Category Archives: state government

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.

Salty Waters

Water issues are nothing new for Orange County or for Tustin in particular. Not too long ago, we were in a drought and the city council was standing behind draconian water saving measures that we, largely are still following. Funny thing is, through all the odd/even, two-day-a-week, four-day-a-week watering schedules we had, our town has always been somewhat conservative in our use of the precious commodity (except for my former neighbor who took great delight in watering my car in the driveway at whatever time it was parked there). So, I have to wonder what is going to happen next in the wonderful world of water.

Of course, we no longer have the drought to deal with. And, although the possibility of another dry spell looms ever present, no one is talking about a lack of water. That is, except, Poseidon and Governor Newsom.

For 20 years, Poseidon Water Inc., which has offices conveniently placed in Huntington Beach, has been pursuing their dream of a desalination plant to be located on the shore of Orange County in the space of an old electrical generating plant. Claiming to be the water savior of OC, they are touting a multimillion dollar facility that would take in 100 million gallons of water a day and spew forth 50 million gallons of fresh, clear drinking water…..and 50 million gallons of salty brine back into our already screwed up coastal water.

Poseidon claims they want to relieve Orange County of their dependence on imported water. What they really want to do, of course, is relieve every rate payer of their spare cash in the form of drastically increased water rates. Cost of desalinated water is astronomical, compared to the cost of water imported from the north and Colorado River. Let’s not forget the Tustin Water Department operates 14 wells around the city which supplies a good portion of our water from the aquifier beneath our feet.

So, what am I getting at? The governor who, as I said, is in love with desalinated water, really wants the Poseidon plant to be built. He wants it so badly that he has taken out a major stumbling block to the project in the form of a Santa Ana Water Board member, William von Blasingame. Von Blasingame is a critic of the water desalinization plant and has publicly questioned it’s necessity. Poseidon, which has sunk over a half billion dollars in lobbying money (that’s cash in the pockets of politicians) into getting this project approved, has a friend in Newsom (we wonder how much of that cash has gone into his altruistic pockets). Newsom, seeing the project possibly derailed by the water board, has taken action by replacing von Blasingame with someone who, I can only speculate, will be willing to play ball or, at the least, not make waves.

That person is our own city councilmember, Leticia Clark. Clark, a first term councilmember running for a second term, has been selected by Governor Newsom to replace von Blasingame. One look at Clark’s resume’ reveals a hopeful career politician hoping to garner support not from her community but from her political affiliations. Since her appointment, she has refused to speak with the press about the Poseidon issue and has not publicly stated her position. Well, gee. Let’s put 2 plus 2 together and see if we can come up with a likely position. With the appointment to a regional board by the governor, comes favors owed. Don’t expect Clark to take the interests of the residents of Orange County into consideration when the governor comes a knockin’. And if she rolls with Newsom on an unnecessary water deal, one has to wonder what else she would do for the sake of her political career.

The Voice of OC has several excellent articles on the reality of the desalination plant. You can find them here.

Election Upda….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

nail-bitingOK, so we are down to the wire on another fist-clenching, nail-biting off-year election. This time candiates are vying for Mimi Walter’s 37th State Senate District seat. Walters, as you may remember, has gone on to the United States Congress.

Battling it out for the sole seat are three Republicans and one Democrat. The Republicans, Assemblyman Don Wagner, former OC Supervisor John Moorlach and political aide Naz Namazi, are the only names on the ticket. The sole Democrat is Louise Stewardson of Huntington Beach, Stewardson, who lists her occupation as nurse, is running a write-in campaign claiming she was unaware that there would not be a Democrat in the race. Thanks for stepping up.

Among the three Republicans, Assemblyman Don Wagner is the most experienced, having served as our district representative in the California Assembly. He has been attacked by his nemesis, John Moorlach for taking union money, in violation of the Baugh Manifesto, and for being soft on a variety of issues near and dear to Republcan Hearts. Several websites have been put up claiming Wagner supports amnesty for illegal immigrants, has taken Maui junkets on union tabs, etc.

Of course we know the Baugh Manifesto is selectively enforced. Janet Nguyen took union money (after she had already been caught once and gave it back). Kris Murray of Anaheim was reported to have taken union money. Wagner, for his part, supposedly said he thought the manifesto was only for local elections….yeah, right…. you go with that, Don.

