The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved responses to four grand jury reports on Aug. 23.
Supervisors agreed unanimously with three of the four final responses while Supervisor Katrina Foley said she will send in her own response to one report.
The four grand jury reports released in June respectively examined the county’s homelessness, the Orange County Power Authority, the Office of Independent Review, and increasing recycling centers for people to exchange bottles and cans for money.
How is Orange County Addressing Homelessness?
Regarding homelessness, this grand jury report (pdf) asserted the county lacks so-called “low-threshold emergency shelters,” or those without “excessive” requirements, such as monitoring drug intake, requiring rehabilitation programs, or restricting homeless individuals to come and go as they please.
The grand jury report also said the county lacked affordable rental units and failed to provide housing opportunities for “transitional aged youth,” such as youths transitioning out of foster care.
Responding to the report, the Commission to End Homelessness—a committee consisting of local politicians, police, and city leaders—said action plans have been implemented to address most of the concerns, although there is no current plan to build more low-threshold emergency shelters.
One of the supervisors decided to send in a separate response to one of the report’s findings.
“As one of my next steps, I am sending a letter clarifying my position on Finding 3, because I have fundamental disagreements with the County’s letter,” Supervisor Foley told The Epoch Times via email.
Finding 3 addressed a failure to collaborate between the county and cities in providing more shelters and services. The county’s response disagrees, mentioning how shelters and “high quality programming” were established in recent years.
While Foley does agree with most of the county’s response, she also believes the federal and state governments should provide more funding. She said of the 34 cities in Orange County, only a few have received direct state or federal funding.
“All of the funding flows from the county to the cities and there is documented inconsistencies in how that funding is allocated,” the email read.
Foley said her office plans to take more action in addressing youth homelessness by creating a board of formerly homeless youths. Their plan would include making the county eligible for the Federal Youth Homelessness Demonstration Grant, which can provide millions for addressing the issue.
Orange County Power Authority: Come Clean
The grand jury accused the Orange County Power Authority (pdf) of having inexperienced leadership and lacking transparency, and requested actions be taken in organizing its affairs. The agency has not officially responded yet.
The grand jury at the same time requested the board of supervisors appoint someone to “handle the agendas and minutes of OCPA Board and OCPA Community Advisory Committee.”
The supervisors’ approved response indicates they are unable to do as requested.
“Orange County Board of Supervisors does not have the authority to issue a directive that OCPA must follow,” the board stated.
They said while one of the supervisors does sit on OCPA board of directors, the Board of Supervisors is still not a governing body of the nonprofit agency and cannot make decisions for its officials.
How Independent is the Office of Independent Review?
The Office of Independent Review was established by the Board of Supervisors in February 2008, with a mission to provide accountability for five county agencies: the district attorney’s office, the probation department, the social services agency, the public defender’s office, and the Sheriff’s Department.
Grand jurors (pdf) recommended the board should appoint “a qualified Executive Director” for the office, as well as approve staff recommendations from the office’s executive director.
The supervisors responded that the recruitment of a new director is already underway, with applications under review and an interim director appointed temporarily. As for staffing issues, the supervisors responded that the county executive office is already working with all departments to ensure staffing.
Where Have All the CRVs Gone?
The report (pdf) requested supervisors to direct Orange County cities to apply for grants that would return more California Refund Value (CRV) funds to residents.
The funds are generated through taxes on cans and bottles bought in California, and the money should be used to open recycling facilities throughout the state where residents can exchange eligible containers for money.
The grand jury said a lack of redemption sites makes it harder for residents to take advantage of the recycling program and get cash for their returns.
The approved responses mention that supervisors cannot direct cities to apply for grants, as they do not have authority in directing cities, which have their own governing bodies.
The supervisors said they may be able to direct Orange County Waste & Recycling, a county-appointed recycling organization, to apply for the grants and “provide additional opportunities for CRV redemption with fees going to those customers” in “unincorporated areas”—regions that aren’t part of any city and are therefore under the county’s jurisdiction.
County-operated waste facilities and existing landfills identified in these unincorporated areas are potential places to host CRV facilities, according to the supervisors.