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COUNTYWIDE : Supervisors Say Problems Escalating

Orange County is beset by overcrowded courts, mushrooming population, growing gang violence and an increasingly severe budget crisis, four of the county’s five supervisors said in their annual address to realtors Monday.

The supervisors, who spoke to a luncheon gathering of about 150 members of the Orange County Council of Boards of Realtors, painted a mostly bleak picture of county government affairs, one overarched by a dire shortage of funds that shows little sign of improving.

“Attempting to balance the budget this year wasn’t a pleasant experience for any of the board members, and it won’t be any easier next year,” said Supervisor Don R. Roth, the board’s most outspoken member on budget issues. "(Supervisor) Roger Stanton, who is going to take over the chairmanship next year, is going to have his hands full.”

Roth was joined on the dais by Supervisors Stanton, Harriett M. Wieder and Thomas F. Riley. The fifth member, Board of Supervisors Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez, did not attend because he was returning from Armenia, where he was acting as an official observer in that country’s elections.

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In their comments, each of the four supervisors focused on a particular issue, with Riley applauding progress on transportation improvements, Stanton calling for enactment of an alternative-resolution program to take the load off local courtrooms, and Wieder warning of growing problems with gangs.

“Youth gang activity is reaching a crisis point,” Wieder said. “If left ignored, gang activity will affect your quality of life.”

Wieder, who has created a special task force in her 2nd District to coordinate anti-gang efforts, added that she is trying to push for legislation that would hold parents legally responsible for the actions of their children.

Riley and Stanton were more upbeat in their remarks, but both agreed that the county faces a difficult period. Riley focused on transportation, which he said is the main concern for residents of his 5th District in South County.

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He hailed the expanded John Wayne Airport, which opened last year, and thanked county voters for approving Measure M last November. That half-cent sales tax increase is funding a host of transportation projects across the county.

Stanton, who seconded much of Roth’s concern regarding the state of the county budget, used the bulk of his address to urge his fellow board members to approve creation of a pilot program for alternative dispute resolution.

That program, which the supervisors will consider today, lets parties in a lawsuit have their case heard outside the normal courtrooms. And while the program is not expected to have a great impact on courtroom crowding, Stanton said it would provide a cheaper, faster way to resolve some disputes.


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