Letter to the Editor

February 2020

Tis the season

Dear Editor:
I love the Sentry, but was disappointed/surprised not to see in the January edition any article (pros/cons) on the Bond Measure L that Rancho Santiago Community College District is placing on the ballot in March. We’ve all received the recent flyers asking for more money from us. Many, like myself, are tired of paying more bond measures and having them added to our property tax bills. According to my current property tax bill, I’m already paying for an RSCCD bond measure! 

When will it stop, when is enough, enough? It will never stop. School districts always want more.

I think it’s funny (but not too funny) they always make it sound like it’s such a small amount of money per person. Any dollar amount is a big deal for a retired person like me, living on an annual small fixed income.

As you’re aware, now all the bond needs to pass is 55 percent approval of local voters. I’m voting “no.” 

I hope and pray the February edition of the Sentry covers Bond Measure L. This is a big deal.

Linda Perry
East Orange

Dear Editor:
This is to commend U.S. Rep. Lou Correa, California’s 46th Congressional District, for becoming the 93rd co-sponsor of H.Con.Res.52 – a resolution declaring “a climate emergency which demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address its consequences and causes.” 

As a military veteran, I do appreciate Correa’s actions on behalf of veterans, but veterans and all other issues do not matter if we do not have a habitable planet. Combating the ever-increasing global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions is our number one enemy, and should be his number one issue.

I also commend the climate activists who are out in front of the Orange City Hall every Friday morning fighting for our lives by urging the City Council to declare a climate emergency and mobilize all available resources, similar to a military operation, to stop greenhouse gas emissions. Second only to a nuclear war, the climate crisis is the greatest threat to our existence.

Without presidential leadership, it is up to our local governments and members of Congress to take action now if we are to have a sustainable planet. We need Correa, as well as Reps. Cisneros, Porter and Rouda, to join Reps. Lowenthal, Levin and Sanchez on the Green New Deal to mobilize this country, as during World War II. We also need the Orange City Council to declare a climate emergency, adopt climate action and mobilization plans, and pursue community choice (clean, renewable) energy.

Michael Fischetti

Dear Editor:
The Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) plays an important role in our local public education system. School districts rely on OCDE for such resources as legal services, technical support and teacher training programs, as well as assistance in developing budgets and Local Control and Accountability Plans. OCDE also provides education programs to the neediest children, including those who are blind, incarcerated or in foster care.

OCDE has an elected superintendent, Dr. Al Mijares, and a board of trustees elected from five districts in Orange County. 

Three of those trustee seats are up for election in the March 3 primary, including the one currently held by Ken Williams, who represents our area. Williams has served on the board since 1996, and it’s high time to replace him. Williams has a radical, regressive personal agenda that he has attempted time and again to foist on county schools. He has wasted OCDE resources in attempts to undermine state education standards and the Healthy Youth Act, which are set in law.

Last year, Williams and two other board members tried to cut $172,442 out of the OCDE annual budget of $257 million, or less than 0.07 percent. He has sued both Dr. Mijares and the state superintendent of schools in an attempt to grab control of OCDE finances so that he and his allies can determine what programs are funded. This has led to more than $1 million in legal expenses, paid by taxpayers, though Williams has said he wants to cut the fat from the budget.

Happily, we have an alternative candidate for the Area 3 seat: Andy Thorburn. Andy is a former classroom teacher, workers’ rights advocate and successful businessman. He believes that any organization gets the best results if it treats people fairly, with dignity, and holds itself to a standard of excellence.

Join me in supporting Andy Thorburn for Orange County Board of Education.

Sharon O’Hara

Dear Editor:
What’s the bird in hand that’s worth two in the bush? It’s Proposition 13, School and College Facilities Bond (March 2020). 

Prop. 13 is a statewide measure on your March 3 ballot that could well bring a billion or more of our own state tax dollars back to Orange County’s schools and colleges to help replace or repair aging facilities. 

For example, Orange Unified School District could receive more than $100 million from the state to add to funds already raised to support our schools. Better still, the money would come in without adding a penny to our property taxes. 

