Friday, July 20, 2007

TOM JOHNSON SHINES THE SPOTLIGHT - THE COCKROACH TAKES THE STAGE

THE SPOTLIGHT
Frid
ay morning's Daily Pilot brought us a very interesting column by publisher, Tom Johnson, here, in which he decries the recent decision by the Costa Mesa City Council to designate Paularino Park as a "passive" park - the definition for which still does not exist in the official Costa Mesa lexicon. As you will read, Johnson attributes this re-designation specifically to the actions of one resident - a man who bears a striking resemblance to my theoretical character, Your Neighbor. Johnson goes on to chronicle some of this fellow's "accomplishments" over the past several years.

THE COCKROACH

To no one's surprise, this angry fellow immediately posted a lengthy blog entry on what he has refer
red to as his "little newsletter", which you can read here. You'll see that he's eager for others to read his voluminous works. Having done so myself, I can tell you that many will turn your stomach. If you're feeling the need to fall face first into some literary feces, here's a link that will take you to a site that lists several hundred of his essays. Simply scroll down through the titles and select one or two. Have a bucket handy, because they may make you puke. In his blog entry, this fellow rejects Johnson's criticism and regales us with a list of his accomplishments for the improvement of our city. I guess the only thing missing is cross-burning to make his resume complete.

MY MISTAKE
I'm saddened by the influence this twisted, bigoted man has had on our city. Last year, almost to the day, when I included him in my list of nominations for the Daily Pilot 103 most influential persons, I did
so begrudgingly. I detest what he stands for, but there can be no doubt that he has influenced the direction Costa Mesa politics has taken over the past few years. Through his manipulation of some frightened, malleable people in town he has gone about methodically making life miserable for the Hispanic population of our city - one third of our residents.

LIST OF SHAME
He has been instrumental in the reduction in funding of some of the charities on the Westside of our town. He has faci
litated the closure of the Job Center. He has orchestrated the demise of the Human Relations Committee. He has proposed a plan to wipe out the industrial businesses on the Westside of town - many of which provide jobs for Hispanics in our city. He tried, unsuccessfully, to close down the Orange Coast College Swap Meet - a venue for low end commerce and social interaction for the Hispanic population of our city. I doubt his attack on that entity has ended. Now he has been successful in having "his" neighborhood park, Paularino Park, declared a "passive park" to keep Hispanic men from kicking a soccer ball around after a hard day at work. The actual result of that bit of his handiwork will keep neighborhood kids and parents from tossing a ball or frisbee around after school or on weekends. Unless visitors want to sit and watch the grass grow, they will find Paularino Park offers little. Of course, there's always the chance that you'll find this fellow chasing butterflies with his grandkids. Yeah, right!

EMULATING HIS IDOL
This man - a
philosophical throwback to 1920's-era Germany - has taken not just pages, but entire chapters, from Adolph Hitler's playbook. He's given frightened residents of our city a group of people to blame for the negative conditions in their lives - Hitler used the Jews, this man uses the Hispanics. He then, playing on those fears and hatred, has methodically gone about trying to expel them from our city. I guess we should feel lucky he hasn't tried to gas and incinerate them. To facilitate this expulsion he has played to the darkest side of some people's minds. He's found a fertile field in which to plant his seeds of intolerance and a small, paranoid group of easily-manipulated people to do his bidding. By using our young jailer/mayor and his majority as willing tools of his plan, this vile, angry guy has managed to nurture and harvest fear and hatred of Hispanics in our town - something I would not have thought possible a few short years ago. Through his negative influence on the leaders he sponsored he's made our city an adversary of every neighboring city instead of partners in the resolution of problems of mutual concern - to the detriment of all our residents.

FLIES ON A DUNG PILE
Tom Johnson has this guy pegged to a T. Until the residents of this city wise up and see this man
and his influence for what they are, this city will continue to be the poster child for intolerance and the subject of ridicule and derision of our neighbors. The leaders he has sponsored and mentored will continue to attract outsiders from the radical right like flies to a fresh pile of dung, feeding on the rotting philosophy spewed by this guy and his sycophants. This guy touts himself as being a member of MENSA, which may be true enough. However, I can't help thinking how his actions are such a colossal waste of a prodigious intellect. What a shame.

