Author Archives: Jeff Gallagher
Several months ago, Our Town Tustin wrote about the shady dealings with Poseidon Surfside and their 20 year push to build a desalinator in Orange County. The idea is to use land where a power generating station stands in Huntington Beach and suck water out of the ocean, several miles from shore to make clean, potable water at the expense of the marine ecology. Of course, everyone from the Sierra Club to the Surfrider Foundation has rightly objected to the project. The most important reason, however, is that Orange County simply does not need a desalinator as they are not and will not be short on water any time soon.
The company has made every play in the book to get their project off the ground, despite the enormous opposition. They even had their choirboy, Gavin Newsom, take out a major stumbling block to insure passage over the last hurdle. That stumbling block was Santa Ana Water Board member, William von Blasingame, an outspoken critic of the project. Newsom then replaced him with our very own City of Tustin Mayor Letitia Clark. Clark, a second term member of the city council, has so far failed to make a public statement regarding her position on the project.
Step back in time, once again, to OTT’s post regarding Gavin Newsom’s faux pax at the ritzy French Laundry, a restaurant in the Napa area. You may recall that Newsom attended a large gathering to celebrate a birthday of one of his close friends and lobbyist, Jason Kinney. Neither Newsom or, as far as we could tell, any of the guests were wearing masks or social distancing. Newsom made a lame apology for getting caught and hoped it would all go away.
There’s just one little problem.
It seems Newsom and Kinney are BFFs. And, until recently, an entry on his firm’s website boasted of his close connection with the governor saying he has been advising Newsom for over 14 years. That wouldn’t be so bad except Kinney is a professional lobbyist and has some big name companies he lobbies for. In fact, one of his biggest clients is Poseidon Surfside which, over the last year and a half, paid Kinney’s firm Axiom Advisors, $500,000 to bend the ear of the Governor and other officials. They also contributed $25,000 to Newsom’s inauguration party.
It’s not hard to put two and two together to realize that there is a rancid conflict of interest with Kinney’s friendship with Newsom. Unfortunately, it has been clear from the beginning of his term that Newsom believes he is invulnerable. In the same manner he has recklessly wielded his executive power over the Covid-19 debacle, he has worked to clear the way for Poseidon.
The desalination project is prime example of corrupt politics. Poseidon is owned by an international holding company that stands to make millions off this project for its (mostly) foreign investors. That is, of course, what international conglomerates do. Through Kinney’s firm they have invested heavily in lobbying efforts to see their project through. But the billion dollar project will be built at the expense of every resident and business in Orange County. And for what?
Current estimates put desalinated water from the project at $1800 an acre foot while current groundwater cost is about $600 for the same amount. Orange County now imports about a quarter of its needed water at almost twice the cost for groundwater. An MWDOC study stated that, even in the worst case scenario, Orange County would be short 23,000 acre feet in a drought year. The Poseidon project would generate a minimum 50,000 acre feet of water per year with no place to sell it. Yet, if this project is approved, ratepayers will be on the hook for drastic increases for water they cannot use.
Poseidon execs refute the study, saying the governor’s abandonment of the Delta Tunnel project means that Orange County could actually suffer a 100,000 acre foot shortage. Uh….no, the governor did not abandon the project. He did downsize the project to one tunnel but the water is still coming (eventually). And, the cost of the tunnel will be borne by the entire state and serve 25 million residents. It seems Poseidon stretched the truth a little.
So, where does this leave us? More precisely, where does it leave Mayor Clark? In past discussions, it was clear that the Santa Ana Water Board, which must pass approval for the project to go forward, was split on the issue. von Blasingame was simply the target Newsom aimed at. There are other dissenting voices on the project. Unless they have changed their minds, Clark may hold the deciding vote on the board.
Most cities in Orange County have shown little interest in seeing this project go forward. As far as we know, Tustin has not made a public statement on the desalination project, even though it would impact customers of the city water department. Clark’s position is likewise unknown. The Santa Ana Water Board has not agendized the matter for discussion or vote. When it does, Clark should do what is good for the city and county and join other dissenting votes to put this project to an unglorified end.
You may have heard by now that former Orange County Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, passed away a few days ago. Hutchens, the third female sheriff in California and the first in Orange County, was 66 at her passing. Current Sheriff Don Barnes wrote an eloquent press release of admiration and respect, calling her a mentor and friend. “She led the department with courage, grace and dignity.”
Sheriff Hutchens took office in a time of strife and crisis in the OCSD. The former sheriff had been tried and convicted of federal charges of witness tampering, stemming from a year long investigation of corruption in the department. The department, to say the least, was left tattered and worn.
Hutchens was appointed for the remainder of the term and went to work immediately to repair the damage done by her predecessor(s). She made substantial changes to the department that left many conservatives wondering about her ability to lead. She was, after all, a product of a liberal Los Angeles County law enforcement agency. But, she was determined to restore the honor and dignity of the deputies who worked for her.
When the federal courts found in favor of the gun-toting crowd in 2014 (Peruta vs. San Diego), Hutchens complied by relaxing the standards for which a concealed weapons permit would be issued. She gained further favor and respect with the conservative crowds when, after the courts overturned the initial order, she left the looser standards in place.
