MOORLACH UPDATE — PBS SoCal Real Orange — August 30, 2013

Have a relaxing and safe Labor Day Weekend!

I love hiking in the Santa Ana Mountains. I have personally walked on the Saddle Crest property. It does not host ancient oak forests, or anything similar. The owner of Saddle Crest sold a nearby property to a nature conservancy. The protestors, also a conservancy, did not wish to purchase this property, and stated so when I inquired during the Board meeting where the Saddle Crest development proposal was approved. And for the record, I make decisions based on the merits of a project and not on a small contribution made to my campaign account. The owner has invested ten years and a large sum of money in order to comply with the County’s Planning Department. I have not discussed the results of the recent Court decision with my colleagues, but look forward to a thorough debate on the matter when it does come before the Board. PBS SoCal provides the story (see link) below, which was transcribed by the Voice of OC.

BONUS: The due date for the Unsecured Property Tax bills mailed in July is September 3, 2013. These are taxes on business property, leased equipment, boats, and aircraft. Mailed payments must be received by this date or have a United States Postal Service postmark on or before September 3 to avoid incurring a 10% late penalty fee plus a $75 collection fee.

Activists Want Spitzer to Oppose Housing Proposal

and NICK GERDA Voice of OC

As Orange County supervisors decide whether to appeal a ruling that shut down plans for a controversial housing project in rural Santiago Canyon, activists in the area tell PBS SoCaL’s David Nazar that they’re livid and baffled at how their supervisor, Todd Spitzer, could still be on the fence.

"It would be prudent for Supervisor Spitzer to stake out his position on this, make it clear to us what his thinking is on it. I think that’s only right for him as the supervisor for this district," said Steve Duff, an activist with the Saddleback Canyons Conservancy.

Spitzer declined to comment to PBS SoCaL, though a spokesperson said he will do his due diligence to understand the issue. When it comes before the board again, Spitzer will have further comment, the spokesperson added.

The 65-home Saddle Crest project was halted last month by Superior Court Judge Steven Perk, who declared that county failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, state land-use law and the county’s own land-use plans.

The project was approved last October, before Spitzer was elected to the board.

Supervisor John Moorlach also says he doesn’t yet know if he agrees with the judge’s decision, but that it seemed sound when it was brought before the board for a vote.

"The [Foothill-Trabuco] Specific Plan was reviewed by County Counsel [Nick Chrisos]. It was vetted, it went through a lot of discussion," said Moorlach.

"It is a 3rd District item, and so then-3rd District Supervisor Bill Campbell worked rather strongly to get some kind of resolution for that property. And we were left with the impression as supervisors that everything that was provided to us was going to hold up," he added.

Another concern of activists is that all five sitting supervisors received campaign donations from the project’s developer, Rutter Development Corporation, and its lobbyist.

"As far as I know they were all made legally, but obviously they’re going to have an impact. Obviously they have had an impact," said Duff.

Moorlach said the contributions didn’t impact his vote.

"I don’t memorize who gives me money. I’m not focused in that way, and I don’t pursue contractors or potential projects in that regard," said Moorlach. "So when I made my vote, [I] didn’t even think about that component of the deal."

Activists contend – and Judge Perk agreed – that the project violates a hard-earned land-use plan intended to preserve the area’s rural character.

"The Foothill-Trabuco Specific Plan requires that any develop preserve two-thirds of the area as natural open space," said Rich Gomez of the conservancy. "The project developer had instead proposed that less than half of the land be preserved as open space, and they considered the culverts and landscaping [as] open space."

"We absolutely support private property rights and the development of homes. All we’re saying – and all we said in the lawsuit – was, just build it according to the [specific] plan," said Gomez.


August 29


City & State magazine announced in a press release that “Robert Citron, Orange County treasurer and tax-collector, has been named to [their] third annual All-Pro Government Management Team.”


Jay Reeves of the Associated Press provided an update on Jefferson County with “Ala. Governor in talks over county debt crisis.” The type of debt, known as interest rate swaps, was the complex structure that was utilized for Jefferson County’s sewer project. Within ten years of Orange County’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, most of the OC residents polled were unaware that the County had even filed for bankruptcy protection in the past. The OC’s bankruptcy filing certainly brought about tighter fiscal policies and procedures which have been most beneficial over the last two decades.

Gov. Bob Riley negotiated with creditors Friday over whether Alabama’s largest county should seek a deal on its $3.2 billion sewer debt or file the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The meeting — held at the Capitol in Montgomery between the Republican governor, a county attorney and creditors — came as the county was due to make an interest payment of some $2 million.

The county had the cash, but Commissioner Jim Carns said officials must decide whether to continue making payments indefinitely or file for bankruptcy since its obligations far outstrip revenues from the sewer system.

Carns, who did not attend the meeting, said the county must stop the bleeding.

"It’s a matter of whether we can get an agreement to stop it or whether we have to get court protection to stop it," he said.

Jefferson is Alabama’s most populous county with about 658,000 residents and includes the state’s biggest city, Birmingham.

Running out of options after months of talks with bondholders and insurers, Jefferson County commissioners voted earlier this week to let the governor negotiate directly with creditors. They canceled plans for a public referendum set for Nov. 4 on whether to file for bankruptcy.

A decision not to make the interest payment would place the county in default and put it one step closer to filing bankruptcy over a $3.2 billion bill linked to years of court-ordered sewer improvements and risky credit arrangements.

Such a move would nearly double the previous record for a municipal bankruptcy, set in 1994 when Orange County, Calif., sought protection over $1.64 billion in debts.

John Moorlach, chairman of the board of supervisors in Orange County, said bankruptcy would mean short-term pain for Jefferson County. Industrial recruitment will get tougher for awhile, he said, and bond ratings will suffer.

But a good recovery plan combined with stronger oversight could leave Jefferson County in better shape than before the crisis, Moorlach said in an e-mail interview.

"Chapter 9 will affect your reputation … but it will only be known by those in the finance industry, historians and those states bordering Alabama trying to attract businesses away," he said. "The residents, if the restructuring is done in a way that diverts current revenue sources, won’t notice."

But bankruptcy expert Jack F. Williams said layoffs, tax and sewer rate increases and service reductions all are possible when a city or county seeks Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

"It’s generally designed to allow an insolvent municipality to arrange its debts. Typically, it’s bond debt," said Williams, a professor at Georgia State University and resident scholar with the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Jefferson County got into trouble after it was forced by the courts to undertake a huge upgrade of its sewage system to meet federal water standards and stop raw and partially treated waste from being dumped into streams.

Acting at the suggestion of outside advisers, the county borrowed money for the project on the bond market in a complex and risky series of transactions. When the mortgage crisis hit and banks began tightening up on their lending, the interest rates on the debt ballooned.

The nearly completed sewer project has been under construction since 1996.

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