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. Anaheim to Approve Water Use Restrictions
Amid an ever-worsening statewide drought, Anaheim could join a growing list of cities and water agencies to enact more restrictions in response to a state mandate.
The Anaheim City Council is slated to approve the four state-required restrictions, against:
1. Excess runoff from watering outdoor landscaping or lawns.
2. Using a hose that doesn’t have a shut-off nozzle to wash a car
3. Washing driveways and sidewalks with drinkable water, and
4. Using drinkable water in a fountain or “decorative water feature” unless the water is re-circulated.
Additionally, the city plans to ban:
- Landscape watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., except spot watering with a hose and nozzle, or as necessary for irrigation system maintenance and repairs; and
- “Fire hydrant flushing” of city hydrants, unless the water is captured or reused, or the flushing is needed for immediate health and safety or to ensure compliance with drinking water standards.
In response to the drought, last month the State Water Resources Control Board required local water agencies to adopt water conservation plans aimed at reducing water use by their customers.
If local agencies don’t comply, state officials can levy fines of $10,000 per day.
Local agencies, in turn, can issue fines of up to $500 against violators.
But in Anaheim’s case, it appears the city won’t be issuing fines to enforce water regulations.
The city’s public utilities department instead “will focus on education and outreach in order to achieve water savings,” according to a city staff report.
The meeting starts Tuesday at 5 p.m. Click here for the city staff report.
2. Bustamante Sex Assault Case Slated for New Hearing
Former county executive Carlos Bustamante, who was charged with several sex-related felonies for alleged actions against female county workers, is scheduled to start another pretrial hearing this week over whether his case should go to trial.
It comes after Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino threw out eight of the 13 felony charges against Bustamante following a preliminary hearing in May.
Prosecutors with the District Attorney’s office re-filed most of the charges that Makino dismissed. Bustamante’s new lawyers contend he was “set up” by the DA’s office.
Prosecutors say Bustamante systematically targeted at least seven vulnerable women working for him at the county Public Works Department, stalked them and then sexually terrorized them.
Several of the alleged victims said they were fearful of reporting Bustamante’s actions due to his influential relationships with top county executives and elected officials. Bustamante was a member of the Santa Ana city council and a rising star in the Republican party.
Bustamante’s former defense attorney, James D. Riddet, argued prosecutors failed to demonstrate crimes were committed and that several of the alleged victims admitted Bustamante’s conduct was consensual.
Bustamante “was persistent,..he was persuasive, and they agreed to have intimate relations with him” because of that, said Riddet. Bustamante’s new lawyers are Steven R. Young and Gina L. Kershaw.
The hearing starts Friday at 8:45 a.m. in Department C5 of the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
3. New Gang Injunction Up For First Court Date After Approval
In the wake of a judge’s approval of a new gang injunction in Santa Ana, a court hearing on the case is expected this coming week.
Prosecutors say the Townsend Street gang has committed a litany of crimes in recent years, ranging from two murders and two attempted murders, to eight incidents of graffiti/possession of vandalism tools.
Defense attorneys, who appeared on behalf of some of the people alleged to be active participants in the Townsend Street gang, have taken issue with the DA’s assertion that the level of violence in the neighborhood merited what they described as drastic measures.
The status conference is scheduled for Judge Franz E. Miller’s courtroom, Department C14, on Wednesday at 9 a.m.
4. County Political Aides Headed for Pay Raises That Could Offset New Pension Costs
Orange County Supervisors are set to vote on a pay hike for their political aides, just after the aides were required to contribute to their own pension plans.
The pay proposal would hike the top allowable pay for chiefs of staff from about $112,900 to $131,100, potentially offsetting the cost to the aides for putting money into their pensions.
“It is best practice to establish separate pay ranges for each of the four job classifications that are commensurate with the level of complexity and scope of responsibility for each class,” reads the staff report for Tuesday’s meeting.
Meanwhile, the county’s largest union is already on the warpath over the proposal, openly questioning how there’s no money for rank and file raises but plenty of room for high-ranking political operatives.
“The County workforce is divided into haves and have nots, insiders and outsiders, the favored few and everyone else,” wrote Jennifer Muir, assistant general manager for the Orange County Employees Association, in a message to members.
“We’re everyone else,” she continued. “For us, the County is a place of limited resources, falling real wages and takeaways. But there’s another County, a County where the sky is the limit, a County where who you know is the only thing that matters, a County where you can get a huge wage increase in the blink of an eye.”
The vote is set for Tuesday’s County Board of Supervisors meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. at the county Hall of Administration in Santa Ana.
5. Garden Grove to Vote on Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions
Garden Grove City Council members are deciding this week whether to support a U.S. House of Representatives bill that imposes sanctions on people responsible for human rights violations in Vietnam.
Authored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), HR 4254 would require President Barack Obama to identify Vietnamese nationals and their families who have been complicit in human rights abuses in Vietnam and impose financial and travel sanctions on them.
