MOORLACH UPDATE — Carpool Christmas — December 6, 2014

The construction of the carpool flyovers for the Garden Grove, San Diego and San Gabriel Freeways has been occurring during my entire second term. A few days before I leave office, the carpool lanes will be available for commuters using this stretch of highways to get to work and to other destinations. Merry Christmas!!

Eileen Frere of ABC Channel 7 joined the media tour and her piece is the first below, with a link to her broadcast. The LA Times had a photo in yesterday’s edition, but I was unable to locate it on their website. The OC Register gives the announcement front-page coverage in the second piece below. My Policy Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, Pamela Newcomb, ably covers the Orange County Transportation Authority for me and joined me on the tour. My thanks go to Pamela for her outstanding service, not only to the Second District, but to the entire County of Orange.

It will be interesting to monitor how much the flow of traffic improves at this intersection once commuters become adjusted to the improvements. Next comes the addition of one lane on both sides of the San Diego Freeway. It would also be nice to see what this improvement will do to traffic flow. Of course, I would prefer to add two lanes on both sides of the I-405, but I lost that vote. But, adding four lanes in total and then monitoring traffic would be the next best move. If this does not alleviate traffic enough, then, and only then, should our transportation planners publicly discuss other options, like converting free lanes to toll lanes (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Troubling Toll Lanes — September 23, 2104).

The third piece below is an editorial submission in the OC Register on the twentieth anniversary of the County’s filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. This event changed the entire course of my life. Consequently, December 6 is a big day on my personal calendar. Twenty years later, the County is nearing the conclusion of paying off the bankruptcy-related debt, has implemented a broad array of proper fiscal stewardship tools, and is ready to handle the difficult financial pressures that still lie ahead in the County’s future. With that, my final in a series of LOOK BACKS is also provided below.

LOOK BACKS

• 2014 – Adopted Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) (see MOORLACH UPDATE — CRONEY Comedy — September 2, 2014)

• 2014 – California State University Long Beach College of Business Administration Distinguished Alumnus of the Year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Distinguished Alumni — April 5, 2014)

• 2014 – Adopted Laura’s Law—the second County in twelve years to do so (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Laura’s Law Journey — August 11, 2014)

• 2014 – Cypress Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Cypress Reminiscences — June 20, 2014)

• 2014 – Approved a fifteen-year extension of the John Wayne Airport Settlement Agreement (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2014 Bucket List — October 3, 2014)

• 2014 – 20th anniversary of Chapter 9 filing – December 6 (see below)

OC driving may get easier as carpool construction ends

http://abc7.com/traffic/oc-driving-may-get-easier-as-carpool-construction-ends/424241/

By Eileen Frere

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (KABC) — Years of carpool lane construction in Orange County are about to come to an end.

For four years, drivers have endured construction detours. But workers are just about finished.

Next week, new bridges linking the carpool lanes on the 405 with the 22 and 605 freeways will open, and carpoolers will no longer have to leave the HOV lanes to change freeways.

The project cost nearly $300 million. It also adds a second carpool lane on the 405 in both directions between the 22 and the 605.

Schedule for opening the connectors:

· Tuesday morning, Dec. 9, the southbound I-605 to southbound I-405 carpool connector

· Wednesday, Dec. 10, the northbound I-405 to northbound I-605 carpool connector

· Thursday, Dec. 11, the westbound SR-22 to northbound I-405 carpool connector

· The southbound I-405 to eastbound SR-22 carpool connector opened in November
For more information about the closures and detours, visit www.octa.net/wccdetourmap.

Fly-over carpool lanes for 22, I-405, I-605 start opening on Sunday

BY KELLIE MEJDRICH / STAFF WRITER

Second District Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach looks at westbound traffic on the 22 as he stands on the carpool connector of the 22 to the northbound I-405.

MARK RIGHTMIRE, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Second District Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach waves to an eastbound car as he stands on the westbound carpool connector of the SR-22 to the northbound I-405 on Thursday, December 4th during a media preview tour. The connector is scheduled to open on Thursday, December 11th.

MARK RIGHTMIRE, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Second District Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, left, and Gary Miller, director of the Orange County Transportation Authority talk as they stand on the westbound carpool connector of the SR-22 to the northbound I-405 on Thursday, December 4th during a media preview tour. The connector is scheduled to open on Thursday, December 11th.

MARK RIGHTMIRE, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Frustrated by that perfectly good lane blocked off on the westbound 22 freeway? The end of your aggravation is near – carpoolers will get to zip through unencumbered in the next few days.

First the lane openings were delayed by rain, now they’re being sped up to avoid more rain. Just know that Sunday marks the start of openings for three fly-over carpool lanes linking up the 22, I-405 and I-605.

The lanes will allow carpool drivers to soar above regular traffic and link up with freeways through a special left exit, something Orange County Transportation Authority spokesman Joel Zlotnik said will “eliminate all the merging and weaving” caused by carpoolers trying to switch freeways.

Opening these connectors marks the end of major work on the West County Connectors project, which cost $297 million – $15 million of which came from the county’s half-cent sales tax known as Measure M. Construction took four years.

Not all the construction is over, though – watch out for intermittent overnight closures of the freeways through February, Zlotnik said, as workers put the “finishing touches” on the project.

Originally, officials estimated the openings would come earlier, but this week’s drenching meant two nights of work lost, according to Bill Gilchrist, a Caltrans engineer who worked on the 405/605 portion of the project.

But with another rainstorm predicted Thursday – one that, according to a National Weather Service forecast, could be colder and stronger than this week’s downpour – transportation officials want to get everything open.

Starting Sunday at 7 a.m., carpool lane drivers on the southbound I-605 can take their own left exit onto the southbound I-405. Drivers will take a left exit and be able to shoot above traffic in the regular lanes on a 2,900-foot-long bridge.

