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).

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Posted in California

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

MOORLACH UPDATE — I-405 Hold Up — July 26, 2014

Although the locally preferred alternative (LPA) for the widening of the San Diego I-405 Freeway approved by OCTA, Alternative One, was not my preference (it was Alternative Two), Caltrans decided that Alternative Three should be the LPA. You’ve got to love Sacramento bureaucrats. Sacramento is asking you to invest in multiple bridge widenings and when that chore is completed after some five years, they will gladly take the new lane that was built and use it for a managed (toll) lane. It’s like being back on the dairy. Orange County is being told to milk the cows, and Caltrans will then come along and skim off the cream. It’s about as offensive as it can get. And by the e-mails and telephone calls that my office has received, my constituents are not amused.

To bring you up to date on this topic, allow me to refer you to MOORLACH UPDATE — San Diego Freeway — December 10, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Annual CSAC Conference — November 22, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Collaboration — November 9, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Be Scared, Be Very Scared — October 30, 2013,

MOORLACH UPDATE — 405 Toll Lanes — October 29, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — HOV vs. HOT — October 28, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — OCTA Vote — September 24, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Highway Robbery — September 23, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — I-405 Hearing — July 24, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — 405 Widening Redux — May 21, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — No Toll — October 23, 2012, MOORLACH UPDATE — Alternative 2 — October 22, 2012, and MOORLACH UPDATE — I-405 Toll-Lane Proposal — July 21, 2012.

If you’ve enjoyed the construction on Seal Beach Boulevard and Valley View Street, you’ll love the proposed changes to all of the other bridges up to Harbor Boulevard. Expect some five years of traffic congestion and then no real net benefit after it is concluded.

It appears that Caltrans and OCTA held a press conference on Thursday. The media was requested to embargo the information until an official announcement was made on Friday. The OCTA Board was only informed of the decision yesterday morning, but it was not aware of the prior day’s media efforts to sell the Caltrans position.

The first piece below is from the LA Times. The second is from the OC Register, where I infer that maybe Caltrans can fund the bridge widenings and OCTA can direct the $1.3 billion elsewhere. The third piece is from KPCC 89.3 FM. And the final piece is an editorial submission on the topic in the Daily Pilot.

Maybe this hold up needs to be held up. The OCTA Board has acquiesced to the idea of this highway robbery. Perhaps they need to take another look. The OCTA Board meets on Monday morning and it should be an interesting meeting.

BONUS: Thanks to those who joined us on the Crystal Cove day hike. Special thanks go to Henry Helling, President and CEO of Crystal Cove Alliance, and Michael O’Connell, Executive Director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, for their expert input and time.

Regarding Caltrans to put toll lanes on 405 Freeway in Orange County

By Paloma Esquivel

The battle over toll lanes on California freeways moved to Orange County on Friday when Caltrans announced it would defy local officials and place what critics call "Lexus lanes" on a 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway.

The lanes would be on a notoriously congested section of the freeway between Seal Beach and Costa Mesa. The cost of the tolls has not been finalized, but some existing toll lanes can charge about $10 one way during rush hour.

The move comes as communities throughout Southern California are increasingly considering toll lanes in order to relieve traffic and generate funding.

After years of resistance, Los Angeles officials added toll lanes along parts of the 10 and 110 freeways.

Riverside County is now in the process of creating express lanes on the 91 Freeway in Corona, while San Bernardino County officials are exploring the possibility of toll lanes on the 10 and 15 freeways as well.

But none of those areas have seen the strong opposition that Caltrans has encountered in Orange County, where numerous cities as well as the county’s transportation agency have come out against the idea.

Caltrans officials said Friday that adding high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on the 405 would speed traffic.

"We’ve got over 400,000 people using the 405 corridor every day," said Ryan Chamberlain, Orange County district director for Caltrans. "I’d say there’s going to be a lot of people celebrating this decision."

But there was little celebrating in Orange County — at least among many local officials.

"The state of California and those in Sacramento are trying to implement a concerted agenda to have layers of taxes, fees and tolls to extract dollars out of everyday drivers," said Huntington Beach Mayor Matthew Harper. "I think once voters realize what’s coming down at them, they’re going to rebel and people are going to want to keep the freeways free."

Despite Orange County’s history as a longtime proponent of toll lanes and roads, putting pay-to-drive lanes on the 405 has generated more than a year of rancorous debate.

One reason is that existing carpool lanes would be converted to toll lanes. The project also takes advantage of funds set aside to expand the freeway using money from the county’s half-cent sales tax.

"The taxpayers of Orange County have been paying an additional sales tax to improve traffic, but Sacramento is usurping that," said Supervisor John Moorlach.

As county transportation officials mulled over how best to expand the 405, six cities along the route, including Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa, banded together as the "corridor cities" to fight the lanes, saying they would put an unfair burden on commuters, push traffic onto local streets and prevent motorists in toll lanes from pulling off the highway to patronize local businesses.

In December, Orange County Transportation Authority board members opted not to support the toll lanes, instead favoring a plan that would add one free lane in each direction.

Although local opposition has been heated, some see high-occupancy toll lanes as the future in a region growing in population but strapped for funds.

The Southern California Assn. of Governments, the metropolitan planning organization for six Southern California counties, is in the process of completing a study on HOT lanes; and preliminary results suggest they are a good option for dealing with traffic, said Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata.

"We should be open to options that relieve congestion and that are going to get us out of the mess we are in," he said. "This is one option that seems to be working."

Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning at UCLA, said HOT lanes are being gradually incorporated into regional transportation plans throughout the state and especially in Southern California. He favors the option and said the perception that the lanes are only for the rich isn’t necessarily true.

"Lower-and middle-income people use them occasionally, perhaps less often than rich people. But if a person has limited income and their child has to be picked up at child care, then they do a calculation," he said.

It’s not clear how the tolls will be collected in the 405 toll lanes plan. But other stretches of toll roads in Southern California have required lone drivers to carry a transponder, which provides a means for billing the owner.

On those roads, motorists with multiple passengers must have the transponder, but do not pay a toll.

There is no set timeline for the opening of the HOT lanes because funding for them has not yet been secured, Caltrans officials said.

The agency’s plan, recommended by Caltrans’ project development team, would allow the OCTA to move forward with its proposal to add one free lane in each direction before eventually creating the high-occupancy toll lanes at an estimated total project cost of $1.7 billion.

The agency expects the bulk of funding — $1.3 billion — to come from the county’s half-cent sales tax. But it’s unclear how the remaining $400 million will be raised. Chamberlain, the local Caltrans director, mentioned several possibilities, including federal loans, grants and private investors. Once the project’s environmental impact report is finalized in several months, officials will begin looking for funding, said Caltrans spokesman David Richardson.

Chamberlain said he does not anticipate departing from the toll lanes recommendation. He said that HOT lanes benefit commuters because they allow transportation officials to better manage traffic and that they provide a consistent option for faster travel.

Caltrans is also exploring the possibility of allowing vehicles with two or more occupants to ride free in the toll lanes, but a final decision has not been made, he said.

Diana Carey, a Westminster councilwoman who also represents the corridor cities, said the group will be looking at options to fight back against the proposal.

"They’ve really overstepped their bounds big time," she said.

paloma.esquivel

CALTRANS PRESSES TOLL LANES ON I-405

State officials say the plan will improve traffic flow. Orange County officials have fought previous proposals.

By Morgan Cook

State transportation officials said Friday they want to add toll lanes to I-405, possibly as part of a widening project that will add a standard lane to each direction of the freeway in Orange County between the 73 and the Los Angeles County line.

Previous bids to replace existing carpool lanes with lanes that would include a mix of toll-paying drivers and carpoolers have faced strong opposition in Orange County. Such lanes already exist on the 91 and other California freeways.

The plan announced Friday by Caltrans would add toll lanes in Orange County’s upcoming $1.3-billion construction project to widen a 14-mile stretch of I-405, adding standard lanes in each direction. But it’s unclear whether Caltrans will get the money – estimated at an extra $400 million – to make high-occupancy toll lanes on I-405 a reality.

The new standard lanes were promised to voters in 2006 when they approved Measure M2, a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements in the county. The Orange County Transportation Authority expects to start construction by 2016 and finish by 2021, with or without the toll lanes.

At least one local policymaker downplayed the possibility of tolls.

“We’re building our (widening) project; we’re not building a toll facility on the 405,” said Shawn Nelson, an Orange County Supervisor and chairman of OCTA’s board of directors.

Still, Caltrans is powerful when it comes to how freeways are built and operate, and support from local politicians and drivers isn’t always key.

Money, however, is.

Nelson, among others, pointed out that Caltrans has not yet figured out where to get the estimated $400 million it will need to add toll express lanes to I-405.

“Caltrans has no money (for express lanes) and no plan right now,” Nelson said.

As a result, Nelson said it’s unlikely Caltrans will be able to piggyback a toll lane into the county’s construction project.

“Maybe they’ll catch us at the tail end (of construction). But that’s a big if.”

While some view the widening of I- 405 and the toll lanes as separate projects, others see the two elements as intertwined. As such, they think the widening project will make toll lanes more likely and question whether it should move forward.

Diana Carey, a Westminster councilwoman who represents a coalition of six cities along the freeway, pointed out that the I-405 currently has four general purpose lanes and one free carpool lane – a total of five free lanes. Those numbers, she said, won’t change if Caltrans converts the existing carpool lane into a toll lane.

“We (would) end up spending $1.3 billion to add a new lane. But when it’s all over, people who can’t afford to pay would still have (only) five free lanes. We don’t get anything.”

