Foothills Sentry May 2024

NEWS INSIDE A Monthly Community Newspaper MAY 2024 Letters Page 4 Canyon Beat Page 6 Obituaries Page 11 Service Directory Pages 11-13 Classifieds Page 13 Community Sports Page 14-15 Real Estate Page 16 The Best News In Town Since 1969 FOLLOW US at Foothills Sentry THERE’S A HOLE IN THE BUCKET Orange budget woes didn’t happen overnight; city is following the money (or lack of it), but that won’t solve the problem. See Guest Commentary, page 4 YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW Venerable nonprofit celebrates its 100th anniversary with praise for the past, new vision for the future. See Friendly Center, page 8 THE MOUNDS OF SILENCE Sully-Miller property owner says nothing in first round of “negotiations” with Orange over possible outcomes for the 40-ft. tall stockpiles of waste dirt. See Fate, page 2 RIDING ROUGHSHOD OC Fair Board nearly doubles stable boarding fees to cover indefensible mismanagement. See Fairgrounds, page 3 ONE SMALL STEP Barrio finally benefits from federal funding with a long-lobbied- for amenity serving the El Modena Basin. See Public restroom, page 7 See "Orange budget" continued on page 5 See "OUSD board" continued on page 5 Orange operating budget faces deficit; reserve funds available for capital improvements By Carrie Graham The City of Orange is facing a $19 million operating budget deficit, and at the current rate, that number is expected to grow to $34 million by 2029. The deficit isn’t new. Back in 2011, the city anticipated a nearly $8 million shortfall over a five- year period. Revenue from property and sales tax, the city’s main form of supporting infrastructure, has not kept up with the rising costs of maintenance and upkeep, causing the deficit to grow. Since 2008, the city has made a number of efforts to slow the growth. Hiring freezes and fur- loughs have been implemented, with around 40 positions remain- ing vacant to date, while other positions have been eliminated entirely. The city has also reduced library hours and maintenance on parks and other city facilities. Well running dry Although those measures have slowed the deficit’s expansion, they haven’t eliminated it. If the city can’t find a solution to close the gap, it faces a 13% cut to all departments, which will likely mean a reduction in quality-of- life services for residents. Roughly $30 million worth of maintenance across community facilities, parks, and emergency services has been deferred since 2017, including $13 million for fire trucks and police vehicles. While departments are expect- ed to have a reserve fund for in- stances where their needs exceed their current budget, borrowing from them long-term isn’t a sus- tainable solution. Many depart- ments are already tapping into those funds, and the city expects them to be completely used up within two years. At an April 16 city council budget study session, members were presented with a list of proj- ects the Public Works and Com- munity Services Departments would both be able to complete, as well as defer. “This is the first budget study session we've ever done that council has been shown the de- ferments,” noted City Manager Tom Kisela. OUSD board elects new officers, plans to fill vacant seats By Tina Richards Following the successful recall of Orange Unified School District trustees Rick Ledesma and Madi- son Miner, the now five-member board’s first order of business at its April 11 meeting was to elect new officers. Trustees Kris Erickson and Andrea Yamasaki called for a re- organization of the board, which boiled down to removing John Ortega as president. Erickson thanked the com- munity for “working for a better OUSD,” and noted that the vote to unseat those trustees was a call for better governance. “We be- lieve we can do better than we’ve done in the last year,” she said, “starting with new leadership on the board.” She nominated Ana Page for the position. It's go time A handful of public speakers agreed with the ouster of Ortega. Scott Resnick pointed out that Ortega has received two cease and desist letters from the First Amendment Coalition for silenc- ing speakers. “He has consistent- ly violated our rights,” Resnick said. “He’s threatened legal ac- tion and threatened speakers.” “It’s imperative that we elect a new president,” Michelle Weisenberg advised. “Ortega is not engaged in the job, shows dis- dain for other board members and the audience. He doesn’t engage with any of the schools.” Alex Brewsaugh added that, “Ortega has used his position to have things his way. We need someone who prioritizes our dis- trict, whose heart is in it.” Yamasaki seconded the motion to nominate Page; the vote was 3-2, withAngie Rumsey and John Ortega opposed. Ortega said, for the record, that everything he did was legally binding and was ap- proved by an OUSD attorney. Angie Rumsey had been elect- ed vice president in December. Yamasaki motioned to keep her in that position because “the board needs to be unified, so we can focus on academics and stu- dents and move forward.” Rum- sey retained her position, 5-0. Kris Erickson was elected clerk of the board (replacing Miner), 4-1, with Ortega opposed. Replenish the board? The two empty seats left the board with several options. It could appoint new board mem- bers who will serve until the No- vember General Election; leave the seats vacant and call a spe- cial election for November 5; or take no action, which would re- quire the county superintendent to call a special election. The special election was summar- ily dismissed due to the costs of holding one. Leaving the seats vacant would deprive district Ar- eas 4 and 7 of representation for the rest of the year. It was clear to the majority of the audience and board members that filling the seats with ap- pointees was the best option, as long as the process was open and transparent. OUSD constituent Soren Wil- laims encouraged the board to move forward with appointments. “You need to provide representa- Photos by Tony Richards L.A. Dodger and former El Modena High Vanguard Freddie Freeman, his wife Chelsea and sons, stand before the new baseball clubhouse made possible by his $500,000 donation to his alma mater. Freeman, right, told the crowd at the opening ceremony, April 7, that he wanted to give ballplayers a place to hang out and be a family together. See Dodger, page 7 . Mayor Pro Tem Arianna Barrios was delighted to turn on the rehabilitated Orange Plaza Fountain, April 17, to let the waters flow once again. See Restored, page 16. Photo by Tony Richards