What Can You Buy for $82,320?

Photo by Keith MayOrange County leaders are not happy that OC ranks No. 54 out of 58 California counties for its supply of child-care. They apparently want to be dead last.

On Sept. 13, the Orange County Board of Education killed a daycare program serving 950 kids in low-income families. Announcing their decision, board members cited the program's $2 million deficit over five years. Ken Williams, a right-wing, Bible-thumping Republican who sits on the board, said his "governing philosophy" prompted him to conclude that those living in poverty should learn not to rely on the county.

Beginning in mid-December, the 950 kids who were in the program will join 18,000 other local poor kids on the waiting list in the scramble for a place to stay while their parents work at low-wage jobs. Williams and other county politicians said they strenuously searched but couldn't find $400,000 per year to cover the spending gap.

That claim ranks among the more preposterous in recent memory. We spent a couple of minutes reviewing county spending and learned that the politicians who couldn't find a penny more for daycare found some interesting ways to spend $12.8 million during the past six months:

$25,000 for a county picnic pavilion.

$205,000 subsidy to the private Orange County Business Council and North Orange County Business Center.

$5,460 for a pesticide surveillance program.

$325,000 subsidy to the Irvine Co. for preservation of a red barn on the multibillion-dollar company's property.

$22,741 for installation of telephones at a county recreational park.

$185,925 for design improvements at the county's hall of administration.

$48,000 for a consultant to help select a consultant to perform time-management consulting.

$76,439 for county parking-lot sealant.

$784,950 for "renovation of athletic field and courtyard landscape."

$104,380 to dismantle jail kitchen.

$29,080 to remodel jail kitchen.

$198,000 payment to a property consultant.

$5,000 for an "oversight" consultant to advise county politicians on the status of citizen initiatives.

$32,289 to "rapidly screen large numbers of people for radioactive contamination."

$125,000 for play equipment at a park.

$60,000 for county government newspaper advertising.

$160,763 to a local auto dealership for one vehicle to be used for weed growth maintenance.

$10,000 for copies of a "Best Management Practices" handbook.

$180,000 for "building plan check consulting services."

$92,000 to subsidize a private-industry labor market study.

$9,691 to "enforce egg regulations."

$945,000 for "on-call rental of dump trucks."

$50,000 for housing consulting services.

$3,000 subsidy to the Orange County Marine Corps Memorial Foundation.

$57,000 to paint a county parking lot.

$200,000 for insurance consulting services for retired county employees.

$27,190 for enforcement of nursery regulations.

$966,342 for a consultant for "development of a strategic plan for an integrated management system."

$100,000 for government radio ads on KWIZ-FM.

$400,000 to perform a management audit.

$52,000 to improve the voice-mail system at the Department of Social Services.

$1,426,426 for pothole and road improvements at John Wayne Airport.

$101,011 for a voice and data system at the Upper Bay Nature Preserve.

$323,000 for a new public-address system at the county jail.

$100,000 for a management consultant for review of county management.

$247,000 for development of an asset-management program.

$379,900 for a consultant to implement a "Results Oriented Government" management program.

$2,699,955 for installation of security cameras at juvenile hall.

$1,000 to the Dana Point "dock-walkers" program.

$1,000 to the El Toro High School girls basketball team.

$2,000 to the Boy Scouts of America, plus a 30-year, 100 percent taxpayer-subsidized property lease on Newport Harbor.

$150,000 for a graphic designer and copywriter for the county CEO.

$84,155 for repair of a county parking lot.

$5,000 subsidy to study emerging markets.

$82,320 for the North American Beaver Exhibit.

$91,964 to remodel the offices of the Public Facilities Department's auditor-controller.

$5,000 subsidy of a "Made in Santa Ana" directory.

$100,000 for "on-call" surveying services.

$10,000 to a consultant for government lobbying.

$141,550 to build a county concession-area restroom.

$164,740 to landscape a county building in Orange.

$3,000 to subsidize a county volunteer appreciation picnic.

$980,000 payment to Rancho Santa Margarita Joint Venture for 1.8 acres.

In July, business leaders reacted angrily to a Los Angeles Times story suggesting that high-tech entrepreneurs bypassed Orange County as a business location because of its conservative political reputation. "It was wrong," peeved Irvine Co. executive Dick Sim said. "When you're recruiting people who don't know Orange County, [the Times story] can hurt you. It's image."

Word to Sim: the image is grounded in facts—like the closure of low-income daycare centers in a county that can come up with $173,829 for "bag-valve-mask ventilation training" for county employees.

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