MOORLACH UPDATE — Toll Lane Reverberations — August 20, 2014

The announcement of the proposed unilateral taking by Caltrans of lanes to be built with the hard earned tax dollars of the residents of Orange County is having reverberations around the state. And it should. The adaptation of Aesop’s classic fable, “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” in the Pixar movie, “A Bug’s Life,” depicts what’s going on here. A hard toiling colony of ants (Orange County residents) is now being commanded to open up its storehouse by greedy grasshoppers (Sacramento) who did not prepare themselves for the winter months (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Toll Lane Opponents — July 29, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — I-405 Hold Up — July 26, 2014). Outside observers get it. And the editorial board of the Ventura County Star, whose readership resides in a non-self-help county (a county that has not successfully voted for a sales tax increase like Measure M), has taken notice in their piece below.

Toll lanes raise questions about a tax measure

Ten years ago, Ventura County voters turned down a proposed half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements.

The 2004 electorate nixed the idea by almost 3 to 2 (59 percent to 41 percent), but the idea hasn’t completely gone away.

Some officials continue to say such a tax would aid this area by generating local matching funds that could help us obtain state and federal dollars for freeway widening and other highway and bridge projects.

Unlike Ventura County, 19 other counties in the state, including several in Southern California, levy a local sales tax earmarked for transportation projects. One is Orange County, where a controversy is unfolding that might affect how Ventura County voters perceive any new proposal for a sales tax increase for transportation.

In late July, the state Department of Transportation announced it wants to install 14 miles of toll lanes on heavily congested Interstate 405 between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa. However, local officials in Orange County are denouncing Caltrans’ idea because it would take away carpool lanes funded by Orange County’s half-cent transportation sales tax.

According to The Associated Press, officials who have come out against the Caltrans proposal include local mayors, state legislators and members of the county Board of Supervisors. As reported by the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, Los Alamitos Mayor Gerri Graham-Mejia compared Caltrans to a schoolyard bully taking lunch money from Orange County residents who approved the tax.

When voters passed the tax measure in 2006, nothing in it mentioned funding for toll roads, said Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach , who complained that Caltrans is trying to take unfair advantage of the tax. “The taxpayers of Orange County have been paying an additional sales tax to improve traffic, but Sacramento is usurping that,” Supervisor Moorlach said, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Caltrans came up with the proposal for toll lanes to cut travel time for drivers on that stretch of Interstate 405. Government figures indicate it’s one of the most heavily used freeways in the nation, and travel times there are predicted to grow even longer unless some action is taken.

Ventura County has no toll lanes and none are proposed here, but other Southern California counties have implemented them or are in the process of adding them or weighing whether to add them.

Much of the outcry against the Caltrans proposal in Orange County springs from public hostility toward the cost for drivers to use toll lanes, but it’s clear that officials are unhappy with Caltrans on the tax angle, too. Those are points for residents and leaders in that county to address. Though we’re not taking a position on them, we will watch with interest because the debate — and any Caltrans policy related to it — could have effects here in Ventura County if a transportation tax is discussed again.

We anticipate critics will ask whether adequate controls and guarantees will be in place regarding use of the tax proceeds and whether promises made to local voters may be ignored or terminated by the state. Those are matters of public interest that deserve wide discussion if such a measure is put on the ballot.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Advisory Ballot Babies — August 16, 2014

A fascinating topic is governing-board member relations. For publicly traded corporations, consultants are customarily brought in to assist boards in working together effectively for the betterment of the shareholders. For municipality governing bodies, harmony and commonality of purpose is not necessarily the norm; not with independently elected members who may have different principles and perspectives. So differences on style and policy can get interesting, especially when they spill out into the public. The opening paragraph of the Daily Pilot piece below leads with this subject.

Voters may see measures, propositions, initiatives and referendums on their ballots. They may also see an advisory ballot measure, which is usually nonbinding and provides for an ultimate poll of those who actually voted. It is a tool to get the pulse of the community. In any good debate, it would be helpful to have strong pro and con written arguments, so that voters have both sides of the issue when casting their votes. On the way to such a discussion, personality conflicts and suspicions have gotten in the way.

When one is questioning motives, the fun will never end. The art of speculation is boundless. It allows me to wonder if we’re seeing psychological projection. Sometimes people communicate what they would do under similar circumstances when they suspect it of others. Therefore, it would appear that the two disgruntled Costa Mesa City Councilmembers, given the same opportunity, would probably obtain signatures of political allies for an advisory ballot measure. My perspective is that the elected officials that have been visibly voicing the concerns of their constituents on the topic of Caltrans’ plans of unilaterally imposing toll lanes on the San Diego Freeway have been asked to sign the ballot argument for this advisory measure (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Toll Lane Opponents — July 29, 2014). If this potential selection was disturbing to the two offended Councilmembers, it seems that they should have voted against putting the matter on the ballot. Then they would have been consistent. Now a critical component to this discussion is missing. The opposition argument should have been made by a recognized party in support of the toll lanes, like the Orange County Business Council. Then the ballot measure would have more value. Instead, we get to see two elected officials throwing an immature temper tantrum to air out their frustrations on the process and/or for not being personally included as signatories.

Costa Mesa councilwomen call toll-lane ballot measure political

By Jeremiah Dobruck

In Costa Mesa, even what should be a kumbaya political moment has a way of becoming contentious.

Last week, the City Council unanimously decided to ask voters what they think about a state plan to put toll lanes on the 405 Freeway.

The question will appear on the city’s November ballot, though it will be symbolic, simply asking voters whether they agree with the council that the lanes are a bad idea.

Mayor Jim Righeimer said he hoped to show Sacramento that an overwhelming majority of Costa Mesans oppose what critics call "Lexus lanes."

But on Tuesday, Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece — both of whom oppose the toll lanes and had voted to put the issue before the public — submitted a ballot argument against the measure.

They called the resolution an ineffective political stunt that will waste taxpayers’ money.

"To me, it’s a brazen attempt to basically get some political candidates’ names in the ballot book associated with something that’s polling good," Genis said.

Genis and Leece objected during last week’s council meeting when Righeimer said he planned to have politicians from neighboring cities sign on to the ballot argument against toll lanes.

"We’d be looking to have that signed by people who are well-known throughout the area," Righeimer said.

The final document now includes signatures from Righeimer, Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper, Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.

"I think it’s a political stunt to not have the whole council and [instead] to do it with you and other mayors who may be running for public offices," Genis told Righeimer at last week’s meeting.

Harper is running for an Assembly seat in November, and Mansoor is seeking a position on the Board of Supervisors. Righeimer is up for reelection to the City Council.

The California Department of Transportation has already said it intends to move forward with the plan to build the toll lanes between the 605 Freeway and Costa Mesa.

Costa Mesa’s voice will be stronger if it is joined by neighboring politicians, Righeimer said.

"By ourselves, this doesn’t work," he said. "This has to a be a political message to the governor’s office [that] this is not the way to run a business."

jeremiah.dobruck2

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Streetcar Control — August 13, 2014

At Monday morning’s regular Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board meeting, every board member present, except for three, voted to assume the costs of constructing and then operating and maintaining the Santa Ana/Garden Grove streetcar system (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Streetcar Feedback — June 21, 2014, MOORLACH UPDATE — Streetcar Warning — June 16, 2014, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Streetcar Desire — June 9, 2014). This puts the liability of this enterprise in your pocketbook. And, without your sales tax dollars, the streetcar line does not pencil out. The Voice of OC covers the discussion in the first piece below.

I’m chomping at the bit to share some reactions, so here goes:

· “We can’t widen freeways forever” – The system is projected to have 3,400 boardings, which translates into 1,700 passengers going to and from. Since it is an alternative to buses on inner city roads, what does that have to do with widening the County’s freeways? There already is a bus service that transports County employees from the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center (trains station) to the Civic Center. Consequently, not one car will be removed from the freeways.

· “Los Angeles County’s efforts to expand their light rail network” – Somehow I don’t envision a streetcar system as a light rail system, such as the Gold Line.

· “There’s nothing as old as buses” – I’m just an amateur historian, but horse drawn street cars date back to the 1820s; while the modern automobile was invented in 1886. And buses are mobile and agile, while streetcars are slow and stuck on a fixed rail.

