MOORLACH UPDATE — Annual CSAC Conference — November 22, 2013

Im just back from the annual California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Conference. It was held in San Jose this year, with Santa Clara County as our host. Next year, Orange County will host this annual event at the Disneyland Hotel. I started my CSAC Supervisorial Training at the Disneyland Hotel in 2006, so it seems fitting that at the conclusion of my role as a County Supervisor it will be held there again. While I was out this week there were several news items which are consolidated by topics below.

The first article features the lamenting of a pushback on toll roads by the LA Times. A point that seems lost on our new reporters is that the 91 Express Lanes and the south County toll roads were newly built lanes and were not converted from pre-existing general purpose lanes. The closing paragraph hints at this fact. One thing is clear: Caltrans District 12 Director Ryan Chamberlain continues to articulate a hard line that does not seem to be accurately reflecting the views of his boss, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Collaboration — November 9, 2013). The piece was published on Thursday.

The second topic is the formal announcement of a candidate seeking to fill my position and it is covered by the Daily Pilot and the OC Register, respectively, in the next two articles. Both were also published on Thursday.

The third topic is the modification of amortization periods by the Board of the Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS). It was covered by the OC Register, the Voice of OC, and Public CEO. The OC Register used a Voice of OC opinion piece as a reliable news source. To see what I wrote when it was inferred that I implored our County Treasurer-Tax Collector, I refer you back to MOORLACH UPDATE Jolly Roger August 19, 2013. I appreciate receiving some credit, but it may be exaggerated. The Countys Treasurer-Tax Collector is an independent thinker, as are the four appointed members of the OCERS Board. They review the data and evidence presented to them and make decisions. They dont need my coaching on obvious matters. The Public CEO has to provide some balance, so they will occasionally reprint postings from the Liberal OC Blog. That is what they did on this topic. It would appear that if you cannot beat them on the facts, call them names, taunt them, or infer that they are not scholarly thinkers knowledgeable about the subject at hand. (It is my understanding that Tom Flanigan opposed the motion because he was in favor of an 18-year amortization period.)

The fourth and final topic is an editorial on a future capital expenditure, with accompanying cartoon, in the Voice of OC. I only have one response: Redirect your anger. Gov. Jerry Brown has taken $73 million per year, going forward, from the County of Orange. Gov. Jerry Brown also wants the County of Orange to return property tax revenues of $150 million. I dont believe that this County will see a new animal shelter anytime soon with these severe fiscal demands on the its General Fund Budget (nearly 11 percent!). Sorry to disappoint the writer of the piece, but some future capital projects may be deferred for a very, very long time. Thank you, Gov. Brown.

Orange County, long a toll-road supporter, makes U-turn over 405 plan

A plan to add toll lanes to 14 miles of the 405 Freeway from Long Beach to Costa Mesa is facing widespread opposition from officials and residents. The political shift has several causes.

By Paloma Esquivel and Adolfo Flores

The "Lexus lane" was born in Orange County nearly two decades ago: Pay a toll and avoid the crushing rush hour traffic.

The first of the toll lanes offered commuters an easier ride between Orange and Riverside counties.

From there, Orange County added a network of toll roads around its booming southern end, 51 miles in all. The idea has caught on across the nation, including in San Diego and Los Angeles counties, which recently placed toll lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways.

But in Orange County, the concept may belosing its luster.

A $1.47-billion proposal to add toll lanes to a traffic-clogged 14-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway from Long Beach to Costa Mesa has met with wide opposition from officials and residents in the six cities along the route. Civic leaders said they fear the plan could be a harbinger of more toll roads to come.

"Who can afford thirty bucks a day to commute? Very few people," said Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey, who represents one of the six cities. "We have an expression: We feel like we’re not being railroaded. We’re being toll-roaded."

At a meeting this month, crowds packed an Orange County Transportation Authority board meeting to denounce the lanes, which have been supported by Caltrans. City leaders expressed worry that the project would push traffic onto their streets, or that motorists traveling in the toll lanes would find it too difficult to pull off the highway and patronize local businesses.

The political shift over toll lanes has several causes. Some of Orange County’s toll roads have struggled to attract drivers and each of the major corridors has been forced to refinance its debt to avoid possible default.

There has also been the sticker shock: Riding the 91 Express Lanes can cost nearly $10 each way at the most congested hours, an investment even for Lexus drivers. If the 405 toll lanes are built, the priciest one-way toll would cost $9.91.

