How will candidates for Orange County supervisor deal with county unions?

As part of this newspaper’s endorsement process, we invited the candidates for Orange County supervisor to provide their written thoughts, only lightly edited for length, on major public policy matters.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors prepare to hold its first meeting in the new building named, County Administration North, in Santa Ana on Tuesday, September 13, 2022. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Here we present their responses to the question: The county employees’ unions are powerful local political players, yet their interests aren’t usually aligned with those of taxpayers. What strategies have you considered when you go head-to-head with the union in negotiating contracts?

Van Tran: While unions have their strength in number, fiscal prudence is still what resonates most with residents. Educating the public as to our fiscal health and the risk that goes with any increases in salary and benefits will go a long way in empowering the Board of Supervisors to be able to take a firmer stance in negotiation.

Don Wagner: I am not afraid to say no in negotiations and vote no when necessary on contracts that are not in the best interests of the community I represent. I have won elections in the past without union support, but am always appreciative of such support when the interests of the union, a fair wage for a fair day’s labor, dovetail with the interests of the community in a competent, diligent local workforce.

Frances Marquez: I’m a former union organizer and am proud to be endorsed by many local labor unions in this race. Unions help ensure workers are paid a living wage, earn benefits, and plan for a secure retirement. I am also not afraid to speak truth to power, and I will look out for the taxpayer first. My experience creating public policy has informed my approach to bringing people of both parties together to solve challenges. I plan to collaborate and engage union leaders, businesses, and our county government and ensure negotiations are made in good faith. I will be transparent in my actions to the public.

Janet Nguyen: My experience as a city councilwoman, supervisor, and senator has given me unique exposure to the power of public employee unions. During my time as a councilwoman, we had employee unions asking for the board to sign contracts with an initial defined increase for the first year and “market rate” increases for the years following. This contract was a non-starter. My colleagues and I negotiated defined increases over the life of the contract so the payroll could be properly budgeted for years to come. I have always been an advocate for taxpayers and have always negotiated for balanced public employee union contracts that are fair for employees and taxpayers. We want the best of the best to work at the County of Orange, but at the same time we should not be building the county budget to accommodate extravagant employee pay, benefits, and retirement plans. Fiscal responsibility and prudence will always be my guiding light on contract negotiations.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Gunfire at a California Biker Bar Kills 3 people, Plus Shooter, and Wounds 5 Others

TRABUCO CANYON, Calif. (AP) — Gunfire at a popular Southern California biker bar killed three people and wounded five others, and the gunman — believed to be a retired law enforcement officer — was fatally shot by deputies, authorities said.

Some people stood in disbelief and others ran when a sudden flurry of gunshots broke out Wednesday evening at Cook’s Corner, in Orange County’s rural Trabuco Canyon, a witness said.

“It was like a madhouse,” Betty Fruichantie, who was in the bar, told NBC4 Los Angeles. She said she believes the shooter was the husband of a friend who was with her in the bar.

Her friend, Marie, dropped to the floor, but Fruichantie didn’t know whether she was hit. With bullets flying past her face, Fruichantie ran and hid in a restroom with others.

“And when we came out, people were on the floor and people were like over people trying to help them, just holding their wounds,” she said.

William Mosby, of Lake Forest, told The Orange County Register outside Providence Mission Hospital that his daughter, named Marie, was taken to UCI Medical Center after being shot. He initially heard she had been killed, he told the newspaper.

“I’m extremely relieved,” Mosby said. “What I heard was the worst.”

Authorities arrived within two minutes of the first report of a shooting after 7 p.m., and the gunman was also soon dead, Orange County Sheriff’s Sgt. Frank Gonzalez said.

Dozens of patrol cars and ambulances swarmed the bar. Three other people and the gunman were pronounced dead at the scene.

Six others were taken to the hospital, five of them with gunshot wounds, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department posted on social media. Two were in critical condition, according to a statement from Providence Mission Hospital, in nearby Mission Viejo.

UCI Medical center confirmed in a statement that it received one patient from Providence Mission. It said there was no further information on that patient’s identity or condition.

The gunman was a retired officer with the Ventura Police Department, Cmdr. Mike Brown said the department was told by Orange County authorities, according to the Ventura County Star newspaper. He worked at the agency from 1986 to 2014, Brown said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom was monitoring the shooting “and coordinating with local officials as more details become available,” his office tweeted.

