Breakdown of this week’s Santa Ana Council Meeting, Part 2

We left off in our last segment of my recap of this week’s Santa Ana City Council meeting with a look at an item that should have been a slam dunk – but Gerardo Mouet, the director of the Santa Ana Parks and Recreation department blew it by putting together a request that lacked basic information. Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Bist objected to the pathetically written request – and Mayor Miguel Pulido chimed in and said it was not a big deal, in so many words.

Bist got her way and the item was moved to the next meeting.

Next, council woman Claudia Alvarez thanked the city unions for being patient with contract negotiations. A motion was made and passed and just like that the new union deals were approved.

Then Alvarez took on the issue of the night. Mouet approached the podium again as she introduced the item – a request for the expenditure of $242K on ten video screens that are to be used for city propaganda.

Alvarez mentioned that she, Bist and councilman Carlos Bustamante were on a technical subcommittee that looked at this issue. It was supposed to go through an RFP process, as Alvarez explained, but Bustamante pushed for it and it ended up in the subcommittee.

Originally it was supposed to cost $1 million, through a British company, CCN. Alvarez mentioned that another company came in at half the cost of CCN. The other bidder was a local company, with better service and response time, according to Alvarez. There was another committee that looked at the two companies, and they too found in favor of the other company.

It took four meetings for the committee to find in favor of the other company. However, the original proposal for 20 screens went to 10 and now CCN came in at only $242K. Were they ripping us off before, asked Alvarez?

The committee again did not support CCN. However, eventually Mouet did come to recommend the higher bidder, CCN.

Only once, according to Alvarez, have we seen a council member push through a contract in this manner. That was the Mayor’s promotion of a lobbyist contract with Chris Townsend.

Alvarez then asked Mouet why he ended up changing his mind and supporting CCN. In the third meeting of the technical committee Mouet disclosed that there was money coming to the city from Adelphia Cable that could be used for new technology. Alvarez complained that the council had never been made aware of this money before.

Alvarez claimed she asked Mouet before for alternative uses of the Adelphia money – but he never came through with alternatives. Forty two days went by, according to Alvarez. At the fourth technology meeting, he again failed to come up with alternatives.

Mouet then took the podium. He said that there was $246K from the Adelphia source, as he put it. He said you could use the money for Adelphia-related channel 3 programming. Because the CCN project is designed to show programming that will also be shown on Channel 3, it could be shown on both. He said he was not aware the money could be used for other things outside the scope of Channel 3. He said the ten big screens would be used to conduct marketing and outreach for Channel 3.

Anyone who sees the ten big screens will see what the cable subscribers see, according to Mouet. He said they thought the money would be enough for 20 screens, but the money from a cellular contract for towers has not come through yet, so the deal was limited to ten screens.

Mouet recommended CCN because there was not enough money to fund the other vendor. He said that there was only a 1.74% difference between CCN and the other vendor. He added that the only amount you have is the amount for CCN, which is about $210K.

Alvarez then asked if the idea for the screens came from the agency. Mouet said the idea came to the agency and he facilitated the RFP. He said he was happy that the competition brought the cost down.

But then Alvarez said just because you have a better offer is this a service we need?

Alvarez tried to nail Mouet on where the idea for the screens came from. She named Bustamante but Mouet wouldn’t bite.

Alvarez then tried to get Mouet to admit that he needs the screens – and he asked her to rephrase the question as to the value of the project. She again asked about alternatives. He said if the money was not used for CCN it would have to be used for Adelphia-related projects. He said that 8 months ago they decided to spend some money redoing the equipment at council chambers.

He referred to the rest of the money as leftovers. He said it could be set aside for future equipment needs.

He also admitted that a year from now Time Warner won’t have to show Channel 3 programming. So he said that the money could be used for special local content at that point.

Alvarez then asked if there was a deadline for the use of the money. Mouet said no.

Then Alvarez asked “how do you go from a million to $245K without losing quality?” Mouet referred the question to the vendor. He said the question was asked in committee – and then Pulido said he wanted other speakers to address the item, starting with Bustamante then Bist.

A CCN guy then got up and said 80% of the system would be for support and programming. He also mentioend emergency alert capabilities, such as Amber Alert and missing persons alerts.

The guy also said that CCN is a U.S. company, including their hardware and technology. He added that his mother company gave a grant to the City of Santa Ana for free support, including free renewals. The guy finally admitted that there was a stockholder in the UK. He then said another stockholder was in the room.

The spokesperson then said that they put their best foot forward. He said the product was promoted as a public safety product.

Then Alvarez asked him how many cities were using this product. He had to admit that Santa Ana was going to be the first.

Bustamante said that every city in L.A. and Orange counties was approached by CCN. He said every council member got a disc from the company. Then he asked Mouet what the value of the system is.

Mouet said screens could be placed at the Metrolink station, at the courthouse, and at Mainplace Mall, so that they could see things about Santa ana with regards to local attractions such as the zoo or Discovery Science Center, or major projects, or things on Channel 3 that those without cable cannot see, or things not covered by local media.

Mouet said only 22K households have cable, out of 95K households.

Mouet said that the value would be to those of all incomes, as anyone could see the big screens. He said it was just another means to communicate with the public, that strategically aligns with what the city organization wants to message.

Bustamante then asked if it was our own little network. Then he asked if the contracts could be canceled at any time, but Mouet said it was a three year contract. The contract includes possible one year extensions for another three years. He also said that the city will own the hardware after three years.

Then Bist asked Mouet about the programming. She asked if it was three minutes per quarter. It was eight 30 second spots per quarter – sixteen minutes of programming annually.

Bist said she liked the idea initially, given that the Adelphia programming was going to be reduced in the future. However she was shocked to get only 4 minutes of programming per quarter.

She called it a stretch, as a benefit. She also said it was not much of outreach for Channel 3, given that ten screens in a city as big as Santa Ana won’t have a lot of impact. She said the Metrolink riders are not necessarily our residents.

Bist also said that she too asked about other spending options. But like Alvarez she never got those answers.

It’s nice to market the city, Bist said, referring to
sending the Chamber Cityline newspaper to folks outside of the city. But she said the screen deal does not give us enough and there are many other things to do with the money – such as more programming on Channel 3, or putting the city council meetings on the city website, and make it searchable.

She also said that equipment could be put in the police community room to televise the meetings at that location.

Bist also said that the committee, when they realized that the money was coming from Adelphia, it should have gone to the Parks and Recreation Commission, so they could make a recommendation for the expenditure of this money. She still thought that they should review it.

Bist then said that this deal has worked in the UK, for emergencies, but in the US not one system has been sold in a year and a half. She said that they would not be around to support this if no one else buys it.

She called the move not a smart one as we will get stuck with a package that will have no support in the near future.

Bist said that screens were already removed at Mainplace before because no one watched them. She said we don’t have any agreements as to where to place the screens.

Pulido then called upon Glen Stroud regarding the union contracts. He was mad because he was being asked to speak after the vote was conducted. He said that salaries and benefits are the largest part of our budget. He encouraged residents to ask more questions about these contracts. He asked that residents be allowed to give public input before such votes.

Good points Glen – but then why did you support Pulido and his cronies in the recent election? If you want change you have to vote for new faces Glen. That is the only way to affect change in Santa Ana.

Then Michele Martinez got up and commended Bustamante for being innovative, but then she asked the CCN consultants what would happen in a power outage. They said the screens would be down for two days. What a joke!

She then said why do we not televise the meetings at the police community room. She said we ought to televise these meetings. She pointed out that George Collins was there taping the meeting but the city ought to be doing it. She also said that the meetings should all be held at the council chambers. Then she thanked Collins for what he is doing and the entire audience gave him a round of applause.

Then councilwoman Alberta Christy took the microphone. She too asked Mouet before how the money could be spent in other ways.

Christy said she was not comfortable with the City of Santa Ana being the first to buy the CCN system. She said we ought to first meet our basic needs, paving the streets, fixing the lights, etc. Christy said the CCN deal was just too high of a risk.

The Mike Garcia spoke up. He said he was impressed that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair likes it and it is used a lot for security. Garcia liked it as economic development. And he said that we should compare it to other marketing expenditures, such as a booth that the city uses for exhibits, that cost $55,000.

