Editor’s note: Ahead of next week’s election, Voice of OC is publishing a series of candidate surveys for the various races. Click here to see all of the surveys.

County supervisors are among the most powerful officials in Orange County, shaping decisions around law enforcement spending, mental health, homelessness and public health.

And in the coming days – and again in November – local voters have the power to decide who will control those decisions.

Voters in Costa Mesa, Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Newport Beach, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Coto de Caza, Ladera Ranch and much of Irvine will be choosing their representative for District 5.

Voice of OC reporters reached out to all four candidates and sent them a list of 18 questions, several of which were submitted by readers in response to a public invitation for questions.

Three of the four candidates responded, and each was allowed up to 50 words per answer, to keep the total length reasonable. 

Here are their answers:

1. Do you believe it’s right for countywide taxpayers to pay for harbor patrol services in coastal cities like Dana Point, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach?

Diane L. Harkey: “Yes, access and protection are for all who visit and use the resources, many not living in the particular cities cited. Dana Point Harbor is in fact a county asset owned by the people of the county.  Interdiction of drugs and other trafficking are also a public benefit performed.”

Katrina Foley: “Harbor Patrol Services through the county are a matter of national security and the US Department of Homeland Security requires it for our border protection, preventing human trafficking, and catching drug traffickers. Plus, our marine safety division helps protect the environment and natural sea life.”

Patricia C. ‘Pat’ Bates: “Harbor patrol is essential to provide public safety to our boaters and harbor visitors. It is right for County taxpayers to fund harbor patrol in the County owned Dana Point Harbor which is a countywide resource. Elected officials in cities that have harbors have the responsibility of financing harbor patrol.”

Kevin Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

2. What would be your approach to nuclear waste at San Onofre? While it’s mainly a federal jurisdiction, what would be your efforts as a leading local representative and your ask of federal authorities?

Harkey: “I will continue the efforts of our current Supervisor Bartlett, and Supervisor Desmond in San Diego, working collaboratively with elected officials and the community to pursue temporary or permanent storage for San Onofre as well as 75 operating or shutdown nuclear power plants in 33 states with stored waste.”

Foley: “We need Congressman Mike Levin’s bill, Spent Fuel Prioritization Act of 2022, to pass. It has broad bipartisan support from our OC Delegation, and will ensure SONGs waste is removed from the proximity to our community which is subject to coastal erosion, and near an earthquake fault line.”

Bates: “In 2019 I authored SB465 which would ensure local governments continue to receive funding for offsite emergency response planning, training, and exercises related to the shuttered SONGS. I have long advocated for the federal government to move SONGS’ nuclear waste to a secure location as far from communities as possible.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

3. There’s concerns Dana Point Harbor is being turned into a wealthy enclave amid skyrocketing rents. What are your thoughts on that? Would you change the development plans there? What is your approach?

Harkey: “There is litigation underway with the Boaters and DP Harbor Partners which leaves me unable to comment on rents for fear of recusal. The “partners” have negotiated a 66 year lease with the county which I will monitor for progress and compliance with the terms of the lease agreement.”

Foley: “The original plan required DP Harbor Partners to delay increased rates until the improvements were completed. DPHP has effectively cut access to our public harbor from the public by racking up the prices up to 90% on fixed income / middle class boat owners long before improvements have been completed.”

Bates: “The Dana Point revitalization plan and specifically the increase in boat slip fees are currently the subject of litigation. Any decision regarding changes to the private public contract must await the outcome of that litigation.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

4. What’s your approach toward the management and proposed expansion of south county’s toll roads (the 241 and 73)?

Harkey: “The 241 is now focused on the 91 connection, as all plans for southward connection have been terminated by the agency and San Clemente. A deal is a deal and I will ensure the agreement is not breeched.  The 73 should not pass through existing developments in San Juan Capistrano.”

Foley: “We should not expand the Toll Road into more of South County’s protected lands or coastal areas. I truly believe the County should step in and investigate how quickly the TCA can make the Toll Roads open to the public, in accordance with their initial development agreement.”

