4 Hot Debates to Watch This Week

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Here’s a rundown of hot-button issues this week throughout Orange County.

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1. Great Park Transparency Measure Could Go to Voters

As an investigation continues into more than $200 million spent on the Great Park, an extra level of potential transparency regarding the project could be put before voters.

For Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway has asked his council colleagues to place a measure on the November ballot that would:

• Require annual audits of Great Park funds, to be posted online,

• Ban the spending of any Great Park funds that have not been approved by council members and the Great Park board,

• Mandate that all contracts with the Great Park and contract changes that lead to increases be approved by the Great Park’s board,

• Ban city and Great Park officials from trying to prevent people from exposing wrongdoing at the Great Park by retaliating, or threatening to retaliate, against them,

• Require that the Great Park board be made only of Irvine council members.

(Click here to read the proposed ballot measure’s text.)

Irvine council members are also set to decide Tuesday on paying their auditors an extra undisclosed amount.

The increase, up for a vote on Tuesday, would go to the auditing firm Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro Accountants.

As auditors delve into the spending, Irvine’s council majority is exploring whether the city can sue former Great Park consultants for improper billings. Any potential legal action would only be decided after the forensic audit is finished, according to Councilwoman Christina Shea.

Councilman Larry Agran has criticized the audit as a “witch hunt” and attacked its rising price tag. He has said the total cost of the investigation is approaching $1 million.

Development of the area around the park, meanwhile, seems to be moving forward. Tentative tract maps for more than 200 lots within the Great Park neighborhoods are scheduled to go to the city’s planning commission on Aug. 21.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 5 p.m.

2. Mission Viejo Renews Lobbying Firm

Mission Viejo city council members are scheduled Monday to renew the city’s federal, state and local lobbying contract with Newport Beach-based Townsend Public Affairs.

The $60,000, one-year contract hires the firm, headed by Christopher Townsend, to monitor issues such as potential redevelopment or medical marijuana bills in Sacramento, allocation of federal highway funds in Washington, D.C. and county emergency ambulance services.

Townsend has been one of the larger lobbying firms in Orange County. It’s current or former clients include the County of Orange, as well as Irvine and the Great Park Foundation and the cities of Santa Ana, Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, La Palma, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Orange, Placentia, San Juan Capistrano, Seal Beach and Villa Park.

Townsend’s firm also has worked for several water districts, including Mesa Water District in Costa Mesa, the Municipal Water District of Orange County, and the Yorba Linda Water District, as well as local community college districts.

The public meeting begins at 6 p.m. Monday. To view the agenda, click here

3. La Habra To Repeal Ban on Sex Offenders in Parks

La Habra is likely to become the latest Orange County city to repeal its law banning convicted sex offenders from public parks.

An ordinance to undo the law is on the city council agenda for a vote Monday night.

A number of communities, including Fullerton, Huntington Beach and Yorba Linda, adopted the ban in 2011 on the recommendation of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Rackauckas wanted sex offenders barred from parks and beaches unless they had permission from law enforcement. La Habra’s law subjected sex offenders to six months in jail and a $500 fine if they were convicted of violating the ban.

But supporters of similar bans in other parts of the county lost court cases that challenged it and the state Supreme Court this April declined to review those decisions, meaning the law was not enforceable.

The La Habra City Council holds its public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Click here to view the agenda. 

4. Laguna Hills Wades into Little League Dispute

After Laguna Hills little league baseball team was disqualified from a regional tournament, the City Council is getting ready to jump into the fray.

Councilwoman Barbara Kogerman is asking her City Council colleagues to approve letters from the city urging little league officials to reconsider their decision to disqualify the Laguna Hills Little League Juniors 54/80 team.

The dispute centers on whether the team played the dozen required games to qualify for the District 55 Junior 80 Division all-stars tournament.

Members of the team say they have evidence that a dozen games were played, and claim that Little League administrator Tamara Alexander refused to review it.

Team members protested the issue during the opening game of the tournament last week. 

“The city believes that this disqualification was unjust, detrimental to our young citizens, and harmful to the reputation of the Laguna Hills Little League organization,” reads proposed letter language up for debate this week.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 7 p.m. Click here to read the proposed letters.

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

Orange County Transportation Authority or OCTA Executive Committee 

OCTA Regional Planning and Highways Committee 

Huntington Beach City Council 

La Habra City Council 

Mission Viejo City Council 

Tuesday

Buena Park City Council 

Garden Grove City Council 

Irvine City Council 

Laguna Hills City Council 

Newport Beach City Council 

Orange City Council 

Stanton City Council 

Wednesday

OCTA Finance and Administration Committee 

Rancho Santa Margarita City Council 

Thursday

Transportation Corridor Agencies Boards 

OCTA Transit Committee 

CalOptima Member Advisory Committee 

CalOptima Provider Advisory Committee 

Friday

South Coast Air Quality Management District 

Metrolink Legislative/Communications Committee 

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

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