There, I got that off of my chest. But, I started to wonder. What if one-fifth of the County’s population was frustrated with seeing their tax dollars going to fund the widening of the San Diego Freeway’s bridges, just to insert four toll lanes? What if another one-fifth found the streetcar proposal offensive? What if another one-tenth found the building of a massive train station building along the 57 Freeway (opposite Angel Stadium) as government spending gone wild? And what if another one-tenth decided that the anticipated 30 percent gas tax increase in January of 2015 was ludicrous? That would be more than enough voters to approve a ballot measure that would revoke Measure M2. I just recently became aware of a well-organized effort that is attempting to stop the gas tax increase, see http://www.californiadriversalliance.org/. If you need a recent editorial on this topic, go to http://www.voiceofoc.org/community_editorial_board/article_27d07e98-1f5a-11e4-babf-0019bb2963f4.html. What if a similar effort were organized in the OC? I’m just saying that if enough people were agitated, it would be much easier to stop the flow of funds (sales tax revenues) to OCTA than it would be to remove its Board members, as they are not directly elected to serve on this Board. So I asked about the vulnerability of this critical funding source. The answer: Measure M2 could be revoked with a 50 percent, plus 1, vote. That was Monday’s fun.

For Tuesday’s fun, the OC Register, in the second piece below, provides the debate on the staff recommendation to approve a challenger to serve as the valet parking vendor at John Wayne Airport. The incumbent is putting up a valiant effort to retain the contract. After a spirited discussion, it was decided to have JWA clear up some unanswered concerns regarding the required use of a specific software. So it will be back to the Board next month.

The Daily Pilot, in the third piece below, provides a Letter to the Editor on the recent Grand Jury report on maximizing John Wayne Airport (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Puzzling — August 6, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Mil-Walkie — July 7, 2014).

Santa Ana Streetcar Project Taken Over by Transit Agency

By NICK GERDA Voice of OC

Orange County’s transportation agency took control over Santa Ana’s streetcar project this week, with two board members continuing to question whether there are more effective ways to spend the project’s $250 million expected cost.

“I think it’s wildly expensive compared to other alternatives that I think are better,” said Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, speaking as an Orange County Transportation Authority director at Monday’s board meeting.

The county could have electric buses that “look almost like a streetcar, but as demand changes” as years go by you can change the route, said Tait, who is one of the most vocal opponents of a similar and also controversial project in Anaheim.

“It’s wildly cheaper. You don’t have the upfront capital costs,” Tait added. “You could have a system almost countywide.”

Meanwhile, the project’s chief supporter, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, said the streetcar would be a major leap forward to accommodate the growing urbanization of Central Orange County.

“We’re basically setting a framework which I think long term is going to make this county – and I mean this entire county – a better county,” said Pulido.

“We can continue to widen freeways,” he added, but “ultimately we can’t widen freeways forever. We just cant.”

OCTA Chairman Shawn Nelson agreed, pointing to Los Angeles County’s efforts to aggressively expand their light rail network, known as Metro.

“You’re ignoring the facts if you think that their implementation of light rail hasn’t been” the most successful implementation of light rail in U.S., said Nelson.

“The future of this county is employers are going to either be on rail – not because I say so – but because” it’s not realistic not to, he added.

Monday’s takeover was approved on a 13-2 vote, with directors Tait and John Moorlach opposing. Director Janet Nguyen abstained, and Director Frank Ury was absent.

“I just see it as an old technology in a high tech world,” said Moorlach, who is also a county supervisors, pointing to issues like pedestrian deaths due to longer stopping distances than buses. “I see it as a boondoggle.”

Supporters on the board disagreed.

“I would argue with Director Moorlach about the old technology, as you call it. There’s nothing as old as buses,” said Director Jeff Lalloway, who is also Irvine’s mayor pro tem.

“I think this project will over time…prove to be something we’ll be proud of as a board,” said Lalloway.

From here, the transit agency will handle the project’s development, implementation, operations and maintenance.

The streetcar remains divided between supporters – including a new wave of businesses credited with making downtown Santa Ana an urban hot spot – and residents and older businesses suspicious that the project is yet another gentrification tool that will ultimately price them out of their homes and commercial spaces.

Nearly all of the five public commenters on Monday supported the project.

“Anything that we can do that can make it really easy and convenient” to reach downtown Santa Ana is “going to be a boon for the community,” said Jon Gothold, a co-owner of DGWB Advertising & Communications on Main Street.

“Santa Ana is at the forefront of being the heart and the soul of Orange County,” said Sean Coolidge, a resident of Santiago Lofts near Santa Ana’s train station.

But Santa Ana resident Steve McGuigen noted that several west Santa Ana residents are concerned about the trolley’s expected prompting of development at the Willowick Golf Course.

Last year, the city of Garden Grove, which owns Willowick, considered selling the course to McWhinney Enterprises, the developers of an upcoming water park hotel in the city.

“The value of the Willowick Golf Course…for a medium density mixed-use development is estimated to be $50 million,” Garden Grove City Manager Matt Fertal wrote in an email to developer Steve Sheldon.

A streetcar stop is planned between the golf course and the Santa Anita neighborhood, and Santa Ana officials have so far been tight-lipped about what type of development could be in store.

“Several of my residents have had concerns about this project,” said McGuigen, president of the Riverview West Neighborhood Association.

“They feel that their area is sort of going to be blighted and the prices driven up,” and that they could be driven out of their homes, he added.

Moorlach, who opposes the streetcar in general, has previously said he wouldn’t be surprised if a back-door deal is in the works for the golf course.

Nguyen noted she’s witnessed such concerns herself, asking whether the city has tried to address the concerns of Westside residents.

But Chairman Shawn Nelson interjected that it wasn’t an appropriate question.

“There may be a multiple of other things going on…but this item is about Project S,” said Nelson, referring to the formal name for transit projects under the Measure M2 sales tax.

Nguyen defended her question, saying it “has to do with the system itself.

“I believe I have every right to ask the city manager…and so I would still like to hear the answer,” said Nguyen.

Regarding blight concerns, Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos replied that the streetcar “actually encourages development.”

As for worries that housing costs would rise near the project, Cavazos committed that “Santa Ana will work with people to make sure we have affordable housing,” without getting into specifics.

To piece together funding for the project, OCTA will now seek federal New Starts funding for the project.

If the Federal Transit Administration signs off, federal grants could cover half of the project’s $250 million projected cost.

OCTA officials are optimistic that the feds will sign off.

Nelson said he met with the federal transit administrator recently in Washington, D.C., who was keenly aware of Santa Ana’s status as one of the densest cities in America.

FTA is “anxious” to be involved in this, said Nelson. “They really understand it and they seem very excited about it.”

From here, OCTA staff plan to prepare a request for proposals for a project management consultant and bring it back to the board for review.

The use of Measure M2 sales tax funds was also approved for the streetcar’s operations and maintenance. It would cover 90 percent of those ongoing costs, until the sales tax expires in 2041. Santa Ana would pick up the other 10 percent.

Moorlach, meanwhile, questioned how taxpayers will react to their M2 transit dollars being used almost exclusively for projects in Central Orange County.

Given Caltrans’ plans to put toll lanes on the 405 freeway after an M2-funded widening, Moorlach suggested that an anti-tax group might run a ballot measure to overturn the tax.

“I’m just worried about the vulnerability” of M2 if “you get enough people frustrated,” Moorlach said.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

Valet parking, car wash prices may increase at JWA

BY NICK GERDA / VOICE OF OC

Prices for valet parking and car washes could soon go up at John Wayne Airport, with Orange County supervisors expected to finalize discussions on a new parking contract next month.

Under the proposed new contract with the county government, which runs the airport, LAZ Parking plans to boost car wash prices, depending on the service, by $5 to $27.

Regarding valet parking, Supervisor Pat Bates said the proposal “spells to me another increase” in prices.

In particular, Bates wondered aloud whether LAZ’s proposal to take less of a cut of the parking revenue than the current vendor – from 36 percent down to 32 percent – would be accompanied by an increase in overall rates to keep profit margins healthy.

Meanwhile LAZ’s president tried to reassure supervisors Tuesday during their public meeting that the parking prices won’t go up. But, supervisors later noted, that commitment has not yet been made in writing.

The issue will come back to supervisors on Sept. 9 for another round of debate and public input.

Tuesday’s debate also highlighted the longtime dominance of LAZ’s competitor, Parking Concepts Inc., in receiving the county government’s parking contracts.

Other potential parking contractors have been discouraged from bidding, Supervisor John Moorlach said, because of concerns that “we don’t look to hire anyone other than the incumbent.”

A Register investigation last year found that PCI was repeatedly awarded millions in county parking contracts “at county beaches, parks, the Civic Center and John Wayne Airport – in at least three cases after county staff recommended another vendor.”

Those contracts brought in more than $10 million in revenue to PCI, the Register found.

The firm’s vice president is Lyle Overby, a longtime county lobbyist who has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to county supervisors’ campaigns through his Committee for Improved Public Policy. Overby and his other clients often contributed to supervisors on the same day, the Register found.

