MOORLACH UPDATE — 405 Toll Lanes — October 29, 2013

I was interviewed by KNX 1070 AM this morning, so you may catch it during the day. Their website has a brief story about tonight’s public hearing, which is the first piece below. I find the explanation by LA County transportation officials about the lack of success of the I-110 Freeway pilot project somewhat amusing. They are blaming traffic slowdowns on former illegal carpool users who have now migrated into the non-carpool lanes. How shallow does it get? Illegal solo drivers? How about former legal carpoolers that decided that buddying up was no longer beneficial, and now there are two cars on the freeway instead of one? The second piece on the topic is from the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch.

OC Residents, Public Officials To Debate Toll Lanes On 405 Freeway

WESTMINSTER (CBSLA.com) — Orange County residents will get a chance to voice their opinion Tuesday night on a proposal to introduce toll lanes along the I-405 Freeway.

KNX 1070′s Mike Landa reports the public meeting in Westminster will also feature at least one county official who opposes the plan.

Following a meeting in September, the Orange County Transportation Authority’s (OCTA) Board Of Directors is scheduled to vote on Nov. 8 on the Caltrans-backed proposal, which would add toll lanes on the 405 between SR-55 at Costa Mesa and the 605 Freeway at the Los Angeles County border.

If approved, construction would begin in 2015 and is estimated to last up to five years.

The 405 Freeway Cities Coalition, who organized the town hall-style forum, will host a panel comprised of City Council members from six cities: Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, and Westminster.

Several elected public officials were also expected to attend, including county Supervisor John Moorlach and State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor.

Moorlach said the state appears to be tying freeway funding to an agreement to introduce toll lanes, which in turn has led to push-back by residents.

“We need to step up and say, ‘Wait a second, we’re the second-highest generator of income tax for the state of all 58 counties, and you’re treating us as if we haven’t been planning and doing the right things over all this time period,” he said. “That just doesn’t sit well.”

The 405 freeway in Orange County is counted among the busiest stretches of road in all of the U.S., with over 370,000 cars a day traveling up and down the interstate.

Express toll lanes that were installed and opened on the Harbor (110) Freeway earlier this year have been blamed for slower traffic speeds, with officials attributing the slowdown to solo drivers no longer being allowed to use the carpool lane illegally.

The town hall forum will be held at the Westminster Community Services Building started at 6:30 p.m.

405 Toll Lanes to be Addressed at Tuesday Meeting

The OCTA has proposed adding toll lanes to the 405 Freeway in Orange County.

Posted by John Schreiber (Editor)

A community meeting on Tuesday will offer the public a chance to comment on a proposal to add toll lanes to the 405 Freeway in Orange County.

The meeting, which will be held at the Community Services Building in Westminster, will feature a panel consisting of city council members from six cities including Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Westminster.

The meeting will also include remarks from elected officials including Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor and State Assemblyman Travis Allen.

The meeting will address the proposed stretch of toll road on the 405 freeway between SR-55 in Costa Mesa and the 605 freeway at Orange County’s border with Los Angeles County.

The proposed toll lanes by the Orange County Transportation Authority will go up for a vote at the OCTA Board of Directors meeting on Nov. 8. Organizers said that Tuesday’s meeting is meant to gather public feedback on the proposal to pass along to the OCTA and Caltrans.

The proposal has drawn much criticism from the public and city leaders, including vocal opposition at a similar community meeting last July.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Westminster Community Services Building, 8300 Westminster Boulevard.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

October 29

1998

In the OC Register’s The Irvine Citizen, “The Buzz” column by Maurice Alcala, titled “Agran raises the most and spends the most in council campaign,” provided city council candidate campaign finance information and endorsement updates. Here is one sentence:

Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach and Orange County Sheriff-elect Mike Carona have endorsed Councilman Greg Smith, who is running for reelection.

2008

Five years ago, the employer contribution rate for public safety members (Deputy Sheriffs) into the retirement system was 46 percent. If you add the other benefits that the County provides, the total benefit package represents about 49 percent of salary. When a Deputy Sheriff works overtime, the benefit costs do not rise and stay the same, but the hourly wage rate goes up 50 percent. Consequently, the cost of hiring another Deputy Sheriff is roughly the same as paying overtime to an existing Deputy Sheriff. This may explain the increased use of overtime in the Sheriff’s Department (six of one, half-dozen of another). This creates an awkward conundrum. If the contribution rate for public safety members rises above 50 percent, then it makes more sense to fully utilize overtime (but not to the level where fatigue may impair performance). Consequently, it made the use of lower paid correctional officers in the jails about the only reasonable solution to assist the Sheriff’s Department in managing its budget, especially during these more difficult economic times of declining sales tax revenues. Norberto Santana, Jr., of the OC Register covered the topic in “O.C. supervisors step up support to put non-deputies over jails – Sheriff overtime report notes savings from using correctional officers in jails instead of deputies.”

County officials are stepping up their support for replacing sheriff’s deputies with less expensive correctional officers across Orange County jails.

As the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday debated a report analyzing mismanagement of deputy overtime spending, issued by the newly formed office of Performance Auditor, Supervisors’ Chairman John Moorlach said using cheaper workers in the jails makes sense.

"Correctional officers are the only reasonable solution," Moorlach said referring to the soaring costs of deputy overtime – which increased by 158 percent during the last decade and now hovers at $47 million annually.

The Performance Auditor analysis – ordered after the Orange County Register published an investigation detailing mismanagement of overtime spending – concluded that sheriff’s officials lacked any kind of meaningful tracking of overtime shifts and had instituted workplace rules, such as shorter workweeks, without doing any fiscal analysis.

The report – which county supervisors universally applauded – shows a lack of management over the costs and also details the transformation of deputy sheriffs into jailers. The report highlights that more than 42 percent of all overtime costs came out of the jails mainly to replace longstanding vacant positions.

Performance auditors concluded that the Sheriff’s Department lacked any kind of philosophy on how to spend overtime dollars, which led to:

•A "siloed" and therefore inconsistent approach to overtime management

•An absence of accountability for overtime management

•The excessive use of overtime by some employees

•The inequitable, albeit voluntary, distribution of overtime among employees

•The conclusion among staff that overtime use and management are a low priority

•Overtime costs far exceeding annual budgeted amounts at various locations

•Loose enforcement of the "48-hour per pay period" overtime limit

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens – who was appointed earlier this year to replace former Sheriff Mike Carona – said the report added impetus to her effort to study replacing deputy sheriffs with cheaper workers throughout the jails. Hutchens told supervisors that she expects an ongoing jail audit – set to be presented in November – to detail specific approaches to introducing the cheaper workers. Hutchens said as much as 30 percent of deputies working in the jails could be replaced by correctional officers over time through attrition.

The report also triggered widespread support for the office of Performance Auditor, created at the suggestion of Supervisor Chris Norby last year with a $750,000 budget and three staffers. The idea, as Moorlach noted, was to create "a financial SWAT team" that could allow county supervisors to conduct deep analysis on problem areas.

"This is what we created you to do," said Norby to office director Steve Danley.

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