A Night At The Opera, er, City Council
Last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting went more or less as expected. Both Mayor Mansoor and Councilwoman Katrina Foley were absent, so Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever took the reins for the meeting. Funny, you'd think a guy who has been up there all this time would understand the procedures by now. Of course, since he seems to spend most of his time on the dais thinking up one-liners, I guess it's not unexpected for him to come up blank with the important nuances of conducting the meeting, like remembering who has the floor, for example.
The major issues discussed went as anticipated. The changes in the Animal Control ordinance went pretty much as proposed by city staff. Among the few exceptions was a modification to change the restriction for dog and cat ownership from a maximum of three each to a simple total of five critters - dogs or cats. Also, at the request of one eloquent resident, the definition of "reptile" was adjusted to not require those gecko owners among us to get a permit from the police chief. Current owners of pot-bellied pigs - once the rage among unique pets - will be grandfathered in. This ordinance will get a second reading at a future council meeting.
FIELD USE SMOOTH SAILING
At the end of the meeting a subject that has been hashed out over months, the Field Use and Allocation Policy, breezed through and was approved without a single comment by the public. I guess the various competing parties have simply worn themselves out. Actually, many, many hours of hard work by the city staff, the stakeholders and the Parks and Recreation Commission - past and present - made this smooth transition possible.
IT'S MY PARK!
Before that, though, the issue of turning Paularino Park into a "passive park" generated some interesting comments before it was approved, 2-1, with Linda Dixon voting no. One local resident who very much resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor, has been the prime mover for the restriction of any active sports in "his" park. He's made allegations of safety problems with marauding soccer players (read that Latinos) threatening residents with errant soccer balls and urinating and defecating in the park grounds - all unsubstantiated claims. If you know anything at all about this guy, his motivation was clear - to cause discomfort to local Latinos.
NO CLASS JACKASS
One might have thought this fellow would have taken the opportunity to thank the staff and council for all their hard work meeting his demands but, no, he used his time at the speaker's podium to chide councilwoman Dixon for "politicizing" this process. What a hypocrite! That's exactly what he was doing as he spoke and again, when he scurried home to his cave in Mesa North to pound out a blog entry criticizing her. In fact, he had so much pent-up venom that he bounced out of bed and wrote yet another inaccurate and defamatory blog entry about Dixon this morning. Most other people I know might have played the role of a gracious winner - not this guy. He maintained his salivating pit bull demeanor. The next election is more than 15 months away but he's been on the attack against Dixon and Foley since the day after the last one.
With this change in designation, anyone engaging in anything other than a passive activity - isn't that an oxymoron? - will now be subject to censure, expulsion from the park and possible fines. It was clear from the comments by brand new CMPD Captain Gogerty that he was not interested in imposing fines or other punishment on a couple 10-year-old kids tossing a football in the park. I assume that same reluctance would apply to two boys with a soccer ball. Dixon tried to get a statement about what kind of fines would be imposed and ended up with a non-committal response from the City Attorney.
THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE
However, beyond the impact on Paularino Park, it looks like there will be an on-going attempt to further designate many other neighborhood parks as "passive" - a designation, by the way, that does not have a definition in our code. That will mean that soon you will not be able to take your children to a "passive" park for a game of catch, to throw a frisbee or play a family game of touch football. It means that your sons and daughters will not be able to take their soccer ball, walk to their neighborhood park with a friend and practice passing and ball handling. All this because one angry, warped, persuasive guy doesn't like the ethnicity of a third of the residents of our city.
FAMILY FRIENDLY? NOT HERE!
It seems to me that our city, in which two members of the three-person city council majority are childless, is becoming a less family-friendly town. Much of the ballyhooed planned re-development of the Westside will be "live/work" units - certainly not a place conducive to raising kids. The adversarial relationship our council has with the Newport Mesa Unified School District certainly does not bode well for kids in this city. Situations like the changes at Paularino Park - with the probable extension to other small parks - demonstrate the willingness of this council majority to ignore the needs and well-being of the majority of residents and bend to the will of a vocal few who demand their way. This narrow focus will certainly not serve this city well. If I were a parent of young children trying to find a home in Orange County I think I'd probably steer clear of Costa Mesa. The current tenor of this town is one of intolerance - a place where among the life lessons learned will be disrespect of those around you with a different skin color or language proficiency. Nope, this wouldn't be a place I'd choose to start raising children today.