MOORLACH UPDATE — You’re Being Political — April 9, 2014

It’s campaign season, also known as silly season. Consequently, candidates will do anything to conjure up free (unearned) media to build name recognition with their constituents and voters at this critical moment in time. Sometimes the activities are legitimate and are misconstrued, which I believe happened to me twenty years ago this month. Here is an example from my April 10, 2009 LOOK BACKS:


April 5

The Daily Pilot’s Russ Loar did a piece on my candidacy, titled “Moorlach plans to challenge Citron for county treasurer.” Here are some selected portions of the article:

It’s not a political contest expected to generate much excitement, but local accountant John Moorlach is doing his level best to make the sparks fly in the June 7 election battle for county treasurer.

Times are changing, interest rates are rising, and the aggressive, highly leveraged investment strategies of the county treasurer could lead to disaster, [Moorlach] says.

“He’s been a gambler and he’s been lucky,” says Moorlach. “When you leverage, either you win big or you lose big. This is high risk.”

I was accused by my opponents of being “political,” something that made me bristle then and still does today. But, you can clearly see, with the benefit of hindsight, that my claims were eerily accurate. I do not do something for the sake of grandstanding. If I’m vocal about an issue, it is because I believe strongly in my position. So, when “you’re being political” is thrown in my face, I simply request the accuser to get a new script. But, I get why they are frustrated. They, like myself, are not amused with political grandstanding. My dander rises when I see true grandstanding. This occurred at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The Board was asked to approve a “Support” position on Assembly Bill (AB) 1453, which was promoting a Veteran’s Cemetery in Orange County, specifically at the Great Park. You can’t find a bill more apple pie, God and country. But, when someone wraps themselves in the Flag, and provides a glimmer of hope to an extremely important segment of our community, the veterans, then don’t do it for self-aggrandizement. Do it for the right reasons.

The Bill would require the state Department of Veterans Affairs, through its Veterans Cemetery division, to apply for a grant from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs State Cemetery Grant Program. Admirable. But, let’s peel off the layers and see what we find.

1. California is in the worst financial shape that it has been in in its entire history. Below is a concise recap of the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the state of California, as of June 30, 2012 (as the June 30, 2013 CAFR has not been completed by the State’s outside independent auditors). California has more in booked debt than it does in assets. I say booked, as the unfunded liabilities for its defined benefit pension plans and retiree medical benefits are not on the books, which I’ve added in the second slide below. I don’t want to worry you too much, although you should be worried, but the net per capita deficit is twice that of Jefferson County, Alabama ($1,607), which filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy a couple of years ago. The state has no money to assist Orange County with a Veteran’s cemetery.

2. California only has two Veterans Cemeteries, only one is funded. It is in the unincorporated area of Igo, which has some 625 residents, and is 9 miles west of the city of Redding. The Northern California Veterans Cemetery was dedicated in December of 2005. A third cemetery, the Central California Coast Veterans Cemetery, to be located in Monterey County, is in the planning stage. It will complement the two closed National Cemeteries in San Francisco. This is a fledgling organization that is soliciting donations. I would not expect the state to be a strong funder of this agency or for the proposed Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund.

3. Orange County is not excited about inviting state agencies into its borders. Recently, the state offered a $100 million grant to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for a jail expansion through AB 900. When it became clear that it would be a state run penitentiary, we politely declined the funds. Once the state gave the County control over the funding to improve our existing facilities, manned by Deputy Sheriffs, then we gladly accepted the funding.

4. The main purpose of the California Veterans Cemetery program is to serve where National Cemeteries are inadequate. But, we have four National Cemeteries within driving distance, two in San Diego County, one in Riverside County, and one in Los Angeles County (which is now full). If you want a great day trip, I would recommend that you visit the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on the Point Loma Peninsula. It is California Historical Landmark No. 55, which reads: “FORT ROSECRANS NATIONAL CEMETERY – A burial ground before 1847, this graveyard became an Army post cemetery in the 1860s. It is the final resting place for most who fell at San Pasqual in 1846, and for the USS Bennington victims of 1905. It became Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in 1934 and was placed under the Veterans Administration National Cemetery System in 1973. Over 50,000 who served the U.S. honorably in war and peace lie here.”

5. When you go to the National Cemetery Administration, you learn that only 39 states have a National Cemetery. Consequently, I’m not so sure that one could make the claim that our area is underserved.

6. A look at the Condensed Financial Statements for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide much comfort. The net financial position is a deficit of $1,721,321,000! Ironically, it is due to one line item in the Liabilities section of the balance sheet: “Federal Employee and Veterans Benefits Liabilities” of $1,763,614,000! Accordingly, there really isn’t much in the way of grant funding to be hopeful for. In fact, the income statement reflects an operating loss of some $223 million for the year ending September 30, 2012.