As for the 405, much of the anger stems from what Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach called a "bit of a bait and switch." When voters approved a countywide half-cent sales tax, they were told funds would go toward adding one general purpose lane in each direction at a cost of $1.25 billion.

Instead, the proposal before the OCTA would add one free lane and one toll lane in each direction but it would also convert an existing carpool lane in each direction into a second toll lane, with the added $220-million price tag paid through bond sales that in turn would be paid off by tolls.

"If we don’t take a stand against this now, then future generations will pay for it," Fountain Valley Councilman Michael Vo said.

The uproar comes as communities around the country are increasingly proposing toll lanes as a way to reduce congestion and raise revenue. The federal government has opened the door by providing money for some of the work, such as the 110 and 10 freeway toll lane projects in Los Angeles County.

Ryan Chamberlain, Caltrans’ district director for Orange County, said federal and state gas taxes simply can’t cover the cost of building and maintaining California’s vast highway system. He takes issue with people who call the proposed tolls a double tax.

"If you’re using the system you’re paying for the privilege to use it," he said. "It’s a free-market driven choice, not a tax."

Highway authorities are also facing pressure from a federal mandate requiring that traffic on carpool lanes be sped up in some areas, including the 405, or risk losing funding and project approvals.

Robert Poole, director of transportation policy for the Reason Foundation, which advocates for toll lanes, said the heated opposition in the birthplace of congestion-priced toll lanes took him off guard.

"This strikes me as really strange in a place that’s generally as individualistic and free-market oriented as Orange County," he said. "It’s strange that people expect the highways, which are really, really important, to be run with equal misery for everyone."

Fred Smoller, associate professor of political science at Chapman University, sees another reason for the opposition.

"I’d imagine there is post-recession resentment of Lexus Lanes, which benefit the well-treaded 1% over the congested masses yearning to motor free."

Toll roads in Orange County have shown decidedly mixed results. The San Joaquin, Eastern and Foothill toll roads have long struggled for drivers. But the 91 Express Lanes have fared better. According to a report by the Federal Highway Administration published last year, the 91 "by far" generates the most annual revenue in the U.S. $41.2 million among so-called managed lane facilities. The lanes have served as a model for similar lanes around the country, experts say.

"The whole world knows about the 91 Express Lanes in Orange County," Poole said. "They’ve been the inspiration across the United States for similar projects in Miami, in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis. All those projects came later."

For now, a decision on the lanes by the OCTA has been delayed until December. But Chamberlain warned that if local transportation officials choose not to move forward with the project, the state could require it anyway.

Gordon J. "Pete" Fielding, professor emeritus in the School of Social Sciences at UC Irvine, said Orange County was a true innovator at creating toll lanes.

But "asking individuals to pay for using roads that they are accustomed to using without payment is never popular," he said.



Mansoor declares his run for supervisor

Months of speculation lead to an official announcement and pleas for financial support.

By Bradley Zint

After months of consideration, state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor made it official this week: He’s running for the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

The longtime Costa Mesa resident and former mayor has been mulling the decision since at least May. If elected next year, the Republican would succeed 2nd District Supervisor John Moorlach, who will be termed out of the office in January 2015.

In a prepared announcement this week, Mansoor asked for funds in his effort.

"I’ve always been the first to admit that fundraising isn’t my greatest strength, and even though I’ve always raised enough to be competitive, I’ve been outspent in every election I’ve run," Mansoor wrote. "This campaign won’t be any different, especially against a candidate whose greatest strength is her ability to raise money from interests outside the district."

The allusion was to Surfside resident Michelle Steel, who is also running for county supervisor. The vice chairwoman of the state Board of Equalization moved to Orange County in recent years from the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County. She represents much of the Southern California region, including Orange County, on the five-member equalization board.

Steel, a Republican, began her campaign in May and has received an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa).

Mansoor, a former sheriff’s deputy, wrote that the supervisor campaign reminds him of his first Costa Mesa City Council run in 2002. Mansoor served on the five-member council from 2002 to 2010.

"In 2002, I ran against entrenched establishment incumbents because a group of people from my neighborhood felt like City Hall didn’t care about what was happening in our community," he wrote. "While everyone wanted to improve City Hall, no one wanted to run.

"I, somewhat reluctantly, stepped up because someone had to. Ever since, I’ve been happy and grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the community I grew up in."

