We enjoyed a rather lengthy Board meeting yesterday. The titles for the first two articles below, from the Voice of OC website, do not do the two topics we discussed justice. It’s nice that the first article discloses that one of the main proponents for lobbyist registration is the Chairman of the Voice of OC (hinting at the bias in the story’s title).
Lucy Dunn put it best when she said the proposal was “a solution in search of a problem.” Not one “Wild West” example was given for the need to pursue the lobbyist registration strategy. What was the strongest argument for approving the new ordinance? Do it to ourselves before the public employee unions do it to us. Excuse me? Who runs this place?
This year I was inducted into the “OC 50” (most influential in the OC) by the Orange County Business Journal (see MOORLACH UPDATE — OCBJ — April 26, 2010). Here’s what the OCBJ said about me: “’Public Enemy No. 1’ of many union officials, bane of some consultants, lobbyists, fellow officeholders.” I’m the bane of lobbyists!
So why do we need this proposal? (We don’t.) Because:
· It is too thin/regulation-lite. (Either do it right, or don’t do it at all.)
· Public employee unions can drive a Mack truck through it.
· The most powerful lobbyists are the public employee unions and they have been the most expensive to the county.
· Abuse can still occur at the purchasing staff level.
· I’m not afraid of campaigning against a more onerous version. And,
· It only creates a directory for new businesses in town to select a lobbyist from.
My biggest fear about this unnecessary reporting is that it has the possibility of turning OC electeds into miniature Gray Davis (who was reported to always ask for political contributions from those who sought an appointment to meet with him). I can see it now: “Lobbyist A wants to meet with the Supervisor? How much has Lobbyist A contributed to the Supervisor’s campaign in the last month?” I have never looked at my campaign contribution statements to make decisions on behalf of the voters. But, I can see how it could happen under the proposed scenario.
I’ve been offended by the gift ban and limitation (now $5) since I arrived here at the county. I can’t be bought for a sandwich and an ice tea. And, I don’t believe I can be bought by a lobbyist.
The second Voice of OC headline should have read “Supervisors Study Implementing Defined Contribution Plans for Electeds.” I want to do this right the first time and I’m excited about the discussions we’re having on the topic of pension reform.
The third article is an update from Rossmoor. It’s nice to be viewed as a villain even though I helped clear the way for its cityhood efforts two years ago. I just don’t see myself clearing the way again. And, I doubt Rossmoor will be able to persuade the majority of the LAFCO Board to swing its way. The article is found on the OC180News website.
BONUS: Let me wish you a solemn Veterans Day. If you are looking for a Veterans Day event to attend, the following announcement recently went up on the OC Register’s website:
COSTA MESA – There will be a dedication ceremony for the Veterans Memorial Garden at Harbor Lawn – Mt. Olive Memorial Park & Mortuary at 1625 Gisler Ave. in Costa Mesa at 11 a.m. Thursday, which is Veterans Day.
The program includes an address by Supervisor John Moorlach, as well as eulogies, burials, and a firing squad salute, among other honors.
The memorial was a project of the Costa Mesa Community Foundation.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 714-796-7922
OC Is Still the Wild West for Lobbyists
Orange County supervisors on Tuesday voted to remain the state’s only large county without any kind of registration requirements for lobbyists.
The board rejected a plan, proposed by Supervisor Bill Campbell, to establish basic registration requirements for lobbyists who influence county leaders and issues. The plan would have been much less stringent than those in neighboring San Diego and Los Angeles counties.
Under the ordinance proposed by Campbell, lobbyists would have to register on a quarterly basis. It would define a lobbyist as anyone who receives more than $1,000 a month for influencing officials.
In a June report, an Orange County grand jury identified about two-dozen people who fit this bill, calling them a "shadow government."
In voting down the ordinance, the 3-2 majority essentially argued that such a registration isn’t needed in Orange County because it doesn’t see the kind of political corruption that affects neighboring Los Angeles.
"I’m still trying to figure out what we’re trying to fix," said Supervisor John Moorlach, who introduced the motion to reject the ordinance.
Campbell, who voted with Supervisor Janet Nguyen for the ordinance, said it was based on the state’s ordinance and is a reasonable compromise with supporters of more stringent standards.
Former state Sen. Joe Dunn, who earlier this year publicly asked the board to take up the ordinance, said he was surprised and disappointed by its action. And he vowed to take the issue to voters.
"We gave the supervisors the opportunity to do the right thing on their own," said Dunn, who is chairman of the Voice of OC board. "Sadly, they didn’t. In 2012, Orange County voters will impose a lobbying ordinance far more onerous than the one the supervisors shelved today."
Lucy Dunn, president and chief executive of the Orange County Business Council, told supervisors that Campbell tapped her to work with the business community and lobbyists to gather input. And she didn’t mince words about what her organization thought.
