8 Hot Debates to Watch This Week

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Here’s a rundown of key issues to track this week throughout Orange County.

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

1. County Could Buy Building for Homeless Shelter

With Orange County remaining the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without a year-round homeless shelter, county supervisors are scheduled this week to approve an agreement to buy a building that would house such a facility.

At their Tuesday meeting, supervisors are scheduled to vote on a $3.6 million agreement to buy a storage warehouse in an industrial area of Santa Ana.

The 23,000 square foot warehouse, at 1217 E. Normandy Place in Santa Ana, is located near the corner of Grand Ave. and McFadden Ave.

County officials would be purchasing the property from B&N Group and JRMV Investments, Inc. The names of those firms’ owners weren’t disclosed in the county staff report.

The county expects to pay another $2.3 million to renovate the building, and about $2.6 million per year to operate and maintain the shelter.

Operating costs would be covered by a mixture of county, federal and private funds.

Click here to read the purchase agreement and other documents.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

2. Deputy Sheriff’s Labor Deal Up for Vote

County supervisors are scheduled to vote on a new labor agreement with deputy sheriffs and there’s a tense split on the board about whether to approve it.

At issue is whether deputy sheriffs should be offered a salary hike and other concessions to compensate for requiring them to pay more into their pensions. No other employee group that had their contract up this recent negotiations cycle – called the Super Bowl of labor talks – has been granted such an offset.

County management estimates the new contract will cost $634,000 this fiscal year and $14.1 million next fiscal year. A breakdown of those overall costs was not provided in the agenda attachments.

Click here to read the proposed labor agreement.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

3. Santa Ana to Consider Charter Changes

Santa Ana city council members will vote Tuesday night on placing a number of amendments to the city charter and municipal code on the November ballot, including a substantial pay hike for council members and the mayor.

Changes to the municipal code would increase compensation from $1,500 to $12,000 annually for council members, and from $2,400 to $13,200 a year for the mayor.

The city’s staff report suggests council compensation for Santa Ana is low compared to other cities of its size.

For example, Anaheim, which is close to Santa Ana’s population size, pays its council members $18,000 annually and the mayor $15,300, according to the report.

But those numbers don’t take into account other pay and benefits.

The state controller’s database on public employee compensation, which includes such extras, shows that in 2011 some Santa Ana council members made more than Anaheim council members, and vice versa.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido made $32,834 in pay and benefits that year, according to the database, making him one of the highest-paid council members in Orange County.

The proposed charter and municipal code changes also include language to:

• Establish an independent ethics commission separate from the City

• Make all executive management, such as the police and fire chief, at-will positions, eliminating their right to return to old civil service positions when terminated

• Remove conflict-of-interest restrictions disqualifying council members from participating in decisions regarding people who gave more than $250 to their campaign in the preceding year

• Remove restrictions prohibiting council members from accepting more than $250 in contributions for three months after participating in decisions regarding the donor

• Reduce individual contributions to candidates’ legal defense funds to $1000 each election cycle

Earlier this year, Voice of OC reported on Mayor Miguel Pulido’s legal defense fund, which was set up after the city attorney initiated an investigation into a real estate swap involving the Mayor. In March, the fund received a $25,000 contribution from a single donor.

The vast majority of that contribution was illegal, according to campaign finance watchdog Shirley Grindle, because the city charter currently places a $1,000 limit on contributions to any committee controlled by a city candidate.

Read previous reporting on the proposed charter amendments here and here.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 5:45 pm. To view the entire agenda, click here.

4. Anaheim Could Destroy Planning Records

Anaheim council members could approve the destruction of more than a dozen types of old records housed in their planning department, including dated subpoenas, Public Records Act requests, reports of investigations and expense files.

The proposed destruction would include Public Records Act requests from 2011, the year Voice of OC filed a records request for planning department emails that later prompted officials to order that “old” emails be purged.

The city later wanted to charge $19,000 to access the emails Voice of OC requested.

Cities regularly purge their departments of old public records. The California Public Records Act requires cities to retain documents that are less than two years old and does not allow for the destruction of court records, property title records, records required to be retained by other laws, and the minutes, resolutions and ordinances of the council and commissions.

The state warns agencies that keeping records “just in case” will only extend their “legal liability in the event of adverse litigation.”.

Also on the agenda is a discussion on a cost analysis report of Angel Stadium, which has yet to be released publicly.

The public meeting begins at 5:00pm. To view the entire agenda, click here.

5. Jail Expansion Could Take Another Step Forward

A proposed expansion of the Musick jail is slated to take another step forward this week, with two approvals going before county supervisors.

While the 512-bed expansion – which would be largely funded by $100 million from the state – is supported by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, it has faced pushback and a lawsuit from city leaders in neighboring Irvine.

