We Live in Paradise!
Republicans have done a masterful job demonizing Gov. Gray Davis, but they've been suspiciously vague about how GOP control of the governor's mansion would clean up a political system corrupted by both major political parties. Sure, gubernatorial hopeful Tom McClintock is running TV commercials that ask voters to imagine a Republican victory and a state with "taxes low" and "jobs plentiful." But there's no need to imagine when you can check the record of a place so thoroughly dominated by Republicans that not a single Democrat has served on its five-member Board of Supervisors in two decades: Orange County.
Known as the original "Reagan Country" and home of fat-cat Republicans, OC should be a model of Republican Party principles at work. Here, you'd guess, taxes would be lowest, government most efficient and political corruption nonexistent.
McClintock and celebrity body-builder Arnold Schwarzenegger have promised new leadership while loading their campaigns with OC Republican advisors. But you won't hear any of these campaigns tout Orange County as an example of what the GOP can create without Democratic interference.
Why is Orange County the GOP's dirty little secret? Because, as conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke once observed, "The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it." Consider:
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SIZE OF GOVERNMENT. If government is the problem and not the solution—as Republican strategists say—how to explain OC's GOP-controlled government? The number of county bureaucrats is at an all-time high (17,000) and county spending has skyrocketed in the past decade by 42 percent to almost $5 billion.
FINANCIAL ACUMEN. Republicans blame Davis and the Democrats for not understanding money management, but Orange County is No. 1 when it comes to fiscal screw ups. The largest municipal bankruptcy in the world occurred here in December 1994, under the watch of an all-Republican Board of Supervisors. Betting on exotic Wall Street schemes with taxpayer dollars, they lost $1.7 billion almost overnight. Little has changed. Earlier this year, the county's planning department lost $24.5 million and, more recently, auditors "found" an unaccounted $40 million in various bank accounts.
TRANSPORTATION. Republicans claimed they had the solution to OC traffic congestion: privately owned but publicly subsidized toll roads. But the plan has become a nightmare. Instead of using the roads to alleviate existing traffic, as they promised, county politicians allowed politically connected developers to use the toll ways for massive new building projects. Result: congestion is worse and the roads, which Republicans promised would be self-sufficient, have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Local taxpayers face a possible second multi-billion dollar bankruptcy.
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Not once has an OC Republican supervisor taken responsibility for the county's fiscal screw ups. Instead, they've blamed low-level county bureaucrats or Democrats in Sacramento. Our favorite moment was when bankruptcy-era board chairman Gaddi Vasquez openly mocked concerned citizens at a public hearing on the bankruptcy's devastating impact on health care programs. Vasquez gave $100,000 to George W. Bush in 2000 and was named director of the U.S. Peace Corps.
WASTE, FRAUD and ABUSE. You might assume the Republican Orange County Taxpayers Association would, like other taxpayer groups in the state, oppose tax increases. Ours doesn't. Reed Royalty, head of the local association, is often the spokesman for large tax-hike campaigns. As a reward, Republican supervisors have named Royalty to head the county's lucrative pension fund.
SPECIAL-INTEREST GIFTS. Republicans have skewered Davis for giving the state prison guards a budget-busting pension package in exchange for campaign contributions. We know how the Republicans feel. Last year, our all-GOP Board of Supervisors ignored budget woes and agreed to a demand of the deputy sheriffs association that public employees be allowed to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their salary for life.
ENVIRONMENT. Quick story: In 1999, water testing showed high levels of fecal matter floating in the water off Huntington Beach. Fecal. Feces. A major surf contest was approaching, however, and with thousands of tourists (and thousands of wallets) moving toward the Republican-controlled town, officials did the responsible thing: they misplaced the tests. After the last pro surfer left the ocean, the results mysteriously surfaced.
JUSTICE. In early 2001, Republican leaders remained silent when Republican District Attorney Tony Rackauckas quietly killed a prosecution report that named Newport Beach Republican billionaire George Argyros as the mastermind of a massive scheme to defraud his immigrant apartment tenants of millions of dollars. Argyros, who raised more than $25 million for George W. Bush's 2000 presidential war chest, then was named U.S. Ambassador to Spain.
LEAN GOVERNMENT. Last year, OC's Republican Board of Supervisors described themselves as penny pinchers—and then used $670,000 in taxpayer funds to make car payments for top and mid-level county bureaucrats.
GOD BLESS AMERICA. OC police officers—the same ones happily protecting Schwarzenegger during a recent campaign stop in Huntington Beach—have declared they have the blessing of the local Republican power structure to arrest anyone who drinks a beer on his own front porch on the Fourth of July.
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