Barbara Venezia...
Stirring the pot of controversy one column at a time...
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My newest column 

 Venezia's View....

Feeling stuck?

Want to change up your life?

Maybe a life coach is the answer, at least that’s what former OC Fairgrounds CEO Steve Beazley suggests.

His new business is called Lean Forward Coaching.

“Where are you- and where would you like to be? You and I take steps to the transition which is a key word in coaching,” he tells me.

Beazley says life coaching is very different than going to a therapist.

There’s no doctor’s office visits and  coaching is far more informal. He meets with clients in all sorts of different situations. And coaching is not meant to go on indefinitely he says.

Currently he has four clients and says he’ll cap his coaching at 12-15.

Cost ranges anywhere from $75 to $125 per hour.

Clients sign a consent form- not a contract. 

“If you thought you could change your life for $1000. Would you?” he asks.

Beazley poses the question to clients- “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Once goals are identified the plan is to work through the fears holding them back.

“Change is always going to happen,” he says

And how we perceive the change is key to success and transition. 

Beazley calls himself a “change agent”.

“Change agents don’t last long at places- they have to tell hard truths and deliver messages that the people bringing them on may or may not want be aware of,” he says.

So let’s talk “hard truths”.

I asked what advice “life coach Steve” would have given “CEO Steve” during the days of the ill-fated fairgrounds sale. 

“If I was advising the old Steve the first thing I would recommend is that because it was a public agency- it needed to be more of a publicly vetted process.” He said.

And felt it all went too fast.

Beazley has no regrets, but admits it wasn’t an easy time.

“The hardest time of your life is the most growth oriented,” he says.

Though now a life coach, Beazley has done some other interesting things since leaving the Fairgrounds when he retired at age 50 in May 2012.

His first venture was consulting with the Simon Foundation for Education and Housing in Fashion Island that year.

At the time the non -profit organization, founded by philanthropist Ron Simon in 2003, was giving away college scholarships of more than $13 million to those in need.

Beazley was hired to evaluate the organization, look for ways to increase the number of scholarships issued, and write a business plan for them.

With a doctorate in psychology, he's always had a passion for education, so he enjoyed his time with Simon.

In 2013 he consulted for the Great Park getting the Clean Energy Expo’s Solar Decathlon off the ground. Former Senator Marian Bergeson, then a Great Park board member, says she thought he did a good job for them.

That year he also consulted for the Pacific Symphony and launched their Wavelength Festival of music.

Held that August at Beazley’s old stomping ground the Pacific Amphitheater, shows paired the symphony with such pop culture acts as Bonnie Rait, The Airborne Toxic Event and music of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

I heard ticket sales for the concerts fell far short of the approximately 8000 seat capacity of PAC Amp ranging about 2000 tickets or less sold per concert.

Beazley doesn’t see that as a negative.

“My goal was to get it started and not to perpetuate it. Any festival is hard to build a brand. Ticket sales were not high the first year but people liked it,” he said.

Then we talked about his recent stint as President of the Balboa Theater Foundation.

I was surprised he took this on. It had loser written all over it from the start.

Since the foundation formed in 1996 to renovate the theater, the project floundered.

“It was an against all odds project and at a point in my career I wanted one of those,” he said.

Beazley was tasked with creating a new board and raising money so the city would match funds.

In March 2014 I didn’t think he’d make a go of it.

He didn’t, and Beazley had to deliver several “hard truths” in this one.

“That project needed to be in the city hands a long time ago. So over the year I pulled them,” he said.

Beazley feels good about the fact that Newport will have to take it from here.  At least the project now has some direction.

Newport City Manager Dave Kiff tells me the outgoing city council picked an approach for it as “a Fine Arts Center for art class programming, local Balboa Village event hosting, some movies and more.   Construction is estimated at about $5.8 million right now, and that’s a rough estimate,” he says.

Now we’ll see what the 2015 council will do. 

But former Balboa Theater board member Evelyn Hart wasn’t happy with how this project ended and what Beazley was paid for it.

She says his original contract paid him $100,000 and the foundation didn’t renew the contact in the fall of 2014.

Beazley claimed his contract was renewed, thus he was entitled to another $100,000, even though the project was turned over to the city.

Hart took exception saying the contract was signed by a former board president without any other board members.

We asked for a written monthly work sheet from him so we could pay him by the month, I personally did not see that he spent more than 10 hours a month on his job. He had not brought in any new members and only spent money,” says Hart.

She tells me Beazley threatened legal action and the foundation settled for $50,000.00.

Hey, the guy did have a contract- no matter who signed it. Guess Hart got a dose of some that Beazley “hard truth.”

Like him or not, he’s certainly one of those guys who keeps reinventing himself- and my guess is life coach isn’t his last career.

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It was a bloody, ugly campaign season in Newport Beach.

Sweeping changes on the city council have political insiders wondering what comes next.

Mayor Ed Selich, of the old guard, now faces a majority of newbies calling themselves” Team Newport”-- Marshall Duffield, Scott Peotter, Kevin Muldoon and Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon -- who have their own agendas.

So what would he say in his State of the City address, hosted at the 34th Annual Mayor’s Dinner Feb. 5th held at the Newport Beach Marriott and put on by Speak Up Newport?

Would he mention the controversial bunny sculptures?

The opulent city hall/civic center project?

Peotter focused on both these issues during his campaign and continues to say he wants to see the bunnies removed.

