MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1004 and CIRM — September 10, 2018

The LA Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune jointly opined on their websites in favor of SB 1004, which I joint-authored with the good Senator from San Francisco, Scott Weiner, and encourage the Governor to sign it.

How’s that for working with those on the other side of the aisle? I have an established history with addressing how to better direct Mental Health Services Act funding. With that focus, Sen. Weiner requested my collaboration on his bill (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Joint Author Details — July 7, 2018). The lead editorial is the first piece below.

The second piece is more than a year in the making. I was interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle last year. They have done some very exhaustive analysis over this time period on CIRM, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (see MOORLACH UPDATE — I Told You So! — August 26, 2017 ).

The bonds that funded this dubious venture cost the General Fund $313 million in the current fiscal year and will cost $309 million in the next! Your taxes are paying for what I believe is the most egregious ballot measure abuse in recent state history.

I’m not against stem cell research. But, if there is progress and money to be made in this area, the private sector and institutional investors will make it happen. But, in 2004, when Proposition 71 was up for a vote, I was one of the three signatories in opposition to this measure because it was self-serving, unaccountable, and would be a fiscal bust (as the major patents had already been secured by the University of Wisconsin).

I recently did try to address my concerns about CIRM through the legislative process (MOORLACH UPDATE — Millstones and SCA 7 — March 30, 2017) and through messaging (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Showmanship Let Down — October 7, 2017).

Now the Chronicle provides a review of where the money went. Although thorough, it is silent on the administrative costs. That may provide information on high salaries and, therefore, high pensions, for well situated individuals who served in cushy positions. The piece also begs the question as to facilities. You can do research in a rented commercial building. But, I’ll save the rest for your reading pleasure with the second piece below.

California is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars for mental health programs. Let’s put it to use

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/msn/editorial-california-is-sitting-on-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-for-mental-health-programs-lets-put-it-to-use/ar-BBN8fdG

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/la-ed-mental-health-funding-20180910-story.html

Like much of the rest of the nation, California went only halfway toward keeping its promise to improve mental health care. It closed psychiatric hospitals, some of which were really just costly warehouses for the sick rather than modern medical facilities offering effective treatment. But the state didn’t follow through on its commitment to provide better alternatives, like community-based clinics that deliver the treatment and services needed to integrate patients into society, working and living independently where possible.

We can see the result of those half-measures every day. About a third of homeless people in Los Angeles and across the country are on the street because of untreated mental illnesses that prevent them from staying housed or holding down a job.

We’ve begun to make amends, at least of a sort. Fourteen years ago, voters passed Proposition 63, known informally as the millionaires’ tax and more properly as the Mental Health Services Act. It raises billions of dollars for services.

The ranks of mentally ill homeless Californians are constantly being replenished.

More recently, Los Angeles voters adopted tax measures to raise money for supportive housing – units that will give homeless people, including those with serious mental health challenges, the opportunity for dignified and independent living while receiving the medical care and services they need to hold their illnesses at bay and stay off the streets.

These are fine programs, but if they’re all we’ve got they will be futile. The ranks of mentally ill homeless Californians are constantly being replenished. As fast as we can lead the sick and suffering into homes, they are replaced on the street by new generations of people whose mental illnesses were left undiagnosed or untreated at an early stage, when they still could have been held in check. If only California also had funding for that – for prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment early enough that patients’ illnesses do not progress to the point where they lose the ability to lead independent lives.

Actually, we do have the funding. The tragedy is that we haven’t spent it wisely, or in many cases haven’t spent it at all.

Twenty percent of Proposition 63 funding allocated to counties is supposed to be spent on prevention and early intervention programs and treatment. Yet a recent state audit found that counties hadn’t spent most of that money, despite statutory deadlines meant to deter hoarding. Hundreds of millions of dollars just sit in county accounts, still waiting to be put to use.

Why? There is too little guidance on how to effectively spend those tax dollars. A state Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission is supposed to direct counties to best practices, but that loose system has led us to where we are: unmet needs and unspent funds. There is little strategic vision. Programs aren’t measured for their effectiveness. Counties aren’t held accountable for results.

The law should be tightened to ensure data are gathered, outcomes are measured and the commission offers more exacting spending guidance that prioritizes treatment for young patients.

After all, researchers have found that signs and symptoms of mental illness – hallucinations, delusions and other evidence of psychotic episodes – first present themselves in the patients’ early teen years and into their mid-20s. Treatment at or just after the onset of these symptoms can prevent, or at least allow patients to manage, serious mental illness that worsens over time. Failure to respond quickly makes effective treatment later in life much more difficult – and feeds the pipeline that sends sick adults to the street.

A bipartisan proposal from state Sens. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) would provide the appropriate spending guidelines and promote some uniformity in treatment around the state while leaving counties the flexibility to spend on different priorities if they can make a persuasive case for them. The measure (Senate Bill 1004) cleared the Legislature and is now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Brown’s Department of Finance opposes it, arguing that the commission can do everything the bill can simply by changing the appropriate regulations. Perhaps it could – but the point is that it hasn’t.

Some critics object to the move to increase the focus on the young. Yet that’s where the greatest need is for prevention and intervention services, and where funding can provide the greatest value. Besides, the bill would also direct funding to programs that address the particular mental health challenges of older people as well. The bill is a targeted solution to an exasperating problem. It deserves the governor’s signature.

Taking stock of California’s $3 billion bet on stem cell science

Erin Allday and Joaquin Palomino

https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Taking-stock-of-California-s-3-billion-bet-on-13215312.php

It was an extraordinary political proposal: Approve a $3 billion bond measure to fund the cutting-edge science of stem cell therapy, and soon some of the world’s cruelest diseases and most disabling injuries could be eradicated.

The 2004 measure was Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative. The campaign to pass it was led by a Palo Alto real estate developer whose son suffered from an incurable illness that he believed stem cells, the keystones of human biology, could heal. Other supporters included preeminent scientists, Hollywood celebrities, business leaders and elite investors.

The need was urgent, they said. Federal restrictions had recently been imposed on funding research involving human embryonic stem cells, then the most auspicious field of study.

Among the campaign’s promises: Nearly half of all families in California could benefit from stem cell treatments Prop. 71 would help create. One study it commissioned found that new, life-changing therapies could emerge in just a few years. And Prop. 71 would pay off financially, the campaign claimed, creating thousands of jobs and potentially returning the state’s investment more than seven times over.

“How many chances in a lifetime do you have to impact human suffering in a really fundamental way, including possibly even in your own family?” Robert Klein, the campaign leader, would say shortly after the vote.

In November 2004, Prop. 71 passed with nearly 60 percent approval. It created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, an agency tasked with administering the $3 billion and making the campaign’s lofty visions a reality.

Fourteen years later, the money voters approved is nearly gone, and supporters of CIRM and the research it funds are preparing to ask the public for another $5 billion in 2020. This time, taxpayers will want to know: Has California’s initial bet on stem cell science paid off?

