MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Quasquicentennial! — December 31, 2013

It is the last day of 2013, so allow me to wish you a very Happy New Year!

Next year is Orange County’s Quasquicentennial, its 125th birthday. Last year I spoke at the annual Orange County Visitors Association conference and introduced the audience to the word “Quasquicentennial.” For more on the Visitors Association, go to You will see that I have incorporated their branding efforts, “Forever Summer,” in every one of my UPDATES these past few years. Next year we will proudly celebrate Orange County’s Quasquicentennial on the cheap. With assistance from the Visitors Association, the Orange County Historical Commission, and many other interested parties, we will enjoy the history and accomplishment of this 800 square mile county. The OC is iconic and it is the best place on the planet to live. From our beaches, to our foothills, to our educational institutions, to our diversified and vibrant business community, to our world famous resorts, and to our national sports teams, Orange County is a dynamic community that has accomplished so much in such a short period of time.

The OC Register provides an editorial on the birthday party. And on the front page of its business section, we see “They came, they saw, they spent: O.C. tourism up big – Visitors to our sun-filled corner of the world in 2013 were the most since 2007. Officials expect an even better 2014.” Let’s hope our guests enjoy visiting our amazing County and that they celebrate Orange County’s Quasquicentennial at our outstanding lodging and dining venues. I should point out that the minimal funding that was proposed was from already budgeted resources dedicated to marketing and promotion. And one of the learning experiences from the State’s Sesquicentennial efforts, in pursuing public-private partnerships, is that the private donors wanted the public to have some skin in the game to make it a “partnership.” That being said, the news of the County’s 125th birthday is getting out and that’s a good way to start 2014, the Quasquicentennial year.

Today I provide the final chapter of the “FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS.” How fitting that it would conclude with a story from fifteen years ago on one of California’s Sesquicentennial moments. And, by coincidence, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses celebrates its Quasquicentennial parade tomorrow! Enjoy the New Year, the Rose Parade and be sure to visit the floats.

Who pays for O.C.’s birthday party?

Orange County turns 125 in 2014.

Our county this new year will mark its quasquicentennial birthday, when the state Legislature 125 years ago pushed forward with allowing residents of the then-southern portion of Los Angeles County to vote for separation and form their own county.

According to county records, the ballot measure passed 2,509-500, and the county of Orange was formed on Aug. 1, 1889, with the Board of Supervisors convening their first meeting four days later.

And what is a birthday without a celebration? But a recent proposal that came before the Board of Supervisors to spend $10,000 on birthday festivities has these pages wondering who should pay for such a celebration. It shouldn’t be the taxpayer.

Because the plan called for drawing $2,500 from the current fiscal year’s budget “to cover the cost of birthday cake, balloons and printed promotional” materials. Another $7,500 would come out of the next fiscal year for possible “light-pole banners around the Civic Center Plaza area, the Chapman-produced video and other materials as requested by Board offices.”

“We’re not talking a big ask,” Supervisor John Moorlach, who has pushed for a celebration, told us. “I believe in celebrating milestones. I’d be more remiss if we just let it go by.”

Mr. Moorlach should be commended for devotion to the county’s history and his relative frugality on the proposed event, which imposes a comparatively minor financial burden on county coffers, especially when considering more grandiose celebrations of the past. Still, we can’t help but feel that the public’s money could be better spent elsewhere.

That was the objection raised by Third District Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who felt that private donations would be better suited for the event, set for Aug. 1 at the OC Fair.

“I’m all for celebrations,” Supervisor Spitzer said. “I just kind of draw the line on these kinds of things. Given the situation we are in financially and how much we’re struggling with our bargaining units to make ends meet, this sends the wrong message.”

And Mr. Spitzer is clearly right, because, while the proposed event may be run on the cheap, many events like this are often justified as being on the taxpayer’s dime by their relatively low costs, costs that add up as events multiply. Especially for events that could likely just as easily be funded from private sources.

Mr. Moorlach told us the county is looking for sponsorship, and has already had some promising responses, but rules on supervisors soliciting donations could hamstring those efforts and county counsel is reviewing the law.

This great county deserves a worthy celebration, but not at taxpayer expense.



December 29

David Parrish of the OC Register covered a landmark achievement in “First black to hold county office is sworn in – POLITICS: Friends and officials from around the U.S. mark Guillory’s milestone.” The topic seems like an interesting “Quasquicentennial” OC history moment. Here are a few selected paragraphs.

