MOORLACH UPDATE — Lone Voice — December 17, 2010

I just received my Christmas present.  It’s a kind retort to Wednesday’s Letter to the Editor in the OC Register.  It’s the first piece provided.  God bless you, Dave Sullivan.  And God bless everyone.

In the second piece, from OC180 News, it looks like Rossmoor received a lump of coal.  Again, it’s a darn shame that the residents voted against incorporating in 2008.  Now they want their cake and they want to eat it too.  Next year should be a fun one.  Let’s hope it’s also a productive one between Rossmoor and the city of Los Alamitos.

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Moorlach’s lone voice

Supervisor John Moorlach is accused of being one of the politicians who “created the bloated government that has now failed” [“Pension reform hypocrisy,” Letters, Dec. 15]. Nothing could be further from reality. This supervisor has pushed and prodded for fiscally responsible government for his entire career.

He was the lone voice warning of the O.C. bankruptcy in the mid-1990s. If those in authority had heeded his warnings, the county would have avoided the loss of millions of dollars.

We who live in his district know that he is not afraid to take difficult stands for fiscal responsibility. That is why he is recognized throughout the state as a leader on these issues. That’s why, when he ran for reelection, he was unopposed.

Dave Sullivan

HUNTINGTON BEACH

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Orange County Puts Up another Hurdle to Local Control for Rossmoor

Dolores Barr, Editor and Publisher, OC180NEWS.com

For the roughly 12,000 residents of the unincorporated enclave of Rossmoor, their only local elected government is the Rossmoor Community Services District, RCSD. But this entity’s authority is limited to nothing more than local parks, parkway tree maintenance, and street sweeping. The RCSD Board of Directors wants to get approval to expand their authority, but county government bureaucracy seems to thwart this effort at every turn.

The latest hurdle comes from County Council which decided the Sherriff’s Department is not permitted to contract with the RCSD for police services. This could be a show stopper because the RCSD must make arrangements with the county for law enforcement services before it can get approval for expanded powers.

“It is ok for the county to enter into a contract with another city, such as Los Alamitos to provide law enforcement services, but it’s not ok for Rossmoor [the RCSD] to do it,” said Henry Taboada, General Manager of the RCSD. “The [RCSD] Board voted for us to submit a request for an Attorney General opinion. Until we get that resolved, we’re really at a dead end with the county.”

But, the RCSD Board has concluded there is enough of a chance for a favorable AG opinion to move forward with the request.

“Our general council has told us Orange County Council has presented a very weak set of arguments,” Taboada told OC180NEWS.

“We’re going to seek an opinion of the Attorney General,” said RCSD lawyer Jeff Ferre. “It is a disagreement, nothing serious, but it’s a different point of view about the scope of law enforcement powers for Rossmoor.”

The process of getting an opinion from the Attorney General could easily take 4 to 6 months. In the mean time, the RCSD must also demonstrate widespread community support for expanding their powers. The RCSD will begin this process with two workshop meetings.

At the first such meeting in January, “We’re at least trying to get the community to understand what’s at hand,” said Taboada. “That’s why I think it’s so important to get Los Al to come and talk to us about their general plan. [Orange County District two Supervisor John M.W. Moorlach] Moorlach has said publically many times he wants Los Al to provide us with police services, so Los Al is a key player in this.”

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

December 19

2005

The Orange County Business Journal’s Michael Lyster set the table for the 2006 political scenarios in his “Stage set for Election Drama; Tunnel Fight.”  His piece discussed that the biggest race in 2006 would be my running for the county Board of Supervisors, and then referred readers to the side article, “Politician To Watch:  John Moorlach,” by Rick Reiff provided in full below. 

John Moorlach, the 1,000-pound gorilla of county politics, intends to change cages next year.

He’s giving up the "lifetime" security and higher pay of county treasurer in order to run for the term-limited 2nd District seat on the Board of Supervisors now held by Jim Silva.

Moorlach, whose warnings about Bob Citron’s investment schemes went un-heeded prior to the 1994 county bankruptcy, has had an almost sainted status since then.

During 10 years as treasurer he has been an advocate of reform and transparency in government.

He says as a supervisor he’d be better able to curb county government spending and rein in pension costs which, he contends, could be more ruinous to the county than the bankruptcy.

Moorlach’s also a big backer of the controversial plan to drill a tunnel through Cleveland National Forest.

No serious candidate has emerged to challenge Moorlach in the 2nd District, which includes Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley and part of Garden Grove.