Over the past several months, The Chronicle conducted an extensive analysis of CIRM’s spending, reviewing the nearly 1,000 grants the agency has made, tracking how the money has been spent, and gauging whether the promises have been realized.

It’s not a question that can be answered simply. Science often can’t be measured in quantifiable outcomes. Failures aren’t just common, they’re necessary — it’s impossible to expect every dollar invested in research to lead down a traceable path toward success.

CIRM can take credit for some notable progress.

It has helped make California a global leader in the field that’s come to be known as regenerative medicine. Anywhere significant stem cell research is taking place in the state, it almost surely has received support from CIRM.

At UCLA, doctors are using stem cells to cure a rare immune deficiency disease that kills children. At Stanford, early studies show that stem cells deposited deep into the brain could restore movement and speech to people devastated by stroke. At UCSF, a team is beginning human trials for a fatal genetic blood disease that involves transplanting stem cells into a fetus still in the uterus.

But as thrilling as such advances are, they fall far short of what Prop. 71’s promoters promised.

Not a single federally approved therapy has resulted from CIRM-funded science. The predicted financial windfall has not materialized. The bulk of CIRM grants have gone to basic research, training programs and building new laboratories, not to clinical trials testing the kinds of potential cures and therapies the billions of dollars were supposed to deliver.

Over that same time, many people suffering from incurable diseases have become impatient waiting for scientists to produce the miracle treatments the Prop. 71 campaign said were within reach.

Instead, a thriving, for-profit industry of clinics offering dubious stem cell therapies based on half-baked science has sprung up, defying attempts at government regulation and requests from scientists to proceed cautiously.

Now, as CIRM supporters prepare to approach voters again, some say its achievements shouldn’t be measured only against the claims made by the campaign that created it.

“What was promised was not deliverable,” said longtime CIRM board member Jeff Sheehy, a former San Francisco supervisor. “However, I would distinguish the promises from the impact and value. We have developed a regenerative medicine juggernaut.”

Klein, though, is unapologetic about the campaign he led. Indeed, as he lines up advocates and testimonials for the coming campaign, his message is familiar: Fund this research and we will save lives. Slow it down and the consequences will be grave.

“Do you want your son to die? Are you going to wait?” Klein asked recently. “Is that the price you are prepared to pay?”

In his airy, sunlit lab at San Francisco’s Gladstone Institutes, cardiologist Deepak Srivastava has used skin cells to produce heart cells. As they pulse in a petri dish, their steady, calming beat feels familiar, even viewed through the lens of a microscope.

Someday, he hopes, the work of his team at Gladstone’s Roddenberry Stem Cell Center will lead to a therapy that can reverse the effects of a heart attack.

“We got this far purely because of CIRM,” said Srivastava, the center’s director.

The dream of exploiting the human body’s remarkable ability to heal itself — to grow skin and bone, to replace muscle lost to wasting or disease, to undo systemic damage caused by infection — has long captivated medical scientists. In the late 1800s, they began to suspect that specific cells in the body were responsible for this repair and regeneration work.

A century later, in 1981, UCSF scientist Gail Martin gave the most powerful of these cells a name: embryonic stem cells.

It wasn’t until 1998 that the first human embryonic stem cells were isolated and replicated in a lab. These cells are uniquely potent, responsible for building every part of a human body. As an embryo matures, it rapidly replicates, transforming into bone cells and muscle cells, brain cells and heart cells.

Some doctors believed if they could harness stem cells, they could use them to treat all but the most disastrous threats to the body, perhaps even reverse the natural effects of aging.

The process of isolating them, though, involved destroying days-old embryos. Religious and antiabortion groups decried the science as unethical. In 2001, President George W. Bush instituted far-reaching limitations on federal grants for embryonic stem cell research.

In California, advocates for regenerative medicine sought a way around the funding restrictions. Their solution: Prop. 71, which would generate $3 billion in general obligation bonds, the type more often used for infrastructure projects like highways or dams. Including principal and interest, the total cost to taxpayers would be roughly $6 billion.

State-funded scientific research on that scale had never been attempted and, despite the campaign’s pitch, there was no guaranteed payoff. The state Legislative Analyst’s Office offered a cautious assessment: The potential financial benefits were unknown.

Klein, then a major Silicon Valley developer, helped conceive, bankroll and write Prop. 71. For him, the effort was personal. His son, Jordan, had recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and Klein had become a ferocious advocate for people with brutal conditions and little hope.

More than 20 Nobel Prize laureates backed the proposal. So did Hollywood celebrities such as Michael J. Fox and Brad Pitt. Million-dollar donations came from the founders of eBay and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.

Radio and television ads featured gut-wrenching appeals from people with incurable diseases. Patient advocate Joan Samuelson, later appointed to CIRM’s board, said in one ad that Prop. 71 “will rescue me, and a million people with Parkinson’s disease.”

In another, “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve, paralyzed from the neck down after a horseback-riding accident, said “stem cells have already cured paralysis of animals,” and called them the “future of medicine.” Dependent on a ventilator attached to his trachea, he struggled to breathe and to speak in the ad. He died before the spot aired.

Almost immediately, critics filed lawsuits. CIRM, the new stem cell institute, lacked public accountability, they said. While technically it was a state agency, the measure gave the Legislature little direct oversight of it. The legal challenges eventually were dismissed, but they slowed funding for nearly two years.

Meanwhile, the confident claims of the campaign were being tempered with more modest expectations. A year after moving into its San Francisco headquarters, CIRM would unveil a 10-year plan dramatically scaling back the pledges made by Prop. 71.

The field of embryonic stem cell research was still young, the report warned. The road to marketing new therapies would be long and expensive. Most research never reaches human clinical trials, it explained, and most of those trials fail. Potential treatments for just a handful of diseases might be tested, and it was doubtful that a single approved therapy would be developed from the state’s investment.

“The whole tenor of the campaign, what was said on television ads that flooded the state and by Bob Klein and his lobbying group, was that if California would fund this work, there would be cures,” said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley. “People that were saying that must have known you can’t schedule medical breakthroughs. Those hopes were just that, hopes, and completely speculative.”

But as CIRM ramped up, The Chronicle’s review shows, it began doling out grants at a furious pace, averaging more than $7 million a week in 2008, its first year of full-fledged operation. To date, CIRM has spent or committed more than 90 percent of its $3 billion allowance.

The grants can be broadly divided into four categories: basic science and training; infrastructure; translational and preclinical, which is the work that goes toward moving laboratory science into human studies; and clinical trials.

The Chronicle reviewed CIRM grants through May 2018, tracking who received money and how it was spent.

Bay Area institutions have been especially well-funded, with more than one-fifth of the bond money funneled to Stanford, UCSF, UC Berkeley and the Gladstone Institutes. Stanford, the biggest beneficiary, has received $360 million in grants. CIRM’s funding of Stanford, a private institution supported by a hefty endowment, has at times been sharply criticized.

