MOORLACH UPDATE — Mississippi State Flag — January 2, 2013

Who would have thought that the first story for 2014 would be a Quasquicentennial opportunity? Especially since last year was the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg? The LA Times addressed a concern about the state flag of Mississippi flying in Santa Ana in the first piece below, which was published on New Year’s Day. Orange County’s early history is steeped with settlers who were Civil War veterans. In fact, former Santa Ana Mayor Gordon Bricken (1936 – 2013), a wonderful community leader and Rotarian, wrote a book on the topic, titled “The Civil War Legacy in Santa Ana.” So I pulled out his personally autographed copy (April 27, 2002) from my Orange County book collection, and sure enough, the cover features the Confederate Flag. To obtain a copy, go to http://www.amazon.com/The-Civil-War-Legacy-Santa/dp/1888840439. Here is one customer’s review:

After the Civil War, there began the great westward migration. Among the newly arrived settlers to the village of Santa Ana were Civil War veterans and their families. Although largely forgotten today, these veterans possessed the energy and desire that contributed to the rise of Santa Ana to its predominate role as the economic, social and political center of the Santa Ana Valley by 1900. The Civil War Legacy in Santa Ana outlines the conditions that spurred their migration, their contributions to the community and the manner in which they are being remembered today. This is an amazing story that will give you new insights on the beginning of Orange County. The book is lushly illustrated with old and new images of life in the past, portraits of key people, and artifacts of the time.

Here are two examples from the book that have a connection with me:

Carlos Frederick Mansur, Union, was the first County Treasurer (serving two terms).

Josiah Joplin, Confederate, was six-term County Treasurer (elected in 1898), organized the Trabuco and Olive School Districts, organized the Humane Society, and was Director of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce. (He was also “a leader in the movement to secede from Los Angeles County, an effort that was finally successful in 1889.”)

Another book that Gordon wrote, titled “Pioneers in Blue and Gray – Civil War Veterans in Orange Co.,” a book I still need to add to my collection, also features the Confederate flag.

Here is one sampling of his extensive research on the topic:

One Civil War veteran, Confederate Naval Officer William T. Glassell, Captained the first submarine attack of the war.
He took out the largest ship in the Union fleet and stopped the Siege of Charleston.
After the war he came to Orange County and founded one of the first communities: the town of Orange.

One wonders if the folks at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University need to change the name of the street that runs in front of it? But, I digress. To obtain this book authored by Gordon Bricken, just go to http://www.specialbooks.com/pioneers_in_blue_and_gray.htm. To close on this “Quasquicentennial moment,” Brett Kelley of the National Civil War Museum provides the proper perspective. There are historical facts about our history that may not be pleasant, but we can start fresh and accomplish great things, as many did here in the OC, and move on.

What makes the LA Times article even more interesting is that it is front page news on the website of Mississippi’s The Clarion-Ledger. The article was picked up and reprinted, with a few minor changes and accompanied by a photo of the State Flag, and is the second piece below.

The third piece is from the San Clemente Times and provides me with a new first name. But, it is a great read from three perspectives. The first is the roles I play in South County in my positions on the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). The second is the dynamics of the bottom coastal portion of Orange County (as my District has the upper coastal portion, it is interesting to appreciate its unique needs). The third is the caliber of the Mayors for the three cities that are featured and their dedication to their roles. The article provides a thorough review of priorities and local leadership.

O.C. attorneys seek removal of flag with Confederate emblem

The bar association calls for the removal of Mississippi’s banner, which includes the Confederate emblem, from Santa Ana’s Civic Center, where the flags of all 50 states are displayed.

By Jill Cowan

A group of Orange County attorneys is calling for the removal of the Mississippi state flag from a display at Santa Ana’s downtown Civic Center, saying that it symbolizes hatred and racism.

Mississippi’s flag is the last in the nation to include a Confederate battle emblem — a symbol "inextricably linked to a legacy of racism, exclusion, oppression and violence," read a statement from the Newport Beach-based Orange County Bar Assn.

The association recently passed a resolution seeking the flag’s removal from Santa Ana’s Plaza of the Flags, where the banners of all 50 states ripple amid government buildings, including the county’s central courthouse.

"I am proud of the board of directors for passing this important resolution on the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address," Orange County Bar Assn. President Wayne Gross said in the prepared statement. The emblem, he added, "has no place in or around courthouses."

This isn’t the first time the Confederate symbol’s place above the plaza has caused a flap.