Tongues were wagging during the cocktail hour with many categorizing Peotter’s bunny obsession as laughable, and suggesting that unless he tones down the crazy, Newport politics might start looking like Costa Mesa’s.

Then there were those jokingly taking bets, as to how long Duffield will actually stay on the council now that the FPPC has sent a 10-page letteroutlining his potential conflicts of interest to City Attorney Aaron Harp.

I had a feeling Selich was going to make it a speech to remember; after all, he’s termed out, so basically he has nothing to lose.

Would he take the moment?

Boy, did he ever!

Selich started his speech with a humorous bit saying Thursday nights he usually writes thank you notes, and proceeded to “write them."

He wrote one to political campaign consultant Dave Ellis saying, "thank you for managing all the candidates I didn’t support.” Of course he was talking about his new co-councilmembers Team Newport.

Then he had some fun with becoming mayor, joking that it is about as easy as getting Stop the Dock Tax’s Bob McCaffrey to smile.

You could sense nervous laughter in the room.

“I chose to start off with a bit of humor this evening. We have been through a rough election cycle and campaign season this past fall. I think it is important to step back and laugh at ourselves a bit to keep things in perspective. Although what we do is serious work, it should not be so serious that we cannot see the humor that emerges from it,” he said.

Selich went on to say he felt honored to serve as mayor for a third time and stated his speech theme would be “Stay the Course."

At that moment I knew he was about to step way out of the box.

“After the 2006 Election I dubbed the newly elected City Council the 'Dream Team.' I did so because of the unique blend of talents, the personal chemistry, and dedication to make our city a better place. I am proud and honored to serve with those 8 individuals elected in 2006, 2010, and 2012. Mike Henn, Don Webb, Steve Rosansky, Nancy Gardner, Rush Hill, Keith Curry, Leslie Daigle, and Tony Petros. What a team we were,” he said.

Then Selich went into the long list of accomplishments of his “Dream Team” over the past years: the city’s AAA credit rating, a rehab home ordinance, the John Wayne Airport Settlement agreement, the Oasis Senior Center, negotiation of the most aggressive employee pension contribution rates in Orange County, acceleration of the payoff of today’s estimate of the City’s unfunded pension liability in 19 years, a full 11 years sooner than required; the lowest crime rate in Newport history and much more.

The list went on and on.

To read Selich's speech in its entirety, click here.

It was clear to me that Selich was doing more than just reminding people of the monumental accomplishments, and what good stewards the “Dream Team” had been. He was also giving a history lesson directed at Team Newport.

Though Duffield is a long time resident, Peotter, Muldoon and especially Dixon are not.

Then he turned up the heat a little more and discussed the Civic Center/City Hall project.

“People forget that the 2006-2014 City Council voted not to build the City Hall next to the library. However, our voters demanded that it be built there in a park-like setting. Remember the slogan “City Hall in the Park?" he said.

From my table I could see Peotter and Dixon’s faces as Selich spoke about the project.

Peotter maintained what looked like a forced smile, while Dixon looked down and away from Selich continually. I thought she looked uncomfortable.

And rightfully so, I think she could be a star on this council if she can now find a way to distance herself from “Team Newport” and become her own person.

But I felt Selich really nailed it when he said, “The campaign is over. It is time to stop the derisive, cartoonish characterization of the Civic Center and the bunnies and embrace the Civic Center and Park as our cultural and governance center. It is an iconic symbol of our City and will be so recognized for generations to come.”

Those remarks were obviously directed towards Peotter who continues to call city hall the Taj Mahal and makes no apologies about it.

Selich closed the night by saying the state of the city is the best it’s ever been, but believes the council should be open to new ideas and approaches.

Wrapping up his speech, he received rousing applauds and a standing ovation.

Later he told me his talk was “not intended to be a defense of the past City Council actions nor an indictment of the new Council, but merely a statement of where we are and how best to move ahead in positive direction as a team. It was an invitation to the new Council members to continue to work together to make our city a better place.”

There’s an old saying in television: know your audience.

Selich knew exactly who he was talking to that night.

Those in attendance were the who’s who of political insiders in this city. Many have been involved in Newport in one way or another for decades.

Chatter as the room cleared was that Selich hit it out of the park here, and appreciated his strong message -- don’t mess with success.

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I called John Wayne Airport Director Alan Murphy this week because at 57, he’s retiring on February 5th.

This next week the Board of Supervisors are expected to appoint an interim replacement for him, he tells me.

Having worked in county government for 32 years, Murphy came to the airport in 1986. He’s been the head honcho there since 2000.

I first met him when Supervisor Tom Wilson appointed me to the Santa Ana Heights Redevelopment Agency Project Advisory Committee in 2001.

The majority of funding for the RDA came from JWA, and Santa Ana Heights is impacted greatly by airport noise and air pollution issues.

Needless to say we had differing opinions at times, but he was always the consummate professional in all our dealings.

He never shied away from controversy, and always made himself available to the community – no matter how tough the questions were coming his way.

Over the years I watched him calmly speak to groups working to curb growth at JWA who were ready to string him up before he entered the room.

He’s had a tough job trying to navigate the county’s increasing airport demands- and the surrounding community’s concern about growth.

“I have tried to find a balance between the two. I’m sure people on both sides think we should have done more, “he says.

As he closes his JWA chapter and moves on to retirement, Murphy reflected on his tenure as airport director.

He says the airport has evolved since he first started and of course everything changed after 9-11.