Hutchens’ instincts helped her give the department direction and purpose again. She made changes to the jails to keep prisoners and deputies safer and more accountable. She brought the department into the 21st century regarding the use of electronic databases for record keeping – records that could not be altered. She withstood attacks from the DA’s office and criticism from the Board of Supervisors. Where there was praise, it went to staff; when there was criticism, she readily took the blame. She had high ethical standards and expected the same for those who worked for her.
I met Sheriff Hutchens when she first took office in 2008. I was a board director of the union that represented the sheriffs special deputies and most civilian employees of the department. I found her to be affable, intelligent and respectful of others. She was genuinely interested in the welfare of her employees and it showed. Her demeanor commanded respect, not fear. I liked her.
Sheriff Hutchens retired in 2019 I think due mostly to her long standing battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2012 and she successfully fought it into remission. She successfully ran for two terms as Sheriff, choosing not to run for a third. Unfortunately, cancer became the ultimate winner and, after a brief relapse, she succumbed to the disease over the weekend.
OC Sheriff Don Barnes said, “She restored our pride, gave us back our dignity and rebuilt trust with the people we serve. She kept her oath, kept her promises, and ended her time in office leaving this agency better than when she started.”
I agree. RIP, Sheriff.
Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou! Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr! Milad Majid! Feliz Navidad! Merry Keshmish! Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah! Heughliche Winachten un ‘n moi Nijaar! Glædelig Jul! Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad! Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto! Chuc Mung Giang Sinh! Merry Christmas.
All of us at Our Town Tustin (yes, that is all seven of us if you count the livestock) would like to wish our Christian friends, a very Merry Christmas, our Jewish friends, a very Happy and belated Hanukkah, and our friends of other faiths and belief traditions a very Happy Holiday. And, to everyone, we wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
What started out as a year of promise and prosperity has become, over the months, a struggle to overcome the adversity caused by a tiny bug no one can see. After more than eight months of isolation, shortages and loss of jobs and income, we seem to be at the bottom. Yet, it is amazing to see how resilient our America is. With the advent of Christmas has also, with the coming vaccine, come another advent of a brighter year ahead.
Through it all, we have seen some amazing acts of kindness and care. Our own Tyron Jackson and his OWW organization of volunteers have made sure many of our homeless and otherwise forgotten members of our local society have felt some normalcy and sense of decency in their lives. The social media app, Next Door, is replete with stories of individuals and groups who, many for the first time, are reaching out to others in need with kindness and care packages. Our church food drives have not stopped despite the come-and-go ban on attending services. Indeed, many have stepped up their efforts because they know that this is a trying time for many who have never experienced this kind of need before.
Though we still grieve for families torn apart by senseless violence, our nation, state and town remain united in promise and faith. And, please pray for our US Military members who remain abroad in far away lands. They spend this holiday season away from their loved ones so that you and I may spend it with ours.
So, a week or so ago, I was writing about how failed….uh, I mean former state senator, John Moorlach, had come home to roost in the 2nd Supervisorial District of Orange County. Moorlach who, if nothing else espouses self-confidence and possesses the ego of a caesar, has been busy convincing others that he is the best person for the position. His competition, curiously, was primarily from his own Republican party in the form of Newport Beach City Councilman, Kevin Muldoon and Huntington Beach Councilman, Mike Posey. Moorlach has been successful in warding off two other contenders, convincing them he is the best man for the job. Muldoon and Posey aren’t impressed.
Even so, Moorlach seemed the likely winner in a three way race between them. After all, he has name recognition and, as he likes to remind everyone, the experience.
Yes, Katrina Foley, Costa Mesa Mayor and Democrat, did file papers to run for the seat. But what Democrat would challenge what has been a staunch conservative seat since the turn of the last century? There have been more than a few elections for the seat, in years since, that went unopposed. Democrats haven’t bothered because the district is comprised of some of the most conservative portions of Orange County.
But the time are changing…..and so is Orange County
So, maybe that is why Foley has dropped her hat into the ring. And, she has received the blessings of the OC Democratic Party as well. Foley, the first directly elected mayor of Costa Mesa is no stranger to a fight with Republicans. In 2018, she was removed as mayor when conservative councilmen Jim Righeimer and Alan Mansoor garnered the support of previous ally, Sandy Genis to boot her from the position. Genis had mud on her face (and I would say lost a friend) when Foley walloped her in the 2018 mayor’s race, garnering over 52% of the vote.
Foley has been a Costa Mesa City Councilwoman for more than 10 years. She has a long history of community service and she is an attorney who owns her own law corporation. That corporation handles contracts and business litigation for high profile clients, an area of experience that would serve her well at the county level. To say professionally she is a threat to John Moorlach, is an understatement. She also has name recognition in the county. That makes her a very real threat to any Republican.
But, will it be enough to win? Surely, with Muldoon and Posey pulling votes from Moorlach, it could be. Muldoon and Posey both say they have a strong following in their own cities. And, although the Democrats have a slight edge in Orange County overall, they lag behind by 5 points in the district. And, according to the Voice of OC, had an even larger turnout in the recent election. If they can rally the troops, or better yet get Posey and Muldoon to drop out, Moorlach will likely win. The question is, just how tired are the voters?