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Another Election? Well, Yeah…..

cant fix stupidWe’re in for it now. If you haven’t been keeping up with the cutthroat politics of Orange County, the latest folks to announce candidacy for office are former OC Board of Supervisor and fortuneteller extraordinaire, John Moorlach and conservative-but-approachable-by-Democrats, 68th District Assemblyman Don Wagner. They are, of course, vying for Mimi Walters’ seat. Walters has since left for the bright lights of Washington.

Wagner has served in the Assembly since 2010 and sits on several key committees, including the Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security, Revenue and Taxation and Judiciary where he serves as Vice-Chair. And, although Wagner did not receive the endorsement of the OC Republican Party, his rating on the California Republican Assembly is 94% and he received the 2014 endorsement.

Moorlach, on the other hand, has been hashing through Orange County in his typical systematic fashion. In fact, Moorlach’s campaign slogan says it all: “Focused and Understandable”. With Moorlach, though, it ought to be “Focused and Boring”, as that is what it is like to listen to him plod on about any issue he may be talking about.

john-moorlach

John Moorlach

Moorlach, who at one time stated that he had no intention of making a career of politics, spent most of the last year exploring runs for Lt. Governor, Congress and a few local offices before settling on the Senate for his next career move. And, now that he has settled on our district, he is wasting no time seeking and obtaining coveted endorsements.

While the CRA gave a high rating to Don Wagner, it was Moorlach who got the local CRA Unit’s endorsement. I’m not sure what that amounts to in votes, considering the whole Orly Taitz-Deborah Pauly (I’m still banned from her Twitter account) Orange County bunch. So, is the CRA local unit endorsement worth much? And what other endorsements does Moorlach have besides his old bedfellow, Shawn Nelson? We really don’t know because, Moorlach’s campaign website doesn’t list his endorsements.

On the other hand, Wagner proudly shows off his list. And, while it may not contain anyone on the Lincoln Club list of who’s-who, it is certainly impressive (if you’re impressed by that sort of thing). The list does include both Tony Rackauckas and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. It’s interesting that the two other chief (and public safety) elected officials in the county both nixed the pedantic Moorlach for Wagner. Looking back on Moorlach’s eight years in office, it’s easy to see why.

Don Wagner

Don Wagner

Along with those high power endorsements comes a slew of local elected officials from around the county including 37 local officials and 27 state elected officials, many from local districts. Both U.S. Representatives Ed Royce and Mimi Walters, whose senate seat these two are vying for, have endorsed Wagner.

Along the popular lines (face it, even endorsers only get one vote), Wagner wins hands down. Moorlach’s Facebook page shows a whole 621 likes. Wagner has a handy 2400 likes. Some of those who like him include TUSD Board Member, Jonathan Abelove and FCA procurator Richard Nelson. I’ll give them both points for keeping their Facebook pages current.

Likewise on Twitter. Both candidates are maintaining a presence but Wagner outguns Moorlach with over 1658 followers. Wagner also has twice the number of tweets and followers as Moorlach. Moorlach’s latest tweets are about his recent podcast on OC Talk Radio. Don’t get all excited, now. OCTR is an internet only show that I reported on previously. Our own Jerry Amante also hosts a show there.

Among other things he talks about is how he single-handedly led Orange County out of the bankruptcy (I kid you not). He also mentions how desirable it is to work in The Real OC – sure, if you are a government official and not a rank-and-file county employee. Yes, his conversation is based in the ethernet and has no basis in reality. But, you can say anything on (internet) radio, right? What he doesn’t mention is his effort to extend his term(s) on the OC Board of Supes with his failed endorsement of Measure N. He also attempted an end run by getting his fellow board members to go along with a similar measure. Not even his buddy Shawn went along.

Then, there is the Rossmoor debacle….

What it really comes down to is, who would be the best representative of our interests in the California Senate? Unfortunately, we have no Democrat (unless you count the idiot from Huntington Beach who is running as a write-in candidate), (little l) libertarian, or green party candidates running. It’s been a given, perhaps falsely , that our district is solid Republican. I think that ground is slowly giving way.

And, perhaps that is what Don Wagner sees. He has been accused by the ultra-conservatives of not being “Red” enough. He actually takes a more liberal line on such issues as immigration reform and pensions. And, God knows, he actually took campaign money from a police union in direct violation of the mystical Scott Baugh Manifesto (along with Janet Nguyen, whose “secret” campaign contributions from OCEA are famous).

But, he also has the respect of and influence with many legislators, both Republican and Democrat. He knows how to cross the aisle to get the job done. If you are a Democrat or even a liberal thinking Republican, doesn’t it make sense to work with the other side rather than toe the line just because?

