MOORLACH UPDATE — The Joys of Presenting Bills — April 24, 2018

Monday was mixed. SB 1363 passed unanimously on the Senate Floor. SB 1074 was killed in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on the basis that the price for a gallon is the price for a gallon of gas and the details be damned. And SB 1031, 1032 and SB 1433 were killed in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee, with SB 1033 held back for more consultation with the Committee Chair and CalPERS. The Sacramento Bee covers it in the first piece below. It also discusses SB 1149, of which I was a proud Co-Author.

SB 1159 went out of Senate Appropriations successfully (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Right to Peaceably Assemble — April 13, 2018). The new Editor for CalMatters, Dan Morain, has some fun with it in the second piece below. Dan was formally with the LA Times and recently resigned from the Sacramento Bee. We go pretty far back.

Dan’s piece brings up an interesting concern. As a C.P.A., am I prohibited from doing something that will encourage more C.P.A.s to run for legislative office? Is it really self-serving? Would any other legislator be able to carry such a bill?

All retired C.P.A.s are required to note that they are “retired” or “inactive” on their stationery. But, attorneys in the Legislature are exempted from the requirement to obtain continuing professional education. Other professional licenses do not require qualifiers. I know that retired military officers do it. If you’ve earned an MBA, you can keep it behind your name for the remainder of your life.

Accordingly, I worked for the last couple of years with the California State Board of Accountancy for a reasonable solution. They recommended that instead of doing something administratively, that I introduce a bill. The Board supported the language we proposed for SB 1159. I did have a potential author, a former staffer for Congressman Brad Sherman, but he resigned from the Assembly recently. Consequently, I decided to move forward and let the cards fall where they may.

For entertainment value, the most recent edition of Inside OC finds host Rick Reiff rattling my cage on a number of current issues. It’s the third link below.

Last week I voted “No” on SB 832 (Portantino) and SB 951 (Mitchell). When I was interviewed by the OC Register‘s Editorial Board about my candidacy for State Senator in 2015, I provided the following position (see MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — OC Register Endorsement — February 15, 2015):

Though the Legislature has often doled out tax credits to preferred industries, such as Hollywood and “green-energy” companies, Mr. Moorlach finds such favoritism distasteful. “I’m not an advocate of special incentives,” he said.

Three years later and I’m still of the same mind. I would prefer to deposit $330 million in one of California’s pension plans or other post employment benefits to reduce the unfunded liabilities. And why give a tax credit to one industry when so many others are trying to make do? Why not a “no better, no worse” approach?

And, worse, while the Capitol is trying to improve the culture, why give tax credits to an industry that brought us Weinstein and Toback? The Los Angeles Business Journal mentions the fun on this topic in the fourth piece below.

The LA Times addresses SB 1206 (De Leon) in the fifth piece below. This bill was introduced by Sen. De Leon and myself and I will be presenting it in the Senate Health Committee tomorrow. We need funding to build immediate housing for the state’s mentally ill homeless population and we need to do it now. This is a new approach on “No Place Like Home.”

Last week, Wednesday, I had one of the more awkward moments while presenting a bill. SB 1325 used an existing “Act” title. Rather than debate the actual policy in my bill, one of my Senate colleagues made it personal and proceeded to impugn my intentions where he actually presumed that I was being a racist toward an Asian Pacific Islander Caucus member, a charge that not only caught me off guard, but was highly inappropriate and regrettable.

I met with both of them the following morning to dispose them of any untoward motives. Ironically, a few minutes after these two discussions, my grandson, Koa, was born. Koa would qualify as a member of the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus.

The presentation is addressed by Vactruth.com in the last piece below.

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The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

Cost-of-living adjustments for California state worker pensions are safe, for now

BY ADAM ASHTON

aashton

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article209675374.html

Future state workers, your pension cost-of-living adjustments are safe, and you won’t get to choose between a CalPERS pension and a 401(k) plan anytime soon.

Both proposals were shot down on Monday by a Senate committee that rejected a pack of bills aimed at reducing the risk taxpayers face if an economic crisis cripples the state’s public pension funds.

Most of the bills came from Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa and Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, who argue that the rising cost of public pensions could drive local governments into bankruptcy when the next recession hits.

“We need to right-size the system. We need to restore public trust, because we’re going off a fiscal cliff,” said Glazer, the former Orinda mayor who sponsored the bill that would have allowed state workers to choose to participate in defined contribution 401(k) plan instead of the defined benefit plan offered by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

California’s two largest public pension funds, CalPERS and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, each have about 71 percent of the assets they’d need to pay all of the benefits they owe to public workers and retirees.

They’ve been trying to close the gap between what they have and what they owe by raising the amount of money they charge to public employers and employees, prompting some local governments and school districts to complain that pension costs are “crowding out” resources for other services.

But Glazer and Moorlach could not convince the Senate Public Employee and Retirement Committee that the looming crisis they see is dangerous enough to tinker with pension commitments made by the state and local agencies to millions of people.

Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, countered that she wanted to find ways to encourage more people to join pension programs instead of 401(k) plans. “I just think we need to do everything we can to get our young people into defined-benefit plans,” she said.

The pension overhaul bills the committee rejected were:

Moorlach’s Senate Bill 1032, which would make it easier for local governments to separate from CalPERS without paying the hefty termination fees that CalPERS charges to fund pension obligations for defunct agencies. If an agency quits CalPERS without paying the fees, CalPERS slashes the pensions it provides to the agency’s former workers.

Moorlach’s SB 1031, which would prohibit pension funds from providing cost-of-living adjustments to retirees if the pension fund has less than 80 percent of the assets it would need to pay the benefits it owes. Most retired public employees can receive cost-of-living adjustments of 2 percent each year, but some contracts allow up to 5 percent. Moorlach’s proposal would have applied only to state workers hired after Jan. 1, 2019.

▪ Glazer’s SB 1149, which would have allowed new state workers to opt for a 401(k) plan instead of a pension. The concept is attractive to younger workers who do not intend to be career civil servants. The University of California is offering a similar plan, and 37 percent of new workers are choosing 401(k) plans instead of pensions.

The bills are essentially dead for this legislative session, although they could be revived if enough lawmakers want to bring them back from reconsideration.

A long line of union representatives spoke against each bill. Terry Brennand, a lobbyist for SEIU California, called the Glazer bill a “disaster waiting to happen.”

Ted Toppin, a lobbyist for state scientists and engineers, called the bill to waive CalPERS’ termination fees an opportunity for employers to “stiff” their workers in retirement.

The unions want more time for the pension funds to benefit from recent changes that have employers kicking in more money for retirement plans and to recalibrate from the 2012 law that eliminated especially generous plans that the Legislature offered to public employees during the dot-com boom.

 

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By Dan Morain

An accountant’s trick

 

Calling politicians self-serving can be redundant. It can be bipartisan, too.

Sen. John Moorlach, an Orange County Republican, and Congressman Brad Sherman, a San Fernando Valley Democrat, are certified public accountants. Because they haven’t kept up with their continuing education requirements, their licenses are inactive. No big deal. Lots of professionals let their licenses lapse.

So what? In 2009, the Legislature, without a single no vote, approved a measure that says all inactive CPAs must disclose their status on any business communications in which they call themselves CPAs. That includes Moorlach and Sherman.

Unlike other CPAs, however, Moorlach can carry legislation, and he is, to the delight of Sherman.Senate Bill 1159 would exempt any CPA member of the Legislature or Congress from having to disclose that they’re inactive. The bill would affect two people: Moorlach and Sherman. Sherman wrote a letter of support:

“I believe that my colleagues, as well as other interested parties, would more carefully review my letters and documents on tax and budgeting issues if I could sign them as follows: Congressman Brad Sherman, CPA.”

A rich target: The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Moorlach’s bill unanimously on Monday. At an earlier hearing, Moorlach seemed somewhat sheepish, calling the bill “a little self-serving.” Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Valley Democrat, voted no at that hearing, and made a point that accountants would appreciate: pushing a single bill through the legislative process costs about $10,000.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzIE8NKn1Xg

 

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ENTERTAINMENT: FINAL BILL COULD INCLUDE INCENTIVES ON DIVERSITY

Film Credit Clears Committees

By Matthew Blake

Los Angeles — A bill to extend California’s motion picture tax credit program sailed through Assembly and Senate committees last week.

“Clearly we have a lot of work to do – I think there is much more we should do,” said Kansen Chu, a San Jose-based Democrat and chair of the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media committee.

Chu and four other members of the committee all voted on April 18 to approve Assembly Bill 1734, which would lengthen by five years California’s $330-million-a-year film and television tax credit program. The policy is due to sunset at the end of 2019.

Committee members also approved without opposition Assembly Bill 2936, a similar measure to continue the credits.

The California Senate Government and Finance Committee, meanwhile, passed its own tax credit legislation, Senate Bill 951, on April 19 by a 5-1 vote.

Chu expressed concerns the tax credits aren’t doing enough to diversify Hollywood.

Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, a Democrat from eastern L.A. County and sponsor of AB 1734, has said that a final version of the bill could include greater incentives for women and minority filmmakers.

The California legislature passed in 2014 an expansion of the state’s tax credit program for movies and television shows from $100 million a year in credits to $330 million per annum.

The legislation provides television shows relocating to the Golden State and movies that shoot in California with a refund of 20 percent to 25 percent on crew member wages, as well as production and editing costs. The policy applies statewide but has an outsized effect in Los Angeles County, which hosts more than 90 percent of shoots that use the credits.

California differs from other states, such as Georgia and Louisiana, by limiting its credit programs to film crew, without reimbursement for the wages of actors, writers and directors.

The California Chamber of Commerce and various labor unions attended the committee hearing to shower praise on tax credits, stating that they generated billions of dollars in spending including crew wages.

The lone dissenting vote came from Sen. John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican.

“I don’t want to pick winners and losers” among businesses, Moorlach said in an interview. “I want to try and protect tax revenues for my state.”

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With money tied up in court,

California lawmakers try again with

new plan to spend $2 billion on

homeless housing

By LIAM DILLON

http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-with-money-tied-up-in-court-california-1524524828-htmlstory.html

A measure to spend $2 billion on housing homeless Californians could be on the November statewide ballot.

State Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) is pushing the idea to deal with what he said was a “burgeoning humanitarian crisis whose epicenter is here in California.”

De León’s new measure is a do-over for a 2016 plan passed by the Legislature to redirect $2 billion toward building homeless housing from a voter-approved 1% income tax surcharge on millionaires that funds mental health services. A Sacramento attorney sued over that decision, arguing that the move violated constitutional rules on approving loans without a public vote and that lawmakers shouldn’t take money away from mental health treatment. The case remains active in Sacramento Superior Court and it’s unclear when, or if, the state will be able to spend the $2 billion.

De León’s Senate Bill 1206 would put the $2-billion loan on the ballot in November, freeing up the money if voters approve the measure. De León said had he been able to predict the 2016 plan would end up in court, he would have sought a ballot measure at the time.

“We thought this was like apple pie and baseball and puppies,” De León said. “Who would oppose the idea of repurposing the dollars to build immediate housing as a permanent solution for homelessness? Obviously with a crystal ball, had I anticipated the litigation, I would have worked to place it on the ballot.”

De León noted that the 2016 plan had bipartisan supermajority support in the Legislature, something his new bill also will need to get on the ballot. Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) is a coauthor of the plan.

SB 1206 is scheduled for its first hearing in the Legislature on Wednesday.

Should De León’s measure be approved, it will join a crowded list of housing issues before voters in November. Californians will decide on a separate $4-billion bond to help finance new low-income housing and home loans for veterans. De León said he’s not worried those two measures will compete against each other because voters are aware of the scale of the state’s housing problems and the proposed homeless housing bond redirects existing dollars instead of raising taxes.

“Once [voters] know that the impact on their pocketbook is not existent, I’m confident that they’ll join me and my colleague John Moorlach in support of this measure,” De León said.

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California Democratic Senators Newman and Pan Caught Fabricating Racism To Exterminate Civil Rights Bill

https://vactruth.com/2018/04/24/racist-california-democratic-senators/

Last week California Democratic Senators Josh Newman and Richard Pan fabricated claims of racism to exterminate a civil rights bill, and they got away with it despite their failure to provide any evidence substantiating their allegations. To date, Senators Newman and Pan have not been held accountable for their actions.

The civil rights bill these Democratic Senators exterminated was simple: it would have guaranteed individuals and families the right to self-quarantine in their homes in the event of a pandemic, without fear of being criminalized for simply existing in their natural state (i.e., free of antibiotics or experimental vaccines). Why would anyone want to exterminate a person’s obvious right to simply exist at home in an un-medicated state, especially a perfectly healthy person?

Well, apparently the California Senate Health Committee wants to exterminate such a right.

Background of this Civil Rights Bill: PANDA

The bill in question was a scientifically supported, common sense civil rights safeguard introduced by Republican Senator John Moorlach. It was originally authored and named the Peaceful and Natural Dignity Act (“PANDA”) in the year 2013 by Greg Glaser, JD, for the Pandemic Response Project. Here is the original Change.org petition from the year 2013: link.

PANDA was written and named by Glaser before virtually everyone (including Glaser) had ever heard of Senator Pan. This is because the PANDA bill was written 1-year before Senator Pan gained notoriety by introducing California’s mandatory vaccination law SB 277. Recall that Senator Pan capitalized on the 2014 Disneyland measles event to push SB 277 through the California legislature, even though not a single child was injured by those measles, or even by most measles – see here; and further, the measles-containing vaccine has not been scientifically proven to be safer than the measles – see here.

We spoke with Glaser to confirm these details. And indeed, Glaser helped us confirm the obvious: his bill “PANDA” was named before Pan’s SB 277 and it was a reference to the word “pandemic” because it came through the Pandemic Response Project.

Interestingly, when naming the bill in 2013, Glaser chose the panda bear analogy because, in his words, “The panda is a beautiful symbol of both peace and nature, especially given the legal protection pandas enjoy.

As an endangered species they are afforded legal protection to exist in their own natural home habitat. So protecting pandas in their home is a good analogy for also protecting the right of peaceful humans to live naturally in our homes, even if there is a pandemic somewhere among the public outside.”

Moreover, “PANDAS” is also the well-known acronym for the prominent vaccine injury, “Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus”.

Democratic Senators Newman and Pan Fabricate a Race Card to Exterminate Civil Rights

Senator Moorlach who introduced the bill was shocked when Senator Newman claimed on the record that there were racial and offensive undertones to the pneumonic title “PANDA” (Peaceful and Natural Dignity Act). In addition to whispering something to Senator Newman before the event in question, Senator Pan nodded along in agreement with Senator Newman that the bill’s name was a personal affront to Senator Pan.

In the words of Senator Newman: “Where did the acronym PANDA come from? The panda animal would seem to have very little to do with vaccinations, but it does tend to have a racial or ethnic tinge to it; it also includes the first three letters of my colleague’s name, and I could see where one might take offense.” See video at 2:03:40: link.

From the video recording, Senator Moorlach was obviously stunned and speechless at Senator Newman’s allegation. Senator Moorlach said he did not know what to say, because he had never drawn the same pneumonic association that Newman was suggesting was racial. The video also shows the Democratic chair of the Committee refused to let Glaser even speak a word to explain the bill’s name origin (naturally, Glaser would have explained that PANDA was a reference to “pandemic” because it came through the Pandemic Response Project, long before SB 277). It is currently unknown whether the chair of the committee was also collaborating with Newman to intentionally fabricate a racism allegation, especially because he was also involved in the pre-event whispers with Senator Pan.

It is also unknown how much information the other Senators had about PANDA’s name origin. Their complete silence on the video suggests they lacked context or information necessary to know that Newman and Pan’s race card had indeed been fabricated.

The notion of racism here was simply a non-issue, but as no California Senator would ever go on record supporting a civil rights bill that could be perceived or labeled as having a potentially racist title, they obviously all voted no. Perhaps the majority would have voted no anyway on the merits, but we will probably never know.

PANDA: Why It Is Necessary

Glaser says the PANDA bill is necessary to create a civil rights safeguard against current California law that allows authorities to exercise a form of absolute power, by arresting healthy individuals who simply choose to remain un-medicated at home during a pandemic:

The local health officer may take any preventive measure that may be necessary to protect and preserve the public health from any public health hazard during any “state of war emergency,” “state of emergency,” or “local emergency”…. Any person who… refuses or neglects to conform … is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Cal. Health and Safety Code §§101040 and 120275

According to Glaser’s research submitted for the Senate hearing, PANDA was based upon a report by public health scholars at Boston University, in partnership with the ACLU, who found:

“Highly discriminatory and forcible vaccination and quarantine measures adopted in response to outbreaks of the plague and smallpox over the past century have consistently accelerated rather than slowed the spread of disease, while fomenting public distrust and, in some cases, riots…”

Annas, G., Mariner, W., Parmet, W., Pandemic Preparedness: The Need for a Public Health (Not A Law Enforcement/National Security) Approach. American Civil Liberties Union, January 2008.

