“What are you doing next?” This is the most often asked question that I hear. It is usually followed by, “We would love to see you stay involved in an elected position.” It seemed that extending Supervisorial term limits from two terms to three made the most sense. Unfortunately, three of my Board colleagues did not agree. As no Republican of personal financial significance has shown an interest in running for Governor, which has been the trend, I examined that opportunity at length and recently decided against it. I still had not made up my mind as to what I was doing next, up until June 27th when my friend and fellow C.P.A., John Campbell, announced that he would not be rerunning for Congress in 2014. My supervisorial district overlapped Congressman Campbell’s before redistricting, and we conferred often on John Wayne Airport matters. This upcoming vacancy has kept me hopping these past few days, which is usually a summer break spent catching up at home. I have served eighteen years at the accountancy firm of Balser, Horowitz, Frank & Wakeling, the last ten years as a partner/owner. I then served nearly twelve years as your County Treasurer-Tax Collector, and will have served eight years as the County Supervisor for the Second District.
Running for public office is an interview process where the majority of the voters decide the winning applicant. I will be applying for the 45th Congressional District. The filing period opens next spring, the Primary is in June, and the General is in November. There are other great applicants that are also considering a run next year and I wish them all the best. I know it will be fun when an esteemed political consultant takes a swipe at me in the OC Register’s update on all of the initial movement since Congressman Campbell’s announcement, which is the first piece below. As the campaign has not officially started, this piece is being provided only for informational purposes. Once campaign season officially opens next spring, I will embargo articles of this nature.
The OC Register also covers yesterday’s Orange County Transportation Authority Board vote on the Anaheim streetcar proposal (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Begets a New Vote — June 25, 2012) in the second piece below. I fully support a transit system that provides connectivity between the Disney resort, the Honda Center and the Convention Center. I just do not believe it should be fixed rail. There is no empirical study that proves that ridership is higher on a streetcar. Streetcars are inflexible. If one breaks down, it will hold up the entire system. When a train arrives, having multiple buses available to move tourists to the resort area is much more efficient. Having the buses available for other occasional venues, or adaptable to changes in route demands, makes more sense to me. Adding streetcars will require construction to imbed the tracks, and that will increase congestion in an already busy corridor. And, the cost differential makes an enhanced bus system all the more appealing from a taxpayer standpoint.
The Voice of OC also covers the streetcar topic in the third piece below. Supporting a concept because it will improve property values is not a compelling reason to vote for a streetcar system, as values around this pristine resort area will appreciate on their own. And, I’m not one that feels it’s justifiable to spend tax dollars just because the money is there. Instead of spending more money on a report solely focused on streetcars, I voted against the motion yesterday. Why wait to vote against it later while expending more resources in the meantime?
Moorlach to join growing field
The open House seat also draws interest from Irvine’s mayor, with a state senator and retired Marine already declared candidates.
County Supervisor John Moorlach, a Republican, said he is making preparations for his bid for Congress.
REGISTER FILE PHOTO
By MARTIN WISCKOL
County Supervisor John Moorlach, who sounded advance warning of the county’s 1994 bankruptcy, plans to enter the 2014 race to replace retiring Rep. John Campbell, R-Irvine.
Moorlach would bring the field to three, joining state Sen. Mimi Walters and retired Marine Col. Greg Raths. All are Republicans, running in a heavily GOP district.
"Informally I’m in, but I haven’t made an official announcement yet," Moorlach said Monday, adding that he is in the process of hiring a consultant, opening a campaign account, and contacting donors. "This seems to be the right fit. I think the polling would show I have a really good chance to serve in the 45th Congressional District."
Additionally, Irvine Mayor Steven Choi said Monday that he is considering throwing his hat in the ring in a bid to become the only Korean American in Congress.
"The Korean American community has interest in having a Korean American in Washington," said Choi, elected mayor of the largest city entirely in the congressional district. "But it has a lot of risk involved because if I run and don’t make it, then I may not have the opportunity to run for mayor again."
