Contemplating Post-Election Costa Mesa
Two years ago I watched as the results from our municipal election trickled in over the week following the election. Katrina Foley and Linda Dixon were clearly winners, but the race between Eric Bever and Bruce Garlich was nip and tuck and ended up finally being decided in Bever's favor by 44 votes over Garlich.
As I type this late Saturday night the current results reflect the sad fact that the tandem of Mansoor and Leece have won the two available seats on the city council by a clear margin. The numbers as I type this entry are as follows:
Mansoor - 9,257 - 26.0%
Leece - 8,691 - 24.4%
Garlich - 7,538 - 21.1%
Scheafer - 6,653 - 18.7%
Burciaga - 2,432 - 6.8%
Bunyan - 1,072 - 3.0%
All of the candidates have picked up votes since Tuesday, but the ratios have remained relatively constant. Somewhere in the area of 18,000 voters cast ballots in the race and, for now, around 9,000 voters decided the fate of this city for at least the next two years.
NEW (AND OLD) LEADERSHIP
What can we expect to see in the first few months of the new regime in Costa Mesa? Well, for starters, I suspect we will see the new majority seated before Thanksgiving. How's that for irony? At a time when most will be giving thanks for their blessings, we get saddled with this crew for at least two more years.
Next, we will probably see Mayor Mansoor's trusty sidekick, Eric Bever, elected mayor and Mansoor's running mate, Wendy Leece, elected Mayor Pro Tem. That means that, between Bever's arrogant disregard for the rules and Leece's marginal leadership skills, most city council meetings will border on chaos and it's more likely than ever that the majority will continue to run roughshod over the process.
Since two seats each, at least, will be up for re-appointment on both the Planning and Parks and Recreation Commissions, I expect the majority to stack the deck with their camp followers. In fact, even though it would generate a firestorm of controversy, I wouldn't even be surprised to see a certain activist and racist writer nominated to a position on the Planning Commission.
I wouldn't be surprised, either, to see Bruce Garlich and Byron de Arakal fail to be re-appointed to their respective commission seats. That, in my view, would be doing a terrible disservice to the residents of this city. Whether or not they agreed with the old majority, and regardless of the acrimony during the campaign, both men set the bar high, provided leadership, fulfilled their roles with integrity, honor and distinction and remained focused on the important issues before them. Neither man is a threat to the majority and the loss of their intellect and dedication - at a time when so many high profile and important issues face the commissions - would be tragic for the city.
Of extreme interest will be the evolution of the Westside plans. Will the new majority stay with the approved plans, or will they decide to pursue other, more dense, options? Will they cast the redevelopment net even broader? Will they change their minds and resort to the use of eminent domain?
Now that they have their fannies firmly planted in the seat of power, will they turn their back on the lighting of the Farm Sports Complex at a time when there is a woefully inadequate supply of playing fields in our city?
History shows us that they are likely to have a tendency to spring something new on the residents without benefit of study sessions or any other advance warning, just as they did with the mayor's bogus immigration screening plan. Having watched this crew in action, I think a "surprise a month" isn't out of the realm of probability.
On that subject, will the mayor finally realize that his plan to use Costa Mesa police officers to perform redundant immigration screening will not be approved by ICE, give up that fight and focus our scarce, diminished law enforcement resources to get on with their real jobs - finding and apprehending bad guys?
I also wonder how the rank and file of the police department view the results of the election. Since their organization, the Costa Mesa Police Association, chose to support the mayor's opponents, do they anticipate retaliation when their contract comes up for negotiation next year? If so, will more members depart for greener pastures, leaving an already depleted organization drastically understaffed? Will the recent increase in violent crime be exacerbated by the reduced number of officers available to respond? Will the Latino community further clam up, reducing the intelligence gathering capabilities of the police officers?
A new police chief, Christopher Shawkey, arrives from Arizona soon. I find myself wondering how his presence will affect our officers. They, the rank and file, have had to deal with three leadership changes in as many years, so it wouldn't be unusual for them to be a little apprehensive. I suppose they might be worried about whether Mansoor and his majority will ignore Shawkey's recommendations, just as they did those of their past two chiefs.
What role will the Minuteman Project play in the evolution of public policy in Costa Mesa? After all the support they gave the mayor in the form of campaign financing and frequent ego massaging, what are they expecting in the way of payback? Does that question make anyone else nervous?
We're already hearing rumblings within the community about people being so unhappy with the results of the election that some folks are planning to pull up stakes and look for a better community in which to raise their families. Not surprisingly, some of those voices are from within the Latino community. Of greater surprise, however, are the number of anglo families who have expressed their displeasure with the outcome. Many of those are precisely the types of families we hoped to attract in greater numbers - young, well-educated, energetic parents with thriving children. These bright young people chose this city originally for the wonderful neighborhoods, excellent schools and safe environment. Now, after the election, they only see turmoil and strife ahead and choose not to expose their families to it. This does not bode well for our community.
I'd like to give them a pep talk and tell them that things won't be all that bad - but I can't. After watching the old majority in action and anticipating even less restraint by the new one, I fear that it will not only be as bad as those folks anticipate, but even worse. It's hard not to be depressed.
REKINDLING THE FIRE
I had hoped the election would have turned out differently and expected to be able to turn A Bubbling Cauldron down to simmer for a few months. Unfortunately, that was not the case, so we'll just keep on throwing firewood under the pot and continue stirring it. If the new majority thinks their shenanigans are going to go un-noticed and un-reported they are sadly mistaken.