HAVEN FOR HATE
These are sad times for this city - my home for half my life. I would caution young parents who might consider making Costa Mesa their home to think hard before making that decision. Today, under the influence of this man and his disciples, our city has become a haven for hate and bigotry, where among the life lessons to be learned from the elected leaders and their cronies are intolerance and disrespect of those around you with a different skin color and language proficiency.

THE FUTURE?
I'm glad Tom Johnson decided to shine the light of truth on this fellow. Unless the residents of this city are allowed to see and understand his actions I fear our town is doomed to become a reincarnation of some of the worst southern towns during the middle of the last century. I'm not willing to have this city turned back to that era without a fight. You, my friends and neighbors, deserve better than that.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Bruce Krochman said...

I hate to disagree with you once again my friend as I really value your insights into our community, but honestly Millard does not deserve the credit you ascribe to him. He is merely the voice of many bigoted individuals in our community. He resonates with some on all issues and with most on a few.

His premise is to hold out the vision of a Newport Beach community in Costa Mesa. Who amongst us homeowners wouldn’t want to see our property values skyrocket to nosebleed heights. We must be careful though.

A cautionary if probably fictitious anecdote about Winston Churchill.

Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

Millard’s leadership in Costa Mesa is like that of Churchill’s role in the story. He dangles his ideology on the thread of improvement. In reality he is offering a more nefarious feast.

The problem we have in Costa Mesa is whether or not we are willing to establish policies that are in the best interest of the whole community or policies that pander to the fears and greed of the Newport Beach want-to-be’s.

7/21/2007 01:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

Geoff,

I agree with Bruce on this one regarding Millard's influence, and
I can't really add much to Bruce's comments on that subject.

As for your characterization of Costa Mesa as "a haven for hate and bigotry" - I take offense to that, as well as your statement cautioning "young parents who might consider making Costa Mesa their home to think hard before making that decision."

I ask that you seriously think about those statements and revisit them. I don't believe for a second that Costa Mesa is a "a haven for hate and bigotry" and I think this is a fantastic place to raise a family.

Instead of debating (arguing, fighting, etc.) about illegal immigration and how each side characterizes what has been taking place in Costa Mesa, I'd like you to step back and consider the following:

1. The vast majority of Costa Mesans don't harbor hate or bigotry towards Latinos in our community.

2. A three person council majority does not define a city.

3. Millard's opinions are not the council's. We cannot look into Mansoor's, Bever's, or Leece's minds and know what is there.

4. Actions that you characterize as motivated by hatred, racism and bigotry (closure of the job center and checking immigration status of jail detainees, for example) have far more rational and practical motivations.

We are a nation of laws, and you should know that we have little tolerance for those who break the law. Just look at the debate over fireworks in Costa Mesa - totally distinct from anything even remotely touching immigration. Yet good people are up in arms about the terrible scourge of legal and illegal fireworks. Future elections will be won by one's stance on legal fireworks, the grumpy noise-haters are fighting against the students and their spoorts, etc...

Sound familiar?

We are VERY fortunate to have such a vibrant civic discourse and a great conduit for it in The Daily Pilot. Issues small and large create much heat. But we never seem to totally lose our way. We have many good people who care about Costa Mesa, yet disagree on some issues. But we aren't a haven for hate and bigotry.

So please Geoff, don't paint my city with Millard's brush.

7/21/2007 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Bruce, you may be correct. The problem is that his influence is over those currently in power in this city. When our young jailer/mayor and his buddies tell us they've "heard from residents" on an issue, guess which resident they mean... They've used the immigration issue to whip up a frenzy among many voters in this town. I suspect my perspective is slightly different from yours, since I've read much of what he's written and have observed him in action for much of this decade. When he toots his own horn using a quote from the OC Weekly - the most dangerous man in Orange County - he revels in that description. I admire your optimism, but fear it is misplaced in this instance. I'd rather you be right on this one... but I don't believe you are. As always, thanks for participating.

7/21/2007 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

rob, do you recall the recent dialogue in the Daily Pilot online comments responding to a couple of Alicia Lopez's columns? I cannot recall a more concentrated compilation of vicious, racist comments in my life.

