MOORLACH UPDATE — Mil-Walkie — July 7, 2014

My wife and I are just back from a fun visit to the Milwaukee area in Wisconsin. We started with a walking tour of my granddaughter’s new neighborhood. Jordi loves to take walks. When she’s in the mood, she simply asks “walkie?” It gave a whole new meaning to the name Milwaukee. Wisconsin is lush. Everything is green and wooded. The trees are glorious. Walks were a treat as we got to listen to Robins and other song birds sing away. You can even pick cherries from a cherry tree on the nearby school yard. We enjoyed an incredible variety of weather, including thunder storms, which provides for all of the greenery. A pleasant walk through the Boerner Botanical Gardens really displayed how many varieties of flowers and roses that thrive in this lush setting. It was a stark contrast to California’s current drought condition. But, with the standing water, it also made me very appreciative of the Orange County Vector Control District’s efforts to address the County’s mosquito population.

We enjoyed a tail-gating party at Miller Park, which has a great tradition of allowing this pre-game activity. The Brewer’s game against the Colorado Rockies was exciting, going down to a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth. We enjoyed time at my son-in-law’s church, where he now works. We celebrated my granddaughter’s second birthday with a lovely backyard party at my daughter’s in-law’s home. We visited Lake Geneva and enjoyed the renowned mail boat ride. We visited the Harley-Davidson Museum. I’m a car museum nut, including having worked at the former MovieWorld Cars of Stars in Buena Park while in high school. My take: Unless you’re a serious Harley fan, this museum doesn’t make it to my “must visit” list. We visited Milwaukee’s version of “Pretend City,” the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Being the 4th of July week, we enjoyed three wonderful evening firework displays. The annual Milwaukee Summerfest had a great showing last Tuesday night. Milwaukee has a massive annual show every July 3rd. And we enjoyed a community 4th of July show in my granddaughter’s city.

We also watched plenty of World Cup Soccer, a family tradition. Since we didn’t have access to cable and the I-Pad screen is small, we had to find venues to watch the important games. There was a tavern in downtown Milwaukee that made it to the news, as it painted its courtyard in Brazilian colors. So we decided to watch the United States game there. It was standing room only, but we were able to commandeer a booth with a bench. I nursed my lemonade through the long game. Unfortunately, the Belgium team beat the US. On the way out of the establishment, I was interviewed by the CBS Milwaukee affiliate, Channel 58. If you want to see a couple of seconds of me holding Jordi, then go to http://www.cbs58.com/news/local-news/Local-taverns-cash-in-on-US-World-Cup-run-265488711.html. One of my daughter’s friends asked, “How long have you been in town? I’ve been here all my life and I’ve never made it to the local news.”

But, all good things must come to an end. Thanks kids for a great break. We had a wonderful time. And Happy 7th Anniversary!! It was my first out-of-state vacation in six years and now I get to attack the e-mails and piles of new mail and documents. So, be patient with me as I dig out.

Rick Reiff of SoCal Insider on PBS interviewed me just before I left town. To watch the interview, go to http://pensiontsunami.com/blog/?p=181. You may also want to bookmark the Pension Tsunami website, as it is a great resource for news clippings on the fiscal impacts of defined benefit pension plans on municipalities. I also wore an orange tie, as I’m still diligently rooting on the Netherlands in the World Cup. (We watched Saturday’s game at the Café Hollander in Wauwatosa.) Go, Oranje!

