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 next week we should know about? Let us know!

1. Santa Ana Mayor Could Face Criminal Prosecution

In a highly unusual move, Santa Ana City Council members are set to decide Tuesday whether to initiate a criminal prosecution of Mayor Miguel Pulido over his family’s property swap with a city contractor.

“We want to be very clear on what’s going on. We want a report back on what our city attorney knows,” Tinajero said. “But everything is pretty much on the table at this point.”

In November, a Voice of OC article revealed that in 2010, members of the Pulido family traded a parking lot they owned to Rupen James Akoubian, owner of NAPA Orange County Auto Parts, in exchange for a house in Westminster. According to the public assessor’s appraisals, the fair market value of the house was more than twice as much as the Pulidos’ lot.

The family later transferred the house solely into the mayor’s name, and he sold it for nearly $400,000, netting a $197,000 profit. Meanwhile, Akoubian’s store received a $1.35 million, no-bid city contract to supply auto parts to the municipal vehicle fleet.

Good government experts have questioned whether the series of transactions amount to bribery.

Tuesday’s closed session, where the potential prosecution is up for decision, starts at 5 p.m. The open session starts at 5:45 p.m. Click here for more details on the issue.

2. Transportation Summit Brings Together Regional Officials and Experts

As Southern California becomes increasingly urbanized and roads become more and more clogged with traffic, state and regional officials are gathering for a one-day summit this week to tackle the issues.

The Anaheim meeting Friday will bring together more than 1,000 experts and officials to talk through how to reform the region’s transportation infrastructure.

Headlining the Mobility 21 event is Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has spearheaded alternative transit efforts in his city and will deliver a speech Friday morning.

Since taking office last July, Garcetti has gained a reputation for trying to shift much of his city’s focus on cars toward also accommodating bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.

“All our priorities have to be in reducing traffic. Traffic keeps us from our loved ones and costs us billions of dollars in productivity,” Garcetti said at a July transportation meeting.

He has called for developing “an interconnected network that takes passengers from trains to airplanes, as well as getting passengers to their destinations as quickly and easily as possible,” according to the LA Daily News.

To further that effort, Garcetti chose a San Francisco official with a national reputation for bike- and pedestrian-friendliness to head up the Los Angeles transportation department.

The mayor has also taken that effort to the city planning level. A city initiative has chosen 15 streets across Los Angeles where roads and sidewalks are scheduled to be made more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, with the addition of plazas, vegetation, outdoor seating and other features.

At Friday’s event, organizers are encouraging attendees and reporters to use the Twitter hashtag #Mobility21, making it easier to follow conversations around the event.

Other officials slated to attend include state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), Assemblyman Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), Orange County Transportation Authority Vice Chair Jeff Lalloway, Assembly Transportation Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Assembly Speaker Emeritus John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), and State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento.)

The summit runs Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. More details are available at mobility21.com.

3. Bail Hearing Set for Man Improperly Turned Over to Immigration Authorities

Santa Ana resident Samuel Sixtos-Campos, who sheriff’s officials referred to immigration authorities in violation of the state’s Trust Act in April, is scheduled to have a federal judge consider his request for bail this Friday.

According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Sixtos-Gomez’s criminal history shows traffic-related charges, which didn’t qualify him for longer detention to accommodate immigration officials under California’s recently-enacted Trust Act.

Sixtos-Campos remains in detention at the privately-run Adelanto Detention Facility in San Bernardino County awaiting possible deportation. He went on a hunger strike last week.

Activists have called for his release, saying it’s an example of federal agents separating families over extremely minor issues. Sixtos-Campos has a young daughter in Orange County who is a U.S. citizen.

“He has immense support from [Congresswoman] Loretta Sanchez, [State Senator] Lou Correa, the California Legislative Caucus – immense Congressional support – but he’s still in the Adelanto detention center,” migrant advocate Alexis Nava Teodoro said last week.

Meanwhile, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have emphasized that state statutes such as the Trust Act do not apply to federal agencies.

“Whether or not an agency did or didn’t comply with the Trust Act, as a federal agency we’re bound to enforce federal law,” ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in July.

Friday’s hearing is set for 8 a.m. at the Adelanto Detention Facility, 10400 Rancho Road, Adelanto.

4. Huntington Beach To Bring Up Reusable Bag Ordinance — Again

Huntington Beach’s much-debated, controversial reusable bag ordinance, which bans single-use plastic bags and charges customers ten cents for paper bags, is up before the city council again Tuesday night.