I suspect you are correct when you say, as you did in your number 1, "the vast majority of Costa Mesans don't harbor hate or bigotry towards Latinos in our community." However, it doesn't take a "vast majority" to create an atmosphere of intolerance - it only takes a few people in power. Ask members of the Latino community how they feel about it.

In your number 2 you said, "A three person council majority does not define a city". Wrong! That is precisely what it does! The three person majority on the council establishes the policy, writes the ordinances, directs the staff and does, indeed, define a city. Ask any long-time city watcher - or long-time city staffer - if things have changed in the past 4 years. This council, and the previous one in which Monahan permitted to be controlled by Mansoor, have definitely changed this city into an anti-Latino bastion. The closure of the Job Center, discarding the Human Relations Committee, reduction of funding for charities, etc. all have negatively impacted that part of our community. The council majority sets the tone by appointing commissioners and committee members to follow their plans. Recently two joint council/commission study sessions were held with the Parks & Rec. and Planning commissions to be sure they were on the same page with the council. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does demonstrate specifically that the majority sets the tone in this town.

In your number 3 you said the opinions of the guy in question are not those of the council. Where have you been? For the past several years that is precisely the case! You don't have to "look into" their minds - they will tell you what's on their minds when they speak! In many instances one or more of the council majority have uttered words directly from his writings or echoed his comments from the speaker's podium. With few exceptions he has been treated deferentially by the majority and has, on more than one occasion recently, he has given them their marching orders.

In your number 4 you said there are far more rational and practical motivations for the closure of the job center. What might those be? That facility was created 20 years ago and served this community well - it solved the problem of loitering day laborers when combined with the anti-solicitation ordinance. It was effectively managed and orderly. Only once the man in question began his drumbeat did the chorus of angry westsiders join in. It was an easy target. I have never said I was against checking the immigration status of suspected criminals at the Costa Mesa jail. I agree with our young jailer/mayor's statement that it's important to get dangerous felons off the streets - all dangerous felons. If that was how it was applied I would have no problem at all with it. However, the mayor and his pals are hypocrites! The rant and rave and jump in front of a microphone to deride the alien "criminals" among us - like the guy who rode his bicycle the wrong way on the street - yet were amazingly mute when a joint task force arrested 20 white supremacists in 17 locations in Costa Mesa as part of a county-wide sweep that netted 57 of them. These people had put out contracts on cops, for goodness sake! And where is the mayor on this issue? He didn't, and still has not, spoken publicly about it. Doesn't that strike you as at least inconsistent? It sure does me.

I find it more than a little amusing that you attempt to instruct me that "we have little tolerance for those who break the law", using the current fireworks debate as an example. Even though most of Costa Mesa sounded like downtown Baghdad on the 4th, very, very few arrests were made. I'm sure it had more to do with too many infractions and too few law enforcers available, but it's a bad example.

As far as that debate specifically, I guess I qualify as one of your "grumpy noise-haters", but it isn't really the noise - it's the danger. Obviously, for many Costa Mesan, their "right" to fire off fireworks is something they don't want to give up. I understand that - our neighborhood block party was a load of fun, including the fireworks part. However, instead of hanging around our neighborhood for the safe and sane fireworks - and maybe some others - about a third of my neighbors went to locations where they could view the fantastic fireworks show at Newport Dunes. Safe and sane fireworks start out that way, but generally degenerate into a careless use of those devices which creates a danger to many around them. Ironically, as I sit and type this Saturday night a string of firecrackers just went off within a block of my house. Perfect timing.

This old grump is not "fighting against the students and their sports" - I've offered some alternatives and expect there are many more available. Other cities find a way to fund their youth sports without fireworks being sold. How do they do it? From some of the comments I've seen posted on my Daily Pilot commentary on this subject, even some of the parents who man the booths seem eager for an alternative funding source. I can't believe we here in Costa Mesa are too dumb to figure it out. Maybe we're too lazy... I don't know...

rob, I know there are many, many wonderful people in this city who contribute to it's vibrancy. Regardless of the make up of the council, they just keep plugging away, doing their volunteer things for the young, old and in between in our town. Ask some of them about their perception of the atmosphere in our city now versus ten years ago.

