During the last three days, I elected to drive to the annual California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Executive Committee retreat. This year the day-and-a-half of meetings was held in Monterey. Two years ago it was held in my District in Newport Beach. It seemed that driving the anticipated six hours was not much different than the time needed to catch one or two flights and rent a vehicle. Plus, I love driving in this state! On the way up California 101 on Wednesday my wife and I took a break at the Camp Roberts Rest Area. There we had a chance to be photographed by a plaque for California State Historical Landmark Number 232, Mission San Antonio de Padua (see http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=21441). The actual Mission is located nearly 30 miles away, on the Hunter-Ligget Military Reservation. Because access is limited, this Mission is in an 80-acre area that provides visitors a sense of what a Mission was like before civilization sprung up around it. To give you a feel, the second photo is provided. If you ever have the chance to visit the Mission San Antonio de Padua, I would highly recommend it. Plus, the drive on the Hunter-Ligget Base is another adventure in itself.
For the past few years I have had the privilege of serving as Orange County’s representative on the CSAC Board of Directors. With 58 counties there are 58 members, plus officers on this Board. With term limits imposed on Orange County Supervisors, it is next to impossible for an Orange County Supervisor to move up the chairs as an officer. However, it is possible to be elected to the Executive Committee by the Board members from the urban counties. I was the first OC Supervisor to be elected to the Executive Committee in more than a decade and I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve in this capacity. I was encouraged to participate in the state organizations while serving as County Treasurer-Tax Collector. It is important for the larger counties to be involved and it has been fun to be the County’s voice on the Board and on the Executive Committee. The best part is the many friends that you get to make around the state.
On the way home, before leaving Monterey (where California Historical Landmark Number 1 is located), we drove to another military base to visit the Sloat Monument on the old Presidio (Fort Mervine) site (see http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/sloat-monument). The monument was constructed in 1910 and its foundation stones appear to have been donated by various counties from around the state. Orange County’s is provided in the second photo below, with its founding year of 1889 clearly printed. Call this another Quasquicentennial moment.
While away on County business, the Voice of OC was busy. In reverse order, here are Friday’s and Wednesday’s pieces. The first piece concerns an e-mail blast to the Supervisors by Shirley Grindle (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Ethics Take Two — Septembr 17, 2014, MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Thanksgiving! — November 27, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — February 7, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — What Price? — January 25, 2013, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Orange County Business Journal — January 22, 2013). Here’s what I wrote in my November 27, 2013 UPDATE LOOK BACKS:
In retrospect, it’s difficult to be optimistic about campaign oversight when those delivering this message do it in such a condescending manner. Instead of encouraging a beneficial solution, demands are imposed about what some believe should be done (and there is no room for deviation). Shirley Grindle means well, but has a prickly personality. Her devotion to monitoring every elected official’s campaign reports is a unique and telling behavior. But, it makes helping her accomplish her admirable goals a difficult slog. Regretfully, last year’s Grand Jury also fell into the same trap. Instead of stating that there are models that have been working in other jurisdictions and how they could be helpful for the County, the Grand Jury decided to call everyone corrupt and recommended an oversight panel in a very condescending manner. The County may have better oversight in the future if there are wiser messengers in the future.
The storyline of this ongoing saga doesn’t seem to change. Ms. Grindle’s anger and arrogance continue to make her goals difficult to achieve. So her e-mail blast seems like a political stunt during silly season.
Speaking of political stunts, the second piece covers Gov. Jerry Brown and the potential Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park, the site of another former military base (see MOORLACH UPDATE — You’re Being Political — April 9, 2014). I believe the Daily Pilot’s piece on this event makes my case (see http://www.dailypilot.com/news/tn-dpt-me-1008-brown-great-park-20141007,0,6237355.story).
Tuesday’s event marked a rare appearance in Orange County for Brown, who used the chance to stump for the cemetery bill’s author, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, a Fullerton Democrat locked in a tight race to keep her seat.
"The [state] Finance Department opposed [the bill] because it costs money, and you know I don’t like to spend money," Brown said. "But Sharon over here twisted my arm, and I decided it was a darn good cause."
Democrats are battling to hang on to their supermajority in the Assembly. But Brown urged members of the audience to look beyond party lines and "look at the person, look at what they’re doing and look at our future."