At their Aug. 18 meeting, Councilman Joe Carchio failed to get support from fellow councilmembers to reduce the 10-cent charge to five cents. This week Carchio is suggesting stores, which receive the full proceeds of the 10-cent fee, be given the option of not charging for bags.

Mayor Matthew Harper is proposing the paper bag charge be repealed altogether. 

State legislation is pending on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that would ban plastic bags and charge 10 cents for paper. If Brown signs the bill, SB 270, it could limit the ability of the council to make changes to its ordinance. Some council members have said the city should wait for the state legislation to unfold before it tries to change its reusable bag law.

The council also is considering sending a letter to Brown urging him to veto the plastic bag ban. 

Huntington Beach typically meets Mondays but rescheduled its meeting for the holiday. The meeting begins Tuesday at 6:30pm. Read the full agenda here. 

5. Costa Mesa’s Reserve Cops Could Get a Pay Raise

Costa Mesa city officials Tuesday will consider a pay increase for police reserve officers.

The 8 percent hourly pay raise is aimed at recruiting more competitive candidates, according to an agenda report. In the last two years, the city has hired 13 police officers and one reserve officer. None of Costa Mesa’s neighboring cities have hired new police officers in that time. 

If approved, police reserve officers would get a raise of $2.64, or a pay rate of $35.64 an hour, meaning an additional $36,000 to the Police Department budget. The raise is consistent with the 8 percent raise implemented for all police association members in the last two years.

The department will also add a new part-time position dedicated to recruiting reserve officers.

The council will also hold a public hearing on the 2013-16 agreement with its public employees’ union. The negotiated agreement includes no raises, a freeze on merit increases for current employees, an increase to employees’ retirement contributions, and the outsourcing of the city’s street sweeping operations. 

The city is also moving forward on the annexation of a 14-acre residential property on the city’s eastern border with Newport Beach. 

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

6. Public Hearing on I-5 Freeway Widening’s Impacts

Members of the public will have an opportunity to weigh in this week on a new freeway expansion project slated for the I-5 freeway in central Orange County.

Caltrans, the statewide transportation agency, will gather input about its environmental report for the I-5 Central County Improvement Project, which proposes to add a second carpool lane and remove the carpool on-ramp and off-ramp at Main Street in Santa Ana.

Agency officials say the project “will not significantly affect the quality of the environment.” It’s not clear whether the agency study included alternative transportation modes.

The environmental study is available for review by clicking here.

Caltrans said in July it would install toll lanes on the 405 freeway between Irvine and Costa Mesa. The agency’s hearing announcement doesn’t say whether toll lanes are envisioned for the I-5 project.

Toll lanes, nicknamed “Lexus lanes” by opponents because only those who can afford the fees can use the lanes to avoid traffic jams, are a controversial issue.

“We’re going to be going through this for the next several years, as the managed lanes and the toll lanes are going to be, I don’t want to say forced – bludgeoned over us,” said director Frank Ury at a July 18 Orange County Transportation Authority or OCTA board meeting.

In the 1960s, as California’s freeway system was being developed, engineers plowed straight lines through communities, causing civic outrage and even leading to decades-long efforts to stop them, as in Pasadena and communities east of the 105 freeway in Norwalk.

Former state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), now a  member of the House of Representatives whose district includes part of Orange County, said in a 2011 Voice of OC interview about government construction plans: “You don’t come in and impose things on communities. We have learned time and time again, you have to develop support in communities. You can’t impose” projects on them.

This week’s CalTrans hearing, where the public can give feedback and ask questions, is scheduled for Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Rancho Santiago Community College District board room (2323 N. Broadway, Santa Ana).

Written comments about the report can also be sent to Caltrans at I5HOV55to57.D12@dot.ca.gov by Sept. 12 and CC’ed to Voice of OC reporter Nick Gerda at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

Major Meetings This Week:

Tuesday

Costa Mesa City Council 

Huntington Beach City Council 

Laguna Beach City Council 

Laguna Niguel City Council 

La Palma City Council 

Mission Viejo City Council 

Newport Beach Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee 

Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Committee 

Santa Ana City Council 

San Clemente City Council 

San Juan Capistrano City Council 

Tustin City Council

Wednesday

Children and Families Commission of Orange County 

Municipal Water District of Orange County Board 

Orange County Transportation Authority Executive Committee 

Orange County Water District Board 

Thursday

• Anaheim Union High School District Board 

• CalOptima Board of Directors

Friday

Air Quality Management District Board 

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

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