But Moorlach is loathed by public employee unions, and his ideas for pension reform could have statewide ramifications.

Don’t be surprised if a labor-backed candidate emerges.

The OC Register’s second editorial for the day, titled “Still being a pest about their pensions – Vector Control workers haven’t given up on winning a 62 percent jump in retirement benefits,” goes in the “I told you so” category.  The piece is provided below in almost its entirety.  But, it provides an opportunity to do a follow up.

Nearly two years ago, I was appointed to serve as the Board of Supervisors’ representative on the Orange County Vector Control District Board.  The Board has 35 members, 34 cities and the County.  I honestly don’t know who the last Supervisor to serve on this board was, as it appears that private citizens were appointed to serve on the Board’s behalf. 

What I found is something similar to what you’ve observed with the city of Bell.  Instead of a strong and overbearing city manager like Robert Rizzo, we had a strong and overbearing general manager in Gerard Goedhart.  The editorial lays bare so much.  The property-tax hike, a parcel tax, is on very thin state constitutional ice.  The new revenues allowed Gerard Goedhart to improve his personal pension benefits.  The employees were dragged along by pure coincidence. 

The decision to leave OCERS and move to CalPERS was a tragic one.  In the few years that the Vector Control has been in CalPERS, it has had a miserable return on investment, while OCERS has been in the top percentile of public defined benefit pension plans.  CalPERS has a minimum required number of years that an agency must participate before it can transfer to another plan.  Translated, Vector Control has been moved from a BMW to a Yugo by our former general manager.  I say former, because he finally resigned earlier this year.  The Vector Control board was slowly gaining reformers and Goedhart could not take the scrutiny anymore.  But, Goedhart is a gift that keeps on giving.  Now that he is gone the Vector Control board continues to find “Rizzo-like” decisions that Goedhart has made with taxpayer dollars that has been making our board member’s heads spin.  The Vector Control board is realizing how abused it has been and is slowly, but surely, rectifying the damage.  Stay tuned for an action-packed year in 2011.  The last two years have been wild; let’s hope the next two bring some sanity and normality to this little public agency.

                Not surprisingly, the staff at the Orange County Vector Control District is intent on raising its own pensions by 62 percent and will continue to push forward the matter despite taking it off the Dec. 15 agenda.

In a memo to the Vector Control Board of Directors dated Dec. 5, District Manager Gerard Goedhart said he pulled the matter from consideration last week because, “I believe the merits of my proposal are being lost in the highly political and reactionary comments being made by several sources.”  Reactionary comments?  Mr. Goedhart also lashed out at “some unfortunate comments in the newspaper,” likely referring to a column that ran on these pages Dec. 4.

It is not reactionary to point out the degree to which local government agencies are putting taxpayers in a precarious spot by making ever more grandiose pension guarantees to government workers.  And it’s not unfortunate – not for taxpayers – to shine the light on what Mr. Goedhart is doing.

Vector Control, charged with dealing with disease-carrying rodents and insects, last year successfully advocated a property-tax hike, convincing Orange County property owners to nearly quadruple the amount of tax paid to the district by pointing to threats from West Nile virus and red imported fire ants.

But the first major initiative from the agency since the tax hike has nothing to do with protecting public health.  Employees now can retire at age 57 with 50 percent of their final income after 30 years of work.  District Manager Gerard Goedhart wants his staff of about 50 to be able to retire at age 55 with 81 percent of their pay.  Many board members opposed the proposal, given the degree to which unfunded pension liabilities have been harming other government agencies.

In November, board members voted against the spike, and Mr. Goedhart pledged to bring it back in December.  Now it is delayed.  But in the new memo he promises to bring the matter back in March or April.  “I believe there is a consensus that the District needs to change retirement agencies and improve its current retirement benefit, which is the least-competitive plan offered by any public agency.”

Here we see how the game is played.  One agency increases benefits, then the next must follow.  Here some of the blame goes to Orange County Supervisors.  They passed the pension spike for county workers in 2004, which provides the impetus for a similar spike at Vector Control.

Vector Control insists that the spike won’t cost anything because the agency would shift from the Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS) to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS).  “You can’t say it (Vector Control’s plan0 is cost-neutral or saves money for the district,” said Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach, noting that CalPERS uses extremely liberal accounting practices.

Then again, in the world of Mr. Goedhart, Mr. Moorlach must simply be one of those “reactionary” voices.

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