UPDATE: Okay, so Janet Nguyen is REALLY stupid–I mean, stupider than what we already knew. Unlike the other supervisors, she knows exactly what Latino Health Access is about–she received an award from them a couple of years ago, according to sources who requested anonymity. In addition, Nguyen was present at a LHA community fair highlighted in Bill Moyers' Journal back in 2009 where LHA head America Bracho specifically said her organization, while obviously concerned about Latinos in SanTana, helps ALL. Nguyen can't excuse playing the dumb innocent in this story, although it's hardly hard for her to do so.
Also? This current board (save the grinning fool to the right) previously entered into an agreement with LHA to provide countywide service–and they didn't bitch about semantics then.
In May of last year, the Board (minus Nelson, who at the time was campaigning to fill the Fourth Supervisorial District seat left vacant by Chris Norby) entered into an agreement with LHA to provide elder care countywide. The Health Care Agency staff report explicitly states that LHA helps “higher risk older adults (individuals aged 60 or older) without
regard to race or ethnicity” (my emphasis, to get it through the thick skull of the Board).
After board member Janet Nguyen moved to have the motion passed, and chair Bill Campbell seconded it, John Moorlach jumped in.
“I have a question about the name,” he intoned in his sotto baritone, face barely concealing his glee. “Does it have to be called 'promotora program?' And why?”
The deputy agency director of the Health Care Agency went to the podium to answer Moorlach's question. He explained that promotora was a Spanish word for “community health worker,” which is exactly what LHA does, and that the HCA would change the name of the program “if the board desires.”
What a wimp! What's wrong if a group with a contract with the county, which calls itself by an English name, decides to call one of its programs in a different language? Only in Orange County…but then it got better.
Moorlach said he'd prefer that without giving explanation; Nguyen–who represents SanTana, where LHA has its offices–agreed. Then Shawn Nelson asked if LHA's work for the county would only target Latinos or everyone in the county; the HCA guy said there was an explicit clause in the contract to train all people regardless of race or ethnicity, since the contract dealt with mental health. “
“Semantics are just that,” Nelson said, face contorted, “but I think if a bidder on county services for a countywide contract that was not specific for an ethnic community came forward and was the Anglo Catholic Health Care Provider System…we wouldn't stand for that.”
STOP RIGHT THERE! Last year, Nelson and the board did exactly that when they unanimously approved renewing a contract with, among other NGOs, The Cambodian Family and Catholic Charities, to help refugees in Orange County. The refugees weren't all Cambodian and weren't all Catholic, yet Nelson didn't have a cow about that issue. Wonder why?
Anyhoo, Nelson continued being a pendejo. “I think it's ridiculous that we've got an agency that's going to name itself the Latino Health Access, yet they are going to provide countywide benefits to members of every community…I think it's extraordinary that we would even allow that to happen. By its very name, it's suggestive that people aren't even eligible.
“Unless this agency wants to rename itself,” Nelson continued, “I have absolutely no interest in supporting this sort of approach to countywide delivery of anything. This suggests that we believe in and encourage segmenting out our market…I will not support this agency on that alone.”
This, of course, isn't the first time Nelson has had a problem with an Orange County Latino landmark. Back when he was councilmember in Fullerton, Nelson proposed whitewashing historic Chicano murals, a move that was met with immediate ridicule.
Campbell was surprised by the insolence of Nelson and Moorlach, saying “I'm not as tied up with the name of an entity” as long as they met the obligation of their contract.” Then Nguyen–who, as we said earlier should know better–asked if LHA knew that they had to help everyone, not just Latinos–you know, because Mexicans only help themselves, spitting out the name “Latino Health Access” as if she just swallowed a rotten bánh mì. ¡Otra pendeja! The poor HCA guy repeated–again–that LHA knew this.
The board then was ready to decide, by a 4-1 vote, to approve the contract with LHA only if they changed the name of their Promotora Program to the English “community health worker.” Then Patricia Bates–who had stayed quiet during the entire preceding conversation–jumped in. She asked if they could continue the motion for a week because she didn't think her constituents in the “canyons” would take kindly to something called the “Latino Access Group” servicing them. She wasn't opposed to the contract, per se, just the use of Spanish–this, coming from a woman who represents an area whose street names and cities are nearly all en español.
The vote was moved to the next board meeting. Then, irony of ironies, the following agenda item dealt with a contract with a group that had “Vietnamese” in it that also proposed to do services for all groups, not just Vietnamese. Instead of railing on and on about how discriminatory and bad giving a countywide contract to a group with an ethnic group in its name, the board stayed quiet. Double standards against Mexis? You know it! Ah, Orange County…