MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 718 — July 8, 2015

Homelessness has many causes and takes many different forms. I served as the inaugural Chairman of Orange County Committee to End Homelessness for three years and have gained valuable insights into some of the causes and solutions to the problem. I believe it’s essential that we try to help those in need. But every community is different, and has unique needs in how best to help the homeless. Sacramento’s appetite for absolute control and rule by mandate doesn’t help the situation. In fact, a one-size-fits-all Sacramento approach handcuffs local community leaders, and actually may hurt the plight of the homeless. I make that case in the Daily Pilot column in the first piece below, regarding Assembly Bill 718.

AB 718 was heard this morning in the Governance and Finance Committee, on which I serve, and it received enough votes to move forward. I decided to abstain, as the amendments made by the author were handed to me while he was testifying in front of us. The amendments appeared to resolve many of my concerns, but neither the Republican Caucus staff or my own staff had a chance to thoroughly review them.

Consul General Alejandra Garcia Williams and her husband have been a real treasure to the County of Orange during their years of service while they were assigned there (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Credit Ratings — October 12, 2012 October 12, 2012 John Moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — February 26, 2011 February 26, 2011 John Moorlach). My wife and I enjoyed a number of social occasions where the four of us were together. I have a high admiration for both of them and had a chance to share my praise when she came to the Senate Floor on Tuesday. I extolled her intellect, her mastery of multiple languages (including Dutch!) and her excellent record. I concluded by wrapping all of that experience into my exclamation that she’s “hot” — a compliment meant to reinforce her excellence in linguistics, career and life. Unfortunately, a reporter interpreted my comments differently in the second piece below. We’ve since communicated with the Sacramento Bee reporter, and they’ve been gracious in their understanding and response, just providing it on their website . In any event, I include their story below as an FYI. I also want to thank the Consul General for her years of service to Orange County and wish her a successful stint here and I hope that she enjoys this assignment for many, many years.

Daily Pilot

Venezia: Should homeless people be allowed to sleep in their cars?

A new bill being proposed in Sacramento "prohibits local governments from penalizing, by impoundment or other method, the act of sleeping in a lawfully parked motor vehicle."

Assembly Bill 718 basically paves the way for the homeless living in cars or other vehicles to park on city streets for an undetermined amount of time.

More importantly, critics say it could tie the hands of local governments and law enforcement.

In Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, you can’t park a vehicle on the street for more than 72 hours.

Parking in some neighborhoods is sparse to begin with. Having someone living in a car indefinitely raises health and safety concerns.

So how do you balance the needs of the homeless living in vehicles with taxpayers who don’t want their streets turned into campgrounds?

Costa Mesa residents have already raised concerns with their council members about the rising rate of property crimes in neighborhoods. Would passage of this bill add to these numbers?

And what about sanitary conditions for those living in vehicles?

I called state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) to talk about the local impact.

Moorlach reviewed AB718, which recently came before the Governance and Finance Committee, on which he sits.

As a former Orange County supervisor, Moorlach is sensitive to the homelessness issue. He participated in the annual county homeless count and told me there were times, while walking the streets at 5 a.m., that he’d see people sleeping in their cars with makeshift coverings on the windows.

Moorlach said "we were not permitted to knock on car windows" to see how many people were in those cars. For that reason, he feels the county’s homeless count was understated.

As a longtime Costa Mesa resident, Moorlach has also seen city leaders grapple with ongoing homelessness.

Opposed to AB 718 in its current form, Moorlach offered modifications that he hopes will be considered when the bill comes back to his committee this week.

He said there should be places where the homeless can park and not be bothered — like city-owned lots, the Orange County fairgrounds and government building parking lots after working hours.

Moorlach explained that these areas have lighting and security that would offer those parking overnight some level of safety and confidence that no one would shoo them away.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff, who serves on the county’s Commission to End Homelessness, thinks Moorlach’s ideas make sense.

And he would not be opposed to bringing the concept to Newport council members, provided there were time restrictions on parking in the city lots.

During a recent count, the commission counted 45 cars with people living in them in a five-block area around a Walmart in Aliso Viejo.

In talking to some of these folks, Kiff said, he found out that they moved around and didn’t opt for parking on residential streets, preferring more-commercial areas at night.

He said the commission works to get the homeless into "rapid rehousing" and provide them with social services.

Moorlach has a larger issue with AB 718, saying he’s "frustrated with Sacramento dictating to local municipalities."

Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger agrees.

"Once again Sacramento, which operates in a vacuum, is dictating how local governments address issues that affect our communities," Mensinger told me.

Mensinger and I talked about how Costa Mesa has been proactive with its homeless task force. He tells me social workers have helped folks with jobs, housing and counseling, but there isn’t a magic bullet.

Mensinger said, "We have restated our interest in dealing with these issues individually and addressing safety concerns associated with the homeless sleeping in their cars to Sen. Moorlach."

Moorlach suggested I read the bill analysis from his committee meeting, which I did.

Advocates of the bill say it doesn’t limit local municipalities’ parking restrictions and thus does not tie their hands entirely.

But would it leave city leaders no other options than banning overnight parking on residential streets or allowing parking only by permit?

That would be a huge inconvenience to residents.

"We don’t need more laws passed by bureaucrats in Sacramento who want to institutionalize homelessness," Mensinger said.

He plans on bringing the issue to the City Council in the hopes that its members will all get on the same page and send a letter to Sacramento voicing their concerns.

Kiff personally likes Moorlach’s idea of using city parking lots after hours, but ultimately it would be up to Newport’s council, though he too isn’t a fan of Sacramento intervention.

"There needs to be a balance," he said. "Every city needs to take some big steps to solve our homelessness problem."

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at bvontv1.

California senator calls new Mexican envoy ‘hot’

Latest in a long line of male politicians commenting on females colleagues’ appearance

By Alexei Koseff

akoseff

The California Senate this week welcomed Sacramento’s newly-appointed Mexican Consul General Alejandra Garcia Williams with praise for her previous experience in Orange County…and her looks.

“All I can say, as politely as possible, is Alejandra is hot,” said Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who also noted that Williams speaks Dutch.

Standing nearby, Williams shook her head and smiled, while Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León laughed and applauded as he walked to the microphone to speak next.

Tim Clark, Moorlach’s chief of staff, said the senator didn’t mean the comment in a sexist way. He said Moorlach considers Williams an old friend and is impressed by her ability to speak Dutch.

Moorlach is the latest in a long line of male politicians who’ve used a public forum to comment on their female colleagues’ appearance.

In April 2013, President Barack Obama drew criticism for calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country” at a fundraiser in Atherton.

After the remark swept through the national news cycle, Obama’s spokesman apologized for "the distraction created by his comments.”

In May 2011, women legislators and legal groups blasted former Assemblyman Charles Calderon for what they said were inappropriate references to California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

At an Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing for a bill to decentralize control of the California courts, the Whittier Democrat said he wasn’t targeting Cantil-Sakauye.

“It isn’t ‘Is she nice?’ ‘Cause she is,” he said. “‘Is she smart?’ ‘Cause she is. ‘Is she attractive?’ ‘Cause she is. It isn’t about that.”

Cantil-Saukye later said she was “troubled” by the remark, which she found offensive “in the context of a very serious hearing.” Calls for an apology, however, fell on deaf ears.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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