Category Archives: Politics
I’ll Have the Fancy Water, Please
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.
Foley’s In – The Republicans are Screwed
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?
More of the Same?
A few short weeks ago, I was pondering the election numbers of local races. It was interesting to see the “Blue Wave” of the midterms had more or less petered out and conservatives had moved back into some of their old haunts. All in all, not much had changed on the political landscape.
Of course, one conservative that did not fare well was State Senator John Moorlach. Moorlach was ousted by Democrat Dave Min who garnered a 12,000 vote lead in what had previously been considered a Republican stronghold.
Moorlach won a special election in 2015 to elevate from 2nd District OC Supervisor to 37th California Senate District. He won the regular election the following year and, since then, has served without distinction. Of the several bills he has authored or sponsored, most were inconsequential. Of the few that did pass most, if not all, were cosponsored by Democrats.
So, what’s an out of work, former state senator to do?
In Moorlach’s case it’s come home to roost. It just so happens 2nd District OC Supervisor, Michelle Steele, is actually going places (far, far away we hope) as she handily won the election against incumbent Harley Rouda. Steele’s departure has initiated a special election to fill her place. Hmm….
This may not be a walk in the park for Moorlach. For one thing, he has some opposition and, like him, it is mostly Republican. Newport Beach City Councilman, Kevin Muldoon and Huntington Beach Councilman, Mike Posey have both officially announced their candidacy. And, while I thought no Democrat would bother with this clearly Republican District (they hold a 5 point lead and NPPs are almost a third of the vote), one actually has.
Katrina Foley, who is the first directly elected Mayor of Costa Mesa, has wasted no time in throwing her hat in the ring. The ink was hardly dry on her certification papers when she apparently saw greener pastures in the Board of Supervisors. That alone, of course, should cause suspicion that Foley is just another wannabe career politician looking for a foothold to higher office.
Moorlach has come out strong with endorsements from the anti-taxers and the ultra conservatives. Will it be enough to win the election? “That’s my former seat. You don’t have to send a novice in,” said Moorlach recently. I’m sure there was that self-assured smirk on his face as he said it, too. But, if that self-assurance is enough, why did he feel it necessary to bully other potential candidates into dropping out?
I would like to say it would be because he is aware of his not-so-stellar record with the BoS. His constant haranguing of union officials, even calling them thugs on occasion, his refusal to shake hands with those same union officials and his near fanatical hatred of the public employee pension system did not make him a friend around the 5th floor of 333 West Santa Ana Blvd. or the public employee union headquarters just down the street.
Yes, he hated pensions….all while drawing one himself along with all the other perks of being a county supervisor. So, it turns out Moorlach only hates pensions for other public employees but thinks he deserves his own.
So, Moorlach clearly has a problem and it’s not Katrina Foley, per se. Well, in a way it is. Prior to her announcement as a candidate, Moorlach only had to fend off Muldoon and Posey. Democrats still vote. And, if they can’t vote for one of their own, they may vote for someone they think at least leans their way so they can at least feel they did their part. This being a supposedly non-partisan race, voters not seeing a candidate of their persuasion will vote for whoever has the shiniest yard sign. Moorlach might have had some of those votes. Now he won’t and he will be splitting the rest of the vote with Muldoon and Posey.
The OCGOP clearly loves Moorlach and has urged Posey and Muldoon to drop out of the race and throw their support behind Moorlach. Both have stated that they have strong support from constituents. “Right now I’m in it all the way,” Posey said in an interview with the Voice of OC. Both said they had been campaigning for months and were not going to drop out.
The good ol’ boys at the OCGOP understand the real issue. If, by some chance, Muldoon and Posey have a big enough support base, they could actually split enough votes away from Moorlach to allow Katrina Foley to win. And that would mean that, for the first time anyone can remember, there would be a second liberal vote on the Board of Supervisors.