PCI has won every major contract at the county for more than a decade, Harth told supervisors.

The company has run the airport valet service since 2001.

Questions were also raised Tuesday about how the county’s contract evaluation panel, which rated LAZ much higher than PCI, ended up giving the exact same scores on various ratings of LAZ.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer said the probably of that being a coincidence was extremely low.

Mailbag: Grand jury report gets it wrong on JWA

Those of us who are affected by John Wayne Airport’s noise and air pollution thank Supervisor John Moorlach for his recent critical comments regarding an Orange County Grand Jury report on the facility.

Moorlach rightfully stated, in the Orange County Register, that the idea of extending a runway in a heavily populated area showed "a naivete that is almost eye-rolling."

Moorlach is absolutely correct. The grand jury report advocated ways for airport expansion, while ignoring the thousands of residents who endure excessive noise and pollution from an airport that should never have been designated for commercial use. It’s exceedingly close to homes, schools and parks, some mere blocks from a runway, making the airport dangerous as well as overly intrusive.

Why did the grand jury report ignore published scientific reports that detail the harmful effects of noise and air pollution on a population? Planes overhead emit dangerous chemicals, including particulates, which have proven to be particularly harmful to health.

Worse yet, they travel many miles through the air, infecting unsuspecting people far from the original source. Everyone should seriously question a report that excluded the harmful effects of John Wayne Airport on people while advocating ideas for expansion.

Bonnie O’Neil

Newport Beach

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Bren Donation — August 12, 2014

Good news! Donald Bren has decided to donate more land to the County of Orange to be dedicated for open space (see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Parks — June 30, 2010, MOORLACH UPDATE — Media Present — March 28, 2011, and MOORLACH UPDATE — OCBJ — December 5, 2010). This matter was to be discussed during the Board’s closed session this morning, but yesterday evening it was continued until next week. It’s an early Christmas present and the residents of Orange County, current and future, should be extremely grateful for this very generous gift.

Irvine Co. donates 2,500 acres to the county for open space

Two massive parcels, in Anaheim and near East Orange, would be protected wild land and not hold 5,500 homes as once planned.

The Irvine Co. will offer the county 2,500 acres of land for open space. The land, located in Orange (pictured here) and Anaheim Hills,

was planned for home development. The company decided to end its final masterplan vision by donating the land.

MATT MASIN , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

BY ERIKA I. RITCHIE/ STAFF WRITER

The Irvine Co. will offer 2,500 acres of undeveloped land in Anaheim Hills and near East Orange that was once to hold 5,500 homes to the county today, in hopes of ensuring the massive swath remains open space forever, company officials said.

Documents of the proposal, which have been kept quiet, will be privately handed over to the Board of Supervisors concerning what likely would be the landholder’s last big gift of open space. The panel is not scheduled to discuss the proposal during today’s meeting.

“As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Irvine Co., this is the perfect opportunity to add to our open space and park lands legacy,” Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren said in a statement. “With this gift, we complete our open-space vision.”

If the county accepts the donated land – there could be costs to maintaining it – 55,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch’s original 93,000 acres will be a protected, natural landscape.

“We are most grateful for the Irvine Co.’s 20,000-acre donation in 2010 and try to be the best stewards of the land we can be,” said Supervisor John Moorlach, referring to a gift that included 2,000 acres of wilderness in Black Starr Canyon.

“If they want to make another offer, we’ll do the same for the benefit of our current and future residents,” the supervisor said.

The land gift could add a large swath of preserved space on the northern parts of the Irvine Ranch, joining other protected natural terrain in the stretches of Weir Canyon, Fremont Canyon, Black Starr Canyon, Limestone Canyon, Irvine Lake and Irvine Regional Park.

Protected areas of the ranch land are used by more than two million outdoor enthusiasts each year, Irvine Co. officials said. People hike, bike, run and ride horseback on the ranch lands. The latest gift, like the others, would offer docent-led tours and nature classes.

In Anaheim Hills, 2,500 homes could be built on the 1,100 acres of rolling hills, oak woodlands, rocky parts and native grasslands among canyons. The land, within the city of Anaheim, is bordered on the north by the 91 and is alongside the Eastern Toll Road.

The city approved the homes in 1991, with some residents in Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda worried about traffic impacts. The recession slowed down the project from moving forward; the city-approved development agreement allows the Irvine Co. to begin construction any time before October 2030.

“I think it will be a beautiful recreation area for residents in Anaheim and the county,” said Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray, who lives in Anaheim Hills.

In the East Orange area, a plan was approved allowing 3,000 homes on hills including ridge lines and meadows. The 1,400 acres are east of the 241 and alongside the southeastern shore of Irvine Lake.

The land slated for this development is outside of city limits, but if developed, the city would have annexed the land, City Manager John Sibley said. If preserved, Orange will not pursue the annexation.

Orange Mayor Tita Smith said the city didn’t oppose the homes but appreciates the Irvine Co.’s effort to preserve open space.

“In Orange, we highly value open space even if it’s adjacent to the city because we think it’s an important facet of life in Orange,” she said.

If the county accepts the land, the preservation of 60 percent of the Irvine Ranch land as open space far exceeds an original 11 percent planned by developers in the 1960s, said Daniel Young, president of the Irvine Co.

It could take months for the supervisors to reach a decision on the land.

“While we know homes in Anaheim Hills and East Orange would resonate with homebuyers, we also realize that preserved open space will enhance and help complete the network of trails in that area,” Young said.

Esmael Adibi, an economist at Chapman University, applauded the Irvine Co.’s offer.

“One of the things we get criticized for is that we’re getting too crowded and there’s too much traffic,“ he said of Orange County. “The Irvine Co. is large enough that 5,500 homes, relatively speaking, is not important.

“If the supply of homes is restricted that also supports existing home prices,” Adibi said. “In the end, it’s a business decision. They have to decide, ‘Do we build homes or dedicate land, which is more important?’”

Staff writers Rebecca Kheel and Art Marroquin contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: 949-492-5152 or eritchie or twitter.com/lagunaini

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

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This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Laura’s Law Journey — August 11, 2014

Dan Morain, Editorial Page Editor for The Sacramento Bee, has been in contact over the past few years on the topic of mental illness (see MOORLACH UPDATE — April 15th — April 15, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Finding Monica — April 27, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Review — December 19, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Kelly Thomas Reverberations — January 15, 2014, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Begets — June 15, 2014). He and I go back to his LA Times days (see LOOK BACKS for MOORLACH UPDATE — Fighting/Leading — July 1, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Los Angeles Daily News — October 4, 2011, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — December 8, 2010). During one of our recent chats, he challenged me to share my journey after it had concluded. I collaborated with him and my thoughts were published in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee. It is the first piece below.

The OC Register covered Agenda Number 6 for tomorrow’s Board meeting in yesterday’s edition, and it is the second piece below. The conclusion of my remarks in MOORLACH UPDATE — Chiefs of Staff — August 9, 2014 mirrors those below; the top of the range needs a review.

BONUS: My wife and I were able to check something off of my bucket list yesterday morning: observing a Blue Whale off of the OC coast (see http://www.ocean-institute.org/visitor/blue_whale.html). I took the photo below, with Dana Point Harbor and Saddleback in the background. Big thanks go to longtime friend Dan Stetson, President of the Ocean Institute (see http://www.ocean-institute.org/about/timeline/stetson.html). It was a wonderful excursion on the Ocean Institute’s R/V Sea Explorer with Dan and his wife, Roxanne (see http://www.ocean-institute.org/programs/sea_explorer.html). The Ocean Institute is a wonderful resource and I would encourage you to visit with your children (or, in my new stage in life, your grandchildren) as it is well worth the time (see http://www.ocean-institute.org/). Let the record show that I took my wife on a (brief) cruise on our 34th wedding anniversary weekend.

Laura’s Law can save lives of people with mental illnesses

Special to The Bee

By John Moorlach

After a homeless and schizophrenic young man named Kelly Thomas was killed in an encounter with the Fullerton Police Department in 2011, parents of mentally ill children made pleas to me and other members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

If Laura’s Law had been in place in Orange County, perhaps Kelly Thomas would be alive today, they said. It prompted me to ask: What is Laura’s Law?

I followed up with research, lots of it. I was a business major, not a science or medical wonk. But being a county supervisor requires that you be knowledgeable in a wide range of subjects.

Initially, I was skeptical. When you’re not familiar with mental illness, you truly have no concept of what really is involved.

