Perkins: A Community Victory for Local Control in North Tustin

John F. Kennedy once said, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

That aphorism was never more appropriate for the residents of North Tustin than today.

After a two year battle by local residents to acquire local control of their sewer system, the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) voted 6-1 to approve East Orange County Water District’s (EOCWD) application to provide cleaning and maintenance service of the sewers in North Tustin where they already provide water services.  This could not have happened without literally thousands of local North Tustin residents willing to stand up to protect our unique community.

East Orange County Water District offered a far superior application than the competing application from Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD).  Both agencies agreed to cut the sewer rate by 50%, however, EOCWD will maintain annual sewer service cleanings while IRWD proposed cutting back the cleanings to once every other year.  Additionally, because 95% of Sewer Area 7 residents live in the EOCWD water service area, adding sewer cleaning and maintenance to the EOCWD list of services is efficient and avoids another government bureaucratic overlay.  Who wants to write a check to yet another government agency?  And of course EOCWD has a board of directors made up of our neighbors in East Orange and North Tustin while IRWD’s board lives in Irvine and Newport Coast.

More than 1,300 residents, business owners, homeowners and voters in Sewer Area 7 sent emails, postcards and signed petitions to the LAFCO Commissioners asking them to approve EOCWD’s application and reject Irvine water district’s efforts to encroach into North Tustin and East Orange.

At the hearing today, More than 70 residents took the day off work to attend the LAFCO meeting.  Many wore matching orange t-shirts with three clear bullets:

·       50% Rate Cut

·       Local Control

·       Annual Cleanings

Of the 70 or so residents that showed up at the LAFCO meeting, nearly 40 of those residents spoke loudly and clearly stating that they supported EOCWD for reasons of cost, service and perhaps most important, local control.  The Mayors of Tustin,  Orange and Villa Park all attended and asked LAFCO to listen to their constituents and support EOCWD.  Water District directors from the Municipal Water District of Orange County, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Mesa Water District all asked the LAFCO commission to support EOCWD.  In fact, 11 elected officials who serve our community attended the meeting and spoke in favor of EOCWD.  Not one elected official spoke in support of IRWD.

At the end of the day, Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who serves as the de facto “Mayor” of North Tustin, which is an unincorporated county island, stood up for his residents and spearheaded support of EOCWD’s application.  While he acknowledged both IRWD and EOCWD had the ability to do the job, he appreciated the strong community support shown by North Tustin residents for the EOCWD application and EOCWD’s commitment to responsive service.  He also acknowledged that the voters of Sewer Area 7 would have a greater opportunity for input in their service provider if EOCWD were selected since it is a smaller agency with locally elected officials dedicated to the area of North Tustin.  His leadership was supported by the majority of the LAFCO commission and his motion passed on a 6-1 vote.

While there are too many people to thank for this victory, I would like to particularly note the elected city leaders from Tustin, Villa Park and Orange as well as the Foothill Communities Association board members who understand the importance of local control.  And without a doubt, the biggest thank you goes out to the “Mayor of North Tustin” Supervisor Todd Spitzer who continues his legacy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the voters in his District and voting to support local control.

Carl Perkins is a 20+ year resident of North Tustin

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

  • Rivett

    So pleased with this victory, I was almost certain this would end badly. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. Congratulations and thanks to Ms. Ohlund, EOCWD staff, everyone who supported this effort, LAFCO commissioners, and special thanks to Supervisor Spitzer who has done so much good for unincorporated North Tustin in recent times.

  • Roger Butow

    Hey Carl? No offense, with all due respect, but tracking this issue online I think a REALLY REALLY BIG SHOUT OUT should go to EOCWD General manager Lisa Ohlund.

    Unlike 99% of public officials seeking ink, notoriety, fame and glory, headlines with obvious future career choices in mind as they test the wind with their fingers wet from donation (or graft) coffers, apparently Ms. Ohlund comported herself with quite dignity and perseverance, kept a low profile.

    Like an iceberg, only 1/7 visible above the surface, my guess is that this courageous woman was working the other 6/7 of this issue pretty much 24/7, very intensely in the months ramping up to this confrontation.

    I was told by an attendee that one particular IRWD elected Board member was thoroughly chastised by Spitzer, called out by name. I’ll be curious to see if any of the media or Op-Ed commentators name that person. He has, according to my sources, undermined his own water district for years and years.

    Also, the expansionist, hegemony aspect of IRWD was openly denigrated, perhaps now the public knows how they earned the nickname IMPERIAL ROMAN WATER DISTRICT…..the chickens finally came home to roost, instant karma, reaping what they’ve sown, I’m sure that under Ms. Ohlund’s guidance the residents served by EOCWD will eventually come to realize the wisdom of their support in an even greater way.

    Seems like she’s earned the title GENERAL, so pin a water war campaign ribbon on her, give her some kudos, a salute and a metaphorical hug, a successful woman in basically a man’s world: She was a rock star, deserves her own curtain call!