Caltrans officials said that adding tolled express lanes to I-405 is in everyone’s best interest because it will speed up traffic on all lanes, easing gridlock throughout the region.

“It’s a recommendation that, in my opinion, absolutely honors the OCTA commitments via Measure M2 in adding one generalpurpose lane in each direction of the 405 freeway,” said Ryan Chamberlain, director of Caltrans’ District 12.

“But in addition to that, (adding toll lanes) honors what Caltrans’ mission and vision statement is, and honors our commitment to the general public to make improvements to that corridor.”

Unlike OCTA, Caltrans is legally obligated to act in the best interests of all state taxpayers, not just those in a particular county or city. The agency’s stated mission is to provide a “safe, sustainable, integrated, and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.”

Caltrans’ version of the plan – including the future toll lanes – projects that by 2020 drivers in regular lanes of I-405 could travel between the 73 and I-605 in 29 minutes. With only one new general-purpose lane in each direction and no toll lanes, Caltrans says the same trip would take 57 minutes.

Drivers in the tolled express lanes would be able to make the trip in 13 minutes, according to the projections.

The stretch of freeway will be able to move an estimated 9,500 vehicles per hour in rush-hour traffic with the toll lanes, according to the Caltrans projections. That’s about 2,000 vehicles per hour more than the freeway could move with only one new regular lane in each direction.

Decisions, including which vehicles would be allowed to use the express lanes, which vehicles would have to pay a toll, how much tolls would cost and how any excess toll revenue would be used, will be made as the planning process moves forward, according to Caltrans’ Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said excess toll revenue would most likely go to transportation improvements along the I-405 corridor and would benefit drivers in Orange County. He stopped short of saying all excess toll revenue would be spent on projects inside Orange County’s borders.

At least one local policymaker suggested delaying the project as a way to thwart toll lanes on I-405.

“It’s the state’s right-of way, but it’s our $1.3 billion and our inconvenience,” said John ‍Moorlach, an Orange County supervisor and OCTA board member.

“Caltrans would not get the toll lanes if it were not for this $1.3 billion.

“Do we really want to make widening … a top priority? Or would it make more sense to focus on other things right now and find the funding (to widen I-405) later?”

CONTACT THE WRITER: mcook

Caltrans OKs addition of paid lanes on 405 Freeway in Orange County

California Department of Transportation officials announced Friday that they will eventually replace carpool lanes on Interstate 405 in Orange County with paid lanes, despite the decision in December from Orange County Transportation Authority board members to not support toll lanes.

Amid backlash, Caltrans officials stressed that the new paid lanes on the I-405 are not toll lanes, but HOT lanes.

“There is a difference,” said David Richardson, a spokesman for Caltrans District 12 in Orange County. “A toll lane under all circumstances you pay the toll when you go in. A HOT lane has a required level of occupancy, and if you hit that level, then it’s free. And if you’re less than that level, or if you’re by yourself, then you’re able to buy your way in.”

Richardson also said the addition of HOT lanes would be a welcome change to the highly impacted highway.

“We can’t build our way out of congestion,” Richardson said. “We are not able to add general purpose lanes at the rate congestion builds. So, we need to manage our system, and this allows us to do that. And it allows us to that in a way that is integrated with other facilities throughout the state. And it’s the best for us environmentally.”

But neighboring cities are referring to these new lanes as the “Lexus lanes,” because of the disadvantage commuters will face while driving through Orange County.

From The Los Angeles Times:

As county transportation officials mulled how best to expand the 405, six cities along the route banded together to fight what some derisively referred to as ‘Lexus lanes,’ saying they would put an unfair burden on commuters, push traffic onto local streets and prevent motorists in toll lanes from pulling off the highway to patronize local businesses.

John Moorlach, an Orange County Supervisor and OCTA Board member, said while he is not shocked by Caltrans decision, he is disappointed.

“Orange County is a county where the residents voted to tax themselves to improve the freeways and transit in the county,” Moorlach said. “So, what is being done now is that we are being told Orange County spent $1.3 billion to widen all of the bridges on Harbor Blvd. and the 605, widen them to accommodate two more lanes on each side, but only add one lane. And once you added that lane the state will take that lane and the next lane over and convert those to toll lanes. So, at the end of the day we’ve spent $1.3, $1.4 billion, but we really have not added any lanes for what we would call general purpose lanes.”

Moorlach, like other residents, expressed his frustration for residents near the freeway who have had to endure years of construction and traffic for nothing.

Commentary: I am committed to stopping 405 toll lanes

By Matthew Harper

What will voters decide when it comes to the impending decisions about taxing and tolling today’s totally tapped-out drivers?

The California Department of Transportation, under the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown, continues to pressure local agencies like the Orange County Transportation Authority to impose tolls on local drivers.

We don’t need to cannibalize freeways to create toll lanes that kick drivers off the road unless they pay up. It doesn’t make sense to reduce the mobility of many in order to enhance the mobility of a few.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we need to improve our transportation system by building new capacity. In order to get the 91 Express Lanes built, it took financing through collected tolls.

However, the proposal to convert freeway lanes into toll lanes on the 405 Freeway in Orange County uses Measure M sales tax dollars. The measure was approved by the voters for freeway construction, and the money should not go toward tollway construction. Nor should it be used to convert existing freeway lanes into toll lanes.

This isn’t just an issue in Orange County. We are a decision point for the entire state. Once toll lane proponents can capture a couple of lanes on each freeway, then there is little stopping them from taking each freeway lane over, one by one, until the entire system becomes tolls only.

The good news is that many leaders in Orange County oppose the conversion of freeway lanes into toll lanes: Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer, Fountain Valley Mayor Michael Vo, Seal Beach Mayor Ellery Deaton, Westminster Mayor Tri Ta and many others. On the board of the Orange County Transportation Authority, directors John Moorlach and Gary Miller have joined me in steadfast opposition to the conversion of freeway lanes into toll lanes.

Unfortunately for Orange County’s drivers, other elected officials, including Councilman Keith Curry from Newport Beach, are willing to go along with the Brown administration’s plan to convert freeway lanes into toll lanes.

Many of the same elected officials want to impose a mileage tax as well. The state Legislature is considering the new tax, which would levy a charge on drivers for every mile driven.

During a recent candidates forum hosted by the Orange County Taxpayers Assn., Curry, my opponent in the Assembly race, acknowledged that he supports a mileage tax to pay for transportation needs in California. I disagreed, countering that transportation needs should be met by making tough decisions within the constraints of existing revenue.

The layers of taxes and tolls are going to break the backs of many drivers, who will be left questioning why elected officials want to impose even more burdens on top of existing gasoline taxes and Orange County’s Measure M sales tax. As if the layers of taxes are not enough, toll lanes will price drivers off the freeways, leaving many with far less mobility than they had before.

No matter how much pressure I get, I will oppose new taxes and I will oppose the conversion of freeway lanes into toll lanes — as a director for the Orange County Transportation Authority, or if elected to the California State Assembly in November over Curry.

I am looking forward to the debate with my opponent to ask why he thinks Californians are undertaxed. I disagree. I believe that we could tax and toll away prosperity and that the future of Orange County and California is too important.

Huntington Beach Mayor MATTHEW HARPER is running for state Assembly in the 74th District.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Missed Outsourcing — July 24. 2014

Although I am currently winding down my public career, it would have been fun to run one more substantive ballot measure campaign to provide better governance for the County of Orange. Participating in the successful Measure J campaign in 2008 was a fun experience (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Clerk-Recorder — October 15, 2013). Having a ballot measure that permitted outsourcing would have been a wonderful leadership opportunity. After all, this is Orange County, where the voters have a good grasp of prudent fiscal policies. The OC Register provides its observations in an editorial, which is the first piece below.

The OC Register also printed a rare correction in the second piece below, for erroneously not attributing a quote to me (I’m sure Joel Zlotnick, an employee for OCTA, would not want to have a positive reference to outsourcing attributed to him – I write with a smirk). I thought the correction should have been about the understatement of the amount of savings that would be available from outsourcing (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Questioning Outsourcing — July 23, 2014). Oh, well.

Editorial: A missed opportunity to save money

O.C. Board of Supervisors opts not to ask voters to OK more contracting of services.

A proposal by Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach that would have amended the county charter to allow more opportunities for contracting out county services won’t be making it on the November ballot after three supervisors abstained from voting on the issue.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, the only abstaining supervisor to speak up during discussion, said that while he found the topic “exciting,” putting it forward on the last day to qualify for the ballot didn’t allow enough time to vet the measure.

While perhaps that is true, as even Supervisor Shawn Nelson, while giving a courtesy second to Mr. Moorlach’s motion, didn’t seem to think the proposal had legs. The topic should certainly be revisited by future boards.

As unfunded pension liabilities surpass the $5 billion mark, any proposal that could potentially save money on that front is worthy of detailed discussion, and Mr. Moorlach’s proposal would have likely done that.

It’s simple: By allowing the county to reduce government employees through contracting out nonessential services or by hiring contract employees, there would be fewer people eventually collecting on those far-above-private-sector level benefits.

However, contracting services isn’t without its issues, as well, and has led to complaints of cronyism and so-called “evergreen” contracts that give one company the sole rights to provide certain services for decades.

Those arguments are certainly valid, and no monopolies on services are acceptable, although a private monopoly is likely preferable to a public one because the private monopoly, at least, is susceptible to the forces of competition. But a private monopoly created and perpetuated by the power of government, as almost all are, presents the worst of both worlds. That sort of contracting must be avoided at all costs.

