Category Archives: County Government
Anymore, it is not just the city of Tustin we have to worry about. With the recent failed court case, Orange County may be facing some serious challenges to its budget next year. The annual budget workshop is coming to town 10 am May 24th at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room in the Hall of Administration, 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, California. This will be followed June 11th & 12th for Budget Hearings and the subsequent Budget Adoption on June 25th.
The official press release for the budget hearing process states:
You are invited to the 18th annual County of Orange Budget Workshop. Community members are encouraged to learn about the County’s budget process and anticipated issues. The County’s Chief Financial Officer and County staff will discuss:
- 2013-2014 Budget Overview
- Affordable Care Act
Dr. Michael Riley Director, Social Services Agency
This is your chance, as a resident, to have some input into the budget process. As we said, given this years bad news on the property tax take back by the state, many program and agency funding schemes may be up in the air. While no one wants to see lifeline programs shut down, they are often the first to go. That could have a drastic effect on the fragile economic recovery Orange County is seeing. The budget workshops are there for citizens to express their views on what available funds should provide for the county’s citizens.
Every time I think of the OC Board of Supervisors, I’m reminded of Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles”. No, not the campfire scene, although I can understand why you would go there. I’m talking about the scene where Governor William J. Le Petomane is meeting with his advisors and insists everyone be as incensed as he is over the corruption in fictional Rock Ridge. Everyone around the table starts saying “harumph, harumph…”. That’s the reaction of the Supervisors as they received the bad news that most everyone else in Orange County already knew.
Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Robert Moss ruled against the county saying they illegally withheld more than $73 million in property taxes from the state. To make matters worse, the figure now looms at $140 million by the time this fiscal year is over. The Voice of OC did a pretty good job of outlining the problem in layman’s terms.
When the county financed its billion-dollar bankruptcy in 1995, state officials allowed them to send a portion of their vehicle license fees directly to bond holders. But in 2007, when the county refinanced its debt, the legislative authorization for the special license fees was not included.
Despite warnings that the authorization should be quickly reestablished, county legislative leaders, lobbyists or staff did not act. The intercept, as its known, was not addressed in any subsequent county legislative platform or by the county’s main lobbyist, Platinum Advisors.
In 2011, Brown’s budget staff discovered the omission and took back the money, prompting an intense reaction from county leaders. Assemblyman Jose Solorio sponsored last-minute legislation to fix the situation for the county, but it failed to make it through both houses of the Legislature.
You read right. The county ignored the problem even when the gaff was first discovered and then, when the state demanded the money to balance their own budget, county Democratic Assemblyman Jose Solorio tried to fix it with last-minute legislation. But, Sacramento Democrats took the opportunity to beat down one of the few Republican strongholds by refusing to pass the legislation in time. Without the legislation, loss of the money was a sure thing.
Nonetheless, the Board of Supervisors convinced Auditor David Sundstrom to withhold payment of property taxes from the state. The state promptly sued the county and the writing was on the wall. As with previous pension lawsuits involving the deputy sheriffs union and the retirement system, the Gang of Five ignored the obvious and argued that the intent to keep the status quo had always been there and so, they must be right (right about now, I am hearing John Moorlach jumping up and down while screaming epithets at Jerry Brown).
From the outset, nearly everyone in the county has warned them the court battle would be uphill. In reality, I don’t think anyone wanted to tell the county it had a zero chance but, in truth, that is what they had.
In a video briefing to public union employees, Orange County Employees Association General Manager, Nick Berardino, said, “It was, once again, county executives falling asleep at the switch,as they did during the bankruptcy, when they forgot to include the $73 million dollars state subsidy when they refinanced the bankruptcy funds.” Berardino did agree that the state is treating the county unfairly by requiring the repayment but also said the county did not do its job in protecting the funds to begin with. Berardino lamented that Supervisors are already ringing the layoff bell and laying the responsibility on the backs of the public employees to balance the budget. “The county did the same thing when it declared bankruptcy in 1994.”
Berardino is not the only one to publicly admonish the county for its lack of diligence. In an Orange County Register article published May 9th, Andrew Galvin alleges the local community colleges pleaded with the county in 2011 not to withhold the funds from the state. The money grab, according to them, would result in a serious shortfall of funds going to community colleges in the area. When the county continued the grab, the community colleges joined the state in the lawsuit.