Choi would have to be reelected in 2014 to retain his mayor’s post.
Moorlach first attracted widespread public attention when he predicted the county’s bankruptcy. In its wake, the accountant was appointed county treasurer and subsequently elected three times to that office. He was elected to the county Board of Supervisors in 2006, and must step down from that post next year because of term limits.
The congressional district being vacated by Campbell, which reaches from Anaheim Hills to Mission Viejo, is attracting attention from prospective candidates from within the district and beyond, since residency in the district is not a requirement to run for the House.
Moorlach, a Costa Mesa resident, lives outside the congressional district and none of his supervisorial district overlaps it. But he gained attention countywide during the bankruptcy, and has maintained a relatively high profile as county supervisor.
"I’ve shown I’m strong on fiscal issues and I’m a known quantity," he said.
Walters’ consultant Dave Gilliard was dismissive of Moorlach.
"A high-profile county supervisor? That’s an oxymoron," Gilliard said. "And the bankrupcty was nearly 20 years ago. He needs to start talking about other things.
"I think Mimi’s record and her resume will be impressive to voters of the district."
Walters served on the Laguna Niguel City Council for eight years, in the state Assembly for four years, and is in her second term in the state Senate. She rented a 570-square foot apartment in Irvine last year to qualify to run in her redrawn Senate district and is in the process of selling her 14,000-square-foot Laguna Niguel home, which is not in the congressional district. She and her husband are expected to get a smaller house.
Gilliard said Walters and her husband will be looking to rent a new home, although he didn’t know where.
The only declared candidate who is an undisputed resident of the district is Raths, of Mission Viejo. He’s a political novice who took out papers to run in December, planning initially to challenge Campbell and complaining that the incumbent hadn’t supported military funding and had voted for the Cash for Clunker program.
Raths, a Republican since 1980, was a fighter pilot and was Assistant Chief of Staff of the White House Military Office for three years under Democratic President Bill Clinton.
"I feel like there’s a sense of entitlement by some of these candidates – and I understand that they’ve worked their way up the political ladder and I’m just jumping in," Raths said. "But I’ve been in Washington, I’ve been a warrior, I’ve served my country, and now I want to serve in a higher capacity."
Republicans have a 45 percent to 28 percent advantage in the district’s voter registration.
Contact the writer: 714-796-6753 or mwisckol
Anaheim streetcar idea gets another push
OCTA gives OK despite concerns over a projected unprecedented price.
Anaheim’s propsed streetcar system would consist of 10 vehicles that would travel a 3.2-mile route in about 18 minutes. The streetcars would look similar to this European streetcar, according to city officials.
PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF ANAHEIM, PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF ANAHEIM
By DOUG IRVING
Anaheim’s vision of a streetcar trundling from near Angel Stadium to the gates of Disneyland and beyond won a crucial vote Monday, despite concerns about what the final price tag might look like.
City estimates peg that final cost at around $320 million for three miles of track. That would make the Anaheim streetcar tens of millions of dollars more expensive than other streetcar projects around the nation, including in Santa Ana and Los Angeles.
Board members at the Orange County Transportation Authority, who control the money that Anaheim needs to even plan a streetcar, blinked at that cost estimate last month. They postponed their vote on moving the project forward until Monday so they could scrub the legal documents of any reference to them fully supporting the idea.
Instead, their vote Monday allows Anaheim to continue studying and planning the streetcar proposal, with a warning to get the costs down. The vote does not commit any more money to the project; Anaheim already has about $2.7 million for the next phase of studies.
It also does not give Anaheim final approval for the streetcar, a decision saved for next year at the earliest, after the studies are done. "They’re going to get that estimate down, or they’re going to risk losing some votes," board member Shawn Nelson said.
The proposed streetcar would run on tracks set into the street from a station near Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, through the Platinum Triangle, past Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, to the Convention Center.
