Santana: Who’s Driving the Bus at the County of Orange?

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Just a few hours after one of my last columns was published earlier this month – again warning county supervisors about the dangers of inaction on the homeless explosion at the county Civic Center in Santa Ana – shots rang out.

“A 32-year old man was in critical condition Monday after he was shot by police in a struggle just outside the Central Justice Center in downtown Santa Ana,” read the Aug. 1 story from the Orange County Register.

Santa Ana Police Department spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said two officers from the department’s Civic Center patrol unit attempted to detain a homeless man who tried to grab an officer’s gun, prompting the officer’s partner to shoot, the Register later reported.

Earlier that morning, I wrote:

“It feels like they just keep embracing chaos no matter what kinds of alternatives are being offered.

Hoping for an explosion?”

Our colleagues at the OC Weekly recently published a gripping video of the incident sent to them by a reader.

Watch the reactions of the officers as you can tell they react as if they are in an area that is not secure.

They are nervous.

And they are armed.

How do you think the tens of thousands of workers, jurors and taxpayers feel each day when they have to walk through the sea of hopelessness that our county civic center grounds have become?

Just watch this woman’s reaction.

Yet the Orange County Board of Supervisors does nothing.

Month after month.

Nothing.

There is only time for their political events that drive campaign contributions.

No time for boring public work, like addressing homelessness.

Since I started this public column more than a year ago, I have reported on the situation up close, again and again, and attempted to ring an alarm bell to a situation that is getting dangerously out of hand.

We need to take care of our brothers and sisters who have fallen on tough times.

It’s unacceptable to just walk by them every day and shrug our shoulders.

Every day they have to sleep on the street, each one of their situations, conditions all get worse.

Then we all do the most shameful thing possible: we leave police to deal with the chaos.

And pounce when they are not perfect.

Meanwhile, we all continue to wait for the lords of the manor, our board of supervisors, to take action.

To enact the comprehensive approach that each one of them knows is the only long-term solution going forward.

Listen to Supervisor Todd Spitzer eloquently elaborate how this needs to happen now…back in 2012 during his first inaugural.

 

Spitzer called it “shameful” to allow this situation to continue.

Yet that’s exactly what he and his colleagues have done.

Supervisors have done virtually nothing on homelessness, other than take lots of credit for very incremental steps.

Meanwhile, it looks as if our elections calendar is finally pumping some political adrenalin into the system.

And maybe some homelessness services might actually get going because of it.

The day after the shooting incident at the Civic Center grounds, Santa Ana officials announced they were launching an innovative program with a Long Beach-based non-profit to get homeless people from the Civic Center into housing.

Note that Councilwoman Michelle Martinez is challenging Supervisor Andrew Do for the First District supervisor’s seat this November.

While it was announced as a partnership with the county (because they are chipping in about $100,000), there was lots of head scratching among executives I heard, with some not knowing much beyond the initial talks.

So for months, we all wait with an empty $3.5 million bus terminal – ostensibly bought with the public premise of temporarily housing and helping homeless people in the area.

We wait for an executive to run the program.

We wait for federal approvals (which only come after news media pushes) for people to be covered during winter months.

We wait for escrow to close on the bus terminal, which already passed this summer.

And yet nothing has been announced.

Until we find out that the plan is to move the homeless away, directly into housing – somewhere else.

So what’s the abandoned bus terminal for? What’s the homeless coordinator for?

Supervisor Do was supposed to be addressing the homeless situation at the downtown Civic Center.

But several years after he’s been in office, it’s clear the situation is getting worse.

And so far, all I see is a feeble attempt (after the Santa Ana announcement) now to get portable bathrooms into the makeshift campsites at the civic center.

Either Do is only interested in headlines or he simply can’t make anything happen.

Do can’t make his colleagues move off of concepts like using the bus terminal as a parking lot instead of helping people.

He can’t assemble a county workforce that can actually tackle the job they are supposedly hired to do; offer health and human services to those in need.

