Here’s a rundown of the main issues we’ll be tracking this week throughout Orange County.
Anaheim Debates Convention Center Expansion
A major expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center could be approved this week, with debate already underway about whether local taxpayers are best served by a newly proposed debt issuance.
Council members are set to vote on issuing at least $200 million in new debt to fund the project as well as major construction contracts to start the project.
The city maintains that revenue from additional hotel guests is enough to cover the expansion, which would add an extra 200,000 square feet of meeting space.
But convention center industry analysts have told Voice of OC that the city’s projections are unrealistic and that the gamble puts the taxpayers at risk.
(Click here to read our rundown of the issue.)
Additionally, it’s unclear how much the city will pay in interest, with the city-provided rundown of those projected costs showing up blank. That’s on page two of this document.
The city staff report on the bonds also doesn’t specify interest costs.
Interest on a typical 30-year bond can add about 80 percent to the total price tag, well over $100 million extra in this case.
Council members are also set to vote on awarding a series of contracts for the project.
Topping the list is a $155-million contract with Turner Construction Co. to design and build the expansion.
Another firm, STV Construction, would get $8.6 million for managing construction.
And the consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall would get a $500,000 sole-source contract to be the city’s “convention center and [design-build] specialist.”
The city is also set to pay $50,000 each to two design-build contractors who lost the bidding process to Turner.
Council members plan to discuss the expansion at a 3 p.m. public workshop, followed by a vote at the 5 p.m. City Council meeting.
Click here for the meeting agenda. The convention center is the ninth item.
Will OCTA Fire Its Lobbying Firm?
Orange County transportation officials are expected to decide this morning whether to cancel their lobbying contract with a firm that recently agreed to a record-breaking fine for giving illegal gifts to lawmakers.
“I will not support writing a check to Sloat Higgins for lobbyist services,” Orange County Transportation Authority Director Todd Spitzer, who is also a county supervisor, said last week. “Hopefully they’ll be terminated on Monday.”
Kevin Sloat and his firm — Sloat, Higgins, Jensen & Associates — were recently fined $133,500 by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for illegally providing state legislators with liquor, wine, cigars, sports tickets and flowers.
Spitzer said he wants lobbyist Moira Topp to continue working for OCTA, provided she leaves her job at Sloat Higgins.
Director Jeff Lalloway, who is also an Irvine city councilman, agreed with Spitzer about canceling the contract, though other board members felt differently.
OCTA Chairman Shawn Nelson, who is also the county supervisors’ chairman, said the contract must be continued in order to keep Topp.
“Unless [Topp] quits, the only way to keep her is to have some relationship with this firm,” Nelson said.
Spitzer disagreed, saying emergency provisions exist to allow OCTA to contract directly with Topp.
A majority of OCTA’s executive committee agreed with Nelson, recommending last week that the lobbying contract be continued as long as Kevin Sloat doesn’t provide any services without their approval.
Sloat’s contract would still run through the end of November under that recommendation.
As officials gear up for Monday’s vote, a review of campaign records shows that Sloat Higgins clients have given at least $9,600 in contributions to support OCTA board member and county Supervisor Pat Bates in her bid for a state Senate seat.
Two of those contributions, totaling $2,000, were given on the same day last year.
They were provided by a Missouri-based pharmacy benefit manager, Express Scripts Holding Co., and the Northern California-based North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians.
They were two of the three contributions Bates received on June 4, 2013.
Bates and Sloat didn’t return messages seeking comment.
In an email over the weekend, an Express Scripts spokesman wrote that neither Kevin Sloat nor anyone with Sloat Higgins advised his company to contribute to Bates’ campaign.
“We have a long-standing relationship with Patricia Bates. She is a fair, balanced, considerate lawmaker who is good for California,” wrote Brian Henry of Express Scripts.
Bonnie Hale, treasurer of the tribal council of North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, declined to comment Thursday until the full council could speak together about it.
Bates’ state Senate campaign also received contributions from other Sloat Higgins clients:
- Anheuser-Busch, $1,000.
- Anthem Blue Cross, $2,000.
- Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, $1,000.
- Pacific Gas and Electric, $3,600.
Sloat’s clients were apparently less generous to OCTA board member Janet Nguyen, a county supervisor who is also running for state Senate, according to the review.
Nguyen received a relatively small $250 contribution from the student loan firm Sallie Mae.
Nguyen declined to discuss the contribution.
The meeting starts Monday at 9 a.m. Click here for some background on the issue.
