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Orange County 1990 : Challenges : Community Leaders Project the Big Issues Facing the County

December 21, 1989

The Times Orange County Edition asked about 200 community leaders--from government, business, entertainment and charitable organizations--what they think will be the single biggest challenge that Orange County faces in the 1990s, either in their area of expertise or in general. Here are some of their responses.

Jack W. Peltason, chancellor of UCI

"One might expect the biggest challenge in Orange County, from the perspective of a university chancellor, to deal with education. And indeed it does. The challenge will be to educate our community to understand and assist with the grave crisis in our county health-care system. The crisis affects not only the poor and indigent residents of our community. Every single person who may be the victim of an accident or in need of emergency services is endangered when emergency rooms are forced to close their doors due to inadequate cost reimbursements from government agencies."

TOP ISSUES

* Health care

* Transportation

* Changing demographics

* Support for all segments of education

* Ensuring a well-educated electorate

Ernie Schneider, county administrative officer

"Transportation, beyond a doubt, is the single most challenging issue of the 1990s. Without adequate transportation infrastructure, this county will not grow to its fullest potential. An inadequate transportation system will affect every aspect of our lives, including air quality, housing, economic well-being and ability to enjoy the county's recreational opportunities."

TOP ISSUES

* Transportation

* Housing

* Air quality

* Criminal justice (jails and courts)

* Local government financing

Rusty Kennedy, executive director, Orange County Human Relations Commission

Biggest challenge: "Intolerance towards the poor. Whether it is anger at Hispanic day laborers, hostility towards social services in neighborhoods, opposition to housing affordable to very low-income workers or opposition to jails being built even in remote canyons. As the county grows richer as a whole I see a dangerous slide towards intolerance, the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome. Can we build a county where rich and poor can live together is the challenge."

TOP ISSUES

* Intolerance towards the poor--NIMBY syndrome

* Transportation versus slow growth

* Wage polarization--growth at the high and low ends of the wage scale

* Housing for very low-income workers

* Intergroup conflict

James Enright, chief deputy district attorney

"While it would be easy to focus in on the drugs-equals-crime equation, I don't believe that is our overall biggest challenge in the county (because we have public awareness and support in this area).

"There is no question in my mind the major problem facing the county in the '90s will be in the area of transportation. At the close of the '80s we are almost at gridlock. If we leave the planning to the builders and the recipients of their largess we will have a traffic nightmare by the end of the century."

TOP ISSUES

* Transportation

* Transportation

* Transportation

* Transportation

* Transportation

Brad Gates, Orange County sheriff-coroner

Biggest challenge: "Leadership. This county has not had the political leadership to solve the problems during the '80s and it does not appear we will have any leaders with the will to solve the problems in the '90s. We are lacking leadership from the business community to solve the major issues. The business leaders must stand up and be counted and quit waiting for someone else to do the job. The leadership in the development-builders area have tried to do their part, but they have acquired a reputation of self-interest that, in my opinion, they do not deserve. They have put back into the community and made Orange County a better place to live. Just look at the charity donation lists, Boy Scouts, etc. They at least have tried to provide leadership from their area, even though sadly they have been rejected by the community."

TOP ISSUES

* Drugs

* Political leadership

* Transportation

* Jail facilities

* Revenue for government services

The Most Reverend Norman F. McFarland, Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange

"The biggest single challenge facing Orange County for the 1990s consists in changing demographic, economic and social trends having significantly unfavorable impact on our families, the basic foundation of our society. No agency or program can supplant the family and replace it if it falters."

TOP ISSUES

* Chemical and alcohol abuse and its consequences

* Accessibility to basic health care for all our people

* Abortion and the depth of the moral crisis this manifests

* Availability of affordable housing

* Recognition and assimilation of, and reverence for, true spiritual values

Professor Mark P. Petracca, UCI assistant professor of political science and member of various community groups

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