And the CDC has observed the exact same phenomenon, which was reported in the CDC’s published journal in the year 2013:

During outbreaks of plague and cholera, the fear of discrimination and mandatory quarantine and isolation led the weakest social groups and minorities to escape affected areas and, thus, contribute to spreading the disease farther and faster, as occurred regularly in towns affected by deadly disease outbreaks. [And] in the globalized world, fear, alarm, and panic, augmented by global media, can spread farther and faster and, thus, play a larger role than in the past.

Tognotti, E., Lessons from the History of Quarantine, from Plague to Influenza A, Centers for Diseases Control EID Journal, Volume 19, Number 2—February 2013; DOI: 10.3201/eid1902.120312

Glaser also highlighted during the Senate Hearing that PANDA has a legal precedent in California’s current Tuberculosis control law:

“No examination or inspection shall be required of any person who depends exclusively on prayer for healing in accordance with the teachings of any well recognized religious sect, denomination or organization and claims exemption on that ground, except that the provisions of this code regarding compulsory reporting of communicable diseases and isolation and quarantine shall apply where there is probable cause to suspect that the person is infected with the disease in a communicable stage. Such person shall not be required to submit to any medical treatment, or to go to or be confined in a hospital or other medical institution; provided, he or she can be safely quarantined and/or isolated in his or her own home or other suitable place of his or her choice.” Cal. Health & Safety Code section 121370

Sixty physicians were on record supporting PANDA, along with several PhDs and rights groups. By contrast, the AAP was opposed to the bill. Ultimately, the Senate Health Committee voted no on the bill. But suspiciously, they never even engaged Glaser or Moorlach in dialogue regarding the substantive points raised by the ACLU and CDC Journal findings.

Instead, Senator Pan conducted a unilateral dialogue with a single opposition witness regarding cherry-picked measles cases. Senator Pan did not question the expert witness in support of PANDA, Tina Kimmel, PhD, MPH, who worked for the California Department of Public Health for most of her career, including within the Immunization Branch.

Dr. Kimmel provided testimony that emphasized why mandating vaccination has been proven to be counterproductive to public health goals. Indeed, none of the Senators asked Dr. Kimmel any questions. So on multiple levels, it does not appear that PANDA was given a fair or honest hearing.

If PANDA Had Been Given A Fair Hearing

Let’s consider why this bill – PANDA – is much more effective than mass coercive vaccination in the event of a public health emergency.

Even if we ignore the studies and surveys that show unvaccinated people are statistically healthier than vaccinated people, we cannot ignore the large, time-tested and statistically validated fact that isolation, sanitization and self-quarantine is far and away the most effective method whereby infectious disease transmission is obviated.

Note for example the figure below: it compares smallpox fatality rates in virtually unvaccinated and “unprotected” Leicester versus vaccinated/revaccinated populations in various areas (Japan, London, etc.). What does one see? The smallpox fatality rates are significantly lower in unvaccinated Leicester – a region which utilized the self-quarantine method to preclude infectious disease transmission.

The facts ostensibly demonstrate that mass coercive vaccination is not the most effective method (in fact, evidence indicates it worsens mortality).

Beyond the scientific aspect, coercive vaccination (in public health emergencies) that abrogates civil liberties, constitutional rights, and bioethical principles internationally regarded (bodily autonomy, inviolability, self-determination, etc.) acts to foster distrust of governmental authorities, and actually elicits greater rebellion and associated chaos. These legal concerns from the ACLU and CDC were the primary point that Glaser emphasized during the hearing, while his fellow witness, Dr. Kimmel, focused her testimony on the public health benefits of PANDA.

So, what could possibly be the impetus for opposition to this logical, scientifically/statistically proven method, which sensibly balances public health with respect for civil liberties? Did Big Pharma strike again?

We contacted Glaser after the hearing to obtain his impression of the day’s events. In his own words:

“When Senator Newman challenged the name PANDA as derogatory, I was shocked. I know Senator Moorlach was shocked too. He was just standing there and didn’t know what to say. Obviously racism isn’t something our offices had ever talked about or even considered.

The Committee chair wouldn’t even let me speak to explain the bill’s origins from the word “pandemic”. I found it strange that a surprise, fabricated side-issue could actually derail a very serious civil rights bill. I’m not a political guy, so I didn’t really understand what was happening in that Senate room. All I know is what I saw.

The Senators asked no questions about the ACLU or CDC references that we provided. Perhaps that’s just how these hearings go, but it didn’t seem like an honest hearing to me. From my experience in courtrooms, I can only say that ignoring actual evidence in favor of an unsubstantiated sideshow would never happen in an honest courtroom.

I also observed several other bills on calendar at this Health Committee, and there was an obvious pattern – this Health Committee has taken up the banner of financing the public’s demand for drugs and surgery.

I would say that even appears to be their primary purpose. Natural health and organic living are not discussed or considered among these Senators, let alone respected as the primary means for good health. If mass financing of drugs and surgery is what California health politics has devolved into, I have no interest.

Glaser also advised that he is uncertain where his PANDA bill may go from here. But he did offer a parting insight:

“If you believe that we can trust pharmaceutical companies to inject people only with drugs and toxins that are good for them, then you are neither a historian nor a critical thinker. There is a reason these companies demanded legal immunity from lawsuits – their products are inherently dangerous. And government officials are also immune from lawsuits. So the system inherently lacks accountability, regardless of one’s position on vaccination. Sadly, the political system is ironically dismissing the scientific method to promote a one-size-fits-all experimental pharmacy for the American people. Even vaccine-enthusiasts must admit that mandatory vaccination policies eliminate the continued availability of a control sample – a group of healthy and natural people – who check and balance their assumptions about the science of immunity.”

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1297 – COO — April 19, 2018

One common misperception is that State Senators run the various departments of the State of California. Wrong. They don’t. The problem I’ve found is that I don’t know if anyone is actually running this place.

The Board of Supervisors of California’s counties have direct intervention with the department heads on a county’s organizational chart. This is not the case for Sacramento legislators.

We can write bills to tell departments what they should be doing and we can hold a hearing once a year to ask department heads what they’re accomplishing.

For example, Tuesday afternoon I participated in the Oversight Hearing of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health, titled "Mental Health Services Act: The State Could Better Ensure the Effective Use of Mental Health Services Act Funding."

It gave me a chance to ask Jennifer Kent, the Director of the California Department of Health Care Services, about the disappointing management report that resulted from the State Auditor’s Report 2017-117 (see https://www.auditor.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2017-117.pdf). . Observations of her department being ineffective and minimal in its oversight of the Mental Health Services Act needed to be addressed. The reverberations of this revenue source have been rattling Orange County as Judge David O. Carter keeps referring to it.

I informed those present about the Naked Capitalism piece, the first one below. It assumes that, by the readers contacting me, I can do something about an awkward hire to a very serious position with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). Wrong. But, at least I can rattle the cages in hearings.

Let me explain why the piece below is worth forwarding to you. It shows that embellishment of one’s resume is not a good idea. Someone may just do some fact checking. This was done by LA Times Columnist Michael Hiltzik. Mr. Hiltzik has enjoyed a long relationship with the LA Times. For proof, and a fun read down memory lane, go to MOORLACH UPDATE — LOOK BACKS — December 14, 2009.

Why this long introduction? To make an argument for Senate Bill 1297 (see http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1297-state-chief-operating-officer). This state needs better management and SB 1297 provides for a leadership position that can address matters of this nature. It will be heard in the Senate Governmental Organization Committee next Tuesday.

The second piece, from R Street, provides the details of the four pension bills that I will be presenting in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee on Monday. They are SB 1031, 1032, 1033 and 1433 (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings – Vol. 8 — February 22, 2018, MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings – Vol. 5 — February 14, 2018, MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings – Vol. 4 — February 12, 2018).

The third piece, from Fox & Hounds, addresses SB 1074, which will be heard in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on Monday.

This week I presented SB 1363 successfully to the Senate Appropriations Committee and it is now on the agenda for a Senate Floor Session vote. SB 1463 in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, not so good. Let the record show that I tried to address the global warming concerns with SB 1463. I would conclude that the state’s efforts to truly address greenhouse gases are, at best, a joke, and at worst, a fraud. Not including the greenhouse gases generated by wildfires and not approving the provision of a simple way to address the hardening of electrical power lines is, in my opinion, legislative malpractice by the majority party.

SB 1325 died in the Senate Health Committee, thus not providing a protocol to address medical emergencies in a mature and cooperative manner for all of the residents of our state.

To give you the rest of my workload for next week and the details concerning the bills that I will be presenting, please see http://district37.cssrc.us/legislation.

SB 1159 will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday. SB 1099 will be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. SB 1049, 1395 and 1411 are scheduled to be heard in the Senate Governance & Finance Committee next Wednesday, although I may drop SB 1411 and try it again in the next Session.

I will also be back to the Senate Health Committee Wednesday afternoon to present SB 1206 (De Leon) to address forward movement on "No Place Like Home" initiative.

Presenting more than a dozen bills next week will probably make it the most crazy of the year.

BONUS: Today my third grandchild was born at Hoag Hospital. Welcome to my newest grandson, Koa Keitara Johannes!

Los Angeles Times Confirms Our Reporting on CalPERS CFO Charles Asubonten’s Resume Misrepresentations; CalPERS Admits to Fabrications and Gets Defensive

by Yves Smith
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/04/los-angeles-times-confirms-reporting-calpers-cfo-charles-asubontens-resume-misrepresentations-calpers-admits-fabrications-gets-defensive.html

The Los Angles Times’ Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter Mike Hiltzik confirmed our reporting on the misrepresentations and discrepancies in the resume of recently-hired CalPERS Chief Financial Officer Charles Asubonten and called on the board to investigate. If you managed to miss the series, you can find the links to them at the end of this post.

But what is particularly surprising about his article, Questions about new CalPERS CFO’s background and experience should be taken seriously by the pension fund, is that the CEO Marcie Frost and Asubonten spoke together to Hilzik on the phone and yet did not deny any of the issues raised in our series (to be clear, talking around a problem does not amount to disproving or denying it). Hiltzik may have covered more points with them than he discussed in his article; I pinged Hiltzik to congratulate him on the piece and he mentioned not being able to cover certain discrepancies due to space constraints.

It is even more surprising that Frost decided to act as her own flack rather than get a professional involved when neither she nor Asubonten have disputed any of the facts presented in our series of articles (and bear in mind, they had more than a week between when I e-mailed the board with a detailed outline of most of the misrepresentations and when I launched the series.

I urge you strongly to read Hiltzik’s article in full, but in case you are time pressed now, here are the high points.

Frost and Asubonten effectively admitted to resume discrepancies. Hiltzik’s story focused on two of Asubonten’s major claims. One was that he was responsible for what he stated was a 70% CAGR increase in the stock price of Palabora Mining Company. Hiltzik confirmed what we had found, that the stock price was in the upper 40s when Asubonten joined versus the 20s that he had put on his resume, and never fell that low the entire time he was there.

Hiltzik also questioned the premise that any mid-level manager could have the impact that Asubonten asserted that he had. He also mapped Palabora’s stock price against the price of copper, showing that the commodity price moves alone largely explained changes in Palabora’s stock price.

The second major claim that Hilzik investigated was one that both Asubonten and later CalPERS made, that he had been the managing director of a private equity firm. Frost in attempting to defend Asubonten admits that our assessment was accurate, that Asubonten was never a private equity professional, as in employed in an asset management firm that was investing money on a discretionary basis. Frost stated that Asubonten’s company was a consulting firm.

As we pointed out more than once, consultants to investors, including very prestigious ones like McKinsey, BCG, and even ones whose business is primarily that of consulting to investors like Houlihan Lokey never call themselves private equity firms. Even worse, Frost said that per Hiltzik, “her understanding” was that Asubonten’s firm was a consulting firm that advised international investors. That strongly suggests that even in the face of the controversy over Asutonten’s truthfulness, Frost has made no effort to make any independent verification of the questionable claims on his resume, and on top of that, is trying to rationalize ones that clearly were misleading. Hiltzik observed that CalPERS’ parroting of Asubonten’s dodgy “private equity firm” claims would probably not pass muster with the SEC if CalPERS were a public company.

Asubonten made a new claim that does not match up against public information. Marcie Frost told JJ Jelinic that Asubonten admitted to a period of unemployment, which we had assumed was after he was terminated from Palabora Mining Company at the end of 2009 through at least the end of 2010, since according to the suit he filed against Palabora in South Africa, he was looking for a job then.

This is what Asubonten told Hiltzik:

He said the employment gap on his resume covered a period in which he was working with a consortium on an ultimately unsuccessful effort to buy the copper mining company.

That does not hold water. As you can see on the resume embedded at the end of the post, at the top of the second page, he depicts himself as having been involved in his private equity activities staring in 2010 to 2012. Asubonten told the Los Angeles Times that that “employment gap” was occupied by working with unsuccessful bidders to buy Palabora.

But Palabora was not put up for sale until early September 2011. Moreover, having participated in mergers and acquisitions at Goldman, later running a mergers and acquisitions business, and subsequently worked regularly with investors, typically on the buy side, it is clear that Palabora’s majority owners Rio Tinto and Anglo American put the company up for auction, which is how companies are sold to get the best price.

Mind you, virtually all divisions of large companies are sold via auction. The only time a seller, particularly a seller that is a public company, might deviate from that practice is if a public sale could damage the value of the asset, if there were some critical senior executives who might bolt in the event of a public sale and would therefore have a major say on who the new company owners would be. or there were competitive considerations. None of these would apply to a relatively small, non-strategic operation like Palabora.

It is similarly inconceivable that Rio Tinto would have been engaged in any serious discussions with potential buyers prior to putting the company up for sale. It’s too well demonstrated that auctions yield the best price for corporate seller to engage in a preliminary time-wasting exercise when a property eventually be sold publicly in a highly structured process. Similarly, any serious buyers would know they’d at best be setting up a public sale if they were to approach a possible seller. Thus, the usual practice among possible purchasers is simply to let a potential seller to be sure to include them in any future buyer solicitation rather than put any energy into putting together an offer.

Having said all of that, it is credible that Asubonten did get himself a consulting assignment with one of the groups that was kicking Palabora’s tires. As a former CFO of the unit, Asubonten could present himself as having inside information about the operation and knowing its cost structure particularly well. But even with established clients (as in they know my price and terms and have accepted my standard agreement), I’ve never had it take less than a week and a half to firm up arrangements on an assignment. So charitably, the earliest Asubonten could have been engaged to work on a purchase of Palabora would have been mid September 2011. That leaves a full 20 1/2 months of unemployment in 2010 and 2011.

Hiltzik dings the board for behaving “childishly” and shirking its duties. From the close of his article:

…the board has shown itself to be one of our less impressive public bodies. Just a year ago, as I reported, the board was bogged down in intramural bickering and attacks on one of its most tough-minded members, J.J. Jelincic.

As recently as last month, this behavior surfaced again, when board President Priya Mathur locked board member Margaret Brown out of CalPERS premises over what appeared to be a minor infraction. Moreover, according to a letter sent to Mathur last Friday by James Moody, an attorney for Brown, and reported by Webber, Mathur or CalPERS staff under her direction have been diverting mail addressed to Brown at CalPERS—and apparently to other board members as well—and in at least some cases not sharing its contents with the addressee….

All this suggests that the CalPERS board members need to be given something serious to work on so they have less time to act childishly. A good place to start would be to inquire just how one of the system’s most important executives was recruited and hired, and whether he’s everything his CEO says he is.

Since as Hilzik points out, neither Marcie Frost nor the board seem inclined to ask the questions they ought to be asking about Asubonten, CalPERS beneficiaries and California taxpayers need to give them a nudge

Here are the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Public Employment and Retirement:

Senator Richard Pan (Chair)

Senator Mike Morrell (Vice Chair)

Senator Connie M. Leyva

Senator John M. W. Moorlach

Senator Anthony J. Portantino

Here are the members of the Assembly’s Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee:

Freddie Rodriguez (Chair)

Travis Allen (Vice Chair)

Sabrina Cervantes

Ken Cooley

Jim Cooper

Patrick O’Donnell

And here are the contact details for the two elected state officers who also sit on CalPERS’ board:

Mr. John Chiang
California State Treasurer
Post Office Box 942809
Sacramento, CA 94209-0001
john.chiang
(916) 653-2995

Ms. Betty Yee
California State Controller
P.O. Box 942850
Sacramento, California 94250-5872
b.t.yee
(916) 445-2636

Naked Capitalism reader have have an impact when snail or e-mailing California state officials on CalPERS matters. I hope you’ll rise to the occasion again.

If any of the legislators above represent your district, I would write them expressing your concerns about governance at CalPERS. Or you could write all the members of both committees and tell them you have friends and family in their districts and plan to call their attention to the festering problems at CalPERS. If you are a CalPERS beneficiary, be sure to mention that.

If CalPERS can’t respond properly to the LA Times saying that its CFO’s resume doesn’t add up, and is not even allowing board members to get its own mail (link to our post yesterday), how can it possibly be up to the challenge of handling its underfunding crisis? Tell them the board governance is so clearly inadequate that they need to create an inspector general for CalPERS to provide badly-needed supervision. Copy Yee and Chiang, who as statewide officials are also sensitive to constitutent letters.

Thanks so much for your interest and efforts!