Bates: “Local government and community members must have a say in where private toll roads are placed in their communities. It must be a collaborative effort to ensure protections of existing structures and protected open space.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

5. As the representative of South County – nearly all of which is policed by the Sheriff’s Department – what if anything would you seek to change about the department’s handling of law enforcement in these communities?

Harkey: “Five of the 10 safest cities in the state are where OCSD operates. I would not change their time-tested and evolving policies, which have worked well in crisis situations, preventing riots, robberies, destruction of property and violence experienced in other counties. If threats increase, we may need additional resources.”

Foley: “Residents in unincorporated OC say the OC Sheriff’s response time has been deterred by the congestion on Ortega Highway. We need to build satellite stations for the Sheriffs to decrease response times in the unincorporated areas, and increase bike patrols for county parks and bike paths to ensure safe communities.”

Bates: “I will listen to the residents of unincorporated areas and ensure their level of service meets their needs and provides the highest level of public safety.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

6. What improvements would you see yourself advocating for with public health? What would you fund? What would you unfund? What do you think of how the county Health Care Agency (HCA) is being run? What did HCA do well during the pandemic? What did they not do well? Has HCA operated independently enough from the Board of Supervisors in your view? And what do you think of cities like Santa Ana and Irvine declaring they want to split off their own health departments separate from the county?

Harkey: “I would review the work across departments (OCCR – housing; HCA, and SSA – CalFresh), assess how well we coordinate our services, which need funding or realignment. The County does not ‘share’ health department with cities. Our responsibility is regional; state law recognizes that communicable diseases do not respect city boundaries.”

Foley: “Initially, the HCA handled the pandemic poorly and the Board politicized it by leaving the public in the dark about the county’s response. When I joined after being frustrated by the board, I hosted briefings for the public. The Agency evolved and served us well by vaccinating millions of residents.”

Bates: “I believe that local control best serves individual communities. County public health should have more flexibility to meet the needs of individual communities and not be beholden to state mandates. If cities believe they can better serve the needs of their constituents and can fund those needs that’s their decision.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

7. What are the biggest changes to the mental health system would you want to make, and how would you do it?

Harkey: “Orange County, with CalOptima, MindOC and other private partners (such as clinics, nonprofits, hospitals, etc.) through BeWellOC, is way ahead of the curve in terms of creating a well-coordinated mental health system. Expand coordination, data integration and navigation system so that all who need help, families included, have access.”

Foley: “CalOptima has a moral obligation to expand mental health assistance to all eligible county residents. I would do more to collaborate with and fund school psychologist counselors as well. My office is also currently working on Veterans suicide prevention plan, we must do more to help our vulnerable Veterans.”

Bates: “Along with my legislative colleagues we introduced ACT, a billed focused on Accountability, Compassion and Treatment. Accountability – Assess and use only best practices. Compassion – Use existing resources through the Caltrans clean streets budget to clean up encampments. Treatment –  Provide more financial resources for treatment plans to address mental health needs.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

8. How do you believe the county can do better at addressing homelessness? And how would you go about making that happen? What do you think of the county’s plans for 2,700 new units of permanent supportive housing? Should it be moving faster? If so, how would you make that happen?

Harkey: “I would monitor the progress of the 2700 units which depend on available land, contracts, approvals and funding, several of which are underway.  We know what works; Orange County has built a System of Care and a broad response plan.  See a more complete response on: www.dianeharkey.com.”

Foley: “Last year my office helped cities obtain funding to build 384 units by converting old crime magnet motels into permanent supportive housing through Project Homekey. We need to build permanent supportive housing units faster to house the chronically homeless, including our seniors,Veterans, youth, and victims of relationship violence.”

