Category Archives: elections
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.
“PACs linked to trash hauler supported local political campaigns”
That is the headline of a story on the OC Watchdog that reports thousands of dollars being funneled to local political candidates by Political Action Committees “with links” to CR&R, the trash hauler for many municipalities, including the city of Tustin. In all, more than $30,000 was spent to support candidates. Of that, then mayor John Nielsen received $7,000 while his cronies, Chuck Puckett and Allan Bernstein are reported to have received $2,000 each.
From the Watchdog:
One PAC gave $7,000 to the campaign of Tustin councilman John Nielsen who voted in 2010 to approve an amendment to an existing contract requested by the trash hauler, according to the forms. The PAC also contributed $2,000 apiece to support the campaigns of Allan Bernstein and Charles “Chuck” Puckett, Tustin council candidates who were not members at the time of the 2010 vote.
“It’s not illegal, but in my mind it just shows the influence of campaign money on the governmental process,” said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. And, while CR&R’s lobbyist claims “these tiny amounts of dollars don’t buy anybody”, we would point out that $7,000 is about what it cost for one of those hit pieces Nielsen’s other allies, OCBIZPAC, financed against Nielsen’s political foes.
In reply to the report, John Nielsen said that he votes in the best interest of Tustin. “My only allegiance is to the voters and residents of Tustin.” Maybe. But, is it coincidence that Nielsen, in 2010, voted to change the terms of CR&R’s contract to eliminate their obligation to build a buyback recycling center? That vote occurred in March and was part of a deal that, in return from eliminating the buyback center, the waste company would distribute mulch to the community and take on other financial responsibilities previously assumed by the city. The supposed reasoning was the plethora of recycling centers located at supermarkets. I guess you’ll have to decide who got the better deal.
One thing we’ll agree with, John wasn’t influenced to vote one way or the other. However, it could very well have been payback by CR&R for his vote and insurance for future votes.
By our accounting, there are 5 years left on the CR&R contract. Expect to see, over the next few years, a ratcheting of contributions around the county where the waste conglomerate has a financial interest. It has always been our opinion that the measure allowing for long term trash contracts such as this was a scam foisted on an unwary public that relied a little too much on their city leaders to do the right thing. The Watchdog’s story seems to contradict Nielsen’s “coincidence” theory. And, with Nielsen’s buddies also getting a piece of the action, one has to wonder what other “contractual changes” CR&R may be planning in the future.
Like you, we thought this embarrassing saga of the Tustin City Council was over. John and the Fab Four had been sworn in, Deborah Gavello and her arch-nemesis Jerry “Boss Tweed” Amante had been ceremoniously swept from the dais with kind words and lots of resolutions. We had hope that, perhaps, the acerbic cloud of dissension was about to dissipate. So, we have to wonder why and at whose direction the city attorney, David Kendig, decided to take one last swipe at former councilwoman Gavello.
In an email, dated a scant three days after the installation of the new city council, Kendig decided to send an email to Gavello demanding she change her website as she is no longer a member of the city council and her website bills her as such. To add insult to stupidity, he also demanded she remove the city logo from her website as it was “unauthorized”.
From the Email:
On Dec 9, 2012, at 9:12 AM, David E. Kendig <DKendig@wss-law.com> wrote:
Good morning, Deborah,
It has been brought to my attention that your website (www.DeborahforTustin.com) still refers to you as a Councilmember. Since you left office last Tuesday, it is time to immediately remove that website, remove your former title from the website, or change the website to correctly reference your current status. In addition, in reviewing that complaint, I observed that the website contains a facsimile of the official City seal on one of the link buttons. Such use of the City logo is prohibited by the Tustin City Code, so that also must be removed from the website immediately.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
City Attorney, City of Tustin
Yes, I am still laughing over the fact that, when we brought this illegal use of the logo up to the city in regard to then candidate Allan Bernstien’s blatant illegal use of the logo and misrepresentation as a city councilmember, Kendig sheepishly had the city clerk send out a reminder to everyone.
Now, one could say that Kendig was just doing his job. I mean, it was a whole three days since Deborah was gone. We certainly don’t want Gavello to be confused with the Podiatrist Councilman. Never mind that, among the various websites of city councilmembers, hers was the most accurate and up-to-date, making sure her constituents were kept informed was a hallmark of her tenure. Much of the information she placed up there was in direct conflict with the so-called transparency page the city public information officer kept on the city website. And, she was a master of demonstrating the idiocy of the city council in video clips that can still be found on YouTube.
