This is the time of year in which a lot of journalists spill a lot of ink (in today’s terms, also, electrons) reflecting sonorously on the months past. But, heck, anyone can do that. What I find more interesting are the questions posed by the new year.
I’m not predicting, but pointing out. Ten stories to look out for in 2018.
- Animal care services in Garden Grove. There has been a lot of complaining about the switch from the County of Orange to the Orange County Humane Society facility in Huntington Beach. Costa Mesa has ducked out, and so the Big Strawberry is the last city holding the leash, so to speak.
- Huntington Beach Police Chief Rob Handy. At nearly every meeting of the city council, members of the police department union get up and complain about the chief, saying he’s ruined morale. Just this week a statement from some of the captains and lieutenants echoed that. On the other hand, a council majority is supporting Handy. Who will outlast whom?
- OC Streetcar. The idea of a streetcar or light rail line serving Orange County has been around since Ronald Reagan’s first term. But now it looks like the thing might actually happen. The line is planned to run west from the Santa Ana Civic Center/Transit Station District along city streets and turn northwest along the old Pacific Electric right-of-way, terminating (for now) at a new station on Harbor Boulevard (just north of Westminster Avenue) in Garden Grove. Construction is supposed to start in 2018 and be finished by 2020. Will it?
- Westminster Civic Center. A lot of cities around Orange County have plans to create or build a downtown, but Westminster is taking a unique approach in opening up its expansive civic center to mixed use development, including commercial uses. Some folks find this a great, innovative idea while others wonder if this amounts to a giveaway of public space. Details of such a plan should surface this year, and should also generate some controversy.
- The March of Districts. What seemed like a long shot a few years ago is looking pretty inevitable now. Under legal and political pressure, more and more cities and school districts have dropped the at-large model and gone to a district approach. Garden Grove’s council and school board have made the switch. Will Westminster or Huntington Beach be next?
- Another Drought. This, of course, isn’t a local issue exactly, but it does have a lot of local implications. Would another water shortage be a boon for the Poseidon desalination project planned for Huntington Beach? It’s been approved by a state agency, but is bound to attract a fistful of lawsuits. But even judges are sometimes swayed by public opinion.
- Less Tax, More Taxes. The “tax reform” bill approved by Congress will cut income taxes for some and not-so-much for others. It will take a while to sort through the implications, but one possible impact could be the idea of a 1-cent sales tax in Garden Grove to cover the city’s “structural deficit” caused – in part – by rising pension costs. Will a tax cut in one arena make people more willing to pay more tax in another? Will people vote to increase their taxes? It happened last year in Westminster and a wave of local school bond issues have been approved by voters in recent years.
- Steel and Cottages and Parking. Planned for rollouts in 2018 are two projects central to Garden Grove’s plans for an expanded and integrated downtown and civic center area. SteelCraft is to build a 14-unit, two-story urban eatery on Euclid Street just north of Garden Grove Boulevard and the Cottage Industry concept to repurpose older homes into craft-y wine bars and shops a few streets over are both supposed to be in business in 2018. But one question brought up time and again is whether there will be enough parking for all this added activity in the area. There’s a parking study completed, we are told, but haven’t seen the final report.
- #MeToo. Accusations of sexual harassment have sunk the careers of many men in politics, entertainment and other fields in 2017. So far, no local leaders have been called out, at least not publically. Will there be?
- The Really Unexpected Thing. There’s usually at least one stunner every year. Amazon takes up the HQ2 offer from Garden Grove-Santa Ana or Long Beach-Huntington Beach? Do the Angels explore the possibility of building a new stadium in Orange County somewhere other than Anaheim? I suppose if we would guess it ahead of time, it wouldn’t be very unexpected, would it?
Jim Tortolano’s Retorts column appears on Wednesdays. Mostly.