July 2018

Civics 101

Dear Editor:
I am writing regarding the OUSD school board hiring a law firm to find out where the voter registration forms from two high school registration drives ended up. I understand that certain board members feared that the organization enlisted to help with the registrations did not return the forms to the Registrar of Voters, but kept them to use for its own benefit.  

Does the board understand that, in a democracy, any citizen (even candidates) can volunteer to register voters, and is required to sign every form acknowledging that he/she collected the information and is submitting it to the registrar within 72 hours, or it is not valid?  The penalties for not doing so are severe.  

Certain board members were convinced something “unethical” happened to those registrations, and instead of trusting their fellow board members’ word that it was nonpartisan and done correctly, they are spending taxpayer money to have a law firm confirm the receipt to the registrar.  

I have worked with school districts for the last 20 years. This tells me that the “distrusting” members can’t work out issues with their fellow board members, and need to use taxpayer money to solve disagreements. 

I believe we need to vote out those members who can’t work well with others, because I want OUSD to be a successful school district.  I would ask the “distrusting” board members to be an example to our children, not fight like you are the children.  I will be sure to tell all my neighbors and friends about this wasteful spending and infighting.

Thank you, Foothills Sentry, for reporting this story.  In today’s climate, local news is so important and underappreciated. I can’t control much on a state or national level other than with my vote, but I can make a difference regarding wrong things happening in my backyard.

Lee Ann Sheridan

Dear Editor:
It is a great feeling to do something good for our kids in the community. As a long-time OUSD volunteer, I have worked on many projects, but one of the most rewarding was the voter registration drives at Richland and El Modena High Schools. 

Getting students civically engaged by registering them to vote is something the state and the school district have strongly encouraged, and I was proud to participate. The drives were professional, completely nonpartisan and successful. In a couple of hours over a few days, several volunteers registered over 200 students. We were trained to see that the forms were filled out completely, signed and dated.

At no time were students told what party to register for, or how to vote in upcoming elections. Our tables were set up over the noon hour in the quads. Students filled out and signed the forms, were given a receipt, and their signed forms were turned over to the OC Registrar of Voters. 

I was completely taken aback when I heard board members Tim Surridge, Rick Ledesma, and John Ortega sought a taxpayer-funded investigation into the drives. The volunteers were readily known by everyone on the board, and could easily be called and questioned by district staff at no cost. These are the same volunteers who, as part of CARE, were directed by Surridge, Ledesma, and Ortega to register students to vote during the school bond campaigns. These volunteers are parents, and former parents, who are active in PTSA, PFSO, have served as presidents of PTA, Santiago Charter Board, CARE, OCC, and have spent countless hours on campuses doing good things for our students. 

These are volunteers who act in the interest of others, not out of self-interest. I guess that is something that the men on the board just do not relate to. It is unfortunate that they perceive a threat to their power, and are taking it out on the taxpayers of OUSD. 

Dhonni Perfetti
Anaheim Hills

Peal Out

Dear Editor:
I read with interest your story regarding the VPE bell.  It is important to note the accurate story about the bell. The only reason the bell was available for restoration was due to the efforts of the Villa Park Elementary School Restoration Corporation. The members battled OUSD for years to save the original buildings and the bell.  Despite the historical significance of the buildings, OUSD would have gladly disposed of the bell. The members of the VPESRC had the buildings added to the National Register of Historical Places, which saved the buildings and the bell for 14 years. 

Steve Palmer
VPE School Restoration Corp.

Plans have purpose

Dear Editor:
I appreciate the Sentry’s good work at keeping the community updated regarding the Sully-Miller site.

I am gratified to see the community’s overwhelming opposition to Milan’s 129-unit housing tract. We do not support the developer’s need to exceed the bounds of the zoning and the general, specific and historical plans for Orange Park Acres.  Accommodating the developer’s proposal would fracture the very shield that compelled the unanimous victory in the State Supreme Court in the Ridgeline case. 

Giving way to this bad project would unleash consequences that could never be undone. It would open the floodgates for future development here that would betray all the hard work and foresight of those who laid the groundwork for this community, and those who have worked to stave off interlopers.  

There is nothing logical or wise about undoing any plans simply to accommodate Milan Capital. The most obvious detriment is more traffic congestion, which during rush hours is oppressive. But even worse, we would be feeding a hand that bit us once, and is trying to do so again by tempting us into shooting ourselves in the foot with the one silver bullet we have to keep all developers in check. 

Milan must work within the parameters of our plans, not the other way around. As the liaison committee stated, “The developer has no existing right to develop Sully-Miller in the intensive manner that is being proposed. Under no circumstances should the transferred rights exceed the existing entitlement for that site.” Those parameters seem exceedingly fair. The OPA board, aligned with the city, must always stand firm against any attempts to do away with the OPA Plan. 

Sharon Mulé

An inconvenient trade

Dear Editor:
For years, the preservation of the historic Killefer School building has been the objective of persons not living in the Cypress barrio. Efforts to save the building threaten to disrupt the harmony and destroy the integrity of the barrio. 

One needs to walk the Cypress vicinity to appreciate its Mexican history. Within the unofficial boundaries of the barrio are hundreds of structures nationally registered as historic. 

As elected and appointed officials, we must keep in mind that the public chair we occupy is not ours: we sit in it on behalf of the community. Our responsibility is to pass or deny projects in accordance with community standards -- not what the government, or civic leaders, or even what the developer wants.  If the cost to preserve one historic building causes a significant negative impact on an entire historic neighborhood, the neighborhood should come first.  

OUSD decided the Killefer School was not worth saving, placed the property for sale, and left its fate to the city and the private sector.  

