Treasurer Has Plan for Fair

I’m just back from the annual California State Association of Counties (CSAC) conference in Monterey.  I am Orange County’s representative on their Board of Directors.  To save the OC a little money, I decided to drive, instead of fly.  It is one of my unwritten rules to drive up and down Highway 101 at least once every five years.  The drive, as always, was glorious.  It gave my wife and me some time together and it allowed me to photograph another California Historical Landmark, No. 1037, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.  It’s across the street from the Santa Barbara County Administrative Building, so we also had a chance to visit Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf, who left the conference a day earlier.  This Landmark is located at 1100 Anacapa Street.  Travel tip:  Visit this building on a weekday, before 4:45 p.m., and go to the top of its tower.  The views of the City of Santa Barbara are wonderful from this vantage point.  Then enjoy a stroll on State Street.  To avoid rush hour traffic, we enjoyed a great dinner nearby at Opal’s. 

Now, a little catch up.  The story with the OC Fair is rather simple.  We laid it out with the approval of a resolution.  California, if you decide to sell the Fairgrounds, require that it stay a Fairgrounds.  The OC Board of Supervisors has not deviated from that position.  Thanks to certain state regulations, I am not allowed to discuss what is decided in Closed Sessions, other than what is announced.  Let me assure you that we have not wavered from this priority. 

Let me also assure you that we have not requested the involvement of the County Treasurer and that his proposal is nothing new in the mix of ideas.  It just appears that the media is so hungry for something that they’ll print whatever they can get their hands on, so any comment or idea will do.  Supervisor Campbell and I have called for another Closed Session for next Tuesday to bring our colleagues up to date on what we, as an Ad Hoc Committee, have determined in the past few weeks.  I don’t recall any discussion with Supervisor Campbell that included the involvement of our County Treasurer.  We have also tentatively scheduled a Supplemental public agenda item to approve a resolution supporting the City of Costa Mesa in its call for the Governor to drop the proposed sale of the Fairgrounds, and calling on all other OC cities to do the same.  Remember, the overall priority is to keep the OC Fairgrounds the OC Fairgrounds.  The Daily Pilot’s article is printed first.  I only provide it for clarification purposes.

Speaking of clarification, I did not personally appear before the California Coastal Commission, which seems to be what is inferred by the second article, a recent editorial submission in the OC Register.  My Chief of Staff, Rick Francis, had the privilege of sitting through two long meetings before having a chance to weigh in on my behalf.

Two other items.  Don’t forget our invitation to hike next Saturday (see below) and please put our Annual Christmas Open House on your calendar, December 16 at 3 p.m., (more info to come).

And the Look Backs provide a reminder of why I came to pursue this position in the first place.

Have a great weekend.

Treasurer suggests plan for fair site

Agreement between the county and city would work in county’s best interest, Chriss Street says. The board would be subject to transparency laws, he adds.

By Mona Shadia

Orange County Treasurer Chriss Street is recommending that the county enter into a Joint Powers Agreement with the city of Costa Mesa to buy the Orange County Fairgrounds.