"We hate it. But we could live with it," Dunn said.
Supervisor Pat Bates argued that the problem with establishing any kind of registration requirements is how to make them even-handed and truly transparent instead of just window dressing.
Bates and other supervisors questioned aloud how to best define what lobbying means. For example, some elected officials lobby supervisors for issues in their respective cities; are they lobbyists? Or are entire staff lists of large companies, like Southern California Edison, required to register?
Yet the majority’s vote to terminate all study of the issue will leave those questions unanswered for now. And it was unmoved by Dunn’s threat to go straight to the voters.
"I don’t fear the public putting forth an ordinance," Supervisor Shawn Nelson said.
Moorlach echoed Nelson and made sure to note the Orange County Employees Association’s support of the ordinance. "I’m not afraid of the unions or Joe Dunn to do signature gathering."
Officials with the OCEA said they expect to take direct and immediate action.
"The board’s refusal to consider any lobbying reform is deeply disappointing and demonstrates the lack of transparency that citizens of California are revolting against when it comes to elected officials," OCEA Communications Director Jennifer Muir said.
Muir said that despite the supervisors’ attempts to shut down the debate by voting down Tuesday’s ordinance, the discussion will continue.
"We’re confident that those taxpayers will respond to this at the ballot box or possibly through legislative avenues."
Supervisors Will Study Giving Up Pensions
Newly elected Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson made another baby step Tuesday toward his goal of eliminating taxpayer-funded pensions for elected officials.
He talked his colleagues into forming an ad-hoc committee to explore the idea of moving elected officials away from defined-benefit retirement plans and toward 401(k)-style plans.
In his short tenure on the board, Nelson has become the biggest cheerleader for pension reform.
He’s concluded that elected officials should get only 401(k)s on top of their six-figure salaries. And he’s unveiled a reform plan that would do just that.
Yet Nelson has yet to get full-throated support from his colleagues on the issue.
Supervisor John Moorlach wondered aloud how to balance for FICA (payroll tax) withholdings on a 401(k) versus the existing pension contributions on behalf of elected officials.
He also wondered whether severing pension involvement might not encourage departmental assistants, such as in the assessor’s and recorder’s offices (bureaucratic positions with specific knowledge), to not run for office.
"I’m with you," Moorlach told Nelson. "But [I’m] wondering what are the unintended consequences."
Nelson responded by saying: "I don’t want people going after elective office just to get a good retirement benefit."
Supervisor Pat Bates pointed out that retirement plan changes would probably require legislation. As such, supervisors should consult with their lobbyists and develop a strategy before adopting any new policy.
And, Bates said, elected officials can always just opt out of the pension plan, as both she and Nelson have. "I feel comfortable moving in this direction … but it needs some refinement," Bates said.
Nelson kept pressing for the board to at least pass a resolution — like they would to declare Secretaries Day — saying that the board backs efforts to move elected officals toward a defined-contribution retirement system.
That did get him the support of the board’s senior member, Supervisor Bill Campbell, who agreed, saying, "I think it’s appropriate to go on record to say that it’s the objective of this board."
Yet Campbell said Moorlach and the others raised legitimate points about unintended consequences and legislative strategy.
Moorlach countered by offering the ad-hoc committee.
Nelson opted for the quick win, grabbing a unanimous vote to put he and Campbell in charge of a committee that will strategize the issue with county Chief Executive Tom Mauk and the county’s Sacramento lobbyist, Platinum Advisors.
— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.
Rossmoor Community Services District Moves Forward On Expanding Services – A Long Road Ahead
Dolores Barr, Editor and Publisher, OC180NEWS.com
Despite anticipation of numerous bureaucratic hurdles, the Board of Directors of the Rossmoor Community Services District voted last night to move forward with a request for a major expansion of their responsibilities. The agency which must grant this request is the Local Agency Formation Commission, affectionately known as LAFCO. Not the least of those trouble spots facing the RCSD is the expected resistance of Orange County District Two Supervisor and LAFCO Board member John Moorlach, whose name was invoked several times during the discussion.
Specifically, the resolution which the board passed on a 4/1 vote (outgoing board member Joel Rattner voted against) was to express the board’s “intention to apply to LAFCO for latent powers for police and law enforcement, animal care and refuse collection services.”
In addition to Director Rattner, two members of the public spoke against the resolution. The concerns were regarding funding, need, public support, and chances of success – particularly focused on the anticipated resistance from Supervisor Moorlach.
RCSD General Manager Henry Taboada responded to each of the concerns, and then the board voted to approve the resolution. Taboada explained he needed the official expression of the board’s intent so he could move forward in negotiations with the various county agencies which must agree to allow the responsibilities to be transferred to the RCSD.