The sanctions would only be lifted when the Vietnamese government unconditionally releases all political prisoners, ceases human rights violations and prosecutes those responsible for the abuses.
According to the bill, which is co-authored by Democratic Representatives Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach and Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana, for the past four decades, the Vietnamese government has “denied basic human rights to the people of Vietnam and severely limited their freedom of expression and religion.”
Garden Grove is home to about 48,000 Vietnamese people, one of the highest concentrations in the nation, and many still have close relatives and other connections to the country.
The council meeting starts Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
6. Orange Joins Cities Changing Sex Offender Bans
The city of Orange is set to join a growing list of cities revising bans on registered sex offenders in parks in the wake of recent state appeals court rulings.
The city ordinance currently prohibits sex offenders from loitering within 500 feet of child care centers, schools, parks, libraries, bus stops, pools or places that provide classes and activities for children.
Fullerton, Santa Ana, Tustin and Anaheim have lifted similar bans.
Orange has already been served with a lawsuit, Lindsay v. City of Orange, challenging its laws banning sex offenders in parks. The suit alleges the entire ordinance must be repealed, but the city attorney is recommending only one section pertaining to parks be removed.
Other portions of the ordinance that would remain include restrictions against sex offenders decorating their homes on Halloween and checking into motels where other sex offenders are staying. Violations result in a $1,000 fine and possible jail time.
City leaders take their first vote on the revised ordinance Tuesday. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.
7. County Transit Agency to Take Over Santa Ana Streetcar Project
Santa Ana’s ambitious streetcar project is scheduled to be taken over by the Orange County Transportation Authority or OCTA this week.
At the OCTA level, the majority of the board directors appear to back the Santa Ana project. But some directors still have pointed questions, or are outright opposed to the idea of a streetcar, which they say is inferior to a rubber-tire bus system and far more expensive.
Locally, meanwhile, the streetcar remains divided between supporters – including a new wave of businesses credited with making downtown Santa Ana an urban hot spot – and residents and older businesses suspicious that the project is yet another gentrification tool that will ultimately price them out of their homes and commercial spaces.
If approved by OCTA’s board on Monday, the transit agency will take over the project’s development, implementation, operations and maintenance.
The agency’s staff would be directed to seek federal New Starts funding for the project, and prepare a request for proposals for a project management consultant and bring it back to the board for review.
And the board is slated to approve the use of Measure M2 sales tax funds for the streetcar’s operations and maintenance.
Monday’s meeting starts at 9 a.m. at OCTA’s headquarters in Orange.
8. County to Decide on 15-Year Lease for New Social Services Headquarters
The county’s largest department could be moving into a new headquarters at the end of the year, if a long-term lease is approved this week.
County supervisors are slated to vote on leasing 132,000 square feet in an office building at 500 N. State College Boulevard, just north of the 5 Freeway in Orange.
It would move the Social Services Agency’s administrative headquarters from its current location at 888 N. Main Street in Santa Ana, where it’s been located since 1997.
The agency has roughly 10,000 employees and handles about $2 billion in annual spending on food stamps, welfare programs, child support services and other programs.
A decision on the $59 million lease has been brought to the board – and delayed – twice in recent weeks.
The lease term, 15 years, appears to be much longer than usual for county offices. For example, the current lease for the agency’s headquarters runs only two years.
It’s also unclear who owns the company the county would be leasing from.
The agreement would be with a Delaware-registered business known as “IX CW 500 Orange Tower, L.P.”
California’s business entity search system doesn’t list a person as an agent for the business, and investment websites don’t list anyone connected to the firm.
Instead, the business’s registered agent is listed as The Corporation Trust Company of Wilmington, Delaware.
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at the county Hall of Administration in Santa Ana. Click here for the staff report.
9. Supervisors to Respond to Grand Jury Report on Contracting
County supervisors are scheduled to approve their response to a recent grand jury report on how the county handles more than $3 billion in contracting each year.
The grand jury focused on a need for the county to re-centralize its contracting efforts, which it said would “reduce the fragmentation, inconsistency, and inequality that currently exist.”
Staff who work with contracts aren’t “given focused and thorough training designed to present topics in project management, contract administration, and risk assessment,” the report states.
“In addition, there is an absence of objectives designed to enhance personal expertise, productivity, and effectiveness.”
The supervisors’ proposed response disagrees with several of the panel’s findings.
In particular, the proposed response says, contrary to the grand jury’s recommendation, supervisors will wait until next year to consider creating a plan to centralize contract operations. That is how county contracts were handled a number of years ago, but then contracting was decentralized.
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at the County Hall of Administration in Santa Ana. Click here for the proposed response.
Major Meetings This Week:
• Orange County Transportation Authority Board
• Orange County Board of Supervisors
• Huntington Beach City Council (Special Meeting)
• Irvine City Council (Special Meeting)
• OCTA Finance and Administration Committee
• Rancho Santa Margarita City Council
You can reach Nick Gerda at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.
Since you've made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.
Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.