Hot Civic Debates This Week

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The week’s hottest debates throughout Orange County’s local governments revolve around the county’s health care plan for the poor and elderly, the county Democratic Central Committee, the advent of budget season at Fullerton City Hall, transit planning and the county’s restaurant rating system.

1. New Problems Found in County Health Plan

State auditors discovered significant problems with the way CalOptima, the county’s $1.5-billion health plan for low-income and disabled residents, administers its overall Medi-Cal programs.

The February audit by the state Department of Health Care Services followed a highly critical federal audit of the health plan’s 16,000-member OneCare program for older adults. But the state review covered key issues for all of CalOptima’s roughly 510,000 members, more than half of them children.

Among the state findings contained in an April 23 letter:

  • Multiple problems with the way the outside vendor hired by CalOptima in 2012 approved or denied prescriptions, sometimes causing delays as long as two weeks in getting prescriptions filled.
  • Failure to put in place systems to detect potential fraud, waste and abuse.
  • Grievances that weren’t handled in a timely way and appeals that weren’t thoroughly reviewed to correct all issues.
  • Providers weren’t monitored to track how they handled referrals.

CalOptima has until May 23 to submit a plan for correcting the problems.

The audit report comes as Supervisor Janet Nguyen’s influence at the agency is set to be diluted by her colleagues.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson is scheduled to appoint a second supervisor to the CalOptima board of directors Tuesday, adding Supervisor Todd Spitzer to help keep an eye on how Nguyen and her appointees to the board provide oversight to the county’s largest agency. The Board of Supervisors meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, CalOptima’s board is expected to discuss the state audit at the Thursday board of directors meeting, which begins at 2 p.m.

2. Democrats Debate Whether to Oust Vice Chair over Stadium Activism

The county’s Democratic Central Committee on Monday night will be debating whether to remove activist Greg Diamond as a party vice chairman after receiving pressure from trade unionists incensed by Diamond’s lead role in suing the city of Anaheim over recent approvals for new Angel Stadium lease guidelines and expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center.

Diamond, who is also running against longtime incumbent District Attorney Tony Rackauckas this year, heads up the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility or CATER and has filed suit against the city, arguing that the recent approvals violated the state’s open-meetings laws.

The central committee meets Monday at 7 p.m. in the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 582 at 1916 W. Chapman Ave. in Orange.

3. County to Study Color-Coded Restaurant Safety Signs

Following a county grand jury’s urging that Orange County require color-coded food safety signs at local restaurants, officials now plan to study their options.

In their proposed response to the grand jury, county supervisors are scheduled to direct the Health Care Agency to report within 90 days on options for food safety signs.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer recently endorsed the colored-sign approach, and Supervisor John Moorlach has also signaled his support.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen, meanwhile, has opposed similar approaches in the past.

The response is set for discussion and approval at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. Click here to read the grand jury report and here to read the proposed response.

4. Fullerton Reviews Upcoming Budget

The Fullerton City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to begin reviewing its proposed $72-million budget for the next fiscal year.

According to the city staff report, the budget should allow the city to end the next fiscal year with $11.5 million in its general fund. That’s $4 million more than the 10 percent the city is required to keep in reserve.

Highlights of the proposed budget include adding one officer to the city’s 210-member Police Department and buying two new police vehicles. The cost of adding the officer is expected to be offset by savings from other officers who are retiring this year, according to the staff report.

The city has been upgrading its Police Department in the wake of the July 2011 beating death of mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas by Fullerton police officers. A jury this year acquitted the officers of criminal charges in connection with Thomas’ death.

Other proposed expenditures include an additional $5.8 million for street improvements, $1.5 million to extend the Union Pacific recreational trail from Highland Avenue to Independence Park and $1.4 million for fire station repairs.

Tuesday’s special meeting starts at 4 p.m. Click here to check out the proposed budget.

A budget discussion is also expected this week in Laguna Woods.

5. Officials Get Ready for Development Around Transit

As other regions like Los Angeles County move in the direction of building more housing and businesses next to transit stops, Orange County transportation officials are starting to pave the way for similar types of development.

On Monday, Orange County Transportation Authority board members are set to update their decades-old policy on joint development with private industry.

The new policy would create a process for developers to build on OCTA land, though unlike other jurisdictions, it appears that gathering public comment isn’t a high priority.

OCTA’s proposed policy talks about engaging government officials and developers in the process but doesn’t mention public comment at all.

Many other government agencies around the country make a concerted effort to gather ideas from residents and business owners when planning developments around transit.

In Phoenix, for example, development around a new light-rail system was guided by a community-based planning effort known as ReInvent PHX.

That effort encouraged local residents and business owners to be actively involved in shaping how the streetcar stops and surrounding areas were planned and developed.

The purpose was to bring together stakeholders to plan and create more appealing places around transit for people to shop, eat, live and hang out.

Advocates say such walkable communities boost economic development, cut down on traffic congestion and improve public health.

OCTA’s meeting starts Monday at 9 a.m. For details on the development policy, click Item 15 on this agenda.

Major Meetings This Week:

Monday

Orange County Transportation Authority Board 

Seal Beach City Council 

Cypress City Council 

Tuesday

Orange County Board of Supervisors 

Fullerton City Council (special meeting on budget) 

Costa Mesa City Council (special meeting on proposed library and general plan) 

San Juan Capistrano City Council 

Lake Forest City Council (special meeting on solid waste collection) 

Laguna Niguel City Council (special meeting on appointing city clerk) 

Wednesday

Laguna Woods City Council 

Thursday

CalOptima board 

Friday

South Coast Air Quality Management District board 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the location of tonight’s Democratic Party meeting. The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 582 at 1916 W. Chapman Ave. in Orange.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda. Please contact Tracy Wood directly at twood@voiceofoc.org and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/tracyVOC

 

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