The city’s current plans call for tearing down a Best Western hotel and an IHOP restaurant to make way for a station across from Disneyland, Public Works Director Natalie Meeks said. City documents show that and other land acquisitions would displace 235 workers.
"We need to get a station near the front gates, where the people are going, for this system to work," Meeks told OCTA directors on Monday.
Supporters of the streetcar project – including tourism groups, the Angels and Ducks and a majority of Anaheim’s city council – say it will help deliver tourists, residents and workers to the city’s attractions. A study commissioned by the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau concluded that potentially billions of private dollars and millions of square feet of development could follow a streetcar line.
But critics have denounced the project as a boondoggle that will mostly benefit Disneyland. "A ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money," Anaheim resident Larry Larsen said Monday.
Three OCTA board members voted Monday to stop the project in its tracks: Irvine Councilman Jeff Lalloway, Huntington Beach Councilman Matthew Harper and County Supervisor John Moorlach. All three had pointed to stepped-up bus service as an alternative. City documents estimate that enhanced bus service would see about 1,000 fewer daily boardings than a streetcar, but would cost around $263 million less.
A dozen other OCTA board members voted to let Anaheim continue planning in order to better assess the costs and benefits. Several pointed out that Orange County voters earmarked money for transit projects like the streetcar when they enacted a half-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. That money, coupled with federal grants, would more than cover the anticipated cost.
Nonetheless, board members made it a condition of their vote that Anaheim work to lower the project’s costs. Meeks, the public works director, said it’s very likely the costs will come down because the current estimate is weighed down with contingency funds. Those should lessen as the project comes into better focus during the coming months of study, she said.
"It’s pretty simple," said Anaheim’s delegate to the OCTA board, Councilwoman Gail Eastman. "We need to do (this) in order to get answers to a lot of the questions that have been asked."
Contact the writer: 714-704-3777 or dirving
The following is a comparison of costs per track mile for streetcar projects.
Anaheim, proposed opening 2018, $40.7 million.
Los Angeles, proposed opening 2016, $29.7 million.
Santa Ana, proposed opening 2017, $25.4 million.
Cincinnati, proposed opening 2015, $32.8 million.
Tampa, opened 2002, $25.8 million.
Atlanta, proposed opening 2013/14, $25.3 million.
Tucson, proposed opening 2015, $25.2 million.
Portland, opened 2012, $22.5 million.
Seattle, opened 2007, $21 million.
OCTA Board OKs Next Step for Anaheim Streetcar
By ADAM ELMAHREK
The Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors Monday allowed Anaheim access to more funding so city officials can complete an environmental study for a streetcar project, despite ongoing concerns from several directors about the project’s high cost.
Directors are also increasingly asking why Disneyland isn’t contributing toward the $319 million price tag given that the resort is a major beneficiary of the 3.2-mile streetcar system, which is to move riders between the resort and a planned train depot, among other stops.
The OCTA Board overwhelmingly voted in favor of advancing the project, with the only dissenters being Jeffrey Lalloway, Matthew Harper and John Moorlach. Directors postponed the vote at last month’s meeting because they were uncomfortable with a proposed action to “concur” with the Anaheim City Council’s choice to pursue a streetcar over a much cheaper enhanced bus alternative.
In approving an alternative action this week to merely allow Anaheim to move forward with its environmental study and conceptual engineering, directors said they hoped the studies would provide answers to a number of questions they have about the project. And they left available the option to withhold future funding for the project if the cost isn’t reduced and federal grant funding doesn’t materialize.
“More information is never a bad thing, at least not in my propeller head little world,” said Director Frank Ury, also a Mission Viejo councilman. “From my standpoint, this is a data point and we need to move forward.”
Some OCTA directors have challenged the cost of the planned streetcar system, questioning the financial sense of casting aside the bus alternative, which is projected to be $263.4 million cheaper to construct.
