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Orange County Leaders Talk Progress, Vision in First State of the County Luncheon

Orange County Leaders Talk Progress, Vision in First State of the County Luncheon

The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts the 1st Annual State of the County Luncheon in Newport Beach, Calif., on July 19, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

7/23/2023

Updated: 7/23/2023

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Several hundred local leaders and business owners gathered in Newport Beach to celebrate a new tradition at the first State of the County Luncheon July 19.
During the event, county officials discussed such things as public safety, homelessness, government finances, and residents’ quality of life.
“We need to make sure law enforcement has the tools … has the backing of the public, and [has] laws … to crack down on crime,” said Don Wagner, chairman of Orange County Board of Supervisors.
The fentanyl epidemic, one of the major public safety crises not only in the county but also nationwide, was brought up repeatedly.
According to data released in 2022 by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, fentanyl deaths in the county have increased by 1,000 percent in the last five years.
Orange County Supervisors Katrina Foley (C) and Don Wagner (L) and County Executive Officer Frank Kim (R) speak at the first Annual State of the County Luncheon in Newport Beach, Calif., on July 19, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Orange County Supervisors Katrina Foley (C) and Don Wagner (L) and County Executive Officer Frank Kim (R) speak at the first Annual State of the County Luncheon in Newport Beach, Calif., on July 19, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The supervisors, Mr. Wagner said, have been conducting town halls to educate parents on the risks of the drug. Additionally, they have been actively distributing naloxone—a nasal spray that can reverse an opioid overdose commonly known as Narcan—to residents.
The county is also working on equipping first responders with the life-saving medicine to ensure that those in need of it can receive timely assistance, Supervisor Katrina Foley said at the event.
Ms. Foley added that while the efforts of local elected officials can save many lives, it is important for state officials to pass laws making drug dealers more accountable.
However, lawmakers’ attempt to impose tougher penalties on fentanyl dealers with such legislation as the so-called Alexandra’s Law—a proposed measure that would require fentanyl drug dealers to receive an admonishment that any subsequent dealing of the drug that leads to a fatality may result in a murder charge. The bill has failed in the Legislature for the second time recently.
“It is ridiculous that we have gotten to the point … where we can’t even get the state legislature to ... address social media drug dealing,” Ms. Foley said. “Many of us who are moms and parents are just frustrated.”
The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts the 1st Annual State of the County Luncheon in Newport Beach, Calif., on July 19, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts the 1st Annual State of the County Luncheon in Newport Beach, Calif., on July 19, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

County officials also shared hopeful updates during the event, including that the county’s homeless population has decreased, bucking trends across the state.
According to the county’s official point-in-time count in 2022—Orange County conducts its count every two years—homelessness in the county has decreased by 17 percent since 2019.
According to Ms. Foley, the improvement is partially a result of local governments’ efforts in building homeless shelters and affordable housing in the past few years.
But Mr. Wagner said there is more work to be done.
“There are lots of different reasons why folks are homeless,” he said. “There’s not just one solution. We’ve got to have ... wraparound services, [by providing] all of the resources to get [those without a home] the help they need.”
As for the county’s economic condition, County Executive Officer Frank Kim said the outlook is healthy, as the county has a current $9.3 billion budget and is $125 million in debt.
“We have almost no debt,” he said. “Whether it is an issue related to civil unrest, issues of homelessness, issues of law enforcement, issues of fire, or things that people in our community rely on the government to do, we are poised, ready, and able to respond in a way that I think you all will be proud of.”
County Executive Officer Frank Kim speaks at the 1st Annual State of the County Luncheon in Newport Beach, Calif., on July 19, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

County Executive Officer Frank Kim speaks at the 1st Annual State of the County Luncheon in Newport Beach, Calif., on July 19, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

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Sophie Li

Sophie Li

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Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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