Spirited Orange County union and Democratic Party officials gathered this morning outside the county's Hall of Administration to protest the Board of Supervisors' firing of more than 200 Social Service Agency employees as one way to address massive budget woes. With a backdrop of placard-waving senior citizens, eight speakers hailed the event's theme: "Save our seniors! Not political perks!" Organizers claim that county supervisors and top managers continue to hand themselves $21 million in annual perks while drastically reducing key services to needy elderly citizens.
"They took care of us and now it's our turn to take care of them [senior citizens]," said Rick Steckler, a retired Orange County Sheriff's Department sergeant. "Yes, the board has to make cuts but [they] can do it in overtime and the budgeting of programs that can be deferred. I also implore them to look at bonuses because our seniors can't be deferred."
Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, told the crowd of about 50 that the cuts have resulted in social workers having caseloads that are as high as 400.
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"There is no way that they can get out and see everybody," said Berardino. "This is the generation that stood up for this country--the 'Greatest Generation' and now we must honor and fight for them. It's shameful that in this county with all its wealth that there are those who would cut the safety net while they enjoy perks."
Senior citizen Francine Harris told the crowd that, "If it wasn't for these [social workers] I don't know where I'd be."
Organizers say that while supervisors and managers take $918,000 in taxpayer-funded car allowances, the Social Services Agency is struggling to fund programs that protect more than 51,900 local elderly citizens from abuse and neglect.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly