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(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.

Tustin Remains #Unoccupied

Occupy Tustin Mask QuestionWell, the rain date for Occupy Tustin has come and gone with nary an occupier to show up. Judging from the way things seem to be going lately,this may not be a bad thing. Our friends over at the Liberal OC have had quite a bit to say about the movement as a whole and where it is going lately.

What concerns me most is that the movement is suffering from, well, lack of movement. Occupy, which appears to have started on Wall Street, swept into a nationwide campaign of protest representing the “99%”, those who presumably see what is happening to our country but have, so far, done nothing about it. They proclaimed to stand up against corporate greed and call for a change in the way the government operates in order to stop the migration of wealth to the wealthy at the fleecing of the middleclass. Their ranks were drawn from nearly every walk of life, every religion and every political party to come up with…. a broad representation of middle America.

But, as the movement has come to various cities throughout the nation, it has received vastly different and sometimes surprising responses from local governments. New York allowed the protesters to occupy Wall Street for a relatively long period of time. NYPD then attempted to move the protesters out using bright orange nets and pepper spray. That just moved them around. Recently, when NYPD did another roust, the @Anonymous twitter feeds were busy moving the protest to the Brooklyn Bridge.

The city of Sacramento has yet to allow Occupiers to camp out and has moved every encampment they have attempted to erect. In Oakland, it was unfortunate but expected, that Occupiers were joined by the perennial crowd that always seems ready to riot at a moments notice in that city. The resulting violence should have been expected. Adding to the confusion was an indecisive mayor who could not decide whether the city should align themselves with Occupy or oppose them as other cities had done. Mayor Jean Quan gave conflicting orders to the OPD and city staff that resulted in nothing but mass confusion and a plea from the Oakland Police Officers Association asking just exactly what she wanted from them. Well, if they had been listening, she wanted them to be nice while they billy clubbed and pepper sprayed their way through the masses. But, don’t hurt anybody. If there was one city in California that Occupy should have stayed clear of, it was definitely Oakland. even the Occupy movement rues that decision.

Los Angeles has been relatively nice about the whole thing. When they heard Occupy was coming to LA, they first unleashed their mounted patrol to discourage the masses. When the group moved onto Mayor Villaraigosa’s lawn, he then offered them farmland, a building and shelter beds for the homeless (didn’t they already have those?). That offer has since been rescinded (and, no, they didn’t get a pony either, as the Times suggested) and now the good Mayor has given orders to dismantle their tent town and move on. Watching Charlie Beck (doesn’t he remind you of Tom Selleck, or is it just me) on the news, squirming because you know he so wanted to send his riot-helmeted storm troopers in to quell the disgusting demonstration of Americans exercising their free speech rights, was quite interesting. One had to wonder if he feared an assassination attempt by Anonymous as he was surrounded by more bodyguards checking rooftops than the President has when he comes to town.

Of course, UC Davis was the ugliest scene to date. While protesters peacefully occupied the quad area of the college, the university police  quietly and efficiently went about dispensing pepper spray into the faces of the offending protesters. The populace were in an uproar. The dean was in an uproar. Even a chancellor or two were in an uproar. When I heard about this, I couldn’t help but remember the tree huggers in Humboldt County a few years ago who were pepper sprayed for trying to save a couple of trees. Of course, there was a little more to this than just what the Tweets and Facebook postings had. If you look at the video, these cops were in full riot gear, had flex-cuffs expecting mass arrests, and many had their billy clubs out. No wonder the dean was upset. Even most Republicans, who incorrectly dismiss the Occupy movement as a bunch of disgruntled liberals, were appalled at the police response. And the Board of Regents, apparently fearing physical attack, decided to meet in several different places Monday by teleconference. Hmmm. Brown act violation regarding notice and access?

Here in Orange County, we have seen a variety of responses to the Occupy movement. Recently, The Liberal OC wrote a couple stories on OccupyOC. Chris Prevatt wrote about the protest moving to South Coast Plaza, briefly, for Black Friday. A series of photos shows the group interacting with shoppers standing in line for their bargain-basement treasures. Most seemed amused, but I doubt if any felt the call to leave the line at Macy’s and go shop locally.

And therein lies the problem.

When the Occupy movement got rolling, everyone wanted to know what the message was they were trying to convey. The reply, in so many words, was that the 99 percent were suffering under the corporate greed, largely brought on by an inequality of laws designed to favor big business over people. Throughout the movement, the words have changed and specifics have been reasoned out, but the overall message has not wavered. Unfortunately, many cities, including Santa Ana, who has never embraced the movement and Irvine, who rolled out the red carpet for them, are now finding the occupiers are wearing out their welcome.

So, what does the movement need to do to keep the momentum going? For one, they need to do what everyone from Wall Street to Los Angeles has been telling them – solidify your message. Unfortunately, that may be their undoing as it would require some semblance of leadership coming forth and, as everyone knows the movement, by definition, has no leadership. And the minute it does form a leadership, it no longer resembles #Occupy.

They also need to come up with more ideas on how to involve people that does not take a lot of time out of their day. People don’t want to be inconvenienced when they protest (porta-potties are a downer, too). Remember Bank Transfer Day? It took a person maybe 20 minutes of their time to effect protest. Anyone who tells you that didn’t make BofA stand up and take notice is drunk or stupid. Sure, it was only a couple of hundred billion dollars in a trillion dollar market but, the sheer number of people who responded and moved their money to consumer friendly credit unions, based on what some @Anonymous protester in a Guy Fawkes mask was telling them, was startling, even to me.

In the meantime, the whole Occupy movement is beginning to look  like it will either fizzle or worse, become inconsequential. It is Christmas holiday time and they will have a tough time having their message heard above the toll of the Salvation Army bellringers and the atheist billboards shouting, “don’t believe it!”. If not, they may as well fold camp and unoccupy the USA.

Mayor Makes Top Ten List

Kudos to our friends over at the Liberal OC who released their Annual Top Ten Scariest Politicians list. Although none of the stalwarts on our city council made number one, I am pleased to announce that Hizzoner, Jerry “Boss Tweed” Amante made number 6 on the list. Considering the contenders, this is quite an, uh… well… honor.

From the Lib (because we couldn’t say it any better):

6.  Jerry Amante — The Boss Tweed of Tustin is doing his best to make sure everyone knows he is a fiscal conservative when all evidence is to the contrary.  From overspending on legal fees, to doling out no-bid contracts for things like cleaning services, to buying iPads for the city council that don’t save a penny in paper costs, Amante bears the shame of being the second mayor of the city to be the subject of a recall.  He still owes an apology to council member Deborah Gavello and members of the TUSD board for claiming they were part of his politically motivated recall when they certainly weren’t.  Our favorite recent action — Amante wants Tustin voters to vote on city council compensation – which won’t affect him because it takes place after he’s termed out.  How convenient!  Now Jerry could do the right thing and pay the city back for all his past checks or refuse to accept another dime moving forward, but we’re guessing he won’t because it’s part of the larger narrative  — do as I say not as I do.  The good news for city staffers — hang in there.  Jerry is out in a year and you can get your lives back.

The Lib is definitely right about Jerry’s political career. It would take a major salvage job to rescue that. When even Chris “I’m not homeless – it’s a study” Norby stands a better chance of making politics a career, you should know you are in trouble.

Unfortunately, Jerry’s love of money is likely to keep his one-man lobbying firm going for years. With the right people on the city council, he could be haunting city hall  for a long time.

Hmmm. Maybe Our Town Tustin will start the Scariest Lobbyists of the Year list.