6 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. Veterans Cemetery Supporters to Lobby Irvine Council

Irvine could take another step toward creating Orange County’s first veterans cemetery, with a decision this week on providing the state with city land near the Great Park.

Supporters of the proposed cemetery and memorial are planning to show up before the meeting and make their voices heard. The nearest veterans cemetery is in Riverside County.

On a Facebook page for the project, supporters asked colleagues to turn out for the 5 p.m. council meeting as early as 3:30 p.m.

Ahead of the meeting, Councilman Larry Agran has asked his colleagues to convey a 125-acre city-owned parcel to the state to be used as a veterans cemetery.

The move “will put us all one giant step closer to the earliest possible realization” of a veterans cemetery and memorial at the Great Park, Agran wrote in a letter requesting the item. The Great Park is being created out of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

At the same time, FivePoint Communities, the developer of thousands of homes around the park, has been concerned about how the cemetery would impact home sales. They are planning to sell most of their units to buyers from Asia, and a cemetery near the neighborhood is considered bad feng shui.

Meanwhile, a bill establishing a state veterans cemetery in Orange County has been making its way through the Legislature.

It was passed by the Assembly and the Senate’s veterans affairs committee. The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Aug. 4.

2. Supervisors Consider Outsourcing More County Jobs

County supervisors are slated to decide Tuesday whether to ask voters in November to approve changes to the county charter and allow more county jobs to be outsourced to private companies.

The proposed ballot measure, requested by Supervisor John Moorlach, would change the county’s charter to allow the county to privatize more county work than currently is permitted.

Moorlach’s staff report doesn’t identify positions that could be outsourced.

The effort is likely to spark objections from county employee representatives, along with support from conservative groups.

Proponents argue outsourcing saves taxpayer dollars on salaries and benefits and spawns more innovative ways to provide services through the profit incentive.

Opponents counter that privatization often ends up costing taxpayers more and delivers lower quality services, with lucrative deals and poor oversight of companies that finance elected officials’ political campaigns.

The supervisors’ potential ballot measure comes as Costa Mesa’s city council majority continues to fight a years-long lawsuit challenging their efforts to outsource most of the work done by the city’s general employees.

The county measure is scheduled for discussion toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. Click here for Moorlach’s staff report on the proposal.

3. Santa Ana Police Chief to Hear Residents’ Concerns

Residents of a central Santa Ana neighborhood have organized a community forum to discuss their public safety concerns directly with the city’s police chief.

Lacy residents plan to speak with Police Chief Carlos Rojas at the forum, which is open to the public.

The meeting is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. at the Latino Health Access Park and Community Center on Fourth Street between French St. and Lacy St.

Among the issues likely to come up is the proliferation of unregulated pot shops around the community, which was a major issue at last week’s council meeting.

José Leal, president of the Lacy Neighborhood Association, told council members many parents and residents have asked him why so many marijuana dispensaries have been allowed to open up near their homes.

Children in the neighborhood will spend the next 15 to 20 years growing up there, Leal said.

“If they are seeing these dispensaries across from their house, on their way to school, on their way to downtown…they are being exposed to things they shouldn’t be exposed to.”

According to a city map, the Lacy neighborhood is bounded on the west by Main St., on the north by Civic Center Dr., on the east by Santiago St. and railroad tracks, and on the south by First St.

Click here for a flyer about the meeting.

4. Anaheim Convention Center Expansion Bonds Up for Another Vote

Anaheim city officials will decide Tuesday night whether to approve $300 million in bonds to expand the Anaheim Convention Center, this time through a different public agency to get around a citizen group lawsuit that is blocking an existing plan.

At its July 15 meeting, the council approved 4-1, with Mayor Tom Tait dissenting, a plan to create a new joint powers authority between the city and its Housing Authority to issue the revenue bonds.

The resolution up for consideration Tuesday would allow the joint powers authority to issue the bonds and the expansion to move forward, separate from the city’s court fight with a citizen group that is suing to block the bond deal.

The city council first approved financing for the $180 million expansion in March.

But the bond issue was halted in May when a citizen group filed suit questioning the authority of the Anaheim Public Financing Authority or APFA to issue the bonds. The Anaheim Public Financing Authority is the successor to the city’s former redevelopment agency.

The lawsuit caused CitiGroup, the bond financiers, to back out of the deal.

The citizen group that filed the lawsuit, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility or CATER, claims the powers of the APFA are limited to winding down old debt obligations and projects, and therefore it doesn’t have the authority to finance new procajects. Instead, the group argues, those bonds should be placed on a ballot before voters.

Supporters of the 200,000 square foot expansion say the project will allow Anaheim to hold onto large groups that are outgrowing the current exhibition space.

Tait, the lone vote against the expansion, has said the project’s cost is too much for the city’s general fund. The annual payments on the bonds could reach $17 million annually and total $409 million over 30 years, according to a city staff report.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 5:00 p.m. Read the full agenda here.

5. E-Cigarette Regulations Up for Debate in Westminster

The Westminster City Council will consider an ordinance Wednesday to regulate e-cigarette businesses.

The regulations would require tobacco and electronic cigarette retailers to obtain a police permit before operating, limit hours of operation, require window tinting and signs, and not allow sales within 500 feet of a school.

Earlier this year, Seal Beach restricted e-cigarette businesses to commercial zones. Buena Park also instituted a smoking ban, including use of e-cigarettes, in city parks.

A growing number of California cities are starting to regulate electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that mimic tobacco smoke by heating liquid nicotine into vapor. While advocates say e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco products and can even help some smokers quit, the health effects are not clear. The FDA currently is devising new regulations on e-cigarettes.

The council meeting Wednesday night starts at 7 p.m. Read the full agenda here.

6. Buena Park Could Further Restrict Water Use

As a statewide drought worsens, Buena Park City Council members may tighten water regulations by declaring a “phase 1 water supply shortage” that would restrict use of outdoor sprinklers.

Under the proposed regulation, residents and businesses only could water lawns and gardens a maximum of three days a week. The tightened regulations are in response to the extreme drought that affects more than 80 percent of California.

The proposal limits watering by residents and businesses with odd numbered addresses to Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Even numbered watering would be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Nobody could water on Sundays.

A vote on the issue is expected at Tuesday’s city council meeting, which starts at 5 p.m.

The restrictions, according to the staff recommendation, would last through October when even stricter winter rules would kick in.

From November through March, watering would be limited to one day a week; Mondays for odd numbered addresses and Thursdays for even numbers.

Penalties for violating the phase 1 restrictions would be a written warning followed by fines of $100 to $500 for multiple violations.

The restrictions are on top of permanent, existing rules that, among other things, ban watering between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., prohibit hosing down driveways, sidewalks and patios and ban excessive sprinkling that causes water to flow down gutters and sidewalks.

To read the full staff report, click here and scroll through the agenda to item 9 on page 120.

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

Huntington Beach City Council 

La Habra City Council 

Los Alamitos City Council 

Tuesday

Orange County Board of Supervisors 

Anaheim City Council 

Buena Park City Council 

Newport Beach City Council 

Placentia City Council 

Stanton City Council 

Yorba Linda City Council (special closed session meeting on police chief and city manager performance evaluation) 

Villa Park City Council 

Wednesday

Orange County Transportation Authority Finance and Administration Committee 

Rancho Santa Margarita City Council 

San Clemente City Council 

Westminster City Council 

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

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