Pension bills are common sense –

yet have little chance of passage in

Capitol

steven-greenhut-e1524060848722-400x400.jpg

Steven Greenhut

Western Region Director, State Affairs

http://www.rstreet.org/2018/04/19/pension-bills-are-common-sense-yet-have-little-chance-of-passage-in-capitol/

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s report released last week touts all of the pension fund’s good news, which it says “has built a solid path forward for the long-term future of the fund.” But as longtime pension reporter Ed Mendel pointed out in his recent blog, the pension fund’s future is still quite troubled. Apparently, myopia reigns at CalPERS.

Consider this fact, raised by Mendel: Despite earning more than double its predicted returns during a bull market last year, CalPERS’ funding levels only increased by a blip, from 67 percent to a meager 71 percent of the funds needed to pay its future costs. Pension experts say that 50 percent funding is the likely point of no return – if a pension fund’s assets fall below that level it will be nearly impossible to ever recover to a healthy funding level.

Meanwhile, California cities continue to struggle with service cutbacks as CalPERS wallops them with increasing fees. The term is “crowd out” as cities cut “core services, including higher education, social services, public assistance, welfare, recreation and libraries, health, public works, and in some cases, public safety” to pay their CalPERS bills, according to a Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research report last October.

CalPERS isn’t facing the death spiral of, say, New Jersey’s pension funds, which are funded at a frightening 31 percent. But the problem should not be taken lightly. The stock market is at record heights. If there’s a downturn – and, as Gov. Jerry Brown likes to point out, there always are downturns – local budgets, the state budget and retiree earnings could all be at risk.

Enter state Sen. John Moorlach. The Costa Mesa Republican, best known for predicting the 1994 Orange County bankruptcy, has introduced four relatively modest pension reform bills that could help CalPERS get control of its liability problem. They are scheduled for an April 23 hearing in the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee. They have little realistic chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled, union-friendly Legislature – but it’s still worth proposing sensible, constructive measures to highlight the extent of the state’s pension problem. When the problems become too severe to ignore, at least CalPERS and legislators will know what approaches they have available to tackle the mess.

Senate Bill 1031 would “amend California Government Code to temporarily freeze cost of living adjustments (COLAs) when a public retirement system investment fund drops below an 80 percent funded status,” according to the senator’s office. That is a simple approach to ballooning pension costs. California public-employees already receive exceedingly generous pension benefits. It’s absurd to keep giving them raises given the fiscal situation.

Senate Bill 1032 is more complex but potentially more significant. It should be called the Terminator bill because it would, well, terminate something known as the Terminated Agency Pool, or TAP. Currently, CalPERS invests all its retirement contributions in a general pool that has a predicted rate of return of 7 percent annually (down from 7.5 percent). The higher the predicted return, the lower the predicted funding problem. Most experts believe that return rate has been set too high over the long term despite the great returns from last year.

However, when a government agency shuts down, as something called LA Works has done, or chooses to exit CalPERS because it can no longer afford to make CalPERS’ payments, the pension fund sticks them in a separate pool. That pool, the TAP, has a low-risk expected rate of return of 2 percent. In the general pool, taxpayers are on the hook for any shortfalls. When agencies unlock themselves from CalPERS’ golden handcuffs, only CalPERS is responsible for paying them off.

So the fund assumes a return that is basically a risk-free return – and is more reflective of the realistic rates that would exist sans all those taxpayer subsidies. Moorlach wants to put an end to that shell game. It would be a significant reform because, by eliminating TAP, more local governments would feel free to pursue options outside CalPERS. Currently, they can’t leave CalPERS because they’ll be hit with an enormous financial penalty for doing so. For instance, Calimesa was able to start its own fire department (with a 401/k retirement plan rather than a defined-benefit pension) because it was not burdened by all those penalties.

Senate Bill 1033 requires agencies that contract with CalPERS “to bear full financial responsibility for actions that would increase actuarial liability for a member’s pension contributions,” according to the senator’s statement. If they boost pension payments, they should bear the full costs of that decision. That’s a simple matter of fiscal responsibility.

Finally, Senate Bill 1433 restricts counties or districts from newly participating in a Defined Retirement Option Plan, or DROP. DROPs are such a taxpayer giveaway that they were targeted by the governor’s own pension-reform legislation in 2013. A DROP allows public employees to collect their full pension and receive their full salary, too, which they get in a lump sum upon their actual retirement. The existence of these programs is proof that the state’s retirement systems are much too generous.

Police and firefighters can retire at age 50 with 90 percent of the average of their final years’ pay. Many want to keep working and their agencies want them to keep working. But because the “3 percent at 50” retirement plan is so lush, they would be working for little or no pay if they stayed on the job past the young age of 50. Instead, they get paid almost double. These programs were supposed to be cost neutral, but have cost billions of dollars because they were underpriced.

Los Angeles’ DROP program is particularly controversial. The program “received a flood of new enrollees in February,” according to the Los Angeles Times. This “coincided with a Times investigation in February that found the program, which was created in 2002 to keep veteran officers and firefighters on the job, allows participants to file workers’ compensation claims and then take extended injury leaves at nearly twice their usual pay.” This has cost more than $1.6 billion, with the average participant walking away with an extra $434,000, per the Times.

Given the pension funds’ fiscal condition, it’s hard to understand any serious opposition to these modest measures. When the health of the system is on the line, why wouldn’t the state want to clamp down on costs? Stay tuned for the hearing, even though the Legislature has yet to show any interest in reining in pension costs.

The Public Deserves Transparency of Pricing at the Pump

Ronald Stein

By Ronald SteinFounder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2018/04/public-deserves-transparency-pricing-pump/

Fuel prices in California are among the highest in the country, as a result of some of the highest taxes in the country, plus the costs associated with compliance with various State environmental laws, which trickle down to the consumer, resulting in Californian’s paying as much as $1 more per gallon than most folks in the country. A bill currently working its way through Sacramento is SB 1074 (Moorlach) “Transparency in fuel taxes”.

Most everything that is bought, from clothes, computers, vehicles, etc., are based on price plus tax, except one item – transportation fuels, as the posted price includes everything.

Case in point was SB1 for Transportation Infrastructure funding that is targeted to raise $52 billion for infrastructure projects, added 12 cents to gasoline and 20 cents to diesel on November 1, 2016. With California already having some of the highest fuel taxes in the nation, the cost of those fuels did not change last November, but the posted price at the pump did change, but was not transparent to the public as to why fuel prices went up.

Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) compliance is getting tougher to meet each year as well as more costly each year. Today, the California Energy Commission (CEC) shows that the LCFS adds 10.1 cents per gallon for gasoline, and 6.8 cents for diesel. Those costs trickle down to the consumer and are hidden within the posted price of fuel at the pump.

The CEC also shows that Fuels Under the Cap (FUTC) i.e., the “boutique” fuel standards for gasoline and diesel required by the Federal Clean Air Act and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to meet the state’s fuel blending requirements for reformulated gasoline standards accounts for 11.9 cents per gallon for gasoline, and 14.5 cents for diesel. Again, those costs trickle down to the consumer and are hidden within the posted price of fuel at the pump.

Cap & Trade revenues are funding the High Speed Bullet train as well as many other “green” projects. Within numerous state government agencies, there is a feeding frenzy on getting a piece of those lucrative cap and trade “fee” revenues for their projects. Again, those costs trickle down to the consumer and are hidden within the posted price of fuel at the pump.

The CEC shows that California fuel consumption is at the highest level since 2007. Fuels consumption for California’s 35 million registered vehicles in 2016, of which more than 90% were not EV’s, was 52 million gallons per DAY of gasoline and diesel. Sounds like a lot of fuel, but it’s only about 1 plus gallons per day per vehicle, resulting in refueling requirements every week or two.

With numerous incentives, 50% of the EVs in the nation are in one state-California, but they only represent about 7% of the 35 million registered vehicles. With the other 49 states accounting for the other 50%, it appears that nationwide, they are not endeavored by the EVs.

On a go forward basis, internal combustion engines appears to be the choice of citizens. The California economy is heavily driven by affordable transportation. Yet, Californians pay more per gallon of gasoline and diesel due to costs that are not transparent to the public.

A Yes vote on SB 1074 would expand transparency at the pump by creating a Quick Read (QR) Code that directly links the consumer with updated costs of taxes and regulated costs associated with the production of each gallon of fuel purchased would demonstrate that our elected representatives favor transparency of the costs that are included on the posted prices for fuel at the pumps to show the public why Californians are paying as much as $1 more per gallon than the rest of the nation.

On the contrary, a No vote on SB 1074 would demonstrate that our elected officials do not want the public to know why our fuel costs are among the most expensive in the country.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Right to Peaceably Assemble — April 13, 2018

I have a diversified portfolio of bills that we have introduced for consideration, as you can see on my website at  http://district37.cssrc.us/legislation.

I also have the opportunity to be a co-author on a number of bills.  And, on rare occasions, I’m even a joint-author.  This was the case for SB 1004 (Weiner), which will establish a strategic, statewide focus for how counties utilize funds generated by the Mental Health Services Act for prevention and intervention in the early stages of mental illness (see http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1004).

I testified on behalf of SB 1004 this past week, along with Sacramento Mayor and former State Senator pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, an author of Proposition 63 (2004), in Senate Health Committee, where it passed unanimously.  On the subject of the Mental Health Services Act, which has become a major focus of my time over the years, I was appointed to the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health during Wednesday’s Senate Rules Committee meeting.

The LA Times discusses another bill of mine in the piece below, SB 1099, the Right to Peaceably Assemble.  Last October, the Senate Judiciary Committee, where I serve as Vice Chair, held a hearing on hate speech, which spurred several ideas (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Combatting Hate — October 3, 2017MOORLACH UPDATE — Elephant in the Room — October 4, 2017 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Showmanship Let Down — October 7, 2017).

After considering a number of responses to the nonsense that had recently occurred at the University of California Berkeley, I thought the city of Los Angeles had the best response, so I am trying to duplicate it on a statewide basis.

I also wish to thank University of California, Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman for providing me with a copy of his new book, “Free Speech On Campus,” which he co-authored with University of California, Berkeley Law School, and former University of California, Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky (see https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300226560/free-speech-campus).

Now that I finally have an article that addresses one of my bills, allow me to give you an update on our portfolio.  Here is a follow up on the calendar that I provided in MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018.

April 2 — SB 1159 – CPA Designation
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1159-cpa-designation)
Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee

Although this bill was referred to as self-serving, it still passed out of Committee with 6 votes, 2 opposed and 1 abstention.

April 4 — SB 1368 – Statewide Open Enrollment
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1368-statewide-open-enrollment
Senate Education Committee

This bill was killed on a partisan vote of 2 to 4.

April 4 — SB 1344 and SCA 16 – Education Savings Account Act of 2020
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1344-senate-constitutional-amendment-16-education-savings-account-act-2020
Senate Education Committee
NOTE: Please watch the two short videos on this subject at the link.

Both bills were killed on a partisan vote of 2 to 4.

April 4 — SB 1363 – National Alliance on Mental Illness California Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1363-national-alliance-mental-illness-california-voluntary-tax-contribution-fund
Senate Governance and Finance Committee

Although I was tied up presenting the above 3 bills in Education Committee, Sen. Nguyen kindly presented this bill, with a big assist from Sen. Beall, and it moved forward with 6 votes and 1 abstention.  It will be heard by Senate Appropriations on Monday morning, April 16th.

This week, I only had SB 1004, discussed above.  Next week I will also present the following two bills:

April 18 — SB 1463 — Cap and Trees

See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1463-cap-and-trees

Senate Environmental Quality Committee

April 18 — SB 1325 — Peaceful and Natural Dignity Act (PANDA)

See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1325-peaceful-and-natural-dignity-act-panda

Senate Health Committee

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By PATRICK MCGREEVY

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-legislature-campus-free-speech-20180413-story.html

Last year’s bloody clashes on California college campuses have spawned a battle in the state Legislature over how far the law should go to protect unpopular speech and prevent violence between those with opposing political views.

In recent weeks, legislators have started to act on bills introduced in response to a series of confrontations, including a melee at UC Berkeley over a proposed campus speech by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

Lawmakers and activists have fought over a wide range of proposals, many introduced by Republicans who say conservative speech is being vetoed by violence on California campuses.

Similar debates are happening in statehouses across the U.S., with many Democrats concerned that neo-Nazis and other purveyors of hate speech are instigating conflict, citing violence in Charlottesville, Va., last summer when white nationalists marched across the University of Virginia campus, and a far-right rally the following day that turned fatal.

California’s Democratic majority has scuttled bills including one that would have disciplined students who interfere with speeches, or withheld funds from campuses that don’t take steps to protect controversial speaking events.

“Freedom of speech is not free in California — it comes with a price,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) said in a statement after the Democrats voted down her penalty bill. “As long as you say what government wants to hear, they’ll protect your right to speak.”

Another sidelined bill would have made it a crime to wear masks or disguises to demonstrations, but opponents said it could be used to quash free speech. Other measures, including legislation modeled on a Los Angeles antiviolence ordinance, are expected to be taken up in the next few weeks.

But stronger bipartisan consensus has emerged around a bill that would require state colleges to affirm in formal statements the importance of freedom of expression, and to set the stage for student instruction on the history and value of the First Amendment.

“When you have everyone with a deeper appreciation for why we need to have a free exchange of ideas, then people will be less inclined to take action against ideas that they find repugnant or wrong,” said Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), who coauthored the bill with Democratic Assemblyman Bill Quirk of Hayward.

In all, nine bills were introduced in response to incidents including the February 2017 riot at UC Berkeley in which 150 protesters, many masked agitators, caused some $100,000 in damage and injured several people there to attend Yiannopoulos’ speech, which was canceled.

The anti-Yiannopoulos protesters, who accused him of hate speech, hurled Molotov cocktails, set fires, threw fireworks at police and smashed windows using barricades, according to authorities. Many wore face coverings to hide their identity.

Clashes in later months resulted in the cancellation of an appearance on campus by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

And in April of last year, an off-campus event billed as a “Patriot Day” rally by far-right, pro-Trump activists resulted in 21 arrests after fights broke out with counterprotesters. The Times reported both sides threw rocks and sticks at one another.

Naweed Tahmas, a leader of the UC Berkeley College Republicans, testified at one of a series of legislative hearings held in recent weeks that he has been chased, threatened, punched and spat on by people on campus who disagree with his political views.

“I am not exaggerating when I say that free speech is on life support at UC Berkeley,” Tahmas told legislators. “I do not feel safe on my own campus.”

Nobody from the public testified against the bill, but Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk Silva (D-Fullerton) disputed the claims of supporters.

“Where I would disagree is, unlike some of your information for Berkeley, I think free speech is alive and well,” she said, noting that Yiannopoulos spoke at Cal State Fullerton in her district and there was no violence because steps were taken to keep protesters apart.

A federal lawsuit alleges that Katrina Redelsheimer and her husband, John Jennings, went to UC Berkeley last year to hear Yiannopoulos and were attacked by a crowd of black-clad anarchists who beat the couple with sticks, kicked them and doused them with pepper spray.

“I thought that my husband was dead,” Redelsheimer said this month, recalling the sight of her husband lying unconscious on the ground.

The lawsuit charges that the UC administrators and police violated the couple’s civil rights by failing to protect them, “permitting hordes of rioters to swarm the University campus in a violent rage.”

UC administrator Karen French told lawmakers during a hearing last week that free-speech rights are a priority for the universities, but that restrictions on public events are sometimes warranted when student safety is at risk.

The Kiley-Quirk measure has been endorsed by the 13 Democrats and Republicans who make up the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. The measure was drafted with input from Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, and Howard Gillman, chancellor of UC Irvine.

The instruction on the importance of the First Amendment can happen in classrooms, at student orientations or in other venues, according to the bill. Supporters say its aim is to strike a balance that avoids punishing schools or students.

“Through educational programming, universities can help foster an appreciation for the history and value of free speech, and why it is essential to democratic government and academic freedom,” Chemerinsky said.

Another legislative committee recommended a measure by state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) that would require the California Community Colleges and California State University systems to adopt “free expression” policies that end the practice of limiting speeches and literature distribution to small, remote “free speech zones” on campuses.

Instead, the bill would require larger outdoor areas on campuses to be designated for public discourse, including allowing students to “spontaneously and contemporaneously distribute literature and assemble.”

The rejected Melendez bill would have gone much further by allowing the state to withhold funding from campuses that fail to comply with a statewide policy on free speech.

The legislation would have also prohibited university administrators from disinviting speakers who students have invited to events, and created disciplinary actions for students who interfere with the free-speech rights of others.

Opponents were concerned that the bill’s proposal to allow funds to be withheld from campuses deemed out of compliance could result in the disruption of thousands of students’ college educations.

Jose Medina (D-Riverside), chairman of the Committee on Higher Education, said the proposal was “too prescriptive, and I believe if enacted it would result in unintended consequences.”

That drew rebukes from Melendez and Tahmas, who charged that Democrats “failed in their duty to protect the constitutional rights of California’s students.”

Tension rose again this week when a Senate panel rejected a Republican bill that would have made it a crime to wear a mask or disguise to public demonstrations.

