MOORLACH UPDATE — Day Two — March 26, 2015

It’s my second full day here in Sacramento. I’ve already had a chance to greet Gov. Jerry Brown and obtain a new public e-mail address: Senator.Moorlach. My Senate website is http://district37.cssrc.us/.

For those interested in a couple of campaign reviews, the Sacramento Bee shared its surprise at my victory at http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article16096382.html. Of course, my surprise was not winning with a higher margin.

The FlashReport provides an analysis from my campaign consultant’s perspective at http://www.flashreport.org/blog/2015/03/24/state-senate-37-how-200000-defeated-750000/.

During a break in my calendar yesterday, I was apprised of the Fairview Development Center’s legislative plight by Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan. This gave me a few minutes to do a little research before the Daily Pilot contacted me. The preliminary outlook is provided in the first piece below. Subsequent to the call, I had the chance to meet with Senator Jeff Stone and we agreed to meet on the bill in the near future. I’m hitting the ground running and the fun is covered in the first piece below

The second piece is from the OC Register and addresses the joys of dealing with independently elected countywide officials. I could provide a number of links to my blog, but this piece covers it well.

Orange County is getting closer to locating a year-round homeless shelter, which is great news. The Voice of OC covers this positive progress in the third piece below. The location is just a few yards north of my District, but I’m excited about the potential site, and stand ready to assist in any way possible.

Daily Pilot

State bills threaten to close developmental center

Legislations’ authors want the developmental facility in Costa Mesa and a second near Napa closed so funds can go elsewhere.

By Bradley Zint

Two state bills target the Fairview Developmental Center for closure so that funding can be diverted to other community-based disability programs.

The bills’ authors contend that the state-owned center in Costa Mesa and another in Northern California — which both provide 24-hour care to people with severe disabilities — have become too costly to run considering how few patients they serve.

Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta) said California taxpayers pay about $500,000 a year toward each patient’s care at Fairview and the Sonoma Developmental Center. Closing them and shifting funds to the state’s host of regional centers would cost much less, about $17,000 per person, he said.

"By shutting down these large and outdated state institutions and shifting the money to regional centers, those in need of state services will receive better care and more support," Stone said in a statement.

Stone’s bill, SB 639, aims to close Fairview by December 2018.

The second bill, AB 1405, introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), has similar provisions.

Both bills were introduced Feb. 27.

As of February, the 111-acre Fairview Developmental Center, off Harbor Boulevard, was caring for 289 people.

Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan, who first learned about the bills Wednesday, said he wants to see Fairview remain open and will petition the council for support.

"The state has a responsibility to help, and they’re basically saying, ‘Go pound sand,’" Monahan said.

The longtime councilman added that he doesn’t approve of SB 639’s proposal to relocate Fairview’s patients, who need constant care, into group residential settings that provide far less supervision.

In a group home, would they be "getting the services they need?" Monahan asked. "Or are they just thrown in front of a TV to whittle away until they die? … It’s about taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves."

Monahan was also critical of Stone and Grove for proposing legislation that doesn’t affect their constituents.

"Why are they putting bills forward to affect not only Orange County but Costa Mesa specific?" Monahan said. "It’s not even in their district."

When reached Wednesday, Costa Mesa’s representatives in Sacramento, Assemblyman Matt Harper (R-Huntington Beach) and Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), said they had just heard about the bills and were unable to provide comment.

"I haven’t decided in terms of the issue itself," Harper said. "Secondarily, the issues, before they even come to me, would have to go through significant legislative steps, which they may or may not even get through."

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Developmental Services, which runs Fairview and Sonoma, said the agency hasn’t taken a position yet because the legislation is pending.

A request for comment from Fairview Families and Friends Inc. — a Costa Mesa-based nonprofit that supports the center — was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

Fairview opened in 1959 and peaked in population in 1967 with 2,700 residents.

The idea of closing the 125-year-old Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge, about 20 miles northwest of Napa, has already been met with significant protest. The Press Democrat newspaper reported that a rally, staged earlier this month, attracted more than 200 people.

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A fight they won’t take on

Supervisors hesitant to act against D.A. over Dekraai case.