In 1997, a Laguna Hills attorney campaigned unsuccessfully to have the flags of Mississippi and Georgia taken down.

Georgia has since changed its flag design. It removed the Confederate emblem about a decade ago.

However, a similar effort by Mississippi lawmakers and advocates in 2001 failed by a substantial margin, with two-thirds of the state’s residents backing the old design in a sharply divisive vote.

Brett Kelley, curator of collections at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa., said any reminder of the Confederacy is likely to stir emotions — even in California, where the Civil War is a less prominent cultural touchstone.

"Pretty much wherever the Confederate battle flag is displayed, there’s people who are going to be sensitive to that," he said.

Still, he cautioned against broadly equating the flag with hatred.

"Our history is our history," he said. "We own it, good or bad."

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach said he was a little surprised by the association’s offense at the flag’s presence.

"I see it as an interesting issue, but it seems odd, " he said. "I’m not aware of some kind of national effort to make an issue of Mississippi’s flag."

In any case, said Gerardo Mouet, who heads Santa Ana’s parks and recreation department, the debate over the flag might soon be moot.

Before the association approached the city about removing the flag, he said, his staff had already begun brainstorming about ways to expand the use of the large concrete plaza, an underused asset in a city that needs more recreational space.

Mouet added that city and county staff were working together on ideas for the jointly operated area. For example, he said, they might look into installing portable skateboard ramps on weekends.

Whatever happens to the plaza could involve getting rid of all the state flags, Mouet said — Mississippi’s included.

jill.cowan

Attorneys want Mississippi flag removed from Calif. display

Written by

Harold Gater

A group of attorneys in California called for the removal of the Mississippi state flag from a display at Santa Ana’s downtown Civic Center, The Sun Herald reported. The lawyers say the flag symbolizes hatred and racism.

Mississippi’s flag includes the Confederate battle emblem "inextricably linked to a legacy of racism, exclusion, oppression and violence," read a statement from the Newport Beach-based Orange County Bar Association.

The association recently passed a resolution seeking the flag’s removal from Santa Ana’s Plaza of the Flags, where the banners of all 50 states are on display.

"I am proud of the board of directors for passing this important resolution on the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address," Orange County Bar Association President Wayne Gross said in the prepared statement. The emblem, he added, "has no place in or around courthouses."

In 1997, a campaign to remove the flags of Mississippi and Georgia from the Santa Ana display was unsuccessful. Georgia has since removed the Confederate emblem from its state flag.

However, a similar effort to change the flag in Mississippi in 2001 failed. A ruling from the Mississippi Supreme Court cleared the way for the 2001 referendum. The court ruled in 2000 that legislation passed in 1906 had repealed the adoption of the flag, done in 1894. In spring 2001, voters roundly rejected the new design, despite it getting significant support from the business community, including the Mississippi Economic Council. Only 36 percent of the 757,000 votes cast supported changing the flag.

Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach said he was a little surprised by the association’s offense at the flag’s presence.

"I see it as an interesting issue, but it seems odd," he said. "I’m not aware of some kind of national effort to make an issue of Mississippi’s flag."

Gerardo Mouet, Santa Ana’s parks and recreation head, said the debate over the flag might soon be moot.

Before the association approached the city about removing the flag, he said, his staff was already considering ways to expand the use of the plaza.

Mouet said, they might look into installing portable skateboard ramps on weekends and remove all of the state flags.

A Meeting of Mayors

By Andrea Papagianis, Brian Park and Jim Shilander

South Orange County faces a number of challenges in the coming year and in the decades ahead.

Some are basic, like how people living in the area will get from place to place and how they’ll receive affordable water. Other challenges are thornier. How best to manage growth in areas that are largely built out? How should cities balance the desires of residents with the business community? And what roles should local governments take in making these things happen?

The newly elected mayors of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano—Lisa Bartlett, Tim Brown and Sam Allevato, respectively—gathered last month with members of the Picket Fence Media staff to discuss these and other issues facing the area.

What followed was a candid discussion of the challenges facing all three cities, how each is responding to its own unique issues and how much each could learn from the other.

Paving the Way

The newly selected mayors from San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano, pictured (L to R) Tim Brown, Lisa Bartlett and Sam Allevato, respectively, met with Picket Fence Media staff at Olamendi’s Mexican Restaurant in Capistrano Beach to talk about south Orange County. Photo by Brian Park

Thousands travel through the area every day on their way to San Diego or Los Angeles along Interstate 5.

