Post-Bankruptcy Questions Remain
Recently, the Board of Supervisors celebrated what they referred to as the “end of the county’s bankruptcy.”
While it is good that Orange County has closed a terrible chapter in its history, the book is far from complete. The two biggest questions raised by the bankruptcy--"What did we learn?” and “What will be done to reform government?"--have been glossed over.
It is not only the supervisors’ responsibility to address these questions in a forthright and energetic manner. The vast majority of cities, special districts and joint-powers agencies have not only avoided reform, some have openly and aggressively fought it.
While examples are myriad, probably the most visible and disturbing case is the Transportation Corridor Agencies. The mere suggestion of beginning a dialogue to discuss the merits of merging this public agency with other Orange County transportation agencies fostered a massive, mean-spirited public relations campaign by the TCA staff and Board of Directors to discredit the proponents of consolidation in an effort to save their bureaucratic purview.
For the time being, they have been successful at fighting off the offensive notion of looking at economies of scale and potential cost savings to taxpayers.
Many other government agencies in Orange County share the same “protect my turf” mentality that in the end not only costs tax dollars but erodes confidence in elected officials.
The example of water districts fighting hammer and tong to kill Speaker Curt Pringle’s bill to consolidate 25 different water districts, and the League of Cities’ effort to create a new Council of Governments (another non-directly elected, duplicative and costly bureaucracy) are just two of the more extreme examples of government officials dodging the post-bankruptcy questions.
There are many politicians who think voters have a short memory. Perhaps the final question facing Orange County in the wake of the bankruptcy is: “Will cynical politicos be allowed to kill this rare opportunity for true reform, before it even gets started, or will the memory of the electorate be just long enough to replace them with those who will finally enact reform?”
* Basking in the light of the “end” of the bankruptcy that will cost all Orange County residents untold future amounts both in dollars and quality of life, Supervisor Stanton has the temerity to tell people to be doubting Thomases when all looks rosy.
Pray tell, Supervisor Stanton, where were your doubts when you approved massive borrowing? Perhaps there is a reason for your being charged with dereliction of duty.
STANLEY J. MILLER
* Your editorial (“Keeping the County’s Luster in a Post-Bankruptcy World,” June 16) presents an overly optimistic view in the post-bankruptcy period.
The upcoming litigation between the County of Orange and such formidable opponents as Merrill Lynch is certain to reveal more disturbing facts about county mismanagement. County residents will be further outraged by the fact that while some school districts are considering layoffs, the county bureaucracy has just given itself another undeserved pay raise.
Citizen frustration is likely to continue as long as the county continues to adopt reforms that are strikingly similar to its pre-bankruptcy bureaucracy.
* The chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Roger Stanton, says the board’s latest round of bankruptcy-related lawsuits were intended to exact “some accountability from these folks who were hired in good faith by the taxpayers of Orange County to provide advice and counsel . . . and who fell down on the job. They have to be held accountable.”
Such hypocrisy! Stanton should recite those same words to himself regarding his own lack of accountability for events leading up to the bankruptcy.
Orange County will not be completely out of bankruptcy until the Board of Supervisors is purged of those members of the board who failed in their duty to supervise and turned a blind eye toward the now-infamous investment pool despite repeated warnings from several sources.