Nearly 40 percent of the total bond money, more than $1.1 billion, has gone into training programs and basic research — work largely aimed at improving scientists’ understanding of stem cells and how they might be best used in medicine.

These basic biology studies have helped scientists develop techniques that could prevent immune rejection from an organ transplant. They discovered weak points in cancer stem cells that might become new targets for drug therapies. In addition to Srivastava’s beating heart cells, scientists have used stem cells to build mini-organs, including “brains” in petri dishes for testing drug therapies and learning more about diseases like Alzheimer’s.

CIRM’s focus, meanwhile, has expanded beyond embryonic stem cells. It has funded research involving adult stem cells, which exist in pockets throughout the body and are cheaper and less controversial than embryonic stem cells. It’s also invested in induced-pluripotent stem cells, first developed in 2006. Produced from other types of cells, they look and act like embryonic stem cells.

CIRM-funded researchers have published more than 330 scholarly articles in four of the most respected stem cell and academic journals. Each represents a new discovery in the field and has enabled the work California has funded to reach scientists around the world.

CIRM’s investments in infrastructure have amounted to $482 million — 16 percent of the bond money. Most of that went toward building a dozen stem cell research centers.

UCSF received a $35 million grant to help raise a glass-and-metal structure on the hillside overlooking its Parnassus campus. The independent Buck Institute for Research on Aging received $20 million toward a sleek white building on its Novato grounds. Stanford University won the largest single grant: $43.6 million toward a four-story structure at the edge of its medical school campus built around a glass-walled atrium.

About $388 million has gone toward preclinical and translational research: studies that take science out of the lab and try to apply it to humans. This phase of research, seldom backed by the federal government, can be particularly challenging. A therapy that looks promising when tested on a cluster of cells in a laboratory-controlled environment often fails when given to more complex organisms.

The preclinical studies funded so far reflect the immense possibilities stem cells offer: Scientists have examined a gene-modifying technique to try to treat HIV. They’re studying small molecule drugs that could destroy leukemia stem cells. They’re developing a gel derived from pig muscles that could stave off amputations among people with a disease that weakens blood circulation.

The research has helped CIRM-backed scientists license 107 invention disclosures. Some of the studies have paved the way for clinical trials, while others have hit dead ends.

CIRM funding helped push UC Irvine scientist Henry Klassen’s work from lab studies to clinical trials testing a stem cell therapy for a rare form of blindness. His research, which has shown success, has largely been carried out in a building at UC Irvine partly underwritten by CIRM.

“The whole reason I’m here in California is because of CIRM,” said Klassen, who had been working in Singapore and took a job at Irvine shortly after Prop. 71 passed. “This consistent source of funding has been critical as we go from the bench to the bedside.”

Still, critics and supporters alike say those who pushed Prop. 71 significantly oversold the short-term medical and financial prospects of stem cells.

No federally approved treatments have been produced. And without marketable therapies, the public is still far from reaping the up to $91 billion in health care savings by 2040 the campaign predicted.

CIRM has funded nearly 50 clinical trials, but just four have been completed, meaning scientists enrolled all the patients they said they would and finished compiling data. One of those trials was an observational study that tested no new therapy. The others involved treatments that are still years, at best, from reaching the market.

The state, once told to expect as much as $1.1 billion in royalties from CIRM-backed discoveries within 35 years, so far has received just a tiny fraction of that amount: a single payment of $190,000 from the City of Hope medical research center in Los Angeles County.

Other economic benefits, such as tax revenue and new jobs, have been measured only a handful of times. The most recent study, which CIRM commissioned using public funds and published in 2012, showed the state investment had helped create tens of thousands of jobs and generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue.

The aim of the report, however, was to aggressively support the goals and initiatives of CIRM, according to the California Stem Cell Report, a blog that has diligently tracked the institute.

CIRM and its 29-person governing board, meanwhile, have been a frequent target of attack.

State lawmakers have introduced multiple bills aimed at making the institute more accountable to the public and at ensuring that all taxpayers, not just biotech companies and universities, would benefit from the public investments.

Almost every effort has failed, in part due to the unusually restrictive language of Prop. 71: Any change in CIRM’s structure needs a voter initiative or a 70 percent vote in both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s approval.

The proposition also specified the precise makeup of the agency’s governing board, placing representatives of many of the institutions that CIRM funds to oversee its grants. Having such built-in conflicts of interest without the oversight expected of a public agency has undermined CIRM’s legitimacy, critics say. They have likened it to an insiders’ club that enriches its own members.

“These guys got away with an incredible amount of personal enrichment,” said state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Irvine, a longtime critic of CIRM. “And all they gave us was debt.”

CIRM leaders say they have strong protections to ensure that personal interests don’t influence funding decisions: Board members don’t discuss or vote on proposals they have a financial stake in, and an out-of-state review panel has a major say in which projects are funded.

Multiple audits, however, have found the sheer volume of recusals troubling.

Records obtained by The Chronicle showed that board members abstained from voting on grants roughly 1,770 times since 2006 due to reported financial conflicts. Tens of thousands of additional recusals were triggered by a CIRM policy that bars certain members from weighing in on any application.

In some cases, nearly half of the board was unable to vote on major and controversial proposals due to conflicts of interest.

One board member, UC Regent Sherry Lansing, a former film studio executive, has recused herself from more than 400 grant discussions because of a tangle of conflicts, most related to the universities she oversees. Lansing’s role is to advocate for cancer patients.

A pivotal Institute of Medicine review in 2012 found that such widespread conflicts had caused some to “question the integrity and independence” of CIRM, and it recommended sweeping reforms. Many of the suggestions were not enacted, although CIRM did make some significant changes shortly after the report published.

Klein, CIRM’s board chairman during its first seven years, has been a divisive figure. Despite his role at CIRM, he continued to run a patient advocacy group that regularly dismissed concerns about the agency and attacked many people, including legislators, who challenged it. A 2009 Little Hoover Commission report called him “a lightning rod for calls for more accountability.” There were multiple demands for his resignation.

“There’s a reason you have checks and balances, transparency and accountability when you use that much in public funds, and unfortunately none of that was in place,” said former state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, who strongly supported Prop. 71, then became a CIRM critic. “You can’t go to the voters and say, ‘Let’s use $3 billion in state funds,’ then say, ‘We don’t want the terrible government to bother us.’ ”

Even some of CIRM’s most ardent supporters — patients and patient advocates who stand to benefit most directly from stem cell therapies — have become critical. Their chief complaint: The science is taking too long, and they’re running out of time.

At the Gladstone Institutes’ Mission Bay campus last fall, CIRM held a public meeting to update patients about the research going on throughout California.

CIRM representatives and scientists told the story of a mother who had her vision partially restored after enrolling in Klassen’s trial at UC Irvine. They talked about an East Bay teenager, paralyzed the day before graduating high school, who regained some movement after receiving a stem cell transplant.

The $3 billion bond, they said, had made these achievements possible.

“What you will see over the next decade,” Srivastava of the Gladstone Institutes told the crowd, “are a series of breakthroughs for many diseases based on that investment.”