Mansoor won his Assembly seat in 2010 for what was then the 68th District. It was later redrawn and became the 74th District. Mansoor won that seat in November 2012.

Huntington Beach City Councilman Joe Carchio and Coast Community College District trustee Jim Moreno are also running for the 2nd District.

Carchio is a Republican and Moreno a Democrat. The supervisor seat, however, is officially nonpartisan. Members serve four years and represent about 600,000 residents in each district.

The 2nd District includes Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and portions of Buena Park and Fountain Valley.

Assemblyman Mansoor to make bid for seat on OC Board of Supervisors


Two-term Republican state Assemblyman Allan Mansoor will seek a seat next year on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, setting up a battle with a better funded-candidate who moved to the county two years ago.

In a press release sent late Tuesday to the Register and potential campaign donors, Mansoor, of Costa Mesa, said he will compete for the Second District seat being vacated by termed-out Supervisor John Moorlach.

At least three other candidates have confirmed they will run, with others still eyeing the race. The early favorite has been termed-out State Board of Equalization member Michelle Steel. In July, Huntington Beach City Councilman Joe Carchio, a Republican, said he will run. And a Democrat, Coast Community College District Trustee Jim Moreno, is running.

Ive been outspent in every race Ive ever run, Mansoor told the Register on Wednesday. But the people I represent have always been very supportive, and I know that they want someone with long-term ties to the community to represent them. Mansoor, a former Costa Mesa city councilman, also worked for the Orange County Sheriffs Department for 16 years.

I have a vested interest in making sure my county government is accountable and transparent to the people, he said.

Three of the major issues facing the Board of Supervisors in the next few years are the possibility of toll lanes on the 405 Freeway an idea he opposes, pensions and service to unincorporated parts of the county.

Pensions continue to be an issue that has to be addressed if we really want to focus on our long-term fiscal health, he said.

For the past several months, Mansoor has said he was considering entering the 2014 race, thus passing up a chance for another term the Assembly.

The easiest path would be to cruise to re-election to a third term in the Assembly, but no one else is ready or willing to stand up and fight to make sure that our community has local representation on the Board of Supervisors, Mansoor said in his announcement.

In announcing his bid late Tuesday, Mansoor said the local leaders and residents had urged that he seek for the seat. And without naming her directly, Mansoor fired a shot at Steel, suggesting she opportunistically moved to Orange County to qualify to run.

One of their biggest concerns was that the only major candidate for this office recently moved to Orange County from LA for the sole purpose of running for Orange County Supervisor in hopes of furthering her ambition of running for Congress if/when Congressman Dana Rohrabacher retires, he said.

Steel and her husband, former state GOP chairman Shawn Steel, moved from Rancho Palos Verdes to Surfside in late 2011. She ended the first half of the year with just over $550,000 on hand for her campaign, including a $100,000 loan to herself. Mansoor had only a fraction of that, just under $30,000, according to campaign filings.

Steels campaign consultant, Dave Gilliard, responded to jabs Mansoor took at Steel in announcing his campaign. Steel and her husband moved to Orange County two years ago, he said, long before she decided to run for Moorlachs seat.

(Steel) has represented Orange County for just about seven years, all of Orange County, on the state board of equalization, Gilliard said.

She knows it very well and knows the issues that are important. In particular, shes focused on job creation and has helped small businesses navigate state regulations and tax issues, he said. Shes very much in touch with the district and concerns of the people who live in the district.

Moreover, he said, shes garnered the support of many local leaders, whereas Mansoor is getting into this race very late and without any real support from elected officials in Orange County.

Contact the writer: aboessenkool

County pension board shortens payoff schedule


Future taxpayers may thank the countys pension board members.

The board voted Monday to pay off the systems $5.7 billion unfunded liability in 20 years, instead of 29 years.

Pitting conservatives, who said an even shorter payoff schedule is more fiscally responsible, against labor and employer representatives who wanted to keep the status quo, the debate lasted the entire day. Their compromise will require the county government, the county fire authority and other agencies to pay more beginning 10 years from now, potentially cutting into employees paychecks or jeopardizing jobs.

Until year 11, the payment rate will decrease slightly.

The debate can best be summed up by an exchange between two board members: Roger Hilton, who represents sheriffs deputies, and Wayne Lindholm, president of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, an influential conservative group. Lindholm was appointed by the county Board of Supervisors.

