Inside OC with Rick Reiff -- Homeless Politics with John Moorlach

State Senator John Moorlach says Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer is playing politics with the homeless issue in order to boost his campaign for district attorney.

“I think some people are really good at seeing the pitch forks and saying, ‘I’ve got to get in front of that parade,’” Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said on the “Inside OC with Rick Reiff” public affairs program. “And I think Supervisor Spitzer did that quite well with the El Toro airport, probably learned a lot from that strategy.

“And he finds himself in a race against an incumbent. Incumbents win 90 percent of the time. And I think he’s maybe manipulating a lot of people for his own personal benefit and I don’t find that amusing.”

Moorlach, who previously served on the board of supervisors with Spitzer, echoed the criticism of other supervisors over Spitzer’s recent appearances at city council meetings in Costa Mesa, Laguna Niguel and Irvine. Spitzer sided with residents opposed to a since-rescinded county plan to put homeless shelters in those communities and labeled homeless people as sex offenders and drug addicts.

Moorlach accused Spitzer of cajoling the other supervisors into backing the homeless-shelter proposal and then opposing it himself: “He feigned that … he was going to be a real leader and he just turned out to be a manipulator, in my opinion.”

John Thomas, chief strategist for Spitzer’s DA campaign, issued this response to Moorlach’s remarks: “Todd Spitzer couldn’t be more proud of the work he’s done to lead the effort to solve the homeless epidemic.”

Moorlach has long worked on homelessness and mental health issues. He said he’s helping federal Judge David O. Carter in his efforts to address the county’s homeless problem.

“He approached me and said, ‘I cannot call you, but you can call me.’ So I did,” Moorlach said. “And I have been trying to assist him in strategies in Sacramento.”

Moorlach gave qualified support to Carter’s efforts: “He’s being referred to affectionately as Rambo. He’s a Vietnam vet, he’s just an incredible individual and doing a good job as a federal judge … What he’s trying to do is grab the tiger by the tail and really say, ‘We’ve got to start doing things now.’

“He’s been real good about trying that. I just hope that he has an end game that works out well for everybody, but it’s certainly rattling the cages of every single council member in Orange County and he’s taking the mayors and city managers to task to say, ‘Hey, what are you doing, where are you going to put them, what’s your respective share?”

Moorlach said he is working on a legislative proposal to free up state money for construction of housing for the mentally ill and working with state lawmakers and the city of Costa Mesa on the possible use of the Fairview Developmental Center to provide emergency services for the mentally ill homeless.

Moorlach said he has also reached out to Gov. Jerry Brown, asking him, “Jerry, excuse me, Governor, what can we do in your last few months, from a legacy perspective, to make Orange County be a model for the rest of the state?”

He said the governor’s office has been “very focused” on the homeless issue “so I’m looking for some solutions there, too.”

Moorlach said he was unlikely to endorse either of the major Republicans running for governor in the June 6 primary – fellow OC lawmaker Travis Allen or San Diego businessman John Cox – because there’s no reason to upset one of them when he thinks Democrats will win both spots in the “top two” primary.

He lamented that, “One of those two should have stepped down and then we would have had a Republican in the top two and in November we would have had a fun time as a party.”

Moorlach said he also considered running for governor: “I had plenty of people asking me to, so yeah, I did think about it.”

He said he decided not to run because, “I don’t think I could have convinced John Cox and Travis Allen to step down, so then it’s a mess. If the path isn’t there, what’s the point?”

The interview is airing this week on PBS SoCal and Cox (show times here) and can also be viewed on YouTube. It is the second of a two-part discussion. In the first part, which aired last month, Moorlach discussed his analysis of balance sheets for all 482 California cities and other government entities – he found most are in or headed for the red. That interview is also on YouTube.

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