MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Valentine’s Day — February 9, 2012

I informed my wife this morning that I will not be having lunch with her on Valentine’s Day.  I pointed to the OC Register and mentioned that I have a lunch meeting with Santa Ana Police Chief and Interim City Manager Paul Walters.  I should have been paying closer attention.  My wife was cleaning out the dishwasher and had a few steak knives in her hand.  Fortunately, she calmed down after I promised her a massive diamond ring.  Oh, the joys and fun that public life presents.  (If you are a zirconium ring retailer, please e-mail me . . . quick.)

If you’ve been to my Fifth Floor office, you know that you can see the homeless being fed to the north and an empty open air bus station to the south.  A marriage of the two is an obvious solution.  The OC Register covers it in the first column below.  If by chance you have not been to the Civic Center, here is a link to the OC Register for some photos:  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/homeless-339445-moorlach-county.html?pic=2.

The second piece is from the Daily Pilot and provides an update on the 19th Street Bridge adventure.

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Valentine’s Day meeting all about love for homeless

Yvette Cabrera Register Columnist

The Valentine’s Day rendezvous will take place in a Santa Ana restaurant.

It will be someplace discreet – away from prying eyes – a locale where county Supervisor John Moorlach can have a serious conversation with the one he’s trying to woo.

But he won’t come armed with a box of chocolates, a bouquet of red roses or a bottle of Bottega Veneta eau de parfum. No, if he’s going to convince his lunch date to commit to a partnership, it will take much more than presents.

After all, Moorlach’s lunch date with Santa Ana City Manager Paul Walters has been 17 years in the making. And the topic he wants to discuss – how to create permanent shelter for the homeless – is one of those issues that tends to elicit resistance, not Valentine sonnets, from city officials.

Moorlach’s proposal? He wants the county to buy the defunct Santa Ana Transit Terminal so it can serve the Civic Center’s homeless population.

From his office atop the Hall of Administration, Moorlach has a bird’s-eye view of the Transit Terminal, which hasn’t functioned as a bus hub since December 2008. He’s also close to one of the most visible homeless encampments in the county – a cluster of people who eat, sleep and live on Civic Center lawns.

So when a homeless man approached him more than a year ago and asked, “How come we don’t use the bus station?”, Moorlach took the question to heart. Churches and nonprofits feed, clothe and medically treat the homeless on the sidewalks and parking lots of the Civic Center. Providing them with a multiservice center is “a natural,” he says, noting that the county and city already pay more than $18,000 a year to keep the terminal’s bathrooms open.

When he arrived at the Civic Center as county treasurer 17 years ago, Moorlach says he began asking questions about how to “deal with the homeless situation.” At the time, he organized a lunch with Walters – then Santa Ana’s police chief – and other key players.

He also met with city officials and asked why the city didn’t offer bathrooms for the homeless or set up tables where they could eat. The response, Moorlach says, was, “We don’t want to legitimize it.”

Fast-forward 17 years and we’ve got a legitimate problem. When the recession hit, the food lines got longer. I’ve interviewed everyone from unemployed carpenters, gardeners, handymen, painters and, the most heartbreaking, unemployed veterans, who need compassion, not just a concrete floor underneath the Hall of Administration to sleep.

Many readers of my column understand that it’s time for the county to step up. Joanne Mershon wrote to say she was appalled to see bus-stop benches in Garden Grove installed with metal bars to prevent anyone from sleeping horizontally.

“We ought to be ashamed of ourselves as a community that we place such low value on the sanctity of life,” wrote Mershon, adding that it’s time for the community to be more inclusive and humane.

Another reader, James Hill, offered a possible solution: using schools that have been closed due to budget cuts as shelters for the homeless. Jim is onto something. The county’s cold-weather shelter program already uses the gym at Servite High School in Anaheim – as it will this Sunday – as an alternate site when the armories are unavailable.

The homeless get a place to eat, shower and sleep. Students who volunteer to bake cookies and serve meals see a side of Orange County that shouldn’t be ignored.

Moorlach, who serves as chairman of the End Homelessness 2020 Commission, which oversees the county’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, is onto something as well. But perhaps, not unexpectedly, his idea is being challenged by the city of Santa Ana.

Last month, Walters sent the county a letter expressing the city’s interest in working to address the homeless issues at the Civic Center, but that the city didn’t support the use of the bus terminal for the homeless. The word “strongly” was used.

Thus, the Valentine’s Day rendezvous.