And this is during an election year, about as good as it gets in terms of an elected officials’ penchant for listening or working on policy.

Meanwhile, the Civic Center area Do is in charge of is now being turned into a construction zone, pushing the homeless out into the broader neighborhoods, like one big human blower.

Court officials are complaining about basic security. County union officials are beyond frustrated, filing numerous grievances while workers continue to express fear. Meanwhile, Santa Ana officials just temporarily closed down their library.

Lets hope for all our sakes that Santa Ana has some sort of vision for the county homeless explosion.

We don’t want to see more explosions like the one earlier this month that left 32-year-old Richard Gene Swihart in critical condition.

Because so far, watching the county’s response makes you wonder who’s driving the bus over there.

Update on County Supervisors War on the First Amendment

Homelessness isn’t the only issue where there are questions about who’s actually leading the County of Orange.

Last week, I wrote about the fact that supervisors have taken an unprecedented step of deposing me in a public records case – a clear attempt to bully and intimidate the free press in Orange County.

After reading my column last week, Supervisor Shawn Nelson called me to say he’s not on board with this authoritarian approach.

“I’m embarrassed that we’ve asked to depose a reporter,” Nelson said. “It’s a basic American liberty principle that reporters are not subject to depos when it involved their stories and sources.”

“I don’t support the action and I don’t’ understand why we would waste resources to do it,” Nelson said.

I’ve put out calls to other county supervisors to see how many do support attacking reporters when stories don’t go their way, like Spitzer – who is leading this effort according to Nelson.

Quite the crystal ball on a potential Spitzer DA Administration, eh?

  • Jacki Livingston

    Not that I would ever defend the sups, because they are trash. However, your comment about SSA workers was unfair. The leadership at that agency is so self serving and corrupted, and is without any reins at all, the staff are dispirited and working caseloads that are crippling. Plus, the County let the agency mgmt go into a direction where there is no face to face interaction with clients, funneling everything into call centers. The staff is no longer trained in how to handle mentally ill and potentially violent clients, like we were when I was there. You are blaming the front line workers for the failure and corruption of management, a failure that YOU, yourself, have ignored for years, despite having worker after worker provide you with documents. All that finger pointing causing you cramps, Norberto?

  • I got a chuckle when I read that they were “partnering” with a Long Beach non-profit. Translated to me means just ship em over the border. not seen not a problem.

  • John Claxton

    The BOS voted unanimously (though it sounds like Nelson is grandstanding after the vote stating he doesn’t think a reporter should be deposed) to defend the County! That’s the best joke I have heard all day. The Board denied a PIR that the voice believed they are entitled to, which they are. The Voice, having given the county the opportunity to respond, the county hid behind the silence curtain. The Voice has the public’s best interest in this matter and is taking the matter to court. Todd Spitzer, the man who wants to be our next DA, makes what appears to be an illegal arrest of a Christian man who wanted nothing more than to spread the gospel. It’s a pathetic story of a guy that likes to play cops. The public wants the full story and Spitzer tries to bury it – which will cost tens of thousands of tax payer dollars to litigate.

  • OCservant_Leader

    The OC GOP is running the bus and they are right on schedule.

    Norberto – you are assuming the leadership shares your goals of public service. I am sorry, they do not.

    Their number one goal is use County government to keep themselves in power in elected positions throughout the County and get rich doing it. That’s all.

    Do you know how many steps are involved to place an EA or family appointee into the bureaucracy? How difficult it is to reorganize a department in order to get politicians and campaign workers promotions? How hard it is to fix the contracting process?

    How does the Elite 1% Management keep the masses of employees down and citizens not alerted to the rigged system?

    This is what they are focused on. We all know what we focus on we will be successful. That’s it. End of story.

    • Jacki Livingston

      How they keep them down is through violence, intimidation and illegal smear tactics. My former coworkers learned real quick from what happened to me.

