This Week Behind the Orange Curtain

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If you like to feast on politics and government news, this was a good week to be in Orange County. The fare included corporate subsidies and illegal campaign contributions in Anaheim, the re-emergence of an ugly political battle in the county bureaucracy and a new chairman of supervisors, who came out swinging on the homelessness issue.

The week started with politicos still chewing on last week’s big story — Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez’s train-ride phone conversation that a California Watch editor reported via Twitter regarding possible independent expenditures from the Pala Band of Mission Indians for her Assembly campaign. It wasn’t long at all before Pala officials made it clear that they wouldn’t be coming anywhere near the Martinez campaign.

On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council’s approval of a $158-million subsidy for a hotel developer not only irked good-government advocates but also ruffled the feathers of other hotel developers.

Things got even more interesting when Voice of OC revealed that Anaheim Councilman Harry Sidhu received nearly $6,800 in illegal campaign contributions from the hotel project’s developers.

Not that he was ever shy before, but John Moorlach wasted no time before flexing his muscles as the new chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, taking aim at Santa Ana for resisting his call to transform a downtown bus terminal into a homeless services center.

But the main event at the county this week was the re-emergence of the John Williams saga, one of the county’s ugliest political battles of 2011. On Wednesday, Voice of OC broke the news that Williams had gone back on his promise to resign as the county’s public administrator, prompting county supervisors to lock him out of his office. The two sides are heading to court Monday.

This week also marked our first report from the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board, which comprises community leaders from across the political and social spectrum commenting on news and public policy in Orange County.

The editorial board’s first task was to examine how well Orange County handles homelessness. Their conclusion: not very well.

A Voice of OC story later in the week examined the county’s Final Plan to End Homelessness, which advocates say is long on “fluff” and short on specifics.

Here’s a rundown of other items of interest from this week:

• Voice of OC probed the numbers game in Costa Mesa about the city’s actual pension liability.

• Anaheim officials are reconsidering their efforts to destroy email records as a result of a series of Voice of OC investigative stories on the issue.

• Labor leader Julio Perez established himself as the front-runner in the race to fill the seat of termed-out Assemblyman Jose Solorio by gaining the majority of delegate votes for endorsement by the local Democratic Party.

• The Orange County Fire Authority approved absorbing the Santa Ana Fire Department. City officials in Santa Ana are grappling with a $30-million budget shortfall that has put one of Orange County’s oldest fire departments on life support.

— THE EDITORS

 

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