Throughout the process, I was surprised at the number of individuals who told me stories about close relatives who had mental illness. This is not a topic that is often broached; we usually don’t discuss these family secrets.

My wife recalled her childhood memories of one of her many aunts, and now certain things dawn on her.

A county manager confides that her father was schizophrenic and committed suicide early in life.

A member of the media shares the story of his institutionalized brother.

A Sacramento lobbyist informs me about his son.

There had been someone in my life who I had been observing for some time. My reading helped me to understand their actions. And my observations were confirmed in my reading. First-hand experience was driving the lesson home.

In the course of my research, I became a convert. It became apparent that loving but struggling parents needed tools to help with their adult children’s lives. Laura’s Law was one of those tools.

Laura’s Law might help change matters under the appropriate circumstances. Assembly Bill 1421, Laura’s Law, by then-Assemblywoman Helen Thomson, D-Davis, was signed into law in 2002. But for the next 10 years, it languished.

Only Nevada County, where the law’s namesake, Laura Wilcox, was murdered by a mentally ill man, had adopted this provision to utilize court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment.

With the assistance of a judge, also known as the black-robe effect, the individual in need may realize that someone is reaching out to provide a solution.

Laura’s Law is applicable to a narrow group of individuals, particularly people with a history of psychiatric hospitalizations, jail sentences, threats or attempts of serious violent behavior toward themselves or others.

It’s a tool for people who care for mentally ill loved ones, should it be necessary, where they can turn to authorities for help. A proper plan of treatment will be advised to help that individual.

When I asked my colleagues around the state what their counties were doing about Laura’s Law, the response I heard most frequently was, what is Laura’s Law?

I requested that Orange County’s Commission to End Homelessness make a determination and recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on whether to implement this legislation. The conclusion: If the county can find the funding, then it should consider this strategy.

The recession plus Sacramento’s decision to abscond with vehicle license fees and property tax revenue left Orange County’s budget with a devastating $74 million hole. Consequently, the county could not afford any new initiatives.

The county did use revenue from Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, to treat some mentally ill people. But Proposition 63 was not available for voluntary treatment.

In 2012, I met in Sacramento with legislators who were looking at a bill to extend Laura’s Law for another five years. But if counties couldn’t afford to adopt it, what good would an extension be?

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the main proponent of Proposition 63, took to heart Orange County’s request and authored legislation that would allow Mental Health Services Act money to cover the costs of implementing Laura’s Law.

Once Steinberg’s bill was signed into law, I requested that the Orange County Health Care Agency do three things: Draft the resolution to adopt Laura’s Law, prepare the fiscal 2014-15 budget to pay the law, and design a program to implement it.

On May 13, with a unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors, Orange County became the first urban California county to fully adopt Laura’s Law. In June, the budget was approved. This fall, the program should be ready for its first candidate.

In my research, I also found many professionals who strongly oppose Laura’s Law. But Orange County, with its expansion of mental health housing and services, will have another tool available for those dealing with mentally ill family members.

I’m hoping that we can prove to the critics that Laura’s Law, applied in a compassionate and professional manner, will be a godsend to those suffering from mental illness and for parents who, until now, were unable to assist them.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Chiefs of Staff — August 9, 2014

Item number 6 on next Tuesday’s Board agenda has garnered some media attention, as the head of the County’s largest public employee union has been calling anyone and everyone who will listen. First he screamed and yelled for some structure to job titles, descriptions and classifications on the Fifth Floor. Now that it is being proposed, it is providing him with another opportunity to scream and yell. It becomes obvious that screaming and yelling is a way to show the union’s membership that its leader is doing something, maybe anything, to justify his own massive compensation package.

After being elected to the position of Supervisor, I went through the numerous resumes that I received and built a team. With too many wonderful applicants, I went through numerous interviews to narrow down the choices. It was not easy, but it is fun to reflect back on the results these past eight years. The most critical position to fill was that of Chief of Staff. A surprise applicant was Professor Mario Mainero, who was on the faculty of Whittier Law School and highly regarded by the students for doubling the bar pass rate. He came to assist me in my first few years, until he decided to accept a full-time position at Chapman Law School. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Mainero — December 4, 2009. Chapman’s Student Bar Association recently presented Professor Mainero with the M. Katherine Baird Darmer “Outstanding Professor of the Year” award. All to say, he loves being a bar prep professor. Every time I see Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law Dean Tom Campbell, he tells me how happy he is to have Professor Mainero on his staff.

Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Francis succeeded Professor Mainero and served me ably until Costa Mesa’s City Manager (CEO) made him an offer that he could not refuse. The offer was so nice, that I could not make a counter. Rick is still enjoying his role as Assistant CEO for Costa Mesa and I still rib his boss, Tom Hatch, about his “snatch.” Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — December 9, 2011 . Rick accepted his new position a few weeks before the beginning of my second round as Board Chair in 2012. Therefore, it was critical to find a strong replacement for the position.

One of the first members of my original team was Ian Rudge. Like Mario, he is also a Claremont McKenna College grad. Ian obtained his masters from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs with the University of Texas, with an emphasis in public employee pension plans. Early in my first term, the Performance Audit Department was established. Both of the top two candidates for the Director of this new endeavor wanted to hire Ian away from me. The winning candidate did. For 2012, Ian was the best person to serve as my Chief of Staff. But, as he was earning a higher salary in his Performance Audit position, I had to come up with a creative remedy. That is discussed at the conclusion of the Voice of OC piece below. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — April 29, 2013 and MOORLACH UPDATE — OCERS Election — October 26, 2012. Ian was recently recruited away from my office by the Chief of Probation, Steve Sentman, where Ian now ably serves as the Director of the Administrative and Fiscal Division. He was made an offer that I could not counter. Ian is a rising star and will be a real asset to the County of Orange should he decide to continue his career here.

Now what to do? It would be hard to hire someone for a short period of time and I preferred someone with experience and a strong background with the County. With the union head screaming and yelling about policy advisors to the Supervisors (I don’t refer to them as “political aides”), I decided to ask a former County key manager to come out of retirement and work for me part-time until the conclusion of my term. Bob Wilson had a distinguished career at the County and he was willing to volunteer at an hourly rate that is one of the lowest in my office. He is a genuine case of servant leadership and has been a real asset to my team.

Thanks for allowing me to reflect back over the past two terms on this topic. My focus was to build a brain trust to assist me in addressing the critical issues facing the County. In this way, I have had policy advisors whose top priority was to do what is best for the taxpayers that I represent. My staff members are not political cronies. They are competent and highly qualified professionals. Consequently, they would make excellent contributions in other positions within the County, should they seek to pursue such opportunities. Trying to provide the appropriate management and policy structure for positions on the Fifth Floor is the right thing to do. To have the good get lost by only focusing on the proposed salary ranges is a disservice to what is trying to be accomplished. With that said, I believe that the salary range for the Chief of Staff position is worthy of a Board discussion. The first concern I have is why was the top of the range increased. The second is requesting a clarification that increasing the range does not mean, in the slightest manner, that current salaries will be raised. That is my interpretation. Consequently, inferring that this agenda item might give or will raise salaries is a stretch of the truth. The remainder of the agenda item appears to be the proper professional approach, as opposed to the recent screaming and yelling.

Top Aides to Supervisors Might Get Big Raises

By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Orange County Supervisors are set to vote on a plan Tuesday that would establish – for the first time – job classifications and pay grades for political aides to county supervisors.

The proposal would hike the top pay for chiefs of staff from $112, 881 to $131,123.

If enacted, the new policy would have supervisors’ most senior political aides join deputy sheriffs in securing a pay hike just after being required to pay into their own pensions.

Currently, there’s only one job classification for fifth floor offices, executive aide, and that salary range goes from $29,993 to $112,881.

The update was requested by the county Human Resources department.

"It is best practice to establish separate pay ranges for each of the four job classifications that are commensurate with the level of complexity and scope of responsibility for each class," reads the staff report for Tuesday’s meeting.

"The changes proposed for your Board’s consideration are in alignment with equivalent internal classifications and will provide sufficient compensation to attract and retain competent staff for members of the Board and elected officials."

The county’s largest union is already on the warpath over the proposal openly questioning supervisors on how there’s no money for rank and file raises but plenty of room for high-ranking political operatives.

If it’s just about establishing best practices, union officials question why the top end range is being adjusted…up by more than 15 percent.

This week, Nick Berardino – general manager for the Orange County Employees Association – send out a sharply worded message to his members opposing the proposal.

"The County workforce is divided into haves and have nots, insiders and outsiders, the favored few and everyone else," Berardino wrote.

