11 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 next week we should know about? Let us know!

1. Activists Organize Community Forum on Santa Ana Gang Injunction

In the wake of a newly-approved gang injunction in Santa Ana’s Townsend Street neighborhood, community activists have organized a forum to communicate with police.

Rafael Solórzano of Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color, in an email to news organizations and other community groups, said the forum is intended to show how the injunction will affect families, children and young people overall.

Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas is scheduled to attend to answer questions from community members.

Last week, an Orange County judge gave prosecutors the green light to enforce a preliminary gang injunction amid objections from defense attorneys.

Those covered by the order would be prohibited, for example, from associating with gang members in public spaces within the safety zone except for certain places like schools or churches. The order also prohibits gang members from acting as lookouts, trespassing, fighting, blocking free passage or intimidating anyone in public.

Tuesday’s’ forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the parish hall of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 1100 S. Center St. in Santa Ana. Click here for directions.

2. Anti-Fracking Activists Call for Countywide Ban

As the fracking debate heats up in north Orange County, opponents of the controversial oil extraction method are planning to take their concerns directly to county leaders.

During public comments at Tuesday’s county supervisors meeting, activists are scheduled to call for a fracking ban in unincorporated county areas and deliver more than 2,500 petition signatures calling for a ban on fracking in Orange County.

County supervisors have direct authority over land use issues in unincorporated areas.

Activists with Orange County Against Fracking say they’ve reached out to Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson of Fullerton, whose 4th district in the north county area includes regions where fracking has occurred.

“Nelson insists that there’s no fracking taking place in unincorporated areas of Orange County, and denies that fracking poses a problem in Orange County,” said Alex Nagy, an organizer with Food and Water Watch.

“We are attending the meeting to correct Nelson’s perception, and educate the board on the threat fracking poses to groundwater, air pollution, and earthquakes in Orange County.”

Fracking has become a major debate topic  in north Orange County recently, in the wake of state water officials disclosing several wells in the area have been fracked. Most of those wells are in oil fields in an unincorporated area of Orange County just north of Brea.

Activists say a major oil company in the area – Linn Energy – has not publicly denied that it has engaged in fracking in North County.

In Yorba Linda, fracking has taken place in wells in the middle of a residential neighborhood, according to data from state water regulators.

As it becomes more and more difficult for oil and gas to be extracted through traditional methods, companies have been turning to fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to break up rock formations containing fuel.

The method has been praised as the possible trigger for an economic boom that will create millions of jobs nationwide and help shift America off of its dependence on foreign energy sources.

But fracking has also come under intense scrutiny for its environmental impacts. Communities close to natural gas fracking operations in the northeast U.S. have argued their groundwater wells were contaminated with chemicals and methane.

Tuesday’s supervisors meeting starts at 9:30 at the county Hall of Administration.

3. Santa Ana Residents to Hold Forum on Homeless Shelter

Amid feelings of being snubbed by city and county officials, Santa Ana residents have organized their own community forum on a proposed homeless shelter near their homes.

The county’s recent purchase of a shelter building drew praise from homeless advocates, but also criticism from residents who live near the proposed site, as well as some supervisors, over what was described as a poor job of outreach by county officials.

The planning process made several residents and county supervisors feel left out of the loop.

Only one community forum was held on the proposed shelter site and notice for the July 2 meeting didn’t come until two days beforehand, Santa Ana resident Dora Lopez told supervisors last month.

“The approach that was taken did not give us an opportunity for input,” Lopez said, echoing concerns by several other residents who spoke at the meeting.

To her, that was “pretty much telling us it’s a done deal.”

About a half dozen other Santa Ana residents shared similar sentiments.

So Lopez and others organized a forum for this week, which is expected to draw local residents, business owners and city officials.

Tuesday’s forum starts at 6:30 p.m. at Kennedy Elementary School in Santa Ana. For more information, contact Dora Lopez at lopez4080@yahoo.com or Susana Sandoval at suzie.csandoval@gmail.com.

4. Fullerton Considers Support for Korean ‘Comfort Women’

The Fullerton City Council plans to discuss support for efforts to raise awareness of Korean “comfort women” who were forced to have sex with members of the Japanese military during World War II.

Members of the Korean American Forum of California, a Los Angeles-based, nonprofit human rights organization, asked Fullerton leaders to support United States HR 121.

The 2007 Congressional resolution demands a formal apology from the Japanese government for the “system of forced military prostitution by the Government of Japan, considered unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude, included gang rape, forced abortions, humiliation, and sexual violence resulting in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide in one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century.”

The group also wants Fullerton to erect a peace monument as a companion to the Fullerton Museum Center Association’s recently approved exhibit “Halmoni: Artifacts from the Museum of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery,” which will share victims’ stories.

Fullerton, with a population of about 139,000, is roughly 23 percent Asian, a large number of whom are Korean.

