MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — December 10, 2009

You receive a kind letter inviting you to apply for the California Coastal Commission, you fill in all of the paperwork, and you get a news clipping to find out you were not selected.  Thank you, Senator Darrell Steinberg. 

The news is on the OC Register’s website and may be in the Huntington Beach Wave, which is distributed with the paper once per week in that city.

All the same, I’m including it as it provides a conclusion to this interesting opportunity.

REMINDER

Property tax first installment payment is due today, December 10.

(Also see the lead stories in the 1994 and 1999 LOOK BACKs below.)

O.C. nominees fail to nab Coastal Commission spot

By ANNIE BURRIS

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Two Orange County councilmen and two county supervisors vying for a spot on the California Coastal Commission lost out to Santa Monica Councilman Richard Bloom, who was widely supported by local environmentalist groups.

Huntington Beach Councilman Keith Bohr and Laguna Beach Councilman Kelly Boyd – who both recently rotated out of the mayor’s position on their councils – were nominated for the position by a county commission Nov. 12. The two competed with nominees from Los Angles County and fellow Orange County Supervisors Bill Campbell and John Moorlach.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Darrell Steinberg announced the Coastal Commission appointment Tuesday.

"Mr. Bloom is a committed advocate for our environment," Steinberg said in a statement. "He will contribute greatly to the commission’s efforts to protect and preserve our precious coast."

Bloom will replace Larry Clark, who was mayor of Rancho Palos Verdes and was termed out this year. Bloom’s term is set to expire in May 2013.

Bloom was supported by such groups as the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, Huntington Beach Downtown Resident Association, Residents for Responsible Desalination based in southeast Huntington Beach, Surfrider Foundation, and California Coastkeeper Alliance.

Merle Moshiri, president of Residents for Responsible Desalination, said her group was not happy with the local nominates.

"We haven’t had a very good win ratio connected to the candidates … from Orange County," she said. "We don’t want more of the same if-you-build-it-they-will-come and we just felt that the make-up of the commission really had to change."

Moshiri said Bloom was a "good choice for both sides."

"We were happy with his selection," she said. "We thought he would satisfy the needs of the environmentalists and the building and construction industry."

Bohr said he didn’t know Bloom but wished him well in the new position.

“I knew it was a bit of a … chance,” Bohr said about competing for the position. “I was honored to have been nominated.”

Boyd, a republican, said he wasn’t surprised that he wasn’t chosen by the committee dominated by democrats. Boyd said also that he applied in an effort to edge out fellow Laguna Beach Councilwoman Verna Rollinger from the nomination.

Previous Orange County officials to serve as the South Coast region representative include Shirley Dettloff of Huntington Beach, Linda Moulton-Patterson of Huntington Beach, and Toni Iseman of Laguna Beach.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

December 10

1989

In the Sunday Opinion section of the Daily Pilot my letter to the editor became an entire editorial, titled “General plan is great compromise.”  It allowed me to comment on my observations of the process and my recommendation to accept the compromise version, proposed by the City’s Planning Commission.  The conclusion:

                This whole process shows that citizens in this great city can work together to arrive at the best approaches for all of the residents and not just those with singular viewpoints.

1994

The Saturday OC Register reminded folks that December 10th was the due date for the first installment of your real property taxes in “O.C. taxpayers have plenty to say – Most residents paying property taxes Friday commented on the county’s fiscal woes,”  by Jeffrey Miller.

                Most of the property owners who stopped by the Civic Center to pay their taxes Friday mentioned the recent, staggering losses the county’s investment pool suffered while under Citron’s control.

                “I’d say nine out of 10 have some kind of comment,” said Theresa Van Kampen, a supervisor in the office.  “Some are critical.  Some are joking.  Some are mad.  Some are very concerned.”

                Beatrice Calderon of Santa Ana told a clerk at the Tax Collector’s Office on Friday that she wanted to write “in protest” on her property-tax check.

                “I didn’t write it, but I am going to send a letter,” she said, noting that John Moorlach, Citron’s opponent in the June election, had questioned the safety of the county’s investments.  “Why didn’t they start investigating immediately?  Each individual who was voted in should be responsible.”

The Daily Pilot decided to print my entire letter to Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Riley back on May 31 in their Community Forum section.  They titled it “Predicting The Future – John Moorlach’s letter of warning to Chairman Tom Riley and the other supervisors in May foretold Orange County’s financial fall.”  It filled nearly the entire page.  But, the letter was a blueprint of what was really going on and how it might play out.  Here is a promotional quote:

                “It will be your successor supervisors and the citizens of this county who will have to deal with the ramifications of the activities which occurred during your watch.”

The front-page headline for the Daily Pilot was “Costa Mesa got out of pool just in time – Council members say worries led them to make mass withdrawals just weeks before county’s bankruptcy filing,” by Evan Henerson.  There was also a sidebar, titled “Dire predictions true,” promoting my letter to Riley in the Community Forum section. 

