KOCE’s David Nazar did a fantastic story on the legal battle between the City of Tustin and TUSD; the story first aired on July 4 but was rebroadcast later. In the story, Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante minced no words in his ire of the Tustin school board and the TUSD administrators.
“I think they are malfeasant, I think they are incapable, I think they are myopic, they look out for schools they care about and ignore the ones they don’t,” a defiant Amante told Nazar.
Nazar’s banter with host Rick Reiff made it clear that Amante’s dislike the the TUSD board and administration is ver personal in nature. We suspect the feeling is mutual.
For background, the lawsuit is all about control. The voters of Tustin twice approved bond measures that allow TUSD the ability and funds needed to make improvements to the schools. This includes a new science center at Tustin High School (THS) and the construction of the new Heritage School in land TUSD owns in the former Tustin Marine Corps Air Station.
The school district has secured all of the state approvals, environmental permits and financing needed to begin its school improvement projects immediately, but the City (read into this Amante) wants its cut ($$$). Amante and this cronies on the council insist that the school district comply with an additional layer of municipal red tape and bureaucratic regulations from the city that likely shouldn’t apply to schools because they are regulated by the state.
TUSD Board President Francine Scinto said in a statement, “We have completed every regulatory step necessary to begin construction on our new school as well as our school modernization plan at THS. I am puzzled by the City’s desire to add unneeded bureaucratic red tape to the process. It is unfortunate that it has come to this.
“By passing not one, but two school bond measures, the voters of Tustin have clearly spoken,” Scinto continued. “Our residents want and deserve to have state-of-the-art schools that will help Tustin schoolchildren continue to achieve scholastic excellence.”
Scinto’s point is made by TUSD school construction for similar science buildings at Foothill High and Beckman High — two high schools within TUSD but outside the city’s borders. The construction of these projects was carried out in the same fashion as the improvements at THS in the unincorporated Orange County area and in the City of Irvine in cooperation with those municipalities. None of the red tape and bureaucratic demands being made by the City of Tustin affected the construction of these schools which lends credibility to the notion, the lawsuit is all about control..but by control in Tustin, it means Amante *must* call the shots.
Go here and download the video for the July 7th show. Nazar’s story starts at the 6:30 mark. Amante can barely contain his contempt for the School Board.
“They are not competent, they are not a good school board, they don’t do a good job. That’s why I perceive the school district as I do,” said Amante. “This lawsuit is a colossal fiscal calamity. It’s a train wreck for the taxpayer.”
We can argue the nearly tripling of Tustin’s legal fees and the firing of a recently hired city manager now home collecting $187,500 in severance after a few months on the job are also train wrecks for the taxpayer; ones Amante is responsible for. As far as the lawsuit goes, we’re told the legal fees already spent by the city have well exceeded the largest fines ever issued for the environmental impact laws Amante cites.
The RecallAmante team has collected over 1,000 signatures prior to July 4th; we don’t have an update from the group but one of the organizers has told us that people are signing the petition for reasons not stated on the petition itself. Many of these signatures are from residents who had street parking stripped away due to Amante’s efforts. The RecallAmante group continues to need volunteers who will walk districts and those who can contribute some cash.
But if this lawsuit is, as Amante says, a fiscal train wreck for the taxpayer, the fastest and best way to halt the lawsuit is to recall Toll Road Jerry and elect in his place someone interested in working with the school district.