While walking into the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the Kandinsky exhibit, I received my only reporter call during our trip. The resulting piece made it to the LA Times and Daily Pilot over the weekend. Having just enjoyed flying out of and in to John Wayne Airport, I have a couple of thoughts. The first is that I could see Denver International Airport on the first leg of our return flight yesterday morning. There is a reason why it was built so far out of town. Ironically, just like Sacramento Airport, you could see new residential neighborhoods creeping ever closer to the airport. Since JWA is not out in the farm fields, one must be respectful of the densely populated community surrounding the facilities. Regretfully, it appears that our current Orange County Grand Jury missed the point of finding an appropriate balance, did not consider the recent impact of the economy on air travel, and underestimated the tremendous amount of work done by local community groups, the city of Newport Beach and the County, including my office. I guess that’s what happens when nineteen people get to be experts for twelve months. Oh, well. Had they interviewed me (or anyone else knowledgeable about JWA), I would have told them that a cell phone waiting lot is in the design phase and should be built next spring.

JWA report brings ire

Grand jury says airport could have a bigger effect on local economy if operating curfews were lifted.

By Jill Cowan

A recent report by the Orange County Grand Jury suggesting that John Wayne Airport’s operating constraints are blunting its potential impact on the local economy is ruffling feathers in Newport Beach, where residents have long fought to keep the roar of jets over their homes to a minimum.

"There’s a lot wrong with it," Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff said about the report Wednesday, adding that the findings hinged on "a lot of speculation."

The grand jury, he said, didn’t ask the city for input.

The report, which was released last week, comes as the county is in the midst of the environmental review phase of a process to extend the agreement that places caps on the airport’s operations.

The current agreement, which resulted from a 1985 legal settlement aimed at curbing the airport’s effects on the surrounding community, is set to expire in 2015.

If approved as proposed — following months of negotiations between the settlement’s parties, including Newport Beach, the county and two Newport resident advocacy groups — the extension would allow stepped increases to annual passenger caps effective through 2030, as well as more departures.

The airport’s famously strict curfews are governed by a separate county ordinance. Under the proposed deal struck by the settlement parties last year, those curfews would be in place until 2035 — a major selling point for the city.

The grand jury, however, found that the operational limits keep the airport from capitalizing on growing demand for flights and becoming a greater contributor to a "more robust" county economy.

"The Settlement Agreement operating constraints significantly impair John Wayne Airport’s ability to serve future demand," the report says.

The document recommends that county and airport officials consider opening up the curfews once newer models of jets are quiet enough when they take off.

But Kiff said that was too far out on which to base any kind of action plan.

"Someday fleets might be a lot quieter," he said. "Someday jets might leap straight up into the air … but we don’t know that."

Among the report’s other recommendations are that officials explore changing the airport’s name to John Wayne International Airport, and building a cell phone waiting lot.

It also suggests lowering JWA’s long-term parking fees to offset what it found were 3% to 24% more expensive commercial fares compared to other local airports.

Such a move would lure more leisure travelers, who might otherwise head to Long Beach or Ontario International airports.

Kiff said that approach is counterproductive, because, as he put it, "Ontario is begging for customers."

Overall, the report read as "kind of one-sided," said Marko Popovich, president of Stop Polluting Our Newport, one of the advocacy groups included in the settlement negotiations.

"It’s looking at the potential economic benefit without looking at the residential property values," he said.

Popovich added that he hoped the Board of Supervisors keep in mind the long hours spent delicately negotiating the proposed agreement extension when it officially responds to the report within 90 days, as is required by law.

"We hope they’ll listen to public opinion on this," he said.

Supervisor John Moorlach, whose district includes Newport Beach, said he hadn’t had a chance to thoroughly review the report, but the title alone, "Maximizing the benefits of John Wayne Airport to better serve Orange County," was disconcerting.

"From my memory, ‘maximizing,’ was used," he said. "I wasn’t at all amused by the choice of that word."

He said he was disappointed that the grand jury hadn’t spoken with him for the report.

"We’re trying to find a fair balance between air carriers and the residents," he said. "And we’re working diligently to have an extension to the settlement agreement that’s fair to everybody."

Airport spokeswoman Courtney Wiercioch said staff members were working with the county to weigh possible responses that will go before the supervisors and that she couldn’t comment on its findings.

But, she said, "we noticed that they were complimentary about our role in the community, and we certainly appreciate that."

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