YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

County's State Lawmakers Express Recovery Worries : Government: Letter to Popejoy mentions doubts about sales tax hike and frustration over lack of communication. It asks for a meeting with officials.


SACRAMENTO — Worried that they're out of the loop, Orange County's legislative delegation dispatched a blunt letter Monday expressing concern that they haven't been kept fully appraised by county officials and raising worries about the bankruptcy recovery efforts.

The three-page letter, signed by Orange County's 10 members in the state Capitol and sent to county Chief Executive Officer William J. Popejoy, includes a page of questions expressing doubts about the county's plans, including a proposed half-cent sales tax hike.

It also requests a meeting between the delegation and county officials on Wednesday afternoon in Sacramento.

But the most pointed section baldly suggests that county officials have failed to keep Orange County's state lawmakers up to speed on the recovery efforts, a communication gap that could prove costly as the county scurries to secure help from Sacramento.

"We stand ready to be of assistance to the county, however, we believe that the communication channels have not been clear nor direct, thus causing some unfortunate delays," said the letter, which was sent to Popejoy by facsimile on Monday. "Our concern is that the clock is ticking and we have little more knowledge of the status of the county than we did last January."

In a series of questions, the letter asks why the Board of Supervisors can't put before the voters a proposal to use funds from Measure M, the half-cent sales tax increase for transportation approved in 1990, for bankruptcy recovery instead of further raising the sales tax. It also questions why the county can't sell landfills, privatize the sanitation district or tap into any remaining reserve funds.

"We learn more from the press or secondhand," said Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange), summarizing the frustration he has felt of late with county officials. "I think they're so wrapped up dealing with things that they don't realize how we can help them get things done up here. If they want to sell their plan to the Legislature, the best way is through the people who represent them."

Supervisor Marian Bergeson, a longtime state lawmaker before joining the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 1, said she welcomed any queries from the delegation and suggested that "communication can always be improved."

Others, meanwhile, suggested that the delegation's letter stems less from lack of communication than from ire over the tax issue.

But some say any rift can be bridged. Dennis Carpenter, the county's Sacramento lobbyist, said he views the letter and proposed meeting a good chance to "clear the air."

"From my point of view it's a good thing," Carpenter said. "I think the delegation is essential. If they don't go along with this, how in the hell are we going to sell anyone else?"

Los Angeles Times Articles