MOORLACH UPDATE — Color-Coded Ratings — April 30, 2014

Yesterday’s Board meeting started by honoring the Vanguard University of Southern California Men’s Basketball Team for winning the 2014 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I National Champions (see MOORLACH UPDATE — NAIA Champions — April 17, 2014). The Daily Pilot covers the ceremony in the first piece below. My thanks to Chair Nelson for allowing this rare presentation. Thanks to all who were able to attend the reception and the presentation. The wording of the Resolution is provided at the bottom of this UPDATE.

The Daily Pilot, in the second piece below, covers the Board’s decision to decline the Health Care Agency’s (HCA) recommended response to the Grand Jury on restaurant ratings. Instead, the Board majority requested that HCA prepare a response that was favorable toward instituting color-coded seals, a minor change from the all-orange colored decals currently being displayed (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Restaurant Rating Redux — March 7, 2014). The Daily Pilot piece is followed by those of the LA Times, the Fountain Valley Patch, and Kitsap Sun (Voice of OC). To read the Grand Jury report, go to http://www.ocgrandjury.org/pdfs/2013_2014_GJreport/Restaurant_Report.pdf.

BONUS: We’re hosting another Saturday day hike for June 14th, from 9 a.m. to noon. We will meet at the Pacific Ridge Trailhead and hike toward the coast to El Morro. Michael O’Connell, Executive Director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, will be our guide. Space is limited. Please e-mail your interest to Cammy.Danciu.

Supervisors honor Vanguard University squad

The national champion Vanguard University men’s basketball team was further lionized Tuesday with an honor from the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

"Make me feel short," joked Supervisor John Moorlach, who next to most people looks tall, as he invited the team to the podium at the board’s meeting.

Coaches and supporters snapped photos while Moorlach read a congratulatory proclamation recognizing the Lions’ historic NAIA Division I title.

It’s the first ever for the faith-based university, whose Costa Mesa campus borders City Hall. Costa Mesa is in Moorlach’s supervisorial district.

"We just want to say we’re so proud of you," Moorlach said. "And we’re excited you’re representing Orange County across the nation."

Coach Rhett Soliday thanked the board and university President Michael Beals, who also attended the presentation.

Soliday said he takes seriously the responsibility of leading "a group of guys who are going to be incredible contributors to the future of this county."

"I need to continue to carry the torch," he said.

—Jill Cowan

County to explore restaurant ratings

Rather than use letter grades, as L.A. does, supervisors agree to explore color codes.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to further explore a color-coded restaurant inspection sign system in response to a grand jury report that criticized the county’s current system as confusing.

For years, a debate over that system — using nearly identical orange placards to denote whether a restaurant has passed, conditionally passed or failed its most recent inspection — has largely been on the back burner.

In past discussions, the board has considered moving toward a letter-grade system that would better align with those in neighboring counties, including Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego.

But efforts fizzled over concerns about funding and potential impacts on small businesses.

On this week’s agenda, the board was asked to consider a formal response to the most recent report, which suggested a traffic light-style color code — red, yellow and green – similar to ones in Sacramento and Alameda counties.

The board opted to put off making that formal response until members could look a little more closely at the color-coded system. County staff members will report back on the issue by May 20.

This week, supervisors said they hoped to finally put the debate to rest.

Constituents have said that when it comes to food safety, "It’s your job to protect us," said Supervisor John Moorlach, who has been a strong supporter of a color-coded system.

Keeping the status quo only to have the issue resurface every few years doesn’t serve the public, added Supervisor Pat Bates. And switching to a color-coded system, she said, could be a simple, cost-effective fix.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who has previously supported a letter-grade system, agreed — though he asked county staff members to explore creative ways of curbing any implementation costs, while still serving businesses, such as allowing retired restaurant inspectors to conduct off-hour reinspections on a part-time basis.

Moorlach, Bates and Spitzer voted in favor of exploring the color-coded system.

While Supervisor Janet Nguyen said she may ultimately support that effort, she abstained from the vote until she could determine whether a new system would mean increased fees for small business owners.

"I don’t want this to be a burden on our businesses," she said. "A restaurant is not a dollar business, it’s a penny business."

Supervisor Shawn Nelson, on the other hand, opposed the proposal outright, saying that it’s not the government’s role to make decisions for consumers.

"It’s about food safety," he said. "Either you’re endangering the public or you’re not."

From that perspective, he said, Orange County’s current system — where a failing restaurant will be closed — is good enough.

Orange County considers color-coded restaurant health ratings

Rather than the letter grades used in neighboring counties, O.C. could use green, yellow and red placards.

By Jill Cowan

Orange County supervisors agreed Tuesday to explore a color-coded restaurant inspection system that would alert would-be customers of what to expect at restaurants by using green, yellow and red signs.

If county health officials move forward with the plan, it would align them with restaurant rating signs in Sacramento and Alameda counties, but not neighboring Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside counties, where a letter-grading system is used.

