When I served as an Orange County Supervisor, we did not hold meetings the Tuesday after long holiday weekends. But, yesterday was different.
To set the table, the publisher of the Voice of OC shared his concerns in the first piece below. He laid out his two beefs, homelessness at the Civic Center and the AOCDS contract.
I tried for so many years to help the homeless. I pleaded with former city manager David Ream. I debated former city manager Paul Walters at the Committee to End Homelessness. I watched the Santa Ana City Council fumble the ball year after year. They couldn’t shoot straight when it came to selecting the city’s SB 2 zone, where a 200-bed year-round homeless shelter should be built. The string of misplays by the City Council is lengthy and still arouses groans from me when I recollect them. I could recount them all, but for one example, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter at Depot — November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014November 21, 2014 John Moorlach.
The goal to make the abandoned and empty former bus depot a refuge out of the sun and rain for the homeless has finally been approved. The County’s press release that I received to share the good news is at the conclusion below. The OC Register covers it at http://www.ocregister.com/articles/santa-728087-county-homeless.html .
As to the AOCDS contract, with minimal public input, the news is provided in the second Voice of OC piece below. It was a supplemental item in the winter of 2001, placed on the agenda on a Friday afternoon, and heard quickly on the following Tuesday morning, that gave the County its "3% @ 50" pension plan enhancement, back to the date of hire. It took a fully-funded retirement system and caused it to be two-thirds funded; a status it has held for the past 15 years. I’m just sayin’.
Santana: Labor Day Reminds Us Government Is Fueled by People Not Politicians
By Norberto Santana, Jr.
God bless John and Ken.
The two local radio hosts from KFI this week intensely grilled both Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do and Santa Ana Councilwoman Michele Martinez – who are competing this November to represent the county’s First District on the board of supervisors – about the homeless encampment that has overtaken Santa Ana’s downtown Civic Center.
Now, it looks like a stalled plan to create a homelessness rapid response service center at a nearby abandoned bus terminal could happen within the next month.
Over the past decade, the supervisors and the Santa Ana City Council have both largely ignored the growing throngs of hopeless and homeless individuals washing ashore at the Civic Center.
The one supervisor who did try to do something years back was now State Senator John Moorlach, who I spoke with this week about the new developments.
Moorlach, a supervisor from 2006 to 2014, told me he recalled the frustrations of being rebuffed by Santa Ana’s city manager when he advocated for the county purchase of the bus terminal as a makeshift shelter for the homeless. Moorlach later did get the homeless bathroom access to the facility.
He said Santa Ana officials did not want to legitimize the presence of the homeless at the Civic Center by offering services like storage, tables for eating, or just charging stations for laptops or cellphones.
"All I asked for was that they give these people some dignity," Moorlach said.
Yet he never got any of his colleagues on the supervisors’ dais to really back him either.
Now nearing 500 people, the homeless village has transformed the area first designated in 1966 for local taxpayers to access their local government, their courts, the Santa Ana Library, and a host of other agencies.
Orange County Register reporters this past weekend presented a stark and well-reported account of what the civic center has become.
Civic leaders across the spectrum in Orange County have grown disgusted with the situation in recent years.
I myself launched a public wake-up campaign aimed at county supervisors – one they have largely ignored – more than a year ago in my weekly column, repeatedly calling on them to open the bus terminal as a rapid-response center for these individuals.
Ever since then, I have kept up a steady stream of columns also warning about the Civic Center situation.
To their credit, supervisors bought the terminal last December.
Yet county officials have never articulated a vision for the property, much less any kind of regional homelessness policy.
The Santa Ana City Council wasn’t much better.
They have largely ignored the Civic Center homeless explosion and historically fought plans to use the bus terminal for homeless services. And last year, facing neighbor protests, they even pulled the plug on support for a county homeless shelter in a nearby Santa Ana neighborhood.
John and Ken were basically able to uncover this lack of purpose at the city by grilling Martinez on the spot about the Civic Center situation. The city of Santa Ana is the lead agency on law enforcement under the 1966 joint-powers agreement where the city and county share jurisdiction and costs over the area.
