Foothills Sentry February 2023

NEWS INSIDE East Orange • Old Towne Orange • Orange Park Acres • Villa Park • Silverado/Modjeska Canyons • North Tustin A Monthly Community Newspaper FEBRUARY 2023 *********ECRWSSEDDM**** Residential Customer Letters Page 4-5 & 13 Canyon Beat Page 7 Service Directory Pages 11-13 Prof. Directory Page 13 Classifieds Page 13 Community Sports Page 14-15 The Best News In Town Since 1969 FOLLOW US at Foothills Sentry BOARD DROPS A BOMBSHELL OUSD trustee majority sets off an explosion of public opinion. See stories, page 3, 6 and 10; Letters, page 4 ALTERED STATES New Orange council agrees to change long-held protocols to encourage citizen involvement. See Orange, page 7 A PALL ON THE MALL Revitalizing Village at Orange requires caution, cooperation and compromise. See Guest Commentaries, page 4 See "Wildlands" continued on page 2 The Foothills Sentry is returning to its roots! Only 54 years ago, kids on horseback and bicycles delivered the Sentry to each household. This year, due to skyrocketing postage rates, the Sentry -- with the Best Local News -- will be delivered to each residential driveway. Of course, it will continue to be available at libraries and civic centers, online at and via subscription. Natural wildlands in City of Orange under threat By Tina Richards The reclamation company that wants to fill in a riparian habitat with inert construction waste, just one-half mile from the Sully- Miller dump site in East Orange, has one more hurdle to breach be- fore it can approach the city for a grading permit and commence work. OC Reclamation is a subsidiary of Chandler’s Sand & Gravel, which owns 14 acres near the northwest corner of Cannon and Santiago Canyon Road, border- ing Santiago Creek. According to Orange Public Works Director Chris Cash, Chandler asked the city for a permit to backfill the site some five years ago. At that time, the property owner was told that other agency permits were needed first. While no one’s looking The permit from the State Wa- ter Resources Control Board, which reviews impacts on wet- lands and waste discharge, is the last box Chandler needs to check. And, as of Dec. 2, it was on a fast track. Claiming that no Environ- mental Impact Report (EIR) was needed, the water board is relying on a Mitigated Negative Declara- tion (MND), a report filed instead of an EIR when any expected environmental damage is not sig- nificant. The Water Board released the MND with a deadline of Jan. 2 for public and agency comments. A public hearing on the issue was slated for Feb. 10. That 30-day turnaround was squeezed around the Christmas and New Year holi- day period. When stakeholders complained about the unforgiv- ing deadline, the Water Board granted a one-week extension. The City of Orange also asked for an extension. The comment deadline is now Feb. 10, and the public hearing March 17. Chandler claims it is filling in an abandoned mine pit. The site was a gravel mine until 1963. Since then, nature has reclaimed it. Over the past 70 years, it has transformed into a forest of wil- low trees, wetland habitat and seasonal waterfalls. It is popu- lated with birds, reptiles and small mammals, as well as a few endangered species. The wetland portion of the site was declared a “water of the state” in 2020. Dirt can hurt Chandler’s plan is to bury the site under 1,240,000 cubic yards of dirt, bringing it up to street level. The project will demand 60 truck trips per day, traversing Orange and Villa Park streets for five years. The fill site is within 100 yards of a drinking water re- charge basin. Chandler has not disclosed what it intends to do with the property once it is level. The City of Orange hired a consultant to review the MND, and numerous questions were raised. As Interim City Manager Tom Kisela reported at the Jan. 10 city council meeting, the con- sultant found the project descrip- tion vague, with no explanation of daily activity or how the trucks will access the property. Where is the inert material coming from? How far is it from residences? What is the impact on Oakridge Private School? How will road- ways be maintained? What about Eighth grade McPherson Magnet School students Malia Tek and Daniel Dil- lon, with ninth grader Vincent Chen (not pictured), with a nod to the times we live in, created an Ammo-Alert app to identify gunfire at a school site for the school’s Science Fair. See McPherson, page 14 