Five Months Late, County Commissioners Invite Comment on 2016 Bond Referendum

In a strange turn of events, the Orange County Board of Commissioners is inviting comments on the 2016 bond referendum five months after they voted hurriedly—after somewhat secretive deliberations by the voting majority—to exclude all county needs except for school maintenance and expansion. No money is to be allotted for affordable housing, senior needs, or parks despite the commissioners’ many public declarations over the past few years that these issues are a high priority for them.

The meeting is scheduled for 7:00 pm on Tuesday, September 15, at the Southern Human Services Center. A strong turnout is highly important. It appears that they have been debating whether to carve funding out of the $125 million proposed bond, and that has understandably made people nervous because of the long-delayed and much-needed upgrading of school facilities. However, the Board was presented with financial data that revealed that adding $10 million to the bond issue would have a very small fiscal impact.

Here is some recent background info:

News & Notes From the BOCC Work Session on Thursday, September 10

  • The meeting began with a clear and competent report from the county's financial consultant, which concluded that the county is financially healthy and quite able to incur the bond debt. Most interesting was the data on how much taxes may need to increase in the future to cover the debt. Obviously, the $125 million package would require a substantial increase, which was estimated to be about 4.92 cents per $100 in 2018. A $130 million package would only add another 0.16 cents per $100, and a $135 million package would add another 0.16 cents on top of that. Given that the $125 million is the baseline, adding affordable housing money adds a relatively tiny burden.
     
  • Commissioner Mark Dorosin made an eloquent, impassioned statement on behalf of affordable housing. Commissioner Mia Burroughs made the improbable statement that she agreed with Dorosin's concern for socioeconomic inequality and our pressing needs for affordable housing, yet she could not support adding money to the bond. She said she was committed to finding money for affordable housing by making cuts somewhere in the operating budget at some undisclosed time in the future. She did not offer any specific amount she had in mind, nor did she say what she would cut to free up the money. Commissioner Penny Rich pointed out that cutting one thing out of the budget to raise affordable housing funds would likely result in them dealing with a shortfall down the line from whatever they cut. Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier basically said we shouldn't think we need to get money from bonds for everything we want to do and also offered no tangible support for affordable housing funding. Chair Earl McKee spoke of the undeniable needs for school maintenance and improvement and concluded his remarks by saying that if we didn't spend all the money on schools that we may make national news because of a school shooting due to ineffective security. Seriously. He also offered no tangible support for affordable housing funding. Commissioner Barry Jacobs concluded the discussion by eloquently pointing out that the process has been flawed from the beginning and that Board leadership should have ensured that all potential stakeholders (schools, affordable housing advocates, senior serves advocates, and parks and recreation people) were engaged early on to get their input and democratically craft the bond package.
     
  • As you can tell, the commissioners seem to have staked out their positions even before hearing public comment.
     
  • Despite that, the four commissioners who appear to be staunchly against including affordable housing in the bond have somewhat weak arguments and arguably are not in line with the majority of county residents. We could see a shift, especially because they seemed to be disagreeing over whether to cut school funding for housing money, when it's quite logical to just add housing money to the bond.
Total votes: 123

Comments

If you believe that we need strong affordable housing efforts in Orange County, this is your last opportunity to advocate that funds be included in the 2016 Bond.

The statement that Sept. 15th is the "last opportunity to advocate" is incorect. The bond discussion will also be an agenda item on the October 6th regular meeting and public comment will be allowed as part of that agenda discussion.

The timeframe for comment on Sept 15 is under "public comment not on the agenda" and will occur at the beginning of the meeting. Should a large number of folks attnd the meeting and wish to speak, it is my intention to request that the board suspend the "1 hour limit to comment' in order for everyone to make their views known.

Earl McKee

Why did the BOCC hold a vote in April with one member missing?

Why did the BOCC hold a vote without a public process leading up to this April vote?

Why is the BOCC inviting public comment long after the members have declared their positions?

Is this process acceptable? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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