Orange County 1990 : Challenges : Community Leaders Project the Big Issues Facing the County

The Times Orange County Edition asked about 200 community leaders--from government, business, entertainment and charitable organizations--what they think will be the single biggest challenge that Orange County faces in the 1990s, either in their area of expertise or in general. Here are some of their responses.

Jack W. Peltason, chancellor of UCI

"One might expect the biggest challenge in Orange County, from the perspective of a university chancellor, to deal with education. And indeed it does. The challenge will be to educate our community to understand and assist with the grave crisis in our county health-care system. The crisis affects not only the poor and indigent residents of our community. Every single person who may be the victim of an accident or in need of emergency services is endangered when emergency rooms are forced to close their doors due to inadequate cost reimbursements from government agencies."


* Health care

* Transportation

* Changing demographics

* Support for all segments of education

* Ensuring a well-educated electorate

Ernie Schneider, county administrative officer

"Transportation, beyond a doubt, is the single most challenging issue of the 1990s. Without adequate transportation infrastructure, this county will not grow to its fullest potential. An inadequate transportation system will affect every aspect of our lives, including air quality, housing, economic well-being and ability to enjoy the county's recreational opportunities."


* Transportation

* Housing

* Air quality

* Criminal justice (jails and courts)

* Local government financing

Rusty Kennedy, executive director, Orange County Human Relations Commission

Biggest challenge: "Intolerance towards the poor. Whether it is anger at Hispanic day laborers, hostility towards social services in neighborhoods, opposition to housing affordable to very low-income workers or opposition to jails being built even in remote canyons. As the county grows richer as a whole I see a dangerous slide towards intolerance, the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome. Can we build a county where rich and poor can live together is the challenge."


* Intolerance towards the poor--NIMBY syndrome

* Transportation versus slow growth

* Wage polarization--growth at the high and low ends of the wage scale

* Housing for very low-income workers

* Intergroup conflict

James Enright, chief deputy district attorney

"While it would be easy to focus in on the drugs-equals-crime equation, I don't believe that is our overall biggest challenge in the county (because we have public awareness and support in this area).

"There is no question in my mind the major problem facing the county in the '90s will be in the area of transportation. At the close of the '80s we are almost at gridlock. If we leave the planning to the builders and the recipients of their largess we will have a traffic nightmare by the end of the century."


* Transportation

* Transportation

* Transportation

* Transportation

* Transportation

Brad Gates, Orange County sheriff-coroner

Biggest challenge: "Leadership. This county has not had the political leadership to solve the problems during the '80s and it does not appear we will have any leaders with the will to solve the problems in the '90s. We are lacking leadership from the business community to solve the major issues. The business leaders must stand up and be counted and quit waiting for someone else to do the job. The leadership in the development-builders area have tried to do their part, but they have acquired a reputation of self-interest that, in my opinion, they do not deserve. They have put back into the community and made Orange County a better place to live. Just look at the charity donation lists, Boy Scouts, etc. They at least have tried to provide leadership from their area, even though sadly they have been rejected by the community."


* Drugs

* Political leadership

* Transportation

* Jail facilities

* Revenue for government services

The Most Reverend Norman F. McFarland, Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange

"The biggest single challenge facing Orange County for the 1990s consists in changing demographic, economic and social trends having significantly unfavorable impact on our families, the basic foundation of our society. No agency or program can supplant the family and replace it if it falters."


* Chemical and alcohol abuse and its consequences

* Accessibility to basic health care for all our people

* Abortion and the depth of the moral crisis this manifests

* Availability of affordable housing

* Recognition and assimilation of, and reverence for, true spiritual values

Professor Mark P. Petracca, UCI assistant professor of political science and member of various community groups

"I think that the biggest challenge facing Orange County in the 1990s is whether we can create and nurture a political system that is up to the task of meeting the public policy challenges that lie ahead. The process of governance in Orange County and in many localities has not changed much from the days when Orange County was far more rural, much less urbane, andsignificantly less diverse. Officials in this county and in many localities are trying to govern a high-tech economic infrastructure, an increasingly sophisticated and emotionally charged electorate, and a socio-economically diverse population with "horse and buggy" institutions and politics. The tension between the demands on governance and our current capabilities to govern well cannot (and should not) be sustained throughout the next decade.

