Santana: End Political Hackery, Focus Local Government

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Orange County’s 2016 election calendar is officially in full swing.

And they don’t call it the silly season for nothing.

Based on last week’s votes by the Orange County Board of Supervisors and members of the Santa Ana City Council, we’ll all now get to watch a strange dance over the next month.

The same county and city elected leaders who ignored homelessness for the last decade now will ostensibly work together under a 30-day deadline to use an abandoned bus terminal as a multi-service center at the Santa Ana Civic Center, where a small tent city has arisen.

All while County Supervisor Andrew Do and Santa Ana Councilwoman Michelle Martinez square off for Do’s supervisorial seat this November.

You couldn’t ask for a more politicized approach to a complicated issue.

Yet in Orange County, any attention on the issue of homelessness is a miracle.

And in many ways, the first district election seems to be turning into a referendum of sorts on the county’s response to homelessness.

So let’s get it on.

The Civic Center situation is a direct challenge to the entire county government bureaucracy, which is tasked through large amounts of state and federal pass-through tax dollars to combat homelessness.

It’s a chance to be relevant right on their front doorstep.

Yet so far, county supervisors are a total failure on the issue.

Santa Ana City Council members haven’t done much better.

I have often noted that the county should study using the bus terminal as a rapid response center for dealing with homelessness, especially around the civic center.

Supervisors finalized their purchase of the terminal for $3.2 million in May but have never officially said for what purpose or done anything to study how it might work for homeless response as far as I can tell. I’ve heard that it was really bought for parking or some other purpose.

Based on my interviews with homeless activists and non-profit leaders over the past year, I think there are possibilities there to use the site as a way to organize a more creative and effective way of delivering services – like food – to the chronically homeless in central Santa Ana.

Yet the site will require creativity to address things like security, storage and bathrooms.

The goal should be to create a place where homeless people want to go not a place they are dumped off at.

A place where they can charge a phone or a laptop or use wireless internet for free. Most say they just need an address. A place where they can store their belongings in a locker environment that is easy on access.

Nearby at the site there should be full-time counselors from the health care and social services agency that can connect people with help in real time.

There also needs to be a law enforcement presence but not one that is done in an overboard manner. The bus terminal already has a circular security kiosk in the middle where deputies used to be stationed and could once again become a presence.

The message should be clear:

As long as you are a person living on the street, you are welcome. You can come and go as you please. You can store things. You can eat. Take a shower. Access medical care as well as basic social services.

But the bus terminal itself can’t be the end of it.

We need OC Health Care Agency officials and social workers to be working at the facility to begin to assess this community and figure out how many need mental health counseling, how many can work, how many can fit into basic affordable housing.

We should have weekly public updates at supervisors meetings (as they previously indicated they would do but never did).

We all know that developing a healthy stock of affordable housing is the key to getting these people off the streets.

And again, that’s an area where county supervisors and city council members just aren’t meeting the challenge.

We need a strategy.

Now, Santa Ana council members I felt really hit the nail on the head with their formal vote last week calling for a conference on regional homelessness response.

Voice of OC would be happy to host that conference and help with putting together panels as well as speakers.

Shelters and bus terminals themselves aren’t a response.

Human beings handle homelessness.

Orange County can do this.

But we need to think and work together, especially beyond Election Day.

Maybe a 30-day challenge is exactly what we need to help get us all focused.

Public Safety Spending Quietly Hiked

When it comes to the county’s other tough main regional issue, public safety, county supervisors also remain largely silent.

They spend tax dollars along historic proportions.

They just don’t say much about it.

Consider last week when supervisors unanimously voted without discussion to offer deputy sheriffs a healthy 8.5-percent raise over the next few years — putting them at or near the tops of our region in terms of pay and benefits.

And yet nearly 22 percent of deputies still reportedly voted against the deal.


So we as taxpayers spend a tidy sum to retain these highly trained workers in a tough field and still nearly a quarter are not happy.

Now, that doesn’t mean we have greedy deputies.

It shows that there is zero leadership from the top telling everyone about the trade-offs on the deal, about what we just bought into, about what is the grand strategy.

Consider the added hypocrisy in that this is the so-called conservative board of supervisors that adopted (and later repealed) John Moorlach’s COIN ordinance to open up labor negotiations.

According to public records released earlier this month to Flash Report Publisher Jon Fleischman, we all as taxpayers invested in professional negotiators who came up with a deal costing the general fund a total of $13 million over three years.

When that deal went to the politicians, it grew to $62.2 million.

Makes me wonder what was the point of hiring expensive negotiators.

And what about the transparency standard set by COIN?

