The editorial submissions continue to come. This time one, provided in the OC Register below, comes from my successor as Orange County Supervisor for the Second District, Michelle Steel. It reminds me of a famous phrase one of our predecessors, Harriett Wieder, used to say frequently, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
I can still remember what a major initiative it was, when the Orange County Transportation Authority closed its Civic Center bus depot, to allow the homeless to use the restroom facilities. This was, sadly, a major undertaking.
I also remember serving as the inaugural Chair of the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness and what a major endeavor it was to build a coalition between the nonprofit providers, the County and the business community.
Working on improving the lot of the homeless is not an easy task. And, as Judge David O. Carter may be realizing, it is one that cannot be done overnight.
Nor is it a simple task, as the different concerns of the nonchronic and chronic homeless populations requires complex and varied remedies. No one has the magic formula.
But, you will be happy to know there is a core group that is diligently working to forge a solution. I have been working with the Association of California Cities – Orange County, the Orange County Hospital Association, numerous business leaders, the United Way-Orange County, and members of the California Legislative delegation. We are working together with a plan and have a vision to address the homelessness crisis in our county.
The Board of Supervisors, maybe not so much, if my honorable successor is to be believed.
In yesterday’s UPDATE, I mentioned that on occasion I will serve as a coauthor of bills written by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. AB 448 is one of this year’s bills where I am working on a solution that is backed by this coalition of organizations to get something accomplished (see http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB448). It is leading. Others should either follow or get out of the way.
Some clarifications, if I may. AB 448 is giving all of Orange County’s 34 cities a seat at the table to coordinate how existing funds for the homeless are spent.
The proposed housing trust will allow these cities to approach Sacramento as one coordinated voice to better obtain Orange County’s fair share of tax revenues. Remember, Orange County is the second highest producer of personal income taxes in California, behind Los Angeles County, which has more than triple our population.
Orange County has shown leadership in unifying in other critical areas, like the Orange County Transportation Authority, where all five Supervisorial Districts are represented equally. There are the Transportation Corridor Agencies, where impacted cities are represented. The Orange County Fire Authority comes to mind. And the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District, on whose board I served for some six years, has a board of 35 members, representing the 34 cities and the Board of Supervisors.
When we cooperate and focus on a project, Orange County leaders can accomplish great things. We have a proven track record.
The Orange County Grand Jury just released a report on Orange County’s homelessness situation last month, and it encourages a housing trust model (see http://www.ocgrandjury.org/pdfs/2017_2018_GJreport/2018-05-31_Homeles_Report.pdf). It’s title? “Where There is a Will, There is a Way — Housing Orange County’s Chronically Homeless.”
In the report’s conclusion it states the following:
While these are vital issues that need to be addressed, nothing can be accomplished without leadership and collaboration between the County and cities. During the investigation, the Grand Jury heard both sides level claims of “lack of political will.” However, while political will – or the lack thereof – is frequently and glibly used as an accusation, its explicit meaning is vague, making efforts at addressing the real, underlying problems difficult.
Even the 2017-2018 Grand Jury gets it.
The Orange County Housing Finance Trust, through AB 448, takes a conservative approach to the issue of homelessness. There are no new taxes. It has private sector involvement. It provides efficiencies in obtaining funding from Sacramento. And, it should free up our parks and public places for you and your families by assisting the homeless in obtaining the proper treatment to their conditions. I’m hoping this will be a model for other counties to follow.
Some of us are putting our shoulders to the plow. If Supervisor Wieder were here, she would probably say, “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way. But, for crying out loud, do something.” Together, we can.
Orange County Housing Finance Trust unnecessary at best
While many local leaders have stepped forward with the good intention of solving the homeless issue, some of the proposed solutions come with heavy consequences that would only make the problem worse. Your local state representatives have proposed legislation that will take away local control, and grow the size of government, to build large scale homeless and subsidized government housing in your backyard with your hard-earned dollars.
Assembly Bill 448, introduced by Assemblymembers Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, and Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, and co-authored by State Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, and Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, authorizes the creation of the Orange County Housing Finance Trust, a new government agency that would fund housing for the homeless and low income in Orange County.
The governing members of this Orange County Housing Finance Trust would not only be made up of local city and county officials, but community “stakeholders” such as the developers working with local representatives on this bill who would benefit financially from such housing projects. The funding for such a large financial project would be taken from tax revenues.
Worst of all, AB 448 doesn’t actually do anything. Local governments already have the authority to make a Joint Powers Authority that would act as a housing trust, and to accept both private and public funds, without this additional new legislation. AB 448 is a public relations ploy that does nothing of substance except remove local control in favor of allowing those in Sacramento to call the shots.
Besides removing local control, this proposal increases the cost of market rate housing by designating land that could build more homes for government subsidized “affordable housing.” AB448 won’t make housing more affordable, it will create new government debt and a greater financial burden for the residents forced to pay for it.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 29 percent of Orange County Households are borderline poor — just over the poverty threshold. And 87 percent of residents are facing financial risk by purchasing our high-priced homes according to a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders. This bill will financially punish those individuals for trying to create a nice life for themselves by prioritizing housing in their budget.
Hardworking Orange County residents will now be forced to foot the bill for a new government agency in addition to already spending nearly $1 billion dollars on current government agencies designed to service low income and homeless individuals — including over $164 million on permanent and supportive housing alone.
We should be looking at both lasting and effective reforms that would benefit all of our residents instead of forcing one population to pay for another. We need to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act and our current tax system to make it easier for individuals to find truly affordable housing.
Through the CEQA process, projects ranging from housing, parks, and even traffic reduction, are faced with paying thousands of dollars on complex studies, hearings, and then burdened with litigation costs that kill most projects before they’ve even begun. Even Gov. Brown has recognized this problem, but has only proposed streamlining for politically favored projects.
Assembly Bill 448 will not work to resolve the greater problem of the ridiculous costs of building a house in this state. In fact, it won’t do anything but approve an authority local governments already possess, and give control of the process to Sacramento. I would encourage all of our local leaders to work to effect real change in creating affordable housing for Californians instead of choosing a “solution” that would only grow government and saddle us with another financial burden we can’t afford.
Michelle Steel is a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.