The other side of that bridge, linking up the northbound I-405 carpool lane with the northbound I-605 carpool lane, opens at 5 a.m. Tuesday. The project’s final carpool connector opening is scheduled for 5 a.m. Wednesday with the link-up of the westbound 22 with the northbound I-405.

The other side of that 1,100-foot connector bridge, which links the southbound 405 carpool lane with the eastbound 22 carpool lane, opened last month.

Both bridges have specially grooved concrete designed to reduce noise impact on surrounding communities, which include areas of Garden Grove, Westminster, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Long Beach and Rossmoor.

Curious why the bridges have what kind of looks like long legs?

Those are called “outriggers,” Gilchrist explained, and it’s necessary “since the space is so precious underneath.”

In addition to carpool link-ups, the project also added 6 miles of carpool lane to I-405 from the 22 to I-605, nearly doubled the size of the Seal Beach Boulevard bridge, and reconstructed the Valley View Street bridge.

Drivers might wonder if the new connectors might cause some to cheat the carpool lane, using the connector lane as a cut-through.

“That is a concern, but people just have to know and follow the overhead sign,” Gilchrist said.

Caltrans spokesman David Richardson added that unsafe behavior on the road is subject to enforcement by the California Highway Patrol.

“It’s more of an education,” Richardson said. “Caltrans has designed the freeway with the appropriate signs.”

BY THE NUMBERS

$297 million

Total cost

of project

$15 million

Amount of Measure M funds used for project

1,100 feet

Length of the 22/405 connector bridge

2,900 feet

Length of the

405/605 connector bridge

Contact the writer: 714-796-7922 or kmejdrich

How transparency and good fiscal stewardship came to O.C.

By JOHN MOORLACH / Contributing Writer

Twenty years ago, to learn what the Orange County treasurer’s investment portfolio really looked like, one had to file a California Public Records Act request, pay $10, and wait 10 days. Or you could wait six months for a quarterly report. Like mushrooms, the pool participants and the voters were kept in the dark.

The Orange County treasurer-tax collector at that time, Robert L. “Bob” Citron, was shy and an awkward public speaker, so the Board of Supervisors decided that they did not need to receive oral reports on the status of the county’s investments. Instead, annual letters were provided about how much interest income was being generated above and beyond any and all competitors. Almost no one in elected leadership positions asked questions, as the treasurer’s portfolio was generating so much income that it helped balance the county’s budget during a recessionary period.

In the spring of 1994, when asked about Citron, then-Board Chairman Tom Riley told a reporter, “I don’t know how the hell he does it, but he makes us all look good.”

Really? That Dec. 6, Riley voted to put the county into Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. It was the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history. This record stood for 17 years, when it was eclipsed by Jefferson County, Ala., and then followed by the city of Detroit.

Orange County exited bankruptcy with an approved plan of adjustment within 18 months. Today, the related debt issued to cover the losses is anticipated to be completely paid off within the next year or two.

The county made a number of financial management and reporting improvements:

• The county treasurer began issuing monthly reports;

• The reports are posted immediately online;

• The investments are reported at fair market value (following GASB 31 long before it was issued);

• The portfolio eliminated the use of leverage and exotic derivatives.

• The investment policy statement mirrors that of a money market fund and garnered a certificate of appreciation from a national municipal treasurers association;

• The investment pools received the highest ratings possible from two of the three major rating agencies;

• County departments submitted annual business plans that contained measureable metrics on how the departmental goals were achieved, using a results-oriented-government approach;

• A five- and 10-year strategic financial plan was instituted and utilized every year;

• The business plans, the strategic financial plan, and the annual budget were integrated;

• A treasury oversight committee was established and meets quarterly;

• An audit oversight committee was established and meets quarterly;

• The Internal Audit Department was segregated from the Auditor-Controller’s office (a strategy that is now receiving a fresh review for its efficacy and/or improvement);

• A “strong” CEO corporate governance structure was instituted to promote more accountability and efficiency from county agency and department heads;

• The Performance Audit Department was recently established to review management efficiencies well beyond just the monitoring of internal controls.

These initiatives seem simple, but the annual budget and audit is usually the fiscal depth of many municipalities. The county of Orange goes into much more detail and carefully scrutinizes itself in order to constantly make improvements to provide additional transparency and cost savings.

The taxpayers of Orange County will never again see a hedge-fund-type implosion of the treasurer’s investment pools. But, there are other fiscal pressures to be concerned about.

Incurring nearly $1.7 billion in investment losses and professional bankruptcy-related fees took a major toll on the county’s bottom line. Based on per capita unrestricted net assets for governmental activities, O.C. is in the bottom 20 percent of the state’s counties.

Out of 58 counties, Orange County receives the lowest percentage of every property tax dollar collected. It is a significant donor county, subsidizing Sacramento and the other 57 counties. This inequity still needs to be rectified.

Along with restricted revenues, Orange County, like many California municipalities, will face rising expenditures due to prior decisions made to increase defined benefit pension plan formulas. Fortunately, the financial management tools currently in place will assist the county’s senior fiscal officers with managing these vice-gripping constraints.

Let’s hope that Sacramento grants a more equitable tax sharing arrangement in Orange County’s future. Let’s also hope that the pension system achieves its annual earnings assumptions and doesn’t become an even larger fiscal burden to the county’s annual budget.

With diligent management, the cataclysmic event that scarred the county will only be recalled on milestone anniversaries. We are no longer mushrooms, and we know what the treasurer and other county managers are doing. This course of proper fiscal stewardship will continue, and it should protect the taxpayers of Orange County.

John Moorlach is a Republican member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and represents the 2nd District on the board.

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