There is only one item on the Planning Commission Agenda and it is barely worth meeting over. Except for timeline requirements, they probably could have postponed and save the taxpayer a few thousand dollars in stipends and staff salaries. That being the case, we are reporting on an item that is truly of some importance to Tustin and particularly the surrounding unincorporated area.
Oh, So Close
The Orange County Board of Supervisors were saved further embarrassment on the hiring of a new CEO candidate at their March 19th meeting. As reported on the Voice of OC last week, CEO candidate, Chandra Wallar demanded an up or down vote on her taking the top county job. The BoS obliged her by voting unanimously to hire her but public discussions on salary and benefits went sideways. Wallar had earlier demanded a salary that was commensurate with other southern California counties. The BoS was adamant they wouldn’t be blackmailed.
According to the VOC, the real sticking point has been on pensions. While Supervisors have demanded that every employee pay into their own pensions, Wallar demanded she not be held to the same standard. If this is starting to sound like a Tom Mauck rerun, you are right. Except this time 5th District Supervisor, Todd Spitzer, was joined by ultra-conservatives, Moorlach and Nelson in refusing to pay more than what Wallar’s predecessor was paying. “She made it clear to me that if there isn’t interest in moving up from $254,000, she’s not interested,” said Spitzer.
Wallar, who now mus return to her Santa Barbara CEO post and try to mend fences ( I smell a lawsuit coming on), criticized the board for changing the terms originally offered in closed session negotiations. But, as the VOC points out, new state law requires that top officials salaries be discussed in public. They also say that any approvals required the full consent of the board and not just the subcommittee consisting of Janet Nguyen and Pat Bates both of whom rolled over and supported a higher salary and perks.
From the VOC:
Bates and Nguyen initially supported Wallar’s demands. Last week, however, they insisted they were only presenting Wallar’s salary demands.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who supported Wallar’s appointment but not her salary demands, lamented the situation, saying board members had erred by not having a public discussion about salary earlier.
Spitzer said that the board “should have been much clearer and had the discussion about compensation out in open when they designed the recruitment flyer.”
Given the debate in public over her salary, Spitzer acknowledged that “I can’t blame her for being offended.”
The public debate also revealed an important downside to Wallar.[sic] Spitzer said that, when Wallar wouldn’t agree to a compromise salary of $270,000, it became clear that “she wouldn’t be a good fit for Orange County.”
We agree, of course. It is fortunate the BoS decided to follow state law and common sense in making salary discussions public. Even if OCEA’s Nick Berardino and other public employee union officials had not said anything, the idea of publicizing the county’s intent forced boardmembers to consider public backlash in hiring new employees at exorbitant salaries. Spitzer, who has championed the cause of reining in employee costs, said the county will not have a separate policy for high ranking officials that differs from the rank and file.
Now, if we could just do something about those pesky supervisors paying their own way in regards to pensions. John Moorlach, who has made a career lamenting the fact that many employees in the county did not pay into their pensions, refuses to discuss his own pension issues. Shawn Nelson and Pat Bates are the only sitting supervisors who have declined pension participation outright. The other three remain in the county pension system known as OCERS. Nelson has also voiced support for a law that would force elected officials to swap social security for pensions. That would take them out of the game and allow a more balanced discussion of pension issues.
For now, the residents of the county will have to be content with the more than adequate job the temp CEO, Bob Franz, has been doing since Tom Mauck’s departure. So, why don’t they hire Bob permanently? We could ask Todd. We suspect Bob’s just not that stupid.
It has been over ten years since the U.S. Marines departed Orange County, taking with them a huge part of our history and leaving huge pieces of contaminated land in its place. El Toro and Tustin, both Marine Corps Air Stations, were decommissioned in 1999 as part of the Base Closure and Realignment Act. Both were also turned over to local authorities to redevelop into housing and other uses. And, while Tustin largely lanquished for years due to the recession, Larry Agran and the city of Irvine had bigger plans for El Toro, including the Orange County Great Park. Billed as the, ” first great metropolitan park of the 21st Century”, the Great Park Corporation mission statement says it is preserving and protecting the Orange County Great Park for the benefit and enjoyment of all its visitors.