“9-11 was a milestone. It’s when our business changed, “he said.

Murphy says with the advent of the terrorist attack, the balancing act of maintaining public safety and keeping flying fun was challenging.

With new TSA baggage screening requirements in place, “we were the first larger airport in the country with a 100 percent integrated system” which shortened lines for passengers, he says.

Murphy says there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes that the public never sees in running a major airport. He attributes his success to his “amazing staff”.

I asked as he looks back, what makes him smile?

“Walking through the newly built Terminal C before it was open to the public.
It’s a beautiful building,” he says.

There was some controversy with Terminal C regarding unforeseen fees for restaurants in the building.

Whispers behind the scenes say this hiccup might have cost Murphy the County CEO job as his name was supposedly on a short list.

Murphy told me he appreciates the opportunity he’s had to “build things” at JWA and takes pride in starting international service to Mexico, as well as the immigration and customs area.

But maybe his greatest accomplishment is how he’s managed airport impact issues and Newport Beach residents.

He says he never lost sight of the complexities of operating an airport in an urban community, and is proud of the relationships he’s forged with Newport Beach and the community groups he worked with there.

At the top of his accomplishment list with these folks is the newly amended JWA settlement agreement, which he was instrumental in negotiating last year.

He says, “It went well, better than expected,” and has high praise for everyone involved.

With this agreement now in place, Murphy says he feels good about retiring and leaving the airport to the next generation of leadership, who ever that maybe.

I’ve interviewed Murphy many times writing about JWA issues, but this week our conversation took a more personal tone as he talked about retirement and what lies ahead.

Murphy says after 32 years he’s had what he calls” the best job anyone could have in county government”.

Now he’s ready to work on his tennis game and get married this summer.

Last year he proposed to girlfriend, Annie Smythe, outside the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The couple has been dating for several years.

They met through mutual friends and Smythe is very involved in nonprofit organizations, Murphy tells me.

The two are in the process of planning an intimate beach wedding- just a few family and friends-though they haven’t found it easy to actually find a beach to get married on.

I suggested he call one of his county connections and get himself hooked up.

He laughed.

Murphy and Smythe will continue to reside in Huntington Beach where he’s lived for the last 15 years.

But I can’t imagine he’s the kind of guy who’ll be sitting home clipping coupons in retirement.

Is there a second career in his future?

Murphy says me at this point he just wants to get through the next six months and settle into his new life, but doesn’t discount the idea for the future.

He’s made many contacts during his time at JWA and is well respected. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those contacts start calling with new opportunities sooner than later.

So what advice would he give the new person filling his airport director shoes?

“The airport is really an asset to the community. It’s easy to get involved in day to day activities, I’d advise that person not to lose sight of being out in the community addressing concerns,” he says.

He says someone from the airport “needs to be listening”.

Orange County Board of Supervisors' Chairman Todd Spitzer agrees.

“Alan achieved so much that has allowed us to have John Wayne Airport be a good neighbor with the communities,” he told me.

Spitzer feels Murphy “has been an excellent airport director because he’s built credibility with the local communities the airport surrounds. His successor will have to have that same credibility so that the communities who are affected by noise and growth know they will be protected.”

I hope that’s the case, because Murphy will be a tough act to follow.


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Venezia's View: Santa Ana Medical Pot Initiative Could be Headed to Court and Spur Recalls

12/8/14
My last column peeking into the politics of medical marijuana Measure BB in Santa Ana had some in the city crying foul.

Santa Ana's Planning and Building Department Interim Executive Director Karen Haluza, contacted me saying what I wrote about her meeting with Kandice Hawes, Director of the Orange County National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws- NORML, wasn’t how she remembered it.

To give you some background, Hawes had told me she’d met with Haluza.

She felt the city reached out to her, as the new measure moved forward, to possibly include additional ideas that would make the measure more user friendly for patients.

Prior to this Hawes says, "Different people on council wouldn't work with us".

Haluza took exception to Hawes’ interpretation of their meeting and its intent.

“We had asked for the meeting in an effort to involve her in our outreach efforts given that she had been a spokesperson for Measure CC and would have a useful contact network that could be used to communicate with those who might be interested in participating in the collective application process. We did not ever imply that any process would be used other than that approved by the voters in Measure BB, nor did I state that I would be trying to “sell” any changes to the Measure to the Council. I said only that we wanted to involve Kandice and her constituents in order to reach as broad an audience as possible," Haluza wrote in her email to me.

So I called her.

There’s obviously a difference between Hawes' perception of the meeting’s purpose, and Haluza’s.

Haluza told me it’s a regular practice of the planning department to reach out to the community whenever a new project or new code is being worked on. This outreach is strictly for informative and educational purposes, not to create policy changes.

“When Measure BB passed we asked to talk to her to make her aware of what the city would be doing, and get the word out to her constituents. I did say we wanted to get her involved in the process and provide us feedback,” she says.

So if the city isn’t going to make any of the policy changes Hawes suggests, why the heck do they want her feedback in the first place?

“We have to develop application forms and we want them to be understandable for the public– the feedback would help us make those forms clearer," she told me.

Next I called Hawes to get her take on what Haluza said.

“She’s talking out of two sides of her mouth,” replied Hawes, adding she wasn’t surprised there was a difference of perception here.

Hawes, who says her only motivation is looking out for the welfare of patients, says during the campaign the city’s measure was touted to voters as a better choice because it had flexibility.

“That was part of their whole sell during the campaign, that they can make amendments,” she said.

