MOORLACH UPDATE — California Prisons — June 3, 2011

The General Fund Net County Cost Budget for 2009-10 shows Public Safety representing 45% of the pie.  For 2010-11 it was 50%.  For the 2011-12 it remains at 50%.  Our Sheriff has recently negotiated contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Marshal, generating millions of dollars each year by utilizing our available beds.  We have available beds because crime is down.  Now the state wants to utilize those empty beds.  If Sacramento can reimburse the County at a rate similar to or greater than that of the U.S. ICE and Marshal, then fine.  If not, we’ll have more fiscal pressures here in the OC.  While at the annual California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Legislative Conference the past two days, this was a topic of discussion.  With the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision, it’s a fait accompli.  KPCC 89.3 FM was one of the many media representatives at the conference.

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California prisoner release: Counties brace for massive shift of criminals to local jails, and probation departments

Julie Small

Last month, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordered California to cut the number of inmates stuffed into the prison system by 30,000. On Monday, state officials have to give a federal judge a roadmap for getting there within two years. The plan in the works leans heavily on California’s 58 counties to supervise thousands of inmates, but counties want to know who’s going to pay for it.

County officials knew it was only a matter of time before they’d have to keep more low-level offenders in county jails and to supervise more of them after they’re released. The state’s been talking about it since 2007; that’s when the three-judge panel first convened to consider capping California’s prison population. Now the cap is a reality, and Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione says he’s concerned.

"We have a lot of friends, including my son who’s a law enforcement officer, and you know, when you release those individuals back in the communities, you want to have them properly supervised," said Tavaglione, who heads the California State Association for Counties.

The organization rallied behind Gov. Jerry Brown’s “realignment plan” this year in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling.  Realignment will shift thousands of low-level offenders to local jails and low-level parolees to county probation officers. Realignment is supposed to cut the state prison population by 40,000 inmates over four years. It will be the centerpiece of the plan the state presents to the court next week, and Tavaglione says it’s the best option.

"I think if you talk to any of the 58 counties, you’ll hear a nervousness you know about this process. But it’s, you know, it’s gonna happen and so now we’ll have to deal with it," he said.

The Chief Probation Officers of California back realignment, too. Executive Director Karen Pank is directly involved in fleshing out the plan.

"We’re trying to build the plane as it’s flying. There’s a little bit of that going on, even though I think a lot of us have been talking about this for many years." she said.

Pank’s organization intervened in the federal lawsuit so counties could get a say in reducing the state’s prison population. Now she’s glad they did. Years of dialogue between the federal judges, county and state officials, criminologists and others provided a road map for the safest way to cut the state prison population. That dialogue formed the realignment plan. Numerous experts over the years recommended changes to the way California punishes and paroles low-level, non-violent offenders. Pank says it’s a shame California’s been given only two years to do it.

"I’m not sure that anyone would ask for having to realign this large of a population this quickly. But the status quo was never really the best option either. I’m not sure everybody would accept that our communities are perfectly safe as it is so if we can do things to improve it we should." she said.

But improving things costs money. The question for counties right now is: where will the money come from? Lawmakers enacted Brown’s realignment policy, but not the tax extension to pay for it. Counties were expecting a billion dollars a year for five years. They say need the money to expand facilities and staff. Riverside County was gearing up to build a 1,000-bed jail, but had to scrap it because it can’t afford to staff it. Orange County has got a different problem.

County Supervisor John Moorlach says his county has a surplus of jail beds, but the sheriff leases them to the federal government to make money. Moorlach says that revenue stream helps pay public safety costs that gobble up half the budget. Moorlach says the state needs to replace that money to free up the cells.

"We have no more juice to squeeze out of the lemon," he said. "If you’re going to give us the expenses, give an adequate amount of revenues to cover it or something’s going to break."