The best way to avoid the pitfalls of contracting, while still maintaining cost savings that only the market provides, would simply be to privatize county functions that are unnecessary for providing the core functions of government.

As municipal governments across the country continue to creep more and more into areas that are outside their proper purview, giving rise to ballooning budgets and overstretched pension liabilities, the necessity of reining in those governmental excesses is becoming all the more obvious. The county of Orange is no exception.

Short of that solution, which is likely a long way off when even the topic of managed outsourcing of some services is met with calls of moderation, Mr. Moorlach’s plan would have been a worthy start. Far more remains to be done to return government to its rightful parameters, however, and the topic of privatization must be addressed by the board in the future.

CORRECTION

Orange County Supervisor John ‍Moorlach described outsourcing as an excellent way for the county and unions to reduce costs. Due to a reporting error, ‍Moorlach‍’‍s statement was mistakenly attributed to Joel Zlotnick, spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority. The statement appeared in a story on Page 1of the Local section in the July 23 edition of the Register.

We will promptly correct factual errors. Call 714-796-7951or email corrections. Legal demands for correction must be in writing and sent to the publisher at P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711-1626.

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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MOORLACH UPDATE — Questioning Outsourcing — July 23, 2014

The first piece below, from the OC Register, provides a surface review of yesterday’s attempt to provide the County with another critical fiscal management tool. The second piece in the Voice of OC digs down a layer. A great third piece would have gone a little deeper by asking who lobbied my colleagues. Not one union representative bothered to make a public comment on this agenda item.

There was plenty of time for my colleagues to prepare for this vote. My office provided the information for this agenda item to the offices of my colleagues on July 10th. Supervisor Spitzer provided his Charter amendment last Friday afternoon, July 18th. There was nothing confusing about my proposal, as it mirrored that of Los Angeles County (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Outsourcing Measure — July 21, 2014). I could explain outsourcing in less than 30 seconds. Supervisor Spitzer couldn’t explain his measure in less than five minutes. Consequently, for your consideration, I’m providing a bonus below. It is the e-mail that Supervisor Spitzer referred to when he said it was the impetus for needing additional time to study this very simple proposal (it is referred to in the OC Register piece, less a zero or two). After abstaining on outsourcing, the Board then approved, after an agonizing discussion on wording, Supervisor Spitzer’s request for a miniscule and insignificant Charter amendment for the November ballot to fix his Measure V, the original Charter measure, with four votes. Go figure.

Proposal to outsource county jobs fizzles

Supervisors want more details on plan that would reduce salary, pension costs.

BY ERIKA I. RITCHIE STAFF WRITER

A plan to ask Orange County voters to consider outsourcing county jobs to private contractors fell flat Tuesday when three supervisors abstained from voting on the issue.

Supervisor John Moorlach proposed managed outsourcing – as a way to lower the county’s unfunded pension liability – by reducing government workers and hiring contract employees. By doing that, the county could pay salaries and pension costs more like those in the private sector, reducing the county’s overall expenditures, he said.

Moorlach noted examples of outsourcing in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

In San Diego, he said, recent reports show the county has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by outsourcing through private companies. Moorlach also citedthe Orange County Transportation System’s use of outsourcing.

OCTA earlier this year signed a contract in which up to 40 percent of their bus drivers come from a private company. Some engineering and design work is also done by contractors, said OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.

“This is an excellent management tool for the county and for the unions as a way to reduce cost,” he said.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer liked the idea but said he couldn’t support it without doing research.

“I’m excited you brought this forward but I don’t know what you’re trying to fix,” Spitzer said. “I feel we’re on a hard-pressed deadline to put something on the Novemberballot. I’m not prepared to support it. I have a lot more questions.”

“I certainly think competitive bidding in the private and public sectors is good and can reduce costs,” Supervisor Pat Bates said. “But I don’t think we should put something before the voters without context. Makes more sense to have meat on the bones.”

“The language of the ordinance was not clearly crafted,” Supervisor Janet Nguyen wrote in a email response. “An ordinance should not be a mere statement of intention. Particulars need to be addressed, so that the public knows what they are voting on.”

Nguyen, Spitzer and Bates abstained from voting. The item failed for lack of amajority. Moorlach needed three votes by Tuesday to put the item on the November ballot.

“Unfortunately political priorities for the November election took a higher priority than doing what’s right for the taxpayers,” Moorlach said after the vote.

The plan would have required voters to approve a change to the county’s charter.

In 2002, with the approval of Measure V, Orange County became a charter county. That means what the county decides becomes the “law of the state” and can affect legislation. Charter approvals usually trump any conflicting state law.

If voters had approved the charter amendment on outsourcing, the board would have had to specify the criteria for each contract.

Moorlach said he did not have specific jobs in mind when he proposed the ordinance.

The issue comes up as the city of Costa Mesa continues to facelegal battles regarding attempts to outsource city jobs. The city looked to outsourcing as a way to reduce costs and avoid dipping deep into its reserves.

Opponents of the outsourcing idea disagree with Moorlach and say that outside contracting could mean lower quality and might be prompted by lucrative agreements that could finance elected officials’ political campaigns.

Separately, the board approved changes to an ordinance that will make discussions on county contract negotiations with unions more transparent. But labor groups still want the board to meet with them and hash out the issue. The Orange County Employees Association on July 11 filed an unfair practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board.

“The board has repeatedly rejected our efforts to make county contracting truly transparent by shining a light on all contracts – those with employees groups as well as those with outside contractors,” said Jennifer Muir, general manager of the employee union. “This program is not only unlawful, it’s a way to divert the community’s attention from all the money changing hands between lobbyists, contractors, politicians and the county during the process of awarding millions of taxpayer dollars. It’s a free-for all, which is why even the Orange County Grand Jury called for an ethics commission in Orange County to clean it up, and repeated internal audits have shown millions of dollars in no-bid contracts.”

The board removed a provision to automatically appeal the ordinance on Jan. 1, 2017. If approved on Aug. 5, the ordinance will be valid until another board changes or deletes it.

The ordinance, brought to the board by Moorlach, gives the public the opportunity to review contracts with organized employees. Called Civic Openness in Negotiations, it will prevent the approval of labor contracts with little or no public scrutiny. It follows a similar one passed in Costa Mesa in 2012.

The ordinance will require the board to report formal offers and counteroffers from closed sessions.

When a labor contract is proposed, the county auditor-controller would estimate the financial impacts of its terms and also provide the current contract’s terms. The information will be posted on the county website and be available for comment by labor groups and the public.

The board alsoadopted an ordinance prohibiting the collection of signatures supporting political candidates at county workplaces. The law goes into effect in 30 days.

Contact the writer: 949-492-5152 or eritchieTwitter: @lagunaini

Colleagues Reject Moorlach’s Effort to Outsource More Jobs

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach (Photo by: Violeta Vaqueiro)

By NORBERTO SANTANA JR. Voice of OC

Orange County supervisors on Tuesday soundly rejected a proposal to amend the county charter to allow for greater outsourcing of government jobs, barely even allowing a brief public discussion of the issue.

Two county supervisors seeking election this November to the state senate — Pat Bates and the OC GOP Elected Official of the Year Janet Nguyen — never even uttered a word from the dais about the idea to outsource government work to the private sector, other than to quietly indicate they didn’t support the idea.

County Supervisor John Moorlach – who is finishing his second and final term this year – said he felt election-year jitters likely prevented his colleagues from taking a vote or dealing with the issue publicly.

“The drift was, ‘John, we have an election in November, and our priority is to get people elected,” Moorlach said was the message he got from his colleagues.

“I said, my priority is to give taxpayers tools to balance budgets. That’s what I came here for. I came here to hunt for Bear. Not to swat flies.”

Moorlach told other supervisors about his idea just this last week, saying it was part of his original goal to enact charter reform. But, there seemed to be little appetite for an initiative that would be seen as an attempt at union busting to go alongside Bates and Nguyen on the November ballot.

“I sensed that the political priority was probably going to override, but I wasn’t sure, so the only way to find out was to move forward, explain it and watch the dance,” Moorlach said.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer was the only audible voice from the majority on the dais Tuesday.

“I’m excited that you brought it forward,” Spitzer said. “But I’m not sure what I’m trying to fix yet.”

Spitzer suggested the debate was better for a charter review commission. “I just don’t’ have enough information to support it,” he said.

While Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson was the only supervisor to offer Moorlach a second to his motion, thus allowing debate, he said the measure’s timing was off.

Asking colleagues to engage in a ballot measure on the last day to qualify just didn’t give them enough time, Nelson said.

“John is running out of time. He doesn’t get another bite at the apple. I understand he’s frustrated,” Nelson said.

“I was willing to give him a second. But it didn’t have any legs.”

One Moorlach proposal that did end up with enough legs on Tuesday was his proposal to make labor deals public before a final vote by county supervisors.

While Moorlach’s colleagues balked earlier this month at approving his Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) ordinance, they did give final unanimous approval to the measure Tuesday.

BONUS:

Members of the Board of Supervisors:

Item no. 39 on tomorrow’s agenda, if approved by the Board and adopted by the electorate, would authorize the County to utilize managed competition (i.e., “outsourcing”) in the delivery of County services. The proposal that is before the Board is almost identical to Section 44.7 of the Los Angeles County Charter.

