Tuesday’s Board agenda was an action-packed one. I’ll attack the articles in the order they were addressed during yesterday’s meeting. The Voice of OC provides its perspective on the potential acquisition of a year-round homeless shelter in the city of Santa Ana, an item that had more than twenty speakers. Finding a location for a year-round homeless shelter has been a high priority of mine and has been an objective since my first Board Study Session back in 2007. It became even more important in my role as the founding Chair of the Commission to End Homelessness. Yesterday had one unique connection to that rare study session early in my tenure. A facility that was visited by then-Supervisor Bill Campbell was a multi-service center in Phoenix. It was highlighted as a model. The new city manager for Santa Ana is David Cavazos. He spoke in favor of the proposed facility. His last position was the city manager of Phoenix. Let’s hope this proposed facility will match the Phoenix model of providing shelter, meals, health and dental care, job training, job finding, rapid rehousing and all of the other necessary tools to assist individuals in receiving a hand up. I also want to welcome Mr. Cavazos as the new city manager representative on the Commission to End Homelessness.
The OC Register also addressed the homeless shelter in the second piece below and then segues into the second topic, the AOCDS contract. It did not receive unanimous support from our Board in closed session and the vote remained the same in open session. The Laguna Niguel-Dana Point Patch also covered this topic in the third piece below. The subtitle is a little inaccurate, which was one of my concerns with the proposal. It’s not just a 3 percent raise, it really is a 10.5 percent raise. There is a 2 percent raise for retiree medical assumption by the County and two pay step increases of 5.5 percent. Obviously, the subtitle proves that the optics worked. The piece also covers my recent UPDATES (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Split Supervisors — July 11, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Pythons’ Tightening Grips — July 15, 2014). It seems that over the past few years our Board has spent more time in closed session than in open session. After more than two years of closed sessions on this contract, you can imagine that things may have gotten a little testy at times. Well, they did. We had tried to find a solution that all five of the Supervisors could agree to. At one point we did, but it was rejected by AOCDS’s negotiators. Unfortunately, at the last Board closed session on the topic, Supervisor Spitzer garnered his three votes and the rest is history.
I have some suggestions after incurring all of the tension. First, don’t shy away from your victory – own it. Congratulations on achieving an obvious minimum goal, having the employees pay their full cost for retirement, which the County has been paying for all these many years. This now provides almost full parity with all of the other bargaining units, which adheres to the retirement laws and ends the generous subsidy provided to some by the County. And, since you have to live with this contract, let me provide some thoughts on what may occur in the future that my successors should be prepared to address.
1. The triennial actuarial study for the AOCDS retiree medical plan has not been concluded. Should the results of this study, or any future study, show an increase in the unfunded liability, be ready to address it, as employees hired after the inception of “3% @ 50” will no longer be paying in toward their share (hence, a 2 percent raise) at the conclusion of this new contract. Retiree medical funding should be factored into future negotiations as you attempt to address total compensation. The retiree medical plan for AOCDS is different than that of the others, so keep your eyes on both plans going forward. Transferring liability exposure in the wrong direction in this area would replicate the tragic result of having increased defined benefit pension formulas in prior years.
2. When AOCDS comes back and still tells you that it is difficult to recruit, remember that they approved lower pay steps for new hires. But, the lower initial steps being there will be thrown back at the Board, not the association.
3. When negotiations begin again with the other bargaining units, be ready for them to ask for similar concessions. The fact that most of them asked for “2.7% @ 55” after AOCDS received “3% @ 50” should not be forgotten. Adding new steps is a slippery slope and strategies for similar requests should be considered earlier than later.
4. A strategy needs to be reached on how to balance future salary increases with the resulting defined benefit pension plan impacts. This is difficult to calculate and the resulting costs were not included in the financial information that was provided to us by staff.
5. Trust that I will be praying that the Orange County Employees Retirement System achieves its annual investment return goals over the coming years, but remember that down cycles happen and 7.25 percent is still a lofty annual goal to achieve.
The Aliso Viejo and Newport Beach-Corona del Mar Patch provide the details of a ballot measure that will be on the Orange County November ballot. A solution is being offered for your consideration that has its merits, but is dependent on your support.
BONUS: The plans for our July 26th day hike are taking shape and have some fun, new changes. Crystal Cove Alliance President Harry Helling will be joining us, along with a tide pool docent from his program. It is Mr. Helling’s recommendation that we start the hike at Los Trancos (the cottages) and hike DOWN the beach to the Moro Canyon Day-Use area and back. He says it’s only 3.6 miles round trip but it will take the morning including stopping at various places. One of the reasons he recommends this is that there are some great tide pools just south of the cottages and we can see them right away rather than hiking a couple of miles first and then seeing the tide pools. After the hike, if you wish to stay for lunch, you can either bring your own or you can try take-out food from the Beachcomber Restaurant. Mr. Helling has invited us to eat in Cottage #22. We meet at Crystal Cove at 7:30 a.m. at the picnic tables in front of the Beachcomber. If you are interested in joining us, please RSVP with Cammy.Danciu.
