Monday, February 28, 2011

February board meeting: "Corporate welfare!" fumes Fuentes

     (Check out Tere's highlights.)
     6:04 - Well, the meeting is supposed to start at 6:00, but there's no sign of any trustees here in the Ronald Reagan Board of Trustees Meeting Room here in beautiful Saddleback College. No doubt they're busy dealing with important business in their closed session. Back in a minute, I hope.
     6:18 - Just spotted the two rat-faced Jones Day lawyers leaving the building. They're the district's attorneys in "Westphal v. Wagner" (the prayer  case). Could it be that an announcement concerning the case is about to be made?
     Sorry, been jawin' with various varmints scattered about the room.

     (While we're waiting, lemme remind you about Westphal v. Wagner. When we last saw our heroes, they were goin' through complex litigation with various motions and such. The judge (we plaintiffs weren't very happy with him) did make a ruling. He judged that (1) Wagner's infamous 2007 Scholarship Award Ceremony "prayer"/rant crossed the line and was unconstitutional. (2) Mathur's stupid "Jesus/patriotism" video also crossed the line and was unconstitutional. (3) But, given the board's purpose, their "generic" prayers at commencement, etc., are constitutionally permissible (i.e., they don't constitute government action to "establish" religion).
     (You've got to understand that this kind of litigation doesn't comprise one simple cycle. Even a single cycle isn't really one cycle. You've got lawyers appealing some of a ruling while hangin' tight to another part, etc. In this case, there's the very real prospect of plaintiffs' appealing over that third element--and its likely they'll prevail. And then there's even the possibility of the board taking that ruling (i.e., if they lose) to the Supremes. That would take years. And big money.
     (Two or three weeks ago, despite simultaneously pressing for a settlement conference, the district announced (re the judge's ruling) that the district had "won." That was spin. Why push a settlement conference if you've "won"?
     (Back on the 17th, the settlement conference occurred. That's all I'll say for now.)

     HIDE NOR HAIR. OK, it's 6:33, and still I've seen neither hide nor hair of trustees. Brandye D is conversing with that guy "Dante" (I think he used to be one of the Belmonts), who came to the last meeting with some seriously wacky-sounding proposed financial whizzbangery in which the district sells itself ATEP, and then goes to dinner with itself. Or something. (I'll dig up my notes.) The guy's smooth, man. When he saw Brandye, he complimented her on her outfit. Good grief. Now, he's saying "anyhoo" and talkin' opera. I may have to move.
     6:41 - The room is buzzing with conversations. Quite a few suits here tonight--Dante (rather rumpled), and various other guys (yes guys). Lawyers? Financial gurus? Men in Black? Who knows.
     Somebody--no, I ain't sayin' who--came up to me and whispered his/her appreciation of my recent Don Wagner graphic--you know, the one with Don's nasty finger wavin' at some liberal. I turned that digit of his into an obscenely lengthy instrument, a probe. If Don saw it, he's pissed. But's he's eminently pokeworthy.
     6:47 - The trustees are out! One of 'em, anyway. Todd B is yuckin' it up; TJ Prendergast is walkin' around; Fuentes has appeared--looks pretty bad, I'm afraid. Bugay is smilin'. Meldau. Now The Nance. Things could start hoppin' pretty soon.
     6:52 - Two trustees still absent: Bill Jay and Marcia Milchiker. Don't know what it means. Sure hope those two were at the closed session. Aha! Jay just arrived. But where's Marcia?
     6:53 - they're all settled in up there--but no Marcia. It's getting quiet. A tomb. Sheesh.

     6:54 - RECONVENING -- Milchiker absent tonight. That's not good.

     Announcement of ACTIONS taken in closed session by VP Prendergast: nothing of consequence announced! (Nothing about Westphal v. Wagner!)
     Fuentes does the invocation: "almighty and eternal God," he says. He lays it on really thick. Mentions Ronald Reagan. "We remember him, Amen." That's what he said. Really.
     Former Saddleback College Prez Rich McCullough comes up for public remarks. Thanks various persons for a construction item (science building) tonight.

Board reports:
Jay: no report
Meldau: no report
Prendergast: attended "Astounding Inventions" event. President's Cup at IVC.
Padberg: attended "Astounding Inventions." Also President's Cup.
Fuentes: yammers about OC legislative task force. Blah blah blah. Fuentes invites one and all... to be looking for "cost cutting." Cost cutting ideas come from citizens, too. (He speaks to people in TV land.) Any ideas? "Call me, send me an email."
Lang: congratulates Saddleback's team. Mentions that Jim Gaston's been "seriously ill," but recently released from hospital.
Chancellor's report: Working with College Presidents on accreditation. A couple of upcoming issues of concern: 20/20 vision report for student success. Increase completions.

