Promises, Hopes and Predictions

Times Staff Writers

Orange County's top government officials took the oath of office Monday, vowing to address issues including state budget cuts and gang violence.

"Today, a mighty wind sweeps across our Orange County.... Let this mighty Santa Ana wind sweep away our old divisions and bring with it, on this day, new perspectives to the critical issues we face," said new Supervisor Chris Norby, referring to the windstorm that blew through Southern California.

Well over 300 people watched Norby, as well as incumbent Supervisors Jim Silva and Tom Wilson, take the oath of office at the county Hall of Administration.

Silva promised fiscal restraint in the face of the state's estimated $35-billion deficit and pledged to continue streamlining county operations.

"Although a lot has changed since I was first sworn in in 1995, the county is again facing a difficult financial future," Silva said.

"This time, we must deal with financial problems originating mostly at the state level that are beyond our control. Unfortunately, there is little doubt that the impact will be significant."

The ceremony was to be held on the steps of the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana, but the wind prompted the last-minute venue change.

Earlier in the day, incumbent Sheriff Michael S. Carona was sworn in for his second term inside a parking garage after the tents erected for the occasion on the front lawn at department headquarters were blown away by the wind.

Carona credited the men and women he was put in charge of -- including three who lost their lives in the line of duty during his term -- for elevating his and the department's reputations.

Accomplishments cited by Carona included the easing of jail overcrowding, the consistent drop in crime rates in areas his department patrols and the quick arrest of a suspect in the Samantha Runnion kidnapping and killing.

"One of the toughest challenges I have is to figure out how to share the credit. All the great work they do I get the credit for," he said. In an interview, Carona said he is concerned about how budget shortfalls and shifting federal priorities might make the department's work more difficult.

The county saw the number of gang-related homicides nearly double last year.

"Obviously, with our gang program, we're concerned about a lack of funding," he said.

"We keep redeveloping and refining our strategy. And what we find is that the things we want to do are being affected by the economy. Right now, we're trying not to lose ground."

One program Carona hopes to expand is the Neighborhood Enhancement Team, a 3-year-old community policing effort that relies heavily on social service networks and has led to significant reductions in crime in troubled areas.

Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas decided against a big ceremony. He was sworn in by his chief deputy during a staff meeting.

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