"We’re everyone else. For us, the County is a place of limited resources, falling real wages and takeaways. But there’s another County, a County where the sky is the limit, a County where who you know is the only thing that matters, a County where you can get a huge wage increase in the blink of an eye."

This proposal has the potential to be the latest in a series of controversies involving supervisors’ political aides and top county executives.

A 2010 county human resources audit found that county executives were granting themselves questionable raises and other ensuring disclosures have focused on supervisors’ political aides skirting merit selection rules for job recruitments as they shuffled back and forth between political offices, campaigns and county work.

In 2013, county HR officials changed hiring practices in reaction to hearings on state legislation that would have restricted county hiring practices.

Recently, County Supervisor Pat Bates questioned HR officials from the supervisors’ dais on those restrictions asking how they would deal with a wave of political aides from outgoing supervisors looking for jobs given the 2013 HR policy.

Under the new transfer policy, political aides that have never worked for a county department would have to go through competitive recruitment for jobs.

Meanwhile, employees who have previous department experience could simply transfer into open county jobs.

The new salary band up for debate Tuesday also solves a potential salary twist to the recent transfer of top executive Brian Probolsky from OC Community Resources into Bates’ office.

Probolsky, who also serves as an elected member of the Moulton Niguel Water District, took over as Bates’ chief of staff last month given that her longtime chief of staff, Don Hughes, is out on a family leave.

County officials said his chief of staff posting is considered a temporary reassignment so his job will stay open at OC Community Resources.

Except, he currently earns $122,886.40 according to county officials — far above the salary range of $112, 881 approved by supervisors.

Probolsky, who is also currently being investigated by the human resources department because of discrepancies on his government timecard also drew attention when he originally transitioned from Bates office into OC Community Resources back in 2012, given that he secured an immediate 80 percent raise in salary.

Probolsky had been working as an EA to Bates since 2010.

When County Supervisor John Moorlach several years ago hired back one of his former political aides, Ian Rudge, at a higher salary than authorized by county ordinance, he made up the difference.

"I paid the difference out of my campaign account," Moorlach said, adding that it was billed as an office holders expense.

"I didn’t think that (expanding pay ranges) was an option," he said.

Moorlach’s approach to the situation did not add any additional salary or pension costs to taxpayers for political aides.

That’s unclear for the new policy.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at the County Hall of Administration, 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, CA

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Puzzling — August 6, 2014

August 5th was the Quasquicentennial of the first Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting. We threw a small party. The reception started at 8:30 a.m. Our guest speaker was local historian, Phil Brigandi, who provided a brief account on the twenty years of political effort to have Orange County officially split off from Los Angeles County. Thanks to all those who were able to attend.

Supervisor Spitzer requested that no County funds be used for the reception (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Quasquicentennial — December 24, 2013), so I underwrote yesterday morning’s event. On a number of occasions, Supervisor Spitzer has also vocalized his opposition to requests for the Board to approve items retroactively. We are all frustrated when someone makes a decision and then brings it to the Board for ratification, versus obtaining Board approval to authorize the decision first. In April of last year, Supervisor Spitzer wanted to establish a Crime Victims Memorial and assured his colleagues that no public funds would be expended. I was left with the impression that funds would be raised for a capital campaign and the only public funds involved would be the donation of the land and the related future landscaping and maintenance of the site. That did not appear to be the case and, although a method was found to pay for some of the preliminary activities, it was still being paid for with public funds. The Voice of OC covers this matter, which was item number 16 on the Board’s agenda, in the first piece below.

In the second piece below, the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch covers remarks that Supervisor Spitzer made at the conclusion of yesterday’s Board meeting under the section titled “Board Comments.” I tried to explain to the reporter that during the Great Recession, nearly one-half of the County’s net-county-cost budget is now dedicated to public safety. Every department has had to do more with less. But, the non-public safety departments have made more significant budget cuts in order to fund the public safety agencies. Economic cycles happen and the County of Orange, with the aid of its department heads and employees, did a great job of downsizing in this most recent downturn. On the tragic Seal Beach mass killing see MOORLACH UPDATE — Seal Beach Response — October 16, 2011.

The third piece is from the OC Register and covers the Grand Jury’s report on John Wayne Airport (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Mil-Walkie — July 7, 2014). It’s not too often when my name is misspelled in the media. I think the unanimous reaction to the report can be summed up in the word “puzzling.”

BONUS: The Airport Land Use Commission for Orange County has three vacancies. If you are interested in being appointed to this position, please review the details at Bob.Wilson.

Spitzer Called Out by Moorlach Over Pay to Consultant

By HAROLD PIERCE and NICK GERDA, writer

County supervisors Todd Spitzer (left) and John Moorlach (right). (Photos by: Nick Gerda and Violeta Vaqueiro)

County Supervisor Todd Spitzer was challenged Tuesday by fellow Supervisor John Moorlach over a $25,000 contract given to Spitzer’s campaign consultant for work on a crime victims memorial that Spitzer had indicated would receive no taxpayer dollars.

The issue came up as Spitzer asked supervisors to retroactively approve the contract with the public relations firm Communications Lab, owned by his campaign consultant, Arianna Barrios.

"I asked you [Spitzer] specifically … and you said ‘we have to raise money and that’s all going to be done privately,’ no taxpayer dollars," Moorlach said.

"For construction," Spitzer said.

"That didn’t seem to be the suggestion. I’m having difficulty with how this is being handled," said Moorlach.

County Auditor Controller Jan Grimes withheld payment to Barrios who was hired by the county under questionable circumstances to spearhead a $25,000 public relations blitz in April for the unveiling of a victims memorial at Mason Regional Park in Irvine.

With the auditor blocking payment, Spitzer brought the $25,000 bill to the board of supervisors.

He said he takes responsibility for the "hiccup."

"I feel a responsibility to fix it," said Spitzer, adding the design competition, which was largely organized by Barrios, brought international attention to Orange County.

A Voice of OC review of internal county documents showed county parks staff objected strongly when they were inundated by requests from Spitzer’s office for unauthorized arrangements and excessive preparations for the April event.

The event was authorized a year earlier by supervisors – with the express mention that public resources wouldn’t be spent on one supervisor’s pet project.

A staff report for the item in April 2013 noted there would be no financial impact from the memorial construction. According to the report, even staff time to organize the event would be "minor," mainly depending on OC Parks and Spitzer’s staff to get announcements out and process design applications.

That didn’t turn out to be the case.

Documents indicate county staffers who work for Spitzer – who also represents crime victims as a private attorney – also apparently were advocating to parks staff that his campaign consulting firm – Barrios’ Communications Lab – be paid to engage in fundraising activities for the event.

Following internal pushback and news coverage of the issue, Spitzer on Tuesday said he planned to pay for the contract out of his county office budget – instead of OC Parks funds or his campaign account.

As a county supervisor, Spitzer has authority to approve contracts from his office budget up to $25,000.

But, as Moorlach pointed out, those are still public dollars.

"I was assured there would be no public funds used for this project. That was my understanding," said Moorlach. "I’m having a little heartburn with that."

Moorlach wanted his colleagues to instead approve the contract payment as a "loan" to whatever nonprofit organization ends up fundraising for the park. The $25,000 would be reimbursed to the county after private funds are raised.

His idea failed to gain traction with Spitzer or with supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen. Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson was absent from the meeting.

"It was a timing issue. And we’ve all been in that situation, so I’m frankly glad that you moved on it" so we could get that attendance at the April event, Bates told Spitzer.

"Thank you for coming out front and owning the issue," Nguyen told Spitzer.

Supervisors’ penchant for using county agencies for their own political purposes has created friction within the county bureaucracy for years. County human resources in 2013 had to establish a policy to stop questionable transfers of political aides into county agencies.

Nguyen came under fire in 2012 for her coordination with county agencies – such as Social Services and the Sheriff’s Department – on events in the First District with reports that signs at such events didn’t highlight the agency but instead touted Nguyen.

Bates also came under fire for questionable staff transfers from her office into the county bureaucracy as well as efforts by her office to influence enforcement of the county’s sex offender park ban near Dana Point Harbor.

On Tuesday, the supervisors ultimately voted 4-0 to remove the request that they authorize the Barrios contract, with the understanding that Spitzer would use his office budget to pay for it. They also approved a design for the victims’ memorial.

A directive was also given to county staff to talk to local nonprofits – particularly the Orange County Community Foundation – about managing the park’s design, fundraising, construction and maintenance.

It remains to be seen who will take responsibility for maintaining the memorial.

"I don’t want to create another Civic Center situation with the plaques," Spitzer said, referring to the long-neglected Orange County Walk of Honor just outside the supervisors’ offices in the county Civic Center.

