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Setting the Record Straight – What do You Want For 10 Bucks an Hour?

boring meetingNo Planning Commission meeting this week so…

It’s amazing to me how many time Republicans will jump to take credit where credit isn’t due. A hat tip to The Liberal OC for setting the record straight on just who is responsible for getting the County of Orange out of their latest tub of hot water.

It seems Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, tweeted an announcement that a deal had been struck with the state regarding the $146 million dollars in Vehicle License Fees the County owes the state. The Orange County Register seemed to have taken that to mean Harkey was responsible for the deal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From The Lib:

The funding loss occurred when Governor Brown figured out in 2011 that the state no longer was required to give Orange County that funding because the county had refinanced its bankruptcy debt. When the county initially structured the financing for it’s more than $1 billion in debt, they had to get the state to dedicate their share of VLF to pay the loans. When the County refinanced the debt in 2005, county leaders ignored warnings and failed to negotiate the continuance of those funds through a property tax swap. The governor figured out the county’s mistake and kept the VLF funding. In response the county, through former Auditor Controller David Sundstrom, decided to keep $73 million in property tax revenues. The state to sued and the county lost.

So, now the County owes the state a ton of money and, it seemed, with no way to pay it back. When ignoring the problem no longer worked, they went to the legislature with their hat in hand. The mostly Democratic legislature seemingly took delight in saying, “No.” The courts had already been asked to weigh in on the matter with pretty much the same result.

So, where to go?

Senator Lou Correa, of course. Correa has helped the county out of more than one tight spot and, in turn,  has taken a lot of flack from his fellow Democrats. But, it is his moderate stand coupled with his willingness to cross the aisle to get the job done that makes him a valuable resource, even for the conservatives in the county.

Lou supported legislation that will allow a property tax – VLF swap, helped along by fellow Democrat Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (now, it seems all of the OC legislators jumped on board), that will set things a little more “right” in the Real OC.

As The Lib points out, though, the Register seemingly missed that point, either on accident or purpose and attempted to lamely give the credit where it was nowhere due. They said they were “baffled, though not surprised” the Register would leave out an important detail like that.

We’re not. Especially since the OC Weekly broke an interesting story on the way the Register is gathering its news. It all comes down to money.

In a recent article on Navel Gazing Blog, Gustavo Arellano broke the story the Register’s owner and publisher has cut back the stipends and housing for cub reporters. Aside from the valuable learning experience working for the only libertarian-bent newspaper in Southern Califoria, fledgling reporters were being paid the princely sum of $10 an hour and “stacked four to a two-bedroom apartment”.

But the wheels are slowly falling off owner Aaron Kushner’s gravy train. Last month, the Los Angeles Times revealed he’s no longer matching contributions to an employee’s 401k retirement fund; now, media website Romenesko reports the Reg will stop housing its cub reporters and send them off to the OC wilderness with a $750 monthly housing stipend.

Of course, as the Weekly points out, there is not much to rent in Orange County for that kind of money. But, if four of them continue to live together, well, that’s $3k a month and I know a few places they can rent, even in Irvine.

The real rub, though, is what kind of reporting are you going to get for ten bucks an hour? Even the burger flippers at McDonalds are asking for more than that. And, they don’t even get a byline.

The Register explains they are not cutting corner, just fine tuning implementation. Uh-huh. Well, we’ve seen Kuschner spending a ton of money on revamping every facet of the newspaper, implementing a poorly thought out paywall that discourages participation and emphasis on the dying art of print news. So, we are not surprised at this recent turn or the slip to near tabloid style reporting of the news.

The Register still has a few reporters that make the paper worth reading. But, when Frank Mickadeit is found writing a serious article (he’s actually good at it) rather than that tripey column he usually writes, you know there is a problem. And, it’s doubtful buying a cash crop of junior reporters will help. We will still take quality over quantity any day.