Nielsen told colleagues that he introduced the bill out of alarm that law enforcement did not act more aggressively in stopping violence at UC Berkeley.

A representative of the ACLU of California said that there is no need for Nielsen’s bill because the law already makes it illegal to wear a mask during the commission of a crime, adding that allowing police to arrest masked persons not committing a crime could lead to disparate treatment based on the message of the demonstrator.

Still awaiting a vote are measures including a bill by state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) modeled after a Los Angeles ordinance that makes it a crime to carry sticks, rocks, baseball bats, glass bottles, guns, knives and pepper spray at public demonstrations.

“I just think you don’t need a two-by-four or a lead pipe to hold up a sign,” Moorlach said. “We’re trying to say you should not be intimidating people and you should not be causing physical harm to people, nor should you be destroying property that belongs to the state of California.”

Redelsheimer is skeptical of the flurry of legislative activity in Sacramento.

“State-funded institutions are already required to abide by the First Amendment,” she said. “Attacking people with sticks and pepper spray is similarly already illegal. As usual, what we need is the will to abide by and enforce existing law rather than create new legislation.”

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Solutions — April 9, 2018

I had the privilege of having dinner with Lloyd Pendleton three years ago, shortly after becoming State Senator, and not long after completing my stint as the Chairman of the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness. Lloyd was in town again last week and gave what was characterized as a "barn burner" speech. Several of my District staff were present.

The Voice of OC captured his remarks in the piece below and, although I have a delegated link to the piece, I believe it is critical for you to read it. The timing of the conference, organized by Professor Fred Smoller of Chapman University, is propitious. It came at a critical moment in time for the Orange County community.

The piece is lengthy, but it is an excellent primer on the topic of homelessness and its solutions, and reflects my perspectives on this critical topic.

Also, last week I became a co-author of Senator de Leon’s bill that will put the "No Place Like Home" funding strategy on the November ballot, as the current structure is stalled in a Sacramento Superior Court Room. This initiative will be a big help in achieving immediate housing (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Funding OC’s Homelessness — March 18, 2018).

Leader of Successful Utah Homelessness Effort Outlines Steps OC Could Take

By Nick Gerda

https://voiceofoc.org/2018/04/leader-of-successful-utah-homelessness-effort-outlines-steps-oc-could-take/

The man who led one of the most successful U.S. efforts to address homelessness has outlined a series of specific steps he said Orange County and other communities could take.

Among his recommendations: have a “champion” bring together community and government leaders to break through barriers and urgently move toward solutions; have a “highly collaborative” approach with a clear vision and measurable outcomes; and be compassionate for each homeless “brother and sister.”

“You have a number [of chronically homeless people where] you can do it. Really,” Lloyd Pendleton, the former director of Utah’s homelessness efforts, said during an April 5 conference at Chapman University.

Orange County had about 900 chronically homeless people as of the latest count, compared to about 17,500 in Los Angeles County. Overall, Orange County counted a total of 2,584 unsheltered homeless people in January 2017. But the numbers have grown substantially in certain areas, including Santa Ana, which counted more than double as many unsheltered homeless people on March 31 – or 1,030 people – as the 466 people the county found in the city during its January 2017 count.

Pendleton, a former executive with Ford Motor Co. and the Mormon Church, oversaw a major reduction in long-term homelessness in Utah from 2004 to 2015. His Chapman speech was to more than 100 Orange County community members, including leaders in business, government, and advocacy, who attended the all-day conference on housing and homelessness.

Pendleton said federal Judge David O. Carter has emerged as Orange County’s main “champion” on homelessness. And he called on local mayors and other elected officials to follow Carter’s lead by getting to know homeless people and learning what it would take for them to get off the streets.

Carter is “walking along there, meeting homeless individuals, seeing them eyeball to eyeball. Go out with him! Meet your homeless citizens! They’re human beings. Get over this idea [of] ‘not in my backyard.’ They’re your citizens!” Pendleton said, to loud applause from the audience.

Pendleton’s speech came as Orange County grapples with a growing homeless population and a severe shortage of shelter and affordable housing for them.

Nationally and locally, Utah has been cited by officials, service providers, advocates, and national media outlets as a success in helping long-term, or “chronic,” homeless people with disabilities get off the streets.

The percentage reduction in chronic homelessness Utah experienced is debated. But state officials say they’ve housed at least 900 people who were chronically homeless in recent years, which is equivalent to roughly half of the total chronically homeless population counted statewide before the housing program.

Pendleton said that success came largely through providing affordable housing with wraparound support for health and employment, and relationship-building with community members.

Utah is one of the most conservative states in the country, according to the polling company Gallup, and has roughly the same number of residents as Orange County: 3.1 million.

Before Pendleton spoke, UC Irvine professor David Snow explained the findings of a large-scale study the university released last year on homelessness in Orange County, which involved hundreds of homeless people.

Snow said 32 percent of homeless people reported suffering sexual or physical abuse as children, and 42 percent had a parent or adult household member with a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Eighteen percent were formerly in foster care, which is much higher than the overall population, he said.

“To say that homelessness is just [these] are all druggies” is “wrongheaded” and “certainly not consistent with a drilled-down investigation of the causes of homelessness,” Snow said.

Snow also said there’s evidence “homelessness grows in the gap between the cost and availability of housing and the availability of income, wages to access that housing.”

The growing gap between housing costs and income, as shown in a graphic Snow presented at the conference.

The UCI study found the overall cost to society is significantly less when chronically homeless people move from the streets into housing with support services – dropping from $98,000 a year to $51,000, mostly from fewer emergency room visits.

“We’d save a lot of money by putting people…homeless people in housing,” Snow said. Arrests decline to zero, and people become less depressed, which makes them more employable, he added.

Several mayors attended the conference earlier in the day for the housing panels, including Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait, Garden Grove Mayor Steve Jones and Tustin Mayor Al Murray, but they didn’t stay for the 2 p.m. panel on homelessness.

Four elected officials were present for the homelessness panel: Anaheim Councilman Jose Moreno, Costa Mesa Councilman John Stephens, Newport Beach Councilman Will O’Neill, and Villa Park Mayor Robert Collacott. Also present was Scott Carpenter, the district director for state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa).

None of the five county supervisors, who control hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state money for homelessness and mental health, attended the homelessness session or the overall housing conference.

The county government’s point person on homelessness, Susan Price, also did not attend. She didn’t respond to a text message asking why.

Housing With Support Services

One major concern from local elected officials is pushback from residents who fear crime will come with homeless shelters and housing. Stephens, the Costa Mesa councilman, asked how elected officials should respond.

Snow, the UCI professor, pointed to his study of hundreds of homeless people in Orange County. It found arrests declined to zero when people moved from the streets into housing with support services.

“When you house people, the [rate] of their criminality will decline,” Snow said.

The community, Pendleton emphasized, should explain the “why” of their efforts to reduce homelessness. “I see our homeless citizens as truly my brother and sister. Truly my brother and sister, spiritually…This is a calling to me. Not a job.”

He said a “high percentage” of homeless people “have had very traumatic PTSD, traumatic brain injury” as children. “Therefore their brain doesn’t develop, and they can’t function in school…they drop out, get with a crowd that’s kind of maybe less productive.”

“There’s a plethora of reasons, [a] tremendous amount of abuse. So there’s a very valid reason they are where they are. And we’d probably be where they are if we were raised in those circumstances. So we’ve got to get out of this condemning-and-judging bit first, may I suggest,” Pendleton said.

“They are our homeless citizens. They’re not ‘those people.’ They’re our homeless citizens. And there’s a good chance that in 10 years, four or five of you in this room will be homeless.”

“We know why people are homeless. We know the solution,” Pendleton added. “Housing. It ain’t complicated. The solution is housing.”

There are various types of interventions for different types of homeless people, he said: “Permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless,” “rapid re-housing for the families,” and treatment programs. “There’s all kinds of interventions that we know that work,” he said, including faith-based options that work for many people.

As a conservative, Pendleton said he was skeptical of the “housing first” approach when he learned about it at a 2003 conference in New York. But he said he saw it work when Utah implemented a 17-person pilot program.

“We took the most challenging [homeless people] we could find, and we put them into scattered-site housing while we built our first 100 units” of permanent supportive housing, Pendleton said.

“Twenty-two months later all 17 were still housed. We [found] the most challenging ones we could find – [the] most mentally ill and most drug-addicted, and alcohol and [substance] abuse – and we put them into scattered site housing. All 17 were still housed 22 months later. We became believers.”

The approach was similar to one in Orange County by the Illumination Foundation, whose Chronic Care Plus program housed 38 of the most-expensive homeless utilizers of hospitals, with health and other support services.

The program more than paid for itself through reduced hospital visits and nearly everyone remained in the housing, according to the foundation’s president and CEO, Paul Leon. The foundation later received an expanded grant from local hospitals to expand it to 108 people, in a program known as Street2Home.

Key to Utah’s success, Pendleton said, is support services, including case managers who help homeless people address health and addiction issues and help them find job training and employment. Also important, he said, is the involvement of volunteers from local faith groups – including churches, synagogues, and mosques – who spend time getting to know the formerly homeless people and build friendships with them.

The housing isn’t provided for free in Utah, according to Pendleton. The formerly homeless people who live there are charged a rent they’re able to afford, he said, and they can be evicted if they don’t pay – which he said provides accountability.

Pendleton said there were three main reasons Utah was successful: “We had champions, we’re highly collaborative, and we have a high compassion for our homeless citizens.”

Leadership

In his travels around the country, Pendleton said, “I’m quite stunned at how few champions there are around this issue at a high enough level to make it happen. There are wonderful champions at the lower level, [who] work your hearts out for a small amount of money, and you care. But not a lot gets done that needs to be done.”

“Mayors, are you listening?” Pendleton asked. “You’re a key part.”

Regarding leadership, Pendleton said political leaders come and go from their positions, and that it’s important to have a consistent vision, message and leadership.

That’s why it’s crucial, he said, to have a “champion” – someone who takes the lead in getting the various government and community leaders to act, and lasts through the various turnovers of politicians.

He listed what he considers the characteristics of such a champion: “They have energy, they begin and finish projects, stamina, staying power, enthusiasm, sense of humor…They have a bias to act, focused on solutions…Sense of urgency. Opportunity-driven.”

Other characteristics he cited: “Results-oriented. Outcome, not process, matters most. Networking, capacity-building are the means, not the end….[A] clear and compelling vision. Chart and use milestones. Personal responsibility. Did I screw up [at times]? Sure…We could have done that more effectively. You don’t blame people.”

“And there are no mistakes in my [opinion], because when you make a mistake you learn the most,” Pendleton said. “That’s what life is about, is learning about who you are and what you can do and what’s effective.”

It was key to “create a common vision,” Pendleton said. “We had one vision for the whole state,” including political leaders, homeless service providers, and business leaders.

That single vision for Utah is: “Everyone has access to safe, decent, affordable housing with the needed resources and supports for self-sufficiency and well being.” Utah still has a long way to go, according to news reports, but has made major strides in reducing chronic homelessness, according to official counts.

Pendleton said it’s important to build a vision that establishes housing as a “major step” in the process, but that it’s not the end. Helping people remain housed is key, he said.

“A sense of urgency,” was also important, Pendleton said. Utah put together a committee withintwo weeks, and within about three months had the pilot project up and running to get the first 17 people housed.

Also important to the Utah efforts was creating a committee of “champions” from a diverse cross section of the community to collaborate on solutions, Pendleton said. It’s important such a committee have people with a “diversity” of viewpoints, including those of homeless advocates, he said.

The stakeholders who should be at the table, he said, include philanthropic funders, business leaders, homeless service providers, government leaders, citizens, advocates, police, and faith-based groups. Bringing them together is important for breaking through the “silos” that often prevent action, he said.

Pendleton said California has a problem because of its “weak mayor system,” in which mayors have essentially the same power as other council members and the position typically rotates each year. The same is true for county boards of supervisors and their chairpersons.

“Therefore nobody’s in charge. In my view,” Pendleton said. One of the advantages he said he had in Utah was the lieutenant governor appointed him as the point person on homelessness, which led city and county officials to take him more seriously.

Orange County now has its “champion,” Pendleton said. “You are so lucky…Your Batman showed up: a judge!” he said, referring to Carter.

“Now, I don’t agree that it should be done…through the courts. But at least somebody’s stepping up…and making something happen. Political leaders: please, please, rally behind him.”

“It’s doable,” Pendleton said of reducing homelessness. “But without a champion, I see it won’t be accomplished to the level it can be accomplished. Find that champion – and you have one that’s being made,” he said. “I’m excited for you, really. That’s exciting.”

“It can be done,” he added. “Have one vision you all work on – all 34 cities and the county…[and] rally around it.”

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — UNP Bottom Dwellers — April 7, 2018

The Unrestricted Net Position (UNP) projects my office has been publishing are obtaining attention (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 State Per Capita UNPs — April 2, 2018).

The ten-volume UNP series on California’s 482 cities makes it to the first piece below. The Beach Reporter provides two interesting looks at the financial well-being of cities in its readership jurisdiction. The first is to point out where the cities are ranked in my listing (not in the best percentiles). The second is to provide how one of these cities is addressing its fiscal concerns.

The cities mentioned in this piece are #319 Manhattan Beach (see MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings – Vol. 4 — February 12, 2018); #429 Redondo Beach and #435 Long Beach (see MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings – Vol. 2 — February 8, 2018); and #462 Torrance, #471 Inglewood, #473 Santa Fe Springs, and #481 El Segundo (see MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings – Vol. 1 – February 7, 2018).

It should be noted that the metric is based on a municipality’s Unrestricted Net Position divided by its population. The UNP will include unfunded defined benefit pension liabilities, among many other liabilities.

Our recent state rankings are mentioned in the second piece below by California Policy Center (see the link provided in the first paragraph above). We have since received three of the state CAFRs that we have been waiting for, with two to go; but we do not expect New Jersey to lose its bottom position.

97 retired city workers in Redondo Beach make more than $100,000 per year

By Nick Green

http://tbrnews.com/news/redondo_beach/retired-city-workers-in-redondo-beach-make-more-than-per/article_5b04967e-39b3-11e8-a85b-df0c6fd95a52.html

Three South Bay cities—Torrance, Redondo Beach and Inglewood—now rank in the top in 10 Los Angeles County for retired city workers who make more than $100,000 annually, according to new data released Thursday by government watchdog Transparent California.

The cities were ranked second, eighth and ninth, respectively, on a list of communities with at least 25 retirees pulling in more than $100K annually. Long Beach was ranked first in the county with 390 former workers pulling in six figures in retirement.

Last year, the nonprofit government watchdog ranked Long Beach top in the entire state and Torrance second. This is the first year Transparent California has compiled a top 10 list of Los Angeles County cities.

“The issue is as pension costs continue to go up — and they will — you’re asking (private sector) South Bay residents, who on average make much less and will get much less in retirement, to pay for them,” said Robert Fellner, Transparent California’s executive director. “To me, that’s the issue; is that fair and is that sustainable?”

But even more telling, Fellner said, is the fact that retirees who collect more than $100,000 a year have an outsized impact on the total outlay each jurisdiction pays for retirement benefits.

For example, the 237 Torrance retirees and 97 Redondo Beach retirees who receive more than $100,000 annually account for 44 percent of the entire amount the two cities pay in retirement benefits. That’s about equal to what Manhattan Beach pays, too.

And that trio of South Bay cities trail only El Segundo (46 percent), which is second in the state only to Santa Fe Spings.

To put those figures in perspective, the average percentage for all agencies that participate in the California Public Employee Retirement System is just 14.5 percent going toward retirement benefits for retirees receiving more than $100K.

It’s the first time Transparent California has broken out public retirement benefits in that fashion.

It’s significant, Fellner said, because municipal officials often downplay the number of retirees raking in more than $100K. But the data shows that a relatively small number of former employees with large retirement benefits can cost jurisdictions a lot of money.

But why the large number of South Bay cities with big benefits?

First, Fellner notes, those cities pay their police officers and firefighters well because public safety is valued in those communities. Second, cities have a habit of surveying salaries of neighboring cities, ostensibly to remain competitive in attracting quality employees. But that strategy constantly raises the average salaries higher and higher, which can lead to a massive unfunded liability.

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, recently ranked cities in the state by how their unfunded liability is affecting municipal finances.

Torrance, it turns out, is one of the 25 cities in the state in the poorest financial shape. (In the South Bay, only the balance sheets of El Segundo—second worst in California—and Inglewood were worse off.)

Yet when one mayoral candidate said last week at the city’s first political forum of the campaign season that the biggest challenge facing Torrance was its unfunded liability, Mayor Pat Furey downplayed the issue. He said the city was taking care of the issue, recently making a one-time payment of $3 million to reduce the unfunded liability and adding another $5 million to an investment fund to help bring down the debt.

“The council has addressed those (issues) with all eyes open and very transparently,” he said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is no possibility of going bankrupt. … We can work through this and our employees can keep their pensions.