Garcia mentioned that even though we are only getting 16 minutes of new programming,
people in line in the city, such as at the courthouse, can see the screens and find out good news about the city and also be notified of emergencies. How patronizing. Maybe we are lucky that Garcia is leaving the council. He also said he was happy that the city was not paying for the system with general fund money.

Then Pulido asked for the motion, and it passed 4 to 3. Only the ladies voted against it. Solorio, Pulido, Garcia and Bustamante all voted for what will surely become known as one of the stupidest expenditures in the history of the City of Santa Ana.

Then Alvarez cited that the City Attorney wants to increase rates for two law firms that work for the city. She said that she has a problem with the fact that the City Attorney does not have any caps on these services. He said the money comes out of the risk management budget. She also made him admit that he has ten city lawyers on staff.

Alvarez said that the council was being asked to approve expenditures without knowing how many hours they will be billed for. She wanted the expenditures to be better controlled by the council.

The City Attorney said that it would be impossible to comply with her request because the cases are handled on a case-by-case basis. He said that the attorneys have to work with litigation budgets that his staff audits.

He also said that most of the litigation is handled in house. Alvarez said she would not support the two items because of how they were worded. She ended up being the only no vote. I think she was right.

Bist then explained the next item, which was an agreement for an animal shelter. Bist asked for clarification. Apparently the city shelter was closed and they are now using a county shelter. Apparently a new shelter is supposed to be built on south Grand at a county building.

The motion carried unanimously.

A couple other motions then passed without debate and without explanation.

Then Pulido asked staff to explain the next item, having to do with a street closure on Martha Lane. The Rancho Santiago Community College District has expanded the Santa Ana College Campus and is asking for portions of College Ave. and parts of 15th St. to be abandoned.

The Artesia Pilar Neighborhood Association was informed by the city staff about the closures. Apparently there were two meetings to discuss how to move traffic after the closures.

The city mailed notices, posted notices and printed a notice in the O.C. Reporter. Utility companies were also notified.

Then Rancho officials and their Board Chairman Al Amezcua spoke to the council. His fellow board members, John Hanna, Brian Conley and Larry Labrado were also there.

Amezcua said that Santa Ana College is one of the best institutions in the area. He said that every move they make is for the benefit of the residents and the city. He thanked the city for working with him and the Rancho staff.

The Santa Ana College President, Ms. Erlinda Martinez, then spoke as well. She referred to the item as a planning effort, which included an environmental impact statement. She also said that they wanted to continue to be a good neighbor.

She said that Santa Ana College is one of the largest community colleges on one of the smallest pieces of land.

The closure of College will allow the college to build a new parking structure, a new childhood development center, and a new science center. Parking will be pushed to the left side of the campus. She added that they wanted to contain the traffic within the campus.

Martinez said that neighbors still wanted to use the college’s track for exercise. Then she took a long time to go over all the traffic issues.

Next a resident got up and complained about possible problems stemming from the closures, including delays of emergency vehicles.

Another fellow then took the podium and he also talked about the traffic closures and their impacts. He also cited safety including an accident involving a child. He did not feel that the factors he referenced had been adequately answered. He also said the fire department vetoed speed bumps the residents requested on Washington, for control of speed.

Next an old friend of mine, Ruby Woo, got up and said that she had a petition signed by neighbors opposed to the deal. She said that the environmental plan did not include enough of the neighbors. She wanted the research to include the whole neighborhood.

Another resident then got up and said that the closures would limit the neighbor’s ability to exit their neighborhood. He was afraid that too much traffic would end up on English St. He mentioned adding a new exit to 17th where a church used to be

Then a lady named Sandra Cervantes spoke about the benefits of living in a cul de sac. She said the move was a positive one.

Then a young lady named Stephanie asked that street lights be installed in her area, where a young boy was struck by a vehicle, on the 2100 block.

Next, John Acuna spoke. He is a counselor at Santa Ana College. He said that the closure is imperative due to space problems at the school. The parking structure, he said, would allow the college to put in more buildings. He said that they really need the space in order to add more classes. He said he grew up in Artesia Pilar and now saw the importance of closing the streets in question.

The next speaker, a resident of West Floral Park, urged the city to go forward with the project. Apparently he had some kind of connection to the college as well.

The next speaker, Eric Santa Cruz, said he was a student at Santa Ana College. He said that while the closure of College Ave. was an inconvenience for some, the city needed to do it to benefit the students.