According to the congressional resolution, “the Government of Japan, during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II, officially commissioned the acquisition of young women for the sole purpose of sexual servitude to its Imperial Armed Forces, who became known to the world as ianfu or ‘comfort women.’”

“Comfort women” were relatively unknown until the 1990s when victims began coming forward, according to a Fullerton city staff report.

Last month in Glendale, activists scored a victory when a federal judge dismissed a controversial lawsuit that sought to remove a public statue honoring the “comfort women.”

Opponents, including a group calling itself the Global Alliance for Historical Truth, claimed the placement of the statue in the city’s Central Park was an “unconstitutional interference with the federal government’s Foreign Affairs Power.”

The Fullerton meeting starts Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

5. Angel Stadium Negotiations Up for Debate Again in Anaheim

The Anaheim City Council is planning another discussion of the controversial, long-running negotiations over a new Angel Stadium lease.

Negotiations have been a subject of contention since last year when the City Council majority in a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Tom Tait dissenting, approved the preliminary deal’s framework.

Critics argue the provision allowing Angels’ owner Arte Moreno to lease 155 acres around the stadium at $1 a year for 66 years is a massive giveaway of public land to a billionaire sports team owner.

The land is worth up to $325 million to a developer, a city commissioned appraisal found.

Members of the city council majority have said the lease framework is just the starting point for negotiations and not set in stone. Lately, they’ve said they won’t agree to a deal that isn’t fair to taxpayers.

City staff say they don’t have any new information to share at the meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 5 p.m.

6. Huntington Beach Takes Up Senior Center Funding, Plastic Bag Ban

Huntington Beach officials are set this week to issue more than $16.4 million in bonds to build a new senior center at Huntington Central Park.

There already is $4.5 million in general fund money set aside for the project, and city staff say another $2 million can be expected from fundraising efforts. The bonds would provide the rest of the money needed for the $21.5 million project. If the private donations don’t materialize, staff say the $2 million would come out of the city’s capital improvement reserves.

If approved, the city would pay $23.1 million in total principal and interest costs over the 20-year life of the bonds, or about $1.15 million in annual payments each year, according to a staff estimate.

Councilman Joe Carchio has also asked his colleagues to discuss the city’s reusable bag ordinance, which bans plastic bags and adds a 10-cent charge for paper bags. 

Since the ban was passed last year, the city has heard concerns about the transmission of germs and bacteria from reusable bags. Carchio is suggesting the city instead implement a buy-back program to replace soiled bags to eliminate the health concerns, according to the staff report. 

Carchio is also suggesting the charge for paper bags be reduced from 10 to 5 cents a bag, the original cost of the bags for retailers.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. on Monday. To read the full council agenda, click here

7. Fountain Valley Considers Boosting its Preference for Local Contractors

The city of Fountain Valley is considering enhancing its local preference policy, which gives local businesses an advantage in the bidding process by allowing them to come within a certain percentage of the lowest non-local bids on city contracts.

In 1988, the council adopted a 1 percent preference for local bidders, according to a staff report. Now Mayor Michael Vo is suggesting that be increased to 5 percent.

Local preference policies have been challenged by companies in court as a form of favoritism that conflicts with constitutional rights, such as the right to equal protection.

In a 1987 case against the city of San Francisco, where the city’s 5 percent local preference policy was challenged for violating non-local companies’ right to equal protection, a court ruled that the policy was valid if used to offset disadvantages facing local businesses, such as a high cost of doing business.

The U.S. Supreme Court has, however, warned that such a preference “must have a good reason…and that it is no more extensive than needed,” according to a Fountain Valley staff report.

According to city staff, Fountain Valley’s high housing costs also drive up the cost of commercial rent, as much of the space for businesses in the city has been crowded out by homes and parks.

The median home value in Fountain Valley is $690,000, according to estimates provided by the real estate website Zillow. 

City staff say that, by adopting the policy, the city would receive a return through increased local sales tax revenue, making the 5 percent policy a “revenue neutral” one. The new Fountain Valley ordinance would not apply to public works contracts, cooperative contracts, or deals for professional services.

The State of California also has a 5 percent local preference for small businesses. 

The public meeting begins Tuesday at 6 p.m. The agenda, which only is provided as one large PDF file, may take some time to load on your computer.

8. New Anaheim School Administrator’s Salary Up for Approval

Anaheim Union High School District officials are set to approve a contract and annual salary of $178,777 for new Assistant Superintendent Manuel Colón, the Savanna High School principal whose appointment was approved by board members last month.

Colón fills the vacancy created when Paul Sevillano left the Anaheim district to become superintendent of a school district in Los Angeles County.

Colón’s appointment is until June 2016. His contract includes 24 days of annual vacation and the same health package he received as a principal. It also covers reimbursements “for all actual and necessary expenses” related to the position.

