One of the better political features in the OC Register is Teri Sforza’s Watchdog column that tracks government waste.Â Each week, the Watchdog team asks an elected official to comment on something they believe is an example of government waste and this week, it was Christina Shea’s turn to answer the question.Â
The Watchdog disclaimer: The Watchdog does not agree or disagree with the opinions expressed by said elected officials; we simply serve as the conduit between you, the people, and the folks you have elected to represent you. As the saying goes, the people get the government they deserve!
So Shea decides to go after a program developed by her Mayor opponent, Sukhee Kang.Â The successful I-CHIP program that helps families in need get free healthcare for their kids.Â The problem here is Shea misrepresents the program’s cost and benefits.Â More on that in a second.Â Here’s the excerpt:
Q. WATCHDOG:Â Christina Shea, if you could cut one thing from the budget, what would it be and why?
A. SHEA: “I would cut the I-CHP program (Irvine Children’s Health Program Initiative) proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Sukhee Kang. It costs about $200,000 a year, and pays consultants to go door-to-door to help lower-income people get their children signed up for almost-free healthcare from the state’s Healthy Families and other programs.
To spend money on this -Â in a year when we had to borrow $6.5 million from our reserves to balance the budget – just doesn’t seem right. And we might have to borrow again next year to balance the budget.
Healthy Families is one of the state’sÂ great health care programs for lower income families. But people can go to a local agency in Santa Ana to fill out their own paperwork. Government, in my mind, should not be paying to have people filling out forms. I mean, when are we going to go out to our community and start fixing people’s washers and dryers? There has to be an element of personal responsibility. We shouldn’t be filling out their paperwork; this is the individual’s responsibility and would save the city $200,000. This isÂ a waste of taxpayer money.”
The I-CHP program focuses on helping uninsured families navigate a complex healthcare system and helps them enroll uninsured children intoÂ available and fundedÂ state health insurance programs that many eligible people simply don’t know about.
more after the jump:
To implement the program, the City set aside $200,000 over 24 months period (that’s a two year period, not annually, hence Shea’s first misrepresentation).Â And the city isn’t spendingÂ anything until theyÂ incurÂ service from the Children’s Health Initiative of Orange County — which means the program might even cost less.
Shea’s opponent, Sukhee Kang, is helping to defray the cost to taxpayers by going out and brought in local health foundation grants from the Kaiser Permanente, Bristol Park Medical Center, Irvine Health Foundation and the Cancer Center of Irvine in excess of $75,000 to participate with the City’s excellent program.
Meanwhile, Shea’s good government blinders must have been off when she pushed through two feasibility studiesÂ that cost taxpayers more than $200,000 since being elected to the city council in 2002.Â The studiesÂ looked into placingÂ an overpassÂ bridgeÂ in Irvine’sÂ Grove neighborhood which has a lot of senior housing.Â It was opposed byÂ Grove residents from the start andÂ the issue consequentlyÂ died while yielding no results.Â And of course, as Mayor, Shea paid Arthur Anderson (the people who did th ebooks at Enron) $75,000 for a feasibility study to place an NFL Team in a domed stadium at the Great Park site before the airport issue was even settled.Â And Shea got a nice trip to Charlotte, NC to see the new NFL facilities there as part of a fact-finding (let’s call it a vacation), forgetting that there are NFL franchises in San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco and Phoenix.
If Shea wants to eliminate wastefulÂ taxpayer dollars, perhaps more thought ought to go into the programs she needs feasibility studies for.
But to cut a program that helps needy families get free healthcare for their kids is just plain heartless.