SACRAMENTO — Although conceding defeat in the legislative battle here, the four Orange County supervisors who favor building a new jail near Anaheim Stadium and Disneyland said Wednesday that the project remains alive, even if they cannot use state money to pay for it.
A restriction against spending state money at the site was inserted into a bill that was sent to Gov. George Deukmejian following a 27-1 vote in the Senate on Wednesday. County supervisors who support the Anaheim site conceded that they do not expect Deukmejian to veto the measure, which allocates jail construction money to counties from a $495-million bond issue California voters approved in June.
But the supervisors said the $25.2 million that Orange County would receive can go toward other jail projects, such as the intake and release center being built in Santa Ana. And, they said, they will somehow "work something out" to pay for the proposed $141-million jail at Katella Avenue and Douglass Road with other money.
Sen. John Seymour (R--Anaheim), who has accused supervisors of selecting the Anaheim site "in a back room" and who helped engineer the legislative maneuver to block it, said he has "a hard time believing" that supervisors would dip into their general fund budget to finance the new jail.
But "it is certainly their decision," he said. "They are a very creative board. Maybe they have a plan. . . . If we have to fight it on another front, that's what we'll do."
Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove), also a staunch opponent of the Anaheim site, predicted that Orange County's master plan for detention facilities--required of all counties under the bill--would never be approved by state officials if supervisors stubbornly insist on building at the Anaheim site.
In June, Robinson and Seymour added an amendment to the jail bond allocation bill that would forbid county officials to use state money for an adult jail that is "within two miles of a major league baseball and football stadium and is within three miles of a major amusement park."
The provision, nicknamed the "Mickey Mouse amendment," was drafted so it would affect only the site in Anaheim selected by supervisors for a 1,500-bed jail in Anaheim.
County officials angrily denounced the maneuver as "blatantly political" and lobbied hard to have the amendment deleted.
In a compromise agreed to last month, provisions of the bill that would have affected jail site controversies in Los Angeles and San Diego County were deleted from the measure. But the amendment affecting the Anaheim site remained in the version of the bill sent to Deukmejian.
Supervisors said Wednesday, however, that the setback will not prevent them from building on the Anaheim site they have chosen, even though local officials typically use state funds for as much as 75% of their jail construction costs.
"We will be able to finance that facility with other funds," Supervisor Bruce Nestande said. "We can transfer funds around and work something out. It's not going to bring things to a halt. It's unfortunate they're playing that type of a political game, but we were aware of this from the start. This is not going to be the death of this site at all."
Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, who last March battled successfully to keep the new jail out of Santa Ana, agreed that the Anaheim site can still be used.
"Staff has, in a preliminary fashion, scoped out that we probably would, if the final design is OKd, go ahead with that site--if everything turns out OK on the environmental impact report," Stanton said.
He said there could be a delay of unknown length while "we look at our options, figure out how we're going to pay for this," in the absence of the state funds.
The four Republican members of the Board of Supervisors had said they would ask Deukmejian to veto the bill if it contained the Anaheim amendment. Last month, they wrote a letter to the governor asking for a face-to-face meeting. But Nestande said Wednesday that the board majority now recognizes that Deukmejian is in "a legitimate hard spot," since the measure affects funding for 51 counties other than Orange.
Nestande said he had spoken briefly to Deukmejian's top aide, Steven Merksamer, and he "is certain" Deukmejian agrees that the Legislature should not involve itself in local land-use disputes.
Deukmejian's top aides told legislators in June that the governor would veto the jail bonds bill if all the siting provisions remained in it. But after the San Diego and Los Angeles County amendments were removed, Deukmejian aides said he would not veto the bill, although he still disapproves of the remaining Anaheim amendment.
Legislative sources speculated that Deukmejian would now let the bill authored by Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside) become law without his signature.