But that money will not find its way back home unless we all step up and vote “yes” on Prop. 13.

It’s important to understand this “Prop. 13” has nothing to do with the property tax measure passed in 1978. This 2020 ballot proposition just happens to have the number 13 by luck of the draw. The two measures are not the least bit alike and are certainly not related. 

Here’s how Prop. 13 (2020) works. 

All Orange County school districts have passed facilities improvement bonds in recent years. OUSD’s Meaure S ($288 million) and Anaheim Elementary’s J ($318 million) were both approved in 2016. Tustin Unified’s Measure N, seeking $215 milllion, will appear on the March ballot. 

When Prop. 13 passes, those districts and others in California will have an opportunity to share $15 billion in state matching grants based on the cost and type of facilities improvements completed. 

So, yes, $100 million. That’s what Orange Unified could be in line for. 

Is that the kind of opportunity we can afford to pass up? 

The needs in Orange, Tustin and Anaheim are not unique. Studies show more than 30 percent of California’s schools are over 50 years old, and 10 percent more are older than 70. No wonder the bill that placed Prop. 13 on the ballot passed with a remarkable 96 percent of our state’s legislators voting “yes.”  No organization in the state opposed the bill, while nearly 100 supported it. 

Here’s how Prop. 13 will allocate the $15 billion: 

--K-12 public schools, $9 billion, ($2.8 billion for new construction; $5.2 billion for modernization) 

--$500 million for Career Technical Education facilities

--$500 million for charter school facilities, and

-- $ 2 billion each to community colleges, California State University and University of California.

As a trustee of the Orange Unified School District, I am grateful to voters who, in 2016, passed Measure S so overwhelmingly. Parents and community members are eager to extend that investment with matching state funds like so many districts have done for years before us.
Our students are bright, hopeful, capable, and precious. Let’s help them carry on California’s legacy as a world leader by providing the best facilities and education we’re capable of and willing to support.
Vote “yes” on Proposition 13 on March 3.

Kathy Moffat
OUSD Trustee 

Dear Editor:
I recently read “2019 in review: Top stories of the year in Costa Mesa,” Daily Pilot, Dec. 25, and “Families Forward opens affordable housing complex in Costa Mesa,” Daily Pilot, Dec. 27, which summarized Costa Mesa’s actions to address homelessness and affordable housing.  These actions illustrate the power of the good leadership provided by Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley, who is now a candidate for State Senate District 37. 

Foley has provided a positive attitude toward establishing a homeless shelter and initiating efforts for affordable housing, both of which are key priorities in her run for senate.

Katrina Foley’s priority as Costa Mesa’s first directly-elected mayor was to change the city’s approach to resolving homelessness. Her “must do” attitude resulted in helping the homeless with shelter and many medical services, job training, and connections to permanent housing.

Shelter discussions started when Costa Mesa attempted to enforce its public safety anti-encampment ordinance, and was sued. The court required the city to provide 62 shelter beds, 50 more than the approved 12 crisis stabilization beds at College Hospital for mental health and medical treatment.

The previous council majority spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting the lawsuit. However, under Foley’s leadership, the city immediately settled the case and created solutions. 

The city’s short-term plan required contracting with a site, making significant upgrades to the premises, and securing operational help from city outreach and Mercy House staff. On April 5, 2019, the 50-bed temporary bridge shelter at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene on Anaheim Avenue opened. 

The shelter has been successful. In 2019, shelter was provided to 159 people, and housing was found for 40. The point-in-time count was 187 (193 - 6 sheltered). 

The current long-term plan involves a permanent shelter in the city’s northeast portion near John Wayne Airport.

Foley has also supported the opening of Family Forward’s eight-unit affordable housing complex in Costa Mesa. This endeavor involved a partnership of five different organizations, and obtaining donations for approximately 80 percent of the renovation materials.

It is clear to me that Mayor Katrina Foley is the best candidate for Senate District 37, and her efforts on homelessness and affordable housing should be continued at the state level.