I dont think we have a mathematical problem, Hilton said. We have a political problem on this board.

Lindholm replied: Its not a political question. Its a math question. Were talking about saddling future generations with a billion dollars more.

Representatives from the Orange County Fire Authority and from some cities that contract with OCFA asked to keep the longer payment schedule. They were concerned rate increases would make the Fire Authority unaffordable.

We dont want to have services cut, Westminster Councilwoman Diana Carey said.

The Board of Retirement voted 8-1, with Chairman Tom Flanigan voting no.

Also, the board voted 5-4 to use a 20-year payoff schedule for any unfunded liability accrued in the future. The unfunded liability is the difference between what the retirement system has promised current and future retirees, and the assets it has to pay them.

County Treasurer Shari Freidenrich requested the amortization debate after she voted with a board majority in June to keep the schedule at 25 years. Some other board members said she was pressured from prominent county conservatives to change her vote.

Freidenrich said Monday that she was acting in her fiduciary responsibility. She wouldnt say whether she was pressured politically, but Supervisor John Moorlach previously told the Voice of OC, an investigative website partially funded by labor, that he implored Freidenrich to reconsider her vote.

OCERS Backs Off Major Hike in Public Agency Payments


After months of intense debates over how to best handle $5.7 billion in unfunded retirement obligations, leaders of Orange County’s local pension system have struck a deal to avoid a major surge in public agency payments that officials warned could bankrupt small cities.

After spending hours battling over repayment schedules, board members at the Orange County Employees Retirement System or OCERS eventually voted 8-1 on Monday to shift all of its unfunded liabilities into a 20-year payment plan that keeps agencies’ contributions stable. Chairman Tom Flanigan dissented.

Some, such as Lincoln Club president and supervisors appointee Wayne Lindholm, argued for 15-year repayment windows. Others argued for even shorter repayment periods.

Lindholm argued that the pension system needed to be aggressively paying down its unfunded obligations in order to avoid imploding.

The board needs to get ahead of this issue "before this helicopter hits the wall," he said.

Eventually, the board coalesced around the 20-year mark.

Theres a way to work this down if everybody was working together, said OCERS board member David Ball, who was recently appointed by county supervisors to the post despite public protests from labor leaders who attacked Ball as too extreme. I think weve gone through a very unusual bad time," Ball said.

Mondays compromise came after an intense debate raged for months between conservative and labor appointees to the board. The conservative wing on the board sought to lower the plans investment assumptions and shorten its payoff period, moves that could have skyrocketed most cities payments.

Officials in the small city of Stanton, which contracts with the Sheriffs Department for police services, warned that such a move could blow apart their budget, potentially forcing a municipal bankruptcy. Other South County contract cities also raised concerns, as did a Westminster councilwoman.

Sheriff union officials, along with the Superior Court, even threatened to leave OCERS altogether for the states CalPERS system.

Over the last decade, a combination of benefit increases, market losses and changes in assumptions all contributed to the skyrocketing of unfunded liabilities from less than a billion dollars in 2004 to the current mark, which is nearing $6 billion.

Many Republican leaders, such as county Supervisor John Moorlach, have argued for an aggressive approach to paying down that liability, in some cases pushing to shorten some amortization schedules from a 30-year payoff down to 15 years.

Others, including city officials like Stantons Republican Mayor Dave Shawver and many labor groups, support speedier amortizations, such as 25 years. However, they labeled a 15-year goal as too aggressive.

That debate exploded this summer when Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Freidenrich, who is also an OCERS board member by statute, casting the deciding vote on the issue, summing up the aggressive amortization plan as too dramatic of a step.

Freidenrich backtracked the next month, asking her colleagues for a revote after facing pressure from Republican conservatives.

By the time Mondays meeting came around, Freidenrich largely sided with the conservative appointees of county supervisors.

OCERS board member Chris Prevatt, who represents general employees on the board, wasnt happy about it.

You disgust me, Prevatt told Freidenrich. I have absolutely no respect for you.

Freidenrich didn’t respond, and other board members urged decorum.

The discussion largely centered on balancing a reasonable payment plan for member agencies with ensuring that the cost of benefits for current workers isnt handed off to the next generation.

Some argued for shortening the payment period to 11 years, the average amount of service left among workers enrolled in the retirement system.

Its only in the public sector that we think of passing debt, not assets, off to our children, said Yorba Linda Mayor Pro Tem Craig Young.

