The Tustin Unified School District and the City of Tustin are engaged in two lawsuits at the moment with the only winners sure to be the law firms fighting it out in court. We’re pleased to report that Tustin Unified has emerged victorious in one of the lawsuits (details to follow), not that there’s been a word of this outside of the City’s Public Information Office nor in the pages on the OC Register in more than a week since the ruling was issued.
But credit here where credit is due. Peace officer and comunity blogger Jeff Gallagher broke this story on his Our Town Tustin blog which details squandered tax dollars on a flimsy legal argument by the city that seems to have bigoted undertones against minority students and families. The long and short of this is the city cannot tell a school district where to send students to school, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
From Gallagher’s post:
After multiple calls and emails to the city, the district and a few of my reliable contacts, I finally procured a copy of the Proposed Ruling, filed with the court on June 27th. A Proposed Ruling is tantamount to a judgment and, in the case of this one, a judgment has been ordered to be written.
To bring you up to speed, we wrote earlier that the city has spent $810,000 on the two lawsuits that were pending between the city and school district. The original lawsuit that TUSD was forced to file to protect themselves from the city’s (read Jerry Amante’s) push to stop construction at various school sites, involved grading permits and whether the school district is required to obtain permits from the city before beginning construction. The City maintains they are responsible for storm water runoff, among other things, and could be fined if the School District did not properly grade the sites before beginning construction. The District maintains they answer only to the state and, while they have previously cleared plans with the city, it was as a courtesy, not as a legal requirement. That lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in Orange County Superior Court later this month.
The second lawsuit was filed in August of last year by the city of Tustin against TUSD in retaliation for temporarily closing Hillview and Sycamore Schools and moving their students, along with some administrative staff from the District Headquarters, to the new Heritage School on the old Tustin Marine Air Base property. There were outcries of foul play by the city, who, in meetings with Cedar Grove residents, said the District reneged on their promise to open Heritage Elementary School for its intended use. They claimed there was no traffic study or environmental review before the change was made. Nearly every argument the City made was based on California Environmental Quality Act issues. The claimed issues included higher traffic in the area and degradation of air quality, noise, hydrology and a slew of other items. In fact, it seemed the city’s attorneys threw in everything except the kitchen sink.
From the Proposed Ruling:
The City further argues the alleged activities will have significant adverse impacts on the environment including traffic, air quality, noise, hydrology, water quality, hazardous waste, and incompatibility with the adopted land use plans. The City argues that despite the impacts, the Discrict failed to perform any CEQA review. The City Alleges that the activities are not exempt, and even if the District argues that they were exempt, there are applicable exceptions.
OK, how did the city decide the proposed land use was different from the intended land use? Weren’t both uses as schools? And, it should be noted that TUSD fully complied with all CEQA and EIR requirements prior to building Heritage. In fact, the original reports would have indicated much higher traffic in the area than would have been seen with the school being used temporarily to house other students as the school capacity is over 600 (yeah, kids don’t drive, but their parents do).
The darker side of the city’s argument seems based in racism and bigotry. It reminds me of the forced busing issue in Boston the 1970s but with a more Latino hint to it. From Gallagher’s post again:
Elementary school age children who live in the vicinity of the school, including children living in the transitional housing provided at The Village of Hope and the Tustin Family Campus, to date, have been forced to attend overcrowded elementary school in other neighborhoods further away from their homes. But for the Project, those students would be able to attend class at the neighborhood elementary school planned, paid for, and built for their use. These overcrowded elementary schools include W.R. Nelson Elementary, Jeane Thorman Elementary, and Benjamin Beswick Elemenatary. ****These schools serve predominately minority populations. ****
Yes, you heard that right. The City said, “We don’t want our kids mingling with the minority riff-raff in those substandard, overcrowded schools. And, while it may not be a far stretch for Amante and his black ops guy, Mayor Nielsen to say something like that (they are Republicans, after all), it is amazing that Al Murray and Beckie Gomez would simply stand by and let this become part of the public record and a significant reason why the City opposed the transfer of students to Hillview. So, now you know just how much Tustin loves their schools.
When Tustin School Board member Lynn Davis was contacted about this he said, “This is completely outrageous and immoral. How could anyone calling themselves a ‘public servant’ of any kind allow such a thing to stand for one day? In stating in effect that schools ‘serving predominantly minority populations’ are not worth attending, they are in fact denigrating nearly every school within the City of Tustin.” We agree. Where was the thinking during closed session where these documents had to have been checked by the councilmembers? Were they too busy looking at their iPads to notice the biased wording of these documents?
It’s a shame that Tustin Council members Al Murray and Beckie Gomez — both minorities — would allow this language from the city to move forward without coming forward an objecting to the sheer racial insensitivity of it all.
As Gallagher has previosuly noted, Tustin’s legal bills are Waaaayyyy Oveerrrrr Budget due to the city council’s folly. This ruling was filed more than a week ago. No announcement from the City, nor an announcement from the school district. No story in the Register than seems to be carrying Boss Tweed’s water when it comes to a council member absenteeism ordinance. So thank goodness for bloggers like Jeff Gallagher whom more and more Tustin residents are turning to with the dirty little secrets from their town.