“I can see calling me after a month, if it hadn’t been taken down. But three days? I asked my webmaster to remove the information the day after I left office”, said Gavello in an email interview. Since then, her entire website has been replaced with one big “thank you” to her constituents.
So, did Kendig do his job or was he just harrassing his former boss?
Perhaps, if we look at Councilman John Nielsen’s website, we can get an answer:
I am proud to be your Mayor this year, and am gratified and encouraged by the support I have already received in my campaign including friends, and neighbors I have worked with through the many years of my family’s involvement in our community, including, Tustin Dolphins, Tustin PONY League, Tustin Eastern Little League, NJB, AYSO Soccer, SoCal Waterpolo and numerous sports, events and activities for our local public schools, where my children graduated from Tustin High.
Yes, right on the home page of his website, he bills himself as Mayor of Tustin, even though it has been over a week since Councilmember Al Murray was elected to be mayor. So, where was the email to Nielsen for illegally calling himself “Mayor” when he left the position? Well, it is not the first time Nielsen has told an untruth. We doubt it will be the last.
What the entire episode demonstrates is that the inept lawyer Kendig will continue to be the pandering lapdog for what we expect will be an equally inept city council. We could hope for nothing less in the coming year.
As a closer, Gavello also explained that she had asked her fellow councilmembers to go out to bid on the city attorney services rather than continue the no-bid contract ad infinitum. “but Beckie [Gomez] wouldn’t help me on going out to bid on this”.
Did you really expect her to?
(This column appears in the December 20, 2012 Tustin News – ed.) The post-election lull is in full swing here in our town Tustin. Following a contentious battle for three seats on the city council, the new supermajority, led by our new Mayor Al Murray, will have to hit the new year running. If we had a wish list of issues this council will have to tackle, it would start with these three.
Tustin Unified Lawsuits – January rings in a new year and 28 days later the city goes to trial in the original lawsuit with Tustin Unified School District. Earlier this year, the city increased the schism between the two with another lawsuit against the school district for changing the use of the Heritage Elementary School. Originally built to service the residents on the MCAS property, the district decided to temporarily house continuation schools and administrative services there when they couldn’t find enough school age kids to open the school as originally planned. The city opposed the move with ill-contrived legal arguments that were laughed out of court. Even with a change of venue, the city could not get past poor legal arguments and lost the suit a few months in.
That leaves the original lawsuit brought by the school district which has been continued at least twice. And, even though there is still time to resolve this without a trial the city is likely to lose, there may not be a will. During a harsh campaign season, Mayor pro tem Chuck Puckett was largely non-committal and Councilman Allan Bernstein was beating the drum loudly against the school district, vowing stay the line on the lawsuits. We suggest now that campaign season is over, they put away the war bonnets and sit down one last time. It seems over two million dollars of taxpayer money could have been better spent elsewhere.
The Hole in the Budget – For the past few years, the city council has been relying on reserves to balance the budget rather than make hard decisions regarding finances. Although they touted several budget cutting measures this year, including the golden parachutes for 35 retiring employees, it remains to be seen what -if any- money will have been saved. Lawsuits with the school district have drained over a million dollars from city coffers and, if the city loses the lawsuit in January, they will likely be forced to pay out another million or so to the school district for their attorney fees.
A New City Council Supermajority – There was a lot of glad handing at the latest city council meeting when new councilmembers Puckett and Bernstein were installed and John Nielsen rejoined them for a second term. Councilmember Al Murray, now a veteran, was chosen to be the first African-American mayor of the city. And, in a move that surprised no one except Councilmember Beckie Gomez, newly installed Councilmember Chuck Puckett was given the Mayor pro tem position as a final slap in the face to what is left of the liberal base on the dais. Chief combatants, Jerry Amante and Deborah Gavello, are history leaving a supermajority of pro-business councilmen to tend the city.
Before they sell the city to the highest bidder, however, they might remember that only 400 votes separated the winners from the losers. The voters have little tolerance for the antics of the past few years and there is another election coming only two years from now. The redeeming quality of the council overall is the experience that all but one brings to the table. Puckett is not only a council retread, he has kept his hand in city politics as a planning commissioner and has stayed active in civic affairs. Not so for freshman councilman Allan Bernstein, an unknown who clawed his way to victory as an Amante-backed business advocate with no civic or political experience. To make his mark, he needs to tone down the rhetoric heard during his campaign and focus on learning the job.
The city council should take the time in the new year to reflect on a true vision for this city that will benefit the residents who live here. Finding a true fix to the budget and mending fences with the school district would be a good start.