Proponents of the streetcar project say it will support growth and increase the county’s economic activity more than an enhanced bus alternative because the permanency of the track will be lucrative to investors and increase surrounding property values.
However, it is easily among the most expensive big-city streetcar projects in recent times, according to an OCTA cost-comparison of the last 11 such projects nationwide. The streetcar project in neighboring Santa Ana, for example, is estimated at $110 million less than Anaheim’s, despite Santa Ana’s project having a planned route nearly a mile longer.
Also, Anaheim blogger Cynthia Ward revealed during Monday’s meeting that under the current plan the city would have to purchase property between Clementine and Harbor Blvd in order for a streetcar station to be built adjacent to Disneyland. Currently, an IHOP restaurant and a Best Western hotel are located on the properties.
Ward said the cost of acquiring those parcels via eminent domain is one of the reasons for the project’s high price tag.
Anaheim Public Works Director Natalie Meeks confirmed Ward’s assertion. But she said that an exact description of the property Anaheim would purchase hasn’t been done yet, so its premature to say what property would be acquired.
Nonetheless, Meeks said city officials have studied other, longer routes, and said they didn’t seem to make sense. Total right of way costs stand at over $30 million, she said, but the cost of the portion near Clementine hasn’t been defined.
“We believe it’s important to put a station near Disneyland,” Meeks said. “We need to get the station near the front gates where the people are actually going to get this to work.”
Ward’s revelation is the latest indication that demands placed upon the project by Disneyland and the rest of the city’s resort district are a big reason for the high price tag.
Among other factors that Anaheim officials acknowledge have driven up the cost include: a power system that eliminates overhead electrical wires in certain areas so they won’t harm the aesthetics of the resort; a higher number of train cars so the system can deliver tourists to Disneyland; and higher infrastructure costs because of increased traffic in the resort district.
In March, Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray acknowledged at an OCTA board workshop that the streetcar would be essential in taking cars off the road, thus giving Disney the ability to expand the resort and open a third gate.
Although local elected officials are generally loathe to call out Disneyland, OCTA directors are beginning to openly question whether the mega-resort should shoulder some of the costs.
“I’d be curious to see what their contribution could be to the cost and operation of the system,” said Michael Hennessey, one of the board’s unelected members. “If the answer is zero, I think that tells us something.”
Hennessey asked that OCTA officials ask Disneyland what the resort would be willing to chip in.
As things stand now, the vast majority of the project would be paid for by revenue from the county’s half-cent sales tax known as Measure M2 and a highly competitive federal transportation grant program known as New Starts. Resort area hotels would be paying toward operations and maintenance with a special two percent room-tax.
Beginning in the fourth year of streetcar service, that tax revenue could provide up to $3 million, according to a project report known as an alternatives analysis.
Regardless of questions about cost, board directors who stood clearly in favor of the project said that Measure M2 called for such projects and are essentially promises to the voters. They also noted that there is projected to be $1.3 billion in M2 funds, more than enough to cover the streetcar projects in Santa Ana, Anaheim, and other projects, and still have a surplus.
“I don’t think there could be anything more salient then that,” said board Chairman Gregory Winterbottom. “There’s going to be a lot of money leftover.”
Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
Jacquelyn Rumfola of the Daily Pilot provided an update on a scarier part of public life with “Plea agreement entered in case of criminal threats.”
Prosecutors are working on a plea agreement for a Huntington Beach man charged with threatening Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach.
Steven Van Arroyo, 50, is accused of e-mailing death threats to Moorlach in January and faces up to three years in prison if convicted. He was scheduled to appear in court today for a pretrial hearing.
Records show Arroyo was accused in 1999 of similar charges and was sentenced to three years of probation. On Jan. 30, Arroyo pleaded not guilty to two felony charges of making criminal threats and threatening public officials.
If the case advances to a preliminary hearing, Moorlach may be asked to testify.
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