MOORLACH UPDATE — First Dutch American — December 11, 2014

In the first piece below the Voice of OC provides its take on the recent ambulance RFP process (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Boondoggle — December 10, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Ambulance RFP Termination — November 4, 2014). The article also provides exciting news concerning a proposal being offered by the Orange County Fire Authority’s new Chief, Jeffrey Bowman, to streamline paramedic services (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Privatizing Paramedics — March 28, 2013 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Private Paramedics — February 24, 2011). I applaud Chief Bowman for his courage to challenge the current paradigm. There is one clarification that should be made or corroborated. It is my recollection that Chair Nelson voted in the affirmative at Tuesday’s Board meeting on this item, allowing it to pass with the necessary three votes.

The second piece is a segment of a personal profile provided by Public Sector Inc. In my public speeches after my June, 2006 election victory, I provided fifteen pension reforms that I was hoping to pursue as a County Supervisor. I felt it was a good time to evaluate how I have done.

The third piece provides a fun photo in the Los Angeles Japanese Daily News making note that Supervisor Bartlett is the first Japanese American Orange County Supervisor (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Supervisor Bartlett — December 3, 2014). So I reviewed the names of the previous Orange County Supervisors and could not find one with a distinctive Dutch name. Am I the first Supervisor of Dutch descent to serve? Well, we did a little checking around during the morning with OC Archives, which contacted noted OC historian, Stan Oftelie. It looks like I am the only Supervisor over the last 125 years to be of Dutch descent! So I researched a little more trivia. It turns out that Martin Van Buren, our nation’s eight President, was the first not to have spoken English as a first language, having spoken only Dutch growing up (which applies to the first 4-and-one-half years of my life). Go, Oranje!

This is followed by an invitation to next Tuesday’s reception before my last scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting. Please feel welcome to attend.

Fire Authority to Try Private Paramedics

By REX DALTON and THY VO Voice of OC

The Orange County Fire Authority is planning a groundbreaking pilot study in which private paramedics will for the first time be used on 911 rescue calls.

Currently, when Fire Authority paramedics respond to the most critical cases they get into the private ambulances and treat the patients as they are being taken to the hospital, with fire truck following. When this happens, both the truck and firefighters can be out of service for a considerable period of time.

Under the pilot program, the private paramedics would staff the private ambulances that transport Fire Authority patients in its 23 cities to hospitals — thereby keeping the public agency’s paramedics and engines more readily available for other calls.

New Fire Authority Chief Jeffrey Bowman outlined the plan during an interview Tuesday. He’s been presenting it in recent weeks to his board, the agency’s union, and other interested parties.

“The word is out,” he said.

Orange County is the only county in the state without private paramedics. Local fire chiefs and unions have objected to them for a host of reasons, ranging from concerns that private paramedics would not have the same level of experience and training as public paramedics to fears that Wall Street would dictate the standard of care.

But Bowman, who’s served as chief of the Anaheim and San Diego fire departments, said the current system is inefficient and at times needlessly takes the Fire Authority’s highly trained paramedics out of action.

“The goal is to reduce the number of times a Fire Authority paramedic has to get in an ambulance for transport to a hospital,” said Bowman. “I have a big concern” about the current delivery model, he added, “it is not the best.”

Bowman is making a concerted effort to keep union leaders informed of his plans as part of an overall effort to improve management-union relations, which had soured during the tenure of his predecessor, Keith Richter.

Joe Kerr, spokesman for the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association, confirmed that union leaders have been informed of the plan and will take it up in January.

“The issue was broached,” said Kerr. “The department [Fire Authority] brought it up about a week ago.”

At various times since the Fire Authority was created, some form of redeployment change has come up every few years, said Kerr, declining to say this concept was any different.

Union leaders and other regional fire chiefs have remained adamant for years that staffing first- responding engines or trucks with two paramedics is best for patients. And Bowman agrees.

While it is too early to describe a system that may come out of the pilot study, Bowman anticipated it may be budget neutral for the Fire Authority.

This is because one of the advantages of a public system using private ambulance firms for transports is that those companies bear responsibility for the transport costs.

By the spring, Bowman said, he hoped to get agreement from the various parties to start the pilot — or pilots, as two areas may be tried initially, depending on the areas tested.