Not everyone shared his enthusiasm.

“I’ve met hundreds, thousands of people with spinal cord injuries,” Franklin Elieh, a quadriplegic man and patient advocate, said at the same meeting. “Millions are suffering needlessly and endlessly. Billions (of dollars) are being spent needlessly and endlessly. What can be done to really accelerate this?”

Elieh, like many people living with incurable diseases or conditions, is disillusioned with the dearth of clinical trials CIRM has backed.

Clinical trials are the goal of laboratory medical science. They are the moment that a possible treatment, studied only in a test tube or a dish or an animal, finally is tested on a human subject.

The first two trial phases primarily test safety: Does this treatment, when given to a human being at an effective dose, cause intolerable side effects? Phase 3 trials are typically the first to tell scientists how well a therapy works in large groups of patients, if it works at all. They are often the last step before scientists — usually working with a for-profit company that has financed the increasingly expensive research — seek FDA approval.

About 900 patients have been involved in the 49 clinical trials CIRM has backed so far, The Chronicle’s review shows. Nearly a fifth of CIRM’s funds, about $530 million, has gone to support the trials. Most of those grants were awarded in the past three years, part of a deliberate effort by the agency to direct more money toward testing treatments.

“Every single project we have is spectacular, and just a couple of years ago may have been considered science fiction,” CIRM President Maria Millan told a state legislative committee in August as she outlined many of the clinical trials the agency has funded.

Only six of the clinical trials, though, have been phase 3 studies. Of those, two were terminated or suspended, three are still recruiting patients, and one — for a bioengineered blood vessel that can be used in dialysis — is under way.

Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health, the primary federal funding agency for medical research, has far outpaced CIRM in supporting clinical trials in stem cell research. A 2017 analysis by STAT, a science and health news publication, found that, dollar for dollar, the NIH funded 3½ times as many clinical trials as CIRM from 2006 to 2016.

In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted most of the restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but for both agencies, trials using those cells remain rare.

“When we voted for Prop. 71 we wanted clinical trials, we didn’t want basic research,” said Judy Roberson, a longtime CIRM supporter who has lost five family members, including her husband, to Huntington’s disease. Roberson has 17 other relatives who are also at high risk of developing the hereditary neurological disorder, which slowly erodes a person’s ability to walk and talk.

“Our loved ones are going to die. They’re sitting on time bombs,” she said. “You could do basic research for 100 years, but you’re never going to learn everything. So just get in there and try something.”

But accelerating the push of basic science toward human trials is not without its critics. The International Society for Stem Cell Research — the largest body of scientists looking at policy and politics in regenerative medicine — has cautioned against that approach. Many scientists say that, in general, it’s too early to be experimenting on people, particularly with embryonic and induced-pluripotent stem cells, which may cause tumors.

Gene therapy, a field related to stem cells, underwent more than 30 years of grueling research and repeated setbacks before establishing its first commercial successes in 2017: two cancer treatments approved by the FDA.

Embryonic stem cells were isolated for the first time just two decades ago. Induced-pluripotent stem cells were made only 12 years ago. Adult stem cells — the cells responsible for regular repair and upkeep — have been used in bone marrow transplants for more than 50 years, but their application beyond that started to be deeply studied only in the 1980s.

The science simply isn’t there yet, said Arnold Kriegstein, head of UCSF’s stem cell center, who has received $2.5 million from CIRM for basic research.

“CIRM touts 50 or so projects moving toward the clinic, and many of them will likely fail,” Kriegstein said. “It might be more prudent to spend dollars solving basic research problems, where a relatively modest investment can have a huge impact.”

Some suggest that CIRM’s recent aggressive support for clinical trials is directly tied to its plan to return to voters for more funding. The fact that its work is supported by taxpayers increases the urgency to produce results, said Timothy Caulfield, a Canadian law professor at the University of Alberta who closely follows CIRM.

“That creates a lot of pressure to frame the work in terms of near-future miracles, and that will almost always fail,” Caulfield said. “True medical breakthroughs with broad application are incredibly rare.”

To patients desperate for cures, CIRM leaders say stay hopeful. The work may be taking longer than promised, but it will pay off in the end. And the state has too much invested now to give up. Such hope, though, isn’t easy to come by for those beginning to realize that any therapies to help them probably will arrive too late.

“We see how slow progress is, and we know a lot of people are never going to be candidates for a treatment,” said Elieh, who is co-founder of the Northern California Spinal Cord Injury Foundation, a nonprofit patient support group.

Elieh, 54, was injured in a diving accident in 1989, shattering his vertebrae and damaging his spinal cord so badly that he lost movement in his legs and upper body. In the years afterward, he enrolled in clinical trials and costly rehab programs, but none helped.

During the Prop. 71 campaign, Elieh watched celebrities talk about the miraculous ability of stem cells to regenerate tissue. He saw videos of paralyzed rats that could walk again after receiving an injection of stem cells. Clinical trials, scientists said, were just years away.

“Everyone you talked with thought, ‘Wow, we’re going to put $3 billion into this,’ ” Elieh said. “It was really creating hope. And, unfortunately for me, false hope.”

Over the past decade CIRM has funded two clinical trials testing the same treatment for spinal cord injuries. The therapy, though, applies only to people newly injured, not the hundreds of thousands of men and women like Elieh who have been paralyzed for years.

So far, the therapy has proved safe. A handful of patients in the second trial regained some movement, though it’s too soon to say whether stem cells are the reason. While CIRM supporters are keen to hold up that trial as an example of the stunning potential of stem cell therapies, Elieh and many of his peers are more cautious.

“We’ve still barely taken the first step, and we have no idea when the second step will land,” Elieh said. “We all had a lot of hope back then, and we’ve just kept hoping.”

Seated on a stage before 50 people in a town hall-style meeting in Mill Valley, Art Torres had one word to describe the results of the CIRM-funded trial for spinal cord injuries: “Miraculous.”

Torres, former state senator and longtime member of the CIRM board, was enthusiastic in a way that would have made the more cautious scientists running the trial cringe. But CIRM needs a home run.

The looming end of its funding — and the need to ask voters for billions more — presents an existential moment.

Since 2004, the political and scientific climate has changed significantly. Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is no longer tied up, and many voters are savvier about the limitations of regenerative medicine. The scientists backed by CIRM, meanwhile, face unconventional competition from an unexpected source: a vibrant consumer-clinic industry that’s marketing unproven therapies to those tired of waiting for cures.

Prop. 71’s most tangible achievements — cutting-edge academic buildings, discoveries in petri dishes, advances in lab rats, pioneering trials in human subjects — aren’t necessarily going to resonate with voters. What will are visible triumphs in real people. Those successes are what CIRM’s most ardent supporters are rallying around.

On the cover of the agency’s 2017 annual report was Ronnie, a wide-eyed infant who was cured of an immune deficiency disease called SCID, or “bubble-baby disease.” Children who have the condition typically live in isolation to protect them from fatal infections.