This state is still in the worst fiscal condition that it has ever been in its entire 164-year history. It does not have money, so it has even stolen funds from Orange County (see MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 701 — September 14, 2013 as one example). To exploit our veterans with a feel good proposition that is remote in its actually being accomplished is a sad political stunt.
The third piece below is a follow up to Tuesday’s topic (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Tolerance — October 7, 2014). One wonders who really is trying to push a belief system (isn’t psychological projection an interesting phenomenon to observe?).
Campaign Finance Watchdog Angry Over Wording of Ethics Measure
By NORBERTO SANTANA JR. Voice of OC
Campaign finance watchdog Shirley Grindle is harshly criticizing Orange County supervisors for approving what she says is grossly misleading language for a November ballot measure on the enforcement of campaign finance rules.
The ballot measure, Measure E, asks voters to give the Board of Supervisors authority to seek a contractual relationship with the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for ongoing regulation of campaign finance laws in Orange County.
It is the result of widespread frustration over what many say is lax enforcement of local campaign finance laws by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. The thinking is that the FPPC would offer more consistent regulation.
What has angered Grindle is that in the ballot language the county refers to the FPPC as the "Ethics Commission." This is galling to her because she and others — including the grand jury and the Orange County Employees Association — have long pushed for an independent local ethics commission to no avail.
“I just received my Sample Ballot and have been informed by the Registrar of Voters that the County Counsel prepared the statement which reads "Authorize Ethics Commission to Enforce Orange County Campaign Finance Rules,” Grindle wrote supervisors last week.
"Since when has the Fair Political Practices Commission been called an Ethics Commission? You should be ashamed of yourselves for resorting to such devious and misleading tactics."
Grindle continued: "Are you calling the Fair Political Practices Commission an "Ethics Commission" because you know that is what the voters want to hear? Or are you admitting an Ethics Commission is the way to go?"
Supervisors reacted strongly to Grindle’s accusations. County Supervisor John Moorlach called her “an angry person," while Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson characterized her attitude as dictatorial.
“The only thing Shirley accepts is Shirley’s way,” Nelson said. “When she ascends to the seat of local monarch she’ll get her way all the time. Until then she’ll have to suffer the inconvenience that sometimes people just honestly disagree.”
Meanwhile, OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino defended Grindle’s arguments.
"Measure E states that a commission which doesn’t even exist (California Ethics Commission) would perform the duties of a real ethics commission," Berardino said. "This intentionally misleading statement on the ballot demonstrates the exact reason two Grand Juries have tried to get the Board to form a real ethics commission. Voters must reject Measure E.”
Moorlach notes that supervisors never voted to use that language but only authorized that the ballot measure be prepared.
Indeed, supervisors on July 15 voted to direct the Registrar of Voters to place the FPPC enforcement ordinance on the Nov. 4 ballot and also directed County Counsel to prepare the ballot language and impartial analysis of the ordinance.
Under the county’s rules, neither are required to come back to supervisors for approval once a measure is cleared for placement on the ballot.
And that’s the way it should be, said Supervisor Todd Spitzer.
Spitzer said he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to have local politicians tinkering with ballot titles and designations.
County officials will not comment on whether any supervisors communicated with county counsel as the ballot language for the measure was being prepared.
However, there have been longstanding arguments throughout California because the state attorney general often comes up with ballot language, and many politicians do not like how the language often turns out.
As it turns out, it looks like the ballot vote will largely be ceremonial because OCEA spearheaded efforts in Sacramento to kill legislation that would have allowed the FPPC to handle such matters at the local level.
Spitzer said he would avoid an argument with Grindle and called her a friend but said he disagreed.
“I agree with her on the needs for an ethics commission. She believes that if this passes the pressure is off for an ethics commission. That’s where I respectfully disagree," Spitzer said. "The November election will give us a good read on the public’s demand for a new oversight commission.”
OC Vets Celebrate Cemetery Victory
By NORBERTO SANTANA JR.
Gov. Jerry Brown came to Orange County this week, joining Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, a host of Republican elected officials and labor leaders to celebrate the passage of Quirk-Silva’s legislation paving the way for a veterans’ cemetery at the Great Park in Irvine.
For many Orange County veterans standing in Tuesday’s heat near the airstrips of what used to be the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, the event was about stepping out of the shadows and pressing politicians to secure a final resting place for veterans where their families can mourn without having to travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles counties.
“If you sit back and don’t do anything, we watch nothing happen,” said Jim Torres, a Sr. Vice Commander with California-based Disabled American Veterans.