Up to this point, Hawes categorizes the whole process dealing with the city as, “ugly.”

She tells me the group that campaigned for Measure CC is now considering legal options including suing the city, and starting a re-call of council member Vince Sarmiento and Mayor Pro Tem Sal Tinajero.

Hawes feels both “mislead the public” as they pushed voters towards measure BB.

Yikes!

Shortly after I hung up from Hawes, Tinajero called me describing himself as the “front person” regarding this marijuana initiated.

He praised Hawes.

“Honestly she should claim some victory here. It was her work to bring in signatures for her measure which prompted the city to create theirs,” he said.

He also explained one aspect as to why the city created its own measure.

Tinajero says that when folks outside government create a something like this, they’re not privy to salaries or city budgets.

“The city knows exactly how much money it will bring in- and cost -so you can create something efficient,” he said.

Then he gave me a little behind the scenes history as Measure BB was being created.

“Prior to Measure BB we met with Kandice and several dispensaries owners and we were working out details. What we were trying to do was create something everyone would be happy with. I felt we were about 90% there and then Kandice and some other folks decided to do their own measure,” he tells me.

Hawes says her measure actually qualified in 2012 so she’s not sure what Tinajero is talking about here. Her group attempted to work with the city then -and this time too- all to no avail.

Tinajero says the city’s measure did incorporate some of their suggestions, but in no way would he support making changes now without first implementing Measure BB and seeing how it works first.

“The voters have spoken and this is the direction they want us to go. Residents can purchase medicine in safe locations and they made it clear they wanted it away from schools and parks,” he said.

So what about Hawes claims the city measure was sold to the public based on its amendment flexibility?

He says amendments are for the future as this marijuana movement changes from medicinal to recreational.

Tinajero is hearing legislative rumbles that in 2016 voters will most likely get the opportunity to approve recreational use, and says polling shows voters are in favor of this.

“We want to be the city that other cities look to as we create responsible ordinances that will allow for marijuana sales to occur, and prepare them for what I believe will inevitably be recreational use,” he says.

Tinajero is also reaching out to neighboring cities in hopes they will follow Santa Ana’s lead here. He recently attended a city council meeting in Costa Mesa where they too are grappling with creating a medical marijuana initiative.

The cannabis saga in Santa Ana is far from over, and I suspect neither is the war of words.

To follow the city on this issue visit their website.

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Venezia's View: Santa Ana Leads the Way on Medical Pot

12/1/14

Is Santa Ana the city that finally figures out how to properly manage medical marijuana dispensaries in OC?

Could they be an example to other municipalities who have long struggled over how to make this budding industry work for them?

No doubt marijuana is California’s next gold rush.

The industry has long thrived in the shadows.

Bringing it mainstream and harnessing its enormous economic potential, while balancing regulation and public safety, is what Santa Ana city leaders are grappling with.

There are many fragmented players in the scenario- politicians, pot advocates, and now the investment world and big business.

Blending them all will be the key to success.

This past election Santa Ana voters passed two marijuana initiatives - one presented by city leaders, Measure BB, and another - Measure CC - penned in part by Kandice Hawes Director of the Orange County National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws- NORML.

The city’s BB received a larger percentage of votes, so legally it will be enacted, but Hawes says talks are now taking place to incorporate some of her ideas from CC.

Hawes recently met with Santa Ana’s Planning and Building Department Interim Executive Director Karen Haluza.

Hawes says Haluza was open to the concept of having her involved in the process as the city rolls out this new measure, but will need to sell the idea to the city council.

Though Hawes is happy this dialog is now in play, prior to the election she tried to work with the city so one measure would be presented to voters.

No such luck.

“Different people on council wouldn’t work with us”, she says.

Hawes hopes Haluza can convince council members that working with her on the dispensary issue is the best option- thus avoiding litigation and saving the taxpayers the expense of fighting this out in court.

What ideas does Hawes think the city should change in their measure?

“Little things,” she says.

One point of contention is patient confidentiality. The city’s measure requires dispensaries to keep a list of patient information available to law enforcement. Hawes feels this might discourage folks using the medicine who might be higher profile- or just don’t want their names out there.

And she questions the city’s proposed lottery system to dole out licenses. This type of system has been challenged legally in other cities, and Hawes is concerned about transparency as well.

The location of the proposed medical marijuana collectives is slated for a relatively small area in industrial locations.

Hawes worries about those who aren’t close to bus routes and wonders whether it will make it difficult for ill or elderly patients using this mode of transportation to access them.

“They are basically creating red light districts. Collectives shouldn’t be treated like strip clubs”, says Hawes.

Senator Lou Correa, who is now eyeing the spot on the board of supervisors Janet Nguyen will be leaving, tells me he believes medical marijuana should be strictly regulated, and supports the city’s efforts here.

Correa feels dispensaries must be well regulated, away from schools and neighborhoods, and rules enforced by police, which all seem to be within Santa Ana’s new measure.

Since Correa is one politician committed to figuring out this issue, I suggested he look at how Las Vegas dealt with it this past year.

If there’s one city that handles vices efficiently, it’s Vegas.

Those seeking licenses for cultivation, production and dispensaries in Vegas went through a lengthy process, and the city adopted new land use and business licensing regulations.

Looking at the city’s website on the process, the forms are daunting -not to mention the fees.

Originally just to get into the game required a non- refundable application fee of $500,000. That was later reduced to $250,000- but even so- it’s a lot of dough to gamble with no guarantees.

