Teaching Constitutional Law 101 to Supervisor Andrew Do.


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At the end of Oct. 22’s Board of Supervisors meeting, weary after sitting through over a dozen public comments on malfeasance and skewed priorities in various county departments especially the Sheriff’s, comments on recent suspicious in-custody deaths like that of Anthony Aceves, comments critical of the unaffordable $151 million in deputy raises the Supes had just approved with no discussion at the previous meeting,  comments questioning the expansion of the Musick facility into a “mental health prison” at the expense of actual mental health services, and criticisms from homeless advocates for shoveling money to Mercy House while that nonprofit starves Kraemer residents, Supervisor Andrew Do got all pissy: 

“Maybe a little bit of Constitutional Law 101 is necessary. The court is an independent arm of the government.  All we can do is – when they are in custody, that we provide the best services we can.   So don’t come here and preach to us about, somehow incarceration is not the right model of care.  We have no control over it.  And if one comes here to purports to try to tell us how to do a better job – well, try to understand the system a little bit better before you make recommendations.”

After taking a quiet moment to become less gobsmacked, we realize that we do agree with his first sentence – Maybe a little bit of Constitutional Law 101 is NECESSARY FOR SUPERVISOR DO.

Under the heading “What They Do,” on the “About the Board” page on the Supervisors’ official site, the first bullet point is “establishes policy.”  We are questioning policies that the Board has established that prioritize law enforcement and punishment (in the form of the OCSD) above all alternatives.  The second bullet point is “approves the annual budget.”  Well, we are questioning their budgeting priorities, when they suck out $151 million from  other programs to feed the insatiable Sheriff’s Department.

We are critical of the OCSD under Sheriff Don Barnes and his predecessor Sandra Hutchens, for many things – 70+ jail deaths, 44% of which could have been prevented by timely medical care.  Violent, corrupt and murderous deputies unpunished and promoted.  A stone wall of secrecy.  A history of complicity in the former DA’s notorious snitch scandal.  BUT DOES THE SHERIFF HAVE A BI-WEEKLY PUBLIC MEETING, WITH PUBLIC COMMENTS ALLOWED?  NO, HE DOES NOT.  So we take our concerns to the Board of Supervisors which is SUPPOSED to exercise OVERSIGHT of the OCSD.

As the Voice’s Nick Gerda pointed out after that Oct. 22 meeting:

What Do did not mention is that county supervisors decide what types of mental health infrastructure and services to build with tax money. And Orange County has courts specifically focused on diverting people with mental illnesses into treatment outside of jails, though OC faces a severe shortage of community-based mental health beds.

“Based on the current population of Orange County we should have about 1,500 psych beds. And we have less than 100,” the supervisors’ chairwoman, Lisa Bartlett, said three years ago. As of last year, Orange County was short by 1,586 psychiatric beds, according to the California Hospital Association

And we note that when Andrew and his four colleagues feel passionately interested in an issue, they’ll take action whether it’s in their constitutional wheelhouse or not – for example, at the former meeting when at the urging of the Sheriff they unanimously passed a resolution in favor of a 2020 initiative rolling back Props 47 and 57.

In short, we ARE addressing the right public body on these concerns, we just temporarily have the wrong five people in those seats right now.  Meanwhile, as we wait to speak at tomorrow morning’s BoS meeting at which they’ll vote to approve another $9.5 million to expand the Musick facility (item 7), let’s tap our feet to a couple of good Andrew songs:

“Is there anything good inside of you?
If there is I really wanna know!”
– Zappa, “Andy”


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.