unprecedented, it was a bit surprising as we expected Chuck Puckett to ascend to the top spot.
Our biggest fear was assuaged in that the Podiatrist Councilman was given neither position. Beckie Gomez, of course, was not even considered since her political leanings are far from the right side of the dais.And John Nielsen, who has shown his own brand of disdain for Tustin residents over the years, has his hands full with his not-so-secretive year and a half long divorce proceedings from Erin.
It’s not coincidental that Murray was re-elected by his peers. The Mayor is up for re-election this coming year and it is anyone’s guess who will run against him and Beckie Gomez. The most recent campaign statements filed with the city show both accounts with minimal balances. We doubt there will be much change with end of year filings as campaigning and its associated fundraising probably won’t heat up until March or April.
And, although the voters ignorantly did away with council stipends, thinking it would straighten up the city council, no one should believe there are altruistic motives for running. As of the end of this year, Al will have made $6,000 as a member of the OCTA Board where, last we heard, Tustin’s official position has been to wholeheartedly support toll lanes for the 405 Freeway.
We understand Al doggedly made every meeting of the Orange County Fire Authority Board which means he made another $3600 for his “service” (it is difficult to tell as the OCFA website is about as transparent as the lead shielding at San Onofre…oh, wait…) Murray also sits on the renegade Association of Cities – Orange County, which was formed at the behest of Jerry Amante and other dissidents after they were slapped down by the Orange County Grand Jury. Finally, Al stands to make $11,000 or so for sitting on that board as well.
Not bad for a volunteer position. We’ll have a complete rundown of just how much each councilman (Beckie did not reap one dime for her service and refused city supplied medical benefits) made in the near future.
Mind you, we are not really opposed to Al’s reappointment. On the outside he is, for all intents and purposes, what a typical small town mayor should be – affable, congenial and willing to show up at every event, big or small, in the city. His retirement means he can devote as much time as needed to attending functions and read the entire agenda, even without an iPad. As a single source, he has not been the root cause of any of the last few years of acrimony engendered by some of his colleagues. In short, he is a pretty good guy, if a little short-sighted when it comes to fulfilling his responsibility to the people who actually live here.
There is no doubt that, with a second appointment as mayor, Al Murray will run for a second term. Beckie Gomez has not given any indication whether she will run. She has been able to stay the course against an often overwhelming, and frequently obnoxious, bunch of good o’ boys. to at least keep a light on at city hall. As an incumbent, she would most likely win a second term without much effort and the “boys” are not likely to mount much of a campaign on anyone’s behalf to usurp her.
Although Murray’s tenure has been mostly limp, he has managed to irk the residents of Old Town with the Wilcox Manor debacle. Old Town should have expected this play, however, if for no other reason than payback for the city’s (read Elizabeth Binsack’s) loss against Brett Fairbanks.
Hmmmm. Well, I was going to write a future article on the progress of the city but, I think I just did. In any case, it should be interesting to see who gets appointed to what (paid) board for the coming year. And, of course, we still have to report on how much all of our city council members made this year, offering their services for free.
Not much to report on for this coming week as the Planning Commission has cancelled another meeting, presumably for lack of business. That doesn’t mean there isn’t quite a bit happening around our town Tustin.
At the same meeting where the city council sold out the residents of Old Town to repay local campaign contributors (more on that later), Chief Scott Jordan was honored by a plethora of bigwigs. The list included Senator Mimi Walters, OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer, neither of whom could bother to show up personally, The OC Chiefs of Police, the Joint Powers Agency and the Orange County Fire Authority. All in all, the chief endured nearly a half hour of kudos and probably needed a small trailer to carry home the plaques and certificates. Good luck, Chief Jordan. And, thanks for sticking with this bunch of yokels as long as you did.
And, even though Lisa Woolery is no longer PIO, I guess we are still on the black list as we did not receive the press release from the city naming Captain Charles Celano as interim police chief. Based on his longevity with the city and his apparent credentials, I would say he would be an excellent candidate for our new chief. Perhaps our resident expert, Al Murray, can have coffee with him (as I’m sure he has) and discuss it. Congratulations, Chief Celano. You have big shoes to fill but I don’t think the council erred on this one.
Clown College Comes to Order
It didn’t take long for clowns on the city council to show their bias toward the Wilcox Manor CUP application. Practically before Mayor Murray announced the public hearing, Councilman John Nielsen was running for the door, recusing himself from the proceedings. A recommendation to the city council: not everyone who watches the meetings knows what is going on. You might want to take the time to explain a bit before rushing off the dais. Assuming everyone knows your dirty secrets just makes them curious. Of course, if they want the dirt, they can come here.
