Tustin city council chambers were packed last night as Mayor Jerry Amante was served with a recall notice. A grassroots political organization presented Amante with a petition of 30 signatures – three times the required amount — for notice of recall. None of the signatures are from former elected or appointed official in Tustin.
Amante, anticipating the notice of recall, also was able to pack the public comments with supporters but many of those who spoke are current appointed officials or former elected/appointed officials who are aligned with the Mayor.
From the story in the Register: “Thirty people signed the notice of intention, though the form left spaces for 25 signatures.
“If there’s anything to take away from this, it’s that there is a significant portion of people unhappy with the way things are being run,” said Albert Hernandez, who signed the notice of intention form.
Not counting the two councilmen, 10 people spoke in support of Amante during public comments and one letter supporting Amante was read by Nielsen. Three people, including Horvath, spoke in support of the recall effort.
“I have not always agreed with you on every decision, nor would I expect that I would,” said Donna Marsh Peery, a former council candidate and community services commissioner. “I have found you to be a strong, fair and dedicated leader to the entire city of Tustin, not just special interest groups.”
She addressed the firing of Biggs in March.
“We don’t have a right as citizens to know what that issue was about,” she said. “Did it cost the citizens of Tustin money? Absolutely, that’s no secret. That’s a fact. I don’t think we can measure the money we saved, though.”
The Register reported that the recall election would cost Tustin between $130,500 to $145,500, which we will point out is still less money than the severance package paid to outgoing city manager David Biggs. The city can likely recoup the investment in the recall election by reigning in out of control legal costs that have nearly tripled since Amante became mayor.
Now getting the 7,000 plus signatures required is a big undertaking and Amante is already marshalling his forces. But to us, the damage is done. Amante has a political organization and money machine ready to go against grassroots residents who will take time away from their jobs, families and social lives to save the community. But make no mistake. Amante is concerned with what’s in Amante’s best interest and the grassroots team is looking out for the community. There is considerable community anger towards Amante that parallels the anger voters felt towards Gray Davis when the governor was recalled in 2003; that recall started with a small grassroots organization and the governor’s response, like Amante’s, was “this is a partisan effort” — looking at the party registrations of those who signed features both Democrats and Republicans.
Amante is a lawyer and political lobbyist with a business address based in Irvine.
I’d also like to save the Internet trolls a little time. Tustin Council member Deborah Gavello has nothing to do with the recall effort. She isn’t part of the group that talks to us but in casual conversations with just about everyone who asks me about these stories, her name comes up. Sorry to disappoint but she’s not part of the equation and the organizers will tell you the same thing.
Updated with corrected info: A talking point that Amante referenced on KOCE needs a rebuttal because it’s being repeated in comments on posts. Amante said the council voted to terminate Biggs. The original vote was 3-2. The council’s 5-0 vote to oust Biggs was more a vote for paying the severance package and to agree on releasing a joint statement. Amante has used this vote out of context to lend heft to his claim the relationship between the city manager and the council was not good. The fact was Jerry and his Republican majority had already decided Biggs had to go.
Now the chamber was packed last night because the city honored football players from Beckman High School (many of which reside in Irvine) for their terrific playoff run last season (and we’re waiting until April to honor a team that wrapped up its season in December?). Amante boasted that Tustin Unified produces more players that make to the NFL than any other school district. And to be fair, four players from Tustin were on NFL rosters last season but Tustin didn’t make the top five and was second in the state of California with Los Alamitos (so they aren’t even tops in the county). Woodland Hills High School from Pittsburgh, PA has the most with six and Concord De La Salle was in a three way tie for second has the most in California with five. Such an easy stat to find and yet so dishonest in its delivery.
I will agree with Amante that the players and coaches at Beckman are exceptional and they deserve every honor they can.
My email box has been jammed with emails from Tustin residents asking at first where they could sign the petition and how they can help. Please send email to email@example.com and let them know who you are and what you can do.
(photo of Amante being handed the recall petition is courtesy of the OC Register)