Of the many who vied for licenses here, only one was a publicly traded company,Terra Tech, headquartered Orange County.

Laguna resident Derek Peterson is the CEO.

Peterson recently received eight licenses in Vegas.

“We spent approximately $1 million going for the permits. The expenses included attorney, lobbyists, engineers, architects, security consultants and more. We anticipate all the projects to cost approximately $12 million to construct and begin operations,” says Peterson.

And he estimates creating close to 100 new jobs in the area.

Two years ago I interviewed Peterson, a former Morgan Stanley investment banker, about trends in the cannabis industry.

He predicted it would be the next investment boom.

“That prediction is coming to fruition. You’re seeing investors not only comfortable with this industry, but rushing to enter it. And you’re continuing to see support among the American public rise. In addition you are beginning to see bi partisan support from a federal level,” he said.

When I spoke to Peterson two years ago, he was about to take his company public.

“We are now a fully reporting issuer, traded on the OTCQB under the symbol TRTC. Our market cap is approximately 100 million” he said.

The company is now poised to become the first public company to hold marijuana licenses in the US.

“As the market grows and matures we’ll see this industry pick up even more speed, which will translate to the public, lawmakers, and regulators supporting legalization efforts,” says Peterson

He believes the benefits of regulation and taxation are enormous, and a much better policy than black market prohibition.

Though some say Nevada’s process prohibited the “little guy’s” ability to compete, it raised the bar professionally -and Santa Ana should take heed.

Peterson says one important aspect was that Nevada state legislators were very supportive of the industry.

This doesn’t seem to be the case in California- at least at the moment- according to Correa.

“We were the first ones out of the gate 20 years ago with the Passionate Use Act and here we are with zero legislation today,” he says.

But he does predict as more investors eye this industry, legislators will take notice.

His hope is federal and state level legislators will present something to voters in 2016 which will bring laws more in line with cities moving forward on marijuana issues.

“This industry is no longer about pot heads; this is about venture capitalist and hedge funds. These folks are smart money people,” says Correa who plans on talking with Peterson.

I think he could learn a lot from this cutting edge entrepreneur.

In the meantime, all eyes will be watching what happens next in Santa Ana.

Will they roll the dice and be winners? Or will they crap out…

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Venezias' View: Moorlach & Me

    Posted: Friday, November 14, 2014 6:00 am

Supervisor John Moorlach never put out press releases during his term in office, rather he sends out what he calls “Moorlach Updates”.

Anytime he’s written about in the press, he sends one of these with a link to the column and his own take on the piece.

I don’t know how many peeps are on his email blast list, but I am, and more than a few times, these updates have included things I’ve written about him.

Needless to say we’ve had our good and bad days.

So when I got his blast on Nov. 7th I found it funny he commented on my new gig here at Voice of OC, saying he enjoyed my “acerbic, no-holds-barred writing style.”

And went on to write, “Sometimes Barbara and I agreed, sometimes we sparred, but we always did our best to maintain a healthy professional relationship. Thank you, Barbara, for being a documenter of history in the Newport-Mesa area. You were very productive.”

That was a nice compliment, but what really shocked me was all the links he included, about 40, to articles Id’ written about him- and he hinted there were more.

Now in my biz, politicians are pretty much low hanging fruit- but had I really picked at his tree that much?

Guess so.

Moorlach never shied away from the press or my tough questions, so I figured I’d call him this week. Seems only fitting I’d write one last column as he closes this chapter.

My relationship with him is complicated.

We met when I was serving as chair for the Project Advisory Committee of the Santa Ana Hts Redevelopment agency.

Frustrated dealing with outgoing Supervisor Jim Silva, I reached out to then candidate Moorlach.

He was eager to understand redevelopment issues, projects and stumbling blocks I’d encountered. I will say once he took office, he got projects underway.

I liked him then and I still do, though we’ve had to sometimes agree to disagree when it comes to his politics.

As expected, these days he’s in a reflective mood.

“I’m sprinting to the end and there is still l plenty to do. It’s an 80 hour a week commitment,” he said of his last days as a county supervisor.

In addition to packing his office, he likens this time to that of running the last lap of a race, and looking forward to raising his hands as he hits the finish line.

As he exits, he’s starting to get offers from non-profits, colleges, and CPA firms, though he’s made no decision on what road he’ll go down next.

I asked if the job of supervisor was what he’d thought it would be, and how he’s changed.

“It’s just a big job”, he said,” and I’ve gotten to know myself a little more.”

As an accountant he’s an analytical personality. As a CPA he was used to getting things to done and put to bed.

“I took that here. I found myself willing to take on big projects. Some of them were controversial and some of my counterparts were interested in being non- controversial,’ he said.

Moorlach’s had a long history with the county government.

He's largely credited with predicting the 1994 bankruptcy, which is now coming on its 20th anniversary.

In every job there are wins and regrets.

What are Moorlach’s?

He lists helping to engineer the structure of the early pre-payment to the pension system while still Treasurer-Tax Collector - which he says continues to save the county about $20 million a year in savings- in his win column.

And before he was sworn in as Supervisor, he worked on a committee with Orange County Employees Association General Manager Nick Berardino, to reduce the county’s retiree medical unfunded liability, which he estimates reduced the county’s liability by a billion dollars - another win.

Though Moorlach says he doesn’t have a lot of regrets, there’s one still on his mind.