California should copy New Jersey’s union fund takeover, but with one caveat

By Steven Greenhut

https://californiapolicycenter.org/california-copy-new-jerseys-union-fund-takeover-one-caveat/

http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/greenhut-california-should-copy-new-jerseys-union-fund-takeover-but-with-one-caveat/

New Jersey’s police and fire unions have demanded that the state give them control over their own pension destiny, and have convinced the Legislature to transfer management of their pension fund to a union-controlled board of trustees. Some Garden State residents have denounced the plan as the equivalent of giving unions a “blank check,” given that taxpayers have to pay for all of the trustees’ decisions. But the bill, which is now on the governor’s desk, offers a brilliant solution for New Jersey and even California – provided it’s amended in one simple way.

Yes, unions should be free to control their own destiny. Their members are dependent on these defined-benefit pensions, so union officials ought to decide how the money is invested. Union leaders should select the expected rates of return. They should manage the assets, decide on cost-of-living adjustments and control every cent within the fund. They and their members deserve to reap the benefits, of course, but here’s the caveat: taxpayers no longer should have to foot the bill for their miscalculations. They simply need to remove the liability from taxpayers.

New Jersey’s pension fund is so mired in debt and so underfunded that it almost makes California’s system – long viewed as the national poster child for pension dysfunction – seem like a model of fiscal probity. Instead of coming up with a plan to address the root causes of the crisis, New Jersey’s politicians overwhelmingly approved the above-mentioned plan (without my caveat, of course). In all seriousness, it could plunge the state’s pension system into a death spiral. You should never give a special interest unchecked control over the public purse.

Most experts view a 50-percent funding level as the point of no return for pension funds. California Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, compiled per-capita unfunded liability figures for all 50 states and found that California residents are each on the hook for $4,287 in pension debts (using a fairly conservative estimate). That’s bad – 42nd in the nation. But New Jersey’s per-capita pension debt is even worse at $15,208. It gets the 50th spot.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which is the nation’s largest state-based pension system, is funded at 68 percent, which means it only has slightly above two-thirds of the money it needs to fulfill all of its pension promises. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) is funded at 64 percent. These are dangerously low numbers, especially coming after a year of fabulous investment returns. But, as they say in Jersey, forgettaboutit. The New Jersey situation is on a different plane altogether. New Jersey’s system is funded at 31 percent.

Instead of dealing with the real source of the pension liabilities (excessive pay and benefit packages for public employees, unrealistically high assumed rates of return, decisions made by politicians rather than actuaries), lawmakers in Trenton chose to shift control of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) from the state and its investment council to the police and firefighter unions whose members benefit from the fund. Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed a similar measure, but it’s unclear whether Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s will sign it.

Police and fire union officials understandably are frustrated at the pension fund’s poor performance and note that police and fire pensions are funded at a higher percentage (65 percent) than pensions for other New Jersey public employees. Extricating the police and fire portion would create an obvious fiscal problem by removing a better-funded portion of the pooled resources, and could therefore lower the funding levels even further (is that even possible?) for the remainder of the fund.

“The massive shortfalls in public pension funds are the single biggest financial challenge for American states and cities,” reported Bloomberg News last month. “So allowing government workers to determine their own benefits – as New Jersey may soon do – seems a clear recipe for disaster.” As news reports suggest, the new board of trustees would have a majority of union members and would have the power to adjust contribution rate and increase cost-of-living benefits for retirees.

“We want to control our own destiny,” said one New Jersey union official, quoted in that Bloomberg column. But the legislation doesn’t really do that. Perhaps unions should be free to control their own destiny, but that means that they and their members – not the taxpayers – have to pay the price if they make bad decisions or the economy doesn’t perform as expected. That’s the only real way to have control over one’s destiny.

Sadly, the New Jersey bill echoes the current system there and here, but puts it on steroids. For instance, the CalPERS Board of Directors is dominated by retirees, union members and Democratic state officials who are elected with the support of public-employee unions. However, at some level state officials have to deal with fiscal reality. They are accountable to voters. If the unions gain direct control over pension funds, then there’s nothing to stop their spending sprees.

“What’s wrong with letting the unions manage their own pension funds?” asked Asbury Park Press columnist Randy Bergmann in a rhetorical way. “First most of the money … comes from taxpayers.” And “the unions can reap all the rewards while the taxpayers absorb all the risk.” His critique is exactly right. That’s where my idea comes in. Let unions benefit from their good decisions, but make them pay the price for their bad ones. If they blow it, then union retirees should be the ones to suffer.

This idea shouldn’t even be that controversial. After all, CalPERS officials argue that the pension fund is in solid shape because investment returns, taken over long-enough periods, always cover the payments. That sounds like a tacit admission that they don’t really need the taxpayer backing anyway. Yes, unions in New Jersey, California and everywhere deserve to control their own destiny. Agreed. And we, the taxpayers, deserve to control ours, too.

Steven Greenhut is contributing editor for the California Policy Center. He is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — False Claims Victory — April 6, 2018

The OC Register piece below proves that sometimes justice does prevail.

I was the Chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2012 when I dealt with sexual harassment concerns of a very significant nature. A by-product was a nuisance suit filed by a former County senior executive.

Then-CEO Tom Mauk elected to handle the Bustamante matter in a unique way, by quietly asking the perpetrator to leave with the incentive of a severance package and the hope of keeping everything quite, which backfired. Consequently, Mauk and two of his key managers, an Assistant CEO and a Department Head, were shown the door.

I had informed Tom Mauk for more than a year he had a problem Assistant CEO in Alisa Drakodaidis. An investigatory report I requested would prove my concerns. Her management style was atrocious and would end up costing the County significantly. Then, when the Bustamante scandal finally broke, she claimed that she was all over it. But, as a manager she failed to inform the County’s EEO Officer. And, claiming that she informed me was untrue. With these inaccurate claims and missteps, she sued the County.

It is a relief a jury concurred with my recollection of events, which were chronicled in my UPDATEs. For a little history on the plaintiff and the turmoil that I enjoyed five years ago, here are a few links to my UPDATEs that covered the matter in a factual way over that time period. I’ve provided the three most important UPDATEs first, with related ones following:

MOORLACH UPDATE — Covered California — October 2, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Rings — April 24, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Newport Beach-CdM Patch — July 24, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — Laws, Contracts and Costs — July 17, 2014

MOORLACH UPDATE — Walter D. Ehlers Day — May 7, 2014

MOORLACH UPDATE — Hiking High — May 2, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Hall of Administration — October 8, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — Passion and Punches — September 21, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — LA Times — July 28, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — OC CEO — July 27, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — Harbor Patrol — December 12, 2009

If you have the time to read all of these historical links, you’ll conclude that the court ruling was the appropriate one. You’ll also enjoy going down memory lane on various topics impacting the County of Orange at that time.

It’s nice to have closure on this sad chapter in OC history. I now have the ability to share what I’ve learned with my colleagues in Sacramento, as I now serve on the Joint Committee on Rules – Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response. The Capitol, like the Hall of Administration, is not immune from human failure. Fortunately, policy changes made at the County have seen no repeat incidents. Let’s see if we can repeat this accomplishment under the Dome.

BONUS: Allow me to provide an update on five of my bills (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018). This week, SB 1159 and SB 1363 were approved in Committee. SB 1344, SB 1368, and SCA 16 were killed by the Senate Education Committee on a party line vote. I have no bills to present to committees next week, but will have two to present the following week (more on that later).

Former boss of ex-Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante loses wrongful termination suit

By kpuente

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/04/05/former-boss-of-ex-santa-ana-city-councilman-carlos-bustamante-loses-wrongful-termination-suit/

A former Orange County Deputy CEO, who was one of three top executives forced out after a bungled sexual harassment investigation, lost her wrongful termination lawsuit against the county on Thursday.

In her lawsuit, Alisa Drakodaidis, the former boss of ex-Santa Ana city councilman and county administrator Carlos Bustamante, who was convicted of sexual harassment-related charges, claimed that she was terminated due to gender discrimination or whistle-blowing.

However, a jury on Thursday unanimously rejected the gender discrimination claim, and voted 10-1 in favor of the county on the wrongful termination and whistle-blower retaliation claim.

The jurors told lawyers in the case that they felt Drakodaidis was treated unfairly, but that county supervisors did not break the law when they fired her.

Drakodaidis filed a $10 million damage claim against the county in 2013 alleging she was fired for reporting on several legal and ethical irregularities in the county.

Among the claims, Drakodaidis said she forwarded a sexual harassment complaint against Bustamante, who was then Public Works executive manager, to then board Chairman John Moorlach in 2008 – three years before the allegations against Bustamante became public.

Moorlach later denied that he received a complaint about Bustamante from Drakodaidis in 2008 and said the county Human Resources Department did not either.

Bustamante, once a rising Republican star, was arrested in 2012 after seven female subordinates at his county job accused him of making unwanted sexual advances. He pleaded guilty in 2015 to multiple sex-related charges and was sentenced to one year in jail and lifetime sex offender registration.

– City News Service contributed to this report

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MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 State Per Capita UNPs — April 2, 2018

My efforts to provide a metric for all of California’s 482 cities is getting statewide recognition and now national attention (see Senator John Moorlach Ranks California’s 482 Cities for Financial Soundness). Truth in Accounting provides a very kind compliment in the first piece below. We are apparently kindred spirits.

I recently provided the rankings for all of California’s 58 counties in (MOORLACH UPDATE — San Francisco County #56/57 — March 20, 2018 ). I am proud that Orange County moved from #46 to #28. It indicates, to me anyway, that the hard work I put in overseeing Orange County’s budget during the Great Recession and pursuing pension and retiree medical reforms really benefited our county’s residents.

This week, the State Controller released California’s June 30, 2017, Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Consequently, we now have the rankings of the 50 states for you. California is not the last to release its CAFR. Five other states still need to issue theirs. But, I’m releasing the results anyway, using their 2016 CAFRs for those five delinquents. Should there be any major movements after the last five 2017 CAFRs are released, I’ll let you know. It’s the second piece below.

A few observations. The first is a confession. Last year we made an error and used the CAFR for New York City, which encompasses five counties, not New York State. As a result, New York moved up 10 places in my rankings for Unrestricted Net Position (UNP). The second is that two states are going in the wrong direction, Rhode Island and Maryland, dropping two places each, respectively to #43 and #44. The third is that this movement allowed California to move up one position, to #42.

When I was elected to the California Senate in 2015, the June 30, 2014 CAFR for California was #46. The next year, in 2016, California moved to #44. It advanced to #43 in 2017. All to say, since I’ve arrived, California has moved up every year, as it is #42 in 2018. You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve just pulled a classic political stunt by taking credit for California’s advancement, I must state that enacting the recent Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) requirement to put pension liabilities on the balance sheet has revealed the seriousness of this crisis. When the retiree medical liabilities are added to next year’s CAFRs, California will have an Unrestricted Net Deficit of a quarter-trillion dollars! Stay tuned for next year’s state UNP analysis.

Other observations should tell the Department of Finance in Sacramento to take a hard look at Tennessee and see what they’re doing, as it moved up four places, to #5, as one of only 10 states with a positive UNP. Oregon also moved up four places, to #16. I would give it to the fact that it has a Chief Operating Officer overseeing its various departments (see http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1297-state-chief-operating-officer. California’s two biggest competitors, Florida and Texas, continue to hold strong positions, respectively at #15 and #23.

The big story is Colorado, at #33. It dropped 12 places! Maybe legalizing cannabis is not the financial Rocky Mountain High that everyone hoped it would be? But, the real states to watch are New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Kentucky. The Urestricted Net Deficits for these five states are in the stratosphere.

There is a big spread between #41, Delaware, and #42, California. So, I don’t expect another move up in positions for our state in some time. Let’s hope that Governor Brown can hold onto #42 when the June 30, 2018, CAFR, the last full year of his term, is released next March or April. But, with $91.5 billion in retiree medical liabilities currently off of the books (a decision made by State Controller Betty Yee), it’s hard for this licensed, but inactive, CPA and CFP to be optimistic (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Better Shape — February 1, 2018).

With these unpleasant metrics, wouldn’t you think that states like California and New Jersey would shed programs, instead of adding them? Do they need to add another department, thus creating the need to hire more employees? And being encumbered with the need to provide generous salaries and defined benefit pension plans? How ironic, when a defined benefit retirement plan exceeds that of CalSavers by a long shot.

Then there are the initial costs of starting up an investment scheme that will eventually be funded from the expense ratio of the funds under management? Also, with no wherewithal for the state to provide self-insurance, is California risking having the liability exposure that may come when plan participants cry foul because actual net investment returns do not match that of industry benchmarks?

This is what I’m sayin’ in the third piece below from the Los Angeles Daily News, the OC Register, and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (MOORLACH UPDATE — CalSaver Imposition — March 26, 2018).

This state lawmaker gets government finance

Sheila Weinberg
https://www.truthinaccounting.org/news/detail/this-state-lawmaker-gets-government-finance

Kudos to California state Sen. John Moorlach for his understanding of government finances and how to determine the true fiscal condition of a government. As a certified public accountant and financial planner, he used his experience and expertise to rank California’s 482 cities according to their financial soundness.

I am very impressed to see the senator use “unrestricted net position” as his measurement. He found 216 California cities had a positive unrestricted net position, or the amount of funds available to pay for future government operations. The senator found 264 cities had a negative net position, which represents the amount of bills (liabilities) that elected officials have pushed onto future taxpayers.

Moorlach’s study correctly notes that retiree health care liabilities are not included in the unrestricted net position, so the number is overstated. Fortunately, government financial reports for fiscal years after June 15, 2018, will be required to report these liabilities.

I urge every taxpayer and elected official across the country to read Moorlach’s report, especially the second page, where he provides readers with a step-by-step guide on how to find a government’s unrestricted net position.

Since 2009, Truth in Accounting has used unrestricted net position as the basis* for calculating our “money needed to pay bills” measure in each state, which is then used to calculate a state or local government’s Taxpayer BurdenTM. The ranking of each state’s Taxpayer Burden can be found in our Financial State of the States report. In January, we issued our latest Financial State of the Cities report using the same methodology to calculate the money needed to pay bills and Taxpayer Burden for the 75 most populated U.S. cities.

To see where your state and city ranks, along with detailed financial information, go to Truth in Accounting’s sister website statedatalab.org

If you don’t see your local government, then I urge you to follow these steps so you can find your government’s unrestricted net position:

  • Google your government’s name and “comprehensive annual financial report”
  • Find the “statement of net position” (usually somewhere around pg. 35 on the PDF document)
  • Look for the “net position” section
  • Find the row for “unrestricted”

Remember, a negative number is not good.

*When necessary, we have adjusted for each government’s unreported pension and retiree health care liabilities.

Rank State Population UNP Per Capita Year 2016
1 Alaska 739,795 $ 14,558,125,000 $ 19,679 1
2 North Dakota 755,393 $ 5,989,501,438 $ 7,929 3
3 Wyoming 579,315 $ 4,518,975,575 $ 7,801 2
4 Idaho 1,716,943 $ 1,146,468,000 $ 668 4
5 Tennessee 6,715,984 $ 2,736,079,000 $ 407 9
6 Oklahoma 3,930,864 $ 1,484,206,000 $ 378 8
7 South Dakota 869,666 $ 267,296,000 $ 307 7
8 Nebraska 1,920,076 $ 550,525,000 $ 287 5
9 Utah 3,101,833 $ 819,880,000 $ 264 6
10 North Carolina 10,273,419 $ 1,822,821,000 $ 177 10
11 New Mexico 2,088,070 $ (326,978,000) $ (157) 2016 11
12 Iowa 3,145,711 $ (999,603,000) $ (318) 12
13 Washington 7,405,743 $ (3,376,575,000) $ (456) 13
14 Georgia 10,429,379 $ (5,210,957,000) $ (500) 16
15 Florida 20,984,400 $ (12,401,193,000) $ (591) 17
16 Oregon 4,142,776 $ (2,482,259,000) $ (599) 20
17 Nevada 2,998,039 $ (1,888,144,000) $ (630) 2016 18
18 Virginia 8,470,020 $ (5,344,284,000) $ (631) 19
19 South Carolina 5,024,369 $ (3,497,642,000) $ (696) 14
20 Arkansas 3,004,279 $ (2,160,882,000) $ (719) 15
21 Arizona 7,016,270 $ (5,341,848,000) $ (761) 24
22 Indiana 6,666,818 $ (5,177,896,000) $ (777) 2016 25
23 Texas 28,304,596 $ (25,170,339,000) $ (889) 22
24 Minnesota 5,576,606 $ (5,029,153,000) $ (902) 28
25 Ohio 11,658,609 $ (10,571,925,000) $ (907) 26
26 Montana 1,050,493 $ (971,795,000) $ (925) 23
27 Missouri 6,113,532 $ (5,787,207,000) $ (947) 27
28 Michigan 9,962,311 $ (9,848,197,000) $ (989) 30
29 Kansas 2,913,123 $ (3,205,914,000) $ (1,101) 29
30 New Hampshire 1,342,795 $ (1,683,141,000) $ (1,253) 31
31 Maine 1,335,907 $ (1,885,023,000) $ (1,411) 32
32 Wisconsin 5,795,483 $ (8,361,432,000) $ (1,443) 34
33 Colorado 5,607,154 $ (8,359,538,000) $ (1,491) 21
34 Alabama 4,874,747 $ (7,578,278,000) $ (1,555) 2016 35
35 Pennsylvania 12,805,537 $ (21,275,848,000) $ (1,661) 33
36 Mississippi 2,984,100 $ (6,058,425,000) $ (2,030) 36
37 New York 19,849,399 $ (45,599,000,000) $ (2,297) 47
38 West Virginia 1,815,857 $ (4,455,964,000) $ (2,454) 37
39 Louisiana 4,684,333 $ (11,949,852,000) $ (2,551) 38
40 Vermont 623,657 $ (2,263,168,022) $ (3,629) 40
41 Delaware 961,939 $ (3,622,572,000) $ (3,766) 39
42 California 39,536,653 $(169,499,683,000) $ (4,287) 43
43 Rhode Island 1,059,639 $ (4,581,514,000) $ (4,324) 41
44 Maryland 6,052,177 $ (27,010,946,000) $ (4,463) 42
45 Hawaii 1,427,538 $ (7,996,567,000) $ (5,602) 44
46 Kentucky 4,454,189 $ (40,157,358,000) $ (9,016) 45
47 Massachusetts 6,859,819 $ (63,992,915,000) $ (9,329) 46
48 Illinois 12,802,023 $(161,239,415,000) $ (12,595) 48
49 Connecticut 3,588,184 $ (52,826,131,000) $ (14,722) 49
50 New Jersey 9,005,644 $(136,955,085,569) $ (15,208) 2016 50

OPINION

John Chiang joins race to

California insolvency with

CalSavers

By JOHN MOORLACH |

https://www.dailynews.com/2018/03/31/john-chiang-joins-race-to-california-insolvency-with-calsavers/

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/31/john-chiang-joins-race-to-california-insolvency-with-calsavers/

https://www.sgvtribune.com/2018/03/31/john-chiang-joins-race-to-california-insolvency-with-calsavers/

Before California and other states start new programs, wouldn’t it be wise if they first got their own financial houses in order? A case in point is the new California program originally called Secure Choice, even though it was neither secure nor a choice, but now is called CalSavers. It’s a state program to get low- and middle-income Californians to invest in a state-run defined contribution pension plan.

