February 3


The Daily Pilot’s “Politics Aside” columnist, S. J. Cahn, decided to give me some political advice in “A mayor speaks out.”  Under the subheading “And a treasurer does, too,” S. J. Cahn provided the following highlights from a recent speech that I had given.  What’s funny is the theme I was, and continue to use, is now vogue.  Everyone is using it.  Especially reporters and columnists.  Even Willie Brown is talking about this topic. 

It’s nice to be early (see the underlined sentence).  But, in this case, it’s not so nice to be right.  If you thought pension numbers were scary five years ago, you should see how scary they are now.

A week ago, I had lunch with the Costa Mesa Kiwanis Club. They weren’t trying to get me to join — these service groups have standards, after all, which I think journalists fall far short of. I was there to listen to Costa Mesa resident and Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach, who’s also in the early stages of running for county supervisor in 2006.

At that point, Supervisor Jim Silva will be termed out of office.  Moorlach’s biggest competition at this point is Assemblyman Tom Harman, who also is termed out of office. (There’s been talk of Silva and Harman, both former Huntington Beach mayors, essentially swapping positions, although the thorn in that plan is the possibility of Harman’s wife, Dianne, running for her husband’s seat.)

Moorlach — there’s no original way into this piece of information — famously predicted the county’s financial doom more than 10 years ago, right before the county went bankrupt. Since then, he’s been the county’s treasurer and tax collector, having replaced Bob Citron, who was behind the county’s bad money plan.

Since then, he’s also continued to champion smart fiscal planning and money management. (He could start by exempting all my county taxes, the smartest bit of management I can conceive.) And from the sounds of his talk to the roomful of Kiwanis (is that Kiwani? Kiwanises?), his run for a supervisor seat will continue that same theme.

Now, John Moorlach is a heck of a lot more politically savvy than I am (I may tell funnier jokes), and I’m sure his consultants, formal and otherwise, are top-notch, but I think his message will have to be more diversified than it’s been.

"It’s the finances, stupid," he said at one point as he talked about the rapid growth of county pension payments, the successes of public employee unions and the loss of other tax revenue.  (I won’t even touch him paraphrasing a Bill Clinton line!)

At another point he told the crowd: "I could do a Power Point with numbers that would scare you to death."

Voters, of course, don’t want to be scared to death. We want our babies kissed and our minds numbed with cloying platitudes.

To win, Moorlach will have to get such messages across, while also giving us what we ought to hear about: the county’s financial future and stability.

He’s still got plenty of time to add to his political portfolio.

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