Yet, while the mission statement is laudible, the actions of the corporation and its predecessors, particularly the Irvine City Council has been questionable. Under Larry Agran, the city council quickly wrested control of the base from the Orange County Supervisors, who had originally sought the base as an industrial airport. A park board was quickly formed with the city clearly in control with a majority vote. Contracts were issued and work begun on the park… sort of. Anyone visiting the park, ten years later, may wonder where the money went.
More than $200 million dollars later, the Great Park has little to show for its efforts. An Orange helium ballon lifts visitors 400 feet above 200 or so acres of park development. A plaza of sorts plays host to a variety of events including a weekly farmers market and seasonal events for halloween and,this year, a New Years Eve bash. Yes, that is a million taxpayer dollars for every acre of park so far. The worst is, much of the development, like Hangar 244, was already there and required nothing more than refurbishment to use. And, according to the LA Times, much of the development is leased out to agriculture. The runways, left largely intact, are rented for a variety of uses, none of them parklike.
So, where did the money go?
Meet Ken Smith, architect of the OC Great Park. Hailed as a visionary, I remember seeing pictures of the flamboyant designer with huge oversized glasses and a comedic grin bursting onto the pages of the Register and the OC version of the LA Times. He was billed as part savior and part nutcase by those that either stood with him or against him. There were frequent photos of the Ken Smith entourage showing off plans or the occasional finished feature. The Great Park was the largest project he had ever worked on. His commanding price tag, that would eventually reach $42.7 million dollars, was matched only by his enthusiasm for the project. His lack of experience for a job this size was made up for by assembling an equally high priced group of designers and architects. Even the Great Park website billed him as “world renowned” even though he was probably the least qualified of the companies the Board interviewed.
Smith quickly went to work on what was to eventually be not much more than a huge publicity stunt. Plans were developed for a 1400 acre park that would encompass sports fields fit for the children of kings (or, at least Irvinites). The big Orange helium balloon was quickly put into service and you could here the oohs and aahs from miles around as it rose high above the landscape. Scarcely a week went by when the Register or the LA Times didn’t run an article or two on the “progress” of the Great Park.
The glamour has faded, though, and the reality of a state wracked in recession met the fiscal imprudence of the Great Park Board. In last year’s contentious race for the Irvine City Council, the Great Park became the football of choice for Councilmember Jeff Lalloway and what would eventually become the new majority. This month, the city council, sans Agran, voted to reduce the number of Great Park Boardmembers to the sitting city council, thereby relieving them of any further outside influence. The new, reduced, board also took immediate steps to axe the million dollar public relations firm, Forde & Mollrich as well as their lobbyist, Townsend Public Affairs. Councilwoman and former chair of the GP Board, Beth Krom, believes that is a mistake while Lalloway believes the PR and Lobbyist are unnecessary as city staff should be able to handle those tasks.
Lalloway, like many in the county, is unhappy with the progress of the Great Park. The Park was not getting much in return for the $1.1 million dollars plus expenses the two firms were charging for their services each year. “We need to stop talking about building a great park and start actually working on building the great park,” Lalloway said.
Lalloway has a lot of support throughout the county. Aside from some bloggers laughingly calling for a revival of the airport idea, most proponents simply want the city to stop talking about building a park and get on with actual construction.
During his swearing in to the OC Board of Supervisors, 5th District Supervisor Todd Spitzer who supports Lalloway’s position said, “I’ve always been 100 percent supportive of the vision of the Great Park,” Spitzer said. “However, it’s been more than a decade and $220 million in expenditures and there’s very little to show for it.” Spitzer also challenged the new city council saying, if they couldn’t do any more than the previous council, the county should look at an initiative to turn it back to county hands.
That scenario might be nice to think about but is probably undoable. After being given the reins of the Great Park years ago, the city annexed the land, making it part of the city. “It’s city of Irvine property,” Lalloway said. “The voters can’t vote to take it away from us.” Likewise, the idea of the Great Park reverting back to an industrial airport is dim since the only ones who would be able to vote on the issue would be city of Irvine residents. They, along with the residents of surrounding areas like Tustin, are not likely to warm up to that idea.
Can the park be built? Surely, with the demise of Redevelopment Agencies and the loss of over a billion dollars in funding, the task is much more difficult. It is certainly time to look at alternatives, including downsizing and obtaining partnerships from developers to build something more realistic. That doesn’t mean the Great Park can’t still be. But, whatever finished product is envisioned by Lalloway and the city council, progress needs to be made. That means feet to the floor and shovels in the ground.