Now we have a purportedly multi-family residential (dormitory?), facility that is too over-powering for the site -- three stories among early 20th century one-story wooden structures.  If this project is approved, it will set a precedent for dormitories, disguised as multi-family apartments, to be built elsewhere in the city. 

The plan to save Killefer is built on deceit. The developer stated that the building is in desperate need of repairs, and action must be taken before something catastrophic destroys it. The last time the building sustained interior damage was approximately four years ago, and it has been securely boarded up since then. It has survived four major earthquakes without any structural damage, no crazes or fractures. Its imminent demise is simply a ruse by the developer, at the cost of the community.

The so-called “multi-family housing” is actually a dormitory, which will house up to 120 students, minimum.  The developer does not call the living quarters “apartments,” but “units.”  Why? Because within each unit there are two large separate sleeping quarters (12 x 28 feet), with no closets, each with its own self-contained bathroom with three basins. Each unit has a small kitchen and a small entry.  They are not apartments for families.

At the February city council meeting, Mayor Tita Smith noted her desire to preserve the Cypress barrio as an historic district adjacent to Old Towne. If that were to happen, Orange would have one of the largest historic districts in the U.S. 

The preservation of all historic districts is important for our city.  While preserving the Killefer Schoolhouse is certainly worthwhile, turning it over to a developer who will undermine the character of its neighborhood is short-sighted.

Daniel Correa
Orange Planning Commission

Back atcha

Dear Editor:
Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s most recent letter on the Sheldon project continues to provide a biased view of the facts. He concluded by saying, “But at every point I fought to ensure that the safety and integrity of the North Tustin community is upheld, and with the concurrence and vote of the FCA.”

Well … not exactly. When Steve Sheldon proposed his project, the Foothill Communities Association (FCA) reviewed the proposal, and the FCA Board voted unanimously to oppose it, immediately chartering a “No Rezoning” campaign to provide full-throated opposition to the development (because of its required zoning change).

Opposition to the zoning change, and the resulting higher-density development, was strong in North Tustin, with over 2,500 homeowners registering their disapproval.

Nonetheless, Spitzer both led and drove the charge with the Board of Supervisors to rezone the property, benefitting his friend and donor, Steve Sheldon, and the sellers. It was only at the insistence of other supervisors that critical fire safety modifications were made to the original plan. Residents believe that, far from being preserved, “the integrity of the North Tustin community” was violated in a major way.

Once the zoning change had been accomplished, Spitzer did play a constructive role in the subsequent negotiations between Sheldon and FCA, and a lengthy legal action was forestalled. However, as stated before, how much praise and gratitude should a man expect for helping to remediate a problem he caused?  

 Jane Rice
North Tustin

No dogs allowed 

Dear Editor:
The Health Department forbids animals in grocery stores.  Yet, Ralph’s continues to allow dogs to sit in carts, walk unleashed, and, in general, annoy customers. 

Complaints on this matter have been ignored.  Recently, a Great Dane was walking, unleashed, in the Villa Park store, scaring children. Small dogs are seen sitting in the baby seats of carts –- detrimental to babies who will subsequently be placed there.  Leashed dogs in line are a hazard –- nipping at the heels of customers. It is unsanitary, unhealthful and wrong. It must be stopped.     No dogs in grocery stores.  It is an infringement on customers, and a health risk to all.

John Koner (and 27 others)
Villa Park

Oversight is might

Dear Editor:
Readers are now familiar with the Golden State Killer ex-cop Joseph James D’Angelo. The current OC district attorney is making a lot of fanfare about his prosecution, but the Golden State Killer is an example of what can go wrong when a city or county has no civilian police oversight. 

Orange County has no civilian oversight of its sheriff’s department, its DA, or its court system. When someone reports malfeasance by a sheriff’s deputy, for example, it goes to the sheriff’s department itself, which is clearly a conflict of interest. No one can reasonably expect OCSD internal affairs to honestly investigate criminal malfeasance committed by its own union deputies.  

The previous Office of Independent Review had a conflict of interest with the DA’s office, and it was shut down. Todd Spitzer recently claimed we have a new Office of Independent Review, but on further investigation, I found there is none. There is no civilian oversight of Orange County’s corrupt criminal justice system. It’s a known fact in Washington, D.C. that Orange County is known for the most corrupt criminal justice system in the U.S. All our elected officials are ignoring it.

It is high time for concerned citizens to speak up and demand the immediate operation of an unbiased and honest Office of Independent Review to investigate and prosecute crimes and malfeasance now being concealed by the sheriff’s department, the DA and the whole OC Board of Supervisors, including Todd Spitzer. Wake up, people, and protect our community from this scourge.

Kelley Wise
Villa Park

Dear Editor:
The lingering problem with the OC Animal Shelter is the lack of oversight.

We have heard positive feedback concerning shelter operations since Cymantha Atkinson took the helm, and appreciate the lifesaving and progressive changes.  However, one issue remains: there is no independent oversight. 

At the groundbreaking, CEO Frank Kim promised me that he would look into the formation of an animal welfare committee.  I have not heard from him.

The monthly meetings of the City Managers Association Animal Care Committee continue to be clandestine. 

Supervisor Todd Spitzer promised transparency during his address at the ribbon cutting, yet the county has continued to keep the public at a distance.

I submitted a public records request in December 2017, and have yet to receive the documents. Instead, the county responded with what it refers to as a “rolling basis” in order to avoid litigation.

This is a fraction of the time and effort put in by myself and other animal advocates to secure oversight. But to this day, it does not exist. Neither does the trust.

Rose Tingle
Citizens for Animal Shelter, OC