Bates: “Along with my legislative colleagues we introduced ACT, a billed focused on Accountability, Compassion and Treatment. Accountability – Assess and use only best practices. Compassion – Use existing resources through the Caltrans clean streets budget to clean up encampments. Treatment –  Provide more financial resources for treatment plans to address mental health needs.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

9. What’s your sense of how the county handles transparency with the public? Does the county do enough to engage the public in its budget and spending decisions? Should the county be bringing the public into its $8 billion budget process before the tail end every June? How would you plan on doing that? And how accessible should public meetings be? Should people have the ability to call in to comment? And to have email comments to be read aloud? And does the county need to ensure public records are turned over more quickly? What do you think of the sheriff not releasing public jail data unless people pay $1,000 for access?

Harkey: “I would conduct more public workshops and district meetings on topics of concern. Comments are public record and should be read or abbreviated support/oppose. I can work collaboratively but not dictate to elected officials. The Sheriff and our deputies are highly professional and perform admirably under very difficult circumstances.”

Foley: “County residents have the right to know that their tax dollars are being spent effectively. I’ve been able to shine a light onto the numerous no-bid contracts that have been placed on the agenda, and challenged the status quo of awarding taxpayer funded projects to friends of the board majority.”

Bates: “Government is by the people, for the people. The public should be given adequate time to present their views at public meetings. Any request to public data must be provided in a cost recovery manner, many of those requests may be provided on the county website, reducing printing costs.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

10. What do you think of how the board has handled its oversight of law enforcement agencies like the Sheriff’s Department, DA’s Office, and Probation Department? What if anything would you like to see approached differently? And what is your sense of the county’s law enforcement watchdog the Office of Independent Review? Is it adequate?Do you see a need to expand funding and positions there, or not?

Harkey: “OIR should be a resource for the County to identify areas for improvement, provide recommendations based on expertise, and work collaboratively with the Sheriff to make meaningful change that reduces risk to sheriffs/public. The relationship should not be adversarial, nor agenda driven to ensure public safety needs are met.”

Foley: “All public agencies require proper oversight, law enforcement is no exception. We must ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively and residents are treated properly. We must support the OIR, and fulfill the positions we have so we can have proper oversight of law enforcement agencies.”

Bates: “Generally speaking, I believe the Board has handled oversight of law enforcement agencies well. I believe the office of independent review is functioning more independently and to ensure that continues in the future more funding may be necessary, and I would support that, if and when that became evident.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

11. What, in your capacity as a local elected leader, do you plan to do about climate change? If you plan on taking action, what are your specific plans?

Harkey: “This is a tough question for 50 words.  I will follow state guidelines and programs already in place with an eye toward reducing financial impacts on residents using what we know works. I will support incentives to businesses and individuals and strive to protect property rights. Costs matter to constituents.”

Foley: “We already see the impacts of climate change on our community. The county manages a majority of the beaches and open space in OC, and as sea levels rise and wildfires intensify. I’m working on a climate action plan with environmental experts to help homeowners and businesses survive.”

Bates: “Bluff safety is crucial to save lives and preserve beach access. Our coastal communities need flexibility to address bluff safety, the CCC ‘managed retreat’ policy of forcing families out of their homes is draconian. Not only is it expensive for the taxpayers, it does not address the underlying issue of erosion.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

12. Do you believe the last presidential election was stolen?

Harkey: “No, Congress certified. There are/were questionable voting practices that were legalized, due to COVID – provisional and mail in ballots, un-scrubbed voter rolls and extended deadlines that created confusion and questions, that remain unanswered. We must improve and demonstrate integrity in our elections, for people to accept results.”

Foley: “No.”

Bates: (Declined to answer.)

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

13. Do you see public corruption as a problem in Orange County? And what would you do to combat it?

Harkey: “I believe in most instances Orange County officials try to steer clear of this charge.  Bad actors will always exist, which attention to audits should expose. I would rely on and support the District Attorney’s role in investigating and prosecuting corruption where it occurs and support efforts to curb abuses.”

Foley: “Yes. The impact of the recent corruption is not limited to Anaheim and Mayor Harry Sidhu. The pervasiveness of corruption must be combatted head on, which is why I called for a full audit of the County’s contracts with all of Anaheim’s major businesses, Chamber, and the OC Power Authority.”