The proposed traffic-light style was proposed in a grand jury report that criticized the county’s current system as confusing.

For years, a debate over that system — using nearly identical orange placards to signal whether a restaurant has passed, conditionally passed or failed its most recent inspection — has largely been a back-burner item and past discussions on moving toward a letter grade system have fizzled over concerns about funding and potential effects on small businesses.

On Tuesday, supervisors John Moorlach, Patricia Bates and Todd Spitzer voted in favor of exploring the color-coded system. The matter is expected to resurface by May 20 after county staffers refine a proposal.

Moorlach said constituents have told supervisors that when it comes to food safety, "It’s your job to protect us."

Keeping the status quo only to have the issue resurface every few years doesn’t serve the public, added Bates. And switching to a color-coded system, she said, could be a simple, cost-effective fix.

While Supervisor Janet Nguyen said she may ultimately support that effort, she abstained from the vote until she could determine whether a new system would mean increased fees for small-business owners.

"I don’t want this to be a burden on our businesses," she said. "A restaurant is not a dollar business, it’s a penny business."

Supervisor Shawn Nelson, on the other hand, opposed the proposal outright, saying that it’s not the government’s role to make decisions for consumers.

He said Orange County’s current system — where a failing restaurant will be closed — is good enough.

jill.cowan

County to Consider Revamping Restaurant Rating System

The signs in the window likely will be color-coded soon to make it more obvious to customers if a restaurant has passed or failed an inspection, the Board of Supervisors decided today.

Posted by Penny Arévalo (Editor)

Orange County’s restaurants will continue with the same rating system from the health care agency, but the signs in the window likely will be color-coded soon, judging from today’s discussion on the issue on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

The board voted 3-1, with Supervisor Janet Nguyen abstaining, to send a plan back to staff for some tweaking. A majority of supervisors want signs in the window that make it more obvious to customers if a restaurant has passed or failed an inspection.

Restaurants that pass would get green signs, ones that fail would have a red sign in the window, and a business that has been "conditionally" passed, but requires a re-inspection, would have a yellow sign.

The board will vote on the new placards at a meeting in May. It has until June 3 to respond to a grand jury report recommending changes to make the restaurant signs clearer to customers.

Most neighboring counties give restaurants letter grades such as A, B or a C to denote the quality, but Orange County’s supervisors rejected that proposal.

"I’ve always been concerned about a B grade and an A grade … if it’s a B, how do you move back up to an A?" Supervisor Patricia Bates said.

Nguyen decided to abstain because she was concerned that new signs would lead to an increase in fees for restaurant owners. Bates doubted it would cost much more to add color to the placards.

Board Chairman Shawn Nelson said he would like the county to get rid of an "award of excellence" given to some restaurants who consistently demonstrate high quality in food safety. Officials use it as a way to give restaurants more of an incentive.

Nelson noted building owners don’t get such incentives.

"We don’t have gold medals to those people who have super, heavy-duty reinforcement" in their buildings, Nelson said.

"I don’t know why we would want to be involved in giving out medals and pats on the back. It’s really not something the government should be doing. If you don’t meet public safety requirements you should be closed, period."

Let the restaurant owners go to a private rating organization such as Zagat for a commendation, Nelson argued.

"The common-sense approach is pass-fail. Let someone else give gold medals for excellence in achievement," Nelson said. "We’re just about protecting health, not giving out awards."

After today’s meeting, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach said the letter-grade system used in neighboring Southern California counties has been erratic and subjective.

"For some counties an A is a pass and a B is a fail," Moorlach said. "In other counties an A is great, a B is OK and a C is not so great. But if they get a red sign you know it’s closed, you’re not going to eat there."

–City News Service

County Moves Toward Safety Signs Outside Restaurants

By NICK GERDA – writer (AP)

Orange County, at the urging of the local grand jury, is likely to join its neighbors and require restaurants to prominently display food safety ratings that are easily seen by potential diners.

At their board meeting Tuesday, a majority of county supervisors supported a prominent sign system requested in a recent grand jury report. Currently, restaurant health inspection results are available online through the county Health Care Agency, but clearly-labeled signs are not required outside to inform customers deciding whether to enter a restaurant.

“I think the [current] system is very much now out of step with Southern California,” said Supervisor Todd Spitzer, noting that all surrounding counties use a letter-grade system.

Visible ratings are “long overdue in our county,” he added.

Los Angeles County enacted its A-B-C food safety sign requirement in 1998, following an undercover TV news investigation that showed unsafe conditions in restaurants.

Over the next three years, food-borne hospitalizations in LA County dropped 29 percent while the rest of the state saw a 6-percent drop, according to a Stanford Graduate School of Business study cited by grand jurors.

Supervisors ultimately voted 3-1 Tuesday to direct county staff to return by May 20 with a report that recommends a colored-sign approach. That system would assign specific colors to ratings: green for “pass,” yellow for “conditional pass” and red for “closed.”