  • Norberto. You sued the County. We didn’t sue you. The Board voted UNANIMOUSLY to defend the County. When you filed the lawsuit you had to know that Civil litigation involves taking
    depositions when there are questions of fact. The general rule that communications
    between reporters and sources is confidential does not apply here. Heck, serve me with a deposition. I am more than happy to explain that you told me that Meghan Cuniff was not a credible journalist, that you were not impressed with her skills or work and that I needed to demand a correction from
    the Register based on her inaccurate reporting. You interjected yourself into the situation and then provided me advice based on your insistences. This is not a secret. It’s all in our response filed with the court in your lawsuit. I even included your TEXT Message confirming that the correction published by the Register was satisfactory. You acknowledged your involvement in writing. But then you wrote a piece forgetting to tell your readers that you were an actor in the set of circumstances you had actually created. And then you have the chutzpah to use the piece to drive fundraising to support your journalistic enterprise. You set the whole thing up. No wonder you had your lawyers put off your deposition until November.

    We are litigating one principle–and you need to stop misleading your readers–should the public or
    the press be able to see DRAFTS of documents prior to publication when the author is still editing and working on the message? You seem to believe that prior to publication, any document produced inside the government must be released to the press or the public. Courts have long held in a
    series of published court decisions that drafts are considered part of the “deliberative” process. To require release of all drafts would shut down the thought process and stifle creativity. Of course once a
    document is released for public consumption then it is indeed public. Prior to that, while staff is providing input, editing and giving reactions, it is not a public document. You want to establish precedent through this suit that any time you file a PRA, you will not only receive the final version of a particular piece, but also all the drafts that led up to that piece. That is a unsettling proposition that is certainly worth litigating. We will have to see if the courts are willing to reverse years of precedent honoring and upholding the deliberative process.

    • David Zenger

      “Prior to publication?”

      There was never publication of anything, just an alleged attempt by you to use the County PR apparatus to try to put a polish on your own, private road apple. No doubt some grown up intervened and wisely suggested that a County press release would just make your assault on Bible Boy look even worse. What part of such a misuse of government resources counts as any sort of “deliberative process?”

      And so only “published” reports get released? That’s asinine, even for you.

      If you are “only litigating one principle” and that issue is premature release of government documents, then what in the world is the purpose of deposing Santana, whose conversations with you have NOTHING to do with your “one principle.” It’s just an attempt at blatant harassment and intimidation.

      Hasn’t County Counsel told to to keep your trap shut? If not, I think you need a new lawyer.

      P.S. “Shut down the thought process and stifle creativity?” Getting into stand up comedy?

      • Jacki Livingston

        “Hasn’t County Counsel advised you to keep your trap shut? If not, I think you need a new lawyer.”

        You are this week’s official winner at life, here is your blue ribbon.

        The delicious irony of it all is that Spitzer is supposed to be such a fandabadozie attorney that he would be qualified to be DA. Obviously, he didn’t hire himself, but that may be smart…even he knows how bad and unethical he is.

        Pass the popcorn.

    • OCservant_Leader

      This subject needs to be litigated because if we believe BOS Spitzer then the public is essentially “shut out” of potentialy illegal activitity by public servants.

      The County has been withholding public documents from requesters for years based in their flawed interpretation of the CPRA.

      If we believe the County’s position -the Public is helpless and can only have access to “final” well crafted public documents prepared by attorneys? Wrong!

      As a civil servant, every single word typed on a taxpayer paid computer/phone/tablet IS discoverable. (Let’s add their private phones and networks).

      It depends on the circumstances and in some cases sensitive information may only be viewed by a judge.

      What does the “deliberative process” have to do with the facts of this case? Nothing.

      Good luck Norberto in setting a new “transparency” PRA precedent the OC BOS will HAVE to follow.

