About 1,000 people cheered and pounded the bleachers in Anaheim's Canyon High School on Wednesday night as they started an initiative campaign to restrict all future Orange County jails to sites in Santa Ana.
The enthusiastic rally, encouraged by a jazz band on a Stars-and-Stripes-bedecked stage, was sponsored by residents of Anaheim and Yorba Linda, who have met every week to organize their campaign since the Board of Supervisors voted July 15 to build a new jail between the two cities in Gypsum and Coal canyons.
"I think it stinks," Ken Miller, co-chair of Citizens Against Gypsum Jail, told the crowd about the board's decision. "The Board of Supervisors took the easy way out, but I think they're going to find that it's not going to be so easy."
"As a former police officer, I have seen a lot of crime, and I have put a lot of criminals in jail," said Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez, one of the two dissenters in the board's 3-2 vote. "But I think to put a 6,000-bed facility in a place like this is almost a crime in itself."
Supervisor Don R. Roth, the other dissenting vote and a former mayor of Anaheim, also spoke at the rally.
Taxpayers for a Centralized Jail, sponsor of the rally, is a coalition of groups from throughout Orange County that oppose the jail site. The coalition has already proven that it can raise a lot of money--about $10,000 so far--and has hired professional political consultants to help steer the campaign.
The initiative would protect all areas of the county except Santa Ana from becoming a site for a jail, so organizers believe they can draw support countywide, especially in some southern areas that were recently considered for a prison before the Gypsum Canyon selection.
The court-ordered need for a new jail and overcrowding at the present facilities will probably be a major political issue in Orange County over the next year, Roth said: "It's going to be a big issue. It's going to become very contagious."
The coalition will start its petition drive today to collect the 66,000 signatures it needs by mid-February to put the measure on the June, 1988, ballot.
The group is also supported by the city councils in Anaheim and Yorba Linda. About half a dozen council members from both cities were at the rally.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we will support you and we will encourage you," Yorba Linda Mayor Pro Tem Roland Bigonger said. "We will do anything within our power to assist in the process."
Members of the coalition said Santa Ana should be the site for future jails because it benefits financially from being the county seat. They also said the county would save money in transportation costs by locating prisoners closer to courthouses in Santa Ana.
Foes of the Gypsum Canyon site also complained that environmental impact reports say the jail will cause more than 8,800 additional vehicles a day to use the already-crowded Riverside Freeway, California 91.
Vasquez and Roth have opposed the canyons site so far but have not endorsed the call to restrict future jails to Santa Ana. They both enthusiastically encouraged the crowd to support the petition, however, and Vasquez even gave the audience instructions on how the signatures are to be collected.
"We're talking about the most expensive site that was ever looked at for a jail in Orange County," Roth told the crowd, referring to the canyons site.
"That is a pathetic situation."