Up for approval Tuesday is an analysis of operating costs, as well as approving the primary and alternate contractors for managing the project’s construction.

The analysis estimates the expansion will cost $42 million per year to operate, plus $1.3 million in start-up costs.

The vast majority of those operating costs would cover salary and benefits for 249 employees.

Funding to operate the expansion would come from public safety sales tax, prisoner realignment funds and the county general fund, however the analysis doesn’t break down how much would come from each source.

It’s unclear in the agenda documents who prepared the analysis.

(Click here to read the operating cost analysis.)

Vanir Construction Management, Inc. is being recommended as the primary construction management firm, with Jacobs Project Management Company as runner-up.

Vanir was recently hired by Los Angeles County to study options for its jail system. The firm recommended replacing that county’s Men’s Central Jail with a new facility at a cost of $1.7 billion to $2.3 billion.

Additionally, a 2010 audit by the Los Angeles Unified School District found that at least six staff members Vanir provided to the district for construction management did not have the minimum education and work experience requirements under the firm’s contract.

(Click here for agenda documents about the contractors, including bidding score sheets.)

If county supervisors move forward, Hutchens would negotiate contract terms and pricing with the firms and return to supervisors for approval.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

6. Voters Could Decide on State Enforcement of OC Campaign Finance Law

County supervisors are scheduled to decide whether to put a measure before voters in November that would allow a shift in civil enforcement of the county’s campaign contribution limits to the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

If supervisors move forward, it likely would signal a rejection of a recent grand jury recommendation that an independent local ethics panel oversee enforcement of the law, known as TIN CUP.

Even if the state commission takes over civil enforcement, criminal prosecutions of that law would still remain with the district attorney. And the Fair Political Practices Commission staff hired by the county would be financially dependent on the supervisors.

This year’s grand jury recommended creation of a totally independent ethics commission with its own financing so that enforcement wouldn’t be limited by the amount of money the supervisors were willing to put in the budget. They estimated the annual cost at $500,000.

“Clearly, it is a conflict for government officials whom the (ethics) commission monitors to have ultimate control over the commission, including appointment and budget,” the grand jurors wrote.

“Clearly it is also a conflict for the DA’s office to have responsibility for investigating and prosecuting violations of campaign laws, when, in fact, the DA is an elected official who campaigns for office,” the report added. “Both of these are cases of the “fox guarding the henhouse.”

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

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

7. Brea and Fullerton to Keep Top Fire Management Combined

The Brea and Fullerton city councils are set to vote on a five-year contract to keep their individual fire departments running with a joint, eight-member top leadership.

The consolidated command staff grew out of the Great Recession and the financial damage it caused local governments, many of which still are struggling to recover.

Under the joint agreement, which began as a two-year test in 2011 and has been refined in intervening years, the $2,162,866 million annual estimated cost will be split with Fullerton paying $1,158,000 million and Brea $1,005,345 million.

“The partnership has proven to be a success and has resulted in operational efficiencies and cost savings for both cities,” according to the Brea staff report.

“Staff proposes continuation of the shared fire command staff structure for a five-year program as it has proven effective in managing two fire departments without impact to fire service or our residents.”

The agreement was developed by the city managers and top staff from both cities with assistance from Willdan Financial Services, part of a politically well-connected consulting firm with offices nationwide.

Click here to view the Brea agenda and click here to see the Fullerton agenda. The Fullerton City Council public meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Brea meets that night at 7 p.m.

8. Tustin Gets New Bike Trail

Cyclists along Newport Avenue in Tustin have a brand new trail, now that a $570,000 improvement project has been completed.

The city council will vote Tuesday on a resolution to accept the construction of the Newport Avenue Bicycle Trail Reconstruction. The work extends roughly 0.6 miles between Main Street and Irvine Boulevard.

State and county funds were used to complete the project, which widened the bike trail and the parallel sidewalk, added landscaping and redid the cement work.

The Tustin City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Click here to view the agenda.

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

Orange County Transportation Authority or OCTA Board of Directors

• Cypress City Council 

Huntington Beach City Council 

Seal Beach City Council 

Tuesday

Orange County Board of Supervisors 

Anaheim City Council 

Brea City Council 

Costa Mesa City Council 

Dana Point City Council 

Fountain Valley City Council 

Fullerton City Council 

Laguna Beach City Council 

Laguna Niguel City Council 

Lake Forest City Council 

La Palma City Council 

Placentia City Council 

San Clemente City Council 

San Juan Capistrano City Council 

Santa Ana City Council 

Tustin City Council 

Yorba Linda City Council 

Wednesday

Aliso Viejo City Council 

Los Alamitos City Council

Thursday

OCTA Legislative and Communications Committee 

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

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