Gardner: Mayor to Mayor, Let’s be “Fair” Not “Mean” to Homeless People

There’s been a lot of talk about cities doing their “fair share” in helping solve the County’s increase in homeless people, a problem that was allowed to grow unaddressed for years.

Not so long ago the Mayor of Santa Ana was calling for a federal judge to extend a lawsuit to 30 other cities in Orange County because he claims his City is disproportionately impacted by homeless people.

It’s true.

Santa Ana does have more homeless people than most of the other cities in Orange County, partially because it houses the Civic Center.

But it also has more lawyers, and more businesses, and more restaurants that cater to the Civic Center services located in Santa Ana.

Yet the Mayor doesn’t want to send other cities the millions of dollars in his property tax and sales tax revenue nor the jobs that the Civic Center generates. Santa Ana’s property tax revenue alone is nearly twice as high as all of most other city’s revenue sources combined. Santa Ana has sources of revenue (e.g., business tax, half cent sales tax, parking meters, parking lots, medical marijuana tax) that don’t even exist in other cities and which total more than the single highest source of revenue (sales tax) for most cities.

No, the Mayor doesn’t plan to share his revenues: He just wants to send us his homeless.

The homeless are there in Santa Ana partially because it’s Orange County’s Civic Center, and many of the services are there. That’s also why the restaurants, lawyers, and businesses are there, along with the parking lots and the parking meters. If there are a disproportionate number of homeless people in the city there are equally a disproportionate number of lawyers, restaurants, jobs, businesses, and sources of revenue.

Is it fair for the Mayor of Santa Ana to keep the benefits of having the Civic Center but shun the downsides?

The Mayor also complains that other cities “dump” our homeless residents in his City. FWIW – I’m unaware of a single documented case of this happening. The fact is – other cities care for their own population of homeless people. When they need a service that is outside their City, their staff opens their referral books, checks with the service provider, and if there is a vacancy, they reserve it and then transport the person to the service. Most cities don’t have their own hospitals either, and in a similar fashion, they utilize hospitals in other cities. But other cities do have other assets, and in a similar fashion, people from other cities often use them, whether that’s the great beaches in Laguna or Newport, great shopping centers in Irvine and Mission Viejo, great sports parks in Lake Forest, or our great services and programs. The cities in Orange County are inter-related and we do what we can, and support each other as we can.

Now, according to the Voice of OC, the Mayor of Santa Ana wants to “harass” his homeless citizens so that they “move out of town and go harass another town.”

All cities should care for their residents, whether homeless or not. Residents who call Santa Ana home shouldn’t be herded onto a bus and sent packing to other cities because Santa Ana no longer wants to take care of them. And these people certainly shouldn’t be harassed. While some may be the “flat-out criminals” and “mean mean people” he says they are, some are also down-on-their luck families with young children, or perfectly normal people who lost their job or came down with a debilitating disease. What benefit can there be in making the lives for these people even more miserable?

Each city should care for their residents, homeless or not. The solution is for all cities to do more, because the problem has grown. We are busy working on the issue, but our plans don’t include moving – or “dumping” – our excess homeless to any other city, but rather providing for them here, as we have been doing for years. Other cities should do the same.

Dr. Jim Gardner is the Mayor of Lake Forest, however, his remarks here are not official city policy.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org