However, whenever it starts, he says it should be after the county Health Care Agency has completed the selection process for the new ambulance providers for 17 of the Fire Authority’s cities.

Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors approved its latest effort to try to select the private ambulances that will serve five zones encompassing those cities.

Last February, the state forced the Fire Authority to relinquish the ambulance selection process, turning it over to the Health Care Agency, for having delegated too much authority.

Health Care Agency officials reluctantly conducted a request for proposals for ambulances; but then moved to cancel the process early last month after objections were raised by losing firms about the rating methods. Agency officials then said they would conduct a new request for proposals, but it had to be done by a March 3 state deadline.

At the lead of Supervisor Todd Spitzer [who represents the county on the independent Fire Authority’s 25-person board], the supervisors approved a new plan, whereby:

Proposals from the previous request process would be used, new evaluating panels and some methods would be applied, and boilerplate language would be added to protect against any legal challenges from losing ambulance firms. This would allow the process to be simplified to meet the deadline.

The state Emergency Medical Services Authority near Sacramento, which oversees such county emergency plans, only had a few issues with the plan and appears likely to approve it.

“Personally, I think what the Board of Supervisors did was in the best interest of the county,” said Bowman; “It’s a terrific idea.”

With a second proposal request, Bowman said, the competitive nature of the process would be diminished as the various bidders already have shown their individual plans.

The vote was 3-1.

Publicly, Spitzer based his concerns on the state deadline. “We’re under a real time constraint,” he said. But privately, some observers saw Spitzer has aligned with the Fire Authority’s union.

Moorlach abstained, saying afterwards he was uncomfortable voting on an issue about which he had unanswered legal questions. He declined comment on Bowman’s plans, which some observers would see as in line with the supervisor’s past pronouncements.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson voted no.

At the board meeting, Nelson couched his objections in concerns over a possible lawsuit against the county.

“There is going to be legal action,” he said

Some observers saw this as Nelson fearing that a new evaluation could threaten the bidding position of Emergency Services Inc. of Brea, which has served Placentia and Yorba Linda for years.

In the first bid for a northern zone, Emergency Services Inc. edged out its closest competitor, Care Ambulance Services Inc. of Orange, by less than one rating point.

Care Ambulance, a large, European-based firm, won three of the five zones covering the 17 cities — making it the proposed dominate winner in the region.

Rex Dalton is a San Diego-based journalist who has worked for the San Diego Union-Tribune and the journal Nature. You can reach him directly at rexdalton

Moorlach takes stock: looking back on two decades of fiscal reform


John Moorlach owes it all to Half Dome.

The outgoing Orange County Supervisor, who has spent the past two decades reforming his county’s finances, might’ve been just some CPA with a habit of kvetching about politics.

“I went on a hike in Yosemite Valley with a friend, and he said, ‘You’ve been complaining about things the whole trip,’” says Moorlach. “Why don’t you consider running for Treasurer.”

So he did.

It was 1994, and he didn’t have a prayer.

“I knew full well I would not win,” he says. “Incumbents win 90 percent of the time, but I thought it was a perfect way to raise awareness about what was going on, how they were borrowing to invest, using derivatives, and everyone was comfortable because the treasurer was making a lot of money.

“I was telling anyone who would listen that if interest rates rise, that portfolio would implode.”

The Los Angeles Times endorsed the incumbent. “The reporter said what I was saying was just a bum rap.”

The rest, of course, is history. Moorlach lost the race, interest rates shot up, County Treasurer Robert Citron resigned in disgrace and on Dec. 6 of 1994, Orange County declared bankruptcy. Three months later, Moorlach was appointed treasurer, a position to which he was repeatedly reelected over the next decade.

And then came the pension wars.

“In 2004, the Board of Supervisors passed another pension increase, this time for general members,” he says. “I went to the podium and said, ‘You shouldn’t do this for obvious reasons.’ It’s like a lobster trap, once you’re in it, you’re in it.”

So the Holland born accountant says, he got angry and decided it was time to run for Supervisor.

“I wanted to fix the pension problem,” he says.

Upon his election in 2006, he drew up a list of 15 things he wanted to accomplish. Eight years later, he won some, he lost some, but overall, the Republican supervisor had a few grand slams.