SECOND BONUS: Anyone interested in serving as an Assessment Appeals Board Hearing Officer, please contact Cammy.Danciu. To learn what a Board and Hearing Officer does, see http://ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=19261 and http://ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=4444. To learn what is required from a Hearing Officer, go to http://ocgov.com/gov/bcc and click on “Assessment Appeals Board Members Req.” If you are interested, please fill in the application (see http://ocgov.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=10746) and forward it to Cammy Danciu.
Supervisors Approve Land Purchase for Homeless Shelter in Santa Ana
By NICK GERDA
Orange County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase a property in an industrial area of east Santa Ana with the idea that the site would become the county’s first year-round homeless shelter.
The move drew praise from homeless advocates, but also criticism from residents who live near the proposed site, as well as some supervisors, over what was described as a poor job of outreach by county officials.
“It’s been a long time coming – there’s been a lot of suffering” over last few years, said Tim Houchen, a spokesman for the homeless advocacy group Civic Center Roundtable. “People actually die out here at the Civic Center."
Orange County is among the largest metropolitan areas in America without a year-round homeless shelter, and Santa Ana tops the list of potential locations for a shelter largely because its City Council is supportive and its downtown Civic Center already serves as an encampment for hundreds of homeless people.
Yet the planning process has left several residents and supervisors feeling left out of the loop.
Only one community forum was held on the proposed shelter site and notice for the July 2 meeting didn’t come until two days beforehand, said Santa Ana resident Dora Lopez.
“The approach that was taken did not give us an opportunity for input,” Lopez said, echoing concerns by several other residents who spoke at the meeting.
To her, that was “pretty much telling us it’s a done deal.”
About a half dozen other Santa Ana residents shared similar sentiments.
“I’m here representing a lot of my community that are seniors and not English speakers. None of us were informed…I found out about this yesterday,” said Laura Garcia. “If it’s going to be in our back yard, we should know.”
Even Civic Center Roundtable representatives complained about a lack of outreach.
“The Civic Center Roundtable was never consulted” as part of the community engagement process, said Massimo Marini, an advocate with Civic Center Roundtable. “We really disagree with the fact that you really didn’t inform the community that well.”
Yet supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson said the fact that people showed up to Tuesday’s meeting showed that the community was informed.
“That’s odd you just happen to be in the lobby today,” said Nelson.
But some of Nelson’s colleagues sided with those complaining about the lack of notice.
“I found out about this on Wednesday when I got my agenda, so it’s sort of the same issue. We just found out,” said Supervisor John Moorlach, who questioned why the vote wasn’t delayed.
Supervisor Pat Bates said key input was missing and that another forum is called for.
Santa Ana Unified School District officials “should have been commenting” on residents’ concerns about safe routes to schools on Tuesday, said Bates.
“I believe that you need to have another meeting to specifically address how you’re going to look at that issue and allay their concerns. That is fundamental to my support,” she added, to applause from the audience.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer, meanwhile, agreed that Santa Ana Unified board members “need to weigh in.”
He also criticized county management for not presenting a safety plan for the shelter, particularly when it comes to homeless sex offenders.
“To come here today and not know these things is very disheartening to me,” said Spitzer. “It’s disheartening because we want to champion this, but these questions should have been answered before it came here to a vote.”
The county’s lead staffer on homeless issues responded to the criticism, saying the outreach was extensive.
“I think they did a great job getting community notices out,” said Karen Roper, director of OC Community Services. “We hope that the community will feel that they can be a part of this.”
The $3.6 million building purchase now goes into a 90-day escrow period, where the property’s condition will be inspected, before the sale is completed. After that, the county would seek bids from contractors to operate the shelter.
The 23,000-square-foot warehouse, at 1217 E. Normandy Place in Santa Ana, is located near the corner of Grand and McFadden avenues.
The county would be purchasing the property from B&N Group and JRMV Investments, Inc., who are represented by Blake V. Elliott. It would then spend another $2.3 million to renovate the building, and about $2.6 million per year to operate and maintain the shelter. Operating costs would be covered by a mixture of county, federal and private funds.
In many respects, the scene Tuesday was a replay of the effort last year by Nelson to push through a proposal for the county to buy a property in Fullerton and build a homeless shelter before getting buy-in from Fullerton residents. Faced with stiff resident opposition, the Fullerton City Council nixed that plan last June.
But a significant difference this time around is that the Santa Ana City Council, as well as City Manager David Cavazos, are already on board with placing a shelter in Santa Ana. The council approved zoning for a 200-person shelter “by right” last August.