[Orange County Assessor Webster] Guillory, 54, said his election is “a symbol of the county’s acceptance. I think the significance of this today is somewhat overshadowed by (what happened) when I first came to Orange County 23 years ago. At the time, I was the first African-American manager in county government – and people made a big deal about that.”

After serving as chief deputy assessor since 1976, Guillory was elected in November to succeed his mentor, Brad Jacobs, who retired after five terms.

On Monday, when he officially takes office, Guillory will be just the second member of a minority to assume a county office since Orange County was incorporated in 1889. In 1987, Gaddi Vasquez was appointed to represent the 3rd District on the county Board of Supervisors. He was later elected to a board seat.

“People have been kind of hesitant to get involved,” said Alberta Christy, whose recent election made her the first black on the Santa Ana Council. “But it only takes one or two to do it and you will see others come out.”

The 46,000 blacks in Orange County make up about 1.8 percent of the population.

Clerk-Recorder Gary Granville said he was surprised that no members of the Board of Supervisors were there. The elected officials who did attend, such as Granville, Treasurer-Tax Collector John Moorlach and Auditor-Controller-elect David Sundstrom, share office space in the same building with the Assessor’s Office.

December 31

As vice chair of the California Sesquicentennial Foundation, the state of California had a float in the Rose Parade. It was covered by Greg Risling of the Daily Pilot in “Locals floating on 150 years of history – John Moorlach, Laura Bekeart Dietz and Howard Ahmanson to ride in Rose Parade to celebrate California’s sesquicentennial.” The title had one minor error as we were not riding on the float. But, it was fun to observe its construction in Pasadena before the parade and to watch it roll by as a parade attender on January 1st. The opportunity to serve on this Sacramento-based foundation board, which worked in conjunction with the Governor-appointed California Sesquicentennial Commission, was a very interesting experience. Regretfully, it did not get the amount of support from Governor Davis at a critical juncture in its efforts, but that is a story for another day. If you ever have a chance to attend the Rose Parade, which is celebrating its Quasquicentennial this year, please do so. If you can visit any of the facilities where construction is taking place, this is also something you need to put on your bucket list. The majority of the flowers for the 1999 float were donated by California-based florists. Here are the opening and two additional paragraphs of the piece:

John Moorlach and Laura Bekeart Dietz were standing in awe of the grand, hand-decorated creation.

In front of them stood a giant grizzly bear and a quail in a bed of golden poppies.

The colorful bouquet of reds, yellows and oranges were plucked from a multitude of tulips, roses and snapdragons. Adorned with thousands of finely pruned flowers, the float designed like a Mexican serape had the number “150” on it. The mammoth craft was an aromatic garden on wheels.

Moorlach and Dietz were instrumental in entering the float in the prestigious parade.

Both of them have been elected to the California Sesquicentennial Foundation, a special group charged with soliciting corporations for donations. The eight-member board, which also includes millionaire Howard Ahmanson, has raised more than $2 million for the three-year celebration that will culminate in 2000.

The foundation was able to land a coveted spot in the parade at the last minute.

It marks the first time in 50 years a state-commissioned float appears in the New Year’s Day festivity. More than 60,000 flowers were used to build the float.

Moorlach, who lives in Costa Mesa, is fascinated with state lore that dates back to the Gold Rush era, when the precious metal was first discovered in Coloma in 1848. He has taken more than 1,000 photographs of dedicated landmarks that he stores in an album. He was a natural fit for the board when it was created in 1995.

“This isn’t a celebration for just the gold country or Sacramento,” he said. “It is a time where we can all appreciate our history and reflect on what we have accomplished.”

BONUS: This concludes the “FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS,” which started in 2009. I have provided the clippings, which went back to the mid-1980s, for my three children and my son-in-law. My kids were growing up and focused on school, and other things that young people focus on, and were not reading the newspapers to see what was being said about their father. And my son-in-law did not grow up in the OC, so it would give him the background of what the family he hooked up with had been involved in over the last two decades. The last five years have allowed me to reprint the media attention that I had been able to organize. It did not include every clip, as there is just too many, and organizing the remainder will be a project for my retirement years. But, it gave history for my children’s edification (and I am an amateur historian), and was an expenditure of time for their benefit. I hope that you enjoyed the reflections of my public service, both the positive and critical, that was documented by the journalism industry. May your New Year be filled with fun memories worthy of reflecting upon.

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