Local veterans advocates became so disgusted with the state of the plaques they recently took it on themselves to clean the memorial wall.

Separate from the Barrios contract, supervisors praised the final design of the victims’ memorial.

"I see this as a spiritual resource in our community," said Bates.

Of the winning design, Spitzer said "it’s a beautiful, beautiful statement I think. And I think the crime victims are just overwhelmed."

"It’s embracing. It’s like a blanket around someone’s shoulders."

The discussion also prompted most of the supervisors to recall their own experiences as crime victims.

Moorlach said he was robbed at gunpoint twice in the 1970s while working at the Trojan drive-thru dairy in Cypress. A few days later, three other employees in Hawaiian Gardens were killed and left in a refrigerator, he said.

"We were very, very fortunate to not have been killed," said Moorlach.

Nguyen said she was robbed at gunpoint in her San Bernardino County home as a teenager.

"Unfortunately the gun was right to my head" when she tried to activate an alarm, Nguyen said.

Bates said her sister and brother-in-law were lost in "a very tragic domestic violence issue."

"When you lose somebody in a violent action, a homicide like that…the pain is there," Bates said.

The planning process for the memorial park has provided "a moment of comfort" for victims, she added. "There was a bonding, a coming together."

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

O.C. Supervisor Calls Judge’s Ruling in Dekraai Case a ‘Black Eye for the County’

Todd Spitzer said it was unfair to attribute prosecutorial misconduct on a stressed budget.

By Penny Arévalo

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer today called a Superior Court judge’s ruling this week on a convicted mass killer’s claims of prosecutorial misconduct a “black eye for the county.”

Spitzer made his comments at the end of today’s board meeting as he directed the county’s chief executive officer and chief financial officer to meet with Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to see if he needs additional resources to avoid some of the legal missteps outlined in the 500-page plus motion filed by Scott Dekraai’s attorneys earlier this year.

The motion sought to have the death penalty removed as an option for prosecutors in the penalty phase for the man responsible for the worst mass killing in the county’s history. Dekraai also wanted Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals to have the state Attorney General’s Office take over prosecution in the penalty phase.

Goethals denied both requests on Monday, but barred prosecutors from using Dekraai’s statements in custody against him in the penalty phase. The hearings on the accusations of government misconduct in the handling of Dekraai’s case started in mid-March and ended with Goethals’ ruling Monday.

Spitzer, holding up a copy of the Orange County Register today, accused Rackauckas, his former boss when the supervisor was a high-ranking prosecutor, of essentially ducking some responsibility for the more embarrassing allegations that came out of the hearings by blaming a lack of financial resources.

“We are now being used as an excuse for prosecutorial misconduct,” Spitzer said. “Why is the county being blamed?”

Spitzer went on to say, “I hope and I am positive that Dekraai will rot in hell. He is the incarnation of the devil.”

Rackauckas told reporters on Monday that one lesson learned from the Dekraai hearings was that some prosecutors were carrying too heavy a caseload, which led to some legal missteps. Rackauckas said he did not think anyone on his staff intentionally committed misconduct.

One of the more prominent prosecutors named in the Dekraai motion — Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen — was booted by Goethals from a case just before the hearings began for failing to turn over all the evidence he had to defense attorneys as required. Petersen was prosecuting 80 cases at one time according to Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas’ chief of staff.

Spitzer, quoting Goethals, said a heavy workload is no excuse from the legal obligations of the job.

Spitzer told City News Service after today’s meeting that he has never said no to any budget increases from the District Attorney’s Office.

In fact, to comply with an increased exchange of evidence, which was made necessary because of the Dekraai hearings, Rackauckas has hired 11 new law clerks which will cost taxpayers about $750,000, Spitzer added.

“It makes no sense to me. How do you blame the county for a lack of resources when you haven’t asked for the resources,” Spitzer said.

“Is this real or is this just an excuse because they’re looking for ways to explain to the public why they didn’t fulfill their legal obligations… Don’t use me as your scapegoat unless I denied your request.”

Spitzer said the judge’s ruling shows prosecutors were “not playing fair” with defense attorneys, and he worried about the turmoil victims’ families will go through if appellate justices order a new trial.

Schroeder said Rackauckas, who fired Spitzer and sparked a long-running feud between the two, didn’t try to deflect blame.

“The district attorney didn’t blame anyone else for what happened. There were mistakes made by overworked prosecutors,” Schroeder told City News Service. “When you have 80 cases, that’s just too many.”

Schroeder accused Spitzer of playing politics.

“It’s a shame that Supervisor Spitzer once again has to make it all about him and politics,” Schroeder said.

“It’s a shame Supervisor Spitzer has to use a mass murder case with eight dead innocent victims to politicize his agenda and his issues with the District Attorney’s Office.”

Supervisor John Moorlach said Spitzer made his comments during a part of the board meeting that prevented the other supervisors from chiming in because the issue was not on the agenda. Moorlach was sympathetic to Rackauckas’ lament about trying to do more with less.

“Based on the circumstances we’ve done a pretty good job in this most difficult time in U.S. history,” Moorlach said.

–City News Service

John Wayne Airport can do more, grand jury finds

Supervisor Moorlach finds the results puzzling and says runway extension is unrealistic.

BY NICOLE SHINE/ STAFF WRITER

John Wayne Airport’s flights and parking are expensive, and if it wasn’t hampered by decades-old structures, it could make the county’s economy move and work faster.

Orange County grand jury handed down those findings in late June in a 67-page report. Some lawmakers and residents say its recommendations are puzzling, at best.

The grand jury recommended extending one runway to accommodate heavier planes, lowering long-term parking fees, instituting policies to woo more business and leisure travelers, and building a special lot for motorists waiting to pick up passengers.

Supervisor John Moorloch, whose district includes neighboring Newport Beach, said he found the grand jury recommendations baffling. He said the idea of extending a runway in a heavily populated area showed “a naivete that is almost eye-rolling.”

“It doesn’t reflect what the community is pursuing,” he said. “Increasing use of Ontario Airport has been the focus, and that’s where it should be.”

The report also says the airport is operating well below capacity and could have served roughly 1.6 million more passengers in 2013. In light of its routes to Mexico and Canada, the grand jury suggested the airport add “International” to its name.

The report comes at a critical juncture. Late next month, the Orange County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve an environmental study of a proposed amendment to the landmark Settlement Agreement that has capped flights and passenger levels since 1985. The amendment, considered crucial to those who live under the flight path, also reinforces nighttime flight curfews at the regional airport.

The report took aim at the pending Settlement Agreement in several areas. In one, they referenced an airfare study that concluded, “Orange County passengers can expect little or no airfare relief in the future if the Settlement Agreement continues to limit the number of flights and passengers in the face of growing demand for air travel.”

The grand jury didn’t explain why its report coincided with the pending Settlement Agreement. The panel also doesn’t, as a rule, make itself available for interviews.

The report says stakeholders were involved as it gathered information, but Moorloch said he wasn’t consulted. Otherwise, he said they would have known the parking lot they recommended was already in the works and is expected to be ready early next year.

Melinda Seely, who heads a group working to curb airport expansion, was interviewed. The Newport Beach resident said she was surprised and puzzled by the grand jury’s recommendations.

“We have been working so hard to contain the airport at its current levels,” said Seely, the president of AirFair. When she read the report, she said, “it was like what planet are they on?”

The grand jury last looked at the airport in 2003 when, in the wake of 9/11, its focus was security.

Contact the writer: nshine or Twitter:@nicolekshine

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Quasquicentennial at OC Fair — August 2, 2014

The Orange County Fair invited Orange County to celebrate its official 125th birthday on August 1. The OC Fair is open from noon to midnight for Wednesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays. The County’s event officially opened the Fair’s day with the national anthem, sung by Veronica Moreno of the Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s office, while the U.S. Flag was raised on The Hangar building. Veronica was a participant in the 2005 season of “Objectivo Fama,” the Latin version of “American Idol,” and she proved why she qualified to compete on that show. Wow! This was followed by a slide show of historic OC photos, a brief history of how Orange County became the “second” 53rd county by yours truly, and then Happy Birthday wishes from Orange County Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen, Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Freidenrich, and Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates. Veronica Moreno then led us in “Happy Birthday To You.” I want to thank all those who were able to attend and participate. Special thanks go to the Orange County Fair, the Orange County Business Council for the birthday cake and cupcakes (that went so quickly that I didn’t even get to eat one), and the Auto Club of Southern California for the special “Orange County Quasquicentennial Historical Maps” that were handed out. These maps will also be available at the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, August 5th. The OC Register covered our special milestone event in the first piece below. (The OC Fair will be celebrating its quasquicentennial next year!)

