MOORLACH UPDATE — Homeless Shelter at Depot — November 21, 2014

I’m just back from my last California State Association of Counties (CSAC) annual conference as your Second District Supervisor. This has been a wonderful association to participate in. I served on its Board, representing Orange County. And my statewide colleagues from the urban counties voted me onto the CSAC Executive Committee, where I served for some four years. In fact, I was the first Orange County Supervisor to serve on the Executive Committee in many years. I’m also completing my term as Chair/Vice Chair of the Urban County Caucus. Representing Orange County is a critical leadership role and it was a joy to participate in it.

The leadership of CSAC was kind enough to recognize my participation by honoring me with the Circle of Service Award (see http://ocgov.com/gov/bos/2), which was most humbling. This annual award was created to recognize a select group of county officials, department directors, staff, Corporate Affiliates and other CSAC members whose service to CSAC and counties sets them apart. County Supervisors that have been recognized in the recent past include Merita Callaway, Calaveras County (2013), Kathy Long, Ventura County (2013), Susan Adams, Marin County (2012), Susan Cash, Inyo County (2012), Rich Gordon, San Mateo County (2010), and Roger Dickinson, Sacramento County (2010). The last Orange County Supervisor to receive this recognition was the late Charles (Chuck) Smith (2001). It was an emotional week, as I thanked so many colleagues from around the state that had been such a joy to partner with over the past six or so years of my service in this role. All good things come to an end.

Now it is back to the rock pile. As you know, establishing a year-round homeless shelter was on my bucket list for this year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2014 Bucket List — October 3, 2014). That effort took an odd turn this week, after lengthy and diligent efforts by First District Supervisor Janet Nguyen.

Tuesday morning’s Board meeting reminded me of why I ran for office in the first place. Twenty years ago, the Board of Supervisors, according to then-Chair Tom Riley, “didn’t know what in the hell Bob Citron was doing, but he made us all look good." Really? Tragically, the lack of scholarship and due diligence by those five Supervisors resulted in the County’s filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Regretfully, this lack of knowing what is being approved or voted on by elected bodies is not uncommon. Many fine citizens want to serve in public office, but don’t always do the necessary homework to fully appreciate what they are voting on. I’ve observed that too many individuals want to "be elected," but don’t want to "do elected." And this may be one of the reasons why voter turnout is at historical lows.

Just doing a little additional homework may have prevented another Board of Supervisors from approving the "3% @ 50" formula for public safety employees. And yet another Board from voting for "2.7% @ 55" for the general membership. This second vote in 2004 prompted my run for the Board of Supervisors in 2006. Both of these pension decisions will haunt the County more than the December 6, 1994 bankruptcy filing ever did.

Now the city of Santa Ana’s councilmembers join a large club of electeds who don’t do the necessary scholarship when casting a vote. Other than Councilwoman Michelle Martinez, the rest of the council voted for an SB 2 zone and their constituents were not properly noticed about it. And, the Santa Ana Unified School District Board failed to understand the gravity of the vote and approved it by default by not participating in the discussion.

The city of Santa Ana harmed the Board of Supervisors and the residents surrounding the SB 2 zone that included Normandy Place. All because the city staff and city council failed to provide some scholarship on what appeared to be a routine, ministerial agenda item. But, it shows once again how those who just want to be elected, versus actually doing the job of an elected, can harmfully impact the lives of so many. It’s a crying shame. And, yes, I am very upset and disappointed.

The good news? We’re looking at the empty bus depot 30 feet away from where the homeless set up their tents every evening. I hope that the County will aggressively pursue this obvious alternative–one that has been sitting under the noses of the city. I also hope that the County can move with haste to get something set up before the rainy season starts. That’s what a compassionate legislative body must do.

The Voice of OC covers the drama below.

LOOK BACKS

• 1996 – Elected as Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector (and would be re-elected in 1998 and 2002)

• 1996 – Orange County Exited Bankruptcy with Plan of Adjustment

• 1997 – GASB 31 – Local Government Investment Pools are now required to mark their portfolios to market (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Venezia & Me — November 15, 2014)

• 1998 – Settled with Merrill Lynch for ~ $400M (the largest municipal litigation settlement in U.S. history)

• 1999 – Began grading school bond measures

• 1999 – Senate Bill 400 – Establishing 3% @ 50 for CHPs, was signed by Gov. Gray Davis, and would start the next series of warnings from me

• 1999 – AB 323 (Baldwin) – Bill I requested that required Treasury Oversight Committee members to not work for financial institutions working with County Treasurers for one year, down from an overly restrictive three years

• 1999 – AB 343 (Bill Campbell) – Bill I requested that increased Commercial Paper allowable holdings from 30% to 40% (money market funds are allowed up to 100%)

• 1999 – SB 275 (Omnibus) – Provision I requested clarifying reporting requirements, borrowing definitions, and issuer limitation modifications

• 1999 – Derailed sale of the 91 Express Lanes (see LOOK BACKS in MOORLACH UPDATE — Daily Pilot — December 15, 2009, MOORLACH UPDATE — LOOK BACKS — December 14, 2009, MOORLACH UPDATE — LOOK BACKS — December 13, 2009, MOORLACH UPDATE — Harbor Patrol — December 12, 2009, LOOK BACKS, and MOORLACH UPDATE — LOOK BACKS — December 8, 2009 for a sampling)

