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Lessons From the Past

December 29, 1985

The year is nearing its end, and today's Orange County edition is devoted to looking back at 1985--and ahead to what 1986 may hold. That is traditional and appropriate. It's also wise, because there is no better way to anticipate the future than by looking at the past for lessons that will allow repeating the good experiences and avoiding the bad.

Lesson one is that in 1985, Orange County didn't really resolve any of the major problems that it has been wrestling with during the years since it became a major metropolitan area. No one really expected it would. Or could.

But some gains were made. Thanks to Judge William P. Gray, who after nearly eight years ran out of patience and issued a contempt order, the Orange County Jail is less crowded now and will house even fewer inmates next year.

And thanks to new technology that made possible less noisy jet operations, the county and the City of Newport Beach, after 20 years of aerial warfare, finally negotiated a legal peace that will make life under the flight patterns more livable for Newport Beach residents and permit long-needed expansion and improvements at the county's John Wayne Airport.

Others, however, are unhappy with the settlement and controversy and the threat of continued litigation persists.

And thanks to the community's generosity, Orangewood, the new home for dependent children, opened its doors.

But attention must now be focused not so much on what was accomplished as on what still needs to be done. The county economy is healthy. Income, for many, is high. But housing is still too expensive for too many people. The supply of rental units has not kept up with the market demand. Freeways are still too congested. And there are too many people in the county who are homeless and hungry, far too many for a community of such visible plenty.

As in years past, those problems will be carried into the new year. So will some new ones, such as the discovery in the fourth annual Orange County Survey that the county is splitting into segregated communities of distinct social and economic groups. That kind of separatism will make it even harder to resolve problems.

But progress comes in small steps, not giant strides. A few of those steps were taken in 1985. As the old year ends, it's good for residents to face the issues that remain unresolved, and rededicate themselves to taking the steps that will help make the new year a bit better than the last.

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