CIRM has helped fund four trials, all at different institutions, testing stem cell therapies for SCID. Ronnie was treated at UCSF using a treatment developed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee. A therapy out of UCLA, which has been in clinical trials since 1993, could win FDA approval — a first for CIRM-backed research — in a year or two, say the scientists who developed the treatment. In all, 40 babies have been treated with the UCLA therapy.

And there’s Rosie Barrero.

In a video posted on CIRM’s website, Barrero sits in a sunny room at the agency’s headquarters, now in Oakland, Lake Merritt glittering behind her. She’s earnest as she talks about retinitis pigmentosa, the disease that has slowly blinded her.

Barrero was treated in 2016 in Henry Klassen’s trial for patients with RP. Within months, she could pick out colors and shapes she hadn’t been able to see for years. She could tell her daughters apart. She has regained about “a pinhole” of sight, but that she’s had any improvement at all, she said, is amazing: It means that the therapy works.

“We’re definitely hoping that this work continues to get funded,” Barrero said in an interview. “It’s incredibly important, to all of us.”

If a new bond isn’t approved in 2020, said CIRM President Millan, it could devastate stem cell research in California. Private industry is still reluctant to back research that has yet to produce a treatment, let alone show it can be profitable.

And so, CIRM proponents are turning again to Klein, who plans to lead the 2020 campaign for more research dollars.

In Klein’s downtown Palo Alto office, a series of photos — colorful, fantastical close-ups of stem cells studied by CIRM scientists — hangs above his desk. Once they’d hung in CIRM’s offices. Today they reflect the deep connection he’s retained with the agency, despite not having an official role since stepping down as board chairman seven years ago amid a flurry of criticism.

Late last year, Klein addressed the CIRM board at a meeting about the fate of the agency. According to polls he had paid for — the full results of which he declined to share — 70 percent of voters would support another stem cell funding proposition. No other options for future financing — not private fundraising, not legislative efforts — would work, he said.

It was his son Jordan’s battle with Type 1 diabetes that drove Klein into patient advocacy and stem cell research. But the therapies that Klein believed were imminent did not arrive in time to save Jordan. Two years ago, at age 26, he died from complications related to the disease.

The loss seems to have cemented Klein’s resolve.

“We couldn’t get there fast enough for Jordan,” Klein said. “We have to get there for everyone else.”

Klein rejects the notion that expectations for CIRM were overhyped or voters misled in the 2004 campaign. If cures aren’t yet at hand, they’re surely years closer than they would be without CIRM, he said, and people already are benefiting from research paid for by Prop. 71.

During an interview in his office, Klein played a brief video of a young man who is part of the spinal cord injury trial CIRM has helped fund. Made quadriplegic after a devastating car accident, the man is shown in the video lifting weights.

“After the stem cell surgery, I’m able to live my life again,’ the man says in a quiet, halting voice. “Thank you for giving me my life back.”

Klein turned off the video, his eyes bright.

“I wish all the voters could see this,” he said. Christopher Reeve, whom he considered a friend, “would have been absolutely ecstatic” to have seen such a video, he added.

“In 2004 we had a vision of the future and data on animals,” Klein said. “In 2020, we will have patients who were paralyzed, patients who were blind, patients with cancer who will tell their story. The public will decide.”

Erin Allday and Joaquin Palomino are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. eallday, jpalomino Twitter: @erinallday, @JoaquinPalomino

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Right to Peaceably Assemble — April 13, 2018

I have a diversified portfolio of bills that we have introduced for consideration, as you can see on my website at  http://district37.cssrc.us/legislation.

I also have the opportunity to be a co-author on a number of bills.  And, on rare occasions, I’m even a joint-author.  This was the case for SB 1004 (Weiner), which will establish a strategic, statewide focus for how counties utilize funds generated by the Mental Health Services Act for prevention and intervention in the early stages of mental illness (see http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1004).

I testified on behalf of SB 1004 this past week, along with Sacramento Mayor and former State Senator pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, an author of Proposition 63 (2004), in Senate Health Committee, where it passed unanimously.  On the subject of the Mental Health Services Act, which has become a major focus of my time over the years, I was appointed to the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health during Wednesday’s Senate Rules Committee meeting.

The LA Times discusses another bill of mine in the piece below, SB 1099, the Right to Peaceably Assemble.  Last October, the Senate Judiciary Committee, where I serve as Vice Chair, held a hearing on hate speech, which spurred several ideas (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Combatting Hate — October 3, 2017MOORLACH UPDATE — Elephant in the Room — October 4, 2017 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Showmanship Let Down — October 7, 2017).

After considering a number of responses to the nonsense that had recently occurred at the University of California Berkeley, I thought the city of Los Angeles had the best response, so I am trying to duplicate it on a statewide basis.

I also wish to thank University of California, Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman for providing me with a copy of his new book, “Free Speech On Campus,” which he co-authored with University of California, Berkeley Law School, and former University of California, Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky (see https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300226560/free-speech-campus).

Now that I finally have an article that addresses one of my bills, allow me to give you an update on our portfolio.  Here is a follow up on the calendar that I provided in MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018.

April 2 — SB 1159 – CPA Designation
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1159-cpa-designation)
Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee

Although this bill was referred to as self-serving, it still passed out of Committee with 6 votes, 2 opposed and 1 abstention.

April 4 — SB 1368 – Statewide Open Enrollment
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1368-statewide-open-enrollment
Senate Education Committee

This bill was killed on a partisan vote of 2 to 4.

April 4 — SB 1344 and SCA 16 – Education Savings Account Act of 2020
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1344-senate-constitutional-amendment-16-education-savings-account-act-2020
Senate Education Committee
NOTE: Please watch the two short videos on this subject at the link.

Both bills were killed on a partisan vote of 2 to 4.

April 4 — SB 1363 – National Alliance on Mental Illness California Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund
See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1363-national-alliance-mental-illness-california-voluntary-tax-contribution-fund
Senate Governance and Finance Committee

Although I was tied up presenting the above 3 bills in Education Committee, Sen. Nguyen kindly presented this bill, with a big assist from Sen. Beall, and it moved forward with 6 votes and 1 abstention.  It will be heard by Senate Appropriations on Monday morning, April 16th.

This week, I only had SB 1004, discussed above.  Next week I will also present the following two bills:

April 18 — SB 1463 — Cap and Trees

See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1463-cap-and-trees

Senate Environmental Quality Committee

April 18 — SB 1325 — Peaceful and Natural Dignity Act (PANDA)

See http://district37.cssrc.us/content/senate-bill-1325-peaceful-and-natural-dignity-act-panda

Senate Health Committee

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By PATRICK MCGREEVY

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-legislature-campus-free-speech-20180413-story.html

Last year’s bloody clashes on California college campuses have spawned a battle in the state Legislature over how far the law should go to protect unpopular speech and prevent violence between those with opposing political views.