Lease/Leaseback: avoiding the "lowest responsible bid" millstone:

Discussion item (4.1) Project planning: construction delivery methods; lease/leaseback.
Bugay. Refers to Dante, I think. Brandye is up at the podium. Bugay praises, then introduces, her.
Some guy (Andreas?) comes up to explain Dante's odd whizzbangery. (It's no good; I ain't gettin' it.) He explains that this deal has been made at other colleges. Some kind of advantage over other ways of going about construction. It's flexibility, man. I like this guy's tie.
Poertner: bottom line, we are normally forced to go with the low bid, but that can really be problematic. Often the work done is unacceptable. This proposed process allows us to select contractors in advance, avoid others.  Naturally, we would want competition between contractors. Brandye says: would be a very competitive process.
Lang: asks a question about whether this approach circumvents the law. Andreas seems to have lots to say about that. This lease/leaseback thing is now "tried and true." For 15 years now, we've seen hundreds of projects--without the "lowest responsible bid scenario."
Lang: why haven't more districts taken this approach? Have there been problems? Andreas explains that there've been no problems at colleges, though some issues at K-12. Also, the Chancellor's office says its "appropriate," it's not an issue.
Any companies going bankrupt? Andreas: I haven't seen that.
Meldau: so this would speed up the process? Not necessarily, etc.

4.2: New Market tax credit program....

Fuentes: re "new markets" program. I've cautioned my colleagues about this, he says. This program needs "daylight." It continues to move forward, yet we've not had adequate open discussion with participation with the community. No dialogue in the public eye. There's been many articles about this program, some demonstrating scandalous problems across the country. [Fuentes seems to have difficulty continuing. He seems ill.] When I was a young man, growing up in OC, a student, we used to refer to Tustin as an important part of our community. People in Tustin had bumperstickers: "Tustin: the Beverly Hills of Orange County." People were very proud. Things have shifted a bit. A study of the "new markets" program under the Clinton Administration--was conceived to assist low-income communities. The ATEP project is in Tustin. We're playing a game here. It's a high-end development now (the part of Tustin where Marines were). I'm troubled we're contemplating participating in this kind of game. People have questioned "new market" moneys. High income areas have benefited. (Padbergg asks Fuentes to wrap it up; [it does seem clear he's making a speech]). We're putting the cart before the horse. This idea has not been shared enough with the community; too much of this has been done behind closed doors. "It's corporate welfare." It's to benefit the rich; it's a scam. This program is "unworthy," says Fuentes.

     Wow. This is a bit like Little Richard railing against flamboyance.

Prendergast: notes that there is a large section of Tustin that is low income. True, things have changed on the old base. But drive down between Redhill and Barranca, you don't see that kind of development. Wants to clarify that the area (ATEP) is indeed the low income area of Tustin.
Poertner: we've been struggling with the issue of how to pay for ATEP. We have talked about new market tax credits in this room half a dozen times at least. We're not trying to force these credits in a track that may not comply. This area does comply. It's an opportunity to get $18 million that we don't have to pay back. It will help the Tustin community, help the district. It's a good program to move forward with.
Padberg: it's about the base, not the city of Tustin. It's a run-down area.
Lang: asks for Dante Gumucio to come up and deal with these concerns. Respond to the "corporate welfare" charge.
Dante: it would be corporate welfare if no purchase were required. Lang disagrees. Dante responds: [I can't follow it.] In the case of ATEP, those who benefit are community college students at ATEP. Discusses the physical boundary of the project. The Census Tract. The poverty rate of residents in 2000 was 17%. (Fuentes makes one of his classic ugly faces.) This is 39% lower than median family income. The area qualifies as "highly distressed." Dante seems to make a strong case.
Prendergast: will this change with the new census?
Dante: my expectation: the easterly part will break off and the northern part is what we'll have. We'll still qualify. No guarantees. So, yes, there's a certain "expendiency" to trying to get this transaction finished by the middle of summer.
Fuentes: asks Chancellor: if we "rush into this," tie ourselves into this new markets program. Then we come to our senses and say, we shouldn't be spending money at ATEP. Should be spending at IVC, etc. What's our commitment?
Poertner: our commitment is to build the new building. We need to decide now.
Fuentes: there's too much that goes on in this district [of this kind]: we get sucked into obligations before we've thought it all the way through. (He's loud and perhaps angry. Trustees seem uncomfortable.)
6.14 New Markets tax credit transaction. Brokerage services agreement.

All but Fuentes vote for it. (Milchiker absent.)

[It already seemed circumstantially obvious that Fuentes is isolated on this "new" board--though he still seems to have the (occasionally reluctant) support of Lang. But tonight's meeting makes clear that Fuentes is very much isolated with regard to the ATEP issue. Fuentes has always been against ATEP. Poertner favors it at least as funded by this new tax thing. Other trustees seem to support it as well. I'm especially struck by how strongly Poertner went up against Fuentes with regard to this issue.]