noise from machinery, dust and air quality? Missing links The document also neglected to mention the wildlife, wetlands, water, trees, geology and soil sta- bilization. These concerns were dispatched to the Water Board. “This is a process right now,” Kisela explained. “We’ve submit- ted letters asking the board to take a deeper look and give the public the opportunity to state their con- cerns. We will evaluate the situa- OUSD Board majority to finance out-of-state superintendent By Tina Richards Fears that the new majority on the OUSD Board of Trustees is prepared to “burn down the dis- trict” seemed prescient when the Jan. 19 meeting was interrupted by smoke filtering into the meet- ing room from an overhead vent. The audience was evacuated and the fire department sum- moned. First responders deter- mined that a malfunctioning HVAC unit on the roof had gen- erated smoke, but no flames. The all-clear was given, and the meet- ing resumed. While there was no literal fire, there was rhetorical heat. The meeting was to approve the con- tract with the interim superinten- dent hired to replace Gunn Marie Hansen, who had been summar- ily terminated without cause Jan. 5 (see OUSD, page 3). Edward Velasquez, a retired school su- perintendent, was chosen by the board majority that same day. Velasquez has a longtime busi- ness relationship with John Orte- ga, who knew him when they both worked for the Montebello School District over a decade ago. Velasquez is also employed by the recruiting firm OUSD hired, and subsequently fired, in 2017 when it was then seeking a superintendent. What friends are for Velasquez was contacted by Rick Ledesma prior to Hansen’s firing. Whether the other two “yes” votes, Angie Rumsey and Madison Miner, knew anything about him before they voted is unknown. Both claim they did not have advance knowledge of Ledesma’s intent to hire him. Board members Kris Erickson, Andrea Yamasaki and Ana Page had never heard of him, and did not vote for him. Velasquez lives in Idaho. The contract offered $1,350 per day, all travel, hotel and transporta- tion expenses, plus an uncapped per diem for other costs. He is ex- 86th Miss Orange crowned Madeleine Chocholaty was crowned the 86th Miss Orange, Jan. 14. She will serve as the offi- cial ambassador to the City of Or- ange, and will be the first Orange May Queen in over 30 years. Chocholaty graduated from Or- ange High School in 2022, and is currently a student at Cal State Long Beach, majoring in theater and English education. She performed a vocal solo for her talent, and plays six instru- ments. She has been a partici- pant in the 3rd of July program From left to right, Third Runner-Up Sophie Cambra, Second Runner-Up, Kas- sidy Aslay; Madeleine Chocholaty, Miss Orange; and First Runner-Up, Eliza- beth Raburn. for four years, the Orange Tree Lighting for seven years, and was a soloist in 2021. She has been involved with the Orange Little Theater and Kids Musical Theater. During her year of service, she will work with Greater Orange County Arts Theater (GOCAT), assisting them in building a mul- tipurpose performing arts center. Miss Orange is available for ap- pearances at professional events, upon request to misscityoforan- . pected to serve for seven weeks, as his current retirement package restricts his additional annual in- come to $49,000. OUSD parents and community members, still stunned by the sud- den termination of a well-respect- ed superintendent, were ablaze with anger and disbelief. That was reflected in three-plus hours of public comments, which took place before and after the evacua- tion. Constituents raised concerns about Ortega’s relationship with Velasquez, the cost of importing an interim superintendent from Idaho, and paying some $47,000, plus expenses, while continuing to pay Superintendent Hansen’s salary. The one and only Audience members questioned why a person from Idaho is being given a temporary job that could likely be filled by any number of more geographically desir- able candidates, or even a senior OUSD staff member. And, how is it possible to hire someone who hasn’t filled out an employment application, been interviewed or thoroughly vetted? Was anyone else considered for the job? “This is cronyism and back room deals,” one speaker assert- ed. “Velasquez was employed by John Ortega. The information was on his website, but has been taken See "OUSD finances" continued on page 2