So, when will the county ever get it right? If this were a trust owned by a private family, they would have fired their lawyers for giving them bad advice long ago. In the case of the Board of Supervisors, they have been led astray time after time and not only by county counsel, but attorney-come-chief-of-staff Mario Mainero as well as a plethora of hired gun law offices who, oftentimes while giving good advice, have been unsuccessful in turning the opinion of the Gang of Five.
I have no idea how much money has been spent, so far, by the Board of Supervisors on this debacle. Any amount, however, is too much when one considers how tight the budget is now. Unfortunately for the citizens of Orange County, the Gang of Five may be planning another play as they appeal the ruling to a higher court. In the best case scenario for them, the judge would delay the transfer of funds until the appeals court sides with the trial court. That would be a temporary fix at best. Eventually, the money would have to be repaid. What the Supervisors might want to look at is negotiating a payment schedule. Given the animosity the OC GOP has garnered in recent years in Sacramento, our Democrat governor may turn a deaf ear. Better get that checkbook out, John.
I Am Running For Governor….No, Wait……I Mean Auditor-Controller…..No, Wait….I Mean Assemblyman. Yeah, That’s It, Assemblyman
Gosh, I remember when County Supervisor, John Moorlach, was first elected office. One of the things I remember most was his admonition that he had no interest in running for higher office. In fact, he was adamant that he was only taking the job of supervisor because he felt the need to right the wrongs of the previous supervisors, particularly in regard to pension reform. Never mind the fact that he, himself, took the best pension available and is one of a handful of executives in the county that does not pay into his own pension. He not only refuses to apologize for that fact, he revels in it, at one time saying he would change his pension when everyone else changed theirs.That’s real leadership for you.
Moorlach is best known for predicting the infamous 1994 county bankruptcy caused by Robert Citron’s blackbook investments of county funds. To be clear, John didn’t (or couldn’t) do anything about it – he just predicted it would happen. Well, leave it to an accountant to rain on the county’s parade. In the aftermath, he really did nothing more than say, “I told ya so”. Thing is, as we have said before, it is questionable in many expert opinions as to whether the bankruptcy would have occurred at all if Moorlach hadn’t delivered his sky-is-falling message to the public, forcing the OC BoS into action.
But, I digress.
A few weeks ago, I was surfing the web and came across a Voice of OC video article about John Moorlach, saying he was “exploring” a run for Governor. I nearly fell out of my seat, laughing. Nonetheless, I hit the switch to listen to the video. I was greeted with VOC’s editor-in-chief Norberto Santana who interviewed Moorlach for PCS SoCal. “You’re going to have Jerry Brown who was brought to the table by the public employee unions or someone who’s representing the taxpayers, so there’s a very clear delineation…”, according to Moorlach.
Wow. that was pretty straightforward and typical of Moorlach, who sees himself as a champion of the (ultra-conservative) taxpayer. Santana pointed out one of his biggest problems, however. As we said, Moorlach enjoys the most lavish pension available to public employees and has refused to give it up at every opportunity. Santana also pointed out that Moorlach has not been the best at fundraising and that any Republican running against Jerry Brown would have an uphill battle. To my own way of thinking, Moorlach running for governor would all but seal a second term for Brown.
Then, all of a sudden, I was perusing the Orange County Register a few days later and came across another article titled, “Moorlach may run for county auditor”. That isn’t to far from John’s roots and I found the prospect interesting. For all the criticism I have had over the egotistical Moorlach, I have to admit he is a pretty good manager. That said, He would probably be a good fit for the position and he helped along his own cause by voting to appoint Jan Grimes as the new Auditor-Controller to fill David Sundstrom’s unexpired term. The fact that she told the board she was not interested in running for the post at the end of the current term probably helped John make up his mind. In any case, the Auditor-Controller is one of those elected positions that no one really wants. That would make it easy for Moorlach to slide into the position without too much fundraising effort. Moorlach was nice enough to say that, if she did run, he might not want to get in the way of that. We’ll see.
So, John was set. He would run for auditor…or, governor….or….assmeblyman.
