5 Hot Debates to Watch This Week

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Here’s a rundown of the main issues we’ll be tracking this week throughout Orange County.

Is there something happening in your city we should know about? Let us know!

1. Laura’s Law Up for Adoption

Orange County could become the first large California county to adopt Laura’s Law, which allows court-ordered outpatient treatment of severely mentally ill adults.

An estimated 120 adults might qualify for the mandatory treatment, according to county officials. The program, which largely relies on state mental health taxes, would cost about $4.4 million a year. Another roughly $1 million would come from the county’s general fund to cover expenses of the courts and public defender’s office.

California enacted Laura’s Law in 2002, but left it up to each county to put it into effect. No large county did, in part because opponents argued state funds couldn’t be used to support it. But clarifying legislation enacted last year with support from Orange County supervisors made it clear that state mental health funds could be spent.

Laura’s Law, named for Nevada County teen Laura Wilcox, who was murdered by a severely mentally ill man, became an issue in Orange County in the summer of 2011, following the death of mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas. He was beaten to death by Fullerton police officers. Three of the officers were fired, and a jury this year ruled two of the officers didn’t commit a crime in connection with his death.

Tuesday’s supervisors meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. Click here for the item’s staff report and documents.

2. Controversial Housing Proposal Goes to Orange Council

The highly controversial Rio Santiago housing project comes before the Orange City Council on Tuesday night, with the developer asking council members to reverse a planning commission decision to reject the plan.

Planning commissioners determined conversion of the former Sully Miller mine would have more “significant and unavoidable impacts” than any other project known to have been approved by the city.

The land’s owners, Milan Capital Management and JMI Real Estate, proposed building up to 130 single-family homes and a mixture of 265 homes, condos and assisted-living beds for seniors.

They said it would enhance the area by using aesthetically pleasing buildings and setting aside most of the land for open space, recreation facilities and trails.

But critics countered with concerns about flooding, fires and methane gas from an adjacent landfill.

The city council’s public session starts at 6 p.m. Click here to read the full agenda.

3. Pollution Officials Go on Retreat in Palm Desert

Southern California’s top air quality officials are set to go on a two-day retreat this week to Palm Desert.

Board members at the South Coast Air Quality Management District are planning to gather at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert on Thursday and Friday for a series of special board meetings.

Several policy topics are on the agenda, including a proposed plan for drought management and water conservation.

It’s unclear whether the agency will allow public participation from its headquarters in Diamond Bar, for those who can’t make it to the desert.

4. Irvine Considers New Term Limits

Irvine Mayor Steven Choi wants his colleagues to ask voters to impose term limits aimed at closing an alleged loophole used by Councilman Larry Agran to serve on the council for 15 years.

In a memo to the council, Choi says he doesn’t think voters who approved the current term limits imagined someone would serve on the council almost indefinitely by switching between mayor and council positions.

Choi says he believes voters would support new limits preventing anyone from serving more than two terms on the council and two terms as mayor. According to the city web site, beginning in 1978, Agran served for 12 years as a council member and then mayor. He left city office in 1991 and returned as a councilman in 1999. For the past 15 years he has been either a member of the city council or mayor.

The item is up for discussion toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, which starts at 2 p.m. Click here to read Choi’s memo.

5. New Transportation Budget Up for Debate

Orange County transportation officials are set to debate a proposed $1.1 billion budget for the upcoming year, which currently projects a 10-percent reduction in expenses.

Most of that $137-million drop in Orange County Transportation Authority costs would come from unspecified “contributions to other agencies.”

Staff, meanwhile, highlight that the budget will maintain bus and rail service levels.

About $2.4 million, or 0.2 percent of the overall budget, is dedicated to “active transportation,” which centers on bike infrastructure and education efforts.

The workshop is scheduled toward the end of Monday’s meeting, which starts at 9 a.m.

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

OCTA Board of Directors 

Cypress City Council 

Placentia City Council 

Seal Beach City Council 

Tuesday

Orange County Board of Supervisors 

Anaheim City Council 

Buena Park City Council 

Costa Mesa City Council (Budget Workshop) 

Garden Grove City Council 

Irvine City Council 

Laguna Hills City Council 

Lake Forest City Council (Budget Workshop) 

Newport Beach City Council 

Orange City Council 

Stanton City Council 

Wednesday

Orange County Transportation Authority Finance and Administration Committee 

Laguna Woods City Council (Special Closed Session Meeting) 

Rancho Santa Margarita City Council 

Westminster City Council 

Thursday

CalOptima Finance and Audit Committee 

OCTA Legislative and Communications Committee 

South Coast AQMD Board (Two-Day Retreat in Palm Desert) 

San Clemente City Council 

Friday

South Coast AQMD Board (Two-Day Retreat in Palm Desert) 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated that Agran would not be allowed to run again for city council if the measure passes. The proposal would not count years served in office before the new limit goes into effect.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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