Cook’s Corner has long been a place for motorcyclists to gather for live music, open-mic nights or just a cold beer after a long ride. It calls itself the oldest motorcycle bar in Southern California and hosts a regular Wednesday spaghetti night, with a band.

Hours before the shooting, rows of motorcycles and bikes framed the gravel entrance where plaques describe the bar’s history. It has become known as a community gathering spot for a wide range of people.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

CalOptima Health Wants to Create a Facility to Better Serve OC’s Unhoused, Aging Population

Proposed $49 million facility will bring recuperative care and elder care services under one roof

CalOptima Health, the provider of publicly funded health coverage in Orange County, is investing about $49 million to create the Community Living Center of Tustin, with the purpose of addressing challenges faced by the one of the county’s most vulnerable populations, those experiencing homelessness and aging.

From 2017 to 2021, the number of people 55 and older who accessed homeless-related services in Orange County increased by about 89%, according to the state’s Homeless Data Integration System. They are part of a growing “silver tsunami” of older adults who are falling into homelessness for the first time after the age of 50.

“A lot of it has to do with the financial crisis of 2008. The early baby boomers, they have good jobs and pensions and things of that nature, but the baby boomers toward the end of that generation oftentimes had lower paying jobs with no pensions … they were much more fragile financially,” said Kelly Bruno-Nelson, CalOptima’s executive director of Medi-Cal/CalAIM, adding that when the housing crisis hit, a lot of these people were pushed into the ballooning rental market. “So, they were one spouse dying or one job loss away from homelessness.”

Some who are struggling with homelessness use walkers or are in wheelchairs or are experiencing cognitive issues.  They may need assistance with bathing or other daily needs. Because of that, Bruno-Nelson said there’s difficulty in figuring out where they can go.

“They can’t go to a shelter because shelters oftentimes have bunk beds, services are very far away. These individuals are in wheelchairs, but the hallways aren’t wide enough. They’re incontinent so they can’t wait to get to the restroom. There is no nursing. They can’t maneuver in a traditional shelter,” Bruno-Nelson said. “Recuperative care is for a short period of time and is also unlicensed. Because of that, they can’t help with bathing or with dressing. They can’t administer medications. So it’s really not much better.”

These shortcomings leave this population with two options: go to a nursing home prematurely, if an option, or live on the street. CalOptima wants to build a facility where the unhoused, aging group can find all the services they need under one roof.

The Community Living Center of Tustin will overhaul an existing building on Yorba Avenue to a combine recuperative care and the services of the already existing Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, also known as PACE.

All guests will be allowed to stay until they find stable, permanent housing, the agency said. CalOptima Health anticipates the average length of stay will be one year. Most guests will be exiting recuperative care facilities or hospitals. The center will not provide housing to individuals who do not need medical assistance or rehabilitation services.

The only individuals who will be eligible for the facility are adults 55 years or older who are unhoused and meet the medical criteria. The only way for an unhoused senior resident to get a bed in the center will be through a direct referral from a hospital, Tustin law enforcement or a shelter within the city of Tustin.

Overall, the recuperative care center will take care of 119 unhoused older adults working toward a permanent housing placement. The PACE center is expected to serve up to 500 individuals from both the surrounding community and the recuperative care center.

Each semi-private room will have its own bathroom and shower. The building will be divided into five “pods,” roughly 25 beds in each, that will be staffed with its own social worker and nurse, as well as a guest safety associate stationed 24 hours a day. Each pod will also have its own living room and space for socializing.

The facility will include an indoor gym, store, beauty salon and cyber café. PACE services include routine physicals, outpatient surgical and mental services, rehabilitation therapy and transportation services. The recuperative care program will provide additional services such as medication management, three meals a day, support in accessing benefits and interim housing until permanent housing is secured.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Political Consultant Melahat Rafiei Pleads Guilty to Attempted Wire Fraud

A former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County pleaded guilty today to a felony charge for attempting to defraud one of her political consultancy firm’s clients.

Melahat Rafiei, 45, of Anaheim, entered her plea to attempted wire fraud in Los Angeles federal court. Sentencing was set for Oct. 13, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Ms. Rafiei appeared in court today and per her plea agreement entered her plea before the judge. She is proud that the work she has done was instrumental in bringing down the Anaheim cabal,” said Alaleh Kamran, Rafiei’s attorney. “It is worth noting that her plea was not to bribery charges, but to attempted wire fraud.”

Rafiei, the principal and founder of Progressive Solutions Consulting, a Long Beach-based political consulting firm, admitted that she agreed to bribe two members of the Irvine City Council — both on cannabis-related matters, court papers show.

The two councilmembers were not named in the plea agreement, nor were any allegations against any councilmembers documented in the agreement. No current councilmembers were serving at that time.

Rafiei was a longtime leader in Orange County’s Democratic Party and formerly served as secretary of the California Democratic Party and state representative to the Democratic National Committee.

According to her plea agreement, from April to June 2018, Rafiei agreed to give at least $225,000 in bribes to Irvine City Council members in exchange for their introducing a city ordinance that would allow Rafiei’s clients to open a retail cannabis store in Irvine.

In April 2018, Rafiei presented a business opportunity to an individual who was then employed in the medical cannabis industry and offered to introduce the person to an Irvine politician, who was not identified in court papers, prosecutors said.

The next month, Rafiei met with the unnamed elected official to discuss introducing an ordinance in Irvine that would legalize retail medical cannabis and ultimately benefit the individual’s business, court papers state.

Following the meeting, Rafiei asked the person’s business partner to pay her between $350,000 and $400,000 in exchange for getting the cannabis ordinance introduced, according to her plea agreement.

Irvine only allows marijuana testing laboratories in industrial, medical and science districts. No other type of commercial cannabis business is permitted.

In September and October of 2019, Rafiei falsely represented to a commercial cannabis company owner that, in exchange for a payment of at least $300,000, she would work to pass a cannabis-related ordinance in Anaheim that would benefit and be specifically tailored for the company owner’s business, her plea agreement says.

However, Rafiei already had been working on such an ordinance for other paying clients, court papers show.

Rafiei then falsely represented to the victim that she would keep only $10,000 of the payment in exchange for her purported work. In fact, Rafiei intended to keep $100,000 of the payment, prosecutors said.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Rent Control is a Great Idea If You’re Trying to Destroy a City. Keep It Out of Orange County.

Last year I moved from Orange to Costa Mesa. Nice city. Close to the beach, but cheaper than Huntington Beach. I’m negotiating with the landlord on the rent, which they want to raise if I renew. It’s called the free market.

But the city might impose its own rent control, on top that of existing state laws, most recently Assembly Bill 1482, the California Tenant Protection Act of 2019. In the bill’s language, it limited rent increases to “5% plus the percentage change in the cost of living … or 10%, whichever is lower.”

At the Feb. 23 City Council meeting, local residents complained about the high rents in the City of the Arts.

“This is now the second meeting in a row where we had people from the community come to speak about that issue,” said Councilmember Manuel Chavez, as reported in the VoiceofOC. “I think it’s important that as we look at the housing element, as we look at housing in Costa Mesa, we have every option on the table, including rent stabilization.”

They should just look north to Santa Ana. As the Register reported, last September the City Council voted 4-3 for measures that, among other things, “Cap rents at 3% annually or 80% of inflation, whichever is less, for buildings built in 1995 or earlier and for mobile home parks established in 1990 or earlier,” as well as tougher “just cause eviction” rules.

The action prompted a lawsuit filed in OC Superior Court Feb. 14 by the Apartment Association of Orange County, which represents 1,875 members and 100,000 rental units in OC. I’ve been to the AAOC’s meetings and most of its members are small, Mom & Pop landlords owning a couple of duplexes to supplement income, often for retirement. They also were hit hard by the COVID eviction moratorium.

Related: Rent control is the terrible idea that won’t go away

“The city is picking winners and losers. This is business, free enterprise. We encourage the city to work within the parameters of the market. But if there’s something else to help renters, we’ll talk with them,” said Dave Cordero, AAOC’s executive director.

The market already is alleviating this problem. The Register’s Jonathan Lansner reported Feb. 8, “California big-city rents fell for the fifth consecutive month in January.” Santa Ana was “down 0.6% in a year” to $2,115 a month, with “Costa Mesa off 3.5% to $2,461.”

It’s also worth noting in 2022 the highest rents in America, according to Fortune Builders, are New York City at $3,260, up 30.4%. And San Francisco, at $2,901, up 9.85%. The Big Apple adopted rent control in 1943 as a “temporary” measure during World War II, which ended in 1945, 78 years ago. The City on the Bay adopted it in 1979 during the Jimmy Carter stagflation era. Rent control obliviously has had the opposite of its intended effect.

“Rent control leads to less maintenance and renovation by landlords,” Raymond Sfeir, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University, told me. “This results in dilapidated housing in many cases, and uninhabitable buildings in others. And it leads to the conversion of apartment complexes to condo buildings. It creates disincentives to build apartment complexes. And it leads to higher rents of units not under rent control due to lack of supply.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

‘GTA’ Police Chase Suspect Steals Pickup Truck on Live TV in LA County

A police chase suspect went on a dangerous 2-county crime spree, including breaking into multiple vehicles, backing into a cop car and breaking into someone’s house – all to avoid getting in handcuffs.

The suspect, 32-year-old Johnny Anchondo, who was initially wanted by police in Fullerton led officers on a chase before being cornered into an apartment complex parking lot in the northern part of Anaheim. Despite being cornered in the parking lot, Anchondo refused to surrender as he backed into one of the cop cars and then drove off in a white van.

The dangerous pursuit later became a 2-county chase as the suspect drove through parts of Fullerton, Anaheim and Santa Ana before ditching the white van in Whittier. Viewers commenting on FOX 11’s live streams as the crime spree unraveled compared the police chase to a popular video game series Grand Theft Auto.

After leading police on a brief foot chase, Anchondo went inside a nearby home, was confronted by the people inside, including two dogs, and got inside a white pickup truck that was parked in the drive to once again drive off in a possibly stolen vehicle. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department went on to take over the later parts of the lengthy chase.

FOX 11’s Gina Silva spoke with the carjacking victim. He said he had purchased the pickup truck three weeks before the incident, saying he got the vehicle to aid his family’s landscaping business.

“It was just hard work,” said Andres Benitez, the man whose truck got stolen. “This was my goal since two years ago.”

According to Benitez, the suspect broke into the house trying to evade police. With his mother home, Benitez brandished a knife to escort the suspect out of the home. As the suspect was led out of the house, the suspect snatched Benitez’s car key and ran off with the key and the vehicle.

The dogs who were involved in the tense struggle are OK, Benitez told FOX 11. While devastated after getting his pickup truck stolen, he playfully told FOX’s Gina Silva he was “disappointed” that the family’s pit bull didn’t try to stop the suspect.

Anchondo was eventually cornered by law enforcement at a gas station in San Gabriel Valley. After a brief and tense standoff, he was eventually placed in custody around 6 p.m. Anchondo was being held on a parole violation. 

GoFundMe page has been launched for Benitez after he got his work truck stolen. Those looking to help can click here for more information.

Click here to read the full story at Fox News

An Orange County House race has become an Asian American culture clash

The battle between Democrat Jay Chen and Republican Michelle Steel reveals the nuances of identity

Ngan Nguyen can’t stop, won’t stop dancing. It’s such a joyous Friday night for the 80-year-old retired cosmetologist, a chance to gather with so many friends from so many years of political activism here in a strip mall parking lot in Orange County’s Little Saigon. Tonight’s “Rock and Vote” party,with around three weeks to go before the midterm elections, isa major deal in the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. Nguyen’s got a jaunty fedoraand two large flags propped on each shoulder, so theyflap behind her like wings. She twirls and twirls, in the glow of signs from a nail salon, two law offices and an acupuncturist.

More than 200 people have shown up to register to vote or meet candidates for local office. There’s a choir singingthe Vietnamese national anthem and “The Star-Spangled Banner”; two crooners who look like Elvis;a troupe of teenagers in colorful silk costumes doing choreographed dances with flags and martial arts sticks; and one heartthrob who belts out a dual-language rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.” with such passion you’d think he was auditioning for “The Voice.”

In a community of refugees like this, voting is always a celebration. Forty-seven years ago, when Nguyen was 33, she fled the only country she had ever known with her husband and three boys on the last day of the fall of Saigon. She never misses an election. The first ballot she cast as a U.S. citizen was for the president at the time, known for welcoming Vietnamese refugees: Ronald Reagan. Then George H.W. Bush. Then …

“We belong to MAGA group,” she says, proudly. “We vote for Trump and we vote for him again if he runs.”

That yellow-and-red-striped flag she’s carrying, along with an American flag? It’s for the defunctanti-communist country of South Vietnam. It has come to symbolize Vietnamese nationalism, and was spotted at the Capitol during the Jan 6. insurrection.

Nguyen’s also excited to vote again for Rep. Michelle Steel, a Republican whoin 2020 was part of a trio who became the first Korean American women elected to Congress.

What about Steel’s challenger, Jay Chen, the Taiwanese American Democrat and active lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve? “No!” Nguyen says. “He supports the China communists. Anybody who supports communists, we don’t vote for them.”

That’s a falsehood perpetuated by Steel’s campaign against Chen. And it’s apparently sticking.

Never mind that Chen’s paternal grandmother fled from China to Taiwan to escape communism. Or that he’s a U.S. service member who is part of the 7th Fleet, the Naval unit that maintains freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Strait. “So that is part of my job, confronting the threat of communist China,” Chen says the next day when I meet him at his campaign office.

How have charges of communism become a key issue in a House race, 31 years after the fall of the Soviet Union?

The hotly contested race in California’s 45th Congressional District is a microcosm of Asian American identity clashes and how those tie to voting preferences. Here we have two Asian American candidates fighting for one of the only chances Democrats have to flip a seat to blue, in a midterm election cycle where they are predicted to have major losses. And it’s happening in a district where more than a third of the voters are Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) — the largest chunk of whom, by far, are Vietnamese, whose older generationstend to vote conservative, with lingering, traumatic memories of their family’s escape from communism.

Among countless attacks, Steel has distributed a flier showing Chen in front of a group of students, flanked by portraits of communist leaders such as Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, with a blackboard that reads, in Vietnamese, “Jay Chen invited China into our children’s classes.” There’s also a TV ad in which actors play communist intelligence officials crowing with delight about Chen’s candidacy. “He’s one of us!” says one. “A socialist comrade who even supported Bernie Sanders for supreme leader!”

Steel’s attacks all stem from Chen’s support 12 years ago, on a school board, for a program that would have taught Chinese in public K-12 classes. She accused her 2020 opponent, former congressman Harley Rouda, who is White, of being a communist sympathizer, too — and won, with support from Vietnamese Americans. (She declined The Washington Post’s requests for interviews.)

“If I had told you, without naming any names, that a Korean American was red-baiting a Taiwanese American about being friendly with Chinese communists in order to affect Vietnamese American voters, you’d think I was making it up,” says Tung Nguyen, a doctor and the founder of the Pivot Victory Fund, a SuperPAC that supports liberal AAPI candidates, including Chen. “I think it’s very cynical.”

Back in April, Steel threw the first accusation of racism in a race that has had many on both sides, saying Chen was making fun of her accent. Chen says a comment he said about her needing “an interpreter” was about her policy ideas being incomprehensible, and that she was using the moment as preplanned justification for her communism attacks.

Republicans clearly see Orange County Vietnamese Americans as a constituency worth investing in. Of the 38 “community centers” the Republican National Committee opened this election cycle, the first was in Little Saigon,with prominent party figures attending the launch. It’s in a strip mall office front, not labeled as an RNC hub. “But we all know what it is,” says Katie Nguyen Kalvoda, a board member of the AAPI Victory Fund.

For many Southeast Asian immigrants and their children, labeling someone a pro-China communist can strike incredible fear, especially since Chinese President Xi Jinping recently secured his unprecedented third term, tipping the country as close to one-man rule as it has been since Mao Zedong, analysts say. Several Vietnamese “Rock and Vote” attendees mentioned that China was “trying to take over Vietnam,” referring to ongoing territory and maritime skirmishes, despite Xi’s extravagant welcoming of Vietnam’s Communist Party leader on Tuesday — and that they saw a vote against Chen as a way to stop it.

Like Latinos, AAPI voters are often viewed as a monolith voting bloc, lumped together for both positive reasons (strength in numbers can increase access to attention and funding) and negative ones (i.e., people in power can’t tell us apart). There’s a reason Asian women of different ethnicities often joke that we can swap IDs and no one would notice — and why it almost always works. But anyone who has stared at a demographics survey and been unsure of which box to check knows that AAPI loyalties and divides are more complicated than any poll or census can capture. When your family immigrated, what country they came from and how old you were can all shape political identity. Someone whose family left China before World War II is going to have a different relationship with communism than someone who emigrated from China in the past three years.

CA-45 is a chance to see those dynamics play out in real time.

Steel is 67 and was born in Seoul. According to previous interviews, her parents met in South Korea after leaving communist North Korea during the Korean War. Her father, a diplomat, moved the family to Japan for his job. After his death, Steel came to Los Angeles on her own, followed by her mother, who spoke no English, and Steel’s three siblings. They opened a men’s clothing store and a sandwich shop. She married Shawn Steel, a prominent Republican operative, with whom she has two kids, and has a long history in Orange County government, including the Board of Supervisors.

Chen is 44 and was born and raised in the United States by immigrant parents. His father’s side came to Taiwan in exilefrom China. His mother’s side is indigenous Taiwanese, going back generations on the island. In the United States, his parents ran an import/export business back when bird cages were all the rage; Chen often talks about how he and his brother grew up assembling the cages, because their fingers were so small. He has the dream résumé to impress AAPI voters: Harvard graduate, active-duty military, cute family with his wife, Karen, and their two boys, 6 and 8. He’s on the board of a community college, has a commercial real estate business and spent a year in Kuwait fighting the Islamic State.

Steel’scommunism charge sticks in partbecause many people read Chen’s last name as “Chinese,” which it is, without understanding that Taiwanese Americans generally come from a lineage that has been in constant conflict with communist China.

“Here’s the thing,” he tells me the next day in his campaign office, “I’m Taiwanese, but even if I was Chinese, that is still not a reason to doubt my loyalty.”

It reminds him, he says, of the persecution of Wen Ho Lee, the Taiwanese American scientist who was accused of being a spy for China by the federal government in 1999. Lee spent nine months in solitary confinement, at times shackled, before President Bill Clinton personally apologized and the New York Times printed a 23-paragraph editor’s note about “flaws” in its coverage. “And that’s exactly what [Steel’s] doingwith these scare tactics,” Chen says, “trying to otherize me based on my perceived heritage.”

Drive down the main drag of Little Saigon and you’ll see a shopping-center-long wall of colorful campaign posters, almost all bearing Asian last names. Tri Ta! Nam Quan! Kimberly Ho! Chi Charlie Nguyen! Mark Nguyen! Lan Nguyen! Duy Nguyen! Some have photos of the candidate in a cross-armed, take-charge pose. Some have Vietnamese translations.

Then, way up high on lamp posts, are a flurry of small signs that are not like the others: bright red with yellow lettering and a yellow star, to mimic the Chinese flag. They read, “China’s Choice JAY CHEN.”

The fine print — too small to read from the street — says “Paid for by Michelle Steel for Congress.”

“Good thing is, from afar, all you see is, ‘JAY CHEN,’ so my name ID is getting up there!” says Chen, getting a laugh from a crowd of 30 supporters on a lawn in Fountain Valley,a suburb lined with $1 million ranch homes that in Orange County qualifies as middle class.

The O.C. is an incongruous setting for a race this ugly. The weather’s perfect. Palm trees abound, as does, arguably, the best pho and bubble tea in America. Disneyland (the happiest place on Earth!), Knott’s Berry Farm and any number of TV-famous beaches (Laguna, Newport, Huntington — take your pick) are no more than 40 minutes away, depending on traffic.

It’s the afternoon before that “Rock and Vote” MAGA rally, and the congressional AAPI A-team has arrived: Judy Chu, who represents parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino; Mark Takano, from Southern California’s Riverside/Inland Empire region; and Grace Meng, who flew in all the way from Queens.

One by one, the representatives, who are Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese American, respectively, step forward to condemn Steel. Chu calls her tactics “offensive” and “unacceptable.” Takano calls them “despicable.” They all call them “racist.” They talk about Chen’s service record and how the government would never give him top-secret security clearance if he was a communist. (“All those documents at Mar-a-Lago, I can read them,” Chen says.) There are plenty of other reasons they’re opposed to Steel, given that she co-sponsored a bill that would create a federal ban on abortion and voted against gun control, protecting same-sex marriage and lowering the price of insulin.

This strangely C-shaped, entirely inland turf that is causing so much intra-Asian fighting was carved out in a redistricting shuffle last year specifically to empower Asian Americans. At about 37 percent AAPI, it’s about double the percentage in California and more than six times the share of the nation. It’s also about 36 percent White, about 23 percent Latino and about 3 percent Black.

Click here to read the full article at the Washington Post

Orange County Declares Health Emergency Due to Viruses

A health emergency has been declared in Southern California’s Orange County due to rapidly spreading viral infections that are sending more children to the hospital, health officials said Tuesday.

The county health officer issued the declaration Monday due to record numbers of pediatric hospitalizations and daily emergency room visits, the county’s health care agency said in a press release. The move allows the county of 3 million people to access state and federal resources and enlist assistance from non-pediatric hospitals to help care for sick children, said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s health officer.

“Our concern here is that it is reaching even record levels,” Chinsio-Kwong told reporters. “We want to make sure we are prepared to care for any sick child in the county who falls ill and requires hospital care.”

The county has seen a growing number of children with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can cause severe breathing problems for babies, while flu cases are also starting to rise. The situation is similar in much of the country where doctors are bracing for the possibility that RSV, flu and COVID-19 could combine to stress hospitals.

Last week, neighboring San Diego County’s public health agency sounded a similar alarm.

In Orange County, the main children’s hospital and a smaller pediatric hospital facility are operating at or above capacity, and the main campus has obtained waivers to put beds in different areas to handle the influx, said Melanie Patterson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Children’s Health of Orange County, which reported a spike in RSV cases to 186 last week.

Wait times can range from four to 12 hours, she said. Health care officials urged parents to not let that dissuade them from bringing in children showing signs of respiratory distress and said they’re triaging patients to get the sickest seen quickly while staff keep watch on those waiting in the lobby to ensure they’re safe.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Veterans Cemetery Bill Clears CA Legislature, Reaching Governor’s Desk After Tense Debate

A veterans cemetery in Orange County is one step closer today after state legislators approved legislation that would provide a final resting place for area veterans who for many years have had to drive hours outside county lines to be buried in a veterans cemetery.  

The issue that’s reverberated through Orange County for over a decade now sits on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk waiting on his approval. 

The bill is the first step toward getting a state veterans cemetery built on a piece of county owned land at Gypsum Canyon in the Anaheim Hills, a site which nearly every elected official and veterans group in Orange County has endorsed. 

“We are thankful to everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this legislative success,” said Nick Berardino, president of the Veterans Alliance of Orange County and one of the leaders of the veterans coalition that lobbied for Gypsum Canyon. “Governor Newsom has been a strong and stellar supporter of California veterans, and we are anxious for his opportunity to sign the bill.”

The cemetery was originally slated to be built on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Irvine, but after nearly a decade of debate by city leaders stalled the project, many veterans began looking for another option. 

After getting an endorsement from every other city council in Orange County, they brought the proposed Gypsum Canyon site before the Irvine City Council, where city leaders formally renounced their hopes to build a veterans cemetery and gave their blessing to take it out of the city. 

ReadHow Did Irvine Fail to Build a Veterans Cemetery After Nearly a Decade of Debate?

But in order to move forward at Gypsum Canyon, veterans needed the state to study the site, which requires approval by the state legislature. 

The process was initially held up, with State Senator Tom Umberg and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva introducing competing bills at the start of 2022 that were unified in June. 

ReadOC’s First Veterans Cemetery Clears Another Hurdle After State Legislators Unify Bills

After the Senate approved the bill on Wednesday night, the Assembly approved their edits on Thursday morning. 

Quirk-Silva, who introduced the original legislation for the cemetery in 2014, said “it was a lot of emotion,” to see it heading to Newsom’s desk. 

“This has taken a lot of time but slow and steady wins the race,” Quirk-Silva said in an interview with Voice of OC. “We’re confident (Newsom) will support.” 

While the bill leaves an Irvine site open as a potential future option, it also opens up Gypsum Canyon for consideration or any future site that county leaders decide on as long as the land is reviewed by the state first. 

At this point, the biggest voice left still calling for the cemetery to go on the former base is Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran, who has objected frequently to his colleagues’ new plans to build a botanical garden at the proposed site and has shared worries the city could be sued over it. 

ReadIrvine’s Great Park Has Its First Development Plan in Years, Can the City Deliver?

The bill also creates the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Study Donation Fund, a new account for any “local governmental entity or private organization,” to help fund the state’s study of the land, with any excess funds returned to the donor. 

That study will provide the first official price tag for what it would cost to develop the site, and list potential design options and recommendations from state staff. 

So far, the site has picked up $20 million in funding from the county supervisors, which would fully fund the study by the California Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of General Services and help fund the construction of the cemetery further down the road.  

Click here to read the full article in the VofOC

What’s An Incumbent? Redistricting Renders Some Confusion

Incumbent; what’s in a title? During a redistricting year, that’s a great question. 

Those interested in running for local offices, from city council to school boards, faced an Aug. 12 deadline to get the required number of signatures collected and paperwork filed in order to qualify for the November ballot. But in races without an incumbent vying for re-election, a five-day filing extension –  Aug. 17 – is triggered by California’s Elections Code.

The state code stipulates the extension should be allowed in races where the incumbent officer does not file. However, it also maintains an extension isn’t applicable if “there is no incumbent eligible to be elected.” 

An incumbent describes a person who currently holds a specific position or office. But redistricting put a metaphorical asterisk next to some officeholders’ incumbent moniker, moving them from one district to another because of where their home falls on the map. 

The Orange County Registrar of Voters initially included Rancho Santiago Community College District Trustee Area 4 and Irvine Unified School District Trustee Area 4 on its list of nearly 20 school and special contests with an extended filing period. 

But it later removed those two. After “additional review,” the Registrar of Voters concluded the current officeholders could not run for re-election in those seats because they now live outside those districts. 

In Placentia, Councilman Craig Green, who was first elected to District 2 in 2014, did not file to run. So Krista Hope, a Wagner Elementary PTA president, attempted to submit her paperwork on Monday, Aug. 15, but it was rejected. 

Green is what’s called an “ineligible incumbent.” He was “districted out” of his council seat when Placentia’s new boundaries were recently drawn.

In an interview, Hope argued city officials should have done more to make it clear this seat was not going to be eligible for an extension, especially when she went to City Hall to pull papers to run. 

“The law favors allowing candidates to run for office. Whenever there is any ambiguity, and where the city clerk did not give any warning that Mr. Green would be declared ineligible, the clerk should find in favor of allowing the candidacy,” Mark Rosen, a Mission Viejo-based attorney, said in a letter sent to Placentia’s city clerk and deputy city administrator this week. 

But Robert McKinnell, Placentia’s city clerk, said the state’s elections code does not allow for any exceptions. 

Hope said she filed on Monday, and not before the Aug. 12 deadline, because she thought she had those extra days to get her paperwork in order. 

“New districts add an element of uncertainty into the process,” said Dan Schnur, a USC politics professor. “So it is a good idea for election officials to make an additional effort to make sure that the relevant parties understand the rules.

“But ultimately, if you’re going to run for office, you need to understand the rules, you need to follow the rules, and it’s not that hard to contact the relevant election officials for clarification if necessary,” Schnur continued. 

Some of that confusion related to incumbents and redistricting has also played out among the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors redrew the lines for the county’s five districts in November and switched to the new boundaries in January — which meant some residents found themselves with a new county representative.

But when a majority of the board tried to tell District 2 Supervisor Katrina Foley to stay in her new district, she argued that until the next election, she should be able to represent the people who put her in office. An opinion from state Attorney General Rob Bonta agreed with Foley.

On Thursday, Rosen said no decision had been made on whether to pursue legal options for securing Hope’s candidacy in the upcoming election. 

But in his letter to city officials, Rosen pointed to Orange which granted a filing extension in its District 4 City Council race even though Councilman Chip Monaco (who is not running for re-election) was voted in as an at-large member and not as that specific district’s representative. Monaco was drawn into what is now District 4 when the city switched from at-large to by-district elections in 2020 and started transitioning to the new election format.

“If somebody wants to challenge (Hope’s) right to run, the burden should be on the person trying to restrict candidates from running, not on the candidate herself,” Rosen said. 

Hope said she will be prepared to run for the Placentia City Council in four years. 

“I found out from some of my neighbors there was going to be an open seat (this year), and I started attending City Council meetings to see what they were all about and started noticing some big discrepancies,” Hope said. “Rather than sit at home and complain about how things are going, why not get out there and do something about that?”

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

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