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Should Taxpayers Say Yes or No to Measure J and Gypsum Canyon Jail?

May 12, 1991

From what I read of gross overcrowding in our county jails, and the prisoner release policies this necessitates, I conclude we need additional new jail facilities. I also understand the county doesn't have the money to build the needed facilities, so I reluctantly agree to a half-cent increase in the sales tax for this purpose. If I think no further, Brad Gates has my yes vote for Measure J.

Unfortunately, Measure J is another example of parochial politics as usual, presented in the fashion of a donkey following its tail. Instead of working from an honest estimate of how much money the proposed new tax will raise, and then planning to construct and operate the largest and most efficient facilities these funds will afford, Gates has another approach. Gates is convinced he needs exactly 6,700 beds, and he needs them all in Gypsum Canyon. This is like trying to squeeze the ugly stepsister's foot into Cinderella's glass slipper.

What about land acquisition? Brad Gates and company think that with eminent domain condemnation of Irvine Co. land in Gypsum Canyon, we can buy 1,500 acres at $25,000 per acre. Even if Tom Umberg gets his bill through the state Legislature to allow the condemnation, the fact remains that the land used for residential development, as the Irvine Co. wants, has a market value of $500,000 to $800,000 per acre. With the county government being the second-largest land owner in Orange County (after the Irvine Co.), why do we need to buy any new land for a jail?

A simple answer to this last question. The land the county already owns is located in areas of the county that don't want a jail nearby. Who does?

Now we have degenerated into NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) politics. I can relate. My home is less than five miles from the Gypsum Canyon site, and my school district has three schools within that radius, one of them less than 2 miles from the site. My neighbors supported the proposition to restrict construction of a jail to the city of Santa Ana. It was rightfully defeated.

I honestly don't much care where the new jail(s) might be built. The only relevant question is where we will get the most for our money. Will government ever accept this principle? In any event, the supervisors and Brad Gates haven't answered the question.

It we follow NIMBY politics, some folks will always be unhappy, and there will be no new jail facilities. If we enact Measure J, there is a good chance we'll get a partially built facility in Gypsum Canyon without sufficient funds to open and operate it (San Diego already has one of these). Then we'll be asked to approve additional taxes to get it running, and I'll be more distressed. I'm voting no on Measure J to save myself this aggravation.

BILL KIELTY, Yorba Linda

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