However, unlike other areas of Orange County, there are no free alternate freeway routes around the area.

The county Board of Supervisors recently named a contractor for the completion of Avenida La Pata, between San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, which could provide an alternate route between those cities. The project is scheduled to break ground in March.

Over the next several years, I-5 will also undergo a major overhaul. As part of an Orange County Transportation Authority south county improvement project, the freeway will be widened and a high-occupancy vehicle lane will be added.

Later this year, the project moves south, ultimately culminating in the reconstruction of the Avenida Pico interchange in San Clemente, which will not likely be completed until 2017.

San Juan has also seen the effects of construction throughout the last year, as Caltrans continues work on its two-year, $86.2 million project to reconfigure the Ortega Highway interchange. The change was necessitated to brace for projected population growth and increased travel in the coming years.

“That interchange was built in 1959, when there were 2,000 people living in San Juan Capistrano and probably half of that in Dana Point and maybe 5,000 in San Clemente,” Allevato said. “You had an interchange that was woefully inadequate, but I’ve been on the City Council going on my 10th year and I’ve been dealing with it ever since … just to get the thing built.”

Allevato said San Juan’s experience over the last year showed the importance of preparation for the effects construction can have on local businesses.

“The City Council two years ago started the Economic Preservation Committee, and we partnered with Caltrans as much as we can, and OCTA as much as they’re able, to help us and all of our businesses,” Allevato said. “We meet every Thursday to design ways of bringing more business downtown and keeping the business downtown.”

Caltrans, as a state agency, is limited in what it can do to help cities mitigate the economic effects of road construction. Meanwhile, OCTA can help with outreach efforts, and has, in the last year, encouraged Metrolink riders to come to San Juan for events by offering specials.

San Juan also created an emergency ordinance allowing businesses to add extra signage. Despite city efforts, there have still been issues. Allevato highlighted instances where businesses have seen a decrease in patronage and revenues during construction.

“There is a lot of planning you can do, a lot of proactive business things you can do to help sustain these folks during construction,” Allevato said. “But it has definitively had an impact on businesses.”

Both Brown and Bartlett said they hope their cities learn from San Juan’s experience.

“An emergency sign ordinance is intelligent and I’d like to see something similar in San Clemente if it becomes a problem,” Brown said.

A proposed extension of the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ extension of the 241 Toll Road has been a major topic of discussion throughout the area in the last decade.

In 2013, an extension to just outside San Juan Capistrano was rejected by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board. The TCA is appealing the decision. The board also voted in 2013 to redo its agreement with the state, allowing the agency to collect tolls until 2053 on its existing roads, but potentially limiting its ability to collect tolls south of its current Oso Parkway terminus.

Bartlett chairs the TCA’s Foothill Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (241) board. She remains an advocate for the extension despite the recent setbacks citing its necessity with the construction of Rancho Mission Viejo.

“That Tesoro extension, that five-and-a-half miles from Oso Parkway to Cow Camp Road, is an essential component of the mobility pattern for the entire area,” Bartlett said. “We really need to get that project moving forward.”

Allevato, who also sits on the Foothill board, has much the same feeling but cited a need for an alternate route in case of disaster.

“I look at it, in a lot of ways, as a public safety issue. We have one major arterial going through south county. We’re the funnel for everything,” he said. “I just feel it is one more artery that has to be opened up, to relieve the congestion.”

Brown said his concerns were primarily with what was best for the city.

“As much as I love regional transportation questions, is it good for my city?” Brown said. “I don’t think any of us would be happy if they decided to pave over our city center because it was good for the rest of California. That’s what happened in San Clemente in the ’60s. They ran right over the city center and bifurcated our town.”

Outward, Onward and Upward

With the three cities being relatively built out, municipal bodies have turned to creative planning strategies to promote growth—both residential and commercial—within each respective city, while striving to preserve each locale’s identity, balancing wants of residents with the financial needs of businesses.

In some ways the cities are grappling with the same issues of building upward, parking residents and visitors, conserving historic character and maintaining views, but each have a set of rules completely differing from the next, decidedly guiding the direction its development takes.

“Each city is so different,” Brown said. “What works in San Juan would not apply well in San Clemente, and what works in San Clemente won’t apply well in Dana Point, because each was born separately and so differently, in a different time, with different developers and different priorities.