County supervisors barely said a word last week when they authorized $62.2 million dollars over the next three years on a law enforcement contract.

I’ve seen them spend more time talking about janitorial contracts in public session.

Might have been nice to hear about how patrol services are going to benefit or how the jails will improve or how training and education will be hiked.

This last week’s session shows that all county supervisors care about is the political endorsements – along with direct campaign contributions and independent expenditures – from the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs.

Those endorsements will surely provide critical support to every county supervisor who voted for this contract.

Yet will the contract do well for the deputy sheriffs, contract cities and taxpayers who will live with it for the next three years?

See you at the next quarterly public budget update.

Moving From Partisan Electeds to Nonpartisan

If all the politicization on issues like homelessness and public safety leaves you doubting the effectiveness of partisan political offices like county supervisors, you aren’t alone.

This past week, county hallways were abuzz with the news that Chris Nguyen, a well-regarded OC GOP activist and deputy chief of staff to Supervisor Todd Spitzer, is moving over to work with county Auditor-Controller Eric Woolery as a data analyst in a non-political job.

Woolery also has recently hired on most of the county government’s performance audit staff to continue beefing up his auditing capabilities.

Meanwhile, county supervisors have left open the performance auditor position for years after introducing the innovation a few years back as a good government initiative.

The main challenge facing county supervisors in filling this now near phantom job is they do not like a semi-independent senior executive put in the role of questioning their administration of county government.

Nguyen is also part of a wave of staffers – others include Martha Ochoa, his chief of staff, and senior staffer Carrie O’Malley – that have left Spitzer’s office recently as his relations with staff are reportedly difficult and strained.

In Nguyen’s farewell memo sent out across the Hall of Administration, he noted, “I am one of the last two remaining members of his staff still serving from when he was sworn into office on January 7, 2013.”

Nguyen’s move is an open acknowledgement that the place to make a real difference today in public policy across Orange County seems to be at nonpartisan elected offices or the bureaucracy itself…not at a county supervisor’s office.

That gig is increasingly seen as a fast pass to becoming a brutalized, publicly funded, 24/7 campaign worker.

  • John Claxton

    Todd, call me. I have extensive knowledge of what goes on in the county! I have worked for most of the major departments, and I’m not easily intimidated. I might even fall on a sword or two for you if the price is right! You have my number!

  • OCservant_Leader

    VoOC – should do more research into the “Bus Terminal” mystery.

    The reason OCTA “abandoned” it was due to the toxic waste dump it became due to the diesel storage tanks.

    The OCTA relocated because of the number of employees who became ill due to the fumes. It is another County “sick” building.

    Rather than clean the toxic waste the OCTA leased it back to the County and a new batch of unsuspecting employees. OCTA and County, although are run by the same corrupt operatives – they are two distinct separate entities. A slight of hand trick eh?

    The County can’t “house” the homeless there because it is not FIT for human occupancy. They are trying to bend the rules to allow for -a temporary shelter.

    I wish the media would dig deeper than the PR lies pumped out by Building 10 and report on the facts.

    PS- timing of movement from 5th floor to bureaucracy is due to the intense campaign work (as public paid employees) they are assigned. That’s all.

  • WorkZen

    Congratulations by a new resident on the Fiesta this past weekend, we need homeless empowerment, to encourage leadership and organization from the homeless and revolutionary change in the way real estate is thought of. The existence of a homeless crisis declared in nearly every major metropolitan area in the USA when there is no war, no disaster, just the “economy” functioning normally, shows that the capitalist model and automobile based isolationist infrastructure as we know it simply doesn’t work, is in fact, is a horrible failure. If you can’t face that basic fact, all you get is a band aid and kids brought up to be indifferent.

  • Jacki Livingston
    • Jacki Livingston


  • Jacki Livingston


    I am sorry, but I am calling you out, right here, right now. You are acting like you don’t know the facts, but you do. You act mystified as to why so many people are leaving Spitzer’s side, citing contentious work relations, when you know that is not the truth. Martha Ochoa, Dennis Nguyen and others saw what people have been telling YOU for years. Spitzer is up to his neck in the MediCal scam that started with Janet Nguyen and that he is profiting from. This is not people’s opinions, Norberto, these are facts. Federal court documents show the truth and you won’t write it. I don’t know why, though I suspect that while you enjoy poking Todd, you are scared to take him on full power, and show just how corrupted this man is. I suspect that you thought he was the lesser of two evils, between him and Tony the DA, but he is not.