Martinez didn’t do well. She didn’t have much to point to. At points, like a boxer who’s been hit in the head too many times, she just went silent, unable to return or block incoming punches.
It was ugly.
Click here for Martinez’s interview.
Do, on the other hand, came on the air smooth but essentially sold an elaborate fib — that the county has no jurisdiction over its’ own buildings.
I found that laughable as the county controls the entire area through the same joint-powers authority that gives the city primary policing power.
John and Ken correctly kept pressing Do on the county’s inaction, which is when he shot back with his plan to open the bus terminal within 30 days.
Yet that makes me – again – wonder? If you can do it within 30 days, why isn’t it already open?
Click here for Do’s interview.
Since these interviews ran last week, both city and county officials are now moving to significantly increase their homeless services.
Santa Ana officials on Tuesday are expected to consider a resolution (co-authored by Martinez) declaring a public emergency at the Civic Center and calling on the county do offer more services and convene a regional discussion.
Meanwhile, county officials are reportedly considering plans to get the bus terminal up and running – at the direction of Do – within a month.
According to Do’s interview with John and Ken, he seems to want to frame the issue as a zoning battle with Santa Ana.
I find that odd, as I’ve always been told the county already has the institutional zoning it needs – as a civic center – to open a service center.
It will indeed be fascinating to see how this plays out during the next few months against the backdrop of the November election.
Listening to the John and Ken interview reminds us all of the power of media and people to shake things up.
Their tough questioning may have just gotten 500 poor, desperate people some much needed services.
That’s what Labor Day is all about.
Public Safety Spending
County supervisors are poised for another momentous act this coming week, scheduled to consider a large pay hike for deputy sheriffs – one I hear will cost more than $62 million over three years – during a rare special meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
Now, hiking deputy sheriff pay may or may not be advisable.
The big question is what kind of overall strategy does that deputy sheriff plug into?
There’s no evidence county supervisors have done any homework on that question.
Consider that the Tuesday after Labor Day is a rare date for the Board of Supervisors to meet.
And this is the so-called conservative board that adopted the COIN ordinance to shed light on union negotiations.
Yet now, on the eve of Labor Day weekend, this board drops the deputy contract without any kind of analysis, not even a press release on what they are doing.
So what are they doing?
When I told Moorlach about how the deputy pay raise package was being rolled out by his successors, he nearly choked.
“It’s a testimony to the power of public employee unions,” Moorlach said.
Keep in mind this coming vote has nothing to do with ensuring we have the best policing model for Orange County or that it’s fiscally sustainable.
It just ensures that every single member of this current boards gets an endorsement when they move on to their next office.
You just get the tab.
County Supervisors Approve New Contract for Deputy Sheriffs
By Tracy Wood
The county Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously and without discussion approved a three-year salary and benefits contract with its sheriff’s deputies and district attorney investigators that will cost taxpayers an additional $62.2 million over the life of the contract.
The agreement raises salaries by a total of 8.5 percent in five steps between now and January, 2019 and includes a one-time lump sum payment for each employee covered under the contract that equals .5 percent of their current pay.
The raises will cost the county’s general fund $37 million over the life of the contract, according to a county staff report, with the remaining roughly $25 million covered through payments from cities that contract with the county for Sheriff’s Department services, and state and federal funds.
(Click here to read the full contract.)
“This is the first increase in take-home pay our members have had since 2008,” said Kimberly Edds, spokeswoman the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, the union representing sheriff’s deputies and DA investigators,
The Sheriff’s Department has roughly 1,900 deputies covered by the contract and the DA’s office has about 100 investigators.
Under the new contract, the annual base pay for entry-level deputies will go from about $62,000 to $67,500 in 2019. Deputies at the top of the 14-step pay scale will go from $93,870 to $102,107 in 2019; and sergeants’ pay will go from $123,000 to $134,000, according to the contract terms.
In 2014, the deputies approved a two-year deal that included a pay hike and improved health coverage to partly cover the requirement that deputies pay their full employee pension payment in year two of the agreement.
A sharply divided board of supervisors approved that contract on a 3-2 vote. It became controversial when then-Supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach, who voted against the labor pact, accused the deputies of pension spiking.
You can contact Tracy Wood at twood and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.