Elected officials often make a promise, form a committee or pass a resolution, figuring that will take the steam out of public pressure on an issue. But they are learning not to do that with Orange County Congregation-Community Organizations, a group of members of 15 churches. The parishioners have banded together in a grass-roots effort to cope with Orange County's growing drug problem and, as part of the process, to make local government try harder to cope with drugs.
Last April, congregations from churches and synagogues in Anaheim and Santa Ana were given what sounded to them like commitments by the Santa Ana and Anaheim city councils to launch a coordinated effort to help eradicate drugs. Both councils then passed resolutions declaring that a drug epidemic exists in the community. The County Board of Supervisors also adopted the drug resolution proposed by the church group.
A week ago Monday, several hundred parishioners followed up on their initial effort by asking Anaheim Mayor Fred Hunter what action the city had taken since making its anti-drug commitment in April. Some complained that there was still no action taken against drug dealers in their neighborhoods.
The mayor acknowledged that there had been little activity since last April and said that he planned to meet with the police chief and city attorney. Hunter also pledged a clampdown on drug dealers operating out of businesses or homes and said he would report back in two weeks on what progress he was making in seeking stepped up enforcement and more money for anti-drug operations.
We suspect that the church group will keep the pressure on the councils and will return in the not-too-distant future to ask for yet another accounting. At that session, the parishioners will no doubt be less inclined to accept pledges and promises as substitutes for real progress.