Florice Hoffman

Charter challenge

Dear Editor:
I am a resident of Orange and a reader of the Sentry.  I am a graduate of OUSD schools and a proud taxpayer.

A recent article about the new Orange County Classical Academy (OCCA), in my opinion, fell short of any reasonable standards of journalistic integrity. The article’s headline “OUSD board approves charter school despite inherent flaws and negative public opinion” would be laughably biased even if no article accompanied it.  

Of particular concern was the characterization of the night’s public speakers: “Few of the 60 public speakers addressed OCCA’s merits specifically, using their three minutes at the microphone to praise charter schools in general.”  As someone who attended that meeting and spoke in favor of the school, I used my three minutes to discuss my experiences as an OUSD student and the ways that I think that OCCA would have been able to foster a love for classical learning had it existed when I was a student. Many of my fellow speakers used their time to share similar views, and many were residents of Orange. The Sentry did not capture this spirit.  The article’s characterization of the charter’s advocates as opportunistic out-of-towners was simply untrue.

Now that its one-sided account of the story has been relayed to its readership, however, I hope that the Sentry will continue its reporting of this school by going straight to the source, instead of activists and union members. OCCA is set to become a part of this community. 

Brian Brooks

Ed note:  The Sentry received a dozen letters written at the behest of a post by OCCA. Most came from out of the area, including one from Austin, Texas. Brooks was the only local writer, and the only one who actually attended the meeting in question; hence, we are happy to publish his views. The Sentry attended the meeting, observed the proceedings and reported what transpired. Brooks  was one of two identified OUSD residents who spoke in favor of the charter.

Dear Editor:
As a concerned, active member of the Anaheim Hills community and a former OUSD parent, I make it a point to periodically attend school board meetings whenever I get the chance. I was in attendance at the Dec. 14 public meeting for a few hours, and was later disappointed to learn that the OUSD Board ultimately accepted the petition from OC Classical Academy (OCCA).

Perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked that the OUSD board majority rejected its own staff recommendation, its very own parents’ objections, its own teachers’ arguments and even their own students’ pleas in favor of ideologues, politicians and outsiders. John Ortega’s and Brenda Lebsack’s campaigns were primarily funded by the very same outsiders and ideologues. The fact that they would approve this charter school -- when it was so incredibly flawed -- demonstrates they aren’t working for the good of OUSD, but rather for their own contributors. 

Dhonni Perfetti
Anaheim Hills

Dear Editor:
I attended the OUSD board meeting Dec.19, as I often do. I am a parent of two young students, and what goes on in the district is important to me. I was astonished by what I experienced, and think it is important to convey to my fellow community members. 

I came straight from work, arriving early at 5:45 p.m. There were four “officials” wearing Orange County Classical Academy (OCCA) shirts huddled around boxes of pizza just outside the boardroom door. Inside the boardroom, every single empty seat had an OCCA sign placed on it. This left no seating for OUSD students, parents or community members, even if they arrived as early as I did. They were effectively denied seating by the OCCA organizers. 

OUSD administrators confirmed to me that seating was open to the public and could not be “reserved” by anyone. However, the OCCA representatives did not agree and left the hall to consult around their pizza boxes. While they were gone, I began to seat a dozen or so high school students and their parents. In response, I was verbally accosted by two men in OCCA polo shirts. They stated that they have been to numerous board meetings across the region, knew the rules, and would reserve the seats as they pleased. 

I spoke with OCCA officials and their guests and learned they were mostly from throughout the Southern California area, Arizona and even Texas. One supporter advised me that he was associated with a Political Action Committee that is frequently mobilized for school board meetings like this one. He emphasized that supporters will drive across the state to organize against local school board resistance to proposed charter schools. None of the OCCA supporters I spoke to actually lived in OUSD, had students attending OUSD, or were even familiar with OUSD schools. 

Despite a scathing staff recommendation to deny the charter petition, it was disappointing to see four members of the board support it. They did so with no thought to try to negotiate to get a better outcome for our students and district. Based on what I saw, it sure seemed like OUSD teachers, parents, students and staff were metaphorically told they had no seat at the table, while OCCA literally gave us no seat at all. 