Nonetheless, many of the Santa Ana residents raised concerns — similar to those raised in Fullerton — about nearby schools, particularly Kennedy Elementary, which lies on busy McFadden Blvd. about 750 feet from the proposed shelter.
“We already do have many homeless,” in the area, said Juana Perez, a recent graduate of Century High School.
There are several areas where drugs are used by homeless people, including nearby Madison Park, she added.
Nelson, meanwhile, said he lived three doors down from Fullerton’s seasonal homeless shelter for years without incident.
“There was never any problems,” he said.
As far as the larger issue of homelessness, speakers highlighted how rising housing costs compared to income has generated economic hardship.
“The percentage of income devoted to housing can leave many people – many families” homeless, said Jan Wagner, who spoke on behalf of all Orange County chapters of the League of Women Voters.
Every school district in the county has homeless students, she added.
Urging supervisors to purchase the Santa Ana building, Wagner said league members also want the county to “continue to seek additional sites” for more shelters.
Nonprofit representatives also offered to help provide services at the shelter, including homeless veterans advocates at Volunteers of America Los Angeles.
Dwight Smith, a longtime operator of a small homeless shelter in Santa Ana, said the county must pursue permanent housing options and find a way to address deaths of homeless people from hypothermia.
“Without an adequate and proven response to cold weather, people will perish,” said Smith.
O.C. approves year-round homeless shelter in Santa Ana
Supervisors set their sights on a $3.6 million industrial building on Normandy Place. They envision a facility that would offer multiple services for families and individuals.
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE
SANTA ANA – Orange County supervisors on Tuesday gave a nod to what could be Orange County’s first year-round homeless shelter – providing not only beds but a host of services.
The 23,000-square-foot, 200-bed emergency center is planned to include a multi-service center for homeless families and individuals. The county will operate the shelter through a provider and offer services to assist individuals to assimilate into the workforce. Services will include mental and public health services, assistance for veterans and housing needs. The county will work with local resource groups to provide help.
Supervisors voted unanimously to begin proceedings to purchase a $3.6 million industrial building on Normandy Place. The Santa Ana City Council identified the site in 2012. The building selection followed multiple meetings including Planning Commission reviews and community outreach.
After the building is purchased, the county will spend $2.3 million to renovate it and about $2.6 million per year to operate and maintain it. Funding comes from county, federal and private funds.
The shelter is the first that officials plan to open as part of the county’s 2010 Ten-Year-Plan to End Homelessness. In 2013, county data show about 12,700 people were identified as homeless at some point in the year. Officials say the shelter and service center will meet critical needs for some of the most vulnerable people in the county’s neighborhoods and will address social impacts on local businesses and communities.
“I’m very proud of what’s being done here,” David Cavazos, city manager from Santa Ana, said following the board’s vote. “I’m proud of the leadership from our supervisors. It’s very difficult to place this type of service.”
Multiple speakers supporting local nonprofits, veterans and The League of Women Voters urged supervisors to purchase the building. But some who live near the site were not happy.
A handful of residents criticized the location, citing public safety concerns for children who will pass by on their way to schools. They worried children would encounter drug and alcohol addicts. Some said they worried about claims of prostitution near other locations that housed homeless such as the Santa Ana National Guard Armory. Residents also said they were the last to be informed about shelter plans.
“We as a community were never informed,” said Doris Lopez. “Two days ago, I received an email that the board was planning to discuss the purchase of the building. I oppose this, not because I oppose homeless but because we were never given notice. Not my neighbors or my neighborhood were considered.”
Cavazos assured the board that city leaders provided multiple opportunities for the public to comment. He added he was in discussions with school district officials over any safety concerns.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer worried loopholes on requirements for sex offender registration might allow transient sex offenders to live in the shelter unchecked and pushed for a review of safety plans by the city and school district. Supervisor Janet Nguyen agreed.
Board Chairman Supervisor Shawn Nelson tried to allay resident fears by saying he had no problems when he lived three doors from the armory in Fullerton.
“Everyone wants to solve the homeless problem except for the person who lives near it,” he said. “It’s finally a start. It’s time to get some product into the ground.”
The county will have 90 days to review the property to make sure its meets the expected criteria and planned use. The board will then give the final OK to move forward, said Scott Mayer, the county’s chief real estate officer.
Separately, supervisors voted 3-2 to approve an agreement with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs to have deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators pay between 14 percent and 20 percent of their salaries toward pensions in exchange for increases in county medical contributions and an across-the-board 3 percent salary increase next year.
Nelson and John Moorlach voted no, criticizing the contract because it provided for pay increases and the opportunity for veteran deputies to earn even more, which will increase the county’s responsibility for future pension payments.
AOCDS received support from a handful of people including District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who said the two-year deal has been “a long time coming.”