Colón said he went into teaching “because of the systematic institutional bias he experienced as a K-12 student,” according to a press release. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz with an undergraduate degree in language and culture, received a Master’s in education from Stanford University, and a Master’s in public policy and administration from UCLA. 

Thursday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. Read the full agenda by clicking here

9. Jail Phone Call Prices Up for Potential Debate

Prices for phone calls in Orange County’s jail system, which have drawn concern from two county supervisors recently, are up for potential debate this week as the current phone contract goes for a 6-month extension.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer recently noted that federal officials have said high prices for inmate phone calls make it more difficult for inmates to maintain relationships with family members.

The Federal Communications Commission said many jail phone prices are punitive and are “creating this barrier to them communicating with their family,” Spitzer said at the June 24 supervisors meeting.

“I do believe we have to do whatever we can to make sure inmates can have good communications with their family because they do reintegrate back into society,” he said.

“It’s really family support” that’s so critical, he added.

At the same time, the $2.6 million in annual revenue to the county from jail phones is used for education and rehabilitation programs.

The system is set up in a way that a reduction in prices could lead to cuts to such programs, unless another funding source is added to cover the reduced revenues.

Alternatively, county supervisors could lower rates and require a higher cut of the revenue than the current $1.3 million over the next six months, or 54 percent of revenue if the county’s share would be higher.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson said the current rates are unfair – especially to youth who are locked up for low-level offenses for the first time.

If you’re a 17 year-old juvenile making collect calls, “those fees are astronomical,” said Nelson.

“That family’s not having communication with that inmate.”

The county’s staff report for the contract extension does not provide any of the prices for inmate phone calls.

A search of the sheriff’s website also didn’t reveal any prices, nor did a search of the website for the contractor that provides the service, Global Tel Link Corporation.

However, information on the website of Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky states that Orange County inmates are charged $4 per phone call.

At those rates, a phone call per day for a 6-month jail stint would rack up a bill of over $700.

An additional 19 percent fee is assessed to deposits for calling accounts, according to a local bail bonds website.

Nelson said he’s concerned the system is set up in such a way that “if you can pay the bill you get the privilege, if you can’t you don’t.”

He also took direct aim at the prices, saying “there’s a huge mark-up.”

“The fees that are charged for phone access don’t match up to the reality” of the costs to provide the service, Nelson said.

“I am certainly not opposed to the notion that the lowest cost telephones, at least [for] the juveniles” is appropriate, said Nelson.

Tuesday’s proposal would be the 13th contract extension or amendment for Global Tel Link for the jail phone service.

The company’s cut of the revenue is likely over $1.2 million a year, in addition to what the county makes, based on county figures.

A Washington Post article last year noted Orange County’s inmate call revenues go into an “Inmate Welfare Fund,” which is used to “pay salaries and benefits of prison employees.”

The corporation is “owned by private-equity giant American Securities, which owns the Potbelly Sandwich chain as well,” the Post reported.

Tuesday’s supervisors meeting starts at 9:30 at the county Hall of Administration.

10. Yorba Linda Considers New Funding for Parks

Residential housing developers planning projects in Yorba Linda could be charged millions of dollars in fees for parks as the city’s population continues to grow, under a proposed ordinance to be discussed Tuesday by the city council.

The impact fee, calculated by factoring in the population and acreage of a housing development, could cost developers as much as $12,000 per dwelling based on fair market value for units that house a family of three, according to a city staff report.

For example, the controversial 159-unit Lakeview housing project, which has sparked a recall campaign against two city council members, would yield almost $2 million in fees for future parks, the report said. The recall election is scheduled for Oct. 7.

Proposed fees would be assessed when building permits are issued.

The ordinance comes at a time when about 14 high-density housing projects are being considered in the city to keep up with state-housing laws.

Most of the projects are drawing fire from local residents who oppose high-density housing, saying it will decrease property values, increase traffic and challenge the city’s general plan that advocates for a low-density community.

“We want developers who are going to add value, not just leave town,” resident Susan Decker said at a planning commission meeting last month.

Tuesday’s council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

11. Garden Grove Unified Agenda Unavailable

Garden Grove school leaders are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, but their agenda was not posted online as of Saturday afternoon.

In response to Voice of OC inquiries about the agenda, Superintendent Gabriela Mafi said it would be made available on Monday.
 
“Due to last week’s administrative conference it is possible it was delayed in getting posted,” Mafi wrote in an email to board member Bao Nguyen. “If so, it will certainly be posted Monday.”
 
She explained further in an email to a Voice of OC reporter.
 
“Last week we held our administrative conference WednesdayFriday for over 150 district administrators so that may have been a factor,” said Mafi.

When the agenda becomes available, it will be posted here.

The district’s governing board oversees the education of more than 50,000 K-12 students and 16,000 adult education students in Garden Grove and parts of Anaheim, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Santa Ana, Stanton, and Westminster.

More than 5,000 staff members work for the district.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 7 p.m.

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

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