Santana: Orange County Has a New Homeless Czar

Homelessness in Orange County has a new Czar.

Meet Susan Price.

And boy does she have a full plate waiting…

Homeless activists across Orange County have been ringing alarm bells for years as the ranks of those living on the streets swelled and in the cases of far too many, death showed up before we did.

Despite the fact that our board of supervisors in recent months has started to take victory laps around the Hall of Administration – touting all their recent progress on homelessness (a few buildings authorized/purchased) – there’s still a long way to go.

We need leadership.

Price – who starts her job May 27 – comes to us from Long Beach, where she has made a name for herself by making significant progress on moving homeless veterans off the streets with an entrepreneurial approach.

Here, supervisors – especially Supervisor Andrew Do who got the position created – deserve credit for finally moving the ball.

Price is today (especially after this column) probably informing colleagues that she’s headed south to OC – where she’s been spotted recently quietly introducing herself.

County officials have yet to make a formal announcement.

Their speed matches the lethargic and often uneven pace of the last year.

Facilities – like an abandoned bus terminal are purchased but left empty during rains. Supervisors also bought another building for a homeless shelter, located on Anaheim/Orange border, but put so many arbitrary rules on it’s authorization that it’s questionable whether it will even work.

Last week, we heard from Supervisor Shawn Nelson that because a shelter site is in the works, the temporary National Guard armory site in Fullerton should be shut down.

That would mean by taking action, supervisors might have actually reduced available beds.

The blank look on the face of County executive Julia Bidwell at the dais when Nelson pushed her on the closing of the armory site says it all.

You are not prepared. You have not really done anything in the last year.

You’re not ready to start closing anything.

Just look around the civic center grounds in downtown Santa Ana.

The problem is just growing.

Most recently, supervisors seem to have introduced a new plan – a bit Trumpish in spirit.

Just put up a barrier, call it construction, and push the angry crowd without shelter further onto the City of Santa Ana’s section of the civic center.

Nelson recently gave an ominous warning about what was coming from the dais, taking on City Councilman Vince Sarmiento – who himself recently criticized county supervisors for a tepid response to homelessness.

Sarmiento and his colleagues will now be forced to come up with their own plan because half a tent village was just evicted from the county side of the civic center in recent weeks.

While I don’t doubt that the work is part of a schedule upgrade to civic center power facilities, I do question why there was no planning for the human aspects of just shutting down half a homeless squatters camp.

I just hope people don’t get hurt in the midst of all this harsh pushing around, without much information, much less any kindness or compassion for what has become America’s angriest campground – full of people with mental conditions.

From what I am hearing Price knows what she’s doing and supervisors picked appropriately a person with entrepreneurial skills who has actually built a real response in Long Beach – based on the concept of “continuum of care” concept pioneered in Utah.

Here in Orange County, Price will get a chance to really step up and run her own shop.

Supervisors need to give her a shop to run.

Instead of habitually coming up with the same solution – outsource the contract to some non-profit provider – they need to build their own abilities.

It’s ok – even as Republicans – to have a public sector that functions – and isn’t piecemealed into a bunch of disconnected contracts.

Consider how that decentralized approach worked out in Dana Point Harbor – where since the place was turned into it’s own agency it has apparently floated off into a sea of conflicts of interests with consultants and freebies like hotel stays for insiders.

For once, I’d like to see when one of us has a question on homelessness – there’s an official who can stand up and offer a plan, a response…

Sheriff Hutchens & Manager Ratings

Speaking of responses, keep an eye over at the Sheriff’s department this week as Sheriff Sandra Hutchens sent off a scathing letter last week to Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriff’s President Tom Dominguez for the ratings in the union’s second annual manager survey.

Hutchens does not like what the union published about managers.

“I am not questioning AOCDS and their board of directors right to survey its members; what I am questioning is the manner in which they present it,” Hutchens wrote. “The comments they chose to highlight are more like what one would hear on a 6th grade playground – not from a professional organization.”

Hutchens said the report was full of “hateful and immature quotes.”

For the most part, many managers got good ratings. But for those with bad ratings, the union allowed deputies working for those managers to go public.

For some, like Asst. Sheriff Linda Solorza, the results weren’t good.

“Never have I heard anyone say a good thing about her,” was the lead quote.

Jail operations, so much in the news lately, had a low rating for Capt. Jon Briggs over at Theo Lacy jail with lead quotes from deputies that read “a proven liar who does not back his deputies or sergeants.”

Hutchens wasted no time in putting the union on notice that she stands by those managers.

“The managers and executives, all of whom I have promoted, possess leadership skills and integrity and have compassion for their employees. I know who they truly are at their core, and so do they,” Hutchens wrote.

“I know in my heart that the vast majority of the men and women of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department are too professional to have engaged in some of the more personal and egregious comments printed in this ‘leadership’ survey.”

Union leaders were out of town and not reachable.

To see the comments in the AOCDS leadership survey, you’ll have to find a paper copy of the union’s magazine, The Courier, because their online link is members-only. I hear the link may go live once members have checked it out.

(Editors Note: Survey is on AOCDS website now.)