In an interview Friday, Street said that a joint agreement between the county and city would work to benefit the people of Orange County, while also ensuring transparency.
“If it was bought under this scenario, the board would be subject to transparency requirements [under] the Brown Act,” Street said, adding that it’s what people have been asking for.
Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a special closed-session meeting Tuesday with its real estate property negotiator to discuss the terms of the request for proposal issued by the state for the sale of the fairgrounds.
The county began weighing the purchase of the 150-acre fairgrounds in Costa Mesa last month, when the Board of Supervisors voted to establish an ad hoc committee comprising Supervisors John Moorlach and Bill Campbell. Through exploring a purchase, the county is trying to keep the property intact as a fairground.
Under a joint agreement, Street said, a board would be set up and made up of seven members: the county treasurer, the county auditor-controller, three members appointed by the city of Costa Mesa and two by the county, in order to ensure that meetings are held before the public. Once the Joint Powers Agreement is signed and made official, it would become known as a Joint Powers Authority, Street said.
“It would be the people of the county’s fair, but a Joint Powers Agreement is a common operation that seeks to unite rather than have one dominant faction,” he said.
As for financing the purchase of the fairgrounds — to which Street kept referring in the interview as “Orange County’s Greatest Park” — he suggests that a self-sufficient bond would allow the joint authority to buy the property by authorizing the treasurer’s office to present a bid for $25 million to the state, which is what he says the fairgrounds is worth. Street said he believes that the fairgrounds, as it is, brings in enough revenue that could pay for the interest and the principal on the bond over a 25-year period.
Although many, including the city of Costa Mesa, have asked that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cancel the proposed sale, Street said, “with the state’s desperate financial situation, I would be surprised if they withdrew the offer to sell now that the process has gone so far down the road.”
In October, the state put the fairgrounds up for sale in an effort to plug a hole in its budget deficit, after the state Assembly authorized its sale in July. The state is hoping to fetch between $96 million and $180 million from the sale.

Guest column: Coastal Commission, not collaboration, helped harbor boaters



Two days before the Dana Point Harbor hearing with the California Coastal Commission, the Dana Point News published an article written by OC Dana Point Harbor director Brad Gross. In his article, he pointed out how wonderful the public process employed by the county of Orange was that allowed the county to be able to come before the commission.

A day after the hearing, the supervisor of the 5th District, Pat Bates, stated that the commission had unanimously approved the county's plan.

I would offer that the plan approved most certainly was not the county of Orange's plan and that, despite many meetings with OC DPH, none of them resulted in any improvements to the plan. The only thing that worked was the California Coastal Commission's intent on enforcing the California Coastal Act. While boaters didn't get to keep everything they have today, we should be very thankful that the Coastal Commission exists or we would have far less than what we would have had with the 5th District's plans for boaters in the harbor.

Perhaps one of the best examples to illustrate my point was the OC DPH plan to build the marine services (West Marine?) store right in the middle of where we store boats on trailers today. Even the merchants agreed with boaters way back in 2007, when we both asked the county to remove it from the plan and allow boats to be stored there, as they are today. The county refused, saying that location  was too important for the folks in N.Y. who would be buying the bonds needed to finance the land side of the revitalization.

However, the Coastal Commission staff agreed with Boaters for Dana Point Harbor that the marine services store should not be located in the middle of the dry boat storage yard. The county, faced with an option to fight the commission on this front or give in, finally agreed.

Boaters still face hundreds of lost dry boat storage locations, and the 5th District and OC DPH know this, so they were smart to not push for the store in that location. Now let's hope they are not so bitter that they will not allow the store to be located in the expanded commercial core.

Another excellent example of the lack of collaboration and public process in Dana Point Harbor is the proposed slip loss. After countless meetings and the totally bogus boaters focus group process, the county asked for a loss of up to 225 slips. The DPBA agreed with a request for a loss of up to 209, and even Supervisor (John) Moorlach weighed in, asking for a loss of 225.

Again, the ability to add slips in other parts of the harbor has been brought up since the unproductive boater meetings in 2006. More recently, this was discussed at the boaters focus group where the OC DPH director stated there was not enough parking to build out slips in that location.

Again, we have the Coastal Commission staff and the powerful Coastal Act to thank. After Boaters for Dana Point Harbor showed the commission staff that it was possible to build a couple hundred 30- and 35-foot slips in another part of the harbor, they recommended zero slip loss for Dana Point Harbor. Again, let's hope the 5th District and OC DPH are not so bitter that they find a way to make sure it doesn't happen.

What the commission approved certainly is not what the 5th District had in mind for boaters, and countless "collaborative meetings" have been inconsequential in achieving a better result for boaters. What helped? The California Coastal Commission. Thank you, commissioners and staff. As you can guess, we are not finished yet and will definitely need more help from the commission.


Our Fairview Park and Tustin Blimp Hangar outings were a blast.  Our next outing is on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We’re taking a morning hike.

The hike date and description are now up on the Irvine Ranch Conservancy website to view. 