With Moorlach, who has an ethics problem when it comes to his own pension, you don’t get any of this. No experience, not even popularity. He couldn’t make up his mind what he wanted to run for until he found something he could afford (because he knew he’d have trouble raising campaign funds). He refused to give up his pension while making county employees out to be union thugs for not giving up theirs. He falsely claims to have repaired the bankruptcy when, in reality, he did nothing more than foretell what many already knew – and what many argue would not have occurred if the county had waited a few more days (we’ll never know, will we?).

Clearly, Moorlach’s methodical approach appeals to the rich and powerful in the county. He has spent his entire career schmoozing with the elite. He has blocked the formation of ethics commissions. He has wasted millions of dollars in ridiculous IT contract escalations with no viable results, all in the name of “public-private” partnerships that haven’t worked.

The choice between a career, professional politician with an eye toward progress and that of a pedantic, condescending and unethical dilettante is obvious. The special election for the California State Senate District 37 will be held March 17, 2015. Sample ballots have been mailed and absentee ballots (oh, when will they combine them?) should be out soon.

This will be another special, low-turnout election that will be decided on by the absentees. With three Republicans and a write-in candidate, it is quite likely no one will receive the requisite 51 percent and we will be subjected to a subsequent election in May. Do your part to see that doesn’t happen by voting for Don Wagner.

(Another) Special Election Set For March 17, 2015

thescreamI thought we’d be spared, alas. Before we get to the bad news…..

It seems our Attorney General, Kamala Harris, has set her sights on the upcoming U.S. Senate race to replace Senator Barbara Boxer. The election of Harris who, over the years has been tied to every possible political seat, including the next Governor and a possible replacement for Eric Holder, would be a win-win for conservative Californians. California gun rights groups have whined over her draconian rules over firearms since she first took office. Making Bill Lockyear look like Charlton Heston, she has effectively locked down manufacturers by making admission to the Approved Handgun List nearly impossible.

Of course, this hasn’t been without backlash from the gun folks. I haven’t looked for exact numbers but it seems more lawsuits have been fought and won during

Kamala Harris - "Gaze into my eyes and give me your guns."

Kamala Harris – “Gaze into my eyes and give me your guns.”

her tenure as AG than any other, at least in recent history. That’s good news for gun-toters here, especially when the courts slapped down the CCW laws. Unfortunately, the Democratic backhand is so strong, most counties have not changed their stance and still restrict issue of permits. With Harris’ departure, perhaps that will change.

According to Cal Watchdog, her likely rivals for the Senate seat would be former LA Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa and hedge-fund broker Tom Steyer. We agree with them that Steyer, a billionaire, could outspend Harris but money doesn’t always buy an election. Just ask some of our recent contenders for governor. You still have to have charisma and, as the darling of the California Democratic Party, Harris has plenty of that.

If Harris does win, the real question is, who will Jerry replace her with? Gun-toters, be careful what you wish for.

As long as we are talking about Federal seats, I might as well break the news to you. Remember the other day when I told you we were spared from any more stupid off-year elections? Well, I spoke too soon.

As former Senator Mimi Walters has crossed the rotunda to join the ranks of Congress, the 37th District Senate seat is, once again, open. It should come as no surprise that the only candidates for the seat are both staunch Republicans (are there any other kind nowadays?). Former county supervisor John Moorlach has finally landed on this spot to continue his non-career political…..career. We only say this because, years ago when he was running for OC Supervisor, I recall him saying he did not plan to make a career out of politics. He did, however, manage to make a career in management AND politics in Orange County, thus allowing him to collect a sizeable county pension for the rest of his life.

The other contender is Don Wagner who currently represents Tustin and Irvine in the California State Assembly. Don is also a career politician having first

Don Wagner

Don Wagner

served locally on the South OC Community College District. He is an attorney (we won’t hold it against him) and lives in Irvine. He is also a member of the Federalist Society, a libertarian constitutional group.

Of the two, Wagner is by far the best candidate. For one thing, he is homeboy….well, almost. At least he lives in Irvine which is closer than Huntington Beach. He gets high ratings from business organizations and, surprisingly for a Republican, Civil Liberties and Civil Rights folks. His ratings on fiscal conservativeness lead me to believe he is a responsible Republican who is willing to cross the aisle to get the job done – in other words, a libertarian.

True, Wagner has voted mostly along party lines in the Assembly. One would expect that from either side. He has also supported common sense bills in mental health, openness of charitable organizations and allowing medications to be administered in schools. Nothing fancy but, still.