I would suggest to you that if the Great Park allotted the space for a Veterans Cemetery, that the funding and installation will not happen for a decade or two. There is no funding. And there is no compelling need.

I have visited a number of National Cemeteries in this country, including Civil War sites, and outside of this country, including the famous Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as displayed in the recent movie “Saving Private Ryan.” I am a beneficiary of the sacrifice made by United States veterans with their liberation of Nazi-occupied Netherlands. My father-in-law was a veteran and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries incurred during his service in western Europe. I just attended the funeral service of nearly life-long friend Walter Ehlers at the Riverside National Cemetery. I am pro-Veteran (see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Fair Christmas Present — December 20, 2013. MOORLACH UPDATE — Memorial Lanes — August 23, 2013, MOORLACH UPDATE — Memorial Gardens Building — July 10, 2013 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Preserving — July 8, 2013). However, I do not appreciate exploiting them for political purposes.

I made a very simple request to amend AB 1453, change it to “Support, if Amended.” Instead of giving our Orange County Veterans a pipe dream, let’s actually build, fund, and operate a Veterans Cemetery. Here was my proposal:

1. The State of California, through its Department of Finance, wants the County of Orange to pay it $150 million for what it stipulates are Vehicle License Fees (VLF). These funds are actually property tax revenues that were re-characterized as VLF. This is a money grab by Sacramento. The Bill should be modified to state that Orange County shall retain the $150 million if it contributes 5 percent ($7.5 million) to endow the cemetery on land contributed by the Great Park.

2. The State of California also wants the County of Orange to transfer $73 million per year out of the its General Fund to Sacramento. The Bill should be modified to allow Orange County to retain its rightful funds if it contributes 5 percent ($3.65 million) each year to underwrite the costs of the Veterans Cemetery. The Orange County Cemetery District has annual expenditures between $3 million and $3.2 million, so this funding should be adequate.

3. The Bill should be modified to have the Orange County Cemetery District as the lead agency to oversee the new Veterans Cemetery. This will eliminate duplicate administration and provided for a staff that is already experienced in running cemeteries in Orange County and can do it in conjunction with the requirements and internment policies established by the National Cemeteries.

4. The author of AB 1453 drafted the legislation that provided for the terms of Orange County’s surrender of the VLF funds to the State of California with AB 701. I would suggest that she do everyone a favor by righting a grievous wrong with the State’s money grab and obtain an immediate funding source to create a viable sanctuary for those who honorably served or will serve our nation in the future.

As I could not get a second for my motion, I voted against the recommendation to “Support” AB 1453. I see this bill as an exercise that rings hollow and smacks of grandstanding during silly season. Therefore, adopting a policy on a sphere of influence on what legislation the Board of Supervisors should take a position on in the future would be a helpful exercise. The Voice of OC provides its take in the first piece below.

The second piece from the Voice of OC provides an update on the ambulance RFP (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Special Attention — March 31, 2014, MOORLACH UPDATE — OCFA Study — March 26, 2014, and MOORLACH UPDATE — ALS/CCW/CCP/AOT — March 5, 2014). I opposed requesting an extension of time. The Health Care Agency’s staff has been working feverishly, under tight deadlines, to pursue this task, and they are on schedule and provided the RFP these last two Board meetings as a courtesy. Let’s move forward and step up to the challenge. If the State wants to allocate more time, then that is the State’s business and prerogative. In the meantime, after the State reviews the RFP, it will be released and our ambulance community is encouraged to provide competitive and professional responses.

Election Season Rears Its Head on Supervisors’ Dais


As California’s political season heats up, the county government’s legislative platform is at risk of getting politicized and Orange County supervisors are fighting back.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who is running for State Senate in one of the state’s hottest races, attempted to get her Republican colleagues to take positions against one state bill seeking to expand affirmative action protections for students (Senate Constitutional Amendment 5) and federal legislation blocking Vietnamese officials from visiting the United States (House Res. 4254).

Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk Silva also drew protests from county supervisors for attempting to move a bill authorizing a veterans’ cemetery in Orange County.

Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson called out Quirk Silva’s efforts as political, given that he had already received political mail at this house regarding her veterans’ cemetery effort.

While these issues would seem like an easy vote for an all-Republican board of supervisors in one of America’s most Republican counties, board members balked on Tuesday.

In resisting Nguyen’s call for support of legislation on Tuesday, supervisors instead moved to place on the agenda a policy keeping the county’s official legislative platform separate from individual political campaigns.

The vote on affirmative action was delayed until Apr. 29. Meanwhile, the House resolution regarding Vietnamese official visits was endorsed 4-0, with Nelson abstaining.

