MOORLACH UPDATE — Seal Beach Sun — May 6, 2011

For those wanting a fair review of the discussions on a potential Super City in west Orange County, the article in this week’s edition of the Seal Beach Sun should do the trick.  It is followed by a letter to the editor in the same edition, along with a BONUS letter to the editor that followed it.  It also provides some evidence that others are reading my UPDATEs.

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Seal Beach approves letter rejecting super city proposal

By Charles M. Kelly

In a move that didn’t surprise anyone, the Seal Beach City Council on Monday, April 25 approved a letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors rejecting Supervisor John Moorlach’s super city proposal.

The letter is unlikely to settle the issue.

Since 2007, Moorlach has advocated merging Seal Beach, Rossmoor and Los Alamitos.

Moorlach stepped up his efforts to merge the communities during a lunch meeting earlier this year with officials of all three communities.

“This Seal Beach City Council is strongly opposed to the ‘super city’ concept currently being proposed by Supervisor Moorlach,” said the letter.

The Seal Beach letter, signed by Mayor Michael Levitt, was addressed to Bill Campbell, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

Levitt has strongly opposed the merger proposal.

Campbell and Moorlach are both members of the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCO is the agency with legal authority to approve mergers and annexations of communities. Moorlach chairs the agency.

Moorlach and the general public were already aware of the council’s plans to send the letter to the supervisors. “On Good Friday, in my Moorlach Update, we witnessed a determined recalcitrance to the idea of a super-city,” Moorlach wrote on Monday, April 25, in an e-mail to his constituents.

This was apparently in reference to the Sun article “Super city proposal heats up,” which cited the opposition to the idea expressed by Seal Beach City Council members during the agency’s April 11 meeting.

At that time, District 1 Councilwoman Ellery Deaton proposed the letter. The other council members all expressed support for the letter rejecting the super city idea. Moorlach’s comment on the subject came on Monday, April 25, several hours before the council approved the letter rejecting his idea. “Understood, but when you are provided with a proposal that may save your constituents money, should you continue that rigidity?” Moorlach asked.

However, Moorlach has never provided exact figures on how much money might be saved.

LAFCO looking at merger

Moorlach has consistently argued that a merger would reduce costs to West Orange County residents. He recently told the Sun that LAFCO has hired a consultant to do a study to determine how much money would be saved by merging the three Sun Region communities.

It is not known when the consultant was hired or for how much. The Sun reviewed OC LAFCO agendas and minutes for all of 2010 and for 2011 to date.

The only mention of the super city proposal was a comment by Rossmoor resident Kenneth Brown in favor of the proposal.

In a March 24 opinion piece in the Sun, Brown argued that the merger would save taxpayers money and eliminate the influence of special interest groups.

Brown also argued that Rossmoor residents’ lives are influenced by the decisions made by the Los Alamitos and Seal Beach city councils.

“It is in the Rossmoor residents’ best interest to be in a position to influence those actions. That premise alone makes the super city approach attractive,” Brown wrote.

Rossmoor residents are divided on the future of the community. The majority appear to favor leaving the area as it is—an unincorporated “island.”

Orange County officials won’t accept that option. Rossmoor residents have rejected cityhood by a wide margin and many appear to be hostile to merging with Los Alamitos.

Moorlach
has written in the past that the only options for Rossmoor are to be an independent city, merge with Los Alamitos or join the super city.

By state law, unincorporated communities can be annexed without protest proceedings if the “islands” cover less than 150 acres of territory.

As for the financial study of merging the three communities, Moorlach explained the lack of references to the super city proposal in LAFCO minutes by saying “it hasn’t been a priority.”

In a recent interview with the Sun, Moorlach said even with support of local officials, such a merger would require voter approval.  LAFCO has no authority to impose a super city on West Orange County residents against their will.

Seal Beach officials are apparently not supportive.

“In a recent opinion article published in the Sun Newspaper on April 7, 2011, Supervisor Moorlach identifies what he considers a problem—a ‘quilt work’ of local service providers. The article asks if there are ‘too many cities’ or if there is an ‘overkill’ of special districts,” the Seal Beach letter said.

Actually, the Moorlach opinion piece was published by several Orange County news organizations in April. Moorlach’s office apparently submitted the opinion piece to all the news media at roughly the same time.

Moorlach’s arguments did not persuade anyone on the Seal Beach City Council.

“While the county may have service delivery issues in Rossmoor, the City Council does not believe the answer is the merger of three separate and distinct communities—Los Alamitos, Rossmoor and Seal Beach—into a ‘Super City.’ The concept is without merit and the Seal Beach City Council stands firmly opposed to the idea,” the letter said.

Super City as the people’s decision

 The April 28 edition of the Sun included a discussion of Supervisor John Moorlach’s proposal to combine some of the municipal Police Departments, and touched on his efforts to bring the “super city” concept to the table for discussion.

Discussion of these proposals is being sidetracked by the knee-jerk reactions of local politicians and officials with a vested interest in the status quo.

These questions should be decided by the residents, not the politicians. The people who live here are striving to build families, educate their children, or stretch retirement incomes, at a time when the cost of our various governments is a real, growing, burden. Every day, people and businesses are being driven to other states by California’s oppressive government load.

The residents, notwithstanding the politicians, should consider supervisor Moorlach’s proposals. Thoughtful approaches to their implementation could provide an improved quality of life in our corner of Orange County, while maintaining neighborhood identities.

Nobody wants to see anyone laid off and having to look for another job, but design of our cities should not hinge on which of three police chiefs gets to be the “new” chief.

As things are, decisions impacting our day-to-day living are made by City Councils, Planning Commissions and Service Districts, who feel free to respond to special interests, while ignoring residents’ interests and demands. This is because the resident groups are small, and easily ignored, relative to the size and power of the Government organizations.