So, now the presentation could proceed… except that, Murray had given special dispensation to one speaker to speak first due to another engagement. It just so happened the speaker was a representative of a church from outside the city that wanted to recommend approval of the CUP. One has to wonder if Murray would have given the same consideration to say, Chad Ortlieb, had he needed to tend to outside business. One thing for sure, it was evidence of how the rest of the evening would go.
One thing Ms. Hahn mentioned was the fact the Wilcox Manor hosted a seminar for the Irvine church she belongs to. Would anyone else consider that running a business venture that neither Lindburgh or Michael have a business license for?
So, after Ms. Hahn from the outsider church speaks, Murray goes over the “rules” about speaking and decorum, making sure to threaten anyone who violates the rules with being escorted out. It was his comment about how “One of the things we all pride ourselves in is carrying ourselves in a professional manner”, that had me laughing out loud. Well, I will agree that, since Boss Tweed Amante’s departure, the council has been nicer to each other. But, if they are, it’s only because they don’t have Deborah to pick on and they are all scared of Beckie. As far as nice? Well, there is that little issue of the unethical antics of the city council at large to consider.
Now, you know just how important this issue is because Community Development Director, Elizabeth Binsack, did not (for once) delegate the presentation to one of her underlings. Instead, she proceeded to run a dog and pony show with her minion, Scott Reetskin, to give a glowing report, complete with justification, of just why the boys should grant the CUP.
Now, I’ll admit, I did not watch the entire presentation. I’ve seen enough of these to know, they will use any justification, no matter how distantly connected, to justify their position. However, one item did catch my eye on the fast forward. That was the section about the Pasadena Tournament House, a place I am intimately familiar with. Now, I am not sure how they thought this classic location could be tied to a justification to grant a CUP to the Wilcox Manor. After all, the Tournament House is owned by the city of Pasadena, as Scott pointed out; the Wilcox Manor is privately owned. Proceeds from the use of the Tournament House go to the city; proceeds from the Wilcox Manor events would go into the pockets of the owners. Did I mention that could be in the neighborhood of $20,000 per event?
The voice of reason on the city council, Councilperson Beckie Gomez, raised several concerns during the council discussion portion of the hearing. She hammered the issue regarding the parking as, true to form, the Wilcox boys were attempting to get out of the use of the shuttle in all cases. She also pointed out issues regarding the trash, noise and stated what we all knew – that, even though there are laws against these things, how would they be enforced?
Gomez took the time to thank the public for their interest in the matter and writing thoughtful letters. And, though she chided some of the writers for getting personal, she let everyone know she took the time to read them. Well, Beckie, it is a personal issue when your neighbors want to make money by invading your personal peace and quiet. So, how can you blame them?
I’m not going to bother recapping anything the Clown councilmembers said because they were all hovering over their “yes” button as they couldn’t wait to vote in favor of their favorite campaign contributors. It was clear they didn’t care about the neighborhood or the folks this travesty would affect. And, it was clear they didn’t care how this would affect the character of Old Town Tustin.
As for the applicants? In his closing remarks, Lindburgh McPherson began by discounting the detractors and stating, “I feel we have created a legacy here that will go on for a long time.” Great. Of course he didn’t state the obvious that would have sounded like, “I feel we are going to make a ton of money (upwards of $400,000 a year) at the expense of our neighbors’ peace and well-being. And, as Councilmember Gomez pointed out, there is nothing that requires them to put any of that back into further restoration of the property.
Lindburgh also stated, emphatically, that all but one of the neighbors on Pasadena Avenue, “within walking distance” of the Wilcox Manor, were in favor of the CUP. Again, he did not mention that the letters of support from nearly all of those folks were form letters that he and Michael handed out and asked folks to sign. So, the question remains, did they understand what they were signing?
Oh well, after more than two hours of public discussion on the matter, the city council voted in predictable fashion, 3-1 -with Councilmember Gomez dissenting- in favor of granting the CUP. So, the fat lady sings.
Or does she?
Remember, there were two letters of opposition from attorneys in the crowd. And, even though another lawyer who supported the CUP said they didn’t know what they were talking about (don’t lawyers always think they are the smartest guys in the room?), it has been my experience that whenever lawyers get involved, a lawsuit is soon to follow. So now, not only does the city council have to live with their biased decision, they may soon be spending your taxpayer money to defend it.
In the meantime, life in Old Town will go on. I am sure the paranoid Lindburgh is already seeing the “opposition” behind trees and underneath legally parked cars, just waiting for errant wedding guests to litter while flipping off a neighbor. Opponents, in the meantime, may be gearing up for a lawsuit. There are some other questions that have risen recently that may not make this a cut-and-dried situation. We’ll keep you posted.
Oh, and Lindburgh and Michael were so quick to address their proponents when seeking support on their Facebook page. I noticed that, as of Monday, they had not taken the time to thank anyone, least of all the pandering city council that voted in their favor. Oh well, I’m sure the next campaign fundraiser is on them.