“It’s almost as if you hit the city limit and you’re like ‘Great, we share Southern California, but all bets are off in terms of everything else,’ because we are playing the hands we are dealt,” he added.

In San Clemente, Avenida Del Mar boasts shops, restaurants and free parking, but downtown growth is limited by small lot sizes and a three-story height restriction.

It is something city planners, leaders and residents have spent the last four years debating, as changes are being made to San Clemente’s 20-year planning document. One alteration reflected in the city’s General Plan, which could have council approval by early 2014, is a two-story limitation in the city’s center.

“We are all atoning for the sins of the past in a lot of ways,” Brown said. “There was a whole series of planning decisions made in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s that have had an incredible impact on our quality of life. We have streets with no sidewalks, buildings with no parking and we are just grappling with the reality of what we are dealing with.”

While at the forefront of discussion in San Clemente, planning rules were set by Dana Point in its Local Coastal Program and approved by the California Coastal Commission. The LCP grants Dana Point the case-by-case ability to OK projects within the Coastal Zone without further consent.

But projects in the Coastal Commission’s appealable jurisdiction—like the county’s Dana Point Harbor revamp, the city’s Town Center revitalization and a development of the Dana Point Headlands—still required state approval, presenting some inherent challenges, Bartlett said.

Other large-scale developments, like a proposed five-story hotel near Doheny State Beach, fall just outside the appeals zone, providing a hot topic of conversation for residents and planning commissioners over height limits, massing and just how far a developer can push the envelope.

“You need to develop strict standards, strict guidelines and adhere to them,” Allevato said.

This past year saw San Juan take a major step toward improving its relations with current and prospective developers. Following a complete overhaul of the citizen committee and commission structure, the City Council held its first-ever public interview process to fill all five Planning Commission seats.

During interviews with the potential candidates, council members asked what could be done to make the city’s development review more efficient and eliminate a “Ping-Pong process,” where applicants often took their plans back and forth between the commission and its subgroup, the Design Review Committee.

Later, the council voted unanimously to do away with the DRC in an effort to remove at least one more layer of review, simplifying the development process.

“In the past we had a design by committee where we actually had people argue about the radius of a curve on a Spanish-looking building,” Allevato said. “And here you have a property owner who has hired all these professionals on an hourly basis in these meetings that is costing them money, it is costing them time, and time is money when you are a builder.”

But in all three cities, balancing the monetary wishes of a developer or business with those of preservation, traffic and aesthetics of the community often times collide.

“More often than not … If the developer and community are not in sync, you have to figure out a way to reconcile differences,” Brown said.

The Water Struggle

For more than half a century, city and state leaders have been working to protect California’s water supply for future generations.

A regional water partnership completed its first phase of testing to determine the size and scope of a potential desalination plant at Doheny State Beach. Here, wells at the proposed site are being installed. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Water District of Orange County

In south Orange County, where the overwhelming majority of municipalities rely on imported water, city leaders and water experts have been keeping a close eye on the goings-on at the state level but have taken their own steps to make sure residents have a reliable source of fresh water.

San Clemente, which imports nearly all of its water from outside sources, has embarked on one of the largest infrastructure projects in the city’s history to expand its recycled water system and treatment facility. The $25 million project will expand the city’s current system out to business parks, located in the ranchlands east of Interstate 5, and is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2014.

Dana Point, through the South Coast Water District, is also heavily reliant on imported water to service its more than 33,000 residents.

In addition to purchasing water, the SCWD has tapped into San Juan Creek with its own groundwater recovery plant, which produces more than 834,000 gallons of potable water daily, providing for approximately 15 percent of the district’s overall need. Plans to add an additional well to support the plant could boost its daily output to 988,000 gallons, or 18 percent of the supply.

Both cities are also part of a regional partnership in the Doheny Desalination Plant, a project to build a facility at Doheny State Beach that could pull in up to 30 million gallons of ocean water a day, treat it and produce about 15 million gallons of potable water, providing for about 25 percent of the area’s needs.

San Juan Capistrano was an initial investor in the project, but their future participation is up in the air.

Although Metropolitan Water District of Orange County still considers the city a partner, in 2012, San Juan declined to provide funding for the project beyond their initial $660,000 investment.

Within the city, the debate over water has been a controversial one that has sparked a lawsuit, a complaint that could lead to a multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit and an ongoing recall effort against Allevato.

