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.

Irvine Council to Get Update on Great Park Investigation

Irvine City Council members Tuesday night are scheduled to hear a public update about the ongoing forensic investigation into over $200 million spent on the Great Park project.

The 1,300-acre park project has been beset with allegations of overspending and mismanagement for the better part of a decade.

Republican council members ran on a platform of bringing fiscal accountability to the park and won the council majority after the 2012 election. One of their first actions was to start the audit.

Critics of the audit, which include the council’s Democratic minority that previously controlled the park, say it is part of a witch hunt aimed at bolstering the political fortunes of the Republicans by trampling over the park’s reputation.

The audit has so far cost over $1 million, a point that will likely be raised by the Democratic council members Tuesday night.

To see the full agenda, click here.

Electronic Billboards Might Be Built Along Freeway in Garden Grove

A large electronic billboard could soon be headed to the 22 freeway in Garden Grove.

Garden Grove City Council members will hold a public hearing Tuesday on whether to allow the company Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. to build the two-sided, 74-foot electronic billboard

Although the city does not allow new billboards, companies can apply to relocate their existing ones elsewhere in the city. Clear Channel currently owns 12 billboards in Garden Grove.

City code does not allow companies to convert their billboards into electronic ones. The code amendment under consideration Tuesday would:

  • Require billboard owners to remove two regular billboards for every electronic billboard they construct.
  • Require owners to pay for for the cost of any mitigation, construction, application fees, etc.
  • Require owners to donate up to 10 percent of their advertising time to community events.

Clear Channel is asking to remove three regular billboards in exchange for building one electronic billboard. The company would pay a $10,000 fee and an annual mitigation fee amounting to roughly $1.57 million over the 30-year term of the deal.

The company’s subsidiary, Clear Channel Worldwide, is a frequent contributor to political campaigns. In Garden Grove, the company contributed $1,000 to mayor Bruce Broadwater in April, $1,000 to councilwoman Dina Nguyen in 2013 and $1,000 to councilman Steve Jones in October 2012. 

The city is also considering an ordinance to allow electronic reader boards and an ordinance banning the use of e-cigarettes where tobacco also is not allowed. 

Tuesday’s public meeting begins at 6:30 pm. Read the full agenda here.

Santa Ana Unified Candidates to Debate

Candidates for the Santa Ana Unified school board are slated to go head-to-head at a debate Thursday night.

The forum is organized by Santa Ana Youth and Government, a model legislature and court program for high school students.

“It is so very important to encourage the youth and the community to be involved in the election process, especially when it centers on the quality of education in our city,” said Brial Leal, an alumnus of the program who is now a Santa Ana parks and recreation commissioner, in a news release for the event.

Also presenting the forum are the Santa Ana community group Connect-to-Council and the Orange County Laborers Local 652 union.

It comes as the school district, which is Orange County’s largest, is about to experience one of its most significant leadership changes in years.

The school board’s president, Audrey Yamagata-Noji, who often serves as a leader in board discussion and votes, is not running for re-election. She was first elected to the board in 1987.

The other seat up for election is that of board member John Palacio, who is running for re-election.

Eight candidates are vying for the two open seats.

They are: Palacio, Cal State Long Beach professor Rigo Riodriguez, retired Santa Ana High School teacher Everlena Oliver, UC Irvine student Angie Cano, former Santa Ana Unified bilingual community worker Cecilia Aguinaga, retired Santa Ana Unified teacher Shuntele Andrews, probation officer Valerie Amezcua and accountant Mike Dalati

The top two vote getters on Nov. 4 will win a place on the board, which sets education policy that affects more than 57,000 students.

Board members also oversee the district’s roughly $500 million operating budget, as well as the superintendent, who is the top executive for the district’s 4,600 employees.

The forum runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and will be held across the street from the Santa Ana Unified headquarters, at 1532 E Chestnut Street. Click here for a map. Doors open at 6 p.m.

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

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

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