In recent weeks, legislators have started to act on bills introduced in response to a series of confrontations, including a melee at UC Berkeley over a proposed campus speech by right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

Lawmakers and activists have fought over a wide range of proposals, many introduced by Republicans who say conservative speech is being vetoed by violence on California campuses.

Similar debates are happening in statehouses across the U.S., with many Democrats concerned that neo-Nazis and other purveyors of hate speech are instigating conflict, citing violence in Charlottesville, Va., last summer when white nationalists marched across the University of Virginia campus, and a far-right rally the following day that turned fatal.

California’s Democratic majority has scuttled bills including one that would have disciplined students who interfere with speeches, or withheld funds from campuses that don’t take steps to protect controversial speaking events.

“Freedom of speech is not free in California — it comes with a price,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) said in a statement after the Democrats voted down her penalty bill. “As long as you say what government wants to hear, they’ll protect your right to speak.”

Another sidelined bill would have made it a crime to wear masks or disguises to demonstrations, but opponents said it could be used to quash free speech. Other measures, including legislation modeled on a Los Angeles antiviolence ordinance, are expected to be taken up in the next few weeks.

But stronger bipartisan consensus has emerged around a bill that would require state colleges to affirm in formal statements the importance of freedom of expression, and to set the stage for student instruction on the history and value of the First Amendment.

“When you have everyone with a deeper appreciation for why we need to have a free exchange of ideas, then people will be less inclined to take action against ideas that they find repugnant or wrong,” said Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), who coauthored the bill with Democratic Assemblyman Bill Quirk of Hayward.

In all, nine bills were introduced in response to incidents including the February 2017 riot at UC Berkeley in which 150 protesters, many masked agitators, caused some $100,000 in damage and injured several people there to attend Yiannopoulos’ speech, which was canceled.

The anti-Yiannopoulos protesters, who accused him of hate speech, hurled Molotov cocktails, set fires, threw fireworks at police and smashed windows using barricades, according to authorities. Many wore face coverings to hide their identity.

Clashes in later months resulted in the cancellation of an appearance on campus by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

And in April of last year, an off-campus event billed as a “Patriot Day” rally by far-right, pro-Trump activists resulted in 21 arrests after fights broke out with counterprotesters. The Times reported both sides threw rocks and sticks at one another.

Naweed Tahmas, a leader of the UC Berkeley College Republicans, testified at one of a series of legislative hearings held in recent weeks that he has been chased, threatened, punched and spat on by people on campus who disagree with his political views.

“I am not exaggerating when I say that free speech is on life support at UC Berkeley,” Tahmas told legislators. “I do not feel safe on my own campus.”

Nobody from the public testified against the bill, but Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk Silva (D-Fullerton) disputed the claims of supporters.

“Where I would disagree is, unlike some of your information for Berkeley, I think free speech is alive and well,” she said, noting that Yiannopoulos spoke at Cal State Fullerton in her district and there was no violence because steps were taken to keep protesters apart.

A federal lawsuit alleges that Katrina Redelsheimer and her husband, John Jennings, went to UC Berkeley last year to hear Yiannopoulos and were attacked by a crowd of black-clad anarchists who beat the couple with sticks, kicked them and doused them with pepper spray.

“I thought that my husband was dead,” Redelsheimer said this month, recalling the sight of her husband lying unconscious on the ground.

The lawsuit charges that the UC administrators and police violated the couple’s civil rights by failing to protect them, “permitting hordes of rioters to swarm the University campus in a violent rage.”

UC administrator Karen French told lawmakers during a hearing last week that free-speech rights are a priority for the universities, but that restrictions on public events are sometimes warranted when student safety is at risk.

The Kiley-Quirk measure has been endorsed by the 13 Democrats and Republicans who make up the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. The measure was drafted with input from Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, and Howard Gillman, chancellor of UC Irvine.

The instruction on the importance of the First Amendment can happen in classrooms, at student orientations or in other venues, according to the bill. Supporters say its aim is to strike a balance that avoids punishing schools or students.

“Through educational programming, universities can help foster an appreciation for the history and value of free speech, and why it is essential to democratic government and academic freedom,” Chemerinsky said.

Another legislative committee recommended a measure by state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) that would require the California Community Colleges and California State University systems to adopt “free expression” policies that end the practice of limiting speeches and literature distribution to small, remote “free speech zones” on campuses.

Instead, the bill would require larger outdoor areas on campuses to be designated for public discourse, including allowing students to “spontaneously and contemporaneously distribute literature and assemble.”

The rejected Melendez bill would have gone much further by allowing the state to withhold funding from campuses that fail to comply with a statewide policy on free speech.

The legislation would have also prohibited university administrators from disinviting speakers who students have invited to events, and created disciplinary actions for students who interfere with the free-speech rights of others.

Opponents were concerned that the bill’s proposal to allow funds to be withheld from campuses deemed out of compliance could result in the disruption of thousands of students’ college educations.

Jose Medina (D-Riverside), chairman of the Committee on Higher Education, said the proposal was “too prescriptive, and I believe if enacted it would result in unintended consequences.”

That drew rebukes from Melendez and Tahmas, who charged that Democrats “failed in their duty to protect the constitutional rights of California’s students.”

Tension rose again this week when a Senate panel rejected a Republican bill that would have made it a crime to wear a mask or disguise to public demonstrations.

Nielsen told colleagues that he introduced the bill out of alarm that law enforcement did not act more aggressively in stopping violence at UC Berkeley.

A representative of the ACLU of California said that there is no need for Nielsen’s bill because the law already makes it illegal to wear a mask during the commission of a crime, adding that allowing police to arrest masked persons not committing a crime could lead to disparate treatment based on the message of the demonstrator.

Still awaiting a vote are measures including a bill by state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) modeled after a Los Angeles ordinance that makes it a crime to carry sticks, rocks, baseball bats, glass bottles, guns, knives and pepper spray at public demonstrations.

“I just think you don’t need a two-by-four or a lead pipe to hold up a sign,” Moorlach said. “We’re trying to say you should not be intimidating people and you should not be causing physical harm to people, nor should you be destroying property that belongs to the state of California.”

Redelsheimer is skeptical of the flurry of legislative activity in Sacramento.

“State-funded institutions are already required to abide by the First Amendment,” she said. “Attacking people with sticks and pepper spray is similarly already illegal. As usual, what we need is the will to abide by and enforce existing law rather than create new legislation.”

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

 

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Funding OC’s Homelessness — March 18, 2018

Yesterday morning I decided to sit in on Judge David Carter’s homeless hearing for a brief period. I have been working with Judge Carter as a liaison with the state and its efforts to find funding for the homeless.

I have recently met with Elaine Howle, the State Auditor, to review her most recent audit report on the status of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) created by Proposition 63 in 2004 (see http://www.auditor.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2017-117.pdf).

This past week, as a follow up, I also met with Toby Ewing, the Executive Director, of the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to corroborate the audit findings (see http://www.mhsoac.ca.gov/).