“That we did not prevail in litigation to unwind the retroactive pension benefits. We were told from the get go that judges may not help you even if you are right,” He says.

The fact that judges get pensions from the state would make this a rough road and he knew it.

“For the Supreme Court to not even take the case, that was a disappointment. That’s where we expected the scholarship to be,” he says.

Moorlach still feels had he prevailed here bankruptcies in Stockton and San Beradino would have never occurred.

“There are some powers you can’t overcome. I guess that’s a regret.” He said.

And even though they’ve fought toe to toe on this and other issues, Moorlach said he believes he and Berardino share a “mutual respect”.

This past election season, Moorlach also made a short-lived run for Congress.

I asked him why he threw in the towel so early in his campaign.

He said two things happened that changed his focus.

His father-in-law passed away, and his son-in-law took a job in Milwaukee which meant his daughter and granddaughter would be moving away.

With his eye on family issues and off the race, Moorlach said State Senator Mimi Walters gained momentum for her congressional bid.

By the time he re-focused he’d lost too much ground. The smart move was to opt out.

So as his term as a county supervisor ends, is he over politics?

“I don’t have the answer to that - I think about it once or twice every second."

He jokes.

“Do I run for Mimi’s seat? In two years do I run for (Congressman) Dana Rohrabacher’s seat? Or do I watch (incoming County Supervisor) Michelle Steel do that and come back and run for Supervisor?” he questioned jokingly.

While we were having some fun playing “what if”, I suggested Moorlach ditch the political game, come over to the dark side and write political commentary- maybe even for the Voice of OC?

He chuckled and I got the feeling he might be crazy enough to actually take me up on it.

After all, writing about politics is a heck of a lot more fun than being in it.

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Venezia's View: Facebook Provides Fodder for Silly Season

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 6:00 am | Updated: 2:32 pm, Tue Oct 28, 2014.

Letting your emotions drive the bus can lead to saying and doing things which are just downright stupid.

Not a good thing if you’re running for elected office.

Nowhere do people’s passions run higher than when it comes to politics.

Some of what candidates put out in print makes you wonder what the heck they’re thinking.

What’s really entertaining is when they decide to let their emotions run wild by posting on Facebook.

Yes, some people should just stay off social media – at least until election season is over.

For columnists like me, these Facebook rants are golden. They truly are the gift that keeps on giving.

So this week I especially enjoyed when one of the Republican party’s most influential figures took a shot at her own party and its chairman.

Iconic Republican matriarch and former state senator Marian Bergeson penned an editorial in the Daily Pilot, the other paper I contribute to, Oct. 22nd, which stunned many.

I read it and halfway through my eyebrows raised.

At 89 she pulled no punches calling out Republican Chairman Scott Baugh, political consultant Dave Ellis and the slate of Newport council candidates they support – Marshall Duffield, Scott Peotter and Kevin Muldoon.

In her editorial titled, "Out-of-town partisans are trying to influence Newport,” Bergeson wrote:

“As a lifelong Republican and a resident of Newport Beach for 55 years, I am saddened to see the intrusion of some ultra-partisan party leaders advancing an agenda in Newport Beach that has nothing to do with the Republican values held by Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater.”

She went on to complain that Baugh’s pushing of Ellis’ slate of candidates goes against her belief that local council elections should remain local -without outside influence.

“Are slate cards headed by a party leader who does not live in Newport Beach, and has little understanding of our city and its voters, the best source to influence your vote?” she writes.

For Bergeson to speak out in this manner is pretty amazing since she has always been a staunch party person.

I applaud her chutzpah – you go girl!

I’ve seen the power of simply having Bergeson’s name attached to a candidate’s campaign has had over the years.

Each season wannabe politicos and incumbents climb all over themselves to get an endorsement from this Grande Dame.

The piece is written in true “Maid Marian” fashion – polite, to the point and with a bit of a bite.

So how are people reacting to what she wrote?

The first person to comment on the column thread via Facebook was Ellis.

“Marian, do I need to remind you that Hill, Toerge, and Brown aggressively sought the GOP endorsement - and lost. The party rejected them -- it wasn't even close. I sense you would be singing a different tune if your boys had performed better. Republicans like clean beaches and good public safety just as much as Democrats - no matter where the party chairman lives, ” he wrote.

Probably not his smartest political strategy dissing Bergeson in print with some snarky remark.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Though nowhere in the piece does Bergeson directly warn that election of the Ellis’s slate of candidates would bring the same type of combative political atmosphere as in Costa Mesa, people certainly picked up on this theme.

Greg Ridge wrote, "Newport Beach wanting to be more like Costa Mesa...now there's an interesting development. Trust me; you don't want Ellis/Righeimer/Baugh politics governing your city."

Ellis, who at this point should have gotten off this comment thread in my opinion, replied, “Greg, are you still unemployed living off your wife's income?”

Yikes!

And when another Facebook member, Cindy Black commented, “The address listed on the charter measure put on the ballot for Costa Mesa was none other than (drum roll, please******************) Dave Ellis' business address. What a cowinkydink!”

He responded, “Are you the nut job that showed up last week with a camera and scared the office staff with your offensive and rude behavior? You need charm school.”

WOW!

Has this guy forgotten this stuff is public?

In addition to being a political consultant, he’s also a candidate running for Municipal Water District of Orange County.

Now you may think your city is the capital of crazy when it comes to politics, but Newport/Costa Mesa is certainly up there in the top five.

