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O.C. survey shows desire for investment in public health, social services over law enforcement, report says

Protesters call for defunding law enforcement outside of an O.C. Board of Supervisors meeting in June.
Protesters call for defunding the police outside of the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting in June. A new survey from a community coalition shows respondents favor investment in public health and social programs over law enforcement.
(Courtesy of Ferin Kidd)

As the Orange County Board of Supervisors considers the approval of a new budget, a community coalition released a report this week showing that survey respondents living in the county favor greater investment in public health and social services, while supervisors favor investment in law enforcement.

The report, compiled by the People’s Budget Orange County Coalition, was based on the survey responses of more than 1,000 residents.

The coalition is made up of various community groups, including the ACLU of Southern California, Housing is a Human Right OC, Chispa and the Orange County Equality Coalition, among others.

“Orange County’s leadership has for many budget cycles denied the very existence of our most diverse communities and their needs while building wealth on the backs of that very workforce,” said Pat Davis, a founding member of the coalition.

Richard Lee Austin, 68, was previously convicted of stalking and the attempted kidnapping of attorney Limor Lehavi in 2018. Austin will be sentenced on Sept. 25.

County spokeswoman Molly Nichelson declined to comment on the report.

The findings of the report are in line with a nationwide movement to defund police and reinvest in community programs.

The Board of Supervisors had an initial meeting on the budget on Tuesday. The board is expected to take a final vote on the budget at its Sept. 15 meeting.

The report says that residents who replied to the survey support investment of 77% of the discretionary budget to community services like public and mental health, affordable housing, rent relief and other social programs, while the Board of Supervisors’ preliminary discretionary budget calls for a 17% allocation towards community services.

The report also calls for a 10% discretionary budget allocation toward public safety, while the supervisors’ budget aims to devote 55% of the budget toward law enforcement agencies like the Sheriff’s Department, district attorney’s office and jails.

The group said it focused on the nearly $1-billion discretionary budget, rather than the $7.5-billion total budget because the board has “total control” over that portion of the budget and local taxpayers fund most of it.

“Adopting a People’s Budget will be the first step towards creating an infrastructure and social safety net that has long been lacking,” Davis said in a press release. “It will change lives and build a stronger more inclusive system to address the unmet needs of many.”

The coalition circulated the survey through its website, social media and the organizations of the coalition. The survey will stay open online for people to fill out.

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