September 15, 2002
The Power of Phone Calls
By Bill Orton
The 'First Day in Office' series
First Ten Bills
First Ten Phone Calls
First Ten Resolutions
First steps on budget reform
One of John Kennedy's favorite bits of wisdom was the ancient Chinese proverb that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
The 67th Assembly District is called a safe seat, but since most people make their choice based on the person, constituents might find it helpful to know what steps I'd take on the first day in office.
Yes, legislation is important -- and I've laid out
a list of the first ten bills
that I would submit on my first day in office, starting with a religious freedom bill and including measures to
reform the state budget
process and to
train more vocational education teachers.
Along with legislation, some of the most important steps that I can take as your Assemblyman will be to place phone calls on behalf of the people of the 67th district.
Maybe more than anything, the ablity to persuade a single bureaucrat to get off the dime and make things happen is the supreme test of a lawmaker's effectiveness.
These are the first ten calls I'd make on the day that I'm sworn into office:
- CalTrans: In three calls to Tony Harris, Jeff Morales and Maria Contreras-Sweet, I'd make absolutely clear that I want the proposed West Orange County Connector killed, swatted down, dead. This boondoggle is a bureaucrat's concoction that will bring down the quality of life in Rossmoor for little purpose, as the goals can be achieved in other, less invasive ways. I'd also chat about landscaping along Beach Boulevard, sound walls in the district, work on PCH and the proposed expansion of the 22 freeway.
- Trees: In calls to Keith Metcalf and his superiors in State Parks & Rec, I'd indicate my utmost desire to work with the Urban Forestry programs -- including ReLeaf and Trees for the Millennium -- so that a vast swath of mature trees can be planted in a crescent that starts in La Palma and which winds through Cypress, Garden Grove, Westminster and cuts back up into Stanton and West Anaheim.
- Los Al Air Base: In calls with the Washington congressional delegation, the state National Guard and Military Department, the Office of Emergency Services and the cities of Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Cypress, Westminster and Garden Grove, I'll make it plain that my single greatest fear is that the Los Alamitos Army Air Base and Joint Forces Training Base might be closed. Every elected official in the region must work hand-in-hand to ensure that any Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round will not result in closure of this essential base. The state's stake is vast, as the JFTB is home to the Office of Emergency Services, which coordinates the official emergency response team for seven counties in Southern California. Absolutely the LAST thing we need in this region is for the Los Al base to be closed and then converted into a regional civilian or cargo airport.
- Urban Runoff: In a conference call with the Rivers & Mountains Conservancy (RMC), the Department of Public Works, and the Orange County Sanitation District, I'd indicate my wish that the three coordinate efforts along the San Gabriel River and that these three agencies come to me for sponsorship of any needed urban runoff legislation. This talk would also focus on my legislative proposal to use the California Development Bank (CalBank) as a primary funding tool to pay for upgrades of sewers, storm drains, and wastewater treatment plants in the region.
- Health Care: In a wide-ranging call with State Health chief Diana Bonta, I will press for the creation of a pilot project in west Orange County that is aimed at new ways to deliver health care for seniors and children. We need to sign up more children in west Anaheim, Stanton, Garden Grove and Westminster for the Healthy Families insurance program. We need more health education, screenings, immunizations, nutrition programs and outreach into the schools. And we need workers going directly into places where large numbers of seniors congregate, to deliver essential "health faire" type services on a regular basis.
- Anti-drug and anti-gang programs: In a short call with the director of the Office of Criminal Justice and Planning (OCJP), I will ask that the Department of Justice dedicate money to help save D.A.R.E. programs across the district, especially in Huntington Beach, where budget cuts have resulted in a substantial reduction in anti-drug programming. State funding should also be brought down to restore the regional anti-narcotic task force. Also needed is coordination between OCJP and the Department of Education on funding for school-based community policing in Westminster, Garden Grove and west Anaheim schools.
- Flood Control: In talks with the CalBank, Department of Water Resources, Resources Agency and Coastal Conservancy, I will seek support for "bridge financing" to help the Orange County Sanitation District to purchase the 49-acre Shea Property in Huntington Beach, so that property may be used as a wetlands-type biological filtration project. The land is being proposed for development of homes and so any action of this would need to happen urgently. If bridge financing fails, at the very least, the state should promptly assist in the upgrading of pumps at the Slater Pump Station, so that resulting drainage improvements could take thousands of homes out of FEMA's despised AR-zone flood insurance mandate. This is also a supreme opportunity to leverage appropriate officials on the Bolsa Chica wetlands, as any reasonable opportunity must be seized upon to bring about a public buyout of this precious environmental treasure.
- Fire Bonds: Consultations need to start with the state Fire Marshall and the heads of fire services across California as to whether there is a need for more resources for fire departments. A record dry year and cuts in state and local budgets have hurt departments that are already struggling. Fire departments are also called upon now to play a leading role in disaster preparedness, in the post 9/11 world. The 1994 bond measure never adequately addressed needs in the fire service. If talks with fire officials result in a common view that there are fundamental gaps in needs and reality, I will author a measure to place a firefighters bond on the March 2004 state ballot.
- Santa Ana Conservancy: The legislative process needed to initiate a state conservancy for the Santa Ana River Watershed will entail talks with scores of major stakeholders, including cities, water agencies, private landowners, environmental groups, state and county agencies and others. Since the first day will be when I drop a conservancy bill into the hopper, it is a fitting time to begin calls on what is probably the most lasting item in any lawmaker's legacy -- namely a nature preserve in a highly urbanized region.
- High school, college and local journalists: The first day in office is an auspicious time to begin touching base with local reporters and editors. I would invite high school, college and local journalists to come up for the swearing in ceremony in Sacramento, even though such an invite is really just a courtesy, as who can afford a trip up for some politician's swearing in. But through the course of the day, I'll call the editors at the ten high schools, two colleges, and the weekly papers of the district, to let them know about the legislation I've introduced and the efforts I have begun.
PART 1: The "top ten" list shows the first bills that Assemblyman Bill Orton would submit.
PART 3: The symbolism of state resolutions and what causes Bill Orton recognize.
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