MOORLACH UPDATE — Patch.com — December 16, 2010

Did I really say that?  I have two articles today where the reporters did not interview me personally.

In the Voice of OC article below there was a quote attributed to me in last night’s edition that was so garbled that I couldn’t make it out.  I don’t even recall making references to $200 and $900 million.  Darn it all, a few minutes before I got on the website this morning the article had been modified and my garbled quote had been removed.

The second piece is from a new player on the media landscape, Patch.com.  This is a journalistic endeavor by AOL.com to provide local news throughout the nation via franchises.  Paige Austin, a former OC Register reporter, is the franchisee for the Los Alamitos/Seal Beach area.  The website is http://losalamitos.patch.com/.  Paige and I spent some time getting acquainted.  An assistant by the name of Natasha also called me.  But, the name David Lumb escapes me and I have no recollection of being interviewed by him.  They give me credit for using the adjective “horrible.”  I don’t recall using the word, but the difference between response times provided to the residents of Rossmoor by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Alamitos Police Department are quite dramatic.  I apologize for the term “horrible.”  I am not one to be disparaging or negative when discussing county departments, unless something visibly improper has occurred.

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More Bad Budget Medicine for County

The Great Recession might have officially ended in June, but Orange County’s top finance officials say still-sluggish tax receipts mean they’ll have to cut more than $100 million from the county budget over the next five years.

The first step is a 5 percent across-the-board cut, Bob Franz, the county’s chief financial officer, said Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

And everything is on the table.

The menu of cuts highlighted by Franz and other officials includes the following: salary reductions; reducing premium pay; limiting step increases; instituting hiring freezes; eliminating leave payouts; and establishing incentives for people to work longer instead of retiring.

And with pension costs being the biggest driver of projected future deficits, there’s even talk of seeking legislation to change pension benefit formulas.

This was all part of a presentation of the county’s strategic plan — which was developed after the 1994 bankruptcy to give elected officials a way to plan budgets in advance.

Supervisor John Moorlach said that strategic plan has allowed officials to craft a softer landing by trimming each year incrementally. Moorlach said a five-year gap of $900 million has since been trimmed to $200 million.

But, Moorlach concluded, the county is left with difficult decisions.

County labor leaders called the presentation pure politics, delivered without notice and designed to publicly blame public sector unions for budgetary woes.

"They publicly ambushed us," said Nick Berardino, general manager for the Orange County Employees Association.

Berardino was particularly upset the cuts are weighted heavily toward public employees and not toward the private contractors that take home big chunks of the county budget.

"The biggest public employees are a bunch of firms that are building and expanding airports," Berardino told supervisors. "If you asked them to give up this much, you’d make a union rally look like a lawn party."

This week county Chief Executive Tom Mauk announced that the county would seek up to 10 percent cuts in contracts in exchange for one-year extensions to contracts.

County supervisors weren’t very happy with Berardino’s public critique. Supervisor Bill Campbell responded that supervisors had themselves just seen the recommendations and this was just a starting point in the process.

Indeed, after years of cutting in increments of five percent, the county’s budget manager, Frank Kim, told supervisors: "We’ve got a range of potential impacts."

The biggest impact will likely be felt in public safety, Kim said.

Interestingly, Berardino had no comment regarding compensation of the county’s manager and executive ranks. In the past he has railed against the fact that executives don’t contribute more to their pensions and are given things like lucrative car allowances.

That bargaining group is in the midst of closed-door negotiations.

— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.

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Rossmoor Facing Changes in Emergency Response

Its sheriff’s deputy could be left without a nearby backup when Huntington Beach annexes Sunset Beach next year.

By David Lumb

When Rossmoor resident Yvonne Kendler noticed shadowed figures moving through her yard in the early morning darkness, she called 911.

Inside the home with her three young children and husband, Kendler waited less than three minutes before a police cruiser arrived to arrest four adults, who investigators said had been robbing Rossmoor residents for a year.

That morning, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s response time was quick by Rossmoor standards, according to Rossmoor and county officials.