When a good restaurant is driven out of Los Alamitos by stupid Planning Commission decisions, or 1970s signage ordinances, we all suffer the loss of the dining experience. We all sit together in the endless traffic jams created by poor signal timing and turn lane placement, and parochial favoritism.

The residents of Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, and Seal Beach should figure out how to get together, in a good faith effort to find the best long-term solution to the many conflicting forces at play.

Kenneth Brown

Rossmoor

BONUS

Pay your own taxes, Rossmoor

Lobbying for someone to pay your taxes in the paper is not working for you Rossmoor. Wake up and smell the coffee–everyone pays taxes in nearby cities but you. Can you see what is wrong with that picture?

Enea Ostrich

Seal Beach resident

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

May 5

2001

Daily Pilot columnist Steve Smith did a nice piece on my recent Edison activities in “What’s Up – Now You Know The Rest Of The Stories.”

They are the orphans of news reporting. They are the people whose stories come and go as fast as flash paper, who make the news for their initial excitement, only to find that when it’s time to tell their epilogue, no one cares.

Jerome Wilhoit learned that in our society, innocence is irrelevant.  What really matters is media portrayal of your story and how much mileage a source can get out of you.

Three years ago, Wilhoit, an Orange County teacher, was accused of being far too friendly with his students. Believing him to be completely innocent, I used Wilhoit’s story to win a column contest in the newspaper you’re now reading.

Recently, after he quit teaching and had his life turned inside out and upside down, Wilhoit was not only found innocent, but so innocent that the judge ordered all evidence of his entire encounter with all law enforcement agencies destroyed.

An important order to be sure, but no one is able to give him back his reputation, and in the eyes of many he will always be guilty. To be fair, it should be noted that at least one newspaper reported the end of his legal saga and of the turns his life has taken, but it did not refer to the media’s contribution to his downfall.

In Wilhoit, Orange County also lost just the kind of teacher we should be encouraging to stay, instead of pointing him toward the door.

Wendy Leece also discovered the media’s disinterest in telling the end of the story. A few months ago, Leece was called a censor, the mildest of all the terms, for wanting to protect kids from what she believed was literature inappropriate for children. Her story made major media outlets.

But when it was revealed that her current colleagues on the board of trustees made the exact same move 2 1/2 years earlier but without any cries of censorship, no one cared. To those who reported Leece’s initial request, it was just typical of her, and the subsequent evidence proving that her action was not unusual was not reported.

Doing so would make some people look silly and perhaps even force them to say, "I was wrong" or "I am sorry," and that just isn’t done. We learn from this that it’s OK to smudge another’s reputation but any evidence of our own errors must be avoided.

John Moorlach, Orange County’s treasurer and a Costa Mesa resident, has also discovered that a fickle media can leave just about everyone with the wrong impression.

In January, it was reported that Moorlach’s department had made two investments of $20 million each in Edison International, the parent company of, among other businesses, Southern California Edison, the troubled power supplier. Never mind the fact that at the time, the company had received top ratings from three investment-rating agencies.  Never mind the fact that the investments are but two of the 9,600 Moorlach has made since he’s been in office. Never mind the fact that the investments total only about 3% of the total value of the investment pool from which they were working.

Some folks just saw blood and, at the time, everyone was in on the fun.

Back then, Moorlach made some predictions about the investments and about Southern California Edison and — surprise! — they’ve all come true.

"If we would have sold both of [the bonds], we would have realized significant losses, but by holding them to maturity we haven’t lost a dime," Moorlach told me. "I said right from the beginning that Edison International was like Orange County. If you sold Orange County bonds right after we filed bankruptcy, you would have lost money. But if you held on, you would have made money. I felt comfortable at the time with plan A, which was to hold on to maturity."

Moorlach’s "buy and hold" is a successful strategy advised every day by those in the financial know and it is working. The first note matured Jan. 31. The second is due July 8, and Moorlach expects that it, too, will have been a worthwhile investment.

The success of the first bond was reported on a limited basis but at least one newspaper buried it, and all the reports I’ve read lacked the emotional charge of the initial reporting.

Jerome Wilhoit is innocent. Wendy Leece didn’t do anything her colleagues had not done. John Moorlach was right about his investments.

I wish I could write that those are the ends of the stories but they are not. In the minds of many, these good people will always be guilty, and you may not read it in a lot of other places but it’s news to me.

* STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and freelance writer.

2006

On the primary election front, my fellow Citron-whistle blower’s campaign was losing a wheel.  It was covered in the LA Times by David Reyes in “O.C. Candidate Being Probed Loses D.A.’s Endorsement – Chriss Street, running for treasurer-tax collector, is investigated after a bankruptcy trustee alleges that he mismanaged a trust.”  The story was also covered by Larry Welborn and Ronald Campbell of the OC Register.  Here are a few selected paragraphs from the LA Times piece.

                Orange County Dist. Atty Tony Rackauckas on Thursday withdrew his endorsement of Chriss Street’s candidacy for county treasurer-tax collector, having opened an investigation into Street’s previous role as trustee in a Fruehauf Trailer Corp. bankruptcy case.

The district attorney said in a prepared statement that he could not discuss "the nature or scope of an open investigation" of Street, a Newport Beach financial manager until he was appointed by outgoing Treasurer-Tax Collector John M.W. Moorlach as an interim assistant treasurer-tax collector in January.

Street could not be reached for comment, but his campaign manager, Brett Barbre, said the allegations under investigation may stem from statements made by a Los Angeles businessman who replaced Street as trustee in the bankruptcy proceeding.        

"We believe it’s proper that Tony Rackauckas withdraw his endorsement," Barbre said, adding that "we fully expect that once the investigation is concluded Chriss will be vindicated and Tony will reinstate his endorsement."

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