Saturday, November 28th at 9:00 a.m. for 3 hours. 

We’ll hike 6 miles round trip from Limestone Canyon to Dripping Springs, with 475 feet of elevation change, and is described as a nice, leisurely stroll.

Because this schedule is viewable by the general public, the hike currently shows as FULL, so that random people won't try and sign up.  It's not full. 

If you wish to sign up for the hike, please contact the Irvine Conservancy directly by phone and ask for Meghan Sherburn, at 714-508-4767, and give her your information.

They will enter your reservation into their computer.  This is how they do it with hikes that are open to select groups only. 

The website will then generate a confirmation to you by email that will allow you to verify your information and be reminded of the hike.  It will also generate an e-mail if our hike needs to be cancelled due to weather conditions (Santa Ana winds or rain).

It will also pre-print the liability waiver, with all the names on it, so on the morning of the hike all you have to do is sign it and we're off!  

As soon as we hit our capacity we may have to close registration.  Consequently, only register if you are really going to join us.

The web address for the description of the hike is:

Mike O’Connell, Executive Director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy will be leading our group.


Michael O'Connell
Executive Director
Irvine Ranch Conservancy
Phone 714.508.4750 • Fax 714.508.4770
4727 Portola Parkway • Irvine, CA • 92620-1914


November 14


The Modesto Bee included me in the conclusion of their editorial on public defined benefit “Pension funds roaring to be fed like angry lion.”

As Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach said, “It’s a ticking time bomb, and everybody keeps walking around like there’s no problem.

November 17


The Daily Pilot was amazed that Wendy Leece beat the incumbent to win a seat on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board.  They even wondered if anyone could have guessed that this would happen.  I decided to remind them in a letter to the editor.  (I was premature on my congratulations, as the Registrar of Voters concluded that the absentee ballots provided enough votes to reverse the “landslide”—which was a word I used in a tongue-in-cheek manner).

I did.  Why don’t you read my editorial of Sept. 27 (see MOORLACH UPDATE – LA Daily Breeze – September 29, 2009).  I also want to congratulate Ron “Landslide” Winship as well, another successful second-timer.

November 22


Deirdre Newman of the Daily Pilot provided a front-page article on something I was pondering in “Treasurer considering supervisor run—John Moorlach, who has lived in Costa Mesa for 20 years, is eyeing a 2nd District seat opening in 2006.”  It was a nice and thorough piece.  Here are selected portions.

Moorlach said he is thinking about running for the board at the suggestion of another supervisor, Chris Norby.

After restoring the county’s financial stability from the morass of the bankruptcy, Moorlach said he is ready to apply the same techniques to the county as a whole.

“I had a chance 10 years ago to turn around a department,” Moorlach said.  “Now I have a chance to turn around the county.  I think [the supervisors] made some decisions increasing our long-term liabilities that need to be addressed, like pension and retiree medical benefits.  Both have liabilities of $1 billion or more.”
“I certainly enjoyed Huntington Beach, bodysurfing off of 13th Street and eating my chips off the pier,” he said.  “I also lived for a while in Cypress back in the 1960s.  I’m just really aware of these communities.  I’ve got 44 years of history with this area, of relationships with locations and people.  You’re just going to get someone who’s a big believer in that part of the county.”

Judy Silber of the Contra Costa Times did a follow up article on Prop. 71, now that it had been approved by the voters, in “Costly plan’s benefits murky, say stem cell measure’s critics.”  Here are some quotes:

“California has the lowest credit rating in the country,” said state Sen. Tom McClintock, the fiscally conservative Republican from Thousand Oaks.  “This measure puts us $6 billion further behind.”

Opponents say that California will be stuck with a hefty bill for a narrow field of research with only hypothetical potential.  If there were money to be made, pharmaceutical companies or venture capitalists would have already invested, they say.

“If this were such a good deal, you wouldn’t have to go to the taxpayers to borrow money,” said John Moorlach, treasurer of Orange County.  “Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb would be all over it.”