Torres said he and other veterans are tired of having to drive the widows of fallen soldiers all the way to distant counties. They deserve a place where they can spend time with the graves of the loved ones they lost, he said.
Orange County supervisors John Moorlach and Shawn Nelson have called Quirk-Silva’s efforts on behalf of the cemetery an election year stunt, saying there is no federal allocation to create a cemetery.
Quirk-Silva dismissed such criticism.
“Politics means to create action,” Quirk-Silva said at the event. “I’m proud of what we’ve created together.”
Many Republican elected officials on Tuesday agreed with the sentiment that despite the political overtones, Orange County has actually accomplished something real for veterans.
“This is a good example of a Republican council majority working with a Democratic legislature in Sacramento and a Democratic governor came together,” said Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway.
Irvine city council members voted unanimously in July to designate a 125-acre piece of city land adjacent to the Great Park for the cemetery. The Great Park and the proposed cemetery are next to the former El Toro Marine base.
Quirk-Silva, who chairs the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, said her proposal authorizes the state Veteran Affairs Department to work with the Orange County Board of Supervisors and city councils to build an Orange County veterans cemetery owned and operated by the state.
Santa Ana LULAC Council#147 President Zeke Hernandez commended Quirk-Silva “for answering the call to duty to author Assembly Bill 1453 and Governor Brown to sign his approval for the bill.”
“With this, a major part of Orange County’s Veterans Memorial Park Committee’s mission is completed, but the work continues for additional cemetery development and design funding, and committed ancillary services for veterans and their families,” said Hernandez, who serves as Vice Chairman of the OCVMPC, and is a Vietnam-era Army veteran, with two brothers who fought in Vietnam.
The biggest hurdle still facing efforts to create a veterans cemetery is securing federal funding, something that many – such as Moorlach and Nelson – have said will be extremely difficult to accomplish.
You can reach Norberto Santana Jr. at nsantana and follow him on Twitter: @NorbertoSantana.
Supervisors Respond to Vanguard Discrimination Complaint
By THY VO Voice of OC
Supervisors responded Tuesday to an internal complaint by a county employee which alleges a partnership with the evangelical Christian school Vanguard University is discriminatory and therefore a violation of a county policy, because of the school’s views on homosexuality and gay marriage.
The county has a deal with Vanguard and two other institutions, Brandman and National University, to provide county employees with reduced tuition in exchange for allowing the universities to advertise to employees in internal electronic communications.
Chris Prevatt, an LGBTQ activist and Health Care Agency employee who filed the complaint late September, says the county’s own nondiscrimination ordinance should prohibit it from partnering with Vanguard University, which rejects homosexuality, gay marriage and premarital sex, according to a policy on its website.
Supervisor John Moorlach said in a phone interview that, while he is waiting to hear from the county’s legal counsel, employees have three different institutions to choose from, and Vanguard is just one of them.
He also responded to a Voice of OC article about the complaint in a post titled "Tolerance," on a blog, Moorlach Update, where he regularly offers commentary on his media appearances.
"…when the LGBT community has achieved so much in recent history, it is disappointing that it appears that they are now shutting out a segment of our society," Moorlach wrote. "It is awkward to see a group that has been oppressed now becoming the oppressor. Especially when the one being oppressed preaches a doctrine of love."
Prevatt said that while he does not object to Vanguard’s religious affiliation, he does object to allowing the university advertise on internal county communications.
"Pushing people to convert to a particular belief system, or to deny one’s own sexual identity, does not demonstrate in my opinion anything other than religious bigotry," Prevatt said. "It’s fine for folks to believe in these things, but not for it to be promoted using government resources."
Supervisor Todd Spitzer said the partnership with Vanguard would be concerning if there were not already two other schools offered to employees, although he said he would reserve his judgment until hearing from the county’s legal counsel.
"If, and I emphasize if, an institution were to engage in discriminatory practices then I don’t think it’s an appropriate opportunity for the county to offer," Spitzer said from the dais.
Supervisors previously approved deals with Brandman and National University earlier this year. The agreement with Vanguard was completed through staff action, after supervisors granted the Human Resources department the authority to do so.
Supervisor Patricia Bates declined to comment when approached at the dais, saying she had not been briefed on the issue. Chairman of the Board Shawn Nelson and Supervisor Janet Nguyen did not return calls for comment.
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