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. Body Cameras Could be Worn by Anaheim Police

Anaheim City Council members Tuesday night are scheduled to approve a $1.1 million contract with Arizona-based TASER International, Inc. for the purchase of body-worn cameras for police officers, a step city officials hope will help rebuild a fragile trust between the police department and residents.

Two years ago, back-to-back lethal police shootings of two young Latino men sparked outrage and a downtown riot of mostly Latino youth. Since then, the city has hired its first Latino police chief, Raul Quezada, and has taken other steps to improve accountability and relations with the community. Officers have been using personal audio recorders for more than a year, according to a staff report.

At least one study conducted at the Rialto Police Department found that use-of-force incidents dropped dramatically after the cameras were in place, according to the Orange County Register.

The study found a “60 percent reduction in use-of-force incidents by officers using the cameras and an 88 percent decrease in public complaints,” the newspaper reported.

The city has also moved forward with a police civilian review board, a proposal by Mayor Tom Tait that was well received by residents, though some complained it was toothless. The city’s police union and former mayor turned lobbyist Curt Pringle opposed the civilian review board. Pringle recorded a robocall attacking Tait for proposing the board.

The Anaheim City Council public meeting begins at 5 p.m. To view the agenda, click here.

2. Nepotism Policy on the Table in Garden Grove

After more than a year of controversy over the hiring of Mayor Bruce Broadwater’s son as a firefighter and the employment of relatives of other high-ranking officials, the Garden Grove city council Tuesday will discuss changing its municipal code to prohibit the employment of relatives of high-ranking officials. 

In 2000, the city adopted a policy prohibiting the employment of relatives of city council members, department directors, the city manager and anyone working as a primary assistant to the city manager.

That ban on employment disappeared when the city adopted a new policy in 2005 stating no person can be disqualified from or be treated favorably for employment in Garden Grove, based on the fact that they are related to a city official.

On Tuesday’s agenda is an ordinance that would reinstate the 2000 ban on employment of relatives, with a few added exemptions.

Current employees would not be affected by adoption of the ordinance, “as there are a number of employees, in various departments, who could be impacted by reinstating the former nepotism policy,” according to the city staff report.

Relatives of officials could still apply to work 1,000 hours or less as a part-time employee, subject to city manager approval, while part-time employees hired prior to September 2014 would also still be eligible for full-time employment.

The ordinance also states that no employee relative hired before September 2014 “shall, for that reason alone, be required to leave City employment.”

Last year, Voice of OC reported at least eight city hall employees were relatives of high-ranking officials. 

Broadwater’s 37-year-old son Jeremy was sworn in as a firefighter last October, beating out 500 other applicants. Jeremy Broadwater has been criticized by fellow firefighters and supervisors for potentially life-threatening mistakes, according to a recent report in the Orange County Register

Three of city manager Matthew Fertal’s sons, as well as his niece, have also worked for the city as interns and in part- and full-time positions.

Finance Director Kingsley Okereke’s two daughters, and city councilmember Kris Beard’s son Casey, have also worked temporary summer jobs in the city’s recreation department.

The council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.. To read the full agenda, click here.

3. Irvine Gives Directs Attention to Veterans Housing

Irvine City Council members Tuesday night are set to discuss restructuring the ad-hoc committee that looked at a possible Orange County veterans cemetery to now study affordable housing for former members of the military.

The ad-hoc committee is being redesigned after Councilwoman Christina Shea pointed out the existing committee tackled the cemetery issue, but didn’t get around to addressing veterans housing.

“I think it’s very important we don’t leave that off to the side for any length of time,” Shea said at the Aug. 26 council meeting. “We read so much about our veterans coming home, and they have no place to live… it’s just disgusting.”

A city staff report recommends appointing two council members, a planning commissioner nominated by the planning commission, three veterans representatives, an affordable housing representative and one representative each from developers FivePoint Communities and the Irvine Company.

The Irvine City Council meeting begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday and the full agenda can be viewed by clicking here.

4. County to Approve $6 Million in Contracts with Mystery Medical Providers

It’s a big set of contracts: $6.4 million for “various providers of professional medical, dental, behavioral health and other support services” to be considered Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.

But none of the actual contractors are listed in the staff report or attachments, including on the proposed contract itself.

Instead, the proposed Health Care Agency contract simply lists the vendors as “NAME.”

It isn’t the first time missing information from county agendas has raised eyebrows.

Some county supervisors, including Supervisor Todd Spitzer, have complained recently about key pieces of information not being included in county staff reports.

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

5. Major City Planning Conference Comes to Anaheim

City planners and officials from across California are slated to descend on Anaheim starting Saturday for a large statewide conference.

The American Planning Association – California Annual Conference runs from Saturday Sept. 13 through Tuesday Sept. 16 at the Disneyland Hotel.

Panel discussions include re-imagining transportation corridors to have them accommodate people, parks, cyclists and transit; as well as a panel on public private partnerships, hosted by Great Park officials with the city of Irvine and FivePoint Communities officials.

A bicycle tour of the Santa Ana River trail and bikeway is also scheduled with county trail coordinator Jeff Dickman, former county Supervisor Bill Campbell, Patricia Lock Dawson of the Santa Ana River Trail and Parkway Partnership and others.

Click here for the conference program.

Additional information on attending the conference, including prices, is available here.

6. Westminster To Approve Walking and Bike Trail Improvements

At their regular meeting Wednesday, Westminster city officials are likely to approve a $2.55 million walking and bike trail project along Hoover Street.

The project, funded by former redevelopment agency money, is aimed at improving the existing trail to “showcase the benefits of alternative park space that can be used for recreation and transportation between City amenities and surrounding area,” according to a staff report. 

The city also will approve contracts for two recently approved projects to overhaul city parks and build a new police training center. 

The city will award a $7.4 million contract to Park West Landscape as part of a comprehensive plan to upgrade city parks. 

The $9.4 million project, funded through money from the former Redevelopment Agency, is set to break ground in September. 

Also on the council agenda are $5.76 million in various contracts toward a nearly $17 million project to construct a Public Works yard and new police training facility.

Wednesday’s council meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. To view the full council agenda, click here

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

Orange County Transportation Authority Board 

Cypress City Council 

Los Alamitos City Council (Special Meeting) 

Seal Beach City Council

Tuesday

Orange County Board of Supervisors 

Anaheim City Council 

Buena Park City Council 

Garden Grove City Council 

Irvine City Council 

Laguna Hills City Council 

Newport Beach City Council 

Orange City Council 

San Clemente City Council 

Stanton City Council 

Wednesday

Rancho Santa Margarita City Council 

Westminster City Council 

Municipal Water District of Orange County – Administration & Finance Committee 

Orange County Water District – Water Issues Committee 

Thursday

Orange County Water District – Administration/Finance Committee 

Friday

Metrolink – Legislative/Communications Committee 

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

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