Long a point of contention in the community, the sheriff’s department’s response times in Rossmoor are expected to change next year when Sunset Beach is annexed by Huntington Beach, leaving the single Rossmoor deputy without a Sunset Beach deputy for backup. How that change will affect law enforcement in Rossmoor remains to be seen. Some in the community worry that the loss of the nearest backup unit could hurt service while others hope that response times will improve if the Rossmoor deputy no longer has to backup the Sunset Beach deputy in turn.

Currently, both Sunset Beach and Rossmoor fall under the protection of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Each has a single deputy stationed in the area to be on-call at all times, and their arrangement allows them to back each other up if they’re immediately needed. John McDonald, the Sheriff’s Department spokesman, says Rossmoor residents should see better service  because their deputy was frequently away, backing up Sunset Beach, which gets significantly more 911 calls than quiet Rossmoor.

Sunset Beach may become a part of Huntington Beach by as early as January, according to the county agency overseeing the annexation. But there is no official timeline yet for Sunset Beach to fall under the Huntington Beach Police Department’s jurisdiction.

"The proposal is in the final stages of approval," said Huntington Beach Police Lieutenant Mike Reynolds.

But the possible reduction in coverage worries some.

Kendler, who has lived in Rossmoor for over a year, can’t imagine what could have happened if the sheriff’s department had been slow to come arrest the burglars in her yard.

"They (the deputies) had to have been in the tract, because Rossmoor’s a huge tract. Where we live it takes seven minutes [to get out]," Kendler said.

Many of her neighbors also have children, so the possibility of increased response times worries her.

"I’d expect their response time to be as fast as it was this time," Kendler said. "To think that their response time could be longer… I can’t even imagine."

The sheriff’s department sends units that are either in the area of the call or in nearby cities that they also protect. Whether there are more or less depends in part on the time of the call, said Lieutenant Mike Jansen.

"There might be more at 2 a.m. then there are at 5 a.m.," Jansen said, describing a time during shift overlap. The day shift starts at 5 a.m., while the night shift starts at 5 p.m., with cover shifts overlapping them. There might also be more units in the area if previous calls brought them there.

"If there are no calls, there might be two or three or one in the area. There might be ten in the area," Jansen said.

The residents of Rossmoor should be concerned enough to consider contracting with Los Alamitos for police services, said County Supervisor John Moorlach.

"The response time, which is how long it takes a deputy sheriff to respond to a 911 call in Rossmoor is horrible, and Los Alamitos has the best response time in the county," said Moorlach. "It’s a natural fit for Rossmoor to contract with Los Alamitos."

If nothing else, the community can test it out for a couple of years to see how they like it, added Moorlach.

In Los Alamitos, anyone who calls 911 with a "priority one" emergency can expect a police officer on the scene in about 2 minutes and 37 seconds, said Los Alamitos Police Department Captain Bruce McAlpine. Priority one calls include robberies, burglaries and acts of violence that are in progress at the time of the call, said McAlpine.

Rossmoor Community Services District General Manager Henry Taboada agrees with Moorlach that Rossmoor residents deserve better response times.

"We are kind of isolated on the west end of the county, especially with services centered in Santa Ana," Taboada said. "Our response times will never be as good as Los Alamitos’ or Seal Beach’s because we don’t have a dedicated police department here."

But contracting with Los Alamitos is not the best option for Rossmoor, he added. Instead, Rossmoor residents should consider a contract with the Sheriff’s Department that is similar to other communities such as Laguna Woods," Taboada said.

"Rossmoor could have its own sheriff’s station with dedicated deputies and a commander who takes on the role of a police chief," he said.

"Typically a lieutenant, the commander would serve under the board, attend community meetings and develop a proactive approach to policing," Taboada said.  "Currently, a rotating series of deputies work three 12-hour shifts in Rossmoor, with few staying long enough to get to know the community."

"We need to get to know these people, and they need to get to know us," Taboada said. "They should be involved with the community rather than just reacting after something bad happens."

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