I do not paint our city with that guy's brush - he's the one with the stains on his hands.

Thanks for participating.

7/21/2007 11:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

Geoff,

There are definitely people in the community who harbor hate and bigotry, but that does not mean CM is a haven for either. I think they are a small but vocal minority. With few exceptions, we continue to be a very vibrant, integrated community. The immigration debate brought out the worst on BOTH sides, please don't forget that.

I agree that members of the Latino community may feel that the deck is stacked against them. Former Cheif Hensley did his best to dispel that perception, but it is tough when racist activists were busily spreading hateful misinformation through their own community. In an interview, one admitted to "educating" illegal immigrants about the "real intentions" of the CMPD. When a simple DUI/License checkpoint by CMPD is branded racist, the problem is not the City Council, it is instigators stoking racially based fear.

Yes, Mayor Mansoor's sudden proposal to cross train CMPD officers started this ball rolling. Yes, his actions brought national attention to our town. But as we have debated before, a populace tired of dealing with unchecked illegal immigration is not automatically racist or bigoted. Opposing illegal immigration is not automatically opposing Latinos in our community.

Certainly, there are two views to each of the actions you describe. I think many in the community support those actions not for hateful, bigoted or racist reasons. The job center was controversial. Some community members exploited that controversy for the wrong reasons, but that doesn't mean closing it was wrong - it was promoting illegal employment practices that negatively impacted legitimate business owners.

As for the HRC and charities - where do we draw the line on what is appropriate and what isn't? Who makes those decisions? The City Council. More transparency in how city CDBG funds are actually used is NOT a bad thing. If charities are being exclusionary, they shouldn't be funded with City money. If the HRC becomes a tool for those who promote illegal immigration, it should be shut down. I hope that it gets resurrected as we need a conduit for communication between different segments of the community. On these issues, the voting community will hopefully speak, and if it decides that a change in philosophy is in order, it will happen.

Admittedly, I don't observe the council proceedings as closely as you do, so I am unaware of times when the majority actually use the character's words. As others point out, though - some of his ideas appeal to many, while others are truly reprehensible. You are probably correct, but I feel that that racism, bigotry, hate, etc. are not the council majority's true motivation.

I can't speak to the white supremacist silence, but 20 in Costa Mesa pales with the hundreds of other criminals that have been identified through the ICE program. That is no excuse for not being consistent, but the disparity in numbers and the one-time nature of the raids may be the answer.

The fireworks comment was based on the level of debate in the Pilot. You would think, based on the comments against fireworks, that people setting off fireworks were akin with Charles Manson, the NightStalker, and Adolf Hitler all rolled into one! That is what I was referring to when I said that we have little tolerance for those who break the law. I am glad that you found that amusing, as I thought it quite ironic that you came out with an anti-fireworks commentary in the Pilot after writing so eloquently here about your own block party, replete with descriptions of legal fireworks activities.

Irony and amusement aside - I do think we should vote on the issue, as a genuine controversy does exist. maybe there are better ways to fund community and school activities, and all the illegal fireworks are definitely hazardous.

Thanks for the very thoughtful response. Regardless of how we differ in interpreting certain actions - you always make me examine my positions thoroughly. While it is true that the character in question is effective at getting his voice heard with the current city council majority, I just can't accept that they are hapless marionettes under his control. I also think that his extreme views on race turn people off, as opposed to influencing them. I hope that I am right...

I would love for the level of discourse citywide to be more civil and less confrontational. keep posting on the Pilot, and keep calling out Al, etc.!

7/24/2007 03:02:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

rob, thanks, again for the thorough comment. Yes, the irony of my post on our neighborhood party and my Daily Pilot commentary was not lost on others. I don't believe they are contradictory. That party was the first one in almost 34 years and really did help me gain additional perspective on what subsequent commentors addressed.

It is my hope, too, that "most" of the folks in our town would repudiate the philosophy of the guy in question if they knew about him. In the meantime, another post will be up in a few minutes.

7/24/2007 04:09:00 PM  

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