MOORLACH UPDATE — LAFCO — February 10, 2011

Today’s OC Register gives another shout out to the Board of Supervisors for voting to request that our retroactive law suit be heard by the California Supreme Court.  It is the second editorial in the OC Register and the first piece below.

Rossmoor continues to garner media attention in the next two articles.  The first (the second piece below) is from the OC Register and the second (the third below) is from  Allow me to make a couple of corrections to the piece.  LAFCO established a task force with three LAFCO members represented.  At this point, a chair for the task force has not been selected.  I presided at yesterday’s LAFCO meeting as its new chair, a role I am honored to serve in for this year.  The Honorable Peter Herzog is now the immediate-past chair.  The task force was proposed at the suggestion of Carol Jacobs, City Manager for Stanton.  Stanton has some five unincorporated islands that should be annexed into the city.  She recommended that the remaining cities like hers should get together and provide some uniformity in going about this process.  It’s a great suggestion.  What makes it news worthy is that Rossmoor thinks it’s all about them.


Editorial: Pension case going to the top

The Orange County Board of Supervisors has taken the necessary and prudent step of pursuing its to-date unsuccessful legal battle to overturn a 2001 vote by another group of supervisors to award retroactive pension benefits to county public safety workers. The current board wants the California Supreme Court to nullify the retroactive pension benefits as unconstitutional.

A Los Angeles-based state appeals court ruled last month against the board, upholding a trial judge’s ruling upholding the pension boost. The supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court, with John Moorlach, Bill Campbell, Shawn Nelson and Pat Bates supporting the appeal and Janet Nguyen opposing.

There are a number of reasons to take the case to the state’s highest court, though, as Mr. Moorlach explained to us, the chief reason is the "need to have resolution." Mr. Moorlach wants to the justices to "tell us why pensions are exempt from the debt limitations and why granting retroactive benefits is allowable," if they, in fact, are legal under the state constitution. He is correct.

Also, municipalities need clarity on these issues because pension and retiree health liabilities have a huge affect on local governance. Mr. Moorlach also noted that, while the appellate court in Orange County’s case upheld retroactive pension benefits, another appellate court in another case overturned them. The state high court should resolve the conflict.

For broader pension reform and a possibility of some relief from benefits already awarded, the lawsuit is a necessary and sensible step to those ends.

Rossmoor residents divided on community’s future


Some residents don’t trust the city of Los Alamitos, much less Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.

Many are fed up with the county’s response to their problems with coyotes. Some want their community to take control over more of its own services, while others don’t. And many want to see some hard numbers before deciding either way.

Those were some of the sentiments shared by residents during a workshop Tuesday night.

Rossmoor leaders are exploring the possibility of acquiring powers for the unincorporated community to oversee its own police patrols, animal control and trash hauling, and they wanted to hear what residents think. They say the additional powers are a means to stave off efforts by the county to push the community into annexation with neighboring Los Alamitos, a city that already has pitched itself as a service provider.

"The county and LAFCO and the city of Los Alamitos are conspiring to force us into the arms of Los Alamitos," said Mark Nitikman, a member of the Rossmoor Advisory Committee.  The reaction from the crowd of some 75 residents was mixed.

"Things cannot remain the same," said resident Michele Fieldson, who supports the community seeking additional powers. "We’re struggling with animal control. We’re struggling with the coyote issue."

Other residents were on the opposite end of the spectrum. One resident said "stop squandering money on this now." And another man likened the discussion to making an "end run" around what the voters rejected in 2008: cityhood.

There were also residents who had not yet made up their minds, like Glenn Ducat. He mostly wanted some answers: did the district have a 10-year financial plan? Would the transfer of powers cost the residents additional money? And if the county grants the community new powers, how does this inoculate Rossmoor from annexation in the future?

In response to several requests for additional information, including financial data, Rossmoor district officials said Tuesday they plan to post a Q&A on their website,, in the near future.

The district also plans to conduct a professional poll to better gauge the sentiments of the community.

Orange County officials, including Supervisor Moorlach, have called for the transition of unincorporated communities such as Rossmoor into nearby cities. Bob Aldrich, a representative of Orange County’s LAFCO, told the residents Tuesday night that if the community chooses to pursue what are called latent powers, his office was ready to assist.


Orange County Takes Another Step Towards Joining Rossmoor And Los Alamitos

Dolores Barr, Editor and Publisher,

Tuesday night the Rossmoor Community Services District, RCSD, held a workshop meeting on who should govern Rossmoor. As far as Orange County is concerned, their answer is crystal clear – not the county. Yesterday, the county took another step down the long and winding road of dumping Rossmoor into the lap of Los Alamitos.