Los Angeles County

In August 1987, the Los Angeles County Economy and Efficiency Commission reviewed the success of Los Angeles County in its utilization of its outsourcing. In Los Angeles County, contracts let pursuant to this outsourcing authority are called “Proposition A” contracts. A copy of the Commission’s report is available at this link:

http://eec.co.la.ca.us/publications/html/contract/8708-contractingpolicy.asp#result

Though now somewhat dated, the Commission’s findings give some insight as to how the County of Orange might utilize similar outsourcing authority, as well as the amount of savings that might be realized.

· The 1986 report indicated that Los Angeles County utilized its outsourcing authority to contract out 20% of its operating budget. The report indicated that Proposition A contracting, for work formerly performed exclusively by County employees, amounted to 1% of Los Angeles County’s operating budget and was generating (in 1986 dollars) annual savings amounting to $24 million.

· The 1986 report indicated that Proposition A contracting had not substantially reduced Los Angeles County’s workforce. The report found that over 1,060 of the 1,320 employees whose jobs were eliminated by contracting still worked for Los Angeles County in similar jobs. The report indicated that, of the 1,320 employees whose jobs were eliminated, 805 (61%) transferred to equivalent positions, 224 (17%) were promoted, 128 (10%) went to work for the contractors, 96 (7%) left County service, 35 (3%) were laid off, and 32 (2%) were demoted. The County rehired 26 (74%) of the 35 laid off.

· The 1986 report indicated that, at that time, Los Angeles County government had utilized its outsourcing authority for “low level internal services – custodial, maintenance, food service, security guards, and so forth.”

San Diego County

In 2010, the San Diego County Grand Jury reviewed San Diego County’s utilization of the outsourcing authority granted by the San Diego Board of Supervisors to the County Director of Purchasing and Contracting. A copy of the Grand Jury’s report is available at this link:

http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/grandjury/reports/2009-2010/EfficiencyGovManagedCompetitionReport.pdf

The San Diego County Grand Jury reported the following findings:

· On March 13, 2007, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance No. 9836 granting the Director of Purchasing and Contracting expanded authority to enter into contracts to purchase, rent or lease all personal property for the County and to engage independent contractors to perform services for the County. The ordinance also granted the Director authority to enter into contracts, without the approval of the Board of Supervisors, where the total anticipated value of the services or non-services provided are under $1,000,000 per year.

· The Grand Jury found that the San Diego County Director of Purchasing and Contracting had administered managed competition, outsourcing and reverse auction transactions under the County ordinance, which together with reengineering, had resulted in savings of $678,596,736 for the taxpayers of San Diego County through FY 2008.

· San Diego County’s managed competitionprogram resulted in savings of $78,935,727 through FY 2008.

· According to the San Diego Grand Jury, San Diego County saved $261,100 on the cost of supplies and tree removal in reverse auctions conducted in December 2009 alone.

If approved, such a charter amendment would provide this County with additional flexibility in the delivery of public services in the future. It would also provide the County with an additional legal defense in the event that any of the County’s existing contracts with outside providers are ever challenged.

Please contact me or Senior Deputy County Counsel Leon Page if you have any questions.

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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MOORLACH UPDATE — Outsourcing Measure — July 21, 2014

In a September 21, 2006, speech to the Orange County Financial Society, titled “An Agenda For The Next Four Years,” I had a segment on fifteen possible solutions to pursue in reducing the County’s unfunded actuarial accrued liability. The third proposed solution on that list is to reduce the number of government workers through the utilization of contract employees, in order to pay salaries and pension costs more commensurate with that of the private sector, thus reducing the County’s overall expenditures. Now, I’ve enjoyed two constraints. The first is that of pacing myself. One can only do so much at a time, so addressing this solution is one of the last things I will be able to pursue. I had hoped to establish a Charter Committee while I was Chair, but certain events in 2012 crowded out this initiative. The second is that this item has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in order to qualify for the November ballot. If a full Charter, which the County lacks, is not in the cards, then separate modifications are the next best alternative. The OC Register and the Voice of OC introduce the topic in the first piece below. Should it be put on the ballot and If the voters approve this proposed Charter Amendment, it will give future Boards another necessary management tool to assist them with balancing annual budgets.

The second piece is from the Orange County Breeze. Orange County’s inception date is August 1, 1889. Therefore, Friday, August 1,2014, is the Quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) of this historic occasion. This milestone will be celebrated at the OC Fairgrounds at 12:30 p.m. I hope that you can attend.

The very first Orange County Board of Supervisors Board Meeting was held on August 5, 1889. Just by sheer coincidence, the current Board of Supervisors will have its regularly scheduled Board meeting on Tuesday, August 5, 2014, the Quasquicentennial of this historic event. Consequently, a reception will be held Tuesday in the Hall of Administration’s Lobby at 8:30 a.m. We have invited local historian and author, Phil Brigandi, to provide a presentation on the history of the nearly twenty years of political efforts to have the state legislature approve the splitting off of Orange County from Los Angeles County. If you have not heard his historical account of these efforts, then please join us for a celebration of the culmination of this accomplishment.

At the beginning of the Board meeting at 9:30 a.m., we hope to provide two more brief presentations. The state of California started with 27 counties when it became the 31st state admitted into the union in 1850. The legislature was very busy with approving new counties over a 57-year period. I hope to provide a brief history of the formation of the other 31 counties. Orange County would become the 53rd county. Also, we hope there will be time to have Orange County Historical Society President Chris Jepsen provide a few historical slides. If you can join us on August 5th for an hour or so, we would love to see you here at the Hall of Administration.

Countywide outsourcing? Supervisors to take up ballot option

A measure requested by John Moorlach would allow more privatization than currently is permitted by state law.

By NICK GERDA

Orange County supervisors are slated to decide Tuesday whether to ask voters in November to approve changes to the county charter that would allow more county jobs to be outsourced to private companies.

The proposed ballot measure, requested by Supervisor John Moorlach, would change the county’s charter to allow the county to privatize more county work than currently is permitted by state law.

Moorlach’s staff report doesn’t identify positions that could be outsourced.

The effort is likely to spark objections from county employee representatives while generating support from conservative groups. Proponents argue that outsourcing saves taxpayer dollars in salaries and benefits and spawns more innovative ways to provide services through the profit incentive. Opponents counter that privatization often costs taxpayers more and delivers lower-quality services, with poor oversight of contracts and companies that finance elected officials’ political campaigns.

The potential ballot measure comes as the Costa Mesa City Council majority fights a years-long lawsuit challenging its efforts to outsource most city work.

The county measure is scheduled for discussion toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

Voice of OC is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on public policy in Orange County.

OC Fair invites you to celebrate the County’s 125th birthday

Come celebrate Orange County’s Quasquicentennial on Friday, Aug. 1, when the OC Fair hosts “Orange County Day” with a special ceremony honoring the county’s birth on Aug. 1, 1889.

The celebration begins at 12:30 p.m. at the fairground’s Hangar building. The program includes a live performance of period music from the 1880s and a slide show of historic photos from the Orange County Archives.

A further celebration will take place at the Hall of Administration on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at 8:30 a.m. The public is invited to a reception commemorating the very first Board of Supervisors meeting 125 years before, though it was held several blocks away above the Beatty Bros. store on Fourth St.

Prior to 1889, the region was part of Los Angeles County. The county seat at that time was seven hours distant by horse buggy on rutted dirt roads, and local residents felt overtaxed and unrepresented. Attempts to form a separate county began in 1870. The Legislature finally approved a county formation vote, which was held on June 4, 1889. Support for the new county was overwhelming — 2,505 to 499. The county officially formed on Aug. 1 of that year, and the rest is history.

The Orange County Fair & Events Center is located at 88 Fair Dr. in Costa Mesa. Standard fair admission fees apply. Special thanks are extended to the Orange County Business Council for their support of the Quasquicentennial ceremony and to Supervisor John M. W. Moorlach for his support of the Board of Supervisors reception.

The Orange County Hall of Administration is at 333 West. Santa Ana Blvd. in Santa Ana.

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.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — COIN Modifications — July 18, 2014

Opposition to the sunset clause proposed for the Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) was very evident (see MOORLACH UPDATE — COIN Expiration Date? — July 14, 2014). So pulling out the sunset provision would necessitate another “first” reading, which was anticipated. The Daily Pilot covers the discussion, but “roadblock” and “stumbling block” doesn’t necessarily do justice to the reality of the process. Supervisor Spitzer used this agenda item to vent about my observations of the most recent negotiations (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Split Supervisors — July 11, 2014). But, I wholeheartedly agree with him on disclosing “supposals” for a number or reasons. So while we were prepared to modify the ordinance for another “first” reading, his additional modification was also gladly accepted.

County COIN proposal hits roadblock

Supervisors decide, after previously supporting the contract negotiation measure, to not accept it on a second vote.

By Jill Cowan

A proposed county ordinance aimed at increasing transparency in traditionally closed labor negotiations hit a stumbling block this week when supervisors opted not to finalize its passage.

After voting last month to approve a first reading of Supervisor John Moorlach’s Civic Openness in Negotiations, or COIN, ordinance — modeled on a similar law adopted in Costa Mesa — the Orange County Board of Supervisors decided not to vote on a second reading, sending it backward in the approval process.

The ordinance, among other things, would require both sides of labor contract negotiations to make their offers public and allow for comment. It would also require the release of a fiscal analysis of each offer.

The measure will return before the board in modified form later this month, county officials said.

At issue in Tuesday’s discussions were two provisions of the proposed ordinance: a sunsetting clause that Supervisor Janet Nguyen requested, as well as the provision that requires formal offers to be released during bargaining but not what are known as "supposals."

Essentially, Supervisor Todd Spitzer said, these supposals — hypothetical situations used by negotiators that don’t rise to the level of formal offers — could belie the terms of contract proposals.

