Sunday was a packed day. Monday was a vacation day.
My wife and I arrived at the Harriett Wieder Memorial Service around 2:30 p.m. The turnout was great and the service went for two hours. We arrived at our next engagement an hour-and-one-half late and missed the dinner. We enjoyed the program, which finally concluded around 9:30 p.m. And we had a bite to eat after 10 p.m.
The second event was the 30th Anniversary of Pastor Steve Mays serving as the Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel of South Bay. Both Steve and his wife Gail were honored. Steve and Gail were tax clients and Calvary Chapel of South Bay was one of my many church clients during my private practice days. If I were still a partner of my firm, I would have 34 years under my belt. I reveal this stat because I enjoyed watching Steve and Gail in their first 15 years of ministry in South Bay. Steve even gave me opportunities to speak at his church, which helped prepare me for my public career. Serving the citizens of Orange County these past fifteen years has prevented me from staying in close contact. Enjoying their 30th anniversary helped catch us up.
What made the event interesting for my wife and I was that it was a Los Angeles County event. Mark Ridley-Thomas, the new Supervisor for the Second District, made a presentation. So did Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. The Mayors of Hawthorne and Carson joined in the fun. It was a treat to see presentations made, sans my involvement. But, I did get the chance to introduce myself to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and to greet Sheriff Baca.
The article in Monday’s OC Register is about the memorial service. The reporter asked me something like, "What will happen to OC politics now that Harriett is gone?" And she asked me about the topic Harriett called me on just a couple of weeks before she passed away.
Yesterday I continued a new tradition with my youngest, Daniel. We go to the slopes on his birthday. We had a great time at Mt. Baldy, where my mother took photos of me and my brother Ed back in 1961. It was amazing to reflect back on nearly 50 years of local skiing. And, yes, my 19-year-old had to wait for me at the bottom of the runs.
Hundreds celebrate life of first female county supervisor
By BRITTANY LEVINE
IRVINE – As Harriett Wieder, the first female county supervisor, held court in her hospital room a month before she died of congestive heart failure, she devised a plan. Just in case she didn’t make it to her 90th birthday on Oct. 7, she would throw a party on the 7th of every month — each would have a theme — until she hit the big one.
That was typical of Wieder, friends and family said Sunday afternoon at a memorial service at Irvine’s University Synagogue. Always the center of attention, always bigger than life. Wieder died at 89 on Jan. 11, about six months after a near fatal car accident. About 300 people listened to 10 speakers — many from female organizations — gush about Wieder’s leadership abilities and love for life.
In 1979, she was elected to the Orange County board of supervisors. For 16 years she would be the only woman on the board, representing the second district, which included Huntington Beach, where she had been mayor in 1976. She chaired the board three times.
Anything he can do, she can do better, seemed to be the theme of the service titled "A Celebration of Life."
"My mother used to tell me, ‘We women don’t know how to gain power.’ She wanted to change that," said Gayle Tauber.
Just a few days after Wieder died, Tauber was elected president of the Trusteeship, a branch of the International Women’s Forum. Wieder loved the Trusteeship because it uplifted women leaders, Tauber said. Wieder would shuttle women from Orange County to Los Angeles Trusteeship meetings in a limo. They always arrived bubbly, said longtime member Barbara Casey, as much for Wieder’s conversation skills as the champagne. Wieder had a way with words and a love for martinis.
Many thought of Wieder as a force of nature, the same phrase graced the cover of the event’s program. Heidi Miller, a friend who spoke at the event, sent Wieder an e-mail in December. It said: "Be the kind of woman that when your feet hits the ground, the devil says ‘Oh crap, she’s up.’" To that Wieder responded: "I will always love you."
Wieder was known to many as Orange County’s grand dame. She had fiery red hair — sometimes she got fiscal briefings at the beauty parlor —and wore flashy clothes.
Before running for county supervisor, she campaigned for Los Angeles City Council, but lost. Her campaign slogan: Wieder, the leader. As county supervisor, Wieder was known for her rogue style and tackled issues involving health care, air quality and domestic violence.
In 1988 she lost a bid for a seat on the U.S. Congress after it was discovered that she had been lying about her college degree. She later said she never went to college because her parents could only afford to send one of their three children. They chose her brother.
At the beginning of the service, Rabbi Arnold Rachlis quoted a religious passage, "When a wise woman dies, how can she be replaced?" he asked.
County Supervisor John Moorlach, said after the service: "I think you can only pass the baton." Moorlach spoke with Wieder before she died about Bolsa Chica Conservancy, a nonprofit that preserves the Huntington Beach wetlands, which Wieder fought to protect.
Her son-in-law Philip played Nat King Cole’s "There will never be another you" on the trumpet to open the service. Wieder is also survived by her son Leland, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her salt-and-pepper dog Petey has found a home with family friends.
"By the hundreds of e-mails and Harriett stories I’ve heard since she’s passed, I’ve been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the impact my mother has had on all of you," Tauber said. "Mother, you truly are Wieder, the leader."
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
The January 21 article in the LA Times, “Finance Report Backers: Remember O.C. – Angelides, Moorlach defend requiring counties to submit investment data to Sacramento. Others say the rules are costly,” by Meg James, triggered this lead editorial in the Sunday edition (when they used to have an Orange County version). The editorial also provides an update on litigation efforts at the time.
A Small Investment in Insurance
If anyone is entitled to speak from experience about the need for fiscal caution, it should be the treasurer of Orange County, which went bankrupt barely more than five years ago. When his advice is seconded by the state treasurer, it’s definitely worth listening to.
County Treasurer John M.W. Moorlach and state Treasurer Phil Angelides both have come out squarely in favor of keeping a law requiring counties to send investment reports to the state every three months.
By no coincidence, the law is about 5 years old. The Legislature passed it right after Orange County’s bankruptcy, caused by the reckless investing of Moorlach’s predecessor, Robert Citron.
Now one assemblyman says it’s costing the state too much money to have the financial reports done, especially when they would do little to prevent another bankruptcy like Orange County’s. Assemblyman Bill Leonard (R-San Bernardino) says the reports just get "filed away in Sacramento."
It’s true that if the reports merely get filed and forgotten they are not doing any good. But the remedy would not be to stop filing reports. It would be to ensure that they are reviewed, that designated staffers in Angelides’ office monitor the investments and debt of counties to keep them from going down Orange County’s path.
The state legislative analyst said it costs around $3.5 million a year for the state to reimburse counties and school districts for the cost of complying with the reporting requirements. That’s not a small piece of change, except when compared to the $1.64 billion the Orange County investment pool lost when interest rates rose in 1994.
The schools, cities and public agencies that put their money in the pool are likely to recover their shares of about $860 million in settlements next month.
If the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approves the report on the lawsuits that was filed several weeks ago, the funds will be distributed Feb. 24. Schools will get back about 97 cents for every dollar they invested in the pool. A substantial amount of the settlement funds already has been returned. Cities and other public agencies will recover about 93 cents on the dollar. The county will get back less.
Much of the money, nearly $450 million, came from the county’s settlement with Merrill Lynch & Co., which county lawyers accused of steering Citron into unsuitable investments. Merrill Lynch contended that the former treasurer, who pleaded guilty to six felony counts and was sentenced to house arrest, knew the risks.
But if there had been a second set of eyes scrutinizing the county’s investments in Sacramento, alarm bells might have rung earlier. In economic boom times, it may be difficult to see how public agencies could get in financial trouble. But the good times don’t last forever, and memories should be long enough to recall how Orange County headed into fiscal disaster.
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