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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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Night At The Opera, er, City Council

GOOFY AT THE HELM
Last ni
ght'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.

CRITTERS, RE-DEFINED
The ma
jor 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 M
Y PARK!
Before tha
t, 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.

BOOK'EM, DANNO!
Wit
h 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
Howe
ver, 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 t
o 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.

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BREAKING NEWS! West Santa Ana Heights Goes To Newport Beach!


LAFCO RULES
The local print media will report tomorrow that the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) this afternoon has decided, in it's infinite wisdom, that the much-contested West Santa Ana Heights portion of the county will be annexed by the City of Newport Beach. Apparently, the border will be the east side of Santa Ana Boulevard. I can practically hear the cheering at my home on the Eastside of Costa Mesa as those residents celebrate - and breathe a sigh of relief.

This decision actually comes as no surprise to me. The residents of West Santa Ana Heights were adamant that they didn't want to be annexed into Costa Mesa, and have said so loud and clear for many years. Who can blame them? Their property values just jumped at least 25% - probably much more than that.

SHIP OF FOOLS
This is yet another blow to the municipal ego of Costa Mesa, where, for the past couple years, the priority of the elected leadership has been the expulsion of one third of it's population - the Latinos among us. Given the choice between Newport Beach and Costa Mesa there's no question which way I'd go, for sure. I wonder what the chances are of convincing Newport Beach to throw a lasso around everything in Costa Mesa east of Tustin Avenue and giving it a little tug? Oh, well...

UNCLAIMED JEWELS
Still pending, and with about the same chance of ending up in Costa Mesa as West Santa Ana Heights, are the Santa Ana Country Club, those few islands of county property remaining near Irvine Avenue, and the cherry on top of the sundae - the Banning Ranch.

SHORT ON TOOLS
Ever since termed-out former mayor Gary Monahan told his peers we needed to play hardball with Newport Beach on these annexation issues I knew we were doomed. It's like playing poker with all your cards showing, for goodness sake. By exposing our intentions, so to speak, we were left with no chips to play. The best we could do was to threaten to dig a tunnel under Newport Boulevard at the end of the freeway through which would regurgitate the beach-bound traffic that is currently dribbling through "downtown" Costa Mesa directly into Newport Beach. That worked pretty well, didn't it?

HOPELESS DUELS
So, the Costa Mesa City Council will continue to bumble it's way through "negotiations" like a guy in a fast draw contest with an empty gun. It's OK, though - they're taking care of those darn Latinos. Pathetic!

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Monday, July 16, 2007

"Adios Critter" Day, Jackass Gets His Way, Allocating Fields and How We Play

Back from a much needed weekend out of town, I'm perusing the agenda for the Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 17th and find some interesting items listed. It looks to me like the agenda saves the best, and most controversial, items for near the end.


CRITTERS, RE-DEFINED AND RESTRICTED
For example, in an ironic bit of timing since the critter-filled Orange County Fair is currently being held right across the street, the second item under Old Business is an ordinan
ce amending Title 3 of the municipal code relating to animal regulations and another section specific to dogs. Theoretically, this is to bring the city up to date and drag it into the 21st Century from it's initial days almost 60 years ago as a primarily rural community. With the sweep of the pen - and the solid line of a ruler through the old code - this change basically removes almost any reference to critters other than dogs, cats and some birds. There are some exceptions, but they are few and severely regulated. For example, all you reptile fanciers are going to need a permit for your critters. And you dog and cat owners are going to be restricted to a maximum of three each unless you have a license for a kennel, pet store or an animal hospital.

I find myself thinking about Noah, and wondering how he would react to the whopping fines imposed on him if his ark happened to come to rest within the Costa Mesa city limits.

As I read the new ordinance, if it doesn't bark, meow or chirp you can't have it inside our city. The exception to this will be the Orange County Fairgrounds. But, if you hope to own a cow, horse o
r other hoofed critter in this town you're out of luck unless the police chief gives you special dispensation. This is going to cause a problem in a neighborhood in the north part of town, where a well-known jackass is in residence.

PAULARINO PARK - AGAIN
Speaking of which, item 3 of Old Business will be the presentation to the council of the Parks and Recreation Commission's recommendations regarding Paularino Park. You will recall that this flap was created by a single Costa Mesa resident - see hoofed critter above - who felt threatened by marauding soccer players in "his" park, so has been a thorn in the city's side ever since, demanding that this park be restricted to non-athletic uses. Anyone paying attention to this guy and his agenda over the past few years knows what he was after - elimination of a place where Latinos could kick a soccer ball around after work. Now that he has a sympathetic - maybe that should just be "pathetic" - majority on the council it's likely that "his" plan will pass and the park will becom
e a field of grass littered with boulders and trees to prohibit any use but walking or sitting. Don't you dare take your young son over there to play catch with a baseball or a frisbee. No sir, the Park Rangers will bust you, for sure.


FIELD USE AND ALLOCATION - ONE MORE TIME
And, as a perfect segue, the final item on the agenda will be Number 1 under New Business, Field Use and Allocation Policy. This one promises to be very interesting because of the many diverse constituencies represented and the fact that, although much progress has been made, there appears to still be much animosity between leaders of some of the youth sports groups in town. I've watched this debate over the past few years, through various iterations of the City Coun
cil and Parks and Recreation Commission, and thought much progress had been made recently. Then we hear of the recent discontent by one leader of youth football and wonder if perhaps we would be better served by just turning this whole thing over to the kids - the adults don't seem to be able to sort it out amiably. Or, maybe we should just take the adult leaders out onto the front lawn of the City Hall and let them settle the thing once and for all by a tug-of-war.

In any event, as usual, the best will be saved for last on Tuesday evening. I invite you to attend the meeting beginning at 6 p.m., view it live on Channel 24 or on streaming video via the city web site - there's a link to it over there on the right side of this page. Or, you can just wait for me to tell you how it went.

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