He said that without a requirement that supposals be made public in addition to formal proposals, the county’s ordinance as written, as well as Costa Mesa’s, represent "a farce" of transparency.

In explaining his position, he accused Moorlach of backing in closed session some of the terms of the labor contract for sheriff’s deputies that the board had narrowly approved earlier in the meeting, while publicly bashing the agreement.

Moorlach responded that he tried to respect closed-session discussions.

Spitzer said Wednesday that while he supported the ordinance all along, he didn’t think it went far enough.

"I hoped to enlighten people about the fallacy that COIN is the savior in fair and open negotiations," he said.

Ultimately, the full board, including Moorlach, agreed to move ahead with the ordinance, removing the sunsetting clause and adding a provision that would require the terms of supposals be released as well as formal offers.

But the idea that Costa Mesa’s system was ineffective left the architects of the city’s COIN ordinance — which they say will become a standard statewide — bristling.

"A supposal is a hypothetical," said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger when reached Thursday. "In a negotiation, there are thousands of hypothetical questions."

Mensinger said that from a logistical standpoint, it’d be impractical to expect all supposals to be reported unless negotiation sessions were televised — an idea he said he wouldn’t oppose.

He added that if the financial analyses were available to cities and counties years ago, they might have been less generous with pension benefits.

Labor leaders, however, have disputed any contention that COIN sheds an accurate light on the collective-bargaining process. The proposed ordinance, they have added, unfairly targets for scrutiny negotiations with public employees over talks with private contractors.

"It is selective transparency designed to manipulate the process," said Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., the county’s largest union.

Furthermore, Muir said, the way the county’s version of COIN has been debated violates the state laws governing collective bargaining rights for public employees.

In an unfair labor practice claim that the association filed last week with the California Public Employment Relations Board, the association alleges that the county violated a provision of the law by changing negotiation processes without meeting in good faith to discuss them.

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 — Laws, Contracts and Costs — July 17, 2014

Articles discussing matters addressed at Tuesday’s Board meeting continue to appear. The first is in the Daily Pilot and Coastline Pilot. It addresses a new ordinance proposed to solve a very obscure and rare occurrence. One would think that there are already laws on the books to solve this matter, as the District Attorney’s office has expended considerable resources in investigating the matter, including visiting petition signers late in the evening (with one or more investigators) at their personal residences. All the same, here is the historical perspective. The Assessor, just like his predecessor, decided against rerunning two weeks before the filing deadline. Many serious county observers took a look at the announced candidates and panicked. They were unable to convince other more qualified individuals to run and pleaded with the Assessor to rerun. Webster Guillory then pulled papers on or near the last day and walked the Civic Center for signatures.

There are two types of department heads in county government: appointed and elected. It is always a little scary for employees when a department head retires and a new one is selected by the County’s Executive Officer or by the Board of Supervisors (depending on the governing authority that determines who is responsible for the appointment). It’s a little different and perhaps scarier for employees who work for an elected department head (of which I have a little experience). These employees will get someone that the voters give them and they will be stuck with that person, for good or for bad, for a minimum of four years. Consequently, many employees would gladly sign Webster Guillory’s petition anytime and anywhere to retain him as their boss. They would prefer to keep the status quo versus the anxiety of the unknown. The only thing that is being differentiated with this new ordinance is that the signer should do it outside of county buildings. This would comport with a traditional understanding of the procedures and strikes me as spending a significant amount of Board time on a miniscule matter. I want to thank our Assessor for his many years of distinguished service to the County of Orange. It was a privilege to work with him for the eight years we were both serving together as countywide elected officials.

The Daily Pilot and the Voice of OC provide perspectives on the AOCDS contract vote (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pythons’ Tightening Grips — July 15, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter, et al — July 16, 2014) in the next two pieces.

In the fourth and final piece, the Voice of OC addresses a recent legal settlement approved by the Board of Supervisors. Here is my attempt to recall the history of the issue. Due to the Carlos Bustamante criminal case being conducted by the District Attorney, the Board of Supervisors was advised that certain documents could not be released in response to a California Public Records Act request. However, a judge later ruled that certain documents, if redactions were made, could be released. Consequently, this was done for a very few of the documents that were requested. Although ruling favorably on behalf of the requestor, providing a very small fractional victory, the judge ruled that the requestor could be reimbursed in full for its legal fees. It is a shame that the taxpayers have to make this payment. It brings back an old phrase used in other instances, and I paraphrase, “Carlos Bustamante is becoming the gift that keeps on giving.”

Law aimed at campaign signatures moves forward

An ordinance barring county employees from gathering campaign signatures in the workplace was pushed forward Tuesday.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors, in a 4 to 1 vote, decided to send the measure to a second reading.

Supervisor John Moorlach dissented.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer proposed the rule after allegations emerged that county Assessor Webster Guillory had gathered employee signatures for his reelection nomination papers during work time — although Spitzer has stressed that the measure is aimed more at preventing bad behavior in the future than at bringing down the hammer on rule-breakers.

Campaigning in the workplace, he said, is just inappropriate.

"It’s intimidating," he said when reached Wednesday. "What employee in their right mind would say no to somebody who was either their boss or could possibly become their boss?"

But Moorlach said Wednesday that Guillory’s alleged conduct marked a "once in a quasquicentennial occurrence" and therefore didn’t merit a whole new law.

He added that if an employee is happy with a boss, then he or she should have ample opportunity to support that person without onerous regulation.

"I thought it was a little bit of overkill," Moorlach said.

—Jill Cowan

County approves sheriff’s contract

By a 3 to 2 vote Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a new two-year contract for sheriff’s deputies and district attorney’s office investigators.

Supervisors Todd Spitzer, Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen voted yes, while Supervisors Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach voted against the agreement with the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

The move follows 23 months of arduous negotiations, which ended with a contract that requires, among other provisions, that employees pick up their entire pension contribution share starting in July of next year — a hardline bargaining point for the county throughout the process.

The increase approximately doubles the percentage of salaries that will go toward retirement — from 7% to about 14%, officials said.

However, to help offset that hit, the contract also includes a 3% raise when the pension contribution bump takes place in July 2015.

According to a staff report, the agreement will save the county about $22.6 million over its term.

While some, including Moorlach, have expressed concern that the contract will prove too expensive as the county continues to deal with a tough financial situation, sheriff’s department officials cautioned that without competitive salaries and benefits, the department risks having deputies lured away by nearby law enforcement agencies.

Ultimately, though, department officials called the deal fair, and urged the board to pass it.

The association represents about 2,040 employees in nine peace officer classifications.

The new contract is in effect through June 30, 2016.

—Jill Cowan

Divided Supervisors Approve Contract for Deputy Sheriffs

By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

A sharply divided Orange County board of supervisors Tuesday, on a 3-2 vote, approved a two-year labor contract for more than 2,000 deputy sheriffs working throughout the county jails and patrolling local communities.

The deputies’ contract became controversial because of allegations of pension spiking from Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach, who voted against the labor pact.

Both supervisors took issue with the deal ultimately approved privately saying that deputies got too much of a salary offset in the negotiations, making a mockery of the requirement that they pay more into their pensions.

The county approach to negotiations with sheriff deputies, offsetting higher pension payments with salary increases, is a concept that supervisors rejected in other labor negotiations.

Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, publicly disputed Nelson and Moorlach’s claims, saying they had “mischaracterized” the trade offs as pension spikes.

Dominguez said deputy sheriffs still lagged in medical coverage behind other workers, criticized the requirement to pay full pension share as too fast and reminded supervisors that the contract was not popular with rank and file deputies.

County officials now pay the equivalent of about 60 percent of a deputy’s salary to their pension contributions and the county’s unfunded pension liability is past the $5 billion mark.

That has put significant strain on both the county budget and salary talks.

According to the county staff report, the net estimated impact of the term of the two-year contract would be a total cost to taxpayers of $14.7 million, making it the most expensive labor contract at the county.

For comparison, the deal recently reached with 12,000 general county workers carried a cost of $22 million over three years. According to sources knowledgeable about the county budget, the salary concessions to deputies will present challenges next year as many one-time revenue enhancements were utilized to keep this budget cycle balanced.

Supervisors Todd Spitzer, Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen on Tuesday supported the deal with the deputies saying it was competitive with what’s being done in other counties and would avoid Orange County losing good deputies to other places that pay better.

Of that group, only Spitzer – rumored to be gearing up for a run for district attorney in 2018 – will have to potentially deal with the budgetary implications as both Bates and Nguyen are running for the state senate.

Moorlach and Nelson – both visibly demoralized on Tuesday – largely stood alone in their opposition to the deal, with several elected officials and candidates – State Senator Mimi Walters and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey – sending representatives to the public podium Tuesday to speak in support.

The Orange County Register’s editorial page also took issue with the concessions in the contract concluding, “this deal is not in the best interest of the community.”

Later in the day, Moorlach wrote in his "Moorlach Update" newsletter entitled "Python’s Tightening Grips" that "increased salaries will mean increased pension liabilities."

Although Nelson voted against the deal, Walters, in a statement, credited him for a “monumental” achievement in getting the deputies to pay into their pensions like every other employee.

Even Orange County’s conservative Lincoln Club – which has been very vocal about the county’s unfunded pension liability – remained silent on the issue, with President Wayne Lindholm avoiding comment.

Both Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas publicly supported the deal, arguing that low crime rates and public safety compensation are connected.

“Safety and security comes at a cost,” Hutchens said in a prepared statement.

Only one candidate running for one of two open county supervisor seats in November chimed in on the issue.