Supervisors to Appoint Interim Public Guardian
County supervisors plan this week to discuss dismissing the current public guardian and appointing an interim replacement.
The discussion comes as the public guardian is moved into the county Health Care Agency and public administrator into the District Attorney’s office.
The public guardian oversees the estates of sick and elderly people who have no one else to look after them.
The current public guardian, Lucille Lyon, started in that position in July 2011.
The supervisors’ discussion is scheduled for Tuesday’s closed session.
Santa Ana Parents Take Charge on School Spending
As that Santa Ana Unified School District prepares for a boost in state funds, parents and community members will have a chance to weigh in on how they want to see it spent.
A series of “parent and community input sessions” are being held by the district to gather comments on its goals for extra spending under the “local control funding formula” or LCFF.
This week’s meetings are being held Wednesday through Friday at middle schools Villa Fundamental, McFadden and Spurgeon.
Another 15 sessions are scheduled through mid-April.
(Click here to read the full schedule.)
The new law boosts state funding for districts with high rates of students who are in low-income families, arelearning English or are foster youth.
LCFF, which starts in the fiscal year starting July 1, is considered the biggest change to California’s education funding in decades.
Central to the plan is each district’s “local control and accountability plan,” which will outline how they’ll meet certain goals.
Parent and community involvement is considered key to the plan’s success.
The advocacy group Children Now has a rundown of LCFF and how parents can advocate for their children through the plan.
Under LCFF, Santa Ana Unified is expected to get about $37 million in extra funding this coming fiscal year — a 10 percent boost in state funds compared to last fiscal year.
Two years later, that amount is projected to grow to an extra $84 million.
Under state law, the accountability plans set goals for the next three years and must be updated annually.
You can read the full schedule for input sessions by clicking here.
Political Aide to Join Housing Commission
The top political aide to county supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson is set to be appointed this week to a county panel that advises on affordable housing, homeless prevention programs and leftover redevelopment projects.
Denis Bilodeau, who is Nelson’s chief of staff and a city councilman in Orange, would serve on the 11-member Housing and Community Development Commission if appointed by Nelson’s colleagues on Tuesday.
Bilodeau would serve on the commission until the end of June 2015.
Details about the commission’s meetings are hard to come by. Its agendas couldn’t be found in a search of the county’s website.
The decision is before county supervisors on Tuesday. Click here for the staff report.
New Schools Chief in Anaheim
The 31,000 students within Anaheim Union High School District are about to get a new superintendent, and mystery surrounds who it is.
Board members plan to appoint the new superintendent on Tuesday, but the person’s name and salary aren’t disclosed in the meeting’s agenda.
It comes after the previous superintendent, Elizabeth Novack, was fired for undisclosed reasons.
Will Irvine Support Veterans Cemetery?
A bill to create a state veterans cemetery in Orange County could get a boost this week, with the possible endorsement by Irvine council members.
Assembly Bill 1453, which was introduced by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, would establish a state veterans cemetery in Orange County.
Plans for the Orange County Great Park, which was formerly the El Toro Marine base, already call for a veterans memorial.
Councilman Larry Agran wants his council colleagues to expand that to a veterans memorial and cemetery.
If the bill is approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown, the project would still need funding and a specific proposal, Agran wrote in a memo to city management.
The issue is up for debate at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, which starts at 5 p.m.
Major Meetings This Week:
- Orange County Transportation Authority Board
- Seal Beach City Council
- Cypress City Council
- Anaheim City School District Board
- Tustin Unified School District Board
- Orange County Board of Supervisors
- Anaheim City Council
- Anaheim Union High School District Board
- Santa Ana Unified School District Board
- Irvine City Council
- Garden Grove City Council
- Orange City Council
- Newport Beach City Council
- Buena Park City Council
- San Juan Capistrano City Council (Special Meeting)
- Laguna Hills City Council
- Stanton City Council
- Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Board
- Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board
- Fullerton Joint Union High School District Board
- Orange County Board of Education
- Westminster City Council
- Capistrano Unified School District Board
- Placentia City Council
- Rancho Santa Margarita City Council
- Westminster School District Board
- Transportation Corridor Agencies Boards
- Orange Unified School District Board
- CalOptima Member Advisory Committee
- CalOptima Provider Advisory Commitee
- Metrolink Board
- Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board
- Huntington Beach Union High School District Board
See something interesting in the agendas? Let us know!
Adam Elmahrek contributed to this post.