Bates: “I think the most effective way to combat corruption in Orange County is to have a robust whistleblower system with regular audits to ensure each department is operating with efficiency and following all appropriate ordinances and regulations with transparency and accountability to the Board of Supervisors.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

14. What do you think the county could do to address the housing affordability crisis facing many local residents? And what could the county do to reduce road congestion?

Harkey: “A constant question, affordability depends on cost of land which is 50% of most SFR costs.  Supply and demand dictate, as well as land use designations. The state has mandated more multiple dwelling units and I will help our cities meet new housing requirements by reducing regulatory burdens where appropriate.”

Foley: “I’m drafting a homebuyer assistance program because the housing affordability crisis adversely affects the ability to strengthen the middle class, as well as draining funding from our County departments who spend thousands of dollars to train employees who then move to another county with lower cost of living.”

Bates: “I will work with cities to look at commercial and industrial land that is no longer occupied and rezone those sites to build affordable mixed-use housing and emergency housing. To reduce congestion the County could ensure arterial roads, general plan projects and the M2 plans are completed on time and on budget.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

15. How would you deal with the noise pollution under the flight path of John Wayne Airport, which residents say is increasing?

Harkey: “Currently the Supervisors have a ‘Fly Friendly’ program which seeks cooperation from private jets which may take off and land any time of the day. Hour limitations apply only to commercial flights. I will be evaluating all options to protect a person’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their homes.”

Foley: “Within weeks we are launching the Fly Friendly program I’ve worked on over the last 14 months to decrease the impact of JWA general aviation flight pollution. I prioritized hiring an airport director who will listen to resident concerns, respond timely and with ernesty, and work collaboratively to solve problems.”

Bates: “I am committed to opposing any major expansion to John Wayne Airport that would bring more noise pollution to the residents who live under the flight path, this includes commercial and cargo.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

16. With the recent federal government changes to water allocation in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, what are your plans to assure adequate water supply to all communities in Orange County?

Harkey: “Conservation alone will not solve a water problem for a system that was built for 18 million people now serving 40 million. Storage, as planned in numerous water bonds approved by the voters should be pursued. Re-use and recycling should be implemented along with expanding on plentiful untapped resources.”

Foley: “We are better prepared than most counties, but we must remain prepared by: effectively managing the OC groundwater basin, increasing stormwater capture at Prado Basin, and expanding water recycling and replenishment.”

Bates: “Orange County Water agencies have taken significant steps to address conservation, including water storage through our county reservoirs, water recycling and groundwater replenishment to guarantee we have adequate water supply through any future droughts.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

17. Currently the OC sheriff refers more people to ICE than any other department in the state. Would you change that? Or do you support it?

Harkey: “I am in full support of arresting criminals and contacting ICE if they are breaking our laws while ‘visiting’ in our country.”

Foley: “I need to investigate the Sheriff’s referrals. I support referring violent criminals out of our system. However, I would be deeply concerned, and surprised, if community members seeking support and protection from the Sheriffs were being referred to ICE. All residents should feel comfortable and safe contacting our law enforcement.”

Bates: “The Sheriff is duly elected, he is the chief law enforcement officer in the County. I believe his referrals are based on risk assessment in terms of the community those individuals are residing in, the decision remains under his purview. I am proud to support him and his department.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

18. Do you support the idea of public transit? If so, what would you do to make it more appealing and effective?

Harkey: “To work public transit must be safe, convenient, affordable, and available, and have a ridership that finds it so.  The public cost should not outweigh the public benefit.  Heavily populated areas, schools and universities most likely fit the model.”

Foley: “The only way we can decrease greenhouse gas emissions and congestion on our roads is through a robust public transportation system. I was proud to support the free public transportation for individuals under 25 years of age from the county, increasing access to the whole county for families and students.”

Bates: “Absolutely, mobility is key to the success of our region. I look forward to serving on OCTA again and working with South County residents to determine what services are needed and provide more connectivity to schools and business centers. Additional last mile services will make public transit more appealing.”

Muldoon: (Didn’t respond.)

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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