What’s next? The Great Park will be host to the Department of Energy sponsored Solar Decatholon, a huge event to be held in October 2013. Agran believes the firing of the Great Park’s PR firm will harm the prospects of a successful event. Lalloway disagrees and plans continue for what is billed as one of the largest “green” events in the world, showcasing green technology in everyday construction. If the GP Board/Irvine City Council can pull it off (we think they can) it will be a big feather in their cap and, possibly, a portent of better days for the park that isn’t.
OK, it’s almost June 5th and you still have not sat down with your spouse or significant other, sample ballot in hand, and made your decision on who to vote for. Or, maybe you are just one of those folks that closes your eyes in the voting booth and hopes for the best (how could you do any worse?). If you have not sent your vote-by-mail ballot in or, like me, you prefer to exercise your right at the local polling place, here is our take on the locals you will be voting for. This is only for the races that really count and not for anything that brings in the “top two” votes. We may cover those when it matters, in November.
Gary Johnson – President of the United States
Hey, I am a Libertarian after all. Johnson is the best candidate for President the Libertarian Party has ever produced. He is articulate and clear on Libertarian values and has the respect of the entire party. But, it is his running mate that I like even better. Homegrown, OC boy, Jim Gray is a former Superior Court Judge who makes no secret of his belief that America has lost the war on drugs. He thinks money spent combating drugs on the street would be better spent elsewhere… or not spent at all.
Gail Lightfoot – United States Senator
The field is thick with candidates for Senator. At last count there were 14 Republicans and 6 Democrats vying for the seat. Lightfoot has the best name recognition of all of them, save for Orly Taitz, another crackpot conservative. She also has demonstrated “fiscal responsibility and social tolerance”. And, you wonder why we like Libertarians.
Todd Spitzer – District 3 County Board of Supervisors
Todd Spitzer and Deborah Pauly have put on a pretty good show for us, centered mainly on Twitter and Facebook. Pauly, who banned me from her Twitter feed (I guess she didn’t know I could just pull it up anytime, even if I can’t follow her), has tried her best to come up with some worthy zingers against Todd. But, in the end, she just doesn’t have what it takes. It must be that inner angry religious and racial bigot peeking out.
Todd, on the other hand, has made the most of the opportunities Pauly has presented him. He has deftly wielded the DUI issue without making too big a deal about it. I haven’t followed the past few days since a Pauly supporter, Bob Walters, sent a support letter out with a photo of Alabama Governor George Wallace standing in front of the University of Alabama, refusing entry to black students. Walters, who claims he was Wallace’s campaign manager for a failed presidential run, was obviously equating Pauly’s firm conservative views to Wallace, right? Funny, she did not disavow herself from Walters or the letter.
Todd is actually running for Orange County District Attorney. That position just isn’t open yet, and he needs to keep busy in the meantime. So, for now, he is running for County Board of Supervisors. He is the only candidate with both local experience as a former county supervisor, and statewide experience as a legislator. He has major endorsements from around the state and the county. In fact, all of Pauly’s colleagues on the Villa Park City Council have endorsed her opponent. He has also managed to outraise Pauly in campaign funds. So much so, that he was able to run an effective campaign on the raised funds without touching a dime in his warchest (he is saving that for the OCDA race).
Todd often manages to put his foot in his mouth but he is actually interested in making the county a better place. And just as quickly as his foot goes in, it comes back out again as he can usually turn most criticism away.
Bob Hammond – Orange County Board of Education Area 1 Trustee
Yes, we’ve broken away from the Libertarian slate on this one, for good reason. For whatever reason, they have chosen to endorse someone we just cannot stomach. We warned you of this in an earlier
post and stand by our post. Pedroza is absolutely the worst person for this position for all the reasons we wrote about here.
Bob Hammondis a former United States Marine and teacher. He has the endorsement of the (shudder) Republican Party as well as former Tustin Councilmember, Jim Palmer. In the grand scheme of things, I think an accountant would be better than a teacher in this position only because of the fiscal management responsibilities of the board. But, for that very reason, you definitely don’t want Pedroza watching the purse strings.