Before Los Alamitos is able to annex Rossmoor, the politicians pushing the idea run the horrifying risk of becoming boxed in by that pesky old will of the people thing. Thus, the process by which Orange County will achieve the goal of shedding its governance of Rossmoor becomes a bit more complicated.

Recognizing citizens of Rossmoor currently would be no more likely to vote in favor of joining Los Alamitos than- say joining Los Angeles County – plan B is needed. That plan is to have Los Alamitos contract with the county to provide municipal services such as police, animal control, trash hauling, and building permits. The county can do this whether the residents like the idea or not.

Even though the Rossmoor residents don’t get a seat at this table, the City of Los Alamitos certainly does. The county can’t force Los Alamitos, or any other city to take over the unincorporated territories. So, the cities say – show me the money.

In order to convince the cities to accept the targeted unincorporated communities, the county needs three things: 1) a standardized financial approach with credible data, 2) a prioritization of which islands to tackle first, and 3) a group of decision makers dedicated to making it all happen.

Yesterday Orange County, through its Local Agency Formation Commission, LAFCO, accomplished items 2 and 3, and set the stage to get item 1. A three member Island Task Force (ITF), was formed and charged with coming up with the standardized financial approach and the credible data to go along with it.

Orange County District 2 Supervisor John Moorlach will chair the new ITF and the two other voting LAFCO members are Peter Herzog, LAFCO Chair and Lake Forest City Council Member, and Charley Wilson, a special district representative on LAFCO.

Moorlach has made no secret that he is dedicated to ridding Orange County of Rossmoor before he leaves office in four years and Herzog’s bio includes “Council Member Herzog helped guide the annexation of the Lake Forest Sphere of Influence to the City.”

RCSD General Manager Henry Taboada told OC180NEWS Charlie Wilson, along with another LAFCO Commissioner, John Withers, “have addressed our board several times and have said ‘we want what Rossmoor wants.’ They’ve been very up front about their support for us.” As for Moorlach and Herzog, “They have been our archrivals in all of this,” Taboada said. “So the task Force is stacked 2 to 1 against us.”

So, what exactly is the Moorlach, Herzog, and Wilson task force charged with doing? Here is the explanation from the LAFCO staff report of what was approved yesterday:

“At the December 8th meeting, the Commission approved the continuation of the Unincorporated Islands Incentive Program. The Commission directed staff to continue to proactively work with the County and cities on the transitioning of the remaining unincorporated areas to adjacent cities. The Commission also approved the formation of an Islands Task Force (ITF) to work closely with staff on this effort…There are currently 15 cities with islands located in their spheres of influence. Over the past ten years, LAFCO staff has engaged in discussions with some of these cities regarding annexation or the provision of services through municipal service agreements to the unincorporated areas…LAFCO staff has had discussions with the Cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos, Placentia, Santa Ana, and Stanton. Some cities have indicated an interest in working with the LAFCO staff and consultant to prepare annexation fiscal models. Some cities have also indicated a strong interest in providing municipal services to the islands through a contract with the County as an alternative option. Because discussions with these cities have begun, it is recommended that islands adjacent to these cities be identified as a priority for the remainder of the 2010-2011 work plan.”

Rossmoor is one of the islands included on the work plan for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.

“Our Chair, which is Supervisor Moorlach, certainly would like to see those areas move forward that we’ve grouped in Group A [Rossmoor] by the end of the fiscal year,” Carolyn Emery, Assistant Executive Officer, LAFCO, told OC180NEWS. “Over the next two weeks we’re going to work toward scheduling our first meeting of the task force.”

There is nothing in the formation of the new task force which mentions the inclusion of community services districts such as the RCSD, or the will of the people in the unincorporated areas. Even though the task force is starting from the assumption that their mission is either annexation or provision of services under a contractual arrangement, OC180NEWS asked LAFCO’s Emery if the RCSD would be considered as an alternative service provider for Rossmoor.

“The goal is to start out having open discussions about the unincorporated areas and what the governance options are,” Emery said. “The city [Los Alamitos] or the community services district would have the opportunity to propose what they feel are the best governance options for Rossmoor and the group would look at that.”

She also indicated the task force would operate in an open public manner, and would seek public input throughout the process. “There will be an opportunity for the public to participate,” she told us. But, as was evident at Tuesday’s RCSD workshop meeting, determining the will of the Rossmoor people is no simple matter. The Rossmoor community “is a very difficult community to get a pulse on,” Emery told us.

RCSD General Manager Henry Taboada probably would agree. “The community is divided,” he told OC180NEWS. “If this group that was at the meeting is reflective of the rest of the community, it’s real difficult to make the case that the RCSD represents the will of the people. Our President, Jeffery Rips, asked several of the people there last night, if you don’t want annexation, and you don’t want latent powers, what do you want? No one could come up with a good answer.”


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