District attorneys expect to spend more on prosecution because they anticipate higher crime rates. Police chiefs want more money to hire more officers. And probation departments want more officers to supervise thousands more low-level offenders, and more rehabilitation education and housing for parolees to keep them out of trouble.

The governor has asked lawmakers to pass his tax extension package by June 15 with a provision to let voters decide later whether to ratify them.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

2006

May 31

Peggy Lowe of the OC Register covered the campaign in “Labor vs. Moorlach – Two county employee unions side with his rival in supervisor race, citing his opposition to increase in pension fund.”  Five years later, everyone is talking pension reform.  Boy, the price of warning taxpayers early is an expensive one.  Here is the article in full.

                The accountant widely credited with predicting Orange County’s bankruptcy a decade ago is now vying for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and taking heat for his warnings about another possible financial problem.

John Moorlach, who has spent the last eight years as the county’s treasurer-tax collector, is running against Stanton Mayor Pro-tem David Shawver in a race that’s pitted Moorlach against the county’s top two employee unions.

Moorlach has the higher profile and the bigger pocketbook, raising about $395,000, or more than five times Shawver’s $71,765. But Shawver has so far received $241,400 in independent expenditures by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs and the county’s public employees’ union.

The unions have long been highly critical of Moorlach because he was opposed to the supervisors’ move last year to raise the county’s pension contributions by nearly 300 percent. A study predicted Orange County could face a $5 billion shortfall largely because of the new, expanded retirement benefits.

According to reports filed last week, the deputy’s union spent $84,281 on mailers for Shawver. The Orange County Employees Association, which represents 12,000 county workers, has spent about $157,100 so far.

Robert MacLeod, general manager of the deputies union, said his group is targeting Moorlach because they believe the pension system is sound and Moorlach is "crying wolf when there’s no issue."

"It’s not in the members’ interest to have the pension system turn upside down. The employees are the ones to suffer if the system goes bankrupt, like Moorlach says it will," MacLeod said.

Moorlach spokesman Brett Barbre said the unions are afraid that if Moorlach is elected, he will seek more scrutiny of the pension fund and unions’ insurance fund.

"Clearly, they oppose Moorlach because he stands for accountability, and they don’t want their health insurance fund to be made public," Barbre said.       

Shawver, who has been on the Stanton City Council for 16 years, said he was called by union representatives after entering the race and was told of their displeasure with Moorlach. If elected, Shawver said, he hopes to focus on maintaining a good law enforcement presence,

working on fiscal issues and protecting the environment.

"I’ve been a supervisor in training for 16 years and it’s my time," Shawver said.

Moorlach failed at his first try at county politics — he lost the treasurer’s race in 1994 after he predicted the bankruptcy, which angered the establishment. Moorlach argued that then-Treasurer Bob Citron was running a high risk with the county’s investments.

           

Moorlach was right: The county went bankrupt and it’s still recovering.

June 1

Peggy Lowe’s piece generated this Letter to the Editor, “Greedy unions, again,” in the OC Register:

                We watched as the unions threw their money behind efforts to kill the governor’s referendums and now, according to an article by Peggy Lowe, “Labor vs. Moorlach,” the greedy, enough-is-never-enough county employees are at it again in the supervisor’s race.

                Will commercial air time and mailers bought to discredit both sitting and potential officials who would bring fiscal reality to state and county government be successful again because people refuse to think for themselves?

                Jerry Hoosier

                Orange Park Acres

June 2

The OCWeekly weighed in on the campaign season, in its own irreverent way, with “Crap Shoot – There’s An Election Tuesday, Okay, Back to Sleep.”  Here’s its coverage of the County Supervisor, Second District race:

                Main Player:  John Moorlach

                Main Opponent:  David John Shawver, mayor pro-tem of something called “Stanton.”  (Insert gratuitous Stanton joke here.)

                Supporters:  Everyone loves OC Treasurer MoorlachWeekly staffers as well as people who haunt our nightmares such as Moorlach’s handpicked successor, grimfaced reaper Chriss Street.