Moorlach would like to believe he is the best candidate for the position (don’t all candidates think that?). But, is he? Yes, he is a CPA. Yes, he foretold the 1994 bankruptcy. No, he did not save the county afterwards. In fact, he was just another political lackey when the bankruptcy hit. But, it was enough to propel him to his original seat on the OC Board of Supervisors and later on to the California State Senate.
But, the county is a different animal these days, facing a different set of problems that don’t really require the expertise of a John Moorlach. Like the rest of the state and country, Orange County is trying to wade through the mess caused by the governor’s poor handling of the Covid crisis. Hard decision will have to be made and the citizens of the 2nd District may not feel he is the best candidate for the job, especially if they have several qualified candidates to choose from. There is also the fact that Moorlach lost his current Senate seat by a wide margin to a Democrat. Much of the 2nd District lies within the same territory has his senate district.
This is a special election and there are two years left on Steele’s term that Moorlach and the rest will be vying for. Whoever wins will have to run for re-election in 2022 and, because of the timing, they will also be allowed to run for another term in 2026. That’s a long time to be saddled with the smug Mr. Moorlach who also likes to surround himself with other eccentrics to help him run his office. Think long and hard before you pull the switch for him. The times they are a changing…. and, so is the county.
Business as Usual?
For most of the country, the election is finally over. Months of constant harassment and obnoxious commercial after commercial are, thankfully, over. Now, if we could just do something about those equally obnoxious Medicare supplemental insurance commercials.
Here in our town Tustin, there has been a definite shift to the left. Beckie Gomez has reclaimed a seat on the dais, joining Leticia Clark. This is still a liberal minority and not the first time we have had two female liberals on the city council (women of color is a big plus). Gomez was also part of the progressive platform on her last stint on the council. That didn’t work so well for a variety of reasons, including her apparent preference for the policies of the city elites over those of her constituents or her liberal ally. We’ll see how things pan out this time.
Ryan Gallagher (no relation) is a non-starter. A good portion of his campaign was financed by the same wonderfully dark money as his compatriots. His list of endorsements, unsurprisingly, contains a veritable who’s who of former city officials that nearly sunk this city with their clown show a few years ago. He will most certainly join the conservative Austin Lumbard and Barry Cooper to effectively block any meaningful actions by the left.
And, that’s a shame. For the first time I can remember, the city council is made up entirely of city residents who are old enough to make sound decisions while being young enough to have some innovative ideas. Their combined expertise could be put to great use to move our city forward in developing the rest of the Legacy and as it navigates the dangerous waters of…well, water. Poseidon, the developers of that nasty, desalination plant in Huntington Beach, are pushing strong for something we don’t need that will surely affect the water rates of every homeowner in Tustin. Governor Newsom, for whatever reason, is onboard; so much so, that he fired Santa Ana Water Board member, William von Blasingame, who spoke out against the project and replaced him with….Letitia Clark.
The assumption, of course, is that Clark is a proponent of the project. Most certainly, those who rallied behind von Blasingame have now had their voices squelched, even if Clark is opposed or neutral to desalination (I can’t find where Clark has made a statement, one way or the other). She could be a new voice but I doubt Newsom appointed her without checking this out. I mean, come on…California’s would-be dictator is known for appointing advocates to his various causes and policies. So, it is doubtful Clark would be neutral on the issue.
More importantly is where Clark may be headed. By all accounts she is well educated in the right fields (political science, public administration) and, with the most recent governor’s appointment, connected to the right people. Clark has four more years to work with Tustin. Her first four have obviously helped her politically, even though she has not really accomplished that much during her tenure. That could change now that she has a strong ally in Gomez.
For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to the the first of the year and a “new” city council. There is much to accomplish and it could be done if the city council would work cooperatively, learn to compromise and -most importantly- reign in and take control of city staff.
Good luck, Councilmembers Clark, Gomez, Lumbard, Cooper & Gallagher. You will need it.