6.13 Project schedule and basic aid assignment

Blah, blah, blah. Charts, numbers, etc. Brandye has a proposal. [I dunno what it is. You know me and fiscal issues.] Brandye sure looks like she knows what she's talking about. Big Smile, good shoes.
Prendergast asks if other building projects can qualify for the Lease/Leaseback..... [I'm not sure what the answer is.]
Jay motions to accept.
Lang: thanks Brandye for an excellent report. Does have a question about "budget reassignments."
Poertner: this ATEP money was set aside when we thought we needed to do that. Nothing on this list is something we are depending on for current operations.
Fuentes: asks about Bill Jay's motion. Fuentes asks to divide the question. Divide off item 2 (the ATEP item, I'll bet).  All but Meldau agreed to divide the question.
They vote on items 1 and 3 - unanimous.
They vote on item 2: all vote yes but Fuentes (no). (At one point Nancy snaps at Fuentes. Good fun.)


All vote yes except Fuentes, votes no.

Consent calendar:
Lang: 5.8
Fuentes: 5.19 (Master Architectural Services)

Moved, seconded.
Fuentes: will vote "no" because of concerns of continued expenditure at ATEP. Doesn't reflect on esteem for gkkworks.
Lang: will abstain from voting on this item; did receive contribution from gkkworks.
They vote.

6.1 - passes unanimously
. . .
Fuentes nominates his boy Dave Lang for the Marian Bergeson award. Everybody goes along with that. Dave simpers. Nancy says something like, "good luck, fool. You've got lots of competition." (Well, maybe she didn't actually say "fool." But she thought it.)
. . .
Bill Jay seems to have issues about a couple of new IVC positions.  Gwen Plano answers most questions satisfactorily. Glenn chimes in. One position concerns veterans on campus. Bill wants to table "2 and 3." Bugay explains that one position involves removing one position to create another. Nancy chimes in to say that it isn't new money. Gwen explains that there have been negotiations with CSEA. We need to stay within our current budget, she says. Critical for accreditation. We have no one at IVC right now doing this work. Critical. No one offers a second to Jay's motion. So they vote on 6.10. Unanimous yes.

6.11 probationary faculty - tenure - passes unanimously.
. . .
Went through "reports," without comments--except 7.8.

7.8 Retiree (OPEB) Trust Fund
Lang asks for elaboration. Bugay asks to come back with report next time.
Fuentes: Gary, maybe provide comparative overview, with other districts in OC. We are proud to say that we have no "unfunded liability." Poertner: this does not deal with pensions. It's medical benefits owed to employees, etc. Not related to what you will call "pensions."  Fuentes: how do we match up compared to our colleagues? Could you come back with answers? Poertner: sure.

8.0 reports from constituent groups
Blah blah blah
Burnett: Congressman Gary Miller was on campus (oh good). "He's a wonderful man."
Me: No he isn't. He's a corrupt rat bastard. Get a clue, Tod.
Blah blah blah
Blah blah

9:12 - finis


Anonymous said...

Hi! I love your live blogging! It brings out something special in your writing.

Anonymous said...

Who else is there? What are they wearing?

Anonymous said...

RE: Dante's "compliment" about Brandye's outfit: they teach them that stuff in business school and weekend seminars and at places like Argosy.

Anonymous said...

Tom is taking the supe's reluctant rejection of Williams rather hard. Fuentes doesn't have the GOP juice that he used to have. Now he is stuck on a college board with people he can't stand.

Anonymous said...

What's a President's Cup?

Anonymous said...

The President's Cup is a big bowl that the President gets to pee in.

Anonymous said...

Has Dave recused himself from other votes involving gkk works?

Anonymous said...

Fuentes complains of corporate welfare? I'll give him credit for his chutzpah, man.

Anonymous said...

Poor Tom. Look how the mighty have fallen. Nominating DAVE LANG for the Marion Bergeson Award. What's going to happen if Dave doesn't get it?

Anonymous said...

Tom Fuentes nominated JOHN WILLIAMS for the Marian Bergeson Award twice - 2009 and 2010. John didn't win either time.

Anonymous said...

Now here's something for IVCers to be aware of: after discussion on campus building projects, the Board votes in favor of the following, according to yesterday's "official" (non-Dissent) minutes. Budgets for Buildings Scoreboard:

Saddleback College: about $36.4 million

ATEP: about $12.9 million

IVC: about $1 million

What exactly is going on here !?! See notes from the Board below:

an architectural agreement with Dougherty and Dougherty for the Saddleback College Sciences building in the amount of $2,604,000.

proceeding with the new Saddleback College Sciences building with a reassignment of $14,789,346 in previously committed Basic Aid dollars for Saddleback College.

proceeding with ATEP's first building for Phase 3A with a reassignment of $12,869,899 in previously committed Basic Aid dollars for ATEP.

assigning $29,000,000 in uncommitted Basic Aid receipts to the Saddleback College Sciences Building

and $1,000,000 to Irvine Valley College for the A-400 Renovation.

Anonymous said...

Stop complaining 3:55. You know we're a smaller college. That why we get less money to go to conferences because we get that "small college discount."

And ATEP isn't a college at all - it's a PARK!

Anonymous said...

DID Dave recuse hismelf on other votes with gkk? DID Don Wagner?

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