Main Issue:  Unfunded county pensions.  Reprising his 1994 campaign theme, Moorlach predicts rising county-employee pensions will produce a financial disaster leading to third-world social services and a remake of the Poseidon Adventure.  Shawver’s support for ever-rising pensions—he promises to “support the workers of Orange County”—comes after his campaign pledge to take a look at solid waste, but before his promise to love all of us a lot.

Sex:  Yes, please, but not likely; this ain’t the county clerk’s race, which—hey, hey!

Looniest Candidate:  Moorlach, a Republican, was once considered the looniest candidate in any race, including the 1994 treasurer’s campaign he lost to incumbent Bob Citron.  Moorlach accused Citron (who consulted an astrologist before investing the county’s mattress money) of driving the county toward bankruptcy.  Reporters ignored him.  When the county went bankrupt in December 1994, Moorlach was there to graciously accept the treasurer’s job—and to step into respectability.

Unmentionable:  A giant of a man—like a Mexican wrestler born in the Netherlands—Moorlach twice tossed Weekly reporter R. Scott Moxley.  Physically!

Quote:  “I know I have a reputation as a ‘bean counter,’” Moorlach said, “but frankly, someone needs to be counting the beans or soon there won’t be any.”

Our Bad:  Thought “moorlach” was that word for “male witch.”

The OC Register had the following Letter to the Editor, titled “Those who pay the bills can’t retire at 50.”

                Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach warns that Orange County faces a perilous fiscal future because the Board of Supervisors has granted overly generous public employee pension benefits.  The Register quotes Robert MacLeod of the sheriff’s deputies union saying Moorlach “is crying wolf.”

Of course MacLeod would say that.  That’s what union bosses are paid to do.  But Moorlach is right.  County employees have high-paying, fire-proof job security as active employees.  Then they retire at age 50 or 55 with benefits far more generous than anything available in the private sector, sometimes 90 percent of salary, inflation-adjusted, for life.

Orange County taxpayers (who often must work to ages 65 or 70) are on a double-barbed hook to pay for county benefits.  The Pensions & Investments newspaper asks, “Why should public-sector employees have better benefits than the working stiffs paying the taxes?”

Reed L. Royalty

San Juan Capistrano

President

Orange County Taxpayers Association

The lead editorial for the OC Register was titled “Lies, damned lies and campaign mailers – Is it just us, or has this election cycle produced some really outrageous campaign claims?”  The piece stated that “some of these distortions are worth noting.”  It started with an independent expenditure attack mailer against me in my campaign.

The front cover shows a photograph of a fireman engulfed in flames and another small photo of a grieving family.  It states:  “WE LOST HIM.  Now John Moorlach says we should lose everything.”  The mailer goes on to quote an unknown magazine saying disparaging things about Mr. Moorlach, the county treasurer who is running against Stanton councilman David Shawver.  The truth is, Mr. Moorlach never supported any denial of benefits to widows and orphans of public safety workers, but did endorse a modest measure that would have reined in some pension costs.  Union members alleged that loose wording could be interpreted to cut back such benefits, and the governor withdrew the measure as a state initiative.  That’s a far cry from the portrayal of Mr. Moorlach as an enemy of widows and orphans and, quite frankly, a shameless use of emotional imagery.

Local unions have dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the anti-Moorlach campaign because Mr. Moorlach, who had correctly predicted the 1994 county financial meltdown, is pointing to billions of dollars in unfunded county pension liabilities—a point confirmed by the county grand jury.  That’s what this smear campaign is all about.

June 3

Daily Pilot columnist Steve Smith weighed in with “The right man for the job.”

Even if you never checked a poll, you can usually tell the desperate candidate from the front-runner by their campaign literature.

The candidates in the lead want you to know about their accomplishments and their vision of the future.

The ones who trail are so busy telling you why you shouldn’t vote for the other guy that they never have time to talk about themselves.

