Category Archives: In the News
The other day, we were riding down El Camino Real when we noticed construction workers walking around Jabberwocky… well, sort of. There wasn’t much of it to walk around since, sometime in the recent past, they tore down nearly the entire building, leaving only the facade up.
It’s unfortunate that the building, one of the oldest in Tustin, was burned so badly back in 2011 that many thought it would be lost completely to the annals of history and the collective memories of our local historians. But, as luck would have it, the building, originally a doctor’s office built around 1885, was saved from the wrecking crew. Well, some of it, anyway.
As you can see from the pictures, the entire building, save for the facade has been torn down. This was considered the safest way of preserving a piece of Tustin history while allowing the owners to also build a new up-to-code building that woud pass muster and Elizabeth Binsack’s code-busters. Architecural work was completed last year by local historic achitect, Nathan Menard. Menard is a well-known designer (or redesigner) of both historic buildings and newer buildings where the historical aspect of an area is important. His plans for the Jabberwocky continue that effort.
When I approached the bulding, I almost laughed out loud. This is the classic facade of the old western town with the unadorned building behind it. There isn’t much right at the moment. The construction is focusing on foundation right now and it gives one the idea of how large the building will be (it isn’t). I would say not much more than the old building itself although Nathan assured me it will be adequate for the owner’s needs.
And, what will the owner do? As far as I know, plans are to reopen the Vintage Lady, the store that was located there at the time of the fire. The owner has rented the store almost continuously to others since 1985 and lives in the home to the rear. The store, which has been determined to be historically significant due to the rare construction type, will probably never make it to the National Register. But, thanks to the owner’s perseverance and the help of Menarch Architecture, Tustin will continue to enjoy the Jabberwocky.
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.
George Jeffries, Tustin’s long time City Treasurer, died suddenly last week. Jeffries, who had not been ill and was not known to be under a doctor’s care, reportedly died from a heart attack on Tuesday.
City Manager Jeff Parker said that at least one of the city councilmen wad mildly concerned saying the octegenarian looked under the weather. Parker said it was a shock and many of the staff were saddened by his sudden death.
Jeffries held the position of City Treasurer for more than 16 years. He was also involved with Orange County investnents, sitting on at least one advisory board for the county as well as the retirement system. During the past eight years, he was often the center of discussion for the city council as Deborah Gavello fequently complained of questionable investments she felt were illegal for the city. Gavello often called for his removal but the Jerry Amante led majority managed to keep him in place despite the criticism.
Parker said the city will not be affected by Jeffries death and they will be able to continue management of the investment funds. “George had a conservative approach to investments and both Pam and I have signature authority”,referring to city Finance Director, Pamela Arends-King. He said the council has not discussed a replacement but several options could be considered. One of those options could be to appoint the Finance Director as treasurer. “They do that in other cities”, Parker Said.
Memorial services for Jeffries will be Friday, April 19th at 11:00 am at Calvary Chapel on Tustin Avenue across from Western Medical Center.