MOORLACH UPDATE — Hob-Knobbing with Homeless — February 14, 2012

It’s Valentine’s Day, and my lunch date is Santa Ana Police Chief and Interim City Manager Paul Walters.  If love is today’s theme, then our discussion should be a productive one.  The Voice of OC covers it in the first story below with some excellent depth on the vacant bus station topic.

On Friday, my search engines didn’t tell me about the OC Register’s Friday column on the annual Newport Beach Mayor’s Dinner by Barbara Venezia.  The big news?  Former Mayor John Hedges was in town with his wife, Maria, and daughters Betsy and Mary.  I haven’t seen their daughters since 1999 and now they are young adults.  All four play instruments and they provided the entertainment for the pre-dinner reception.  It was a treat to hob-knob with these old and dear friends who now reside in Charlottesville, Virginia.  In the photo of the former Mayors below, John Hedges is the one standing on the very far right.  Mayor Nancy Gardner’s three-B speech was a fun listen (be bright, be brief, be gone).  It’s the second piece below.

The Newport Beach Patch is conducting a poll on the topic of term limits.  In Orange County’s 34 cities, 13 (38%) of the city councils have no term limits and 7 (21%) have a 12 year-term limits. This leaves 14 cities (41%) with 8-year term limits.  Consequently, there isn’t even consensus on the subject among our own cities.  It is the third piece below.

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Should an Empty Bus Station be Made Into a Homeless Shelter?

An empty bus station across the street from the Orange County Civic Center might determine how successful local leaders are in their goal to end homelessness within 10 years.

As things stand now, Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach and Paul Walters, Santa Ana’s acting city manager, are at odds over whether the now-closed station should be turned into a permanent homeless shelter.

Moorlach is all for the idea. Homeless people now congregate during the day at the Civic Center, just below the windows where the supervisor and his four colleagues have their offices.

At night the homeless people either stand in line for the relatively few shelter beds in the county or wait for downtown businesses to close, then camp out in alleys and doorways.

Opening the bus station would, from Moorlach’s point of view, improve the situation. "They’ve [homeless people] always been here," said Moorlach, who has been in office since 2005. "What would be the problem moving them across the street?"

As the county government’s top elected official, it is Moorlach’s responsibility to make progress on the homelessness issue. In 2008 President George W. Bush made ending homelessness by 2020 a national goal. The state and federal tax dollars dedicated to the problem flow through county governments.

But Moorlach and others focused on ending homelessness need people like Walters in order to make the lofty goal a reality in Orange County. Gaining the support of city leaders is a make-or-break hurdle.

How much support or opposition they receive from cities will be determined by how well the county marshals resources, responds to the needs of cities and produces effective programs for homeless men and women with serious mental, health or addiction problems, according to a variety of people involved with the issue.

At this point, Santa Ana is not onboard with Moorlach’s bus station concept. The city sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors last month voicing "strong opposition" to year-round use of the bus station. Moorlach said the letter "caught us by surprise."

And in a recent interview, Walters made it clear that as of now he does not share Moorlach’s enthusiasm for the idea.

"The homeless thing is important, but I’m not sure how quickly we’ll be able to come up with the solution," Walters said. The Santa Ana Planning Department is examining zoning and other codes for the bus station, he said. "The concern, of course, is for the downtown business people."

The Current Reality

For several decades, dozens of adults — primarily men with nowhere to live — have hauled bed rolls and plastic bags of belongings to a sidewalk lined with trees and benches outside the Civic Center.

Local charities provide meals there, and in winter the men can pack up their belongings each afternoon and walk a few blocks to the city stadium. Buses will take them to the Santa Ana National Guard Armory, one of two temporary shelters run by the county.

But Orange County has about 7,000 homeless people, far more than temporary armory beds. There is no year-round shelter where adults can get a meal and a place to sleep. In addition to the armories, charities provide accommodations to those who qualify, but that often means they accept women and children but not male teens or men.