Tiger Cosmos
Garden Grove (OUSD)

Clear the area

Dear Editor:
In response to a letter in the January issue about the climate change protest (“Getting Warmer”), noting the 50-year-old Villa Park dumpsite in East Orange and The Trails at Santiago Creek project, I may point out to you and your readers that neither have any impact on the environment.

Recent readings at the Villa Park dumpsite over the last five years have been near zero, and The Trails at Santiago Creek will replace a gravel pit and the heavy machinery required to run it -- which generate diesel fumes and dust -- with 70 acres of greenery and open space that produce oxygen from carbon dioxide. 

Further, a much bigger contributor to greenhouse gases are emissions from livestock production systems (including intrinsic fermentation and animal waste) and biomass burning (including open fires, charcoal combustion, and firewood burning), of which Orange Park Acres is the largest contributor in this area. There is far more methane coming out of the stalls in OPA than there is from any other source in East Orange.

You are concerned about the environment. Why not start there?

Mark Moore
The Reserve

Pleased and thank you

Dear Editor:
I want to thank all of the members of the Orange Park Association who elected me to the Association’s Board of Directors on Jan. 18.

OPA is a community undergoing change, as never before. Poorly-conceived real estate developments, unrestricted group home growth and an increasingly dangerous fire season are serious challenges that need immediate and direct attention.  Dare I mention a city council, with three council people who live nearby, that just doesn’t get the uniqueness of our community. There are more challenges, and I will make every effort to hear your voices.

You and I want a better Orange Park Association: one that is more inclusive and represents all members of OPA. The OPA Board must become more responsive to the pressures on the community. It must listen better to its members and non-members. This new board must have the desire and capacity to take on these matters. You and I want a better Orange Park Acres, and need a more powerful Association to get it.

I can’t do it alone. With your opinions, advice and skills the Association can make the changes that are needed.

Thank you for allowing us to serve you.

Peter Jacklin
Orange Park Acres

Play safe

Dear Editor:
I live in a home where the driveway is short, a bit of a hill, rather steep, and I find my driveway to be a beacon for young people and children (skateboarders, bike riders practicing tricks) and most disconcerting of all, adults letting their young children play there. I’ve actually had to put a sign on our garage door: “Danger, this is a driveway ” to little, or no, avail. We have a camera so I see that this is true, even with the sign.

Does it seem that I am being petty? I believe people think I am, and some actually roll their eyes after reading the sign. They must not know that kids are hurt badly, or killed, every year due to driveway rollover accidents involving children and vehicles. Don’t parents teach their kids to avoid playing in driveways? Driveways are not playgrounds and are meant to pass as carefully as one would cross a street. 

Please teach your kids to respect driveways. I personally know of people that have lost a child, or experienced the horror of hurting another’s child, because they didn’t know that the child was playing in the driveway. Please, please, take this message to heart and know the dangers of thinking “this can never happen to me or my child” since it can happen in your own driveway too.

Mary Keough

Condo controversy

Dear Editor:
Like many of my Anaheim Hills neighbors, I’m disappointed that the Anaheim City Council overruled the voice of the residents surrounding the Serrano Center by approving the development of 54 condominiums to replace a thriving commercial center. 

I’ve been public and outspoken in my opposition to this project – chiefly because of the potential loss of a vibrant commercial center beloved by the community. Because of my vocal and public opposition to the project – both during the election campaign and in front of the Planning Commission -- California law required me to recuse myself at the council discussion. 

Even if I had been allowed to cast a “no” vote, the project would still have passed with the four “yes” votes from my colleagues. This is an unintended consequence of district elections. Residents opposing a local project are finding it hard to get the support of a majority of council members because most of the council are not directly accountable to them.

Going forward, we’ll be researching options to change the trajectory of this project, and I hope to share some positive news soon.

State law does not require us to rezone our commercial space into residential to meet this need, as was done for the Serrano project.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at toneil@anaheim.net.

Trevor O’Neil
Anaheim City Council, District 6