Another student, named Miguel, spoke. He said he returned from military service and enrolled in the college. He is on the soccer team and he said that the project would include a new field for his team, which is 11-0 this year. He then asked the council to show up to their first playoff game. He also said that the project would include a new baseball field.

Christy then said “welcome home” to Miguel and he got a nice round of applause.

The next speaker then said that he could see the advantage for the college, but there will be impacts on outlying areas, particularly with regard to traffic flow. He called for a turn arrow to be installed at English and 17th.

The next speaker, Alonso Lugo, a U.S. Marine, and former Santa Ana College student, said most of the neighbors oppose the closures because of the egress at 15th and Martha Lane. He said a lot more pressure would be added to English and Washington St. He asked how this would affect people in the future. Those on Martha Lane and 15th will be forced to turn right. He asked that the students be restricted from the neighborhood, but that the residents should be allowed a new exit.

Then James Kendrick spoke. He said he was a newcomer to the neighborhood. His vehicle has already been struck and he is on disability. He is a big supporter of the neighborhood association. He referred to a previous closure that forced traffic onto English. He also cited other closures in other neighborhoods. He favored the closure, as college students make it hard to leave the neighborhood currently. But he wants to keep the dialogue open so as to keep adjusting traffic in the future, as needed.

The last speaker was the Rancho Chancellor, Eddie Hernandez. He referred to the city as a special and unique jewel in the middle of Orange County. He was really laying in on quite thick.

He said that the college district began to look at closing College Ave. four years ago. He said that they worked with the Artesia Pilar neighborhood. He said that there has been significant mitigation of the issues raised by the neighbors. He said that the district was committed to fixing the problems in the future too, if their estimates prove incorrect.

Pulido then closed the public hearing and brought the matter back to the council for consideration. Alvarez said that she led the effort on this item as it was affecting her ward. She thanked staff for sending out the notices and the college for participating in the hearing. She then addressed safety and the traffic flow. She cited the fact that the fire department said there would be no problems getting to emergencies. And she mentioned what Hernandez said about continuing to fix the problems. She also said she was the closure as “lending the street” to the college, not abandoning the neighbors.

Alvarez also asked about alternative ways to slow down traffic near the college, as the proposed speed bumps were turned down by the fire department. She also asked Woo if she had a traffic committee. Someone in the audience said they did. She asked them to look at this issue and the totality of the neighborhood, all the way to King St., where a child was killed by a car.

Then Bustamante spoke about the fact that Santa Ana College needs more space. But he acknowledged the fact that the neighborhood needs more access. He thanked the neighbors for coming and said he would support the measure.

Christy then said she was very excited about the project. She said that the Rancho District has the best colleges in the county. (Except when it comes to graduation rates, in the case of Santa Ana College!). She also said she had to go to another college to get a management certificate as they did not have the classes she needed.

Solorio spoke next. He said it is great news when people want to go to college. He talked about the importance of growing the campus. He said there are trade-offs but luckily instead of dealing with a big, bad developer we are dealing with the college. He also mentioned safety and said we ought to look at the street lights and make sure the bulbs work and the area is well lit. He also talked about having the college invite the local neighborhood associations to their events.

Bist spoke next and acknowledged that the closures would probably be a shock to the neighbors. She recommended that the college meet regularly with the neighbors to make sure that they address any future impacts. She also cited other problems, such as construction noise.

Garcia spoke last and said it was unfortunate that so many neighbors are worried about the closures. He asked that we look at more right turn exits and he joked about wanting to turn his street into a cul de sac. He also cited the need to improve lighting on Washington.

Then Pulido spoke. He was sent to the college by his wife to take a dog obedience school. Make of that what you will! And his dog bit the teacher on the last day.

I don’t know what else happened as the video I was watching suddenly stopped and started over! Yet another reason why the city ought to have the videos on their website.

At any rate, it sounded like the motion carried unanimously. I am glad I no longer live in the Artesia Pilar area. It sounds like their traffic is going to be a real mess going forward. If we had ward-specific elections, at least their local council representative would have fought harder for their rights. Instead, the council apparently laid down and let the college have their way. I hope that works out for all involved.

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.