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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5 Hot Debates to Watch This Week

Print More

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. Huntington Beach Might Ban Fireworks

A split Huntington Beach City Council will decide Monday whether to permanently ban the possession, sale or use of fireworks in the city.

In early 2012, the city council approved a two-year trial period for sparklers and other nonexplosive fireworks.

Supporters of legalizing state-approved fireworks, such as Mayor Matt Harper, have argued it enables personal choice on a holiday that celebrates America’s independence. Newer building materials, they add, have greatly reduced the chance of fires.

Opponents meanwhile cite injuries and fire hazards and contend legal fireworks encourage residents and visitors to bring in illegal cherry bombs, bottle rockets and other fireworks that explode or send fire and sparks high into the air.

Decades ago, legal fireworks were a big source of income for local charities that set up sales stands in the weeks ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.

But in the mid-1980s, most cities banned them, in part because of health and fire hazards, but also because of one of California’s biggest political corruption scandals.

Former Anaheim fireworks manufacturer W. Patrick Moriarty was convicted and imprisoned on bribery and corruption charges that involved dozens of state and local elected officials, including several from Orange County.

Officials received money, prostitutes, vehicles, vacation housing and other gifts, including jobs for relatives, in return for helping with his state fireworks bills and local ordinances.

Moriarty’s influence included having the state apply the marketing slogan “safe and sane” to nonexplosive fireworks.

Huntington Beach’s decision is expected at Monday’s City Council meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. Click here to read the full agenda.

2. County Could Make Cuts to Animal Services

Faced with a $626,000 funding gap for animal services, Orange County supervisors plan to decide what to do this week.

One option suggested by county staff is a series of cuts to the agency, which handles animal control, animal shelter services, animal licensing and public education programs.

The county’s animal shelter would be closed on Mondays, animal intake would end at 6 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., and a public education officer would be laid off, among other reductions.

Other options are to devote an extra $626,000 in county funds toward the agency or to increase the agency’s fees.

The county’s animal services cover 17 cities and unincorporated areas.

County supervisors are also being asked whether to establish a new regional agency that would oversee animal services in conjunction with the cities or whether to abandon services for cities altogether.

The supervisors meeting starts Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Click here to read the staff report.

3. Appraisal Adds New Dimension to Stadium Debate

Anaheim residents now have official figures for how much their baseball stadium’s land is worth: $225 million to $325 million, not including the stadium building itself.

The values are expected to add new fodder for the debate over lease negotiations with Angels owner Arte Moreno.

Last year, the council approved a controversial negotiations framework that would give Moreno and an investment group 155 acres surrounding the stadium for $1 annually for 66 years.

The Angels in return would develop the land and use the revenue to finance up to $150 million in stadium renovations.

Members of the council majority have said the framework is only a starting point for negotiations and not set in stone. Critics have argued the document sets up a massive giveaway of public assets to a billionaire and that the Angels are already required to do the renovations under the current lease.

Mayor Tom Tait said the appraisal confirms his criticism of the lease framework.

“The appraisal states the obvious, and it’s that the stadium property is worth hundreds of millions of dollars more than just $1 a year,” Tait told the Orange County Register. “If the property is going to be developed, then we should get credit for the value of the property, plain and simple.”

Councilwoman Kris Murray, meanwhile, said the city should move forward with the proposed deal.

“We have the framework in front of us that keeps the team in Anaheim, renovates an old stadium, and doesn’t impact our taxpayers,” Murray declared in a statement.

The appraisal is set for discussion toward the end of Tuesday’s council meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. Click here for the staff report and here for the appraisal.

4. Fullerton to Revise Sex Offender Ban in Parks

Fullerton’s ban on convicted sex offenders in city parks will likely be revised in the wake of court rulings and a potential lawsuit.

Since the 1940s, California has wrestled with laws that deal with convicted sex offenders and what they can and cannot do after they are released from prison and complete parole.

In the past four years, about half of Orange County cities adopted laws that banned adults convicted of sexually abusing children from living near or going into city parks.

But a series of court decisions ruled the city ordinances went too far or conflicted with state laws, which take precedence. Most Orange County cities have now changed their laws or are in the process of doing do.

Fullerton also faces the possibility of a lawsuit by an organization known as California Reform Sex Offender Laws. Lawyers for Fullerton have said the city would likely lose such a suit.

Fullerton’s council meeting starts Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Click here to read the staff report.

5. La Habra Moves to Create Citywide Bike Path

As government leaders across Orange County boost their emphasis on bike safety, La Habra officials are set to take their own step toward bike friendliness this week.

City leaders will vote Monday on a $470,000 contract for designing a nearly three-mile bikeway that would span La Habra from its border with Whittier to the city line at Brea.

The 12-foot-wide city bikeway would follow the Union Pacific Railroad right of way and form part of the northern boundary for the 66-mile Orange County Bicycle Loop that would connect 16 cities from North County to the beach.

The contract is expected to go to JMDiaz of the City of Industry. The paved bikeway will be separate from the street and reserved for bicycles, with federal grants covering $453,000 of the cost and $68,000 coming from the city.

In all, the bikeway’s construction is expected to cost just over $10 million.

In addition, a separate $78,210 contract is up for City Council approval for another firm, Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants, to help update La Habra’s master plan for the bikeway.

La Habra’s council meeting starts Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Then on Tuesday, Yorba Linda City Council members are scheduled to vote on a letter of support for other state and county agencies that are seeking ways to close gaps in the Orange County Bicycle Loop as it passes through the city.

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

OCTA Executive Committee 

Huntington Beach City Council 

La Habra City Council 

Mission Viejo City Council 

Los Alamitos City Council (Special Meeting) 

Tuesday

Orange County Board of Supervisors 

Anaheim City Council 

Santa Ana City Council 

Fullerton City Council

Costa Mesa City Council 

Lake Forest City Council 

Tustin City Council 

Yorba Linda City Council 

San Clemente City Council 

Laguna Niguel City Council 

Fountain Valley City Council 

Placentia City Counci

San Juan Capistrano City Council 

Brea City Council 

Laguna Beach City Council 

La Palma City Council 

Wednesday

Children and Families Commission of Orange County 

Aliso Viejo City Council 

Thursday

OCTA Transit Committee 

CaOptima Member Advisory Committee 

Transportation Corridor Agencies Board 

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda. Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/tracyVOC.

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