Similar programs have been enacted in the states of Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Oregon and Washington. And the list may be growing. According to a recent Associated Press report on the plans, “New York is among a growing number of states considering legislation to create government-sponsored payroll-deduction retirement programs for small businesses.”

The reason behind the programs, the article adds, is because “financial planners say” the plans “could be a relatively painless way to help Americans reverse a dismal record of saving for their golden years.”

State Treasurer John Chiang, in his March 17 op-ed, “CalSavers gives Californians a chance at a more secure retirement,” defended the program as part of his bid to become governor. This claim is not exactly true. It only provides a component of one’s total retirement planning efforts. But, why should the state insert itself?

As the only certified public accountant in the state Legislature and a financial planner, I can tell you that withholding programs can be provided for employees without state government involvement.

For fun, let’s look at the finances of all the state governments involved so far. Each one has a significant per capita unrestricted net deficit: New Jersey ($15,208), Illinois ($12,525), Maryland ($4,463), California ($4,263), New York ($2,297), Oregon ($599), Washington ($456).

It’s a classic case of, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Would you want a DMV-type department managing a portion of your nest egg? And let’s hope your funds are not used to prop up these fiscally challenged states.

Chiang attacked an earlier op-ed by Jon Coupal, the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, because “Coupal erroneously asserts that the program poses a financial burden to taxpayers. The fact is CalSavers is a voluntary savings plan for private-sector California workers that incurs no cost or liability to taxpayers or participating employers — none!”

This is also not exactly true. The initial subsidization of this program will be paid for out of the investment earnings of the participants. Translated: expect lower net yields.

Chiang also mentions CalSavers “is being hailed as the most significant expansion of retirement security since the passage of Social Security in 1935.” But the 2017 Annual Report of the Social Security Board of Trustees calculated the fund suffers a whopping $12.5 trillion unfunded liability — that’s with a “t.” Explain how this was a bragging point.

Participants can also expect social investing strategies once CalSavers gets up and going. Expect severe restrictions on profitable investments, as was already seen with CalPERS, which lost $3 billion since its divested from tobacco stocks in 2000. Then it divested from coal companies, which are booming. Now Chiang is trying to get CalPERS to divest from gun companies.

California workers already enjoy many options to invest on their own. If Chiang wants to help our citizens plan better for retirement, why did he oppose President Trump’s middle-class tax cuts, which leave people more to invest for their futures? And will he sign the initiative petition to repeal last year’s gas-tax increase, which annually robs $5.5 billion from Californians, money they could have put into retirement plans?

Life is not simple or easy. You need to impose self-discipline and save for your own retirement. And you need to manage your personal finances in a smart manner, based on your particular needs and constraints.

An expensive, government-run savings plan does not fit in this strategy. Sacramento, save us the shallow platitudes and stay out of our pockets, please.

John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents the 37th District in the California Senate.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018

Allow me to wish you a solemn Good Friday.

The first piece below in CalMatters was hinted at in yesterday’s UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Press Release — March 29, 2018) .

CalMatters has done a lengthy analysis on the condition of the state’s forests. The status is not good. Government does not manage forests well. In fact, when I sat on the County’s retirement board, it owned hundreds of acres of timberland. None of it was next to or near a federal or state forest. And that was intentional.

I was happy to comment for the piece by calling out the utter hypocrisy of our Governor’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. I participated in a recent Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Hearing on the condition of the state’s forests. I called out the Governor’s blind spot there, so I did it again (see
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hARsdtnpEFY).

I tried to address this with SB 1463 (2016), which is the only bill that I have ever had vetoed by a Governor over the more than two decades that I’ve been in this industry (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Secretive and Expensive Union Deals — November 3, 2017 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns — October 27, 2017.

It’s painful to try and address a matter, have it pooh-poohed, and then watch as 44 people are killed by a fire started by electric lines in Sonoma and Napa counties. I have been here before; trying to prevent major tragedies is what I do.

This year, I’m bringing SB 1463 back (see http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1463-cap-and-trees). But, with a twist. Use Cap and Trade Tax revenues to harden utility lines, like those that run directly adjacent to Laguna Canyon Road (133). I mentioned this in the Budget and Fiscal Review Hearing for a reason.

Now that I’m on the subject of my 2018 legislation, next week I present the following bills:

April 2 — SB 1159 – CPA Designation
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1159-cpa-designation)
Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee

April 4 — SB 1368 – Statewide Open Enrollment
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1368-statewide-open-enrollment
Senate Education Committee

April 4 — SB 1344 and SCA 16 – Education Savings Account Act of 2020
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1344-senate-constitutional-amendment-16-education-savings-account-act-2020
Senate Education Committee
NOTE: Please watch the two short videos on this subject at the link.

April 4 — SB 1363 – National Alliance on Mental Illness California Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1363-national-alliance-mental-illness-california-voluntary-tax-contribution-fund
Senate Governance and Finance Committee

It has been a very busy Easter Break here in the District. As you can imagine, I had a rather packed calendar and plenty of preparation to do for next week. The homeless discussion that Judge Carter has forced on many communities and their elected leaders has really shaken up the OC. And the family fighting has not been pretty or pleasant. Consequently, there are two follow up articles on this subject. They are in the Daily Pilot and the Voice of OC in the second and third paraphrased pieces below; since you’ve read enough this week (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Communication — March 28, 2018 march 28, 2018 john moorlach).

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California fights wildfires aggressively—but prevention takes a back seat

By Julie Cart

https://calmatters.org/articles/california-fights-wildfires-aggressively-but-prevention-takes-a-back-seat/

Dave Kinateder has a keen eye for trees. But when Kinateder, a fire ecologist in the Plumas National Forest, surveys a hillside lush with pines, he doesn’t see abundance or the glory of nature’s bounty.

He sees a disaster-in-waiting.

“It’s a ticking time bomb,” he said, gazing across the dense, green carpet of trees near Quincy, a small community high in the northern Sierra Nevada.

Last year’s wildfires, the worst in modern California history, have put a microscope on the forests that cover a third of the state–in particular, on managing these wooded lands in ways that would reduce the frequency and intensity of such blazes.

California is grappling with the counterintuitive dilemma of too many trees, packed too closely together, robbed of the space they need to thrive—and with how to clear out more than 100 million dead trees, felled by drought or insects, that provide tinder for the next infernos.

Curing these unhealthy forests is both difficult and expensive, and as with human health, prevention is far less costly than treatment. But these days the state firefighting agency, Cal Fire, spends the bulk of its resources battling fires rather than practicing preventive measures.

At stake is nothing less than life, property, air quality and the lands that hold most of California’s water. A state commission recently prescribed radical changes to address what it terms the “neglect” of California’s largest forests.

A 19th-century California forest would have held fewer than 50 trees an acre. Today the state’s forests have grown to an unnatural 300 to 500 trees an acre, or more. That doesn’t count the 2 million drought-stressed trees a month lost to bark beetles that have killed entire stands.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who in 2014 declared tree mortality a state of emergency, said in his January State of the State address that California needs to manage its forests more intelligently. He vowed to convene a task force “to review thoroughly the way our forests are managed and suggest ways to reduce the threat of devastating fires.”

California has dozens of agencies attacking problem but still cannot keep up with the work. Crews around the state have been busy clearing trees as fast as funding allows. This wielding of chainsaws they call “whacking and stacking” leaves massive wood piles along highways in some areas. But it amounts to no more than triage: Cal Fire removes trees on fewer than 40,000 acres a year, far short of its goal of clearing a half-million acres annually.

Kinateder estimates that removing trees in this way costs as much as $1,400 an acre. By comparison, controlled burns—those set by fire managers to remove vegetation from forests—is a bargain at less than $150 an acre. Fighting a wildfire comes in at just over $800 an acre, according to the report.

Far from the forest floor, California officials are wrestling with the financial and environmental cost of the state’s forest practices. At a hearing in March in Sacramento, legislators listened to lurid descriptions of raging fire and wrenching stories of human misery recounted by a stream of state and local officials: flames rearing up like an enormous beast, residents running for their lives, neighborhoods leveled, fire burning so hot and for so long that soils were rendered sterile.

California’s troubled forests

33 Million
Number of forested acres in California

129 million
Number of dead trees in California

500,000 Acres
Number of acres Cal Fire* aspires to clear each year

40,000 Acres
Number of acres Cal Fire clears each year

$800
Average cost per acre to fight a fire

$150
Average cost per acre to clear a forest by controlled burn

* California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Source: Little Hoover Commission report on forest management in California, February 2018

A portion of the proceedings focused on a recent report about wildfires and forest health from the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency that gave its findings to the governor and Legislature in February. The document pulled no punches, calling the state of the Sierra Nevada’s forests “an unprecedented environmental catastrophe.”

It cited a century of “mismanaging” the 10 million wooded acres in the Sierra, calling out state and federal firefighting agencies for their longstanding policy of aggressively putting out all fires rather than letting those that can safely burn do so, thereby thinning the choked woodlands.

Helge Eng, deputy director of Cal Fire, acknowledged the report was “spot on” in its assessment of the state of the Sierra, adding that the analysis “did an especially good job of recognizing that there are no easy, black-and-white answers to the problems we are facing.”

Cal Fire boasts that it stops 95 percent of fires at 10 acres or less, saving lives, property and entire forests from conflagration. Fire experts argue that a negative could be turned into a positive if fire bosses let them burn while still steering them away from people and structures and toward overgrown wildlands in need of clearing.

That’s an approach sometimes used by the National Park Service, but it’s difficult to defend when forests are ablaze, frightening the public and many elected officials alike.

Still, the report said, “it is not enough for agency leaders, scientists and advocates to recognize the benefits of fire as a tool; the bureaucracy of the state government and public sentiment as a whole must undergo a culture shift to embrace fire as a tool for forest health.”

Eng said Cal Fire is considering adopting the managed-burn approach, when appropriate, but noted that federal firefighters are often working in wild settings, away from development.

“Cal Fire’s mission is different; we protect life and property” in areas that may be densely populated, Eng said in a written response to questions. “There is most often not an opportunity to let a fire burn. The risk to human life is just too great.”

The report also detailed a public safety threat from 129 million dead trees, the crushing cost—up to $1,000 a tree—to private property owners to have trees removed from their land and the enormous burden on rural governments to both recover from fire and prepare their forests to mitigate the intensity of the next one. In no uncertain terms, the commission prescribed dramatically ramping up tree-thinning projects and, as awful as the optics are, creating and controlling some fires to achieve the same result.

Eng agreed that the state firefighting agency was far from achieving its “aspirational” goal of clearing a half-million acres of land each year, citing such impediments as “the logistics of capacity of staff and equipment and environmental compliance,” among other factors.

In a moment notable for its rarity in Sacramento, there was bipartisan agreement in the hearing room this month about the problem, its scope and the appropriate measures to deal with it. Focus more intensely on the problem, they agreed, and throw money at it. The state spent $900 million fighting fires last year. Just one of those late-season blazes caused more than $9 billion in reported property damage.

“We’ve made mistakes, and we’ve created systems that are unwieldy….

It’s all of our fault,” Jim Branham, executive officer of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a state agency, told CALmatters. “Money alone won’t solve it, but we won’t solve it without money, either.”

The mosaic of land ownership in California means the state owns only 2 percent of the forests but has legal responsibility over much more: 31 million acres, including land in rural counties.

Cal Fire received more than $200 million for forest health projects last year and has proposed an additional $160 million for the next fiscal year. Those sums are on top of the agency’s current $2.7 billion budget. Cal Fire, in turn, doles out millions of those dollars in grants to local governments and community groups to do some thinning themselves, and it teams with the federal Forest Service to tackle clearing projects.

The work to improve forest health dovetails with other state priorities—protecting water sources and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Sierra Nevada range is the headwaters for 60 percent of California’s developed water supply. Burned, denuded hillsides don’t store water efficiently when it rains. Sediment cascades downhill, filling streams, affecting water quality and loading up reservoirs, reducing their storage capacity

The carbon equation is equally direct: When trees burn or decay, they release greenhouse gases. The 2013 Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park produced emissions equal to those of 2.3 million cars in a year.

Prescribed burns emit less carbon than higher-intensity fires, because managed fire is aimed at smaller trees and shrubs. Cleared forest land may still ignite, but it will burn with less intensity and fewer emissions.

Moreover, when trees die, they stop absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. The state depends on that critical service to help reduce greenhouse gases. Research suggests that severely burned areas regrow with shrubs or grasses, plants that store about 10 percent less carbon than trees do.

John Moorlach, a Republican state senator from Costa Mesa, suggests the Democratic governor, a champion of the fight against climate change, has a “gigantic blind spot” when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. Moorlach said in an interview that Brown’s emphasis on electric cars, for example, ignores the role of fire in California’s greenhouse gas inventory.

“We’re being absolute phonies about climate change if we are not dealing with the real driver of greenhouse gas; that’s these wildfires,” said Moorlach. He has proposed that the state dedicate 25 percent of the revenue from its cap and trade greenhouse-gas-reduction system to help counties’ fire mitigation efforts.

Counties would welcome the help. Randy Hanvelt, a supervisor in Tuolumne County, said that where forest management is concerned, there’s a “leadership problem.”

“Talk is cheap,” he said. “We have got ourselves a giant colossal mess. This is a war of sorts. Time is against us. Every available tool has to be applied.”

One such tool is carefully designed burns. But the meticulous planning necessary can take two to three years, and the burns require favorable weather, a permit from the local air district and, crucially, buy-in from local communities that must first be educated about the benefits. And controlled doesn’t mean risk-free.

“Politically, you have to have the ability to make mistakes and move on,” he said.

Nick Bunch, who plans thinning projects for the Plumas National Forest, pointed to a partly cleared hillside outside of Quincy where one of his extensively planned prescribed burns went awry, undone by a shift in the wind.

“We were about an hour into the burn and the smoke started going into town,” Bunch said, shaking his head at the memory. Even though the burn was going as planned, the smoke was not acceptable to nearby residents, who protested to fire officials. “Phones started ringing. Calls were made, and we shut it down.”

Another method is used in Florida, which trains and certifies private property owners to burn their overgrown land and provides limited liability coverage in some cases. Florida cleared 2.1 million acres this way last year. Scott Stephens, who heads a wildland fire research lab at the University of California, Berkeley, said the widespread adoption of the policy has educated residents on both its benefits and risks.

Back in Plumas County, a hulking building in a parking lot outside a community health complex may offer the final piece of the forest-health puzzle: creating a market for trees removed from California’s forests.

Part of a project managed by the Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, the unremarkable square structure shows a potential use for California trees. The building is the state’s first to be fully constructed from cross-laminated timber—layers of wood pressed together to make thick sheets and posts—equal to or greater than the strength of steel.

In addition, the $2.3 million facility will house a large boiler to provide heat for the health center by consuming 500 tons of local wood chips a year.

The project is the brainchild of the institute, which envisions it as a way to boost the economies of forest communities. It’s the kind of innovation the governor and Legislature hoped to promote by establishing a Wood Products Working Group to develop commercial uses for the piles of trees beside the state’s roads.