Moorlach said Walter’s predecessor as city manager, David Ream, was "not helpful" in trying to solve homelessness issues. He said Ream opposed programs like bathrooms and trash cans to help those in Santa Ana who lived on the streets. Ream said "I don’t want to legitimize it," according to Moorlach.

Even so, for the past few years the city and county have split the $33,917 annual cost to keep the empty bus station’s bathrooms open, clean and available to those who are homeless. The bathrooms are open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"We have a good, cooperative agreement with the city," Moorlach said.

He said he thought Walters would be more supportive than Ream.

The two will meet Tuesday to discuss the homelessness issue. Moorlach will try to persuade Walters that it is a humanitarian concern.

"If you opened it [the bus station] up, it would provide protection from the rain and during the summer, protection from the sun," he said.

Walters, who sits on the county commission to end homelessness that Moorlach chairs, said the bus station "isn’t a place to stay forever."

Some significant numbers of those who are homeless — like the woman who last week was pacing the sidewalk outside the Civic Center at 6:30 a.m. laughing and talking to herself and ignoring anyone who talked to her — need mental health care. The county is supposed to develop those and other programs as well as permanent housing solutions.

Walters said Santa Ana, like many cities throughout California, has been through rough financial times because of the poor economy and is not in a position to create its own new programs. He said the city has cut 400 jobs during the past three years and "it becomes a challenge to just do regular business."

Walters asked, "What’s the long term plan" for all of the homelessness issues? "For us, we want a coordinated way of providing services or at least get them the [medical or mental] treatment they need."

But, he added, "We’ll see what their [the county’s] ideas are, and I’ll tell them what our ideas are."

Mike and Stephanie, homeless and living on the sidewalk outside the Civic Center, were packing their belongings last week at sunrise. The overnight temperatures were in the low 50s, but even so, they said they preferred sleeping outdoors in sheltered spaces to taking the bus to the armory.

"The armory’s a good thing, and they’re all polite," said Mike. "It’s just the crowds."

It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep at the armory, he said. There are long lines, noise and a schedule that leaves lights are on until 10 p.m. and requires everyone to leave by 6 a.m., he said.

"I wish they’d open up that bus station so we have a place to sleep," Mike said, "but they won’t do it."

Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/tracyVOC.

By BARBARA VENEZIA
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST

bvontv@earthlink.net

The Newport Beach Mayor’s Dinner is the highlight of the political social season each year. The Speak Up Newport organization always does a nice job with this event, and last Friday’s was no exception.

The sold-out crowd of about 450 packed the ballroom at the Marriott Fashion Island.

In attendance; an interesting blend of politicos past and present, potential candidates, and those who feed off this arena – including the press. Yes, all the usual suspects were there. 

The cocktail hour was filled with air kisses, photo opportunities, networking, and political gossip – my kind of night!

Newport Councilman Steve Rosansky looked particularly snazzy in a black satin dinner jacket with bow tie.

Emcee Peter Buffa had a very GQ vibe going on.

Marian Bergeson was her ever-stylish self.

Assemblyman Allan Mansoor had girlfriend Jennifer on his arm.

Piano man Jim Roberts tickled the ivories for the crowd.

Newport City Council candidate Tony Petros sat with Visit Newport Beach’s head honcho Gary Sherwin and Chamber of Commerce President Richard Luehrs.

Supervisor John Moorlach and wife Trina hob-knobbed with guests. 

The entire Newport City Council was on hand, as were 16 former mayors.

I hosted a table of media buddies including: Norberto Santana Jr./the VoiceofOC.org, Newport Beach Independent’s Roger Bloom and Jack Wu, Daily Pilot’s John Canalis and wife Robin. Tom and Vicki Johnson, O.C. Register editor Susan Vardon, my husband Stan and Newport City Manager Dave Kiff.

The night kicked off with Buffa taking his usual funny jabs at the political landscape and media stories. Yes, he even mentioned The Golden Rod Six chickens.