Yes, in another turn, the information began running rampant of a swap of seats between Assemblyman Alan Mansoor, who cut his political teeth on the Costa Mesa City Council, and our inimitable hero. It started with OC Weekly’s R. Scott Moxley breaking the story on Mansoor returning to the Real OC for a deathmatch between him and the carpet bagging Michelle Steel for John’s seat. Out of the box, Mansoor is the decided winner. In another weird twist, Moorlach said that, should Mansoor decide to return to the OC, he would be interested in his job in the Capitol. Well, it ain’t the governorship but…
…the Daily Pilot, provides a new twist to my potential journey. Allan Mansoor has practically grown up in the Second District. He has served on the Costa Mesa City Council, which means he is familiar with the Board-type form of governance, and is familiar with negotiating with collective bargaining units. He’s also a former Orange County employee, so he is very familiar with the County and its functions and structure. As a sitting Assemblyman, he will make a formidable candidate to be my replacement. However, he can only run for one office next June. If he runs for Supervisor, that leaves his Assembly seat open and provides me with another option to consider as I near the conclusion of my listening tour.
So, now we have three scenarios for Moorlach with no clear direction. One thing is clear: what was once a career public employee has now clearly become the perennial career politician. Timing in politics is everything and the timing is right for Moorlach to pick and choose his next direction. One thing for sure, his demonstrated lack of leadership as a member of the board of supervisors won’t slow him down but his failure to lead just may catch up to him in any future job. Also, in all of this there has been a distinct lack of discussion from the political powerbrokers in Orange County. That said, I wouldn’t hold my breath to see governor in the future of Mr. Moorlach.
It’s another one of those 5th Tuesday weeks where there is no city council or planning commission meeting. We were going to bring you another “around the county” article but something over at the Liberal OC caught our eye.
Recently, our good friend Chris Prevatt was involved in a traffic accident and was laid up with a busted wing. He wrote an interesting article about a subject that is near to my heart, homelessness. Specifically, Chris wrote about a recent editorial criticizing Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano for his sponsorship of Assembly Bill 5, now coming to be known as the Homeless Bill of Rights Act.
From Chris’ article:
To their horror, as the Register’s editorial writers see it, the Bill would grant the homeless new rights in California, including sleeping on sidewalks.
The authors of this misguided assault on compassion, assert that “as American citizens, homeless people already benefit from every right in the actual Bill of Rights. But this measure would, for instance, allow them to sleep on sidewalks, in parks and other public spaces and would require that city governments provide them with bathrooms and showers.”
Well it seems to me that the freedom to lay down and rest when one is tired is a basic human right even though it is not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights. If you were to, in daylight hours, lay down a blanket, or mat on a park lawn or bench to take a nap you would not be breaking any laws. Such a violation only occurs when you do so at night. The laws our cities, like Santa Ana, have enacted to discourage the homeless from hanging around, are specifically targeted to prevent homeless people from engaging in a basic right to sleep during the night, The mere act of using a blanket to keep themselves warm, or a mat to cushion against the hard ground, breaks the law.
Chris goes on to enumerate the issues regarding sleeping in the park (or other places) and the problems that being homeless brings with that. He then asks if not here, where?
It brings to mind the plight of our own homeless here in Tustin. They are a small group who you may occasionally see walking around or sitting in the park. They maintain a low profile around town. Apparently, not low enough for some of our councilmen. In recent years, the Tustin City Council has enacted anti-homeless ordinances that are obviously geared toward driving the homeless out of our city. Like every good city, Tustin has an anti-camping ordinance that prohibits camping in public places. These ordinances are constitutional because they do not discriminate you and I, along with the homeless, cannot camp in the park… as if you and I would. And, recently, the city council passed an ordinance that effectively prohibits panhandling on every street the homeless gain their income from.
Chris points out that Ammiano’s bill does not grant new rights per se. It only guarantees that they be treated like human beings and cut some slack, considering their situation. One thing it would also do is to eliminate the justification of the homeless camping on private property in front of businesses, again, along with the accompanying issues that brings. I would think that alone would bring the Republicans around. Instead, they would be happy to continue to have the police harass the homeless with useless citations that are written for the simple act of trying to live in our community. That is shameful in any book. Ammiano’s bill is far from perfect. With a little consideration, it can go a long way toward establishing some sense of dignity to the less fortunate among us while increasing public safety. And, it won’t cost a whole lot either. So you see, Republicans, there is something for everyone.