What makes Newport Beach especially important is the fact that it’s the main hub of funding for both the local and national Republican and Democratic parties.

Think about it, candidates running for President from both parties always make multiple stops in Newport during campaigns to grab cash and support from the wealthy and influential here.

President Obama visited Newport more than once during his two terms in office.

The affluent residents and leaders of industry in this city are big political players on a county, state and national level.

Will these power players in the party take what Bergeson is saying about the chairman and this party’s direction and demand change?

Let’s hope so.

This party needs a facelift and an ideological shift to accommodate Republicans who take a more moderate view of social issues, but remain fiscally conservative and believe, as I do, that behavior matters.

And I wonder if the powers that be will see Ellis’s postings to both Bergeson and the public.

Like I said – some people would be wise to stay off Facebook.

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Venezia's View: The Sweet Deal That is a Water Board Seat



Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2014 12:38 pm | Updated: 2:00 pm, Thu Oct 23, 2014.

There’s no sweeter deal in local politics than getting yourself elected to a water board.

This election cycle there are openings on the Municipal Water District of Orange County, MWDOC, and Orange County Water District, OCWD.

Why do political insiders want to be on these boards?

To start with, there’s little to no oversight and no term limits.

Members make anywhere from $20,000 to more than $46,000 a year by just going to meetings.

There’s also health insurance, retirement benefits, travel and more.

For example, on the MWDOC site, it states each board member receives $232.70 per meeting they attend, limit 10 per month.

But if you belong to both boards- and legally you can- the meeting limit doubles to 20.

Just look at each water board’s website and you see how lucrative this is as thecurrent board members compensation is listed.

Though there are a few members who opt out of the insurance benefit, most do not.

And the deal gets even sweeter because the voting public pays little to no attention to these races.

With Election Day around the corner, I’m guilty as well.

For months I’ve been focused on races in my area of Newport/Costa Mesa dealing with the 74th Assembly District, Second District Supervisor, and city councils as has our Feet to the Fire forums.

But after spending a week with environmental attorney Elizabeth Murphy visiting from Nashville, I’ve started to look at who’s involved in my local water board district races- and suggest everyone should.

With Murphy being Tennessee’s version of “Erin Brockovich," she’s made it her mission to stop polluters one lawsuit at a time and is especially focused on water.

Stressing to me the importance of local water board elections she said, “Knowing what I know about how scarce water is and the upcoming water fights, It’s probably the most important vote you make as far as your daily life.”

Murphy likens it to going to divorce court, finding yourself up in front a judge you know nothing about who now will make decisions affecting the rest of your life.

Not a good place to be.

She says everyone should be paying attention to water board races and suggests looking at candidate’s support bases says a lot.

If a candidate is “pro-business” this could be a concerning, since those in industry are generally the biggest polluters she warns.

“I’ve litigated water pollution cases for 12 years and only one time did a company admit what they did and promised to clean it up. Then weeks later they filed for bankruptcy,” she said.

Going after polluters is expensive and is a protractive fight which could take years she told me.

With that in mind I looked a little deeper into candidates in my area.

They’re messy to say the least.

For the OC Water District Division 5 seat candidates include, Newport Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, incumbent Sheldon, Irvine businesswoman Alisse Phillips and businesswoman Dorothy Malsack.

Things are heating up between Daigle and Sheldon.

Daigle is supported by the Orange County Business Council which touts itself as “ a leading business organization where the most influential companies and top executives are actively engaging in creating a pro-business environment and a vibrant prosperous economy” according to their site.

In a recent email campaign blast Daigle, who got in trouble for using Newport’s official Seal in this mailing- apparently it’s a no no according to city rules and the Political Reform Act- writes that Sheldon’s main focus is “cooking up ways to sue (unsuccessfully, it turns out) local businesses, and to site a power plant adjacent to a residential neighborhood in Anaheim.”:

The mailing points to a Facebook Page, Steve Sheldon Watch , as proof he’s a bad guy saying it was “researched and prepared independently by taxpayers of Orange County”.

I looked at the page, and there’s no indication of who these people are or where this organization is based, yet Daigle touts this as truth?

The Facebook page disparages Sheldon highlighting tax liens and other problems he's had.

It went up July 27 and states it's "a transparency project sponsored by the taxpayers of Orange County," though it's not the better-known Orange County Taxpayers Assn.

Sheldon admits he’s been through a costly divorce and had business problems as a result of the recession, but says he’s paid off 90% of his debts and liens and is working on the balance.

He fires back at Daigle saying “The dirty truth is that the lobbyists for industrial businesses that have contaminated our groundwater with cancer causing pollutants are quietly financing Daigle’s campaign effort.”

Ok no, so there’s no love lost between these two.

And just as Daigle brings up Sheldon’s past financial woes, he’s more than eager to talk about her indiscretions as well.

He says her use of the Newport’s official city seal this past week is “just another example of abusing her power” and brings up the infamous “So do you know who I am?” incident with a security guard at Corona Del Mar High School in 2006.

I remember that case because it was during the same time I was running against Daigle for city council – I later dropped out of the race, a decision I’ve never regretted by the way.

As the story goes, Daigle was running around the track during school hours, was asked to leave by a guard, and she pulled a “do you know who I am” move. Then she threatened to have the guard, of Hispanic decent, deported.

Informing her he was born in the country, the party proceeded to the principal’s office and several columns proceeded about it.

It always amazes me when people with hinky backgrounds, run for office and lob bombs at each other.