When Bob Hawkins, current president of Speak Up Newport, took the stage, I wondered how his peers would react to him. Hawkins had abruptly quit the Planning Commission at a recent council meeting during public comments, catching many political insiders off guard.

When Hawkins finished his speech, reaction was tepid to say the least. Something not lost on the media hounds at my table.

Barbara Ficker beamed as her husband, Bill, received the coveted SUNshine award this year.

"We were so surprised, we had no idea," she told me later

But it was Mayor Nancy Gardner’s night to shine – and shine she did.

Gardner’s speech was short, funny, and to the point. She spoke from the heart without notes. She was entertaining and informative.

While most mayors push new agendas at this dinner, Gardner didn’t. Her message was simple: the city’s doing just fine, let’s keep it that way.

A slide show accompanying her speech outlined current projects. Her focus – complete those and continue the current productive path.

Norberto Santana said it best at our table, "Nancy is a true conservative, that was the best political speech I think I’ve ever heard."

Gardner went on to say she wanted to re-vamp NBTV, calling it "an underutilized asset" for the city.

Gardner and I have talked about NBTV. My column last May about reinventing the channel prompted the discussions. I thought it was just lunch talk – apparently not.

It caught me off guard when she started sharing ideas we’d tossed around at lunch. But when she stated Newport had its own Lucille Ball who could help, and then a picture of Lucy popped on the screen with my face superimposed on Lucy’s body, I was shocked. I didn’t see that coming.

One of the things I adore about Gardner is her wicked sense of humor. So if she wants me working with her on this project, I’m in. How could I say no? She’d just announced it to a ballroom of 450 people! Thank goodness television is something I know a bit about.

But kidding aside – as people were leaving the event – all I heard were accolades about Gardner and the night. 

This evening was certainly a home run for Newport’s newest mayor.

Moorlach Wants Longer Term Limits

The Republican county supervisor says he could be more effective if allowed to run for three terms instead of two. Take our poll on the idea.

·         By Sabeen Khanmohamed

When it comes to term limits, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach says the third term is a charm.

“It takes time to build networks and have good relationships in Sacramento and D.C. You lose that when someone walks out the door after eight years,” said Moorlach, a Republican whose district includes Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach and part of Fountain Valley.

Unfortunately for Moorlach, Orange County restricts its supervisors to two terms. However, he’s not ready to throw in the towel.

Moorlach, whose second term runs out in 2014, has begun pushing for a three-term limit, similar to Los Angeles County. Without it, he argued in a recent newsletter, Orange County is “at a disadvantage relative to other counties.”

Beyond that, Moorlach feels more time would help him accomplish such goals as reforming employee pensions, completing infrastructure projects within budget, and managing countywide redevelopment changes.

Having someone with experience is a plus, he said. “What is there to be cautious about? Would the community feel cautious when it comes time to train a new supervisor?”

How many terms should OC supervisors be allowed to serve?

(Voting has been closed for this question)

Keep the current limit of two terms.

Third term’s a charm.

Two? Stop them after one term!

No limits.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

February 10

1997

Teri Sforza of the OC Register addressed a topic that was as big of a news item as the County’s recent bankruptcy filing – O.J. Simpson.  O.J. single-handedly bumped the OC from the top slot in the news headline world.  Teri’s piece was titled “O.J.’s bane:  forensic accountants – LAW:  These investigators take the paper trail, but also knock on doors seeking laundered wealth.  ‘It’s a real cat-and-mouse game,’ says one.”  During my practice days I did some forensic accounting work for spouses in divorce cases, usually for the wife.  Here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

                O.K.  How much is he really worth?

                As the jury resumes deliberations today on how much Simpson should pay in punitive damages – marking the first time the Browns [of Dana Point] have a crack at his cash – forensic accountants toil frantically behind the scenes like gumshoes armed with calculators.

                The investigation begins with the most basic tool:  Simpson’s own balance sheet, listing his assets and liabilities.