There’s little left in California today of the early 20th century’s timber cutters, sawmills and biomass industry. If the state follows the Little Hoover Commission’s recommendations and accelerates forest thinning, an entire segment of state industry would need to be rejuvenated.

Meanwhile, officials emphasize the need to educate Californians about the role of forests in the ecosystem.

“If you want people to care about something, they have to understand why it matters,” said Pedro Nava, chairman of the Little Hoover Commission. “They need to understand the deep connection between the health of our state and the state of our forests.”

Branham, of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, said that won’t be easy.

“Some of our messages are counterintuitive: We must cut down healthy living trees to save the forest,” he noted. “It’s a challenge.”

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Costa Mesa council opposes using Fairview Developmental Center as emergency homeless shelter

By LUKE MONEY

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-cm-fairview-meeting-20180329-story.html

In an interview Thursday, Moorlach said he thought “the City Council overreacted to a press release” and that the idea wasn’t “to put all of the homeless at Fairview.”

“I think there’s a stretch here,” he said. “There’s a hysteria and it’s sad to watch because leadership dictates that you have conversations and you start working on solutions and that’s all that occurred.”

There is no imminent or concrete plan, he added, and any legislative action regarding Fairview would likely take months to move forward.

In the background of all this is U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is presiding over a federal lawsuit that homeless advocates filed in response to the county’s move to clear encampments along the Santa Ana River. Moorlach said the judge has mentioned Fairview during those proceedings.

“I would think the residents of Costa Mesa would rather have the homeless in a facility that’s closed up at night … a place that’s safe and has security, than to have them in their backyard or at their businesses or on their porches,” Moorlach said.

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Costa Mesa Opposes Homeless Shelter at Fairview Mental Facility

By SPENCER CUSTODIO

https://voiceofoc.org/2018/03/costa-mesa-opposes-homeless-shelter-at-fairview-mental-facility/

Moorlach, in a Thursday podcast, criticized Spitzer’s actions over the past few weeks.

“We’re dying in Orange County and Sacramento for good leaders. We don’t need reactors. We need cooler heads. We need people that can control the situation and take the bigger picture and start providing solutions,” Moorlach said.

“It was real interesting to watch, say, Supervisor Spitzer, who is not leading. But he’s certainly reacting, he’s polarizing and he’s creating wedges between communities and leaders. It’s not a pretty picture.”

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Press Release — March 29, 2018

So a County Supervisor calls a State Senator and makes an inquiry. The Senator meets with a couple of colleagues for suggestions before the Spring Break. The Supervisor issues a press release to announce the exchange on his inquiry.

There is no plan. There is no intent. There is only an inquiry about a state facility that is in the process of closing.

This was the justification for a special city council meeting? A press release? I get NIMBYism. I get fear of the unknown. I get change.

But, holding a meeting about nothing?

I’ve provided a podcast on this topic, expressing my hopes that Judge David Carter finds the wisdom to come up with a solution to the stir he has created at
https://soundcloud.com/senator-john-moorlach/costa-mesa-let-cooler-heads-prevail/s-VsAIx.

For television reports on last evening’s meeting, go to http://www.foxla.com/news/local-news/costa-mesa-city-council-discuss-heated-issue-of-housing-the-homeless and http://abc7.com/news/3276564/.

Since I have been having fun this week with CBS 2/KCAL 9, I’ve provided their report in the first piece below. It can be seen at http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/03/28/costa-mesa-orange-county-homeless-fairview-council/.

Again, I did not float a "plan." If anyone has something in mind, it’s Judge David Carter, who mentioned Fairview during his hearing of March 17. Don’t lose your focus. I responded to a fair and honest inquiry.

The OC Register and the Daily Pilot provide perspectives following the meeting in the next two pieces. And if that is not enough on this subject, My News LA also provides a pre-meeting thorough analysis in the fourth piece below.

BONUS: There are other topics to discuss. Tomorrow’s UPDATE will cover the one that is being tweeted today by CalMatters at the conclusion below.

OC Homeless: Costa Mesa

Gets Their Turn To Say, ‘Not

In My Backyard’

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/03/28/costa-mesa-orange-county-homeless-fairview-council/

COSTA MESA (CBSLA) — A fired up crowd in Costa Mesa let city leaders have it Wednesday, the latest town to sound off on plans that could involve their community taking in dozens of homeless people recently displaced from an Orange County riverbed.

Costa Mesa is the latest city in a growing list of municipalities caught up in an ongoing saga of where to put hundreds of transients who had been living along a stretch of river going from Santa Ana to Anaheim.

Earlier this week, Orange County supervisors rescinded a plan that would have housed some homeless in tents in the cities of Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel after complaints from residents.

Another plan that was floated by State Sen. John Moorlach involved turning the soon-to-be shuttered Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa into housing for about 100 homeless people. That did not sit well with residents there.

Wednesday’s meeting came about after O.C. Supervisor Shawn Nelson seemed to go along with Moorlach’s proposed plan. At the meeting, a spokesman for Nelson backpedaled the earlier statement, saying the supervisor was not suggesting Fairview as an option, but that the city council should decide.

At least one woman at the meeting voiced her approval for the plan, but the majority of folks present balked at the idea.

“I am disappointed in what you have done to our city, and my silence stops now,” one woman told the Costa Mesa City Council. “I have trusted you. You have let me down continuously. Vote no on this, get the sober living homes out of my city and turn it back to what it was,” the woman continued to thunderous applause at the emergency meeting inside the Costa Mesa Senior Center.

Some residents tie the seemingly untenable homeless crisis in the area to the explosion of sober living facilities.

“We have to call it what it is. It’s not a homeless problem, it’s an addict problem, and until we treat it as such, it’s not gonna go away,” one man told the council.

“I can tell you in my neighborhood it is commonplace for us to witness all kinds of measures, including the sober living folks among the homeless, exposing themselves to, literally, women and children, used syringes and literally shooting up,” another man echoed.

The city council voted unanimously against the Fairview proposal.

Costa Mesa is opposing proposal for homeless shelter at Fairview Developmental Center

By TOMOYA SHIMURA

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/28/costa-mesa-is-opposing-proposal-for-homeless-shelter-at-fairview-developmental-center/

COSTA MESA — About 300 people showed at a special City Council meeting Wednesday, March 28, to discuss a proposal to turn the state-run Fairview Developmental Center into an emergency homeless shelter.

The meeting continued into the evening with more than 50 people speaking on the plan proposed by Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson and state Sen. John Moorlach. The council decided after about three hours to oppose the plan.

“It’s our residents, it’s our businesses that are going to be affected,” Mayor Sandra Genis said.

Most of the speakers opposed the plan, saying they already suffer from homeless problems and an abundance of sober living homes in Costa Mesa and they don’t want to turn their community into a Skid Row.

Some, however, said the city should do more to help the unfortunate, and housing homeless people is a good use of Fairview, which is set to close in 2021.

Nelson’s proposal is in response to U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s demand for the county to find appropriate shelter for what could be a few hundred homeless people. Carter is overseeing a civil rights lawsuit filed by homeless people against the county.

The county board proposed creating tent cities in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach to house 400 homeless people, but supervisors quickly rescinded the idea Tuesday after public backlash.

“Partnering with state Sen. Moorlach provides an additional boost and momentum to establish another temporary transitional homeless shelter for the county’s homeless population,” Nelson said in a press release announcing the plan.

City officials criticized Nelson for not reaching out to them before issuing the news release on Friday, March 23. Nelson, whose district doesn’t include Costa Mesa, wasn’t present at Wednesday’s meeting.

Supervisor Michele Steele, whose district includes Costa Mesa, didn’t make the meeting either, but her representatives said she opposes Nelson’s plan.

City Manager Tom Hatch said Costa Mesa already does more than its share to help the homeless. The city has hired several employees to work with the homeless and spends more than $1 million a year to support them, Hatch said.

Costa Mesa council opposes using Fairview Developmental Center as emergency homeless shelter

By LUKE MONEY

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-cm-fairview-meeting-20180329-story.html

Less than a week after a proposal from an Orange County supervisor and a state senator sent shock waves through the community, Costa Mesa City Council members voiced unanimous disapproval of using the local Fairview Developmental Center as an emergency homeless shelter.

In front of a fuming crowd of more than 300 on Wednesday evening at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, council members said they think the city is already doing more than its fair share to provide services and resources to the homeless and that other cities — as well as the county — need to step up to the plate.

"It’s time for our supervisors, our county, our federal and state officials to demand that the rest of the county cities start participating in taking care of the homeless that live in their communities and not taking them to Santa Ana or to Costa Mesa or to Tustin," Councilwoman Katrina Foley said. "It is important that we all participate and, if we all participate and we do our fair share, it’s a lot less of a burden and impact on every community."

Of the dozens of residents who spoke at the special council meeting, most opposed the idea, saying they were concerned that developing a shelter at Fairview would jeopardize public safety, reduce property values and unduly burden the city.

Not everyone was against the concept, however. Some said the 114-acre property at 2501 Harbor Blvd. could be an important cog in a regional strategy to tackle homelessness.

On Friday, Supervisor Shawn Nelson issued a news release announcing that he and state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) were looking into the potential for using the state-owned Fairview site as an emergency homeless shelter.

The release also raised the possibility of "centralizing temporary housing and basic services for the homeless" at the developmental center, which opened in 1959. It currently provides services and housing to 133 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to the California Department of Developmental Services.

But in its resolution of opposition, the City Council called that a "regrettably rushed" idea proposed "without any public input or concern for local impacts."

"This is land in the middle of the city; it’s governed by our general plan," Mayor Sandy Genis said. "It’s our police that are going to be responding … it’s our paramedics that are going to be responding. It’s our residents, it’s our businesses that are going to be affected, and we can’t have the county just throwing that out there."

Neither Nelson nor anyone from his office appeared to be at Wednesday’s meeting — a fact that didn’t go unnoticed among those in attendance.

“I hope that all of you will collectively address this spineless supervisor that essentially threw this grenade into a crowded room and couldn’t even bothered to show up to defend what he’s proposing,” resident Sue Lester said.

However, county Executive Officer Frank Kim told the council that he spoke with Nelson’s office Wednesday and was told "they do not support the use of the site without the cooperation of the council and input from the community."

Nelson’s office could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday morning.

Kim also conveyed a message to the council from Supervisor Michelle Steel — whose district includes Costa Mesa — that "her office absolutely does not support the use of Fairview for [a] homeless shelter" and "the long-term use of that site should be discussed and worked out in collaboration with the city."

Supervisor Todd Spitzer said during Wednesday’s meeting that he was “dismayed that somebody would put this into the public arena in such an irresponsible fashion” and is “terribly, terribly sorry that any respectable elected official would put something this derelict and dangerous into the community … without any input whatsoever.”

"To combine that in light of what happened last week in Orange County was beyond the pale to me," he said, referring to the Board of Supervisors’ vote to develop temporary homeless shelters on county land in Huntington Beach, Irvine and Laguna Niguel. Supervisors scuttled that plan Tuesday in the face of opposition from residents and threats of litigation from the cities.

Like similar facilities around California, Fairview is scheduled to close as part of an effort to transition people out of institutional-style centers and into smaller accommodations that are more integrated into communities.

The goal is to move the center’s remaining residents to other living options by 2019, according to the state.

luke.money

Costa Mesa Objects to Proposal for Homeless Shelter

https://mynewsla.com/orange-county/2018/03/28/costa-mesa-objects-to-proposal-for-homeless-shelter/

A proposal to use a state-operated center for the developmentally disabled in Costa Mesa to house the area’s homeless was blasted Wednesday by city leaders.

“The Board of Supervisors are trying to shirk their own responsibility by putting the burden on the cities that are already doing more than their fair share on homelessness in Orange County,” said Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley. “It was irresponsible of Supervisor (Shawn) Nelson to just throw out this idea of putting a tent city at Fairview Developmental Center. He clearly doesn’t understand the clientele that currently lives there.”

Nelson shot back, “That is an ignorant statement,” saying he never proposed erecting large tents to house transients at the site.

The scrum erupted a day after Orange County supervisors withdrew plans to consider “sprung structures,” which are large tent-like facilities that posh hotels often use to handle overflow from ballrooms at weddings and other special events, to house the homeless.

County officials earlier this month asked staff to look into the feasibility of using tents in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel for emergency shelter for transients moved off the Santa Ana riverbed and at the Plaza of the Flags next to the Central Justice Center courthouse in Santa Ana. If the sites were viable, then county officials were going to negotiate terms with the cities.

Leaders in the three cities, however, immediately erupted with outrage and vowed to sue, prompting the county to back down.

Nelson said Costa Mesa officials’ worries about the Fairview site were premature, though he conceded that he asked Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, to ask state officials if it was possible to house transients there. State officials have plans to close the facility by 2020.

“We don’t have a plan, tent, balloon, nothing,” he said. “They have dorms there and we thought, hey, is there any scenario, is there any way we can use it.”

The idea originated at a March 17 court hearing presided over by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing a lawsuit that led to a settlement in which transients were recently moved out of encampments along the riverbed into motels. Those motel stays were expected to be completed Wednesday with all of the transients wishing further services housed elsewhere.

Carter has since turned his attention to clearing out the encampments in Santa Ana’s civic center area next to the courthouse.

Nelson complained that any suggestion of operating emergency shelters anywhere in the county is met immediately with opposition from “NIMBYs.”

“Everyone thinks we should do something about the homeless, but no one wants the beds,” Nelson said. “Meanwhile, Santa Ana and Anaheim have been shouldering this for years. It’s unfortunate, but you get this visceral reaction which makes it really difficult to have a conversation because the entire conversation is spent defusing false narratives.”

The Fairview center has dormitory housing and not all of the beds are being used, Nelson said.

Foley accused county officials of hoarding grant money that could have been spent on the homeless for years.

“Maybe they need to use the millions of dollars at their disposal” to address the issue, she said.

Last year, Foley said city officials asked for funding from the county for homeless housing “and they came up with a whole bunch of excuses how we can’t get the funding.”

Carter, Foley noted, showed county officials recently that the county has $70.5 million available to provide housing for mentally ill transients. Supervisor Todd Spitzer recently criticized county staff for assuring the board the money wasn’t available for homeless housing.

“In three years, we’ve placed 53 residents into permanent supportive housing,” Foley said. “We’re now serving more than 150 (transients) so we’re doing our fair share and then some.”

Councilman Jim Righeimer agreed.

“The citizens of Costa Mesa are doing more than their fair share to handle the homeless issue for the county, and for the county to think now they can dump the homeless problem on us is not right,” Righeimer said.

Righeimer and Foley criticized Nelson for issuing a news release on the Fairview proposal before contacting Costa Mesa officials.

“They didn’t come to us,” Righeimer said. “I found out about it in a PR release on a Friday night. (Supervisor) Michelle Steel didn’t even know about it, and it’s in her district.”

Nelson said the county is not hoarding its funding for the homeless. He said the county has devoted $193 million to projects supporting the homeless.

“There was no chipmunking,” Nelson said.

It’s true that county officials did not immediately make use of the funding as it came in.

“Too conservative? Maybe, fair enough,” Nelson said. “But we’re certainly spending that built-up reserve and spending more than we’re taking in now.”

In related news, Spitzer and Irvine Mayor Don Wagner announced Wednesday afternoon that they are pursuing “fast-track opportunities for veterans and women’s permanent housing at the county-owned West Alton parcel” at Irvine Boulevard and Alton Parkway.

County officials have plans to develop the property for residences for seniors and multiple-family housing. Wagner and Spitzer want to tweak the plan to include permanent housing for veterans and abused women.

Wagner and Spitzer intend to tell Carter about the plan at the next court hearing Tuesday, where he will discuss his plans to move transients out of the Santa Ana civic center.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Communication — March 28, 2018

Easter Week was supposed to be Spring Break for the Legislature. But, Federal Judge David Carter has certainly ruffled everyone’s feathers here in Orange County. Especially in cities that have been selected to be a potential solution to the problem he is trying to solve. And the residents of these cities are not amused. Just look at today’s front pages of the two major dailies.

First, the CBS reporter that fell short in yesterday’s UPDATE paid me a visit yesterday evening. And I shared my disappointment in her not contacting me a day earlier. We had a long chat and the results are in the first CBS 2/KCAL 9 piece below. Unfortunately, she still states that there is a plan, when there is not. I’m just making inquiries, at the request of a County Supervisor, so there is no real need for alarm or a special city council meeting.

The CBS/KCAL piece was referred to in a Fox News report that can be seen at
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/03/28/facing-backlash-california-county-rescinds-homeless-shelter-plan.html.

Not to be too repetitive, let me summarize my recent previous UPDATEs.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Plan? — March 27, 2018

Discusses that with Judge Carter holding a Federal opinion over everyone’s head, that elected leaders are looking at various alternatives, but there is no formal plan on my part for the Fairview Developmental Center.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Pace — March 24, 2018

I’ve been working behind the scenes to assist in providing programs to assist those with mental illness. This has taken time and will take more months, maybe years, in a forward moving process. But, Judge Carter has demanded an increase in the pace.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Funding OC’s Homelessness — March 18, 2018

The hearing that Judge Carter held on March 17th forces cities in Orange County to address homelessness. But, these cities do not have surplus funds to absorb massive new costs. Mental Health Services Act funding is available, but it is restricted as to how it can be used.