Board actuarial consultant Paul Angelo meanwhile said amortization periods that are too short would be unfair to taxpayers when the economy experiences a dip.

The countys main public workers union went so far as to suggest that the supervisors board appointees had an ulterior motive in trying to boost agencies required payments into the system.

Jennifer Muir, assistant general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, said its hard to think of any motivations other than to artificially make the system too expensive and unsustainable.

Board members also noted the significance of their decision-making.

We are talking about money that has tremendous impacts on lots of people, said OCERS board member Robert Griffith, who represents retirees. We need to be real careful and real prudent about making drastic changes [to] that.

Under the new policy, member agencies, including cities policed by the Sheriffs Department, would collectively pay for 10 years about the same amount for their unfunded liabilities as they would have under the previous policy, according to a consultants presentation.

Then for the following 10 years, they would keep paying the same rate about 25 percent of payroll and have the liability paid off at year 20.

Under the previous policy, those payments would have decreased starting in year 10 but continued until about year 30.

OCERS manages retirement benefits for about 14,000 retirees and beneficiaries, plus about 25,000 workers who have yet to retire.

It handles benefits for workers in the county government, Orange County Fire Authority, Orange County Superior Court, Orange County Transportation Authority and city of San Juan Capistrano, among others.

The new rates are set to come into effect in July 2015.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

OC Retirement Board Votes to Pay Off Unfunded Liabilities in 20 Years

Originally posted at The Liberal OC.
By Dan Chmielewski.

Bowing to political pressure from the Orange County Lincoln Club and Supervisor John Moorlach, Orange County Treasurer Shari Freidenrich formally requested that the Orange County Retirement System trustees reconsider their June 2013 decisions regarding the amortization period for current and future unfunded liabilities when it comes to public employee pension. At Mondays OCERS board meeting, Freidenrich made good on her pledge to Mr. Moorlach and fellow Trustee, Lincoln Club President Wayne Lindholm, to change her vote. She flip flopped and did.

In June, Ms. Freidenrich voted with the majority of trustees to follow the recommendations of plan sponsors including the two largest the County of Orange and Orange County Fire Authority and reduce the period to fund future liabilities from 30 to a 25 years, and to leave amortization periods for current liabilities as of December 31, 2012 unchanged. That vote so upset Trustee Lindholm, who wanted the period shortened to 20 years or more for future and current liabilities, that were emails show he sent Freidenrich a draft message to voters accusing her of costing taxpayers $1 billion.

As President of the Orange County Lincoln Club, Lindholm has the ability to direct the resources of the Lincoln Club PAC to damage her reelection chances in 2014. Moorlach advised Freidenrich that she should follow the lead of appointed trustees, like Lindholm, when deciding how to vote (which makes me wonder why shes on the board at all).

Despite the evidence of political pressure revealed by emails from Moorlach and Lindholm obtained through public records requests, which were entered into the record by elected General Member Trustee Chris Prevatt at the October meeting of the OCERS board, Ms. Freidenrich claimed that it was her conservative principles that caused her to revisit the issue. Prevatt told Freidenrich that she should seek a new occupation as a contortionist in a circus. With her vote change, the OCERS board decided to reduce the time period to fund future unfunded liabilities by five years, to twenty.

Then the board moved to the discussion of what to do about the unfunded liabilities accrued through 2012, including the $934 billion the conservative trustees, along with Freidenrich, added to the bill by lowering the assumed earning rate from 7.75 percent to 7.25 percent in December 2012. There was a significant amount of discussion over how to address current liabilities. Mr. Lindholm, along with the other radicals on the Board wanted to reduce the time period to as low as 18 years, which would have added an additional 1.6 percent of payroll cost to employers in the first year.

Following comments by newly appointed Trustee David Ball that indicated support for providing some limited relief to plan sponsors, Prevatt made a motion, seconded by Mr. Ball to re-amortize all current liabilities over a 20 year period. By collapsing all liabilities into a new 20 year layer, plan sponsors would realize a small decrease in first year costs of 0.4 percent. After multiple failed attempts to increase immediate costs to plan sponsors by Mr. Lindholm, the Board voted 8-1, with Chairman Tom Flanigan voting no, in favor of Prevatts motion.

With the action of the Board, and the near unanimous vote, the debate over amortization periods is over for now. The topic will come up again next year when the board revisits the assumed rate of plan returns, a key component determining the rates the employer and employees in the pension system pay to fund retirement benefits.