Chairman Shawn Nelson opposed and Supervisor Janet Nguyen abstained, citing a desire to better understand costs for restaurants.

Nelson said the inspections should simply be pass or fail, and it’s not government’s job to give positive ratings for businesses.

“We’re about protecting health, not giving awards,” Nelson said.

Nguyen, meanwhile, said she abstained out of concern for the extra $10 to $27 that color-coded signs are expected to cost restaurants.

“I don’t want this to be a burden on our businesses,” said Nguyen, whose husband and former chief of staff once co-owned a restaurant in Stanton that was found by county inspectors to have unsafe food conditions.

“It’s a penny-pinching business, so every penny means a job or two,” Nguyen said, asking if the extra cost could instead come out of the county general fund.

Vice Chair Pat Bates, meanwhile, countered the cost isn’t that significant in light of the public health benefits.

“If somebody’s sitting in a car and they can read the sign better, that’s what it’s about,” said Bates.

County staff previously pegged the additional cost at $10 to $27 per restaurant, or more than $500,000 overall, according to Spitzer.

Most of that added cost, he said, would come from the extra time inspectors would spend arguing with restaurant owners if their rating is downgraded.

To speed up re-inspections after a restaurant gets a negative rating, Spitzer suggested the county hire back some of its retired inspectors on a part-time, per-inspection basis.

Food safety staff from the county’s Health Care Agency inspect 35,000 businesses each year, Moorlach said.

Several constituents have urged Moorlach to adopt some kind of system for potential customers to quickly know a restaurant’s food safety rating, he added.

“That’s your job. You’re supposed to protect us from restaurants” that aren’t meeting minimum safety standards, Moorlach paraphrased them as saying. “I think the grand jury makes some strong points.”

The three supervisors who supported the move initially had different views on what type of signs to use.

Spitzer preferred letter-grades, Bates wanted color-based signs and Moorlach was fine with either letter-grades or color-coded signs. The board ultimately directed staff to use the color-coded system in its final report.

The food safety report’s reception came in stark contrast to last year’s grand jury report on corruption in Orange County.

In response to the corruption report, county supervisors publicly scolded grand jurors and threatened to cut their pay.

This time around, Moorlach made a point of thanking the grand jury for “a fine report that was polite and thorough.”

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda">ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/nicholasgerda"target="_blank">@nicholasgerda.

BONUS:

By the authority of the Board of Supervisors, the following resolution is hereby issued:

WHEREAS, on March 25th, 2014, the grind turned to gold as 16 players and 7 coaches persevered to win Vanguard University’s first-ever NAIA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship; and

WHEREAS, the 2013-14 Pride team, which diligently and repeatedly prepared, practiced, played and prayed in order to position itself for such a moment, appeared poised and determined to win the title game to etch its mark in the Vanguard University history books; and

WHEREAS, as the first squad in the program’s 64-year history to earn a Golden State Athletic Conference regular season and tournament crown in the same season, and the only team to ever advance past the second round of the national tournament, and the all-time record holder for the most wins in a single season (32), the Lions did much more than make their mark, they re-wrote history; and

WHEREAS, the Blue and Gold became the only team in the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA National Championship tournament to end its season with a victory; and

WHEREAS, the victory was a collective effort by Myles Smith, Noel Larkins, Chris Gorman, Preston Wynne, Selle Hann, Nuno Muandumba, TJ Burke, Logan Fougnies, Deangelo Jones, Zach Allmon, Swing Chuang, Kirk Sheplay, Jordan Diandy, Tino Zaragoza, Keith Mason, Brandon Wiehe; and

WHEREAS, Head Coach Rhett Soliday was named the 2013-14 Rawlings-NAIA National Coach of the Year, the first Vanguard coach to be honored since the award began in 1954; and

WHEREAS, Assistant Coaches Brian Roberts, Brad Davis, Kevin Heenan, Shacolby Randell and George Tuttle were key in bringing home the Blue and Gold victory; and

WHEREAS, Preston Wynne received the Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player Award and Chris Gorman was named the ESPN Player of the Game;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE ORANGE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS does hereby recognize and congratulate the Vanguard Lion’s Men’s Basketball Team for their victory in the 2013-2014 NAIA National Tournament and offers them best wishes for many winning seasons to come.

Dated this 29th day of April, 2014

Disclaimer: You have been added to my MOORLACH UPDATE communication e-mail tree. In lieu of a weekly newsletter, you will receive occasional media updates, some with commentary to explain the situation, whenever I appear in the media (unless it is a duplication of a previous story).

I have two thoughts for you to consider: (1) my office does not usually issue press releases to get into the newspapers (only in rare cases); and (2) I do not write the articles, opinions or letters to the editor.

This message should appear at the bottom of every e-mail you receive. If these e-mails should stop arriving in your mail box, it will be because your address has changed and you did not provide a new one. If you do not wish to receive these e-mails, then please e-mail back and request to unsubscribe.

Advertisements