10 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. Yorba Linda Voters to Decide on Recalling Mayor and Councilman

Yorba Linda voters will decide Tuesday if Mayor Craig Young and Councilman Tom Lindsey remain in office in the city’s first recall election.

Petitioners began gathering signatures when Young, Lindsey and Councilman Gene Hernandez voted against Councilman John Anderson’s motion for a moratorium on a controversial high-density housing development on Lakeview Avenue.

Opponents say Lindsey and Young are pro-developer, pointing to $16,000 in campaign support the two received from a political action committee made up mostly of developers.

Flyers praising Young and Lindsey’s “conservative leadership” were circulated throughout the city in May in response to recall efforts. The Southern California Coalition of Businesses and Taxpayers paid for them, according to campaign disclosure statements.

Residents supporting the recall say the Business and Taxpayers Coalition’s political action committee, formed in March for independent expenditures, is a way for developers to pump money into Lindsey’s and Young’s campaigns this fall.

The Business and Taxpayers Coalition political action committee received $13,000 in April from Beverly Hills-based El-Yorba Linda. Afshin Etebar, listed as an agent for the company, is the owner of ETCO Homes, developer of the 159-unit Lakeview Avenue project.

The coalision also received $13,000 from Prospect Place LLC, developer of the Tesoro Town Home project approved on the west side of town.

During a May 20 city council meeting, both Lindsey and Young denied any knowledge of the flyers prior to circulation or of Reggie King, a Rancho Cucamonga-based developer who contributed more than $45,000 to the PAC.

Investigations of ethics complaints filed against Young and Hernandez by their detractors found no basis for a violation.

The results of Tuesday’s recall election will be posted on the county Registrar of Voters website, ocvote.com 

2. Homeless Shelter Site Could Get Nixed by Santa Ana Officials

Plans to put a homeless shelter near a school in eastern Santa Ana could be in jeopardy, after community members organized to oppose it.

Santa Ana City Council members now are scheduled to consider a moratorium on their zoning approval for a shelter in that part of the city.

The discussion comes after hundreds of residents expressed opposition during a community forum at a nearby school. Residents said the shelter was the wrong location, and that the working-class neighborhoods were already dealing with the persistent problems of drug use, gang activity and crime.

Senate Bill 2, passed by the state Senate in 2008, requires that cities and counties allow shelters and transitional housing for homeless people, including at least one large facility.

But having local governments implement the law has proved challenging. The county has struggled to find locations that don’t result in strident opposition from local residents fearful that homeless people will bring drugs, sex offenders and other problems to their communities.

Massimo Marini, an organizer with Civic Center Roundtable, a lobby group made up of homeless people, has decried the stereotypes that have accompanied the pushback against a homeless shelter in Santa Ana as tantamount to bigotry.

According to the meeting agenda, council members will consider the moratorium and researching alternative sites.

Read the council agenda here

3. Beach Permit Parking Proposal Draws Criticism in Huntington Beach

A move to establish a restricted overnight parking zone beginning about a block from the Huntington Beach coast is drawing opposition from the mayor who argues it discourages non-coastal residents from going to the beach.

About 366 residents living within a zone bounded by 7th and 9th Streets and Palm and Walnut Avenues signed a petition calling for the district.

Visitors would not be able to park in the three block wide and five-block-deep district between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily without a posted permit.

But Mayor Matthew Harper is wary the time restrictions could be increased once the zone is established.

“You create this iron curtain along the coast where people can’t park, and even if it’s overnight, a midnight stroll with your wife, girlfriend, or significant other should not be against the law,” Harper said.

Harper said parking zones that require permits create a division of those who can afford to live by the beach, and those who cannot.

“But these are public streets paid for by the public,” Harper said.

Huntington Beach State Park, which currently charges $15 for daily parking, is closed after 10 p.m.

Huntington Beach City Council members are set to decide on the zone Monday.

Also on the agenda, Councilman Joe Carchio wants to initiate a paper bag-buyback program for consumers who receive sacks with torn handles.

Customers would be able to return defective bags within 10 days with proof of purchase. The proposal comes less than a week after Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a statewide ban on plastic bags.

Recently passed legislation requires that retailers charge at least ten cents for each paper bag.

Monday’s council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the city’s Civic Center.

4. Red Light Cameras Could be Banned in Unincorporated Orange County

Red light cameras could soon be banned in areas of Orange County that are outside of individual cities under a proposal by County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson.

“Although automated traffic enforcement systems have been touted as promoting traffic safety, there is insufficient evidence to show that automated traffic enforcement systems actually accomplish this goal,” states a staff report from Nelson’s office.

“The primary accomplishment of red light cameras has been to increase revenues, not improve traffic safety.”

The staff report doesn’t say how many, if any, red light cameras currently are being operated in unincorporated Orange County.

But Nelson’s proposal comes as red light cameras face a growing backlash in cities.

Earlier this year, Santa Ana city leaders voted unanimously to end their contract with a red-light camera vendor who is facing a federal bribery investigation.

Council members described the nearly $500 fines associated with red light camera tickets as an excessive burden on residents.

Many law enforcement officials, meanwhile, argue that the cameras are an effective deterrent to red-light runners and make the streets safer.

Others note the cameras create an incentive for cities to unfairly shorten the time for yellow lights in order to generate more revenue. Such changes were found in an investigation by a Florida television news station.

When Voice of OC recently asked local residents about red light cameras on Facebook, the responses were overwhelmingly against the cameras.

“Not safer……take them down….enough with Big Brother money grab,” wrote Garden Grove resident Don McPeck.

If a majority of the county supervisors want the ban put in place, they will direct staff to place a formal vote on the Oct. 21 meeting agenda.