Moorlach, for his part, lives and breaths the Baugh Manifesto. He can afford to. He will soon (if he isn’t already) collect a sizeable county pension. Yes, this is the same Moorlach who, since taking office as a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, has taken every oportunity to drag down the 17,000 employees and their unions by attacking county pensions. Whenever he was asked about his own pension which, by the way was paid 100 percent with taxpayer dollars (rank-and-file employees pay a sizeable portion into their pension funds), he would state that he earned it and he was only taking what was offered.

And, for a non-professional, non-career politician, Moorlach spent the last half of his last term in office shopping for another elected office he could land in. At various times over the last two years, he “explored” a run for Congress, Governor (or was it Lt. Governor?) and even his old job with the county. Every one of those “explorations” ended abruptly when Moorlach couldn’t find backing within his own ranks.

Wagner has actively worked in the state legislature for the past five years. He sits on several key legislative commitees including Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security, Revenue and Taxation and Judiciary where he serves as Vice-Chair. One of the best things about Wagner, that most Republicans hate, is his willingness to cross the aisle when necessary to get the job done. That’s not to say he isn’t a diehard elephant. It just tells me he will do what is necessary to get the job done (shades of Lou Correa).

If campaign funding is any indicator, Don Wagner is, by far, the best financed of the two candidates. He had a sizeable war chest when he entered the race and is still far ahead in fund-raising. Moorlach, desperate to find fault -any fault- with his nemesis, pointed out the facts the best way he knows how. Using statistics that only a CPA could understand, he demonstrated how his fundraising has outpaced Wagner’s. Still, the bottom line John is that Wagner has more money. Lots more.

As far as campaigns go, this one has been lackluster at best. I’m not sure if that is because Moorlach doesn’t know how to run a campaign or if the two are waiting the inevitable runoff race in May to really start slinging the arrows. Although Democrat, Louise Stewardson could offer an alternative for die-hard Democrats who would vote on principle, it is Naz Namazi who would likely siphon votes from both Wagner and Moorlach. She could deflect enough votes to force a runoff as an outright win requires 50% plus one vote.

As to the campaigns themselves? I don’t get cable TV so I have no idea if either Moorlach or Wagner are running television ads. I have heard nothing on radio either, probably because I listen mostly to my iPod when I drive. We here in Tustin have, thankfully, been plastered with few yard signs. In fact, here in Old Town, I have seen two from each candidate. Most of the political blogs are split between the two. Curiously, two of the blogs tout Moorlach but, when you look closely, it is because they are paid political consultants. One blog is fighting with itself as the owner/editor supports Moorlach but a chief contributor to the same blog supports Wagner – as do we.

It’s a sad but true fact that election cycles never end. If Moorlach wins the seat outright -an unlikely event- Wagner will remain in place for the rest of this term. As an admitted career politician, he will then likely look for a local or statewide seat to land in. If Wagner wins outright, Moorlach, who at one time claimed he would not seek higher office, will have another bite of the pie. He only has to carpetbag into Wagner’s Assembly district (anyone got a guest house in Old Town for rent?) to get a second chance.

Of course, he may have to run up against our own Tustin Councilman John Nielsen who, we hear, is doing his own exploration of sorts.

In all likelihood, neither candidate will win the necessary +1 and they will be forced into a runoff. Then we get to do it all over again. Only, expect a lot more yard signs and a lot more mudslinging from both candidates. That’s when we’ll see whether Moorlach’s financial finagling rings true or whether it really does come down to who has the most money in the bank.

If you need further evidence to get off the fence, consider that John Moorlach has a couple of dozen endorsements, mostly from “former” elected officials. Only one fellow supervisor, Shawn Nelson, was willing to endorse him. Not even Jerry Amante would come out with an endorsement.

On the other hand, Wagner has the endorsement of every Countywide elected official, including Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, OCDA T-Rack and OC Supervisor Michelle Steele. Newbie Senators Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen have endorsed him along with a slew of other legislators. Oh yeah, even Mayor Chuck Puckett has endorsed Wagner.

Wagner has also run his campaign without the aid of crackpots like Deborah “I hate Muslims” Pauley and the advice of idiots like Mario “Maynard” Manero. You remember him. He’s the one that talked Moorlach into spending thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to take away the pensions of sheriffs deputies then ran and hid when it didn’t work out the way he thought it would. I wouldn’t want him for my lawyer either. John doesn’t seem to mind.

In any case, if you haven’t sent in your absentee ballot, please do so. And, if you are like me and prefer to cast your vote the old fashioned way, I’ll see you at the polls – provided you can make it by seven in the morning.

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.