Now we get back to the city of Costa Mesa. I have been in contact with four of the five city council members on a rather regular basis over the past two years concerning Fairview (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Senate Bill 59 — February 7, 2017). SB 59 was an effort to require the Department of Governmental Services to follow Costa Mesa’s General Plan, should it decide to dispose of the property, thus protecting Costa Mesa’s residents.

Councilmember John Stephens joined me on my trip to San Antonio, Texas, to tour the Haven for Hope campus (see MOORLACH UPDATE — City CAFR Rankings – Vol. 2 — February 8, 2018).

Councilmembers Sandra Genis, Katrina Foley and John Stephens were in attendance at Judge Carter’s hearing on March 17th. It was at this hearing that Judge Carter suggested Fairview Developmental Center and tried to reach Governor Brown via cell phone.

I did not see Councilman Alan Mansoor there. And, unlike his colleagues, he has not contacted me to discuss any of my recent activities. But, I’ve certainly communicated more than any other elected official in the entire county on these concerns. Consequently, his letter to the editor, which is on the electronic Daily Pilot, and the second piece below, is somewhat awkward. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

I have not been officially invited by the city of Costa Mesa to participate in tonight’s special meeting. If I had been, I would have told them that my calendar would not permit my attending. Sorry. But, spare me, let’s not make charges about a failure to communicate.

The third piece below is the electronic version of the OC Register‘s front page article on yesterday morning’s Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting discussing the subject at hand.

I suspect that this will be far from the final word on this very contentious topic. I have labored my whole adult life to consider the least, the last and the lost, hopefully in a spirit similar to that of Jesus Christ, whose resurrection from the frailties of life we recognize this weekend.

I’ve tried my best to get all parties around the table to have an honest discussion about the disposition of our homeless and mentally ill. We have a responsibility to address them with kindness, hope, and dignity, not as political pawns.

I’m not suggesting that the state, county or cities have all the answers, either; and a great number of thoughtful and well-connected people in the private sector are happy warriors on this fight, willing to also bear a heavy burden privately and charitably. But to not consider our abundance and options to deal even with a small percentage of those already in our parking lots, alleys, creek beds as a danger to themselves and others, is naive and misses the mark.

I won’t advocate for a plan where there isn’t some buy-in from the community. But simply saying “NO” to every alternative presented isn’t a strategy for success and could only make any future judicial recommendations potentially worse.

OC Supervisors Rescind 3-

City Tent Plan For Homeless

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/03/27/oc-controversial-tent-plan-homeless/SANTA ANA

(CBSLA) — Orange County supervisors decided Tuesday to abandon a controversial plan to erect large tents in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel to temporarily house homeless people recently removed from the Santa Ana riverbed.

Dozens of protesters, the biggest contingent of whom was from Irvine, were brought in by the busload and gathered outside the meeting, which began at 9 a.m. At times, it got heated as members of the crowd yelled at supervisors.

Dozens of protesters, the biggest contingent of whom was from Irvine, were brought in by the busload and gathered outside the meeting, which began at 9 a.m. At times, it got heated as members of the crowd yelled at supervisors.

“These tent cities does not provide any healthy conditions to the people living in there, but also, it erodes internally and externally to its communities,” one woman told the board.

On the other side were the homeless advocates, who were also out in full force Tuesday.

“It’s up to all us, every city, to be a part of the solution and not just be riled up when shelters are wanting to be built, you know, based on state-mandated legislation that makes it so that there are lands for homeless shelters to be able to take care of this growing crisis,” homeless advocate Joese Hernandez said.

This comes after supervisors on March 19 held a special meeting to approve consideration of “sprung structures,” which are large tents hotels often use to handle overflow from ballrooms. The supervisors voted to direct staff to research the logistics and then work with officials in each of the three cities, but the plan never got far as residents and city leaders erupted with outrage and threatened litigation.

State Sen. John Moorlach told CBS2 that U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing the lawsuit against some O.C. cities from homeless advocates, is asking the impossible.

“We’ve got a federal judge that says, ‘Hey, release inmates,’ on one end, and I got a federal judge saying, ‘Take care of those homeless,” on this end,”Moorlach said.

In the absence of a viable solution, Moorlach has floated the idea of turning the soon-to-be shuttered, state-run Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa as one possible place to house some of the homeless in question.

“We only want to put maybe a hundred people there, not 200 to 250 to 4,000, all these numbers that are running around,” Moorlach said.

He also had some words for people completely opposed to any housing for the homeless being placed around them.

“You can’t just keep tying the hands of people that are trying help out by just being obstinate about it,” Moorlach said. “We’ve got to find our balance; we’ve gotta say, you know, ‘When does compassion kick in,’ more than ‘Not in my backyard.’ Because, baby, it is in your backyard. It’s on your riding trails. It’s on Fairview Park. We’ve got homeless everywhere.”

The city council is scheduled to meet at the Costa Mesa Senior Center Wednesday at a 4 p.m. closed session meeting. The public is encouraged to attend at 5 p.m.

Last month, hundreds of homeless people were cleared from a two-mile stretch of the Santa Ana riverbed – from Santa Ana to Anaheim — after months of wrangling between homeless advocates and county and city officials.

During the ordeal, the Orange County Catholic Worker group and several homeless people filed a federal lawsuit against the governments of O.C., and the cities of Anaheim, Orange and Costa Mesa, claiming that removing the homeless from the riverbed violated a broad range of constitutional protections. OCCW argued that evicting the transients would disperse them to the surrounding cities, where they will be cited for trespassing, loitering and anti-camping laws.

The lawsuit resulted in a deal between the advocates and municipal officials in which the homeless would be removed from the riverbed and then be given 30-day motel vouchers while the county looks for more permanent solutions. Those vouchers are set to run out, however.

County officials are confident they have enough beds to handle the transients from the riverbed, but to satisfy Judge Carter, they pledged to pursue the large tents in the three cities in case they lacked enough beds. The plan was to put 200 beds in Irvine, with 100 each set aside in Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel. If the beds were filled in Irvine then officials would then turn to Huntington Beach and then to Laguna Niguel.

Hundreds of Irvine residents turned out Sunday to voice their opposition to placing the homeless in a temporary shelter across from the O.C. Great Park, which consists of 100 acres of county-owned land.

Officials in Huntington Beach complained the property in their city is plagued with methane gas issues, and Laguna Niguel officials say the plot of land under consideration in their city is next to the now-shuttered O.C. Superior Courthouse, which has issues with asbestos and mold.

Last week, meanwhile, Moorlach and O.C. Supervisor Shawn Nelson laid out a plan to house the homeless in part of the Fairview Developmental Center. That plan has also been met with a great deal of opposition. Neighbors say there is an elementary school, high school and a Boys and Girls Club nearby.

The urgency to find additional beds came from Carter’s plan to see a similar relocation of transients from the Plaza of the Flags area next to the Central Justice Center courthouse in Santa Ana. But Carter told supervisors at a court hearing last week he would tap the brakes on that plan to make sure officials have enough beds for the 170 or so transients there.

Nelson chaired Tuesday’s meeting as Chairman Andrew Do is out of town.

Nelson has long championed putting up a temporary shelter at the Great Park, because Irvine officials have zoned it for the homeless. The Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel sites are not yet zoned for the homeless.

At the special meeting March 19, the supervisors also voted to spend $70.5 million of money earmarked for the mentally ill to provide beds for the transients through the construction of a new facility or renovation of existing facilities.

The O.C. homeless crisis came to the forefront last September, when the Anaheim City Council declared a state of emergency for the more than 400 people who have been living in a tent city in the shadow of Angel Stadium.

That same month, the Santa Ana City Council also declared the homeless issue around the Santa Ana Civic Center a public health and safety crisis, while the O.C. Board of Supervisors approved a plan to increase law enforcement along the riverbed from Santa Ana to Anaheim.

In November, Orange County permanently closed the west side of the flood control channel between Santa Ana and Fountain Valley. During the process, authorities reportedly found about 1,000 bikes hidden in a tunnel system under a concrete flood control channel. Deputies also began strictly enforcing public access hours along the Santa Ana River Trail. Access is only allowed between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Deputies began slowly clearing the encampments in January, when they began going tent to tent along the Santa Ana River telling people the area will be closed and they need to move. The area was completely cleared out in February.

Costa Mesa council and residents deserve a voice in Fairview Developmental Center’s future

By ALLAN MANSOOR

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/opinion/tn-dpt-me-commentary-20180327-story.html

I am disappointed to learn that state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) and County Supervisor Shawn Nelson are taking a position regarding the use of the Fairview Developmental Center without talking with the Costa Mesa City Council or getting input from residents first on how this would affect our city.

We all agree that we need housing for homeless people, but we need to look at how fair that would be to expect Costa Mesa to bear the burden of the entire county’s problems, which using Fairview Developmental Center would do.

This is especially true in light of the elected leaders and residents in Huntington Beach, Irvine and Laguna Niguel balking and threatening to sue if the county follows through with housing homeless people in their communities. It makes me wonder if the county even discussed their plans with those cities.

Costa Mesa has always been willing to do more than its fair share to help the homeless. But we expect other cities do so as well.

Costa Mesa has a privately run soup kitchen. Other cities, not so much.

Costa Mesa has free and low-cost medical assistance through a privately run organization. Other cities, not so much.

Costa Mesa has a Network for Homeless Solutions and is leading the way on permanent solutions. Other cities, not so much.

As a result of this network, consisting of the city, churches and local nonprofits, we have helped house almost 300 people since 2013 and reconnected more than 100 with family or friends. We help people up and out of homelessness on a regular basis and continue to do so every week.

Are other cities doing this?

In addition to all the work we do to help the homeless, Costa Mesa has additional challenges with an overconcentration of sober living homes, more than any other city in the county.

Many of the people living in sober living homes end up being “curbed” and as a result add to our homeless problem. We are starting to have some success in reigning this in. Will other cities take on some of this burden?

The people of Costa Mesa have consistently asked for more open and recreational space and when, and if, Fairview Developmental Center ever becomes available, we should make sure to include their voices in the discussion of the disposition and future of the center.

In conclusion, as much as I respect Sen. Moorlach, I believe this idea is bad for the residents of Costa Mesa. While Fairview Developmental Center is a state facility, it does reside in our city. Any development or changes that happen there need to be thoroughly vetted and discussed by all who would be affected.

ALLAN MANSOOR is mayor pro tem of Costa Mesa.

O.C. supervisors rescind vote to place homeless shelters in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel

By Jordan Graham

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/27/o-c-supervisors-rescind-vote-to-place-homeless-shelters-in-irvine-huntington-beach-and-laguna-niguel/

Bowing to public backlash, Orange County supervisors on Tuesday rescinded their recent plan that could have created emergency homeless shelters in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel to house up to 400 people.

But they’re likely to replace it within weeks with a second proposal to shelter the homeless in yet-to-be-selected local cities.

The board’s unanimous vote, which undid its March 19 approval of a three-city homeless shelter plan, came at the most crowded supervisorial meeting in recent memory. In attendance were a dozen leaders of those cities and hundreds of jeering residents, including a coordinated legion from Irvine that chartered as many as 20 buses to come voice their united opposition to the project.

Hundreds more anti-shelter protestors rallied outside the meeting, chanting, “No tent city!” In all, police estimated nearly 2,000 people were on the scene.

“The Great Park is not the place to take care of (the homeless),” Irvine resident Robin Deverich told the board to applause, saying her grandchildren played near the area proposed for a shelter. “They will be free to come and go wandering through our playgrounds and parks and nearby schools. … You will be responsible for any harm that befalls our children if you make that choice.”

But Santa Ana city leaders, school board officials and residents criticized many Orange County cities for not doing their part to shelter the homeless. They called for a more equitable distribution of shelters throughout the county, noting that other cities have pushed homeless people into Santa Ana, Anaheim, Orange, and Fullerton – allegations that echoed recent criticisms from a federal judge. Santa Ana is home to the county’s largest year-round shelter.

“We have taken the brunt,” Santa Ana Unified School District president Valerie Amezcua said to cheers. “All children matter. Not just children in certain cities. I appreciate all the city leaders that came forward to talk about schools and daycares… But guess what? Santa Ana has them, too.”

Despite the board’s reversal, it’s likely supervisors soon will vote again for a plan to site a homeless shelter in at least one Orange County city. That’s because Tuesday’s action leaves the county without a plan to implement U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter’s request to find appropriate shelter for what could be a few hundred homeless people.

Carter, who is overseeing a civil rights lawsuit filed by homeless people against the county, has called on supervisors to house people living in and around the Santa Ana Civic Center and others who were moved by county health workers last month into motels from the dismantled Santa Ana River encampment.

Facing pressure from Carter, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett last week said it’s possible the board’s next step would be to consider a plan to open a single 400-bed shelter, comprised of portable structures, to be located on 108 acres south of the Great Park in Irvine. That county-owned parcel already is zoned for a homeless shelter. And a 2003 agreement between Irvine and the county specifically lists an emergency homeless shelter as a legitimate land use.

But Bartlett backpedaled Tuesday, saying she wouldn’t support an Irvine shelter unless city officials backed the plan, according to her office. Instead, she said she wants cities to collaborate at an upcoming April 3 court hearing – which will double as a countywide summit on homelessness – to propose locations for the shelters. All Orange County city leaders are invited attend to that hearing.

Bartlett has said she already spoke to city leaders about possible sites but has declined to name the locations. Meanwhile, Supervisor Shawn Nelson is backing State Senator John Moorlach’s push to house homeless at the Fairview Development Center in Costa Mesa, a soon-to-be-shuttered facility for the developmentally disabled. The Costa Mesa City Council will host a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss that proposal.

“We’ve got to work cooperatively and collaboratively and let the group at large come up with some good solutions to homelessness,” Bartlett said.

The board could vote on the new plan as soon as April 10.

The recent uproar over the homeless camps is the latest fight in a months-long saga over how the county and cities should attend to several hundred homeless people who were living along the Santa Ana River.

It’s also part of a much longer trend in which city residents and leaders in Orange County often recognize the need for homeless shelters but don’t want them located in their respective cities. Carter and other public officials have said that pattern has pushed homeless people disproportionately into Santa Ana and Anaheim.

County staff in February moved nearly 700 homeless people living along the riverbed in Anaheim and Orange into motels on 30-day vouchers, which recently began to expire. On Tuesday, at least 70 of those people remained in motels; and different population of 175 homeless people has been living in the Civic Center, according to county officials.

County leaders have insisted they already have enough shelter capacity to house the former riverbed inhabitants. They repeated that assertion on Tuesday, noting vacancies at Santa Ana and Anaheim facilities. But Carter wrote in court documents that the county lacks adequate shelter space and recently accused staff of irresponsibly “cramming” homeless people into already-full facilities, potentially to their detriment. That harm, Carter wrote, includes mentally-ill people being triggered by crowded shelters and domestic-violence victims being sexually harassed in them.

To address the judge’s concerns, supervisors last week passed the three-city shelter plan, which would have located 200 homeless people in Irvine, then 100 in Huntington Beach and 100 in Laguna Niguel, if needed.

The pushback to their decision was widespread and immediate.

Within a day, the Irvine and Laguna Niguel city councils voted to sue the county, and Irvine filed its lawsuit on Monday. At least 250 protestors rallied outside Irvine City Hall on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. More than 24,000 people have signed two petitions opposing the plan. And at the March 20 city council meetings in Laguna Niguel and Irvine, residents berated the board – their fears stoked partially by Supervisor Todd Spitzer, the lone vote against the plan, who told one crowd they were being asked to shelter sex offenders and “the worst of the worst.”

Supervisors Bartlett and Steel soon buckled to backlash and decided to reverse the vote.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson has accused Spitzer of lying and fear-mongering to back his run for district attorney. OC Probation said only one homeless sex offender was living in motels on county vouchers and another three were in the Civic Center encampment.

In response to Nelson’s allegations, Spitzer defended the substance of his concerns, saying Tuesday that there are 66 homeless parolee sex offenders who he’s worried could enter low-barrier shelters. Spitzer didn’t have evidence those parolees are currently among the people waiting to be housed, though he said he was told that three parolee sex offenders recently were removed from the Civic Center.

Nelson said that no Orange County city “wants to have or host this difficult population.” But he called on city leaders to propose solutions at the upcoming court hearing.

“I’m anxious to hear on April 3 who steps forward and says we want emergency shelter, we want to take some of the load off Santa Ana,” Nelson said.

The county said it is set to finish moving homeless people out of motels by the end of Wednesday. In addition to shelters, the former riverbed inhabitants have been moved to mental-health facilities, recuperative care beds, residential detox centers and sober living homes. The county has declined to release numbers of how many people have been transferred to each option.

Brooke Weitzman, attorney for the homeless plaintiffs, said regardless of what county leaders decide in coming weeks, supervisors should admit they were wrong when they said people in the riverbed encampment didn’t want help.

“The old narrative that people are service resistant – that narrative is dead,” Weitzman said. “Now the only question is what is the county going to do to step up, and how are cities going to support that?”

Staff writer Tomoya Shimura contributed to this story.

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