MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — April 1, 2012

The Daily Pilot has a new columnist, Jack Wu, who used to write for the Newport Beach Independent, a web-based newspaper. In Sunday’s edition of the Daily Pilot, Wu covered a few topics, but the one below dominated the column. 

The column provides the latest news in the 19th Street Bridge saga.  The city of Newport Beach, which pursued the bridge so aggressively that the option was totally taken away, is now crying foul (or continuing to be aggressive, whichever).

I try to be careful of campaign-related articles, but since I have not endorsed in the 74th Assembly primary race, I am using this piece to bring you up to date on Newport Beach’s lawsuit filing of last week.

Wu: Vote on bridge helps in Newport, hurts in Assembly race

Can a Newporter move up?

In my crack research, I’ve found out that in the 106-year history of Newport Beach, not one sitting City Council member has been elected to a higher office.

And before you say it, "Saint" Marian Bergeson was on the school board when she was elected to the Assembly, while former mayor Judge Steve Bromberg was appointed, which doesn’t count as "elected."

Other than that, a few tried, always with no success.

Will Councilwoman Leslie Daigle break that trend?

Will Daigle be able to appease the entire 74th Assembly District with Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Irvine as the major voting blocs, while doing a decent job on the Newport Beach City Council?

After her latest vote, her chances probably got much slimmer.

The headline from the March 28 Daily Pilot could hammer the nail in her coffin, "Newport to sue over 19th Street bridge."

The Orange County Transit Authority, under threat of total anarchy by Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa residents, wiped any trace of a 19th Street bridge from Orange County’s Master Plan of Arterial Highways.

They didn’t study it, they didn’t do any environmental studies, and, as Mayor Nancy Gardner said in an email:

"They chose to eliminate the bridge without looking at the ramifications and without any mitigation. That’s not fair to our [Newport Beach] residents."

So that’s bad for Newport? Not fair, right?

But the vote to sue was 6 to 1, with Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry dissenting, and his sound reasoning was right in line with mine:

"I generally oppose public agencies suing other public agencies at the expense of tax dollars on both sides."

But the crazy part of all of this?

Daigle voted in favor of suing OCTA for taking the 19th Street bridge out of the county’s Master Plan.

While Daigle emailed that she "supports the bridge’s removal from the master plan," she is supporting suing "to request OCTA do the mitigation studies."

To me it sounds like she wants the bridge gone, but is suing OCTA because she doesn’t like the way they’ve removed it. Or maybe she just wants it studied. (Full disclosure: I consider Daigle’s two opponents in the race, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor and council critic Bob Rush, friends, but that has nothing to do with my opinion on the bridge vote).

And while her vote helps her in Newport, Daigle’s position could irk some in Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa. After more than 600 Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach residents had a near riot in opposition to the bridge at a January meeting in Surf City hosted by Supervisor John Moorlach and H.B. Mayor Don Hansen, Newport’s two neighboring cities made it clear that they want that proposed bridge scrubbed from the plan.

And they made it clear to OCTA that the board didn’t bother studying the impacts of removing the bridge. Nope, they just took their eraser out and made it completely disappear without a peep faster than you can say fire pit.

Add that OCTA vote to Daigle spearheading a 2009 lawsuit against Irvine, over the Jamboree/Bristol expansion. The cities settled, but Irvine had to cough up $3.5 million in taxpayer dollars to Newport Beach, and Daigle has done quite a job to create some serious agitation for Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach residents, while collecting Irvine taxpayers dollars for Newport Beach city coffers.

So, how do you think voters in Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa will react to hearing that she wants to sue OCTA over the 19th Street bridge?

Yup, another few years before someone on the Newport Beach City Council gets to move up to the big leagues.

FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS

March 31

2007

Jim de Boom, in his weekly Daily Pilot column, “Community & Clubs,” provided the following headline for his opener:  Moorlach livens up luncheon.”

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach provided a humorous update on his first 115 days in office for an audience of more than 100 at the Ladies Day Luncheon of the Exchange Club of Newport Harbor on Thursday.

"I learned a few visits ago not to wear a tie to this club’s meetings," said Moorlach, who wore a Newport Beach Centennial Ren Spooner shirt. Moorlach enters his 12th year of elected service to Orange County this month, first as treasurer and now as a supervisor. The experience he gained in the treasurer’s office is helpful as a supervisor, he said, as he pushes for reform on pension and health-care costs for workers and retirees.