Yes on Measure A Office of Public Adminstrator
It is time to rein in the number of elected offices in the County. Public Administrator is a job most people did not even know about until last year when Public Administrator/Public Guardian John Williams got into hot water over a number of issues, including helping to railroad Todd Spitzer when he was fired from his job in the District Attorney’s office. It is pretty evident that the DA’s right hand girl, Susan Kang Schroeder, colluded with Williams on this one.
More importantly, the job does not pay that much and it is, at best, a part-time job that should be relegated to a Mangager III rather than an elected official who can’t figure out how to keep them from locking him out of his office.
No on Measure B, Mandatory Minimum Pension Selection
A big no on this one. Everyone thinks this is a great idea. That is what the Board of Supervisors wants you to think. However, as it stands now, Supervisors may take the regular, non-public safety pension or they can opt to take no pension at all. With this change, we are giving them a gift. With all these so-called conservative Republicans around, would it surprise you to know that only Bates and Nelson refuse their pensions? Your other three conservatives, including the career politician and employee who will reap a windfall pension when he retires, John Moorlach, gladly take their pensions, car allowances and Optional Personal Benefits Accounts to the tune of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Send this one back to the drawing board with a no vote and demand your Supervisors take NO pension.
Yes on Prop. 28, Term Limits
I’ll tell you right now, we are not fans of term limits at the state level. While we gladly voted for them in the old days, it has become apparent that term limits, in their current form, are useless and have done more harm than good. The immediate result of term limits in California was to put every legislator and statewide elected official into permanent fundraising mode for the next election cycle. In fact, legislators spend more time working on keeping their jobs than actually doing their jobs. Oh, you can blame the evil unions if you like but Republicans all get their money from the various chambers of commerce, business coalitions and, so-called, tax reform organizations. Let’s not forget AT&T drops millions into candidate accounts and has full-time lobbyists for their business. It’s just good… business, after all.
Prop. 28 is a long way from what I would like to see: elimination of term limits. But, it does help in that legislators will be able to remain in one house, hopefully gaining experience and wisdom along the way. At least, that is the idea behind this current change.
Term limits at the local level? Absolutely! Local politics is not the place for professional politicians. Recently, John Moorlach attempted to garner interest in changing term limits for the Board of Supervisors. That’s probably because the Republican Party has shown little interest in sending him to Sacramento. And, he will be out of a job soon enough. He is not alone. Santa Ana City Councilmember, Claudia Alvarez recently sought an opinion on their term limits measure to see if she could run for three more terms. And, can anyone, even his so-called friends, imagine 4 more years of Boss Tweed Amante and his fiscal responsiblitity? Where’s my iPad?
No on Prop. 29, Tobacco Tax
I know, I know. I should stop smoking those darned cigars. But, this really isn’t about that. The tax on non-cigarette products is rather minimal and I have voted for these taxes in the past. However, this one was so poorly written, it almost begs the government to set up another useless, money-stealing bureaucracy to mis-manage tax money and send it out of state. There is almost no oversight and, most importantly, no requirement for the money to be spent on research withing the state of California, where we have premiere cancer research laboratories. Just say No and send this one back to the drawing board. Then come down to the Chili Cookoff. I’ll be the one in the panama, smoking a pre-embargo cigar (I might even have Amber the Wonder Dog with me).
I see that Deborah Pauly has spent most of her campaign funds on shiny new yard signs that she has posted in strategic areas around Tustin. I even saw one in her home town of Villa Park today. It was pretty prominent and the only one in the area. I figure it must be her house or a relative who couldn’t get out of displaying it. Coincidentally, the yard sign for Todd Spitzer I had posted in my yard, mysteriously disappeared. Well, maybe that nice campaign girl will call and offer to replace it.
Pauly must have used the rest of her meager funds to mail out a slick campaign piece. I got mine in the mail last week. She had no new message to deliver so she relied on the tainted letter from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. You now, the one Susan Kang Schroeder, chief mouthpiece for T-Rack, lamented that Spitzer erred in calling himself a Deputy District Attorney after he had been fired? It seems that Susan, wife of Repubican Party kingpin, Mike Schroeder, decided to blast Spitzer for a minor error that had already been corrected, in a letter to him. Only problem was, the letter was given to Deborah Pauly before it was even mailed out. No one wondered how that happened as the legendary hatred Schroeder and Rackauckus have for Spitzer is only shadowed by Pauly’s inane attempt to use this ruse to gain voter confidence.