    • Jacki Livingston

      You are a real piece of work, Todd. You hid behind your wife’s skirts, and then your own client who is a judge at Worker’s Comp court, because I had the audacity to call you as a witness at trial, to show that you, and your gang of do-nothings, completely and unethically ignored repeated letters, emails and calls to you about horrific abuse and embezzlement of citizens in this county, suffering in nursing homes, because managers at SSA were using their position and the IT programs to help unethical nursing home providers steal, not just from patients, but also from the tax payers YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO SERVE! You are such a sleaze, you were not man enough to show up and answer the questions about YOUR failure of duty. You got your wife to assign my case to herself, then when I screamed, to assign it to your own client, who said in interviews that she “owes you her life”, so you could strongarm a settlement that the County had no intention of following through with. You would have had to answer to the fact that you were covering for your GOP big donors, who used their GOP bigwig lawyer to cover up years of vermin infested food, untrained care, bedsores six inches across, deaths from mistreatment and financial robbery. YOU profitted from the misery of helpless patients. This is why YOU and your ilk spent six years drumming out a whistleblower on a WC claim that was for EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS! You spent a hundred or more times that, trying to keep people from finding out what I already knew, which is that you and your cronies were paid off and didn’t want anyone to know. Well, Todd, I know. I will make sure that everyone knows what a coward and sleaze you really are, well before you run for DA. You were not even MAN enough to put on your big boy underoos and just testify, instead, you hid behind your wife and client’s robes. And you have the self serving audacity to lecture Norberto on ethics? Are you KIDDING me? Chutzpah? Oh, honey, sweetie, babycakes, you have the crown on that. You are not a leader, or a man. You are a coward, who sat in his overdecorated office, drinking his taxpayer paid Starbucks, and ignored the PROVEN AND DOCUMENTED agony of hundreds of men, women and children suffering and being raped, robbed and killed, ON YOUR WATCH, while you pocketed campaign hush money from the criminals doing it. If I have to go to every swap meet, mall, beach and office in the OC, next year, to show people the letters, emails and internal files showing your massive unfitness, that is what I will do. After all, I got all the time in the world, since you cowards blackballed me. Game on, coward. I bet you are not even man enough to respond…a safe bet…I need the money.

  • Norberto. You sued the County. We didn’t sue you. The Board voted UNANIMOUSLY to defend the County. When you filed the lawsuit you had to know that Civil litigation involves taking depositions when there are questions of fact. The general rule that communications between reporters and sources is confidential does not apply here–stop waving your shiny object to distract. Heck, serve me with a deposition. I am more than happy to explain that you told me that Meghan Cuniff was not a credible journalist, that you were not impressed with her skills or work and that I needed to demand a correction from the Register based on her inaccurate reporting. You interjected yourself into the situation and then provided me advice based on your insistences. This is not a secret. It’s all in our response filed with the court in your lawsuit–that is a public record. I even included your TEXT Message confirming to me in writing that the correction published by the Register met with your satisfaction consistent with your advice. You seem to want to ignore these facts. You acknowledged your involvement in writing. But then you wrote a piece forgetting to tell your readers that you were an actor in the set of circumstances you had actually created. And then you have the chutzpah to use the piece to drive fundraising to support your journalistic enterprise. No wonder you had your lawyers put off your deposition until November.

    We are litigating one principle–and you need to stop misleading your readers–should the public or the press be able to see DRAFTS of documents prior to publication when the author is still editing and working on the message? You seem to believe that prior to publication, any document produced inside the government must be released to the press or the public. Courts have long held in a series of published court decisions that drafts are considered part of the “deliberative” process. To require release of all drafts would shut down the thought process and stifle creativity. Of course once a document is released for public consumption then it is indeed public. Prior to that, while staff is providing input, editing and giving input, it is not a public document. You want to establish precedent through this suit that any time you file a PRA, you will not only receive the final version of a particular piece, but also all the drafts that led up to that piece. That is a unsettling proposition that is certainly worth litigating. We will have to see if the courts are willing to reverse years of precedent honoring and upholding the deliberative process.