Santana: Don’t Question Do

Supervisor Andrew Do doesn’t like to be questioned.

And unfortunately, that could cost veterans $25,000.

Do is apparently miffed because I’ve been poking holes and asking questions about his mysterious statue-fest at Mile Square Park – which features an ongoing series of statue unveilings from an anonymous donor to the county presumably connected to Do.

The first statue, a likeness of former President Ronald Reagan, was unveiled last month by county park officials with Do getting top billing.

Because of the shameful manner in which county supervisors have maintained veteran plaques at the civic center (which I also have written about again and again), there’s been lots of debate about insisting on maintenance agreements before taxpayers agree to take on future memorials.

Nonetheless, even after agreeing that it was better to first iron out maintenance issues before accepting donations, Do ignored all that, as did his colleagues, last month with the county unveiling the Reagan statue at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley.

Supervisors have still never publicly considered any kind of maintenance agreement.

And there’s two more statues coming.

Yet the donation from an anonymous donor did offer Do a great taxpayer-funded campaign photo.

I’ve recently poked at county supervisors for their penchant for ribbon-cutting over substance – and the video record on their dais would prove me right: zero policy initiatives of any sort from a single supervisor.

Meanwhile, animal shelters are falling apart. A virtual sea of homeless people wait, some pray, for policy innovation right outside supervisors’ front window. IT systems bid out to campaign donors are now shutting down departments and independently elected officials like the Assessor, Treasurer Tax Collector and Clerk Recorder are openly questioning county IT management.

Sorry, Supervisor Do.

That’s your record on the field.

And it’s my job, and that of other citizens, to call you out on that.

That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

Yet Supervisor Do won’t tolerate being questioned.

When Nick Berardino, retiring general manager for the Orange County Employees Association, this week came up to the public podium at the weekly meeting, he was uncharacteristically nice.

Berardino, who for the last four decades has fought supervisors aggressively but respectfully from the dais on a variety of issues, came up and identified himself as a county Fair Board member (Berardino was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011 to the Orange County Fair and Events Center in nearby Costa Mesa).

With Berardino retiring later this month, supervisors also were uncharacteristically nice, probably breathing a sigh of relief that marathon negotiation sessions might be a thing of the past.

County CEO Frank Kim sat there smiling at Berardino as did County Counsel Leon Page.

Everybody seemed to be trying to get along.

Berardino then told county supervisors about the fairgrounds work to establish a countywide first: a veterans museum.

Fair board members have voted to restore an old army barracks on the fairgrounds and have formed a foundation to raise money to create a museum for veterans that would be expected to host 100,000 school children each year, Berardino told supervisors.

On Sunday in fact, Republican  Supervisor Michelle Steel will be hosting a fundraiser for the Heroes Hall at the fairgrounds. Republican Supervisor Todd Spitzer also publicly voiced interest in donating at the meeting.

Berardino then told supervisors they could also consider matching the city of Costa Mesa, whose city council already pledged $25,000.

Note that Costa Mesa was ground zero for the toughest labor battle in recent memory with Berardino and council members Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger crossing swords intensely for several years.

Berardino gave Righeimer and Mensinger credit for putting service above politics, publicly.

Then Do spoke against the item.

“I just find it ironic how would think after all the years of the supervisors getting hit for doing exactly the same kind of thing, for recognizing worthwhile causes we believe in and taking public hits for it. That now you would think that we would want to support what you want to recognize,” Do said.

To be clear, Berardino has never publicly said a word about Do’s or other supervisors events.

I have.

OCEA does provide Voice of OC grant funds.

And they have zero say in anything we write.

And they live with that.

They also live with the political blowback of everything I write, which is unfortunate and I’m sure complicates their negotiations.

But they believe in truth, in transparency, in democracy.

Unlike Supervisor Do.

It’s kind of funny that the very day before Do’s public comments, Berardino told me in an afternoon interview that he had developed a good relationship with Do and felt board members were trying to refocus themselves on good governance.

That very morning, my latest column also ran, which featured a critique of Do’s Reagan event.

It’s quite a thing to see a man like Do, himself a refugee from South Vietnam, who owes his freedom to veterans like Berardino - who went to Vietnam and fought for democracy – sit there as an elected official and attempt to hold veterans funding hostage just because a journalism shop criticized his penchant for secrecy and statues.

Check out some of the redacted records requests I’ve recently received from the county about how your county parks department was utilized to promote Do and how officials coordinated their response to my requests.

Here are public record responses in three batches: VOC Reagan Statue Request--Part 1 and VOC Reagan Statue Request--Part 2 and Reagan PRA #2

My favorite email exchange so far is when OC Parks Director Stacy Blackwood actually writes how Do’s Chief of Staff Brian Probolsky has taught her how to delete email records.

I’m still grappling with county officials to get more email records about how the statue party was coordinated between Do’s office and the OC Parks Department.

Feel free to crowd source these Public Record Act requests and email me any tips.

We’ll see whether county supervisors ever do agendize a donation to the Heroes Hall in Costa Mesa, as that city’s council members did.

One big upside to this week’s public discussion was the news that the veterans’ memorial plaques at the civic center – which have been so horribly taken care of by county supervisors over the past decade – will soon be transported to the Heroes Hall, where they will never be urinated on or be sitting next to piled garbage, year after year.

Thanks to the efforts of Berardino.

Now if Do’s public tirade against the labor leader isn’t odd enough, consider where he went next.

Public comment.

Every week, out of more than three million people who have the right to come down to the Civic Center and tell county supervisors anything they want (for three minutes), there’s about three or four folks that actually do it.

Often, it’s the same four folks.

And often, they talk about the same thing.

Sometimes, commenters are offensive. Sometimes they are dumb. Sometimes, they are irritating.

That’s called democracy.

Supervisor Do doesn’t like that.

This week, one public commenter used an old Seinfeld episode – about George sleeping with a cleaning woman on his desk – as an example of how county supervisors are brazen.

Do apparently doesn’t watch much TV because the mention of the word, “sex,” sent him into a tailspin.

There might be children watching, Do implored to his colleagues while arguing for some sort of limits, constraints on public comment.

It’s the kind of thing that every rookie city councilman goes through as they sit through the sausage-making of democracy.

Now, if Do had stayed on the Garden Grove City Council for any length of time – before resigning his council seat mysteriously and vanishing temporarily from public life a few years back – he might have learned that.

Instead, he slipped in by 43 votes during a nasty special election last January – completely on the coattails of former Republican Supervisor (now state Senator) Janet Nguyen - during a compressed election cycle where phone banks, mail and radio played a big role in hitting then-State Sen. Lou Correa relentlessly.

Do will soon face voters again and this rookie is probably getting nervous that all he’s got to show so far is a Ronald Reagan statue.

If Do had done any kind of homework – like reading about the public forum that his colleague Republican Supervisor Shawn Nelson held last fall where he had experts explain that surprise, surprise, in a democracy elected officials do actually have to sit down and allow people to express themselves – he’d know a fundamental truth by now.

Limiting public comment can be a fatal start for any reelection campaign…at least in a democracy and especially in a community like Little Saigon whose residents fled such oppression.