    A large nursing home chain in LA and OC was sued in federal court for horrific abuse, fraud and neglect of patients. Employees of the county found financial fraud in house at SSA and were forced out. The attorney for the nursing homes is a GOP bigshot who makes large donations to Spitzer and other candidates, who look the other way at the abuse, as they write huge checks of tax dollars to these vendors. Employees in the county rig the billing system so that these and other nursing home providers are able to multiple bill. When called as a witness in a worker’s comp trial, Spitzer gets his wife and close friend/client to shield him from having to testify under oath. A federal grant is given to a consortium of local agencies to start a task force for elder abuse crimes, and Eric Holder comes out to take photos with people involved in the cover up, the task force fades away, and nothing is done about any of the abuse, fraud, embezzlement or bribery. You, and the DA and the Grand Jury, are given documents that show this, and none of you do anything. You are, in fact, ignoring criminal activity.

    Then, you have the audacity to wonder why these same corrupt officials in the same corrupted agencies are doing nothing about homelessness in the county. You tout a location in Santa Ana that is nowhere near any SSA offices. It makes no logical sense. But money is poured into this boondoggle, money that will lead nowhere, just like the ‘task force on crimes against the elderly and disabled’.

    This isn’t complicated. Any reporter worth their salt could have the federal case and the players cold in an hour. Oh, wait, they don’t need to, because a number of employees have GIVEN YOU THE DOCUMENTS! Internal emails. Case details. Donation ledgers. Depositions.

    I lost my career, because I would not be silent. Dennis, Martha and others have had the moral courage to walk away from Spitzer, because they saw the corruption and cowardice. But all you do is thrash around like a three year old who wants a pony, wondering WHYYYYYYYYY? Really? My clients and colleagues have suffered, but you write perplexed editorials lamenting the lack of political courage. I would venture that we all know that Todd Spitzer has no courage, no convictions and no ethics. So what are you doing? What are you waiting for? Does a bus terminal have to drop on your head before you get the clue, Norberto? These people are scumsucking criminals. So either have the stones to write the truth, or shut up about it and open a fanboy site for Toddy.

    Honestly…it is getting ridiculous!

    • LFOldTimer

      Jacki, so is it safe for me to assume that you won’t be endorsing Spitzer for DA in 2018?

      • Jacki Livingston

        Ya think? More than that, I will be out campaigning against him, telling anyone and everyone what I know, and sharing every internal document, file and email with his opponent. Yeah, its on like Donkey Kong. That fool has no idea of what I have in boxes.

    • OCservant_Leader

      Let us not forget the County’s medi-Cal fraud scheme they got caught by the Feds – was it 15-20 years ago now?

      The Health care Agency was double-triple billing and using the budget windfall to fund their bloated salaries, bonuses, custom office equipment etc – all that benefit the “Insiders” at HCA.

      This is the oldest public sector scam in the books. They scam to increase “billings” which they personally pocket and it spikes their pensions.

      This group – perfected their skills and when MHSA hit- they became millionaires.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Ding, ding, ding! There it is. But they got better at it, now, using nursing homes. They are making a ton of money, most of it going into political donations, but some into the personal pockets of the top brass at SSA. One senior manager, who retired, told me that they were scared to death, because the amounts were so huge, she was afraid someone was going to get killed.

        I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was already happening. Patients whose families protested suddenly turned up dead.

    • Jacki Livingston

      And, two weeks later, you still have no response. The evidence is there, and you are just covering for Spitzer. That is not journalism…that is public relations.

  • LFOldTimer

    “Now, that doesn’t mean we have greedy deputies.”

    Baloney. Yes it does.

    • Jacki Livingston

      I remember the deputies we had at SSA. They sat around, playing Solitaire and net surfing all day. When I filed an EEOC complaint against management, they got the deputies and their boss to haul me into a little room, with their hands on their guns, and block anyone from seeing in, as they physically and verbally threatened and interogated me on false charges of ‘terrorist threats’ that were physically impossible. They got this bimbo supervisor to violate every one of my rights as an employee, a disabled worker and an American citizen. When I protested and asked for an attorney, they laughed in my face, and then wrote me up for discipline, with false accusations. The bimbo and the stooge who falsely accused me got promotions, and I got disciplined. The “law enforcement” deputies that Spitzer sent to my house, to threaten and harass me for speaking out here, were off duty, but still armed. They basically told me I should keep my mouth shut. Idiots gave me their business card. Either the Sheriff is openly allowing County bigshots to use her deputies for their illegal profit plots, or they hire the dumbest bricks on the planet to put a badge on. Seriously, this is total corruption, and the blame is on the Sheriff for allowing it.

  • David Zenger

    “That gig is increasingly seen as a fast pass to becoming a brutalized, publicly funded, 24/7 campaign worker.”

    Sorry, but it’s already been that way for a long time. Spitzer is just more brutally up front about it.