Moorlach’s update included recent actions on the redevelopment funds for Santa Ana Heights, the county chief executive’s resignation and return, the Southern California Airport Authority, the Orange County Transportation Authority and the county’s pension and medical funds.

He spoke with pride of the quality of his six-person staff. When asked what’s the difference between a treasurer and supervisor, Moorlach noted there are many more meetings as supervisor.

For the past few months, the Exchange Club has met at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, sometimes for breakfast or lunch. They now share the luncheon buffet table with the Kiwanis Club of Newport-Corona del Mar, which also meets on Thursdays at the yacht club but in different rooms, noted Dick Freeman, the club’s past president.

"Nick Berger keeps securing quality programs for our meetings, which keeps the members coming and new members joining," said Bill Bechtel, club president.

April 1

2002

The OC Register published my editorial submission in “The Orange Grove” section.  It was titled “Another financial fiasco – Davis wants to borrow against Tobacco Settlement to cover his own losses.”  It detailed another sad “smoke and mirrors” episode of California’s sad, and ongoing, fiscal state of affairs.

                During 2000, state Sen. Joe Dunn authored an idea that he inserted into Senate Bill 1142.  Its purpose was to “prohibit any local jurisdiction from securitizing, incurring debt against, or in any way encumbering National Tobacco Settlement revenues after an initiative concerning its use has been filed.”

I wholeheartedly agreed and publicly stated that “I believe once voters have put a measure on the ballot it’s not proper for a government body to usurp that process.”  The bill became unnecessary after the chairman of the Board of Supervisors publicly stated that the county of Orange had no intention of pursuing such financing opportunities before a vote on Measure H that November.

At the same time another bill was working its way through the state Legislature, Senate Bill 673.  It “would direct settlement funds to care for uninsured low-income people who tend to use tobacco-products more frequently and have less access to health care.”

The bill would allocate all of the tobacco revenues toward health-care related causes.  This bill did not make it to the governor’s desk.  Too bad.

Around the same time, I introduced Measure G to utilize a small fraction to partially resolve the county’s bankruptcy related debt.  By using one-sixth of the settlement revenues over the next 40 years, taxpayers in the county would have saved nearly $500 million in interest costs.

Why the history lesson?  Well, surprise, surprise, Gov. Davis wants to securitize the state’s $450 million annual tobacco revenues to generate some $4 billion in bond proceeds now, to solve a portion of his budget deficit.

What does this mean?  Well, some 10 years-plus of tobacco settlement revenues will not go to health care.  They will go to reduce the 2002 budget deficit.  This is a short-term fix with long-term ramifications.  It’s outrageous and it must be stopped.

Where is Sen. Dunn?  Where is the California Medical Association?  Where are the Orange County State Senate and Assembly delegation members that endorsed Measure H?  Where is State Treasurer Phil Angelides?  Where is the public outcry?!

The governor of the state of Washington wants to take the same strategy to solve his state’s budget woes.  State Treasurer Michael J. Murphy sent a letter to the Washington Senate Ways and Means Committee condemning the idea:  “In simple terms, our citizens wouldn’t take out a mortgage on their homes because they are having trouble paying for groceries.  The state of Washington should not either.

“If we pursue this course, it is not too strong a statement to say we are quite literally mortgaging our state’s future for short-term gain.”

Where are the Measure H proponents now?  The state’s tobacco settlement revenues are being hijacked.  Where is the moral outrage?  Where is the consistency?  When will Gov. Davis wake up?  His energy fiasco will be financed to the tune of $13 billion over 15 years.  The $4 billion in tobacco bonds will probably take as long.  We’ll be paying for his credit card debt for a generation.

What a tragedy.  Davis is leaving us with a “negative dowry.”  The citizens of Orange County are paying $50 million a year in interest for Bob Citron’s legacy.  Gov. Davis beats this mark by a long shot.

I have never been opposed to using tobacco settlement funds for health care.  I only wanted to use one-sixth to pay principal down early to free up more funds for health care.  At least this made great financial sense.  Gov. Davis wants to use all of it and he wants to use it for one year’s budget.  That’s a financial fiasco.  Let’s hope we all wake up before it’s too late.  Otherwise, here is more smoke in your eyes.

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