Regarding Quirk Silva’s bill, supervisors voted 3-1 to support the bill, with Nelson refusing to register a vote. Supervisor John Moorlach voted no, saying he wanted to amend the bill to have the county’s ongoing $73-million tax dispute with the state resolved, which would provide stable funding for such a cemetery.

But the debates, especially on Nguyen’s request as part of the official county legislative platform, drew concerns.

“Why do I have to vote on this as a county supervisor?” asked Supervisor Todd Spitzer Tuesday from the dais about the affirmative action bill.

While Spitzer said he has consistently voted against the specific expansion of affirmative action being proposed nearly a dozen times, he doesn’t see why he had to consider that bill as a county supervisor in Orange County.

“What does this have to do with our legislative platform and county business?” Spizter said, warning his colleagues that, “if we’re going to get in the legislative review business, it’s very complicated.”

Nguyen fired back at Spitzer saying, “I don’t bring issues to the platform quite often” in reference to the two issues she put in front of supervisors this week.

“These are very important to the constituency that not only I represent but the county represents,” Nguyen said, reminding Spitzer that he himself has involved the county in victims’ rights, one of his key issues.

Fighting any kind of preferential treatment based on race or gender is very important to Nguyen, she said. “All children in Orange County should be treated equally.”

Nguyen said supervisors’ vote does matter.

“When we take a position on a bill like this, it does send a strong message: Everybody should be treated equally,” Nguyen said. “That’s why this is before us today.”

Ironically, the bill in question has been declared dead for this legislative year.

Yet Nelson, who has made timely meetings a public goal, backed Spitzer, saying “this has nothing to do with the county.”

Nelson said he does not want to see county supervisors “get dragged into everybody’s backyard fight,” saying “I was not elected to run the school system.”

That prompted Supervisor Moorlach to note, “maybe we need some kind of policy on what we cover.”

At present, the county’s legislative staff simply responds to supervisors’ desires when putting together the public legislative agenda for each public meeting.

Given Tuesday’s motions by Nguyen, Nelson responded, “We probably should get one, starting tomorrow” about separating the county legislative platform from individual supervisor’s campaigns.

Yet others see things differently.

Supervisor Pat Bates, who is running unopposed for a State Senate seat, backed Nguyen’s request.

“I don’t mind getting dragged into debates” that cut to “the core of the Constitution,” Bates said

“We have the bully pulpit,” Bates said about such debates, adding, “We can lend our voice.”

Her sense was simple: “Bring it to the board, it’s fine with me.”

Nguyen said she could support a new policy.

“If there is a new process, you want legislative items that each board member here wants to ask the board to support … I can go with that process,” she said.

Please contact Norberto Santana Jr. directly at nsantana and follow him on Twitter:

After Cities Complain, Ambulance Contracts Might Be Extended


Local city officials moved a step closer Tuesday to getting the extra time they’ve been seeking to evaluate a controversial ambulance contracting process they claim is full of holes.

Following a litany of letters from concerned city leaders, Orange County supervisors agreed Tuesday during their weekly public meeting to seek state approval for a one-year extension of the current ambulance contracts, which expire Sept. 1.

The cities’ concerns “absolutely justify” requesting a one-year extension, said Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

Cities such as Irvine, Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo recently warned that the proposed process fails to adequate explain how the evaluation panels will be selected and what the response time requirements will be, as well as eliminsating certain experience requirements for vendors, among other concerns.

At the same time, supervisors moved forward with seeking state approval of their request for proposals document or RFP, which is expected to be released to bidders on April 25.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to request a one-year extension and change the draft RFP to make ambulance contracts last five years with no extensions, as opposed to the staff-recommended three years with two one-year extensions.

They also voted unanimously to send the draft RFP to the state, with supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen opposing requirements that ambulance firms pay fees to cover new county software and staff to monitor.

Supervisor John Moorlach also opposed requiring ambulance providers to collect fees for Orange County Fire Authority paramedic service.

It remains to be seen whether the state Emergency Medical Services Authority will allow the contracts to be extended and if so, for how long.

“My guess is they’re putting pressure on us to come up with some solution to the issue but would not deny us if we” have a good basis for the extension, said Supervisor Pat Bates.

State EMSA officials hadn’t yet received the county’s extension request as of late Tuesday afternoon, according to a spokesman for the agency.

Since the RFP was released last month, more than 1,000 changes have been made to it, Spitzer said.

On the issue of the review panels’ composition, Spitzer said that language has been updated so that each panel will include representatives of cities, the county, a hospital, physician, first responders and 911 emergency responders.

It’s unclear whether cities will be satisfied by the new specifications.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at ngerda and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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