Moorlach, on the other hand, has done one thing well. He predicted the bankruptcy of Orange County at the fiscal hands of an imbecile. Now, he didn’t really do anything about it (because he couldn’t) but he did predict it. Well, that’s not really true. He did join the ranks of the elected as County Treasurer, thus establishing the foundation for his lucrative pension.

Beyond that, Moorlach has spent most of his time blathering from the dais. More often than not, he has failed to gain the consensus of other conservatives when dealing with the problems of the county and, in fact, has done more to contribute to the corruption and shadow government that we all know really runs Orange County, than he has to clean up the mess. He has effectively blocked any effort to bring transparency to local government during his tenure. And, he has managed to alienate the rank-and-file civil servants that he hates with a passion. Wow. Talk about an oxymoron (emphasis on moron).

John Moorlach - I spent enough money on frivolous lawsuits to fill this hangar

John Moorlach – “I spent enough money on frivolous lawsuits to fill this hangar”

Moorlach’s vehemence against public employees, particularly public safety, has caused him to take bad advice from his mensa friends and promote frivilous lawsuits. Even when county counsel opposed it, Moorlach was insistent the county sue the sheriffs deputies association over pensions. Apparently, Moorlach and his bud Mario Mainero were the only ones who could see the truth. Riggghhhhttttt………

Of course, he refused to to act as a responsible leader and give up his lucrative county pension while he actively campaigned to get rid of what he characterized as unsustainable pensions for rank-and-file workers. And, while inroads have been made in the OC pension wars, they had little to do with him.

In fact, it was the Orange County Employees Association led by Nick Berardino, that led the charge to bring pensions under control. Nick deftly introduced the idea of hybrid pensions, brougt proposed bills to the legislature and assisted with the IRS bureaucracy to get pension reform into the county. He then let the board of supervisors take most of the credit.

Now, I know this is going to come as a shock but, the special election to fill Walter’s vacant seat is the only thing on the ballot. Still, in Orange County’s own special way, the machine will roll. Instead of finding new ways to get voters to vote from the comfort of their own home (like internet or phone voting), they will roll out the precinct gear and voting machines to “empower” citizens to exercise their lawful right. Yard signs, although not nearly as many, will sprout from the most unlikely places. Will we see a debate? I sure hope so. Wagner would clean the floor while Moorlach blusters and fidgets in that condescending “gosh, gee” way of his while not really saying anything of substance before the audience falls asleep from boredom.

The special election is March 17, 2015. We strongly suggest you mark your absentee ballot for Don Wagner before sending it in. Do it when you get it, lest you forget.

County Cuts a Deal With Employees

contracts_sjpg380(We erroneously implied that TMEA employees were in negotiations this year. As it turns out, this is just a reopener on scheduling for the yard employees. Sorry for the confusion-ed.) The news is finally out and it isn’t as bad as some thought. Orange County Employees Association, the largest public employee union in the county, has announced the mediator’s proposal and is recommending the employees accept. The union has been in negotiations for nearly two years over wages and benefits.

Last year, the County got serious, making threats against the employees and running a successful campaign to paint rank-and-file workers as living generously on the public dole. Saying that a 2.7 at 55 benefit was unsustainable, county management also attacked the sacred peace officer pillar by forcing deputies into paying their own way on pensions. The hyperbole rose in the latter half of last year.

OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino, finally countered with a website that cracked open the real issues and problems in Orange County – the Supervisors themselves. The website, www.therealocsupervisors.com, shows a video outlining the corruption and pay-for-play policies that have become de rigeuer in county politics. The video also ran on local TV stations in front of thousands of Orange County taxpayers.

Both the website and ad have had an apparent effect on negotiations. Late last year, the county said they would tender their “Last, Best and Final offer”, meaning exactly what it says, to the union. As the deputies and management unions had already either settled or had terms imposed, the county believed they had the upper hand. That, of course, was before Berardino’s campaign. When the county did make their final offer, it sparked some fireworks and a criminal investigation. Union members soundly rejected the county offer. For several weeks there was no communication until the impasse triggered state-mandated mediation.

A few weeks ago, after both sides met with the mediator, it was clear, according to sources, that an amicable agreement would not be reached. Using his authority as a mediator, a recommended resolution was sent to both sides. The Board of Supervisors discussed the proposed agreement and voted in closed session to accept.

Today, Berardino sent an email missive to union employees.