Here’s how the union’s board members described the report in their introduction.

“It is crucial to document the performance of management. The data can help identify problems as well as highlight managers with superior leadership skills. The survey found that the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation has both.”

  • OCservant_Leader

    What ever happened to the last “czar”? I recall they paid that insider $200k/year and accomplished nothing. And the last “Coordinator” was brought in from San Diego – what 8 years ago? What happened to her? Then the ED of the community non-profit awarded millions for decades -admits to not being able to control his aggressive outbursts and lack of communication skills? Meanwhile 500 homeless are deficating all over the civil center area – on a daily basis and spreading disease?

    The whole issue is a mind boggling public sector disaster – a lot like the Animal Shelter.

    How are all these issues connected? By the “family” getting filthy rich. The EA who is responsible for the Homeless and the Animal Shelter also runs “Pork Parks” and his wife ran the snitch tank (medical unit) for years.

  • OCservant_Leader

    The Sheriff needs to accept feedback from her Management.

    It would be great if the County allowed their Executives to be evaluated. The statements would be the like this:

    He is never here and when he is – his attention span is about 5 seconds because he is a blue collar construction guy with a HS diploma and doesn’t understand all this “government regulatory bullshit”.

    Etc, etc, etc.

    • Kathleen Tahilramani

      Just like a former CEO with the Uni of Phoenix pretend, pay to play, fake “degree”. The legacy remains.. just check out landfill managers… least the former CEO paid ie: had the county pay for the worthless piece of paper …others under his wing never bothered to try to fake it – just sheer entitlement and hubris.

      • OCservant_Leader

        Did you hear the The King of Trash- just inked the import garbage deal to close out the OC BK? What was his rate paid as a double dipping “consultant”?

        That’s why he got the CEO – pension spike. He was tier 1- he only needed a year. I think he worked 9 months then went on medical leave to set up “Disability Retirement”.

        He made sure all the “family” got set up for promotions and bonuses. Mauk had every agency covered but Giancola really set up the next generation.

        • Kathleen Tahilramani

          Interesting. It would be an easy job for him – all he has to do is do what his handlers tell him to do…..

  • Jacki Livingston

    Hutchens has her panties in a twist over “hateful and immature quotes”? Boy, is she going to meme those meanie poos on her Facebook and Twitter! There might be a rumble on the playground after work!


    Sheriff, do us all a favor? You ignore reports of actual crimes being done on your watch, and you let your deputies do guido henchmen tasks for Hot Toddy. What did you expect, honey? Cookies?

    Grow up.

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    So… there was NOBODY internal to Orange County – working/living/working at the County of Orange who was willing, able, interested, qualified for the job? Speaks volumes for the failure to promote from within the County as a whole and/or from county government. Pretty sad state of affairs. Of course one might ask who would want to work for the BOS here at the good ole County of Orange given the wreakage that is our local government.

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      If she can make a difference in Long Beach, she will here. I suppose it is a different Suzie Price than LB councilwoman for District 3 who has done wonderful things serving her constituents. Councilwoman Price I think is with our OC DA office.

      Hope the needy who want to be helped, get the leg up they need. There’s the homeless and the don’t-want-home-ness out there. Makes it tough to help.

      • Kathleen Tahilramani

        The LB councilwoman is a different person. I anticipate she will do fine as long as she has the support of the BOS and the CEO. Agreed, helping the homeless is a very complex task – some people prefer to be left alone, no matter the danger to self. I still find it very odd and discouraging that there was nobody local tapped to address this important issue. They have pulled a talented and dedicated person away from Long Beach leaving a hole there – is it logical that there was not one qualified county person?

        • OCservant_Leader

          Kathleen – you raise an excellent point. There wasn’t anyone – not one Manager with a career in human services and educated…working for these political hacks for decades and knows OC homeless issues personally –because we have to step over them to get to daily meetings?

          Nope – Not someone who will sign up for another “spin to accomplish nothing” ahead of them.

          I’m surprised CEO Frank Kim doesn’t have another sibling?

          • Kathleen Tahilramani

            The line of burned out imports from other than OC and there are dozens from LA County, have not done us any favors. I have a dreadful recall of the expensive county”employee development” programs: Servant Leadership..Passport to Nowhere…blah blah…and the only thing that became clear was that former EA’s will grab the top spots and only gluteus maximus kissers with little to lose will get promoted. Honestly, if you have anything to lose, care about your integrity and ethics and care to be able to look yourself in the mirror & sleep at night the idea of being promoted into upper management at the county is not necessarly a good thing all things considered.

          • OCservant_Leader

            Well said. By the time the nice lady figures out who is who’s wife and which ones are EAs or related to the Band of brothers — another election cycle is over and she accomplished nothing.

    • Jacki Livingston

      Actually, Kathleen, this is a GOOD thing. I know some of the people at SSA who would have been in the lead for it, and who got to their exalted positions by hook, crook, aunties and kneepads. This is probably the better option, given the vast cesspool of criminally tainted managers over there. Half are sociopathic scum hoods, and the rest are gutless/brainless cowards. This is a better choice.