ABC Channel 7 Los Angeles covered the Thursday morning press conference (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Quasquicentennial — August 1, 2014) in the second piece below.

Happy birthday, Orange County

Small celebration at the fair marks area’s 125th year.

Veronica Moreno, a staff assistant at the Orange County Clerk/Recorder’s office, sings the national anthem with a backdrop of various fair foods to begin the 125th birthday celebration.

NICK AGRO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach gave a brief history of the county’s early days during the birthday celebration Friday.

NICK AGRO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Cupcakes were decorated with the seal of Orange County.

NICK AGRO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Orange County opted for a low-key celebration of its 125th birthday Friday afternoon at the OC Fair.

The intimate gathering commemorating the county’s independence from Los Angeles County drew a crowd of about 20 residents and visitors to the fair’s Hangar stage, including Yorba Linda resident Elaine Majam, 58, and her daughter Andie, 23.

“It’s a great place to live. It’s very family-oriented and there’s lots of things to do,” said Majam. “I don’t know why anybody would want to live anywhere else.”

While historical milestones don’t necessarily draw big crowds, Friday’s celebration at the fair was a way to commemorate 125 years of becoming a “little slice of heaven,” as Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates put it.

The Costa Mesa-based Andrew E. Barrett Trio played music from the 1880s before and after the event from the Hangar stage.

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach gave a brief history of the county’s early days. Historic pictures from the county archives rolled behind him and passers-by enjoyed free cake and cupcakes as he explained why the secession from Los Angeles was a matter of convenience more than anything.

In 1870, when residents here began taking steps to become a county, “it took more than seven hours to get to Los Angeles,” Moorlach said.

Some in the audience muttered that this may still be the case, depending on what time of day you land on the I-405.

At the time California became a state, most of the 27 existing counties were clustered in Northern California, where mining and gold industries lured the state’s residents. After about the 1850s, counties like Fresno, San Bernardino and Merced cropped up, hoping to create a closer county seat for residents in their areas, Moorlach said.

On Aug. 1, 1889, this small chuck of land in the shadow of Los Angeles became the state’s 53rd county. The counties of Kings, Madera and Riverside followed. Imperial County was the state’s 58th and final county.

Though in some ways, Orange County is still identified as north of San Diego and south of Los Angeles, it has become a destination for its beaches, mountain trails and school systems, Moorlach said.

For 10-year-old Angel Sicairos of Anaheim, you don’t need to know much about history to know what makes Orange County great.

“They grow a lot of oranges here and it’s fun too,” he said.

http://abc7.com/news/politicians-oppose-oc-405-fwy-toll-lanes/234209/

Politicians oppose Orange County 405 Freeway toll lanes

By Eileen Frere

There’s strong opposition in Orange County to toll-lane plans announced by Caltrans for the 405 Freeway.

Huntington Beach resident Bridget Johnson home-schools her children and travels the 405 Freeway every day to get to activities across Orange County. She says she worries about talk of toll lanes.

"We depend on the freeway and I absolutely cannot afford a toll road. I’m having trouble affording the price of gas right now," said Johnson.

That concern is echoed by local politicians from several cities along the 14-mile stretch of the 405 from Costa Mesa to Seal Beach. About 400,000 drivers use the corridor every day.

"We want our money going to free lanes," said Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.

Last week Caltrans, despite opposition, decided on a plan that adds one free general-purpose lane in each direction, paid for through Measure M with a 1/2-cent sales tax approved by voters, as well as a high-occupancy toll, or "HOT" lane. Caltrans says it would combine with the existing carpool lane to create two express lanes in each direction.

"It’s a combination of the two," said Caltrans Spokesman David Richardson. "If you have the right number of people in the car, the required occupancy, it’s just like an HOV lane. You get to ride for free."

"If you put toll lanes in, it’s a money grab," said state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa). "Who can afford $10 to $15? Seniors can’t afford it. Low-income families cannot afford it."

Caltrans says the cost of the tolls has not yet been worked out. The agency also denies any Measure M money will be used to pay for the express lanes.

"We just don’t know where those funds are going to come from at the moment," said Richardson.

While Caltrans says it tries to find a way to pay for its plan, it insists the "HOT" lanes will allow about 2,300 more vehicles per hour during peak hours than if it added just one free lane in each direction.

"It’s going to reduce the trip time," said Richardson. "Because remember, anybody that’s in one of these two lanes is taking a vehicle out of the general-purpose lanes, so it benefits everybody."

"I would say to the people of Orange County: You’re informed, you’re intelligent, you’re affluent. Stand up and have your voices heard," said Los Alamitos Mayor Gerri Graham-Mejia.

Officials assay that $1.3 billion will come from Measure M money. It will be up to Caltrans to figure out how to come up with the remaining $400 million for the HOT lanes.

Construction of the free lanes is scheduled to begin in 2016.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Quasquicentennial — August 1, 2014

Press conferences are always an interesting proposition. Will the media attend? In the case of yesterday morning’s press conference to voice concerns about the planned conversion of currently free lanes on the San Diego 405 Freeway into toll lanes, the media definitely showed up. And so did numerous elected representatives from the corridor cities.

It’s a shame when it appears that governmental agencies do not collaborate in a cooperative and forthright manner. It’s a farce when one requests a locally preferred alternative from the other and disregards it. It’s infuriating when an agency publicly declares that it knows what is best for the constituents, while at the same time ignoring those same constituents who are impacted and their elected representatives. It’s tribute when that governmental agency requires you to pay a tax for which there will be no direct benefit for your expenditure. The recent taking of carpool lanes and converting them to toll lanes has not provided an extremely resounding improvement in traffic throughput in LA County. It appears that putting more cars in the general purpose lanes is a strategy to force drivers to pay the tolls. Therefore, in spite of the cries that this is not being done for the money, that claim by Caltrans rings hollow. It is about the money.

The Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot and the Daily Pilot cover the press conference in the piece below.

BONUS: Happy Birthday, Orange County! On August 1st, 1889, Orange County’s splitting off from Los Angeles County became official. Happy Quasquicentennial!

Public officials object to 405 toll lanes, ‘schoolyard bully’ Caltrans

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor is joined by other officials at news conference criticizing the freeway plan.

By Bradley Zint

With the steady hum of morning traffic behind them, public officials from cities along Orange County’s 405 Freeway corridor gathered in Costa Mesa on Thursday to decry a state proposal to add toll lanes to the busy thoroughfare.

Led by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) at his South Coast Drive field office, the group from Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and other areas sharply criticized the California Department of Transportation‘s recent announcement of plans to replace the 405 carpool lane with a toll option on a 14-mile stretch of the freeway, from Costa Mesa to the 605 Freeway near Rossmoor.

Caltrans’ decision comes amid universal opposition to the idea from the Orange County Transportation Authority board and affected cities along the 405. OCTA’s board in December had approved a toll-free option.

Mansoor, a former Costa Mesa mayor now running for county supervisor, called Caltrans’ decision "a money grab."

"Never has anything of this magnitude been done without local cooperation and local funding," he said. "So this is going forward, or appears to be going forward, without any real direction."

The toll road plan, estimated to cost $1.7 billion, also would add one new general-purpose lane in each direction.

The state agency expects $1.3 billion for the project to come from Measure M funds. Voters agreed to the small sales tax increase to finance local transportation projects.

Los Alamitos Mayor Gerri Graham-Mejia compared Caltrans to a schoolyard bully taking lunch money from Orange County residents who approved the tax.

Nowhere in the Measure M wording is funding for toll roads mentioned, said county Supervisor John Moorlach.

Seal Beach Councilman Michael Levitt, who represents Leisure World, said the tolls would be a financial burden on hundreds of fixed-income seniors.

Over the years, they have relied on the free carpool lanes, he said.

"Caltrans wants to take that away from us…. Now that free lane is going to cost $10 or $12," Levitt said.

Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer, referring to the 405 corridor cities’ persistent protests of the toll idea, said: "What is wrong with the answer ‘no’?"

The Costa Mesa City Council is expected to consider a resolution Tuesday "confirming the city’s opposition to the use of Measure M funds in building toll lanes on the 405 Freeway without voter approval," according to a city news release.

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Toll Lane Opponents — July 29, 2014

The Voice of OC provides an accurate account of what occurred during the public and board comment sections of yesterday morning’s Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board meeting. As you read the piece, be aware that the individual who requested to speak, but failed to submit a speaker request card, was Allan Beek. Brothers Allan and Seymour Beek own and operate the Balboa Island Ferry, which was founded by their father, Joseph, nearly 100 years ago. Allan attended many of my Treasury Oversight Committee meetings in years past. When the Chair called on Mr. Block, I asked him if he meant Mr. Beek, but there actually was a Mr. Block who requested to speak. This shows you how much detail is included in this article.