By TONY SAAVEDRA

Todd Spitzer, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, stood before TV cameras last week and vowed the board would hold accountable the District Attorney’s Office for the misconduct that has stalled the Scott Dekraai mass murder case.

But this week, Spitzer’s colleagues didn’t appear to have the same appetite for a fight with another elected official who has won his office five times.

“I don’t find one ruling by one judge to be a statement on the entire (District Attorney’s) Office,” said recently seated Supervisor Andrew Do, a former prosecutor. “We don’t have enough information.”

Spitzer went on the attack after a judge removed the District Attorney’s Office from the penalty phase for Scott Dekraai, who pleaded guilty to killing eight people in October 2011 at a Seal Beach salon. Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals handed the case over to the state Attorney General’s Office, which doesn’t want it and has appealed.

The attorney general also launched an investigation into allegations that prosecutors and police operated a secret network of paid jailhouse snitches to illegally harvest confessions from inmates. Evidence from the snitches also was withheld from defense attorneys.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she’s “concerned” about events at the D.A.’s office, but fell short of Spitzer’s enthusiasm for action at this time.

“I am … closely monitoring the most recent developments,” she said.

Supervisor Michelle Steel, who lives in Seal Beach, offered unqualified support for Rackauckas.

“I think he is an excellent district attorney, and I am confident that he takes responsibility for his department and will act to correct errors when they occur.”

Shawn Nelson did not return requests for comment made over three days.

With the Dekraai case tangled in the informant battle, the trial to decide his punishment could be delayed more than a year, frustrating victims’ families – and at least one locally elected official.

“How do you mess up a case like this?” asked former supervisor John Moorlach, whose district represented Seal Beach. “It’s unconscionable.”

Moorlach, now a state senator, said there is little Spitzer or anyone else on the board can do to punish or control an elected official, such as District Attorney Tony Rackauckas or Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

“We as supervisors can’t tell you what to do, we can only suggest,” Moorlach said.

Spitzer told reporters the board could use its authority over the district attorney’s and sheriff’s budgets. Moorlach, however, said withholding money from law enforcement could be politically risky because voters might interpret the action as being “soft” on crime.

“It’s a tool, but it’s seldom used,” Moorlach said. “It can be dicey.”

Spitzer said the board could expand the county Office of Independent Review, which monitors the Sheriff’s Department, to include the District Attorney’s Office. But Moorlach noted the board can’t make Rauckauckas submit to the watchdog office.

Last fall, before he left the board, Moorlach said he met with county lawyers to see what the board could do to get involved in the Dekraai case.

He said they concluded the only thing the board could do was ask for state prosecutors to investigate, which already is being done.

Officials from the District Attorney’s Office said Spitzer is making empty promises.

“They can’t legislate our policies or decision making,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas’ chief of staff.

“Basically, what this is is Spitzer running for D.A. on the graves of eight murdered people.”

Rackauckas’ campaign team said last week that he’s running for re-election in 2018.

Contact the writer: tsaavedra

Spitzer Touts Possible Homeless Shelter Site in Anaheim

By Nick Gerda

Following years of failure by local officials to find a site for Orange County’s first year-round homeless shelter, county supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer is expressing cautious optimism about a potential site in Anaheim.

Located in a light industrial section of North Anaheim, the site is far from any residential neighborhood and is actually located near a strip club, Spitzer said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, alluding to the fact that other locations have been shot down due to their proximity to schools.

“If you can’t put this shelter a half a block from an all-nude strip club…in an all-commercial area…not near any homes, not near any schools, completely separated from residences by the 91 freeway and the Santa Ana River, then you probably can’t build it anywhere,” Spitzer said.

“I really think it might be ideal,” Spitzer added, urging his colleagues to support negotiations for the property, which is located at 1000 N. Kraemer Pl.

Fullerton City Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald showed up to the supervisors meeting to tout the site, saying it “really brings together multiple cities…so a lot of good can be done there.”

The city councils of both Fullerton and Anaheim are expected to take up resolutions favoring the site at their next meetings.

In Anaheim’s case, the council is slated to also consider whether to chip in financially for the shelter.