Moorlach’s Little List

Here’s what the list looked like and how he faired:

Number One: “Make government employees pay for their fat pensions.”

“That’s a quote from a Long Beach Press Telegram article from 2005,” says Moorlach. “We’ve accomplished that. We’ve just completed our negotiations with every bargaining unit. We have one unit that we’re still dealing with, the attorney’s association–it’s a long story–but overall management and employees are responsible for paying for their share of pensions.”

Number Two: “Implement two-tiered plans.”

“We negotiated that back in 2009,” he says. “Governor Brown did it with his pension reform, but what we did in ’09 was we made it optional. The younger kids would take the lower formula.”

Number Three: “Start replacing government workers with contract employees.”

“I tried to put that in the charter for the November ballot,” says Moorlach. “My colleagues didn’t give me the third vote. Two were running for additional office. I put this one in the ‘fail’ column.”

Number Four: “Require voters to approve retroactive pension increases.”

“We called this Measure J, and it was wholeheartedly passed by the voters in 2008,” he says.

Number Five: “Put caps on COLAs (cost of living increases).”

“I tried to do it,” he says. “I just didn’t get traction.”

Number Six: “Attempt another ballot proposition that pursues paycheck protection.”

“We tried this with Prop. 32, but the unions just went ballistic. This was a fail.”

Number Seven: “Have the board of supervisors members or an independent third party negotiate employee bargaining union agreements and not rely on staff to do it for you. Employee unions are to be business partners and not buddies to further your political careers.”

“It’s just one of the abuses that I observed,” says Moorlach. “So what I did when I got here, I required an outside legal firm to be our negotiators… we got that taken care of.”

Number Eight: “Increase the retirement age.”

“That was done in ’09, it’s now 65 here at the county,” he says. “That was part of the two-tier change.”

Number Nine: “Add a charter amendment that requires immediate payment of actuarially unfunded benefits the day they become effective.”

“I got this from the state of Georgia,” he says. “If you’re gonna negotiate a pension benefit increase that creates an immediate liability, you got to pay for it immediately. Because we did Measure J, I felt like we got it covered. For more than 25 years, it wasn’t required to put the real cost of pension increases on the ballot sheets. It was in the shadows.”

Number Ten: “Pursue a statewide ballot measure requiring a two-tier system.”

“This was accomplished by PEPRA (Governor Brown’s reform),” he says.

Number Eleven: “Establish a blue ribbon committee from local industry to review personnel costs.”

“I just didn’t get to it,” he says.

Number Twelve: “The state constitution forbids cities, counties, and other public entities to spend money more than they make in one year unless two thirds of the voters in that locality approve that overflowing cost.”

“That’s a quote from the Voice of San Diego in 2006,” says Moorlach. “We took this to trial, filing a lawsuit against the Deputy Sheriffs for getting three percent at 50.”

But he says, even though it was technically illegal according to the state constitution, politics got in the way and pension debt was made exempt. In 2011, the California Supreme Court chose not to hear the lawsuit.

“It put blood on the hands of the legislature, on the Governor and the state judges,” he says. “We tried real hard but failed.”

Number Thirteen: “Pension reform bill.”

“This was about the acquisition of life insurance contracts using the pooling technique,” he says. “If you insure your employees, when they pass away, you could pay off part of the pensions. This was too hard a sell. If you can’t explain something to the public sector in 30 seconds, forget about it.”

Number Fourteen: “Labor negotiations could be done in public.”

“We adopted (this) and we got it,” he says. “It’s nice for the public to see the crazy offers that they put on the first round. It changes the whole dynamic.”

Number Fifteen: “Gradually lower the rate of return and invest accordingly.”

“This idea came from a Wall Street Journal article in 2006,” he says. “We’ve gotten the assumed rate down just by influencing members of the board. This was a win.”

First JA on OC Board of Supervisors Sworn In

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett is administered the oath of office by former Supervisor Marian Bergeson. Also pictured are (from left) Supervisors Todd Spitzer (vice chair), John Moorlach, and Shawn Nelson (chair).

SANTA ANA — Lisa Bartlett was sworn in last week to the District 5 seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, becoming the first Japanese American to serve on the board.

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