Residents in the western portion of the County have watched as Measure M funds were used to build the El Toro Y (405/5), to widen the Santa Ana (5) Freeway up to the LA County border, to improve the Garden Grove (22), Costa Mesa (55) and Orange (57) Freeways. The first Measure M was approved by 54 percent of the voters in 1990. After 24 years of building wonderful transportation improvements in Orange County, now that OCTA is finally addressing one of the busiest freeway arteries in the nation, it winks at the idea of allowing managed (toll) lanes down the center of the San Diego (405) Freeway. Not only has this freeway been neglected for more than two decades, but now that it is getting some attention, it is the recipient of a classic bait and switch strategy by Caltrans. To date, Caltrans has not publicly announced toll lanes for any other specific freeway in Orange County. So the western area of the County, which is still waiting to see if the West County Connectors will alleviate congestion on the 405, has otherwise been neglected and will have the first Orange County toll road thrust on them. So much for chipping in to the whole and being patient in waiting for its turn. I have not seen the public as outraged on an issue as this one. For more history, see MOORLACH UPDATE — I-405 Hold Up — July 26, 2014. You will see that on this topic, I have been representing the majority of my constituents’ views.

Our office is receiving inquiries as to who Mr. Ryan Chamberlain is. For a bio, go to ryan.chamberlain and the District 12 telephone number is 949-724-2000.

CLARIFICATION: In MOORLACH UPDATE — I-405 Hold Up — July 26, 2014, I mentioned that it appeared that Caltrans and OCTA held a press conference last Thursday. I was informed that it was a Caltrans organized event and “OCTA staff or board members did not participate in any way in a press briefing with any news organizations.”

Opponents of Toll Lanes on the 405 Fight State Plan

By NICK GERDA Voice of OC

Local officials Monday accused California’s transportation agency of taking advantage of Orange County voters by trying to use hundreds of millions of local dollars to widen the 405 freeway, but then install state-owned toll lanes, which are strongly opposed by some blocs of voters.

Westminster City Councilwoman Diana Carey, who represents cities along the freeway in northwest Orange County, told a meeting of the Orange County Transportation Authority that voters never were told before they approved a half-percent county sales tax in 2006 that funds from the road construction ballot measure might be used to help build controversial freeway toll lanes.

“It is unequivocally not what the voters passed for the improvement of the I-405,” said Carey, referring to ballot Measure M2. Toll lanes, she said, would be “not only violating the spirit of M2, but we will never get another transportation tax passed in this county.”

Carey was one of several opponents who spoke against Caltrans’ newly-announced plan to create two Orange County toll lanes on the 405 by eventually adding another lane in each direction and converting the existing carpool lane into a toll lane.

“I got calls from people who want to rescind M2 now, they’re so angry about it,” Carey added.

Critics say the so-called “Lexus lanes” only significantly ease traffic for those who can afford to pay the tolls. Those who can’t afford it would still be stuck in traffic.

The project applies to the stretch of the 405 between State Route 73 in Costa Mesa and Interstate 605 at the county line.

Caltrans, meanwhile, says the toll lanes – or “managed lanes,” as it prefers to call them – would speed travel times for all drivers, including those in free lanes.

In their news releases last week, Caltrans didn’t estimate how much travel times would speed up in the first few years after converting the existing carpool lane and adding toll lanes.

But more than a quarter century from now, in 2040, Caltrans predicted drive times in non-toll lanes would be cut nearly in half, from 57 minutes to 29 minutes.

“The department endeavors to maximize people throughput,” said Ryan Chamberlain, the Orange County director for Caltrans.

In reaction to the state decision, opponents turned to social media, starting a Facebook page, “SAY NO to the Orange County 405 Toll Lanes,” to organize their pushback, and have raised the possibility of a lawsuit.

“This will have to be fought in court,” declared Orange Juice blogger Vern Nelson in a Monday post. He called for the creation of a nonprofit Orange County Drivers’ Union to serve as a plaintiff.

A backdrop to the toll lanes issue is declining state and federal money for freeway and road projects.

The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, last increased in 1993, hasn’t risen with inflation, and improved fuel efficiency has also affected revenues. Sacramento also diverts gas tax funds for other purposes than freeway and road improvements, said Huntington Beach Mayor Matt Harper, an OCTA director and a candidate for the 74th Assembly seat.

Meanwhile, California’s highway system is facing about a $6 billion annual funding gap for maintenance, according to Caltrans.

Those financial stresses are what is behind the toll lane proposal, according to Supervisor Pat Bates, who is also board member at the county transportation agency, known as OCTA.

“The honesty here is that Caltrans needs money to go forward with building and maintaining our infrastructure. And this appeared because of the success of the 91 [toll lanes] and certainly the 241 [toll road] as a way to generate revenues for our infrastructure,” said Bates.

“Let’s be honest about it.”

But Chamberlain, the local director for Caltrans, stressed that the toll lane effort has nothing to do with revenue.

“I want to make it clear: the department’s perspective is not about generating revenue. It hasn’t been from the beginning,” said Chamberlain. “It’s about managing congestion, it’s about trip reliability and it’s about choice.”

But Bates said a workable discussion can’t take place until Caltrans admits its true intent.

“When the public understands, like they did when we got M2 passed, that this is value added – another additional tax, but with it we’re getting something – then we can move forward together,” said Bates, a candidate for the state Senate.

“I think it is just so stupid, frankly, to proceed down this road without everyone understanding what we’re trying to accomplish and how we meet everyone’s goals,” she added. “Be honest about what we’re trying to accomplish, and then maybe we can find a solution.”

Seal Beach resident Schelly Sustarsic, one of several county residents to speak – or try to – said the recent addition of toll lanes to Interstate 110 in Los Angeles County didn’t improve traffic in free lanes.

“Traffic will back up in the general purpose lanes, making congestion and air quality worse for our locals,” said Sustarsic. Freeway drivers, she added, would take side streets and cause “gridlock for our local drivers.”

As public comments wrapped up, a man stood at the microphone and asked to speak, saying he didn’t know he had to submit a request card before comments started.

OCTA Chairman Shawn Nelson turned him down.

“No sir, we have protocol and it is what it is”, said Nelson, who in addition to be being a county supervisor is a lawyer.

However, OCTA does not have a policy requiring speakers to fill out a card, spokesman Joel Zlotnik confirmed. Speakers at public meetings in California also cannot be required to identify themselves.

Separately, a proposed state law, AB-194, would outlaw advanced notice requirements for public commenters, according to Terry Francke, general counsel for the open government group Californians Aware.

OCTA board member Gary Miller, who opposes the toll lanes, asked Nelson to schedule a future discussion at OCTA of the toll lanes issue.

“That’s a discussion we have to have,” said Miller, who is also a Seal Beach councilman.

Nelson wasn’t interested, saying it’s a state issue.

“There’s really no reason to agendize that issue,” said Nelson.

“We can agendize anything we want but we’re not the state Assembly, or the state Senate,” he added. “Caltrans doesn’t have any money to do this. They don’t have a plan to do this.”

Transportation board member John Moorlach also chimed in, saying he’s “having a little difficulty with the ethics” of OCTA spending $1.3 billion to widen the freeway and then see toll lanes put in.

Nelson reiterated his point.

“A gripe session isn’t productive, [and] it ain’t gonna do anything,” he said, continuing to point to the issue as a state responsibility.

After another OCTA board member, Janet Nguyen, joined the calls for a discussion, Nelson agreed to ask Caltrans to present their vision for toll lanes. Nguyen, of Garden Grove, is running for the state Senate.

In response, Chamberlain said more details about the plans would need to be in place before he gives a presentation.

Harper, meanwhile, argued after the meeting that allowing toll lanes would make it politically easier for Caltrans to eventually convert more free lanes into toll lanes.

“I don’t want to see the whole entire 405 be a toll road,” said Harper.

At the same time, Nelson and Harper say OCTA has few cards to play in trying to prevent toll lanes on local freeways, which are owned by Caltrans.

”It’s beyond us what Caltrans does with its road,” said Nelson.

In light of that, Harper encouraged residents to contact their members of the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown’s office.

Carey, meanwhile, said OCTA does have a card to play – its approval of local M2 funds for the freeway expansion effort.

“Caltrans may be trying to compel us to put toll lanes on the 405…but they cannot compel the OCTA board to spend our infrastructure money to support their projects,” Carey told board members.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Posted in California