The audit report found some $2.5 billion in unspent funds to assist those with mental illness has accumulated since the passage of Proposition 63 in 2004. This is the case for all 58 counties and the state. There has been a paralysis and lack of leadership by the Department of Health Care Services as to what and where these funds can go, frustrating all parties.

Both of these meetings were disconcerting. I am no longer an executive who can provide guidance and direct staff to get something accomplished. I am now a legislator in a state so large that managing it is next to impossible. You thought Caltrans was messed up. Well, serious improvements can also be made to the Department of Health Care Services, which directs MHSA funding (see http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/mh/Pages/MH_Prop63.aspx).

I now must provide directives through legislation. Fine, but I am only allowed 20 bills per year. And, my executive brain is screaming in a legislator’s body. So, one of my bills this year is to establish an executive position to help run this state, SB 1297, but more on that at another time.

I dropped by the hearing after it had been proceeding for about an hour, but Judge Carter brought me up front and I listened to his reactions to various components of the State Auditor’s MHSA audit report. He also provided PowerPoint slides showing various pages. His lecture also included available locations, with Fairview Developmental Center being the most prominent one that he was aware of (see
MOORLACH UPDATE — Burning Year End Issues — December 15, 2017). The audience cheered in applause when it was recommended.

Judge Carter had invited Mayors and City Managers to be present and then, around 11 a.m., took them for a tour of the nearby bus depot, a location that I worked to provide as a roof for the homeless while still a County Supervisor. In the meantime, it has been made available and currently has some 400 residents! Due to other commitments, I left midway through the walk. The Voice of OC provides their take in the first piece below.

It was a Federal Judge that may have started this dilemma with the mandate for the State of California to reduce its inmate population. Instead of building more prisons, which is cost prohibitive thanks to the high cost to staff them with the providing of public safety defined benefit pensions and other employee benefits, the Governor backed and signed AB 109, Public Safety Realignment, in 2011, which released supposed nonviolent inmates prematurely to the 58 counties. The ironies continue. But, I digress.

As you know, after reviewing my recent ten volume series, cities are not flush with the cash needed to address this immediate housing requirement for the homeless.

The media is picking up my recent study on the fiscal well being of California’s 482 cities. The Orange County Breeze provides a reaction concerning its marketing sphere of influence in the second piece below. The Bakersfield California provides its local perspective in the third piece. Chino and Chino Hills are noted in the Chino Champion in the fourth piece below. And Fox and Hounds rounds out the topic in the fifth piece.

The MHSA provides a funding opportunity and I worked side-by-side with President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon in 2016 on the passage of AB 1618, “No Place Like Home,” to securitize this tax revenue source (see http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/mh/Pages/MH_Prop63.aspx). We announced the initiative at Skid Row in Los Angeles (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Governor’s 2016-17 Proposed Budget — January 8, 2016)

Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon even allowed me to provide input on constructing the bill. It passed and was signed into law, but has not been implemented because it is tied up in Sacramento County Superior Court on validation concerns. (One would wish that Attorney General Becerra would push the courts to help our homeless instead of constantly fighting the Trump Administration, but I digress.)

Senator de Leon is trying to request $2 billion from the Governor, which would be replaced once the bonds are issued. This would start the process of counties submitting grants for immediate housing construction now. I also informed the President pro Tem to tell the Governor that there are $2.5 billion in funds that can be used as collateral for the cash advance.

Federal Judge Expands OC Homeless Housing to Include Longtime Santa Ana Civic Center Camp

By THY VO and SPENCER CUSTODIO

https://voiceofoc.org/2018/03/federal-judge-expands-oc-homeless-housing-to-include-longtime-santa-ana-civic-center-camp/

SPENCER CUSTODIO, Voice of OC

Homeless people congregate in the Plaza of the Flags at the Santa Ana Civic Center on March 17, 2018. About 150 people live in tents and make shift structures at the Plaza.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter expanded the scope of his inquiry into homelessness at the Santa Ana riverbed Saturday pushing city and county officials during a day-long federal court hearing to also agree to relocate the roughly 150 homeless people living in the Santa Ana Civic Center.

County Supervisor Andrew Do, before a crowd of activists, homeless people, county officials and city managers from across the county, struck a decidedly different tone than he has in the past.

“We don’t have a defense. I’m going to be the first to own up that we have failed,” Do said at the start of the hearing, to loud applause. “To lead requires we are proactive and not reactive, and we have failed.”

Carter held the hearing at Santa Ana City Hall, where just outside, hundreds of homeless people have camped for more than a decade, although numbers have dwindled after the recent opening of an emergency shelter nearby. The Civic Center is part of Do’s supervisorial district.

Carter has taken an unusually active role in pushing collaboration and negotiations between government officials and attorneys for the homeless. The hearing was called Saturday to resolve complaints, part of a federal lawsuit against the county, that former riverbed homeless people being moved from motel rooms have not been given adequate services and housing options by the county.

Attorneys for homeless people cited examples of people with serious medical problems and disabilities who cannot sleep in a shelter, or who rely on a spouse or partner as a caretaker. The medical and detox beds offered by the county often do not allow people to be housed with their partners.

For example, Shane Allen, a man who is confined to a wheelchair after a stroke who also suffers from stage 4 cancer, has a weakened immune system and cannot live in a shelter, said attorney Brooke Weitzman. As Allen also depends on his wife as a caretaker, sending them to different shelters would be an unnecessary emotional burden, Weitzman said.

Allen waited to testify at the hearing through the late afternoon, when he was taken to a hospital by paramedics for heart issues.

After several hours of negotiation, attorneys for homeless clients and for the county came to an informal agreement.

Over the next week, the county will continue to relocate nearly 600 former riverbed homeless, most now in motel rooms, as their 30-day maximum stays begin to expire.

People who can prove the need for privacy and individualized housing may be, pending approval by the county, allowed to stay in motel rooms for additional time.

“This is not a blanket extension of all motel vouchers,” said Do, who called the extension of motel stays a “big concession.” “If we feel there are cases that warrant closer examination…we are willing to extend the motel vouchers for those individuals, on a case-by-case basis.”

No more than 100 people will be moved out of motels each day, so the attorneys for the homeless – Weitzman and Carol Sobel — won’t be overwhelmed as they monitor the process.

Carter has also required the county to turn over information to Weitzman and Sobel about each person relocated from the riverbed and where they will be placed after their motel stay. The attorneys, with permission from each individual, will have access to clinical evaluations conducted by the county.

People will be given 48-hours notice before they are relocated.

“We will see how this works,” said Sobel. “Frankly, I think they’re going to run out [of shelter space].”

Do said the county has identified $70 million in funding from the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) that will be made available to address homelessness, although he declined to give further details about that funding when asked by a reporter.

A recent audit report released Feb. 27 by the State Auditor’s office found local health agencies statewide have “amassed hundreds of millions in unspent MHSA funds.”

More details about that funding will be announced at a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors at 9 a.m. Monday, where supervisors will discuss additional services and housing options for homeless people.