And speaking of people with sketchy history- running for the Division 5 seat on the Municipal Water District of Orange County, is none other than political consultant and former OC Fair Board member Dave Ellis.

Other candidates in this race include water-quality engineer Saturu Tamaribuchi; Jose Vergara, director of the El Toro Water District; and Ron Varasteh, Utility Engineer/Business owner.

Now Ellis is the same guy who championed the sale of the Fairgrounds, which caused all kind of chaos until Governor Jerry Brown came into office and stopped the insanity.

Now Ellis wants us to believe he can be a good steward of our water.

Are you scratching your head yet?

Or just shaking it in disbelief as I am….

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Guest Editorial: Dr. Max Schneider Inspired Medicine & Philanthropy

Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2014 6:00 am | Updated: 10:31 am, Thu Oct 9, 2014.

My heart sunk when Ron Smelt called the morning of Sept 29th with the sad news his partner of 44 years, Dr. Max Schneider (Uncle Max), died peacefully at their home in Orange on September 28th at age 92 with his family by his side.

I hate getting those kinds of calls- especially when they’re about people I love and admire.

Schneider lived an amazing life.

An internist who retired at age 90, he changed the face of addiction medicine.

Growing up in Buffalo, New York, he used to joke that he started practicing medicine at age 10 as he assisted a fireman who needed a Band-Aid after fighting a house fire next door.

From that moment on, he was a fixture at the firehouse, and in later years, after he became a doctor, he volunteered as the fire department's surgeon.

He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942-45.

Graduating in 1949 from the University Of Buffalo School Of Medicine, where he did his internship and residency until 1952, Schneider went on to Harvard Medical School for a fellowship, completing his training in 1953.

Also in 1953 he accompanied a Boy Scout troop as one of the physicians for the Boy Scout Jamboree by train from Buffalo to Santa Ana California. Present location of that Boy Scout jamboree is Fashion Island. Giving him his first taste of California.

He practiced internal medicine and gastroenterology in Buffalo for 10 years before moving to Orange County in 1964.

His career turning point came when he was asked to cover a fellow doctor's practice that provided treatment to many patients who were alcoholics, and he went on to become a pioneer in the field of addiction medicine. Today, recovery programs throughout California and the country include elements that are based on his work.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s he was involved with the Family Recovery Services at St Joseph Hospital (Orange, California).

He also had a career as an expert witness testifying in over 400 cases relating to addiction issues as well as medical malpractice.

From 1997 to 2012 he served as Chapman Medical Center's director of education in the Chemical Dependency Unit.

I interviewed Dr. Steven Duckor, medical director of the Chemical Dependency Unit at Chapman Medical Center in July 2012 when writing a story about Schneider for the OC Register.

At the time I asked Duckor about Schneider’s impact on addiction medicine.

"We have him to thank for paving the road for all of us in addiction medicine. He basically developed the field. In the early 60's people didn't really want to deal with or take care of people with alcoholism. We owe this all to Max's development,” he told me.

During Schneider’s career he produced 10 films and five booklets on addiction; authored over 60 papers; and lectured in 49 states, three Canadian provinces, and six countries.

He was a past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the California Society of Addiction Medicine.

Schneider was chair of the board of directors of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, first for Orange County, and later for the national organization.

He also served on the Drug and Alcohol Advisory Committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during the controversy whether nicotine was a safe drug or not.

Schneider was a faculty member at Harvard, the University Of Buffalo School Of Medicine, and the University Of California Irvine College Of Medicine.

In 1995, he was named "Doctor of the Year" by the Orange County Medical Association and was presented the "Golden Apple Award" for outstanding teaching by the 1995 University of California at Irvine Medical College graduating class.

But Schneider blazed more than just the trail of addiction recovery.

In a time when being gay wasn’t as acceptable as it is today, he never shied away from who he was.

When I interviewed him July 2012 after his 90th birthday/ retirement party, he told me he knew from the time he was six that he was gay.

"It was very difficult being a gay man back in the 1930's and 40's. My parents were accepting but I didn't tell them until I was in my 40's, "he said.

A longtime advocate of gay rights, a monumental moment for him was when the federal government recognized Gay marriage enabling him and Smelt to finally tie the knot.

Both men were quite philanthropic within the gay community.

I attended Schneider’s 90th birthday/retirement party, along with 500 of his closest friends.

What do you buy a 90 year old guy for his birthday?

Schneider wanted nothing more than a donation to the Gay and Lesbian Center of Orange County as a birthday gift – his friends helped raise $38,000 that night.

"It is a “Center” which makes it easier for people to live an honest life – a place where people can go to talk about their religious, family and societal conflicts and deal with it appropriately, " he said.

He acknowledged the “Center's” youth programs as well as those for the aged telling me, "I understand they now have a program for seniors- I won't be attending, I hate old people."

As I wrote about Schneider this week, I found myself smiling as I pictured him with his signature Mickey Mouse tie and remembered his dry sense of humor.

He was a cool guy.

As news spread of his passing this week people have emailed me and also asked Smelt if there were funeral plans in the works.

He says no.

“We are following his wishes in having no memorial or funeral service,” Smelt is telling friends.

When we spoke he explained Schneider viewed his 90th birthday and retirement party as his memorial where he was able to see and visit with his friends.

“Those who wish to honor Max should make a donation in his name to their favorite charity,” says Smelt.

What better way to pay tribute to this amazing man, then to follow in his philanthropic footsteps.