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Please note, statements and opinions expressed by The Liberal OC are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of PublicCEO or its employees thereof.

Community Editorial: Were Tired of Waiting for a New Animal Shelter


California Senate Concurrent Resolution 61 recently passed declaring every October Shelter Pet Awareness Month. The purpose of the resolution is to promote shelter pet adoptions by raising public awareness of the hundreds of thousands of animals in California shelters.

This prompted me to check again with county officials on the status of the proposed new Orange County Animal Shelter, which will replace the current one built during World War II.

Once again, I am advised that a firm construction date is still to be determined. It continues to be ever more elusive supposedly due now to the encumbered previously Navy-owned property in Tustin. The same property of which Supervisor John Moorlach stated back in 2009 at a Republican Club meeting that the county was working to gain ownership for the purpose of building a new shelter. The same property the Board of Supervisors has used for many years as the excuse to prevent progress on a new shelter.

Oh my god, will this game ever end? Like a pet led around by a toy, me thinks the Orange County Board of Supervisors is playing with residents except after so many years, we dont think it is fun. Or maybe were all just being played.

What happens to these public servants when they serve on the Board of Supervisors?

As a Laguna Niguel City Council member, Pat Bates was supportive of her city ending their contract with the county for animal services and moving to contract with the Mission Viejo Animal Shelter, built in 1993, because it is pro humane and convenient. Many South County residents then supported her candidacy in 2007 for 5th District Orange County supervisor.

Chris Norby served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors as 4th District supervisor prior to moving on to the California State legislature in 2002. As a state Assembly representative, he has earned a grade F each year from a Sacramento-based political action committee for his negative voting record on animals and the environment.

Todd Spitzer served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors until he went on to the state Assembly in 2002. He, too, also earned a grade F for four years. Now he is back on the Board as 3rd District supervisor.

So what is it about the Board of Supervisors? Are they bewitched? Isnt leadership about stepping out in front and taking bold moves, not giving in to peer pressure? Dont true leaders try to change the status quo, not maintain it? And when maintaining the status quo cost more lives, that position is unjustifiable

As far as animals go, the supervisors act as though they have the consciousness of the Mad Man world the popular television series based on the behavior during the ’50s and ’60s. The rest of us are living in the contemporary Modern Family world another popular television series.

With this in mind, I recently spoke at an OC Board of Supervisors meeting representing residents from 10 of the 18 contract cities in North, central and South County. My intention was to voice the sentiments of the electorate and also enlightened the supervisors with the latest scientific information on animal consciousness, the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.

After waiting more than five hours in a room cold enough to hang meat, it was time for my three-minute presentation (the amount of time allowed for public comments). As I quickly delivered my oral presentation and then began the 80-second video of the recent historic scientific acknowledgement on animal consciousness, Supervisor and Chairman Shawn Nelson began counting down the seconds and demanded the video be halted before it finished.

Was his disrespectful behavior indicative of the boards attitude toward all the voters who care about the animals? If we humans dont stand up for the least of us, who will? Do they prefer to remain closed-minded about the issue? Are not the thousands of homeless animals who end up at the shelter every year the moral equivalent to our own personal pets we hold dear? Perhaps if they were marched past the daily barrels of euthanized animals and the smell of death penetrated their senses and clothes, it would open their minds.

In September, the city of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services reported completion of their five new animal shelter buildings. In comparison, our county has not been able to build even one during the same period of time.

Unless the supervisors change their attitude on this issue, its not likely our residents will see the proverbial light (new animal shelter) showing up at the end of this Orange County tunnel anytime soon.

To keep the trust of the voters the supervisors need to redeem themselves to us. They need to select a property which is already available now and proceed with the shelter design.

The county clerk-recorder department has multiple locations in North, central and South County for the convenience of the residents. Perhaps, then, the county could build one main new shelter primarily for intake and assessment and create multiple smaller adoption-satellite centers convenient for the residents in the outlying north, central and south cities. This could facilitate more adoptions, more revenue and most importantly result in less euthanizing of innocent animals.

In a recently published Associated Press poll, respondents were asked to select one of two statements as representing their view:

Animal shelters should only be allowed to euthanize animals when they are too sick to be treated or too aggressive to be adopted = 71%

Sometimes animal shelters should be allowed to euthanize animals as a necessary way of controlling the population of animals = 25%

So should shelters save all their healthy and treatable pets? Americans think so by a 71% majority.