With that in our hearts, last week your OCEA Bargaining Team and the County met with a neutral third-party mediator pursuant to state law in an effort to reach an agreement to prevent the County from imposing its Last, Best and Final Offer. After a day of hearing from both OCEA and the County, the mediator used his authority to issue a “mediator’s proposal,” which includes a 1.25% base salary increase (effective first pay period after adoption)  and a one-time  1.25 % lump sum cash payment (effective first pay period in April 2014).

Terms of the agreement also change aspects of the health benefits most employees receive and will result in slightly higher costs for many rank-and-file employees. Employees are now being asked to vote on the proposal this coming week. OCEA has recommended approval.

Most employees in the county have not seen a raise in nearly seven years. The original proposal from the Board was another two years of austerity with no real end in sight. The news of even a small raise has been welcomed by the rank and file. OCEA management is expecting approval with implementation the first week in April.

We have pointed out before that OCEA contracts with the Tustin Municipal Employees Association for negotiations and representation. Perhaps seeing this, Tustin employees will see past the rhetoric of the city council and City Manager Jeff Parker’s office as they negotiate again this year. It is time for Parker to loosen the purse strings and reward the hard work of more than just a few management cronies by offering a reasonable wage increase and stop further erosion of benefits for the rank-and-file.

Not Just No But, HELL No!

Credit: The Liberal OC

Credit: The Liberal OC

Union Rejects County Offer

The doors on the Orange County Employees Association had barely closed at the end of Friday’s business day when the word went out by phone and email that members of the county’s largest public union had overwhelmingly turned down the Board of Supervisors’ “last, best and final offer”.

The rejection comes at the heels of the slim acceptance by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, who voted to approve a contract that forces deputies to pay their fair share of county retirement costs.

OCEA Spokesperson, Jennifer Muir, said that county employees saw the offer for what it was – an attempt to bully them into accepting a bad deal against threats that, if they didn’t accept, politicians on the Board of Supervisors would make it worse for them in the future.

The Board of Supervisors proposed these cuts at the same time as they accepted a pay raise for themselves—a raise that just showed up on their paychecks and was awarded retroactively to July.And it happens at the same time as they continue voting to approve multi-million dollar contracts to their campaign contributors.

Supervisors Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach, a career politician with an eye on Federal Office, both said the offer was warranted by the $73 million dollars in property tax disputed by the state last year. Moorlach stated, “We’re dealing with a situation where the state has made our budget gong forward very austere.

What was not lost on either side was the fact that county managers would receive a 1.25 percent raise after going through mediation following the county’s last, best and final offer to that group. Also receiving a raise this year would be the Board of Supervisors themselves, who got an automatic 1.4 percent raise as their pay is set to that of judges. Although it was Governor Jerry Brown who set that in motion, it is the county that will pay for their raises through the General Fund.

Moorlach quickly set about doing damage control by publicly announcing his effort to see if he could turn down the raise. However, it is not likely to erase the fact that, for years, he refused to give up his county pension, saying he would wait until the law was changed before he would give it up. At the time, Supervisors’ pensions were funded one hundred percent by the county.

Both Nelson and Moorlach, the only Supervisors to respond to the union’s rejection, neglected to say the $72 million dollar property tax dispute they blamed for the no-raise offer, was the direct result of the Board’s failure to mitigate the dispute despite legal counsel to the contrary.

From a Voice of OC article:

When the county officials financed the 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 and 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.

The general consensus at OCEA is, the real problem is the sour relationship the Republican Party keeps with the state legislature. Indeed, more than one Orange County Republican legislator has suffered the wrath of an unkind Democratic majority. Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a former Assemblyman, was forced into an office in the Capitol that is so small it is often referred to as “the doghouse”.

OCEA General Manager, Nick Berardino, was succinct in a written statement to union members. Saying corruption investigations and “pay-to-play tactics” caused the Board of Supervisors to target county workers who stood up to them and exposed corrupt practices. “It’s just like last year, when the Grand Jury issued reports about the “culture of corruption” in Orange County Government. The Board responded, he said, by attempting to cut their pay.

In his message, Berardino called for a cleanup of the corrupt practices and said that union members will stand with the Grand Jury and law enforcement agencies in cleaning up the county.

Berardino is also the subject of an assault investigation by the Santa Ana Police Department. County negotiating officials allege Berardino threatened and pushed a negotiator at the last bargaining session when the County’s ultimatum was delivered. Santa Ana Police are not forthcoming with information. OCEA says that no assault occurred and the County is grandstanding to bolster its position.

The next step for union members, who have not seen a raise in more than seven years, is mediation. If mediation does not result in a satisfactory agreement, arbitration will follow. A final resolution could be as much as a year off.

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