Taboada also explained the reason the board was considering the expansion of its authority was because over the past several months, concerned residents have come before the board and without expanded authority, the board was powerless to address those concerns.
Even though the RCSD is the only governmental body exclusively devoted to serving Rossmoor and it’s board members are Rossmoor’s closest elected officials, it’s authority is limited to nothing more than street sweeping, parks, and trees. The recent changes to trash collection procedures and rates were made by Orange County authorities without official involvement of Rossmoor’s elected officials. The RCSD has no authority to do anything in response to residents (sic) concerns about the level of police services which could change when Sunset Beach is incorporated into Huntington Beach. The RCSD has no authority to do anything about the coyote problem.
One of the many hurdles facing the RCSD and its application for the expanded powers is the need to determine that the community actually wants this to happen. Taboada explained that they will hold a community workshop before the December 14 Board meeting so residents can express their opinions on the whole idea. This of course led to comparisons to the ill-fated incorporation attempt of two years ago. In that official vote, residents overwhelmingly rejected the idea of turning Rossmoor into a city.
Part of the perceived reason behind rejection of incorporation was the utility tax that came along with an affirmative vote. The sense of several, if not all board members, was that they were not looking to spend more tax dollars, but rather just to bring home to local control the tax dollars which are now going to the county. In addition to the tax issue, the board members suggested there are other differences now, verses two years ago. Examples of those differences include the change recently made to the trash collection procedures and rates, and an expectation the county should be doing more to control the coyote problem.
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
The LA Times provided an update on the “The Special Election – Workers in Tune on Pension Reform – Retirement funds issue should unite public employees after their battle over how state sales tax money is allocated, activists say.” It was by Jean O. Pasco and David Reyes. The terminology used five years ago is common nomenclature today. The article (provided in full below) sets up the fun I would face the following spring.
Orange County’s public employee unions were dusting off the dirt Wednesday, a day after a countywide election that pitted firefighters against other government workers. Already, a grudging rendition of "Kumbaya" was in the works.
Union activists said they foresee growing harmony among state and local employees in the next few months as politicians begin to debate whether it’s time to reform public pension systems on the state and county levels.
Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Assn., is optimistic about public employees working together. "I think it’s going to take some time to get over what just happened, but hopefully everyone will take a deep breath and then see if we can’t work together again."
The pension reform agenda is being pressed from Sacramento to Santa Ana. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pledged to revive a proposal to create a two-tiered pension system for state employees, with current workers receiving set retirement pay and new workers shifted to an investment-based system.
Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector John M.W. Moorlach, who will be running for a supervisor’s seat next year, has called for the county to adopt the same type of pension system. The county is facing a $2.3-billion deficit toward covering pension costs for current employees, according to estimates by the Orange County Employees Retirement System.
Berardino said county supervisors should have no quarrel with the pension benefits they approved in recent years, but conceded that it already is being made an issue by Moorlach. "We definitely expect an attack from the governor, but there’s absolutely no reason why this board should attack our pension," Berardino said.
The remarks followed Tuesday’s election, in which the big fight was about money.
Orange County voters soundly defeated Measure D, a local initiative backed by firefighters that would have given them a slice of state sales tax money that now goes to the Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office. The measure was labeled a tax grab by the county employee and deputy sheriff’s unions, which spent $1 million to defeat it. County supervisors placed three alternatives to the tax measure on the ballot, then argued against voting for any of them. All were bounced by voters by overwhelming margins.
The only local measure that appeared to survive was a $282-million school bond measure in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Supporters assembled more than 500 people who campaigned for the bond money, said Judy Franco, a school board member who helped the "Yes on Measure F" campaign.
The measure, which needed 55% of the votes to pass, had 55.5% as of late Wednesday. About 52,000 ballots countywide had not been counted. That number included absentee ballots returned on election day, plus 9,500 provisional ballots cast by voters whose eligibility must be verified.
In other results, La Habra voters rejected a proposal to make permanent a temporary utilities tax, and San Clemente put businessman Steve Knoblock on the council.
The campaign against Measure D coalesced a diverse group and quelled what had become a rocky relationship between the Board of Supervisors and its employee unions. The union representing deputies, for example, protested this year after the county removed a contract negotiator perceived as being too union-friendly.
"We worked with people we’d had checkered relationships with, and whether that lasts a week or lasts forever, I don’t know," said Bob MacLeod, general manager of the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.
Firefighters said they could claim a slight victory: an acknowledgment by Sheriff Michael S. Carona that he had $77 million in surplus sales tax proceeds that he hadn’t spent.
"I think we’ll find ourselves working with [the other unions] again to accomplish other things, because it shouldn’t be personal," said Dan Young of the Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn.
Among those hoping for a fight over pensions next year is Reed Royalty, head of the Orange County Taxpayers Assn. "It’s inevitably going to be a big issue because they [pension payments] are unsustainable."
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