So do we think its time for our county to have a new and pro-humane shelter to replace the old, antiquated shelter? The resounding answer is yes. As one frustrated and longtime advocate stated for many of us recently, I too would really like somebody to do something. This has been discussed to death.

So, supervisors, stop playing with us.


November 19


The Board meeting of November 18th covered two major concerns. The first was the Freeway/Triangle Complex Fire that had occurred the weekend before. The second was the topic of carry concealed weapons (CCWs). We had a good turnout for the latter. Sheriff Hutchens made a presentation, followed by a legal presentation by County Counsel to address the parameters under which the Board could operate. One lament I still have is that County Counsel also allowed my Chief of Staff to present a protocol that would not occur again. The proposed resolution establishes the policy of the County of Orange. However, based on all of our legal research, the Board could not establish a policy for a constitutional officer in an elected position. The Board could do a resolution that requests the Sheriff to consider and pursue certain policies, which is what Supervisor Nguyen did in the afternoon. Norberto Santana, Jr., of the OC Register covered the discussion in Supervisors criticize sheriff over weapons permits More than 100 protesters show up at county board meeting to show anger over reversal of Carona gun policy. Here is the article and the accompanying photo:

Supervisors criticize sheriff over weapons permits
Supervisors John M.W. Moorlach, Patricia C. Bates, and Chris Norby listen to speakers at Tuesday’s meeting.


County supervisors, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and hundreds of gun activists engaged Tuesday in a Wild West-style shootout over restrictive concealed gun policies Hutchens has introduced during her first six months in office.

After hearing more than 80 speakers present compelling stories of threats and safety concerns, supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Hutchens to ease her review of concealed weapons permits and broaden the reasons why a member of the public could carry a concealed handgun.

Hutchens who sat through the entire eight-hour hearing was gracious about the debate afterward saying, I was happy to hear what the issues are, and called the session a respectful debate.

It might have been respectful. But it was also forceful.

Youre being extremely restrictive, said county Supervisor Pat Bates.

Hutchens replied, I do not view my policy to be restrictive, which triggered massive laughter from the audience.

The hearing was also precedent-setting. No one could remember an Orange County sheriff sitting through such aggressive questioning by county supervisors – and with a smile.

County Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach also set an ironic precedent with his chief of staff joining the county counsel in a briefing that angered several supervisors. While Moorlach told the crowd that he was a proponent of concealed weapons, his staff member was arguing supervisors should not even pass a resolution telling the sheriff what to do.

In the end, thats just what they did.

However, Hutchens noted that the resolution adopted by supervisors isnt far from what Im implementing.

She also said she would consider how to handle the 423 revocation letters that she has issued after hearing concerns that a revocation would end up in peoples case files with the Department of Justice. I may take a look at that, she said after the hearing.

According to Hutchens, 1,069 concealed weapons permits have been reviewed and 646 have remained untouched. A total of 423 revocation letters have been sent out advising residents that they need to provide more proof of their need for carrying a concealed handgun. Hutchens also noted that since she took office, 64 applications have been received and 32 approved.

Hutchens who was appointed by county supervisors in June after former Sheriff Mike Carona resigned in the wake of a federal indictment began reviewing the concealed weapons permits issued by Carona after hearing of several irregularities in the process.

When you come behind an indicted sheriff, its prudent to look at everything, she said.

Federal officials noted a questionable permit granted to a Carona contributor in their indictment and former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl has testified in Caronas trial that concealed weapons permits and badges were handed out to contributors. Indeed, the Orange County Register did find 95 instances in which Carona campaign donors who gave more than $68,000 – received gun permits.

Under California state law, sheriffs are granted wide discretion on setting policies that define the good cause needed to carry a concealed weapon. Carona was known in the gun community for his liberal interpretation of the standard. In fact, many rural counties do grant many more licenses than sheriffs in urban areas.

But Hutchens argues that wide discretion is misleading. She sees the state law as very clear. Concealed weapons permits are an exception. And there is a guideline for granting the permits, even though its only a 1977 attorney general’s letter. But without any kind of regulatory body to enforce standards, Hutchens says all of Californias 58 Sheriffs are on the honor system. And she believes in enforcing the spirit of the law, even when no one is looking.

Just as I expect my deputies to follow the intent of the law, especially when no one is looking, Hutchens told supervisors on Tuesday.