Moorlach understands Santa Ana’s frustration, saying: “They feel they are the city that’s carrying the brunt” when it comes to helping the homeless. But Moorlach says he also knows that Walters, who is on the board of the 2020 Commission, “wants to be part of this solution.” So all he wants is a lunch dialogue, where he can go “mano a mano” to explore opportunities.

“I’m not dropping this one. This one makes too much sense,” Moorlach says of his bus station-for-the-homeless idea.

We shouldn’t drop this one either. That’s why I’m putting out a call to readers to come up with their own solutions.

Is there a location near you that could serve as a homeless shelter? What other ideas do you have to address this issue? Send me your thoughts, and I’ll publish them.

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The homeless who try to sleep at the Santa Ana Civic Center are often ticketed by the police with camping violations. Here, Mike Mustapha rests on a blanket with his belongings at the Santa Ana Civic Center in this 2010 photograph. "We don’t cause problems so the cops don’t bother us," he says of himself and wife Leica Devera. "Food, shelter, everything is tough."

PHOTO BY H. LORREN AU JR, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER; TEXT BY YVETTE CABRERA, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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Costa Mesa to Newport: Kill the bridge

City wants to offer shared services, among other incentives, to get Newport on its side against the 19th Street Bridge.

Costa Mesa officials hope their peers in Newport Beach will join them in opposing a proposed bridge that would link Costa Mesa’s 19th Street with Huntington Beach.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Costa Mesa City Council upped the ante on its nearly 20-year-old resolution opposing the 19th Street Bridge by also pledging to try and get it removed from the county’s master plan.

"I’ll do my best to show my love to Newport Beach," Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer told the audience Tuesday. "Hey guys, let’s work together, try to join services … "

Costa Mesa’s new, active role in the bridge discussion is just the latest wrinkle in what was once considered a dead issue: linking Costa Mesa’s Westside to Huntington Beach’s Banning Avenue across the Santa Ana River.

Newport Beach Councilman Steve Rosansky revived the build-the-bridge talks last year.

Newport Beach has agreed to reexamine its stance.

Costa Mesa wants to offer shared services, among other incentives, to get Newport on its side.

But even if all three cities agreed to remove the bridge from the county’s master plan, the Orange County Transportation Authority would still have to study the issue before removing it.

Councilman Eric Bever said that homeowners near Costa Mesa’s other bridges to Huntington — those off Victoria Street and Adams Avenue — suffer from the increased cross-town traffic flow.

"I’m trying to share the fact that a lot of discussion that occurred tonight — what we’re resisting or grinding our teeth over — we’re doing it to our own citizens," Bever said. "I’d like to see people think about their fellow community members at the same time they think of themselves."

Proponents of the 19th Street Bridge say it would ease traffic on Adams and Victoria and improve traffic flow among all three cities.

The bridge has been on Newport Beach’s wish list for decades because it would alleviate traffic issues on the city’s only link across the river: Pacific Coast Highway.

Though the reboot of the idea initially had some tread with Costa Mesa officials and Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, an overwhelming backlash by Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach residents quickly smothered those hopes.

However, unless all three cities agree to ask the Orange County Transportation Authority to remove the bridge from its master plan of arterial highways, it will remain in the plan.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

February 9

2007

The OC Register had two items in their Editorial section.  The first was an editorial, titled “Election analysis:  many firsts in the 1st – Winners include the Vietnamese community; losers, county unions and conventional politics.”  Here is one of the observations made by the writer:

•Third, the local public-sector unions, which strongly supported Democrat Tom Umberg through precinct-walking activities and a host of independent expenditure mailers, lost yet another hotly contested supervisorial race. The unions had backed Stanton Councilman David Shawver in his bid against John Moorlach for the 2nd District seat last year. More politicians should realize that these unions, although a formidable political force, are not invincible, despite their access to mandatory union dues.

The second OC Register piece was a letter to the editor, titled “Moorlach’s courage.”

Kudos to Supervisor John Moorlach for having the courage to address the cost of illegal immigration and offer a fresh solution at the same time ["Inmate tax proposed to bolster ER funds,"  Local, Feb. 7].

The millions of taxpayers’ dollars spent for emergency-room care and for the growing number of criminal illegal immigrants in our jail system is a scandal that few politicians will talk about – not to mention the additional millions spent on parole services once they are released from jail.

I hope Supervisor Moorlach will not be swayed by the upcoming accusations of racism and bigotry soon to come his way from those who support open borders and amnesty for people who sneaked through our porous borders.

Jim Richert
Lake Forest

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