State Assemblyman Alan Mansoor – running to replace Moorlach as 2nd District Supervisor – stood firmly and vocally with Moorlach saying he would not support raising deputy salaries to match heightened pension contributions.

His opponent, State Board of Equalization Board Member Michelle Steel – who already received campaign support from the deputy’s union – remained silent when asked her opinion of the deal.

That position is similar to the answers given during the Feet to the Fire debate on the race earlier this year.

In the 5th District, the silence was similar.

Dana Point Mayor Lisa Bartlett didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.

Laguna Niguel Mayor Robert Ming danced around the issue offering a roundabout comment.

"I wasn’t part of this process so I can’t comment on how we got here, but I can certainly share how I would approach things next time. We need a long-term fix for how pensions are funded so we don’t end up underfunded again. We also need to attract and retain quality deputies. My South County cities expect a high quality of service from the sheriff so we can’t expect to pay total compensation at the bottom of the barrel, but many cities are struggling financially too, just like the county. Every dollar in increased sheriff contract costs comes out of parks, streets and other city programs. Finding the right balance won’t be easy, but those are the things I’ll be focused on."

The trade-off negotiated after two years of private talks that got deputies to pay their full employee share of their annual pension in year two of their contract came in exchange for a three percent salary raise, another potential 5.5 percent salary hike through step increases for senior deputies and enhancements to health care as well as retiree medical coverage.

With the deputies now agreeing to pay their full employee share of their annual pension payment, every public worker at the county would be paying their full share of pension obligations by 2015.

County Pays $120K to Cover Costs of Records Battle With Voice of OC

By TRACY WOOD

Orange County Supervisors this month paid out $120,905 to Voice of OC attorneys, under a court order requiring them to cover court costs accrued during the news organization’s successful two-year public records battle over documents relating to the county’s investigation into allegations that former Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante sexually assaulted women who worked for him.

In December, Orange County Superior Court David T. McEachen ordered the county to make public more than two-dozen sets of documents that shed some light on how officials handled the internal investigation into Bustamante’s alleged actions.

It was the culmination of a two-year open records case brought against the county by Voice of OC and open-government advocate Californians Aware.

“It’s disheartening to see county supervisors waste more than $120,000 in taxpayer dollars to keep documents secret that the public clearly has a right to see,” said Voice of OC Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana Jr.

Only one supervisor responded to calls seeking comment.

Supervisor John Moorlach said he was following the advice of county lawyers when he supported other supervisors in trying to keep the records from being disclosed.

“We were advised (by county counsel) that because it (the Bustamante case) was of a criminal nature, we should not release it,” said Moorlach. “It seemed like it was good advice.”

Two supervisors – Janet Nguyen and Pat Bates – are also seeking state senate seats in the upcoming November general election and Nguyen’s race is a hotly contested race with statewide implications.

Numerous other records sought by Voice of OC remain sealed because of a judicial ruling that they stay blocked until the conclusion of the ongoing criminal case against Bustamante, who was also a Santa Ana councilman.

Bustamante, whose next Superior Court appearance is scheduled for August 15, is awaiting trial on both felony and misdemeanor sex crime charges.

When allegations of Bustamante’s actions first surfaced in a 2011 report, he was allowed to resign with three months severance pay. It wasn’t until nearly six months later that county leaders referred the case to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

Ultimately several top county executives, including then CEO Tom Mauk, resigned or were fired and the human resources department was reorganized.

The document originally sought by Voice of OC was a claim letter sent by fired Deputy CEO Alisa Drakodaidis in the summer of 2012, which alleged a host of complaints against county officials and the Board of Supervisors.

Drakodaidis recently filed suit against the county.

Other documents still under seal pending the outcome of the Bustamente case are expected to shed light on what top county leaders, including then-members of the Board of Supervisors, knew about Bustamante’s alleged harassment, when they knew it and what they did about it.

Santana said Voice of OC would seek to make all those records public as soon as the Bustamante case is resolved.

“We will remain vigilant,” he said. “Count on it.”

Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/tracyVOC.

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Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter, et al — July 16, 2014

Tuesday’s Board agenda was an action-packed one. I’ll attack the articles in the order they were addressed during yesterday’s meeting. The Voice of OC provides its perspective on the potential acquisition of a year-round homeless shelter in the city of Santa Ana, an item that had more than twenty speakers. Finding a location for a year-round homeless shelter has been a high priority of mine and has been an objective since my first Board Study Session back in 2007. It became even more important in my role as the founding Chair of the Commission to End Homelessness. Yesterday had one unique connection to that rare study session early in my tenure. A facility that was visited by then-Supervisor Bill Campbell was a multi-service center in Phoenix. It was highlighted as a model. The new city manager for Santa Ana is David Cavazos. He spoke in favor of the proposed facility. His last position was the city manager of Phoenix. Let’s hope this proposed facility will match the Phoenix model of providing shelter, meals, health and dental care, job training, job finding, rapid rehousing and all of the other necessary tools to assist individuals in receiving a hand up. I also want to welcome Mr. Cavazos as the new city manager representative on the Commission to End Homelessness.

The OC Register also addressed the homeless shelter in the second piece below and then segues into the second topic, the AOCDS contract. It did not receive unanimous support from our Board in closed session and the vote remained the same in open session. The Laguna Niguel-Dana Point Patch also covered this topic in the third piece below. The subtitle is a little inaccurate, which was one of my concerns with the proposal. It’s not just a 3 percent raise, it really is a 10.5 percent raise. There is a 2 percent raise for retiree medical assumption by the County and two pay step increases of 5.5 percent. Obviously, the subtitle proves that the optics worked. The piece also covers my recent UPDATES (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Split Supervisors — July 11, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Pythons’ Tightening Grips — July 15, 2014). It seems that over the past few years our Board has spent more time in closed session than in open session. After more than two years of closed sessions on this contract, you can imagine that things may have gotten a little testy at times. Well, they did. We had tried to find a solution that all five of the Supervisors could agree to. At one point we did, but it was rejected by AOCDS’s negotiators. Unfortunately, at the last Board closed session on the topic, Supervisor Spitzer garnered his three votes and the rest is history.

I have some suggestions after incurring all of the tension. First, don’t shy away from your victory – own it. Congratulations on achieving an obvious minimum goal, having the employees pay their full cost for retirement, which the County has been paying for all these many years. This now provides almost full parity with all of the other bargaining units, which adheres to the retirement laws and ends the generous subsidy provided to some by the County. And, since you have to live with this contract, let me provide some thoughts on what may occur in the future that my successors should be prepared to address.

1. The triennial actuarial study for the AOCDS retiree medical plan has not been concluded. Should the results of this study, or any future study, show an increase in the unfunded liability, be ready to address it, as employees hired after the inception of “3% @ 50” will no longer be paying in toward their share (hence, a 2 percent raise) at the conclusion of this new contract. Retiree medical funding should be factored into future negotiations as you attempt to address total compensation. The retiree medical plan for AOCDS is different than that of the others, so keep your eyes on both plans going forward. Transferring liability exposure in the wrong direction in this area would replicate the tragic result of having increased defined benefit pension formulas in prior years.

2. When AOCDS comes back and still tells you that it is difficult to recruit, remember that they approved lower pay steps for new hires. But, the lower initial steps being there will be thrown back at the Board, not the association.

3. When negotiations begin again with the other bargaining units, be ready for them to ask for similar concessions. The fact that most of them asked for “2.7% @ 55” after AOCDS received “3% @ 50” should not be forgotten. Adding new steps is a slippery slope and strategies for similar requests should be considered earlier than later.

4. A strategy needs to be reached on how to balance future salary increases with the resulting defined benefit pension plan impacts. This is difficult to calculate and the resulting costs were not included in the financial information that was provided to us by staff.

5. Trust that I will be praying that the Orange County Employees Retirement System achieves its annual investment return goals over the coming years, but remember that down cycles happen and 7.25 percent is still a lofty annual goal to achieve.

The Aliso Viejo and Newport Beach-Corona del Mar Patch provide the details of a ballot measure that will be on the Orange County November ballot. A solution is being offered for your consideration that has its merits, but is dependent on your support.

BONUS: The plans for our July 26th day hike are taking shape and have some fun, new changes. Crystal Cove Alliance President Harry Helling will be joining us, along with a tide pool docent from his program. It is Mr. Helling’s recommendation that we start the hike at Los Trancos (the cottages) and hike DOWN the beach to the Moro Canyon Day-Use area and back. He says it’s only 3.6 miles round trip but it will take the morning including stopping at various places. One of the reasons he recommends this is that there are some great tide pools just south of the cottages and we can see them right away rather than hiking a couple of miles first and then seeing the tide pools. After the hike, if you wish to stay for lunch, you can either bring your own or you can try take-out food from the Beachcomber Restaurant. Mr. Helling has invited us to eat in Cottage #22. We meet at Crystal Cove at 7:30 a.m. at the picnic tables in front of the Beachcomber. If you are interested in joining us, please RSVP with Cammy.Danciu.

SECOND BONUS: Anyone interested in serving as an Assessment Appeals Board Hearing Officer, please contact Cammy.Danciu. To learn what a Board and Hearing Officer does, see http://ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=19261 and http://ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=4444. To learn what is required from a Hearing Officer, go to http://ocgov.com/gov/bcc and click on “Assessment Appeals Board Members Req.” If you are interested, please fill in the application (see http://ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=10746) and forward it to Cammy Danciu.

Supervisors Approve Land Purchase for Homeless Shelter in Santa Ana

By NICK GERDA

Orange County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase a property in an industrial area of east Santa Ana with the idea that the site would become the county’s first year-round homeless shelter.