In October, Hutchens announced her new policy noting that specific proof of threats or workplace needs would be required, in addition to possible psychological and medical checks. Later that month, county supervisors questioned her and she made a misstep by saying none had yet to be revoked. She forgot to add that hundreds of residents were receiving letters advising them that their licenses would be revoked in 30 days without further good cause information.

The revisions triggered an avalanche of activist ire. And county supervisors got an earful. Soon, they were asking aggressive questions using information provided by activists.

You have massive confusion in this state over good cause, said Ed Worley, a California state liaison for the National Rifle Association. Worley said he was inundated by messages from Orange County members voicing concerns that concealed weapons permits were being denied. Other NRA officials at Tuesdays meeting indicated they were monitoring the events and considering whether to become more involved in fundraising for local elections based on the decisions made.

Most of the speakers at the podium before supervisors told stories of being affected by crime, or having professions such as pilots that made them vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Richard Gilbert, 44, of Buena Park, told supervisors he wanted to apply for a permit because his disability spina bifida made it impossible for him to run away from an attacker. After reading stories of random violence, he asked how people could even show credible threats.

Criminals dont just attack some random class of people, he said.

Jack Sobelman, 58, of Costa Mesa, told supervisors his concealed weapon permit had been revoked despite being a political nobody.

Sobelman said as a private pilot, he flew many dignitaries around and could be under threat from terrorists looking to hijack a small plane. He said a friend with similar cause had not had his license revoked.

Theres no down side to having good, honest, competent people having a CCW, Sobleman said.

However, Mary and Charles Blek who lost their son to gun violence made a point of showing up to the hearing so county supervisors would hear a different point of view on guns.

The presence of a gun can escalate situations, Blek said, adding that she and others who were not present approved of Hutchens policy.

For example, do you want to be at a Ducks game, surrounded by tons of beer and people carrying concealed weapons, asked Mary Blek.

She told supervisors that while she and her husband respected the views and passion of the audience, they are a small, vocal and organized minority in Orange County.

November 20


Sean Belk of the Seal Beach Sun gave a shout out to three who put their elected careers on the line in Outgoing RCSD directors lauded New directors to be sworn in next month. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Outgoing Rossmoor Community Services District board members Shawn Wilson, Erwin Anisman and Mark Nitikman were honored during their last official meeting together Nov. 11.

The directors who all served as presidents of the board, with Anisman serving the longest at eight years, received plaques of appreciation from Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, as well as from the district.

I want to thank all three of you for the hard work. I respect and admire all three of you, he said. It takes a lot of energy and commitment.

While the community has spoken with about 70 percent of Rossmoor residents who voted turning down a chance at cityhood, Moorlach said, It took a lot of courage, to stand up for what the board felt was best for the community.

Had cityhood passed, the three directors would have begun new terms as incoming city council members, along with Alfred Coletta and Joel Rattner.

Brianna Bailey and Alan Blank, in their The Political Landscape column for the Daily Pilot, addressed Easing on concealed weapons. Here is the concluding paragraph:

After a roughly eight-hour meeting, Moorlach and the rest of the board voted to adopt a revised resolution that advises Hutchens to ease up on her review of concealed weapons permits.

The Los Angeles Daily Breeze announced the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness effort by the County in Leaders meet to discuss homeless plan. Phillip Mangano was an inspirational advocate for Ten-Year Plans. Here is the piece in full:

Community leaders from Southern California counties and cities will meet in Tustin today to discuss a 10-year plan to end homelessness and help the state in its development of a similar blueprint.

Among those attending the meeting will be Phillip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, said Karen Roper of OC Community Services.

In moving forward with a plan, Orange County is joining more than 650 communities nationwide partnering in some 350 plans, Mangano said.

Orange County’s 2007 Homeless Needs Assessment estimates that 35,065 families and individuals will experience an episode of homelessness over the course of one year, Roper said.

A count of the homeless in 2007 confirmed that 3,649 men, women and children were found to be homeless in shelters and on the streets on one night in January 2007, many living in cars, parks, under bridges, motels and in homeless shelters. A similar count will be taken next January, Roper said.

Once completed, the county’s 10-year plan will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

Supervisor Chair John Moorlach, who will attend the gathering along with Supervisor Janet Nguyen, said that the county "has a strong network of public and private agencies addressing the issues of homelessness."

"The 10-Year planning process is an opportunity to coordinate and build on these efforts."

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