It would only apply to Orange County’s unincorporated areas, which are home to about 120,000 people. County supervisors function as the city council for these areas.

Unincorporated communities include North Tustin, Rossmoor, Midway City, Orange Park Acres and Ladera Ranch, among others.

Tuesday’s supervisors meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

5. Anaheim Leaders to Discuss Angel Stadium Negotiations

Anaheim City Council members Tuesday night are scheduled to publicly discuss the latest news on the Angel Stadium lease negotiations, just over a week after Angels baseball team owner Arte Moreno cancelled ongoing negotiations.

The Angels sent a letter to Anaheim Sept. 26 notifying city officials the team was canceling negotiations over a controversial memorandum of understanding.

Under the proposed deal, Moreno’s investment firm, Pacific Coast Investors, was supposed to receive 150 acres of land around the stadium at $1 a year for 66 years. Also, the Angels would be allowed to drop “Anaheim” from the team’s official name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

In theory, Moreno would have used revenue from developing the land make up to $150 million in renovations to the stadium, and supporters said it kept the Angels in Anaheim for decades at no cost to taxpayers.

But critics, led by Mayor Tom Tait, said Moreno is already obligated to make the improvements under the current lease, and criticized the land grant as a massive giveaway of a public asset to a billionaire sports franchise owner.

The Anaheim City Council meeting begins Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

6. Santa Ana City Council to Discuss New Decorum Rules

Santa Ana City Council members are set to consider imposing new decorum rules on members of the public attending council meetings.

Their decision comes after the Santa Ana Police Officers Association sent a letter criticizing the council’s handling of a meeting in which anti-police protesters heckled and booed police officers who were receiving commendations.

However, a source close to the union said the subtext of the letter was police officers’ dismay over the lack of decorum at the council dais. Council members were chatting among themselves and leaving the dais other while officers were being recognized, behavior that officers found offensive, the source said.

Council members have for years been criticized for their decorum, and open meetings law expert Terry Francke has even said the chatting at the dais could be illegal under the Ralph M. Brown Act.

That criticism came to a head recently not only with the union letter, but also with Mayor Miguel Pulido’s constant cell phone use during the meetings. A video clip posted on the internet of Santa Anita resident Laura Perez lecturing Pulido for looking down at his phone while members of the public were speaking garnered more than 30,000 views, with hundreds of comments on the video slamming Pulido for disrespecting the public.

However, while the new decorum rules target members of the public by giving council members greater power to boot out meeting attendees, the new rules are not so strict against disrespectful behavior from council members.

The only rules in the ordinance aimed at council members are a reminder that council members should keep cell phone use at a minimum and refrain from “personal attacks” and “undignified language.”

7. Trash-Filled Street Sparks Maintenance Plan in Westminster

Westminster City Council members are considering an ongoing maintenance plan for property along Hoover Street, after a petition from more than 200 residents and numerous complaints about the blighted appearance of the corridor, which is overgrown with trees, trash and other debris.

The city has already done a clean-up and has been patrolling the area twice a day to remove trash, shopping carts and tripping hazards. The plan would completely remove the trees and brush along the street, declare the area a “problem oriented policing” project and require staff to produce weekly progress reports, according to the staff report.

The maintenance plan coincides with recently approved plans to create a biking and walking trail along Hoover Street by November 2015.

The public meeting begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. To read the full council agenda, click here. 

8. New Transportation Funding Proposal Up for Discussion

As freeway funding dwindles both in California and across the nation, a host of transportation officials and experts are slated to discuss a controversial funding proposal that’s been gaining momentum statewide.

The idea is to charge drivers based on how much they actually use California roadways, amid dwindling revenues from gas taxes.

At a half-day workshop in Glendale on Tuesday, officials and experts plan to discuss the proposal, known as a “mileage-based user fee.”

Speakers include Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty; Adrian Moore, vice president at the libertarian think tank The Reason Foundation; and Lucy Dunn, vice chair of the California Transportation Commission and CEO of the Orange County Business Council.

The workshop is sponsored by the Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance and hosted by Caltrans and the Southern California Association of Governments.

The proposal has been criticized by some as violating privacy rights.

“Do we need our government to know every time I go to the bathroom?” asked Supervisor Janet Nguyen in a recent debate for her state Senate run.

Supporters, meanwhile, say the details of the possible system still need to be worked out but that it’s extremely unlikely to involve location tracking.

Tuesday’s workshop runs from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites hotel in Glendale. Click here for registration details.

9. San Onofre Nuclear Plant Panel to Hold Meeting on Emergency Preparedness

Amid community concerns about the possibility of a nuclear disaster at the shuttered San Onofre power plant, an official panel is scheduled to discuss proposed changes to the plant’s emergency plans.

The meeting is on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center. More details available here.

10. Fountain Valley to Overhaul City Website

Fountain Valley city council members are set to hire a contractor for nearly $51,000 to overhaul the city and police department websites.

The city has recently made patchwork changes to its website, such as the addition of a new design for links to city council videos and agendas and an online payment system.

The contract with the company Civic Plus would completely redesign the whole website, and is expected to cost the city $25,488 more over five years than the services provided by its current vendor.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. To view the full agenda, click here. 

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

Orange County Transportation Authority Executive Committee 

Orange County Transportation Authority Finance and Administration Committee 

Huntington Beach City Council 

La Habra City Council 

Mission Viejo 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 Niguel City Council 

Laguna Beach 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 

Stanton City Council (special meeting on unspecified “community and resident concerns”) 

Tustin City Council 

Yorba Linda City Council 

Wednesday

OCTA Regional Planning and Highways Committee 

Rancho Santa Margarita City Council 

Westminster City Council 

This rundown was compiled by Nick Gerda, Thy Vo, Adam Elmahrek and Harold Pierce.

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

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