Orange County Dems: Thanks for the Consideration…

Among the many other activities going on today was the Orange County Democratic Party all-precinct convention. Quite a turnout with many familiar faces.

Local heavyweights US Rep. David Price, former State House Speaker Joe Hackney and House colleague Verla Insko along with State Senator Ellie Kinnaird (who changed a tire on the way to the meeting) attended.

Price, just returned from the budget breakdown nonsense in Washington, gave a rousing call to arms pointing out that the Tea Party express was bearing down on the nation – and last night’s buffoonery was just the first in many salvos aimed squarely at middle America. Verla and Joe sketched out the dire legislative morass they face in the State house and related how the turnover in control of the House has actually brought the Democratic caucus closer.

There were 44 prepared petitions put before the convention – a long list to dispense with in less than the budgeted 4 hours. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who was running the proceedings, was able to work through a good chunk by getting collective assent upfront.

Though it has been a long time since I participated in a convention, I came prepared to offer an amendment to the petition calling for support of the Board of Commissioner’s [BOCC] recent plan to hold a Nov. 2011 referendum increasing our local sales tax 0.25%.

The BOCC has proposed splitting the anticipated $2.5M per year evenly between economic development and education. I asked the gathered folks to support a change in that allocation from 50/50 to 33% for economic development, which would adequately support the economic initiatives the BOCC has already laid out, and 66% to restore and support the many human service programs curtailed by the County these last 5 years.

My neighbor Tom Henkel seconded the call and an interesting discussion followed. Unfortunately, my suggested changes were completely shot down. It was great to get a strong dose of participatory democracy even if my effort was for naught. I appreciate the kind and thoughtful consideration the convention offered.

Afterwards, BOCC member Steve Yuhasz came over and graciously encouraged me to keep on pressing the BOCC to find money for human service programs. I told him I wasn’t going to give up.


2 responses to “Orange County Dems: Thanks for the Consideration…”

  1. Jason Baker Avatar
    Jason Baker

    Thanks for bringing the amendment, Will. Whether or not they ultimately get funded out of the sales tax, I have this sinking feeling that the county is about to get stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to human services funding. I’m not envious of the folks drawing the budget for the coming year.

  2. Administrator Avatar

    You’re welcome Jason. The BOCC’s do face some tough budget decisions but I’d rather see another prenatal nurse providing community health outreach than a repaved running track at one of our schools.

    As you know, the rotten economy has spurred demand – Orange County is creeping towards a 20% poverty rate, while the unemployed rate seems to have stabilized (I think folks have given up) we know there are many who are underemployed, the number of local families who are one paycheck away from ruin is way up. At the same time we’ve closed local clinics, put a crimp on parolee services, cutback community health outreach, etc. One dollar of that $1.6M I advocated for will do more to increase the capacity and improve the delivery of service to the growing local population of folks on the edge (or off) than it will within the school districts.

    Just as State and Federal support wanes for critical services, prioritizing these services in the budget is critical. If we don’t start now to close the gap that has been widening over the last five years, then when?

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