And that’s a rare sight, indeed: a candidate who doesn’t want to talk about himself.

So it goes in the race for county supervisor for the 2nd District. The front-runner, John Moorlach, is one of Newport-Mesa’s own.

Moorlach, you may recall, predicted the county’s bankruptcy more than 10 years ago. Since that time, he has been the outspoken guardian of our money and doing an exceptional job.

When I spoke to Moorlach a few days ago, I questioned the wisdom of running a campaign on an issue that really, for all it seemed to be, had little day-to-day impact on the average Joe.

Moorlach set me straight. "We ended up with $1 billion in debt," he said. "And we’ll be paying about $90 million [against it] until 2016."

What that means to you and me is that while your trash is still being picked up and the roads are still functioning, the debt has made it difficult for people like Moorlach to do business and to put something away for a rainy day.

Now, Moorlach is again predicting some dire straits. That’s where the desperation by his opponent comes in. By reading the campaign junk mail, you’d think that Moorlach is a con artist, a nincompoop or both.

He is neither, but when you’re on top, you’re also the easiest target.

And Moorlach is on top. His latest poll showed him leading 37% to the desperate guy’s 11%.

"Where’s the other 52%?" I asked.

"They’re undecided," replied Moorlach.

Undecided? You mean that half of the eligible voters haven’t already decided to vote for a guy who predicted one catastrophe and wants to get elected to a position where he can prevent another?

"Remember," Moorlach said, "that if you are younger than 30, the 1994 bankruptcy doesn’t mean much. And if you are a renter, you don’t get a bill from me."

"On its 10th anniversary," he continued, "85% of the people polled didn’t remember there was a bankruptcy."

None of that matters to his opponent, Stanton City Councilman David Shawver, who is using some of the sleaziest campaign tactics I’ve seen since Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign in 1972.

It’s fascinating to me how so many of the rules that govern so many other areas of our lives do not apply to politics.

In politics, you can say something as outrageous as you like and if you time it right – that is, if you get in the hand of voters just before Election Day when a retraction or apology is meaningless and your opponent does not have time to respond – you win.

Even the cesspool of television does not permit this type of trash. But write it on a postcard and it will be hand-delivered to you by a representative of the U.S. government.

Here’s what you need to know: John Moorlach is a stand-up guy. He is honest, hard-working, forward-thinking (rare in politics) and has more integrity than any 10 politicians who have run for office in Orange County over the years.

You should trust John Moorlach with the future of Orange County. He has the track record to support his financial acumen – something that most supervisorial candidates lack. John Moorlach will not need any financial on-the-job training.

Here’s how badly we’re going to need a money guy like Moorlach.

"If the county proceeds along its way," he said, "we’re going to have to figure out how to pay a new debt that could be twice the size of the bankruptcy debt."

"We also have to worry about [work] experience," he said.

In August 2004, he said, the supervisors gave employees at age 55 benefits that encourage retirement at age 55.

"We’re seeing massive migration out of the county of people who have many years of experience."

I trust John Moorlach enough to let him have his way on an issue with which we disagree.

Moorlach would like to investigate the feasibility of a tunnel from Orange County to Riverside to carry both water and cars (uh, that’s, of course, on two separate channels). I think the car portion is folly and that the best solution is using computers instead of concrete by promoting more telecommuting.

"I believe we need to see what [the tunnel] costs," Moorlach said. "If it’s exorbitant, then we back off."

I’m game, only because I know that Moorlach will keep his word and not push a tunnel if the data shows it is a bad idea.

You are being told that John Moorlach is taking money from widows and orphans. You are being told that John Moorlach is anti-union.

None of that is true.

What you are not being told is that one of the reasons the 1994 bankruptcy has barely touched your life is because John Moorlach is a good steward of our tax dollars.

I support John Moorlach for county supervisor, and I urge you to vote for him Tuesday.

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