"Institutional political reforms should be considered (e.g., moving the Board of Supervisors to a variant of at-large elections; probably moving some at-large city councils to district elections; the increased use of county districts to deal with problems that do not mind city boundaries, such as pollution, water usage, etc.) as well as changes in our political and educational infrastructures (e.g., enhanced use of cable as a mechanism of political and general education; increased competition among the local media; greater attention to culture as a determinant of daily life)."


* Political reform

* Preservation of the environment

* Greater attention to proximity between workplace and home

* Social values. The "values police" are not going to disappear overnight

* Cultural assimilation

Ray Watson, vice chairman of the Irvine Co.

Biggest challenge: "Rebuilding confidence in government. The horrendous problems this county (and others) face--roads, housing, jails, crime, health care, etc.--will continue to grow until the public (out of desperation) again has faith in the only institutions that can deal with these problems. Consumerism, Populism, environmentalism, managed growthism, etc. are public-awakening but not capable of solving anything."


* Roads

* Housing for middle-class (Poor will be allocated housing, rich always can buy in. But with public pressure to retard housing supply, the losers are the middle-class.)

* Cost of health care

Tom Mays, mayor of Huntington Beach

Biggest challenge: "Maintaining our job base in Orange County. Due to an increase in traffic congestion, high cost of housing and high labor rates, large corporations will be looking outside Southern California, probably in other states, to relocate. Young people can not afford Orange County and corporations are having a harder time placing people. When jobs start going elsewhere, there won't be a housing shortage any longer."


* Quality of life issues

* Jobs

* Traffic

* High cost of housing

* Air quality and other environmental issues

Phillip E. Cox, presiding judge, Orange County Superior Court

"The infrastructure of Orange County is the largest single challenge facing Orange County for the 1990s. Orange County has failed, because of lack of funds, to keep pace with the needs of the increasing population. At the present rate of growth, Orange County citizens may very well see their sewers running at capacity or even overflowing, the potholes in the roads will become as big as manholes, brownouts may become a reality and one may find that it takes half an hour just to have a break in traffic so he can back out of his driveway."


* Drug abuse

* Transportation

* Gangs

* Housing

* Capital improvements--airport, courts, jails

Donald M. Koll, chairman and chief executive officer, The Koll Company

"Surface transportation will continue to be Orange County's biggest single challenge during the 1990s as our population increases from 2.3 million to 2.6 million and as our job base grows from 1.3 million to 1.6 million. Widening of existing freeways and roads, improvement of key interchanges, creation of super streets and the addition of the San Joaquin Hills, Foothill and Eastern Transportation Corridors will be vital. Our key challenge will be to obtain the funds for these mitigation measures."


* Surface transportation

* Affordable housing

* Air quality

* Growth control

* Changing ethnic mix

Thomas F. Bradac, producing artistic Director of the Grove Shakespeare Festival, Garden Grove

"The theater both reflects and comments on society. I believe that violence (gang-related, domestic, drug-related and random) will continue to increase in our community. The theater, as other agencies and arts organizations, will need to address itself to providing opportunities for those who are disenfranchised within our society. As an artist, the theater has the ability to communicate human hopes and aspirations, to provide thought and reflection, to inspire and through reflection to comment on our lives--to see how violence is affecting each one of us."

TOP ISSUES (artistically)

* Government censorship of controversial topics and ideas

* Lack of adequate funding for the arts by government, corporations and individuals

* Arts education in the public schools

* Support of artists within the community

* Art as a necessity for society as opposed to a frill

Roger D. Slates, Orange County planning commissioner

Biggest challenge:






* Transportation--roads--freeways

* Adequate public facilities in an era of shrinking government revenues

* Drugs and drug education

* Affordable housing

* Quality education

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