Although Saturday’s hearing was called to address the future of former riverbed homeless people, Carter expanded it to include the Santa Ana Civic Center, where at least 150 people still sleep each night. He pointed to a murder that occurred last week and a woman who was raped the night before.

“I haven’t told you until today that I am adamant of getting rid of this degradation in the Civic Center. I’m going to put more stress on the system, and if you’re not going to do it, I’m going to write an opinion,” Carter said Saturday morning. “Got it? It’s not ramping down, it’s ramping up.”

Carter announced Saturday night the city of Santa Ana and the county agreed to begin a “dignified and humane movement of people” from the Civic Center area. The Santa Ana Police will work with county social workers to clear the area with a similar strategy used at the riverbed.

Beginning Sunday, women living at the Civic Center will be offered immediate shelter at WISEPlace, a women’s shelter with a contract with the county.

County CEO Frank Kim said the county and city have not worked out details of when and how they will begin to move people out of the Civic Center.

Carter was largely complimentary of county officials, praising Do and county Supervisor Todd Spitzer for their leadership. He also thanked the Sheriff’s Department, Health Care Agency workers and Weitzman and Sobel for facilitating a peaceful clear-out of the riverbed encampment.

The county began clearing a massive homeless encampment from the Santa Ana Riverbed on Feb. 20. By the following week, officials said all people on the riverbed had been moved to motels and other shelters, and closed the riverbed to the public on Feb. 26. No one was arrested for refusing to leave the area.

On Saturday, Carter called on cities to step up and contribute to solutions.

“Each of your cities doesn’t want this problem to land in your city,” Carter told the audience, which included city managers and representatives from the most of the county’s 34 cities. “Maybe our constituency would understand that if…it’s one way to solve it is if everybody steps up.”

State Sen. John Moorlach, (R-Costa Mesa) who is sponsoring a bill in the state legislature to determine the use of the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, also was invited to the hearing by Carter.

Homeless advocates are eyeing the large property as a potential site for permanent supportive housing for the homeless or a mental health facility. The 114-acre developmental center, owned by the state, is slated to close in 2021.

Moorlach also has worked with state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) to support legislation, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2016, that creates $2 billion in bond proceeds to fund housing for the homeless. The bonds would be repaid with funding from the Mental Health Services Act, although use of the money is still pending court approval.

De Leon also spoke by phone with Carter Saturday morning before the hearing, the judge said. Moorlach, in a phone call with a reporter Saturday night, said he is working with De Leon to find other funding sources to address homelessness.

Meanwhile, Carter rebuked cities that have moved homeless people out of their cities and into other cities, especially those “dumping” them off at the Civic Center.

“If hypothetically there is dumping, moving of human beings from one city or another, you’ve created a problem, not only in terms of loading up the riverbed, but you’ve created a problem for cities like Anaheim and Santa Ana,” Carter said.

He said if anyone wants to claim dumping isn’t happening, they would be called on to prove it under oath.

“Be very careful what your accusation is, in terms of not taking some of these folks back into your communities that are pristine and virtuous,” Carter said, pointing to a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s office who he had invited to the meeting. “But if anyone wants to play the [body camera] tapes, I’m asking for a Justice Department investigation.”

Carter paused, and the room was silent for a moment.

“That silence means we’ve forgiven and forgotten and it never happens again,” said the judge.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo and Spencer Custodio at scustodio.

Senator John Moorlach ranks California’s 482 cities for financial soundness

http://www.oc-breeze.com/2018/03/14/118553_senator-john-moorlach-ranks-californias-482-cities-for-financial-soundness/

Which California cities are in financial distress and which are sound? Today State Sen. John Moorlach releases the first edition of his new report, “Senator John Moorlach Ranks California’s 482 Cities for Financial Soundness.”

The report examines the audited finances of the state’s 482 cities. Specifically, it looks at each city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and the per-capita share for a city’s Unrestricted Net Position, or UNP.

A negative UNP shows a city has fiscal concerns that city officials should be aware of. If they are not aware of the problem, this is a useful tool for the city residents to hold their elected officials accountable.

“Why the project?” Senator Moorlach asked. “Well, in the California Senate I carried some eight public employee pension reform measures in 2017 alone. And did the cities come to testify in support? No. And, are they now highly concerned about their predicament? Yes.”

Senator Moorlach plans to update the study every six months.

A copy of the study is available on Senator Moorlach’s website by clicking HERE.

If you would like to request an interview with Senator John Moorlach, please contact John Seiler at john.seileror 714-662-6050.

About Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa):

State Senator John Moorlach represents the 37th district of California, is a trained Certified Financial Planner and is the only trained CPA in the California Senate. He gained national attention 23 years ago when he was appointed Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector and helped the County recover from its bankruptcy filing – at the time the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

This article was released by the Office of Senator John Moorlach.

Editor’s Note: Of the 482 cities in California, Cypress ranks in at 33, and highest among the cities in Orange County. It is the only Orange County city in the top 50. La Palma is ranked 104, Stanton at 150, Seal Beach at 201, Buena Park at 302, Los Alamitos at 328, followed closely by Garden Grove at 330.

 

Worth Noting: Historical Society holding St. Patrick’s Day Walking Tour

http://www.bakersfield.com/news/community-briefs/worth-noting-historical-society-holding-st-patrick-s-day-walking/article_0f6b1904-27f2-11e8-b21d-e78293185de9.html

California Senator John Moorlach has ranked California’s cities based on financial soundness and Bakersfield ranks closer to the bottom of the list than the top. Bakersfield was ranked 289th out of 482 cities.

Here & There

http://www.championnewspapers.com/opinion_and_commentary/here_and_there/article_3a6b15c8-2932-11e8-87a4-c32aa67d628a.html

In State Senator (37th district) John Moorlach’s ranking of 482 California cities for “financial soundness,” Chino Hills came in at 154 and Chino came in 104. Both cities fit into what he described as the “positive part of the curve.” Mr. Moorlach based his rankings by dividing the city’s unrestricted financial position by the city’s population.

Ranking California’s 482 Cities for Financial Soundness

Senator John Moorlach

By Senator John MoorlachCalifornia State Senate, 37th District

Which California cities are in financial distress and which are sound? I am releasing the first edition of my new report, “Senator John Moorlach Ranks California’s 482 Cities for Financial Soundness.”

The report examines the audited finances of the state’s 482 cities. Specifically, it looks at each city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and the per-capita share for a city’s Unrestricted Net Position, or UNP.

A negative UNP shows a city has fiscal concerns that city officials should be aware of. If they are not aware of the problem, this is a useful tool for the city residents to hold their elected officials accountable.

Why the project?

Well, in the California Senate I carried some eight public employee pension reform measures in 2017 alone. And did the cities come to testify in support? No.

And, are they now highly concerned about their predicament? Yes.

I plan to update the study every six months.

An op-ed specifically looking at Orange County’s cities also is online in the Orange County Register, “Most Orange County city finances bleed red ink.”

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach