Neighbors United for Fullerton (NUFF) invited a select group of local elected officials to discuss what they are doing for the community on September 23. District 4 County Supervisor Doug Chaffee, State Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, and Martin Medrano representing Gil Cisneros of Congressional District 39, participated in the panel.
NUFF Chair and former State Senator Josh Newman moderated the evening for an audience of about forty, including Mayor Jesus Silva. He began by asking what are the priorities for each representatives.
Quirk-Silva noted that the more than thirty pieces of legislation she has introduced in her five years in California’s State Assembly haven’t always concerned her local district directly.
The first legislation she successfully introduced allowed a fee waiver for homeless people to obtain birth certificates and I.D.s because having some form of identification was necessary for support services.
Martin Medrano, representing Gil Cisneros, touted the congressman’s three town halls this year. Mr. Cisneros, he noted, has worked on healthcare, infrastructure, and housing issues, testifying before the House Appropriations Committee.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee asserted that his first priority was “good government,” and pointed out that he was the first Democrat on the O.C. Board of Supervisors in twelve years.
Chaffee unexpectedly suggested that Anaheim Hills could be the site of a new veterans cemetery in Orange County, even though Gov. Newsom had recently signed a bill authored by Sharon Quirk-Silva specifying the site of the cemetery at one of two specific locations in Irvine.
Responding to a question about infrastructure priorities, Quirk-Silva referred to Fullerton’s pot holes and the poor condition of some of the city’s roads, and said that the city was considering a one cent sales tax to repair them. “Without getting too touchy, there was this gas tax,” she noted, in reference to moderator Josh Newman’s 2018 recall over a controversial statewide gas tax hike. She said that people were anti-tax but still wanted the same level of services, including libraries, parks, and road repairs. Following the 2008 downturn, when she herself was a member of the city council, the city tried not to make cuts that were too deep, but Fullerton, OCTA, and SCAG (The Southern California Association of Governments) are not getting enough revenue to “fix the roads in a timely manner.”
For his part, Chaffee offered that he meets with the presidents of both Fullerton College and CSU Fullerton. CSUF President Framroze Virgee, he explained, recently presented plans for a pedestrian crossing above Nutwood Ave. to OCTA for possible funding. He also spoke about neighboring Placentia creating a “new oldtown” with 1,900 new housing units, 1,100 new jobs and a Metrolink stop to the area. One of his goals is to retain $ 30 million in OCTA for the 4th District because the state money allocated in Senate Bill 1 can be used only in county areas.
Medrano also spoke of adding a Metrolink stop in Placentia, and work on funding for the 57 and 60 freeway interchange.
Sharon Quirk Silva has asked President Virgee that SB1 (Gas Tax) funds be used for the Nutwood bridge, a project she said Pres. Virgee calls his # 1 goal. Her requested audit of CSUF revealed $ 1.6 billion in surplus funds at a time when parking fees were the highest in the CSU system. She disagreed with spending SB1 funding on a bridge because “they have reserves,” and she doesn’t think that the project would qualify for SB1 funding anyway.
Asked about serious efforts to address homelessness, Quirk-Silva said the issue is “More complex than people want to describe it as.” Although homeless people are often seen as lazy, unwilling to work, and possible addicts, she cautioned that the population is not all the same. “There’s a story behind everyone,” she asserted, drawing on her years as an elementary school teacher to compare the different ways children learn to the different circumstances that lead people to be living on the streets. Just building shelters is not a solution, she said. Affordable housing is a costly and timely solution, but someone with a severe mental illness would need more than just shelter or even permanent housing.
She also noted that young people working more than one job can’’t afford housing, and many seniors are without a safety net. “Nobody has the exact pathway,” she said.
She recalled Judge Carter’s inspection of the Santa Ana Riverbed homeless camp, calling the situation “unacceptable.” Buena Park and Placentia are expected to build shelters, while her husband, Fullerton Mayor Jesus Silva is trying to raise funds for “recuperative care.” She warned that if serious efforts aren’t made to combat the problem, it could become as bad as it is in Los Angeles or San Diego counties. “If everybody does their job we will be able to enforce the [anti-camping] laws,” she said. “They will be arrested. People say that’s criminalizing homelessness,” but it isn’t. She continued that it also meant “saying yes to market rate housing projects.”
Chaffee said “We don’t call shelters ‘shelters’ anymore, we call them navigation centers.” The mobile “Be Well” program, a public/private partnership of Kaiser and the county’s Cal Optima, exists for people with mental crises, and can send a unit “within minutes” of a call as an alternative to calling police. He noted that although unemployment is down, the annual Point in Time count showed an increase in homelessness and homeless veterans. He explained that the encampment on Gilbert St. in Fullerton migrated from Anaheim because that city had begun enforcing their anti-camping law, as they now can legally do because they opened a shelter there. His personal goal is to provide more affordable housing, but he said that he didn’t know how they would get the money for it.
With no more federal earmarks, Rep. Cisneros is working collaboratively on federal grants, including a bipartisan bill to fund housing for homeless veterans, Mr. Martin said. He called the O.C. Homeless Task Force a “great thing.”
As a member of the Assembly Housing Committee, Sharon Quirk Silva has seen “contentious” bills move through it. “Number One is we have to build [more housing],” she said, citing the two-year process of having developments approved by local planning commissions and city councils. She called state funding for housing on the site of Fairview Hospital in Costa Mesa a “major win,” though the local city council and residents expressed “huge opposition” to the project, even though it is an existing facility on state property.
She lamented that people apply for and receive Section 8 housing vouchers but “they don’t have anywhere to use them.” Rather than rent control, she supported SB1482 to establish rent stabilization, where owners could increase rents up to 5% plus the current consumer price index, for a total of about 8% per year. Exclusions would exist for mobile home parks, and single family homes, for owners of fewer than 20 homes. “We have to use all the tools,” she said. She also spoke of financial incentives in the form of reduced fees for the construction of Accessible Dwelling Units (ADUs), and eliminating parking requirements for units built within a quarter mile of transportation.
Chaffee, in response to a question about why south county has more undeveloped land than north county, said that he is “trying to get our fair share of park money up here,” and that it is cheaper to buy in south county. He said that he was trying to get park staff, who “have the talent to manage (it),” to tour Coyote Hills. Sharon Quirk Silva and then Senator Josh Newman secured $ 15 million to “keep as much acreage as possible,” but Fullerton only receives 3% of county park funds, and “Orange County doesn’t get their fair share because they don’t apply for funds.”
An audience member noted that Gil Cisneros’ predecessor voted in favor of the Iraq War, and asked what Rep. Cisneros would do. The question did not receive a direct answer from Mr. Martin, who said instead that “He (Cisneros) only wants to do the right thing.”
Picking up on the subject, Sharon Quirk-Silva said “People just tell me to do the right thing, but there’s not a straight answer.” She said that she is pressed by constituents of differing political persuasions, “but somewhere along the line you have to take responsibility.” Her office was once flooded by thousands of mothers against vaccinations, for example, some yelling loudly and even throwing things. ‘When someone doesn’t agree with you they say, “Do the right thing,”’ she concluded.
Another audience member wondered why it was so difficult to secure funds for the proposed O.C. cemetery for veterans, a project Sharon Quirk-Silva has worked on for six years. She explained that it wasn’t a question of support for it, just its eventual location. Veterans wanted the former El Toro Marine base. It was planned for Irvine and fully funded. The city wants it but two sites there are under consideration, one that includes historic structures, and one that doesn’t. Irvine’s city council has already approved one site, but California’s Dept. of Veterans Affairs will eventually make the choice between the two.
Chaffee asserted that it would be difficult to ultimately site the cemetery in Irvine because of “bad luck,” evidently referencing the contention over the two sites there. He instead spoke of land in Anaheim Hills gifted by the Irvine company as a better site, stating that the county would love to develop it as a national cemetery. Sharon Quirk-Silva countered that the legislation has already been signed, and the Irvine site would “be built before that happens.”
Contact Your Local Elected Officials:
Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva District Office:
1440 N. Harbor Blvd. Suite 270, Fullerton, CA 92835. Phone: (714) 525-6515
Congressmember Gil Cisneros District Office:
1440 N. Harbor Blvd. Suite 601 Fullerton, CA 92835. Phone: (714) 459-4575
Doug Chaffee can be reached at (714) 834-3440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Categories: Local News