Residents expressed frustration at Orange County homelessness commissioners this week after most of the panel failed yet again to show up to their regularly scheduled meeting – on top of canceling half of their meetings over the last year.
As homeless deaths climb to record levels in OC, only seven of the 15 voting members showed up Wednesday to the county’s Commission to End Homelessness.
That left the commission unable to take any action due to a lack of quorum.
“What an embarrassment to Orange County.”Brooke Weitzman, an attorney who represents disabled homeless people
“This commission was [supposed] to be leaders in ending homelessness. This is the commission that is supposed to be … advising our county on how to move forward and bring this 10-year plan [to end homelessness] to fruition. And this commission can’t even manage to have a meeting,” she added.
The no-shows came as OC is about to undertake one of its largest homeless housing efforts in county history – with more than 1,000 homeless people slated to get new federal vouchers starting in the next couple weeks.
There remains a host of unanswered questions about what support services will be provided and who will coordinate the efforts.
During the commission’s failed Wednesday meeting, another resident, Dr. Alan Schumann, suggested it’s time the commission get members who are interested in actually serving.
“It is quite alarming that during this meeting we have five action items that could not be actionable today due to the lack of quorum,” Schumann said.
He called for finding “interested parties who are interested to serve the people here within the County of Orange.”
The commissioners who didn’t show up were District Attorney Todd Spitzer, Scott Stiles, Randy Black, Daniel Young, Nathan Wilson, Marshall Moncrief, Teresa “Tita” Smith and Theresa Murphy, who joined for the beginning of the meeting before leaving.
Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Kimberly Edds, said the DA is on a family vacation.
The voting members who did attend were Supervisors Doug Chaffee and Don Wagner, Paul Wyatt, Sue Parks, Jim Palmer, Jack Toan and Richard Afable, who arrived late.
The commission’s new chairman, Chaffee, said the commission only exists to provide advice.
“I think part of the confusion of the commission is [it’s] only an advisory body,” Chaffee said as he ended the meeting early due to the lack of quorum.
“I regret we did not have a quorum. And hopefully at the next meeting we’ll do a little calling in advance to encourage people to attend the meeting and get some of our business items done.”
None of the other commissioners responded to the public’s concerns.
One commissioner, however, did note before public comments that the county still has a long way to go in its work to address homelessness.
“We fell far short of achieving what the 10-year plan [that the people] who laid these out thought they could accomplish. And we don’t yet have a solid understanding of why that was,” Wyatt said during Wednesday’s meeting.
“We shouldn’t over-celebrate. Because we still have a long long way to go.”
During public comments, Anaheim resident Pat Davis said the commission’s discussion a few months ago about their own conflicts of interest makes her wonder about the whole panel.
“And while I listened to the meeting where there seemed to be some discomfort, questioning about who could in fact be chair and not be compromised — that concerns me about the makeup of the [whole] group,” Davis said.
“We certainly should be able to have a chair besides an elected official.”
Among the things the commission was unable to approve Wednesday were directing what types of homeless services to focus on, recommending people to fill empty seats on the commission, and an update to their meeting calendar.
Their next meeting isn’t scheduled for two more months, on Sept. 15.
“We saw meetings be canceled time after time, for month after month. When the commission finally did meet, the majority of the meeting was about rearranging the agenda and who would be in charge,” Weitzman said.
“And when the commission finally meets again, after another canceled meeting, there’s not enough of a quorum to even pass something as simple as this calendar,” she added.
“The proposed calendar only contains two more meetings for the entire rest of 2021. And given there’s no quorum, and that calendar can’t be approved, it’s not clear to me if there will be any more meetings this year at all.”
Like Davis, the Anaheim resident, Weitzman suggested a reworking of who’s on the panel.
“If [most of] the commission we have couldn’t be bothered … to show up, then maybe the leaders of this commission need to really rethink [the commission] and maybe open it” up to other people, she said
“The people … who are here are committed enough to show up and participate in the meetings.”
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.