Just some of the hacks who serve on the Orange County Vector Control District’s Board of Trustees
Is it time to fold the Orange County Vector Control District (OCVCD) into the Orange County Health Care Agency? The OCVCD got caught this week trying to spray insecticides in several inner city neighborhoods of Santa Ana, after sending out a last minute press release last Friday about spraying that was at the time to take place on Monday.
I wrote a series of posts over at my New Santa Ana blog that exploded on Facebook, generating over 60,000 views and thousands of calls and emails to the many local politicians whose contact information appeared in my posts. By Monday the OCVCD was waving the white flag. They “suspended” the spraying due to the weather but the reality is that the backlash I generated, which I ended up calling “Mosquito Gate” made the spraying a total no-go.
Residents said they were unaware of the spraying and reacted online, with some calling the procedure a “toxic spray down.” Some residents questioned why only specific neighborhoods were targeted. Others who work in the early hours expressed concern of health effects associated with the scheduled early-morning spraying, according to the OC Register.
Laura Perez, who lives along Harbor Boulevard and Fifth Street, said she heard about the spray on Sunday from her sister, who learned about the campaign from the NewSantaAna.com blog, according to the OC Register.
Why were they going to spray? Well apparently 80% of adult mosquitoes in Orange County are now infected with the West Nile Virus. But according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), only 1% of us need worry about this virus. Most Americans who get sick with West Nile Virus barely express any symptoms at all!
And if 80% of the mosquitoes are already infected, guess what? The war is over. We lost. Kill the mosquitoes all you want but West Nile Virus is now endemic to Orange County. What that means is you should not let water collect in your backyard, as mosquitoes can lay eggs in barely any standing water. And you should avoid going out very late at night or early in the morning without covering up or using mosquito repellent.
So why was the OCVCD so gung ho to spray the poorest parts of Santa Ana? I believe they were trying to justify their huge budget.
The OCVCD is a freestanding organization. It does not currently fall under the County of Orange. The district taxes us and they have no less than 35 Trustees! Most of these are City Council hacks but 15 Trustees are appointed by City Councils. And OC Supervisor John Moorlach, who is termed out this year, is also on their Board of Trustees. Imagine how much money we are wasting paying monthly stipends, benefits and pensions to these Trustees?
This is not the first time the OCVCD has been accused of overreacting. Way back in 2003 the OCVCD went nuts over the fire ants invasion of Orange County. But once that threat disappeared they sacked the lead official in their effort to eliminate the pesky fire ant — a gung-ho former Marine named Richard Bowen. Bowen said he was terminated because he wanted to downsize the county’s fire ant program, a move made possible because of the advances he made in eliminating the fire ants. He said that suggestion rubbed his bosses the wrong way, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In 1995, when the County of Orange went bankrupt and everyone was being asked to cut back, Gilbert L. Challet, who was the manager of the Orange County Vector Control District at the time, said a proposal to seize less than $1 million annually from his agency would undercut its ability to control pests. “It’s not much money for what you’re looking for, but it’s a heck of a lot of money for us,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In 2004, the OCVCD successfully advocated a property-tax hike, convincing Orange County property owners to nearly quadruple the amount of tax paid to the district by pointing to threats from West Nile virus and red imported fire ants, according to the O.C. Register.
But instead of getting fired up to battle pests, the district immediately focused on a different aim. It raised salaries significantly for many of its roughly 50 employees. Less than a year after the tax hike, the board started pressing for a 62 percent increase in the pensions it pays its workforce – a large part of which isn’t even necessary, given that bug spraying can be outsourced to private pest-control companies, according to noted Libertarian columnist Steven Greenhut, who was writing for the OC Register at the time.
By the way, the PR flack at the OCVCD who was working with their former manager, Challet, to promote a pension spike was a fellow named Michael Hearst. Guess who is now the top dog at the OCVCD? Hearst. He has clearly learned his lessons well over the years. For the OCVCD to keep ripping us off they have to keep panicking the public. Right now they are using the threat of the West Nile Virus to scare OC residents. When that tails off they will come up with some other critter to freak us out. This is how they are able to keep taking our money and racking up huge paychecks and generous public employee pensions.
Well I think the OCVCD’s free ride needs to end now. Their agency should be put under the auspices of the Orange County Health Care Agency. Or directly under the supervision of the OC Board of Supervisors. And as much as possible they should be outsourcing any application of chemicals or any other field work. Why are we paying huge salaries to these guys?
The Santa Ana spraying operation was cancelled because the people of my city rose up and complained. Now it is time for all of us to do the same. Tell the OC Board of Supervisors that it is time to take away the OCVCD’s power!