Santana: Re-Read the Declaration of Independence This July 4

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The size of John Hancock’s signature on the July 4, 1776 document said it all.

Good government derives its just powers only from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The founders essentially left us a do-it-yourself system.

This Fourth of July let’s all take time to re-read our founding document as well as consider the 56 signatures on it and cherish the legacy of freedom that we have inherited as free citizens of this great nation.

Let’s not forget the fact that these men – yes, all-white, all property owners – took one huge chance on us all, hoping that we would want to live as free people.

That we would do the work required to stay free.

Let’s remember the countless veterans who have fought, bled and died over the course of more than two centuries now to defend the concept of freedom over dictatorship, for the rights of the individual in the midst of the majority.

Let’s all recommit as citizens and residents to do the work necessary to keep our democracy vibrant, constant and ever watchful, starting in our own backyard.

Let’s call on our elected officials and those working inside the government to hold themselves to not only the highest ethical and professional standards but to the key principles of transparency and accountability in our founding document.

In fact, take time to consider the many grievances listed in the original Declaration of Independence against King George III.

Then ask yourself, how many of those conditions still exist today?

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

Election districts?

This year in Anaheim, citizens will finally be competing for local office in a competitive voting districts system that is already freaking out the Disney corporate-political machine in Anaheim.

Numerous other cities across Orange County – Fullerton, Garden Grove, San Juan Capistrano just to name a few – are also moving toward establishing competitive election districts after years of delay.

Instead of fighting those efforts, like the City of Anaheim did for years, elected officials across our region should move quickly to institute real election districts that can produce more local candidates.

Citizens and residents also need to rally around local candidates and educate themselves on the issues facing their community in order to really hold these future officials accountable.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

Fatiguing them into compliance.

How many times have I seen that as a reporter.

It’s always been offensive to me to sit through as many public hearings as I have over the years and watch how many elected officials put public comment at the end of their meetings, often times making entire neighborhoods or constituencies wait for hours to give them feedback.

Or they hold meetings and public comment at hours where it’s impossible for members of the public to show up.

They certainly don’t go out of their way to solicit comments for meetings – such as on Facebook – especially ahead of time on hot issues.

That can and should change.

What also should change is the poor approach that most municipalities and public officials take towards our California Public Records Act – citing incorrect exemptions and often times just stalling to produce public records, often leaving taxpayers with a big bill when they lose in court with citizens who know how to challenge government.

Consider the Sierra Club lawsuit against the County of Orange that started way back in 2005 when the environmental group wanted to see computerized land maps, which went against the Board of Supervisors policy to keep such access private, for only business groups willing to pay.

In 2013, another board of supervisors had to pay out more than $1 million when they ultimately lost in court.

In 2012, when Carlos Bustamante, a top county executive and GOP elected official from Santa Ana, was accused of sexually assaulting his female subordinates, Voice of OC had to go to court to get relevant records because county supervisors at the time didn’t want the public to have information before they got elected.

It worked.

All three county supervisors – John Moorlach, Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen – were wrong to stall for years on turning over those records, eventually losing in court.

Costing you taxpayers more than $120,000.

But hey, all three are now, you guessed it, state senators…

Just this week, the ACLU publicly called out District Attorney Tony Rackaucakas for his total refusal to hand over public records in the ongoing jail snitch scandal.

Rackauckas’ chief political rival, Supervisor Todd Spitzer, and his colleagues aren’t much better, forcing Voice of OC to head to court to see a secret op-ed about Spitzer’s handcuffing of an evangelist at a restaurant.

In all these cases, these elected officials know the game.

Deny records, stall for time and leave the bill when you lose for the uninformed taxpayer and the next elected official.

There’s a better legacy to leave.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

Do we know who our local judges are?

Here’s a tip.

This election cycle, we in Orange County elected a judge – Scott Steiner – who was endorsed by virtually all the top elected officials (son of former County Supervisor Bill Steiner) but found unqualified by the local bar after having a sexual relationship with one of his students at the courthouse.

Another two judges – Larry Yellin and Michael Murray – who were tied to the ongoing DA snitch scandal as former prosecutors, also were elected to the bench despite national attention.

Let’s face it.

We, the public, still have virtually no idea who our judges are despite the fact that we supposedly “elect” them.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

 So the founding fathers were ticked off because the King was restricting immigration?

Yes. A different time…

But note that we are literally a nation founded on the concept of immigration, of welcoming, encouraging immigrants, if not open borders altogether.

And yet, 240 years later, we’re still arguing about it, like this week on the streets of Santa Ana.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

With every passing budget cycle, your local officials are slowly erecting a police state around you.

County supervisors are increasingly voting to militarize the county’s general fund with each year’s budget process.

Since fiscal year 2000, the sheriff and district attorney budgets have more than tripled their share of the county’s unrestricted spending, growing from 7 percent to 23 percent.

This year is more of the same.

Under the proposed budget supported by supervisors at their annual budget hearing, the sheriff and DA – which account for about one-seventh of the county’s overall spending – are on track to get over 75 percent of the extra $37 million in discretionary spending beyond an across-the-board 1-percent increase to each department.

Ask yourself when was the last time you saw a county supervisor say no to a budget request from our local district attorney or the sheriff?

How often do you see a county supervisor or city council member openly question, much less criticize either one of our top law enforcement officials?

Consider that in Orange County, our former sheriff was taken out by the feds despite being best friends with our district attorney and virtually every other top official in town. The same goes for former LA Sheriff Lee Baca, who also was forced out amidst corruption allegations.

The fact is, as they scurry for law enforcement and firefighter political endorsements, most of our local elected officials enter into a deal where they look the other way not only on things like use of force but on the budget.

Yet with the spiraling pension costs of cops and firefighters decimating local city budgets, we need local leaders who can have the guts to do some real thinking about how to solve pressing social and economic conditions rather than just doubling down on public safety year after year.

  • Toni

    Excellent article! We’ll be posting this on our local FB page for Capo Cares here in Capistrano Beach. I’m particularly chagrined to hear about the huge DA and sherrif’s budget increases, when we’re stuck in Capo Beach with half a rusty, 31 year old, deteriorating bridge over PCH at Doheny Beach. We were told the bridge was so old and potentially dangerous, with spalling concrete posing a risk to vehicles traveling along PCH that it had to come down and be replaced by a pedestrian crossing right NOW. Ironically, the other half of the incredibly ugly, rusty, non ADA compliant bridge that spans the railroad tracks is somehow just fine, and the County was very comfortable moving the planned demolition and reconstruction from 2017 to 2020. We’ve been unable to verify whether that’s a firm date with actual monies budgeted, so who knows how much longer it will be allowed to stand. We’re hoping none of that spalling concrete falls on the railroad tracks risking derailment and/or injury, but hey, it’s just not a priority.

  • Mike Tardif

    “Numerous other cities across Orange County – Fullerton, Garden Grove, San Juan Capistrano just to name a few – are also moving toward establishing competitive election districts after years of delay.”

    Why not the same for Santa Ana?

  • David Zenger

    How about the OC water District that has de facto secret meetings and refuses to video record its doings?

    Yeah, I sat in on meetings where elected County Supervisors and upper echelon staff discussed strategies for stalling, temporizing and foot dragging on releasing public documents to…the public. The reaction was instinctive and visceral. The politicians and the top bureaucrats were determined to preserve their comfy, symbiotic, and largely secret doings. The “County Family” was the slogan that best summed up the situation. As Michael Corleone said: don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family.