Apparently, either her endorsers have dismissed Pauly’s racist attitude toward Muslims and have embraced her “world christian view”, or they have dismissed it altogether and hope it won’t come back to haunt them. I favor the second over the first. I will say that Pauly’s endorsement by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is a big one. But, the only other noteworthy endorsement is Chuck Devore. Devore, if you will remember, entered the race swinging. Then suddenly, he decided to forego his bid for Supervisor and head to Texas where he has been bashing California ever since. C’mon, Chuck, we know you want to come back.
Devore actually had the best chance of beating Spitzer. But, he was aware of Spitzer’s huge warchest (we’ll get to that in a minute) and probably felt he would not be able to compete. I guess he didn’t stop to think that Spitzer, who can raise money at the drop of a fake letter, would save that cash for his dream job of Orange County District Attorney (it’s OK, Todd. Just do a good job as Supervisor for the next four years). In any case, Devore, a wannabe career politician, took off for higher ground. Oh yeah, if you haven’t kept track, Spitzer started the race with $1.1 million dollars in the bank, plus assorted other accounts. Since then, he has raised a boatload of money because, while Deborah is out cashing in PET bottles for their redemption value, Spitzer just has to mention he is holding a fundraiser and the ATM starts ringing.
Spitzer also sent out a campaign mailer this week. This was a slick two sided piece with a photo of Todd with Repubican Party Chair, Scott Baugh (apparently, not everyone in the Central Committee hates Todd). The other side has the usual blather about being a tax fighter and his record as a legislator. Oh, but what is this? On the back side is a nice little side note that says, “A Rating from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association”. So, while the Jarivs folks may not have endorsed him, they certainly think a lot of him. Take that, Deborah. One thing that is definitely missing is any word, good or bad, about Pauly. In fact, Todd would not even mention her by name for the first 4 months or so of his campaign. And, in every debate, he sent Pauly walking. In fact, we heard she actually walked out on the last one.
The most often heard complaint about Spitzer from Pauly is that he voted for the enhanced pensions that have now been “proven” to be bad mojo. Never mind the mystical accounting scenarios the federal government requires that puts any pension that relies on investments for funding at a disadvantage (most do), Todd has stated emphatically that, had he to do it over again, he would not have voted for the enhanced pensions for county employees. How many times does he have to say he is sorry?
It is interesting that a lot of political blogs keep bringing up Deborah Pauly’s run-in with the police over a DUI incident last year. We aren’t saying that she used her vast powers as a Villa Park Councilwoman to sway the police. But, she certainly used poor judgment in the situation. Had she even thought of the consequences of her actions in regard to a political career?
Now, I only bring this up because a recent blog post elsewhere attempted to equate Spitzer’s hiring of a Democrat political pundit who has a felony DUI record a few years ago for a Christmas party, with Pauly’s poor judgement. I hardly see the similarity as the guy, Vern Nelson, was simply paid by Spitzer to play the piano. The blogger asks, “Where was Todd’s concern for public safety?” So, hiring an ex-felon piano player is equal to using poor judgment, being drunk in public with your drunk spouse at the wheel of a vehicle trying to outrun a DUI checkpooint? Nice try. I should tell you the blogger in question has a personal hatred for both Vern and Todd and thinks a racist like Pauly is the better candidate. He is also running for the OC Board of Education. You might want to consider that when you vote in June.
June 5th is coming up quickly and will be here before you know it. Absentee ballots, which account for the majority of votes in this county, have been sent by the Registrar and received by most households. For those of you who are teetering on the edge, we have a few recommendations. First, and foremost, is Todd Spitzer for 3rd District Supervisor. I know Todd personally. He is an opportunist, to say the least. Don’t expect him to sit down and talk to you about issues unless you have a checkbook in your hand. But he is honest about it. And, he has a proven track record. Forget the legislature, where he was relegated to the doghouse. Forget his recent failed bid for OCDA (but not his track record as a prosecutor). Remember the fact that he has an excellent record as a former member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. He is endorsed by every notable Republican in Orange County and even Democrats like his boyish good looks. He is the only logical choice against an opponent who is a proven racist and whose only political experience is that of Villa Park Councilman, of whom even her own colleagues refuse to endorse her. They have, by the way, all endorsed Todd.