The move drew praise from homeless advocates, but also criticism from residents who live near the proposed site, as well as some supervisors, over what was described as a poor job of outreach by county officials.

“It’s been a long time coming – there’s been a lot of suffering” over last few years, said Tim Houchen, a spokesman for the homeless advocacy group Civic Center Roundtable. “People actually die out here at the Civic Center."

Orange County is among the largest metropolitan areas in America without a year-round homeless shelter, and Santa Ana tops the list of potential locations for a shelter largely because its City Council is supportive and its downtown Civic Center already serves as an encampment for hundreds of homeless people.

Yet the planning process has left several residents and supervisors feeling left out of the loop.

Only one community forum was held on the proposed shelter site and notice for the July 2 meeting didn’t come until two days beforehand, said Santa Ana resident Dora Lopez.

“The approach that was taken did not give us an opportunity for input,” Lopez said, echoing concerns by several other residents who spoke at the meeting.

To her, that was “pretty much telling us it’s a done deal.”

About a half dozen other Santa Ana residents shared similar sentiments.

“I’m here representing a lot of my community that are seniors and not English speakers. None of us were informed…I found out about this yesterday,” said Laura Garcia. “If it’s going to be in our back yard, we should know.”

Even Civic Center Roundtable representatives complained about a lack of outreach.

“The Civic Center Roundtable was never consulted” as part of the community engagement process, said Massimo Marini, an advocate with Civic Center Roundtable. “We really disagree with the fact that you really didn’t inform the community that well.”

Yet supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson said the fact that people showed up to Tuesday’s meeting showed that the community was informed.

“That’s odd you just happen to be in the lobby today,” said Nelson.

But some of Nelson’s colleagues sided with those complaining about the lack of notice.

“I found out about this on Wednesday when I got my agenda, so it’s sort of the same issue. We just found out,” said Supervisor John Moorlach, who questioned why the vote wasn’t delayed.

Supervisor Pat Bates said key input was missing and that another forum is called for.

Santa Ana Unified School District officials “should have been commenting” on residents’ concerns about safe routes to schools on Tuesday, said Bates.

“I believe that you need to have another meeting to specifically address how you’re going to look at that issue and allay their concerns. That is fundamental to my support,” she added, to applause from the audience.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, meanwhile, agreed that Santa Ana Unified board members “need to weigh in.”

He also criticized county management for not presenting a safety plan for the shelter, particularly when it comes to homeless sex offenders.

“To come here today and not know these things is very disheartening to me,” said Spitzer. “It’s disheartening because we want to champion this, but these questions should have been answered before it came here to a vote.”

The county’s lead staffer on homeless issues responded to the criticism, saying the outreach was extensive.

“I think they did a great job getting community notices out,” said Karen Roper, director of OC Community Services. “We hope that the community will feel that they can be a part of this.”

The $3.6 million building purchase now goes into a 90-day escrow period, where the property’s condition will be inspected, before the sale is completed. After that, the county would seek bids from contractors to operate the shelter.

The 23,000-square-foot warehouse, at 1217 E. Normandy Place in Santa Ana, is located near the corner of Grand and McFadden avenues.

The county would be purchasing the property from B&N Group and JRMV Investments, Inc., who are represented by Blake V. Elliott. It would then spend another $2.3 million to renovate the building, and about $2.6 million per year to operate and maintain the shelter. Operating costs would be covered by a mixture of county, federal and private funds.

In many respects, the scene Tuesday was a replay of the effort last year by Nelson to push through a proposal for the county to buy a property in Fullerton and build a homeless shelter before getting buy-in from Fullerton residents. Faced with stiff resident opposition, the Fullerton City Council nixed that plan last June.

But a significant difference this time around is that the Santa Ana City Council, as well as City Manager David Cavazos, are already on board with placing a shelter in Santa Ana. The council approved zoning for a 200-person shelter “by right” last August.

Nonetheless, many of the Santa Ana residents raised concerns — similar to those raised in Fullerton — about nearby schools, particularly Kennedy Elementary, which lies on busy McFadden Blvd. about 750 feet from the proposed shelter.

“We already do have many homeless,” in the area, said Juana Perez, a recent graduate of Century High School.

There are several areas where drugs are used by homeless people, including nearby Madison Park, she added.

Nelson, meanwhile, said he lived three doors down from Fullerton’s seasonal homeless shelter for years without incident.

“There was never any problems,” he said.

As far as the larger issue of homelessness, speakers highlighted how rising housing costs compared to income has generated economic hardship.

“The percentage of income devoted to housing can leave many people – many families” homeless, said Jan Wagner, who spoke on behalf of all Orange County chapters of the League of Women Voters.

Every school district in the county has homeless students, she added.

Urging supervisors to purchase the Santa Ana building, Wagner said league members also want the county to “continue to seek additional sites” for more shelters.

Nonprofit representatives also offered to help provide services at the shelter, including homeless veterans advocates at Volunteers of America Los Angeles.

Dwight Smith, a longtime operator of a small homeless shelter in Santa Ana, said the county must pursue permanent housing options and find a way to address deaths of homeless people from hypothermia.

“Without an adequate and proven response to cold weather, people will perish,” said Smith.

O.C. approves year-round homeless shelter in Santa Ana

Supervisors set their sights on a $3.6 million industrial building on Normandy Place. They envision a facility that would offer multiple services for families and individuals.

By ERIKA I. RITCHIE

SANTA ANA – Orange County supervisors on Tuesday gave a nod to what could be Orange County’s first year-round homeless shelter – providing not only beds but a host of services.

The 23,000-square-foot, 200-bed emergency center is planned to include a multi-service center for homeless families and individuals. The county will operate the shelter through a provider and offer services to assist individuals to assimilate into the workforce. Services will include mental and public health services, assistance for veterans and housing needs. The county will work with local resource groups to provide help.

Supervisors voted unanimously to begin proceedings to purchase a $3.6 million industrial building on Normandy Place. The Santa Ana City Council identified the site in 2012. The building selection followed multiple meetings including Planning Commission reviews and community outreach.

After the building is purchased, the county will spend $2.3 million to renovate it and about $2.6 million per year to operate and maintain it. Funding comes from county, federal and private funds.

The shelter is the first that officials plan to open as part of the county’s 2010 Ten-Year-Plan to End Homelessness. In 2013, county data show about 12,700 people were identified as homeless at some point in the year. Officials say the shelter and service center will meet critical needs for some of the most vulnerable people in the county’s neighborhoods and will address social impacts on local businesses and communities.

“I’m very proud of what’s being done here,” David Cavazos, city manager from Santa Ana, said following the board’s vote. “I’m proud of the leadership from our supervisors. It’s very difficult to place this type of service.”

Multiple speakers supporting local nonprofits, veterans and The League of Women Voters urged supervisors to purchase the building. But some who live near the site were not happy.

A handful of residents criticized the location, citing public safety concerns for children who will pass by on their way to schools. They worried children would encounter drug and alcohol addicts. Some said they worried about claims of prostitution near other locations that housed homeless such as the Santa Ana National Guard Armory. Residents also said they were the last to be informed about shelter plans.

“We as a community were never informed,” said Doris Lopez. “Two days ago, I received an email that the board was planning to discuss the purchase of the building. I oppose this, not because I oppose homeless but because we were never given notice. Not my neighbors or my neighborhood were considered.”

Cavazos assured the board that city leaders provided multiple opportunities for the public to comment. He added he was in discussions with school district officials over any safety concerns.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer worried loopholes on requirements for sex offender registration might allow transient sex offenders to live in the shelter unchecked and pushed for a review of safety plans by the city and school district. Supervisor Janet Nguyen agreed.

Board Chairman Supervisor Shawn Nelson tried to allay resident fears by saying he had no problems when he lived three doors from the armory in Fullerton.

“Everyone wants to solve the homeless problem except for the person who lives near it,” he said. “It’s finally a start. It’s time to get some product into the ground.”

The county will have 90 days to review the property to make sure its meets the expected criteria and planned use. The board will then give the final OK to move forward, said Scott Mayer, the county’s chief real estate officer.

Separately, supervisors voted 3-2 to approve an agreement with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs to have deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators pay between 14 percent and 20 percent of their salaries toward pensions in exchange for increases in county medical contributions and an across-the-board 3 percent salary increase next year.

Nelson and John Moorlach voted no, criticizing the contract because it provided for pay increases and the opportunity for veteran deputies to earn even more, which will increase the county’s responsibility for future pension payments.

AOCDS received support from a handful of people including District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who said the two-year deal has been “a long time coming.”

He spoke about other agencies such as San Jose losing career law enforcement personnel because of cuts in pay and pensions.

In more board action, supervisors unanimously approved a November ballot measure that would authorize the state Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the county campaign laws, including limits on contributions to candidates.

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

New Contract: Sheriff’s Deputies Get 3% Raise But Have to Pay for Pension

In Orange County, sheriff’s deputies will pay 14 to 20 percent of their salary toward pension benefits, which is "substantially higher" than what other county employees pay.

Posted by Penny Arévalo (Editor)

The Board of Supervisors today approved a new contract with the union representing Orange County sheriff’s deputies and District Attorney investigators that has them pick up all of the cost of pension benefits starting next year, but also includes pay raises of about 3 percent.

Orange County Board Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach cast the dissenting votes.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens called the deal "fair," and it was also supported by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

"It’s been a long time coming with a lot of negotiations, but it arrives at a good balance," Rackauckas said in urging the board to support the agreement.