Supervisor Michelle Steele said she would support the Anaheim site, but others were noncommittal. Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, meanwhile, said she had a different shelter site in mind but wouldn’t be specific, citing possible property negotiations.

She said the location was on the “outskirts” of one of the supervisor’s districts, not near any schools or residential neighborhoods and is “probably not” in the first or third districts. She declined to identify it further.

Despite the lack of unanimous support for the Anaheim location, supervisors did direct county staff to pursue negotiations for any location that appears promising, while at the same time saying they expect community pushback.

“It’s the same exact arguments, just different people,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson.

“We just need leadership…We need somebody to step up, be big enough to accept” that arrows are going to go flying, Nelson added. “I’m ashamed that I haven’t fixed this.”

One faction already upset about a possible Anaheim location is the main lobbying group for homeless at the Santa Ana Civic Center. They remain disappointed that supervisors backed away from a proposed site in Santa Ana.

Several hundred homeless people live at a makeshift encampment outside Civic Center, a situation that has become a symbol of the county’s failure to address the problem.

“The chronically homeless, like the people we have here at the Civic Center…nothing’s been done for these people for a long time,” said Tim Houchen, a spokesman for the Civic Center Roundtable.

The group has proposed a triage center at Civic Center, Houchen said, with a kiosk where county officials and nonprofits could run an entry program the county has to do in order to not lose millions of dollars in funding.

“Even without the shelter, we can do it right here,” Houchen said, adding that the proposal is slated for discussion at Friday’s meeting of the county Commission to End Homelessness.

The homeless advocacy group has been trying to speak with their county elected representative, First District Supervisor Andrew Do, but their calls haven’t been returned, Houchen said.

Do didn’t return an email Wednesday evening seeking comment.

Orange County is among the few large metropolitan areas in the nation that does not have a permanent, year-round shelter.

The only options now are the current shelters at National Guard armories in Fullerton and Santa Ana that only operate from December to April.

The armories program, however, lacks the types of mental health, drug and job placement services that many advocates and officials say are critical for reducing homelessness.

Support for other permanent shelter proposals in recent years wilted in the face of community resistance.

The proposal to buy a building in central Santa Ana was the most recent victim of backlash from local residents and business owners.

Before that, a site in Fullerton was floated as a possibility, but that idea collapsed after a split Fullerton City Council rejected the plan in 2013.

And in 2012, county Supervisor John Moorlach’s effort to turn a shuttered Santa Ana bus depot lost steam after stiff resistance from top city officials. Then-City Manager Paul Walters strongly opposed the site because it was just blocks away from a dense cluster of downtown businesses, including a blossoming restaurants scene.

Funding has already been set aside by the county to buy and run a shelter, with over $6 million for facility costs and $3.6 million per year for operations.

Exactly who would run the shelter has yet to be decided, though it’s likely to involve non-profit providers.

Debate on Wednesday also centered on whether to develop multiple smaller shelters or a single, larger shelter.

“I think, based on the past experience, the communities do not seem to want a large shelter that is in their community,” said Paul Cho of the Illumination Foundation, a non-profit homeless services group. He suggested that multiple shelters would also allow one to be built in South County.

The county’s current contractor who runs the armories program disagreed.

Larry Haynes, the executive director of Mercy House, said that last year over 2,000 people were served at the two armories for the first time ever.

“The data drives the issue that we need a big response to a big problem,” Haynes said, adding that there are “tremendous efficiencies” that come with larger scale facilities.

Ultimately, supervisors stood by the single shelter approach.

“I think you get the economies of scale” when you have a large shelter, said Bartlett.

A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, said a critical component is missing from the debate, which is the need for permanent supportive housing in addition to shelters.

Such housing is in short supply in Orange County but “has been shown to be the most cost effective and the most effective solution” for ending homelessness, said Eve Garrow, a policy analyst with the ACLU of Southern California.

Some of that potential housing supply is already owned by the city of Santa Ana, with many properties acquired by the city through receivership, said Houchen, the homeless lobby group’s spokesman.

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

This e-mail has been sent by Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th Senate District.

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