• 2000 – Measure G – Tobacco Settlement Proceeds (see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC Register — November 7, 2010 for the election results)

• 2000 – AB 1679 (Committee on Local Government) – Provision I requested that allowed for a Medium Term Note definition upgrade

• 2000 – SB 1493 (Lewis) – Bill I requested that provided for the adoption of the accrual method for reporting investment returns

Supervisors Reject Latest Homeless Shelter Plan, Push for Bus Terminal Site

The now-closed Santa Ana Bus Depot across from the Orange County Civic Center. (Photo by: Adam Elmahrek)

By THY VO Voice of OC

Orange County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to drop plans to purchase an industrial building site for the construction of a year-round homeless shelter, instead calling on Santa Ana city officials to choose a shuttered bus terminal as the new site.

Tuesday’s boardroom audience was packed with an unprecedented number of working class families, business owners and school district officials opposing the shelter location at 1217 E. Normandy Place, who said the shelter would exacerbate existing neighborhood crime and put children at risk.

That outcry frustrated supervisors, who publicly scolded Santa Ana city council members for acquiescing to angry residents despite passing a zoning ordinance last year to allow the location in the first place.

“What a ridiculous scavenger hunt this has been,” said Board Chair Shawn Nelson.

Last August, the city council passed a zoning ordinance to comply with 2008 state legislation that requires cities and counties to make space available for a year-round shelter. The county then selected the Normandy Place site based on those city-approved zones.

Yet in October, under pressure from residents and school district officials, the city council passed a 45-day moratorium on the zoning ordinance and suggested revisiting the shuttered bus terminal across from the Hall of Administration.

Supervisors Tuesday pushed back against city officials.

Supervisor Janet Nguyen criticized Santa Ana officials for leading the county in circles.

“When I first got elected in 2007 the county wanted to build a multi-service center for all of Orange County at the Fruit Street property…and of course, the city council members, the mayor, everybody came into my office and said, Santa Ana doesn’t want to do that,” Nguyen said. “Then we talked about the Santa Ana bus terminal, and everyone marched into my office [again].”

“We did exactly what the city wanted and waited 5 or 6 years and here we are,” Nguyen said. “And now they’re talking about Santa Ana terminal.”

Nelson also asked county counsel to explore legal options against Santa Ana, given the “tremendous expense” of staff time for researching the zones and conducting appraisals of the property.

“This whole thing has been shameful, because [Supervisor] John Moorlach has been pushing for a shelter at the bus terminal for years. The only reason we didn’t do that was out of respect to our city colleagues,” Nelson said.

Although he ultimately voted with the Board in favor of using the bus terminal, Nelson said he didn’t think residents’ concerns about the Normandy Place property were valid.

“Anyone who wants to step in and say, ‘I’m for the homeless, but this is the wrong place’ — every location says that,” Nelson said. “We can’t perfect a homeless shelter. Santa Ana is the fourth densest city…every site in Santa Ana is has a school, has whatever crime rate it has.”

Dora Lopez, a Madison Park resident and one of the most outspoken activists against the Normandy Place site, said the decision was “a breath of fresh air” and a recognition by Supervisors that residents’ concerns were valid, not a knee-jerk, “not-in-my-backyard” reaction.

Lopez said the community group organized a rental bus and babysitting to transport scores of residents to Tuesday’s board meeting, many who don’t have means of transportation or didn’t know where the Hall of Administration is located.

“For this to have happened and for us to have impacted the decision — it’s such a win for any community with leaders who think they can make such a decision for us, [a decision] for life,” Lopez said.

Meanwhile, ‘Mamma’ Brizy Mae, a homeless woman who goes by her street name, underscored for supervisors the urgency of the situation going on right outside their meeting room.

“You never asked the homeless people. We’re human beings here. You have to treat us like you would your mother, your sister, your aunt,” she said. “We need a permanent shelter, not a temporary shelter. There’s people who have college degrees out there. Parents who don’t want to be a burden to their children.”

Reacting after the board meeting, city councilman Vincent Sarmiento said that supervisors were being somewhat disingenuous in their comments, pointing to Nelson’s efforts last year to push through a proposal for the county to buy a property in Fullerton for a year-round shelter before getting buy-in from residents.

“The Board listened to the constituents in Fullerton — they did the same thing,” Sarmiento said. “What I saw as a fatal flaw in this process is the Board didn’t engage these folks and do outreach.”

He also suggested that the Board explore dispersing homeless centers throughout the First District, in neighboring Garden Grove and Westminster.

At the council meeting later that night, councilman David Benavides said he was disappointed that supervisors voted to table the Normandy site.

“In reality I see this as a tremendous loss to our community,” Benavides said. “If we think this potential site is going to be tabled so we can go and look for another site, I think we’re being quite naïve.”

Massimo Marini, who helped found Civic Center Roundtable, said that residents who stood up and objected to the homeless shelter now have responsibility over the whole issue, not just stopping the shelter.

“You won. You’ve got your chance at responsibility,” Marini said.

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