Rackauckas, however, warned county officials about asking too much of employees, making it harder to recruit.

In San Jose, city officials a decade ago boasted of having the safest large city in the country. But when police officers were required to cover the full cost of their retirement benefits, the tide turned, Rackauckas said.

"It was devastating to their police department since that’s gone into effect," Rackauckas said. "They’re struggling to put that police department back together again, but they’re hemorrhaging police officers … They’ve had literally hundreds of transfers … and their crime rate has gone up. They’re now higher than the national average, higher than the state average, and they can no longer brag they’re the safest city. In fact, far from it."

Response times for crimes in that Northern California city has gone from eight minutes to 20 minutes, Rackauckas said. Worse, he said, the city is "spending large amounts of money on training" recruits, only to lose them in a short time to other departments that can offer better pay and benefits.

"They have a very real concern they’re training people for other departments," Rackauckas said.

In Orange County, sheriff’s deputies will pay 14 to 20 percent of their salary toward pension benefits, which is "substantially higher" than what other county employees pay, Dominguez said.

The union leader said the deal has been "mischaracterized as being riddled with generous" giveaways to law enforcement employees. Dominguez said other law enforcement agencies in the area offer better pay and benefits, and the deputies and D.A. investigators are now the only county employees paying for medical benefits for retirees.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen said the deal won’t "spike pensions as some claim it will do. I believe the contract is both fair and balanced."

The deal is expected to save the county $22.6 million through fiscal year 2015-16, when it ends. The estimated total cost will be about $37.3 million.

Details of the private labor negotiations over two years with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs recently surfaced in a report by the Voice of OC, which prompted a public quarrel between termed-out Supervisor John Moorlach and Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

Moorlach accused Spitzer of being an "agent" of the union, and Spitzer fired back that Moorlach was being hypocritical.

In April it appeared that the two sides would reach an agreement, but then Spitzer changed his mind on a deal point, according to Moorlach. That indicated that negotiations would hit an impasse and that they would be sent to a mediator, as has happened with other bargaining units, according to Moorlach.

Moorlach, however, said that he has since reached the conclusion that Spitzer changed his mind and called for another private session among the board so he could introduce new deal points from union leaders.

"They said, ‘No, we want our pay increase immediately,’ and that’s when Todd realizes, ‘Oh, I screwed up. I didn’t put together the deal the way (union leaders) wanted it.’ That’s when we knew he was an agent (of the union)."

Moorlach said that now he doesn’t feel he can trust Spitzer and that he thinks the supervisor "played" him.

Moorlach said a new ordinance he has proposed that would let the public know more about labor negotiations as they happen instead of after the fact could have prevented this conflict.

Spitzer laughed off that notion.

"He’s trying to say (his ordinance) would prevent this when he supported a (proposal) that offset pension costs with salary increases," Spitzer said, adding he just "called him out on that inconsistency" in his interview with the Voice of OC.

"I’m not an agent for anybody," Spitzer said. "This is ridiculous."

Spitzer said Moorlach and board Chairman Shawn Nelson "have this mythological concept that I’m a middleman (for the union). They wanted it to go to impasse. Shawn has always wanted to stick it to the (union)."

A vote on Moorlach’s ordinance allowing for more public discussion of labor negotiations was delayed again today until later this month.

–City News Service

O.C. Voters to Decide if They Want State to Prosecute Violations of Local Campaign Finance Laws

A watchdog’s dream? The author of the original "Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics" law passed in 1991 says no.

Posted by Penny Arévalo (Editor)

Orange County voters will be asked if they want to give the California Fair Political Practices Commission the authority to prosecute violations of a local campaign finance ordinance.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed today to place the question on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

If voters approve a change in the Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics — or TINCUP

Posted in California

MOORLACH UPDATE — Pythons’ Tightening Grips — July 15, 2014

The editorial board of the OC Register opined in opposition to the contract bargained between the County and the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS). Unfortunately, it did not change the outcome of the Board’s vote today. It was not unanimous in closed session and it saw Chair Nelson and myself voting in opposition in public.

Increased salaries will mean increased pension liabilities. Increased pension liabilities will mean increased annual pension plan contributions. Increased pension plan contributions will further restrict an already overly-choked County budget. It’s a tough conundrum when someone wants a massive pension increase and then complains about not receiving raises. But, you can’t shame the Board, after it granted the pension enhancement in 2001, for more raises. And you can’t complain that you are being treated differently than other employee bargaining units with retiree medical withholdings when your plan is very different than that of those other bargaining units. Wordsmithing will only go so far. Someday someone will have to pay the piper. Future Boards of Supervisors will have to deal with these two unfunded pythons as their liabilities continue to tighten their fiscal grip on the County’s budget.

There are no easy answers. If there were, someone in this country would have proposed and implemented it. For me, I see only one ultimate solution and I laid it out in MOORLACH UPDATE — San Diego U-T — October 13, 2013. Here is some of what I wrote:

Modifying down pension formulas is the prudent approach to pursue. Employees would be assured a reasonable pension. It may not be the “formula on steroids” they recently negotiated, but the modified formulas were still very generous equations compared to any private-sector retirement plan, and certainly compared to Social Security. Such a change would preserve the defined-benefit pension model and avoid the obvious cry to freeze plans and convert wholesale to defined-contribution models similar to the 401(k) retirement approach of many Fortune 500 employers.

Although it is often framed as an all-or-nothing issue, from a rational perspective California’s public employees should be willing to take the initiative to moderate their pension formulas, knowing that they could possibly lose a significant percentage of benefits if municipalities start declaring bankruptcy. Low-funded defined-benefit pension plans are exposed to the risk of eventually paying out a much lower benefit, one that can be afforded over time, versus what was actually promised.

Some airline pilots of now-bankrupt carriers are receiving 40 percent of their formerly promised annual benefits. This scenario is bound to be duplicated in the public sector as taxpayers reach a tipping point and refuse to pay more and more for equal or reduced service levels. In fact, certain retirees of Central Falls, Rhode Island, recently agreed to pension reductions of 50 percent as a resolution of that city’s bankruptcy filing.

With the recent filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy by the cities of Detroit, Stockton, and San Bernardino, the inference that pensions are untouchable will be questioned.

A federal bankruptcy judge may just approve [this] solution in a plan of adjustment to allow one or more of these cities to exit Chapter 9 with the debt relief they need to survive financially. This may change the pension paradigm for municipalities around the entire country. This is the joy of federal bankruptcy court, where any contract, including pensions protected by state law, can be impaired by a federal judge. It is no wonder that the bankruptcy judge overseeing Detroit’s filing has demanded that a creditor committee representing the city’s more than 23,000 retirees be established as soon as possible.

Something will happen to the pensions of current and retired employees. It behooves public employee bargaining units around the nation to get in front of this imminent shift. They should negotiate a rescission now that is acceptable to their current and past membership, but also affordable to the taxpayers who foot the bill.

No one likes being forced to give back a gift. But, by being stubborn, bargaining units run the risk of seeing their pension drastically reduced with little or no input if their employer pursues Chapter 9 to obtain the results that these three cities are about to achieve.

It’s time for everyone to admit that recent pension enhancements, generated from an unachievable expectation created by the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, are no longer fiscally prudent. The direct beneficiaries need to take ownership and set a course to correct it. If city and county employees take the appropriate leadership role, fiscal calamity can be avoided and they will have saved their cities and counties, and their pensions.

Judge Klein, the Federal Bankruptcy Judge handling the Stockton Chapter 9 bankruptcy, stated last week that pension plans are touchable. His legal interpretation and ruling are due in the fall. I have that sense that the County of Orange is slowly walking further out into a frozen lake, where the ice is getting thinner and thinner. It’s difficult to watch, as you would rather that it were moving back towards the shore. I hope that the OC stays fiscally viable in the coming decades, but I don’t envy my successors as they deal with the ramifications of the votes made in 2001 and 2004 and today.

Editorial: Deputies’ contract unfair

Union wins exclusive concessions from O.C.

If any lesson should have been learned from the financial fallout for local governments in the last recession, it is that making big promises to public employees can have big consequences. That lesson doesn’t seem to have stuck, though, by the looks of a proposed contract with the Orange County deputy sheriff’s union.

The contract, set for a vote today by the Board of Supervisors, has several worrisome concessions, but a handful are more glaring than the rest. One, in particular, looks to offset a required increase in pension contributions through salary and other compensation increases.

That is a uniquely generous concession not given to other county employee unions during current negotiations. Those other groups have been asked to pay their full share – some agreed and some had it imposed on them. Even the supervisors are picking up their full contribution under new rules.

It is essentially a pay raise that will contribute to the overall payout retiring public safety employees can draw from their pensions. Increasing the county’s pension liability – now more than $5 billion – as budgets remain fairly stagnant, simply isn’t prudent.

The problem is compounded by calls to create two new salary tiers at the top. Supervisor John Moorlach told us that about 77 percent of the union’s membership is in the top wage tier. This amounts to another pay raise that, coupled with the pension offset and an increased county contribution into the union’s retiree medical plan by more than half, add up. Mr. Moorlach said, in all, some employees could be looking at up to 10.5 percent in raises.

Supporters say public safety should hold a special place in the county budget, as the dangers inherent in the job warrant special consideration, and recruitment efforts will suffer unless the department remains competitive. But comparing ballooning public safety budgets with one another creates an endless upward cycle.

Further, while no one can argue that risk and responsibility come with the uniform, serving the community is at the core of the job. This deal is not in the best interest of the community.

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Posted in California