“The question they’re trying to answer is, ‘What is hidden?” said John Moorlach, who left his practice as a certified public accountant to become Orange County treasurer.  “You do a lot of title searches.  You play hunches.  You look at past tax returns for clues:  Like, he was paying a lot of property taxes, and then he stopped, but you don’t see a sale for any property.  Where did that property go?”

In divorce cases, people often resort to work stoppages to hide their true income.

“All of a sudden, as you get to the close of a divorce case, the husband’s business just sucks air,” said Moorlach.  “I’ve had to go in and take every bank statement and say, ‘This individual is a psychologist.  He has an earning capacity of $200,000 a year, but he’s only doing $100,000 a year.  I think he’s intentionally reducing his earning capacity.”

The big disagreement:  How much Simpson will be able to earn in the future.  The Browns and the Goldmans say he’ll be able to pull in $24 million over the course of his lifetime by selling the O.J. image; Simpson’s attorneys say the value of his name is exactly zero.

“The bottom line is, O.J. is headed for bankruptcy court,” Moorlach said, echoing the opinion of several forensic accountants.

2002

The OC Register printed a guest column in their Sunday Commentary section by Supervisor Todd Spitzer, titled “Measure V makes sure O.C. keeps strong voice – It’s a mystery why opponents want to chance voters’ underrepresentation.”  During the campaign, I tried to provide arguments supporting a “no” vote on the proposed “charter light” ballot measure (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 19th Street Bridge — January 6, 2012 – However, I did not include my submission, which did not go after personalities, only ideas).  Allow me to provide you with the opening and a few selected paragraphs (nearly half of his piece) and some clarifications.  Measure G was structured to use one-sixth of the tobacco settlement revenues coming to the County for bankruptcy debt reduction.  Once the debt was paid off, then all of the revenues would go to health care and the County’s jails.  Had Measure G been the successful ballot measure, the County’s bankruptcy debt would have been paid off by now and its budget would have an extra $60 million per year not being spent on principal and interest bond payments.  I was not opposed to ballot measures, but I could see a potential plethora of Charter amendments through the use of ballot measures on the horizon.   Legal experts still differ on the role of term limits in Charter versus General Law counties.  But, you can see that I have been an advocate for term limits.  Now I’m debating the subject of whether three terms is preferable to two.  All that withstanding, you can see how fun it is to get under Spitzer’s skin.

On March 5, Orange County voters will be asked to vote on Measure V, which calls for one change to the current governing structure of the county.  Measure V will allow you, the voter, to elect a replacement on the Board of Supervisors should an unscheduled vacancy occur.  That’s all Measure V does.

More surprisingly to me, Orange County Tax Collector John Moorlach has lent his voice to the few who don’t want you, the voter, to choose your elected leaders.

In a recent commentary, he makes the argument that the passage of Measure V would put too many decisions in the hands of the voters and that the voters would abuse their voice through the local initiative process.  However, California law gives the voter the initiative process as a safeguard against abuses of power by local government and that cannot be taken away.  Remember Moorlach’s own failed Measure G, which was overwhelmingly defeated in favor of Measure H last March, after he failed to convince local voters that the tobacco litigation settlement dollars should not be used for health care?

Did Moorlach protest about initiative tinkering when he introduced Measure G?  Or does he just want to limit access to the initiative process to political insiders like himself?  Moorlach also contends that Measure V would somehow do away with county term limits.  The board was very concerned about protecting term limits when we approved Measure V for voter consideration.  That is why we insisted that these prior voter adopted measures be preserved within the language of the charter.

Neither Moorlach, Ellis nor Taylor bothered to attend any of our five publicly-noticed hearings or let their views be known before the board approved the initiative for the ballot.  Why now?  Moorlach also points out that only 13 of 58 counties have a charter.  True.  The most populous and influential counties in this state such as San Diego, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Francisco and Sacramento are charter counties and do control their own destiny.

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