San Juan Capistrano is one of the few cities in the region with its own water source, through the Groundwater Recovery Plant. At its best, the plant could produce up to 5 million gallons per day, enough to provide half of the city’s needs during the summer and entirely during the winter.

“The more water that we can produce locally at a cheaper rate, the better position we’ll be in,” Allevato said.

However, save for its first full year of operation in 2006, the plant has failed to produce its intended output and city officials have since scaled back their expectations.

The plant’s rising maintenance costs and low output have drawn the criticism of many residents. The city’s water rates, too, have been challenged.

The Capistrano Taxpayers Association, a local taxpayers’ rights group, sued the city over its tiered rate structure in August 2012. The group has long argued that importing water through MWDOC would be cheaper for the city and its ratepayers.

In August, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the CTA and declared San Juan’s water rates illegal because they violated Proposition 218, state law that requires rates to be relative to the cost of service. The city has since appealed the decision, and statewide, many cities and water agencies that also used tiered water rates are keeping a close eye on the case.

Future Governance for Rancho Mission Viejo

Residents have moved into the first of Rancho Mission Viejo’s five villages that when complete, with more than 14,000 homes, will rival the size of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Residents have begun moving into Sendero, the first of five villages in the 14,000 home Rancho Mission Viejo community, located east of San Juan Capistrano. Photo by Brian Park

The developers behind Mission Viejo, Santa Margarita and the unincorporated Ladera Ranch and Las Flores communities are on what they’ve dubbed their “last ride,” building up nearly 6,000 acres of land east of San Juan. While homes in the development’s first village are being occupied, the rest of Rancho Mission Viejo will be built out over the next 20 to 25 years. But questions surrounding the area’s governance, accessibility and educational facilities are being asked sooner, rather than later.

When it comes to the area’s governance, decisions regarding Rancho Mission Viejo’s options are only just beginning.

The Local Agency Formation Commission, established 50 years ago by the state, handles boundary changes, including incorporations and annexations of cities and special districts. Orange County’s LAFCO board is comprised of several local officials, including supervisors Pat Bates, Jim [sic] Moorlach and Todd Spitzer, but works independently of the county.

While the commissioners have begun meeting with local governments and stakeholders, Carolyn Emery, LAFCO’s executive officer, said the commission prefers incorporation.

But incorporating cities has become more difficult as state funding for new communities has all but gone away. A 2011 state law shifted vehicle license fees providing a financial boost to new cities toward law enforcement grants, making the incorporation process more difficult, according to Emery.

However preemptive they may be, south Orange County leaders want to be in on the discussion.

Both mayors Allevato and Brown tried their hand at getting on the 11-member board and failed. They hoped another south Orange County representative, in addition to Supervisor Bates, would be present on the board as talks about Rancho Mission Viejo’s annexation or incorporation continued.

Currently, a city representative from a town no farther south than Fountain Valley is on the body.

“There is no appreciation for the issues of traffic, water, crowding and overcrowding,” Allevato said. “I feel there should be someone on LAFCO that is closer to the epicenter of the growth in this county.”

Restoring Trust in Local Government

The leaders also broached some basic questions about their own philosophies in governing their city and how to balance the needs of the city and business community.

Brown said a general distrust of government had filtered down to the local level, in part because he was sometimes asked to work outside of what he considered his purview.

“We as local officials pay the price, because we are the closest to the citizens, and it has been reinforced literally on every level of government,” Brown said. “I feel as if when we begin to push ourselves into arenas where we aren’t welcome, we erode the trust in the areas we really should have our strengths. If we really focus on infrastructure, water, planning and the things that we should do very well … and running an efficient shop, I think you can restore a lot of that trust.”

Some of that was born out in the relationship with the business community in each city. Allevato said he’s been asked in the past by developers or property owners about what he, in particular, would like to see.

“Obviously, I’m thinking about something that will bring revenue into the city because the city needs that to fix the streets, to turn the water on and to keep the police there,” Allevato said. “I’m not one to be stepping out of my bailiwick, of my expertise.”

Bartlett said this is something every leader needs to think about when it came to the economic impacts in their cities and balancing that with the desires of residents.

“If businesses want to come into town and they’re being overregulated … they will take their business and go elsewhere,” Bartlett said. “It’s incumbent upon city council members to create a good, healthy business climate—not to over-regulate, to have reasonable building ordinances and to work in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and the business community. That’s what we do in our city and I’m sure in San Juan and San Clemente it’s the same, because every business you lose is a travesty.”

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