He spoke about other agencies such as San Jose losing career law enforcement personnel because of cuts in pay and pensions.
In more board action, supervisors unanimously approved a November ballot measure that would authorize the state Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the county campaign laws, including limits on contributions to candidates.
Contact the writer: 949-492-5152 or eritchie or twitter.com/lagunaini
New Contract: Sheriff’s Deputies Get 3% Raise But Have to Pay for Pension
In Orange County, sheriff’s deputies will pay 14 to 20 percent of their salary toward pension benefits, which is "substantially higher" than what other county employees pay.
Posted by Penny Arévalo (Editor)
The Board of Supervisors today approved a new contract with the union representing Orange County sheriff’s deputies and District Attorney investigators that has them pick up all of the cost of pension benefits starting next year, but also includes pay raises of about 3 percent.
Orange County Board Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor John Moorlach cast the dissenting votes.
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens called the deal "fair," and it was also supported by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.
"It’s been a long time coming with a lot of negotiations, but it arrives at a good balance," Rackauckas said in urging the board to support the agreement.
Rackauckas, however, warned county officials about asking too much of employees, making it harder to recruit.
In San Jose, city officials a decade ago boasted of having the safest large city in the country. But when police officers were required to cover the full cost of their retirement benefits, the tide turned, Rackauckas said.
"It was devastating to their police department since that’s gone into effect," Rackauckas said. "They’re struggling to put that police department back together again, but they’re hemorrhaging police officers … They’ve had literally hundreds of transfers … and their crime rate has gone up. They’re now higher than the national average, higher than the state average, and they can no longer brag they’re the safest city. In fact, far from it."
Response times for crimes in that Northern California city has gone from eight minutes to 20 minutes, Rackauckas said. Worse, he said, the city is "spending large amounts of money on training" recruits, only to lose them in a short time to other departments that can offer better pay and benefits.
"They have a very real concern they’re training people for other departments," Rackauckas said.
In Orange County, sheriff’s deputies will pay 14 to 20 percent of their salary toward pension benefits, which is "substantially higher" than what other county employees pay, Dominguez said.
The union leader said the deal has been "mischaracterized as being riddled with generous" giveaways to law enforcement employees. Dominguez said other law enforcement agencies in the area offer better pay and benefits, and the deputies and D.A. investigators are now the only county employees paying for medical benefits for retirees.
Supervisor Janet Nguyen said the deal won’t "spike pensions as some claim it will do. I believe the contract is both fair and balanced."
The deal is expected to save the county $22.6 million through fiscal year 2015-16, when it ends. The estimated total cost will be about $37.3 million.
Details of the private labor negotiations over two years with the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs recently surfaced in a report by the Voice of OC, which prompted a public quarrel between termed-out Supervisor John Moorlach and Supervisor Todd Spitzer.
Moorlach accused Spitzer of being an "agent" of the union, and Spitzer fired back that Moorlach was being hypocritical.
In April it appeared that the two sides would reach an agreement, but then Spitzer changed his mind on a deal point, according to Moorlach. That indicated that negotiations would hit an impasse and that they would be sent to a mediator, as has happened with other bargaining units, according to Moorlach.
Moorlach, however, said that he has since reached the conclusion that Spitzer changed his mind and called for another private session among the board so he could introduce new deal points from union leaders.
"They said, ‘No, we want our pay increase immediately,’ and that’s when Todd realizes, ‘Oh, I screwed up. I didn’t put together the deal the way (union leaders) wanted it.’ That’s when we knew he was an agent (of the union)."
Moorlach said that now he doesn’t feel he can trust Spitzer and that he thinks the supervisor "played" him.
Moorlach said a new ordinance he has proposed that would let the public know more about labor negotiations as they happen instead of after the fact could have prevented this conflict.
Spitzer laughed off that notion.
"He’s trying to say (his ordinance) would prevent this when he supported a (proposal) that offset pension costs with salary increases," Spitzer said, adding he just "called him out on that inconsistency" in his interview with the Voice of OC.
"I’m not an agent for anybody," Spitzer said. "This is ridiculous."
Spitzer said Moorlach and board Chairman Shawn Nelson "have this mythological concept that I’m a middleman (for the union). They wanted it to go to impasse. Shawn has always wanted to stick it to the (union)."
A vote on Moorlach’s ordinance allowing for more public discussion of labor negotiations was delayed again today until later this month.
–City News Service
O.C. Voters to Decide if They Want State to Prosecute Violations of Local Campaign Finance Laws
A watchdog’s dream? The author of the original "Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics" law passed in 1991 says no.
Posted by Penny Arévalo (Editor)
Orange County voters will be asked if they want to give the California Fair Political Practices Commission the authority to prosecute violations of a local campaign finance ordinance.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed today to place the question on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
If voters approve a change in the Time Is Now, Clean Up Politics — or TINCUP