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Bill Would Deny State Funds for Jail Near Stadium

Times Staff Writer

When California voters approved a $495-million jail construction bond issue, Proposition 52, on Tuesday, chances are that few of them gave much thought to the California Angels, the Los Angeles Rams or Mickey Mouse.

But as legislators debated plans to spend the money Thursday, it appeared that the pillars of Anaheim’s tourist industry may soon be a factor in how those funds are allocated.

In a 6-0 vote, the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved an amendment by Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove) prohibiting the expenditure of state money on any adult jail facility near Anaheim Stadium and Disneyland.

The restriction, added as an amendment to a bill allocating the jail bond money to counties, may force the Orange County Board of Supervisors to rescind its decision in March to build a 1,500-bed maximum-security jail at Katella Avenue and Douglass Road in Anaheim.

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Supervisor Bruce Nestande, angrily denouncing Robinson’s move as “demagoguery” and “power politics,” expressed hope that “common sense will prevail” before the Legislature finally approves the bond allocation bill or that Gov. George Deukmejian will veto it.

Robinson, noted for his parliamentary craftiness, carefully worded his amendment so that it applied only to the Anaheim site. But his maneuver inspired two other legislators to add a similar provision to the bill aimed at jail site controversies in San Diego and Los Angeles counties.

Robinson and Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim), who supported the amendment during the committee hearing Thursday, said they normally would not get involved in a local land-use squabble. But the pair accused the board majority of choosing the seven-acre site, a former trash transfer station, in “a back-room deal.”

“The board chose to take advantage of a lame-duck supervisor,” said Robinson, referring to Supervisor Ralph B. Clark, who voted against the site but did not seek reelection and is leaving office in January.

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The board majority, Robinson said, “tried to give Ralph Clark a going-away present. . . . I was acting to take it back.”

Seymour said supervisors chose the Anaheim site without giving adequate notice to local residents and elected officials. The selection process was “a total farce,” said Seymour, the Senate GOP Caucus chairman.

But Nestande said those characterizations were “childish” and--in the case of Robinson, who is running for Congress this fall--"politically motivated.”

Nestande said supervisors, who are under federal court order to ease overcrowding at the main men’s jail in Santa Ana, reviewed several sites but chose the Anaheim location because it is in an industrialized section of town.

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The other three sites--two in Santa Ana and one other in Anaheim--have more schools, more schoolchildren, more old people and more homes nearby, he said.

“If you put on blinders . . . you’d have to pick that one,” Nestande said. “The Board of Supervisors doesn’t want to put jails in neighborhoods. . . . But they (the legislators) put a higher priority on sporting facilities than they do on schoolchildren and neighborhoods.”

The board’s decision last March produced an immediate barrage of protests from Anaheim City Council members, residents, business people, the California Angels, the Los Angeles Rams and Disneyland. Immediately after the site was selected, city officials said they would file a lawsuit against the project if legislative help promised by Robinson and Seymour did not block a new jail at the proposed location, directly across the Orange Freeway from Anaheim Stadium.

Orange County stands to receive about $25 million from the jail bond issue, which was approved by 67% of voters statewide Tuesday. Robinson’s amendment would prohibit spending those funds--or any other state money--on a jail at the Anaheim site.

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Specifically, the amendment says state money cannot be spent “in a charter city on a site that is adjacent to or within two miles of a major league baseball and football stadium and is within three miles of a major amusement park.”

Under Proposition 52, counties can rely on state bond money to cover up to three-fourths of the costs for new jails or jail expansion projects.

When they first learned of Robinson’s planned amendment two weeks ago, county administrators and lobbyists in Sacramento thought its impact would be minimal. They told legislators that all or most of the $25 million expected from the bond issue would be spent refurbishing and expanding existing county jail facilities long before ground would be broken for the proposed $138-million Anaheim jail.

But supervisors became furious when they learned that Robinson’s amendment ruled out any state expenditures on the proposed jail site and demanded that the county lobbyist oppose them. Robinson said he initially planned for the restriction to apply only to Proposition 52 money until he learned that county officials had minimized its impact.

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Shortly after Thursday’s vote, each supervisor was sent a memorandum from Murry L. Cable, assistant county administrative officer, saying that Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside) would try to remove Robinson’s amendments from the bill before final passage.

“The governor’s office has also indicated an inclination to veto the bill if the language stays in,” Cable’s memo said.

But Robinson doubted that three Republican members of the Public Safety Committee and Seymour would have supported his amendments if Deukmejian was strongly opposed to it.


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