After the election I decided to meet with the City’s Finance Director and with the Superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to share with them what I had learned.  Being patronized by government employees is a tough gig, but I went in anyway and shared the truth.  I was patronized anyway.  I just bumped into Former Mayor Joe Erickson this past Sunday at Dr. Jan Vandersloot’s memorial service and gave him a big hug.  But, I can remember walking out of a community breakfast event with him in the fall of 1994.  It was in the parking lot of the Costa Mesa Country Club and I turned to Joe, whom I dearly respected, and I said something like this in a polite but exasperated tone, “You know what, I’ve talked to everyone until I was blue in the face.  If Citron’s pool implodes and Costa Mesa loses one dollar, then I’m suing you personally for negligence to replace that dollar, because you were warned and you didn’t act on that warning.”  I believe that brief conversation motivated Joe to move the ball up the court.  But, I can still hear the Finance Director saying straight to my face, “But we can get the money out in 24-hours with a simple telephone call.”  Argh!

                Heeding the advice of CPA John Moorlach and at the urging of City Council members Joe Erickson and Sandy Genis, the city of Costa Mesa withdrew the bulk of its funds from the Orange County investment pool within a four-day period just weeks before the county filed for bankruptcy.

Erickson, who has praised Moorlach for being “a voice in the wilderness,” said that it was Moorlach’s concern over the county’s annual financial summary statement that prompted him to push for the withdrawal.  His decision came in spite of the fact that a report from the city’s finance department claimed the city’s investment was not at risk.

“(Finance Director) Susan Temple had a different analysis of the situation, and Mr. Moorlach disagreed with her analysis,” Erickson said.  “We eventually decided to do what Mr. Moorlach had suggested.  He made some very good solid points.”

Moorlach praised both Erickson and Genis for persistently requesting that the city leave the pool.  He had harsher words for Temple, who he called an “obstructionist.” 

“She didn’t grasp the concepts, she felt loyal to Citron and real loyal to that high (interest) yield,” Moorlach said.  “She used flawed logic.”

But it was Moorlach who drew the most commendation for assessing the danger in time for the city to recoup the majority of its investment.

John took some responsibility he didn’t need to take,” Genis said.  “We would have had a lot more money in there.”

1999

“Homeowners Take Note:  It’s Time to Pay Up – Yes, property taxes are due today.  Delaying means handing over 10% more.”  It’s not too often you get such a great headline from sending out a friendly reminder press release.  But, LA Times reporter David Reyes  really got into the subject.

                Amid the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, Orange County property owners have one more thing to remember:  Today is the deadline for paying the first installment on their share of $2.25 billion in property taxes, the county’s largest total ever.

                The tax roll assessments have jumped about 8% this year, from $2.08 billion in 1998-99, said John M. W. Moorlach, the county’s treasurer-tax collector.  With an assessment roll worth more than $200 billion, the county ranks fifth in the nation in terms of population and roll value.

                As of Thursday, an estimated 66% of the county’s 750,000 property owners had paid their initial installment, Moorlach said.

On the toll road front, The Bond Buyer’s Andrea Figler weighed in with “California Treasurer Delays Route 91 Bond Sale Indefinitely.”  The closing paragraph stated:

                [Attorney General Bill] Lockyer is already looking into the legal standing of the bond deal, an office spokeswoman said.  Orange County Treasurer and Tax Collector John Moorlach also expressed interest in joining Riverside officials in their lobbying efforts, a Riverside supervisor’s aide said Thursday.

Bloomberg News reporter Andria Cheng tried to get up to speed, so to speak, on the toll road topic with “California Non-Profit Cancels Plan to Sell $274 Million Bonds.”

                “it was a stealth transaction that they tried to get under the radar screen,” said John Moorlach, Orange County Treasurer and a critic of the sale.

The OC Register had a nice Letter To The Editor, titled “91 swindle is ‘pork barrel arrogance.’”

                Kudos to Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for standing up when the public was going to be swindled, once again, by the owners of the 91 Express Lanes.

                Don Rabbitt

                Yorba Linda

2004

The Bond Buyer had another lengthy front-page reflection on the ten-year anniversary topic, the final in a three-part series, with “Don’t Blame Derivatives – Orange County Had Flawed Policies, Experts Say,” by Susanne Walker.

                “The key problem was not with derivatives, it was leverage,” [Moorlach] said.  “Derivatives were a problem in that [former county Treasurer Robert Citron] had more inverse floaters, than floaters.  They were also very complex.  They were proprietary products designed just for Orange County.”

                “It was like mixing sleeping pills [leverage] and a little alcohol [derivatives] and they just don’t mix,” Moorlach said.  “It made a sad concoction.”

                Since the bankruptcy filing, sayings such as, “You don’t want this to turn into an Orange County,” were repeated in board rooms across the country by some who did not understand the difference between how the county used derivatives and how others used them to hedge risk.

INVITATION

Please come to our Third Annual Christmas Open House on December 16th, from 3 to 5 p.m.

10 Civic Center Plaza

333 West Santa Ana Boulevard

Fifth Floor, Second District

(Park in the lot off of Ross Street)

To RSVP, please call Margaret Chang at 714-834-3220

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