From his scuffles with deputies to his success in getting Santa Ana Heights redevelopment projects moving, no one can say John Moorlach hasn't been busy his first year in office. His eyes are already set on next year's horizon.
By Alicia Robinson
October 19, 2007
Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach is unquestionably influential, but whether his influence is good or bad depends on whether you’re asking a sheriff’s deputy.
Since the supervisor took office in December, he’s gone head-to-head with deputies over his proposal to audit their union health care fund, his plan to create a civilian oversight board for the sheriff’s department, and his legal challenge to a retroactive pension benefit deputies got in 2002.
Moorlach, who served as county treasurer for more than a decade, said the retroactive pension boost created a debt one-fifth the size of the county’s massive 2004 bankruptcy, and he felt compelled to address it.
“I strongly believe pension reform is necessary,” he said, adding ruefully, “It’s not just the deputy sheriffs — it’s every police union in the state that doesn’t like me.”
Aside from the scuffles with deputies, Moorlach appeared to be a dynamo for much of his first year in office.
He got supervisors and residents to agree on a plan to get Santa Ana Heights redevelopment projects moving, something Moorlach’s predecessor failed to do for years.
He may have gotten overly ambitious with a “global solution” to Costa Mesa and Newport Beach’s annexation woes, but at least in July West Santa Ana Heights became part of Newport, even if other areas remain unincorporated.
And he’s drawn up a list of% ideas for next year: enable% political candidates to file campaign reports electronically; find county departments and agencies that could be merged for efficiency; and advance the concept of the Orange County River Park.
But Moorlach has had his failures, too. In recent months he distanced himself from Orange County Treasurer Chriss Street, a private-sector bond trader who rode Moorlach’s coattails into office, after Street came under investigation by county and federal prosecutors.
Moorlach has said he still considers Street a friend, so it hurt to ask colleagues to strip the treasurer of control over the county investment pool. Perhaps it hurt more that they didn’t agree to do it.
With his instantly recognizable bear-like physique and somewhat wonkish conversation punctuated by bursts of laughter, Moorlach may well be the most popular unpopular man in Orange County politics.
It’s a tough job, and — as Moorlach said of his pension challenge — “No one else wants to do it, because they don’t want to put up with it.”
Occupation: Orange County supervisor representing Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach
Residence: Costa Mesa
JAMIE FLANAGAN / DAILY PILOT
ON A ROLL: O.C. Supervisor John Moorlach at his office in Santa Ana. His list of ideas for next year includes enabling political candidates to file campaign reports electronically; finding county departments and agencies that could be merged for efficiency; and advancing the concept of the Orange County River Park.