Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Costa Mesa - Bastion of Intolerance



SURPRISE!
I don't know about you, but I've passed the age when I expect the world to be full of surprises. As an old coot, I figure I've pretty much seen it all. Sometimes, though, something pops up that you just didn't expect.

HOW BELGIUM VIEWS COSTA MESA

For example, late last week I received a telephone call from a fellow who identified himself as a correspondent for Belgian Public Television, seeking some face time with me. He's based in Washington, D.C. and had an assignment to do a story on racism in America. After researching this subject a little he decided to jump on an airplane and come to Costa Mesa, California, which he perceived to be a hotbed of racism in our country! I'm not kidding - that's what he said!

Well, as you might expect, that comment rocked me back a little.

INTERVIEWING BOTH SIDES

Due to social obligations over the weekend I had to beg off any personal, on-camera interviews, but did provide him with a few names of activists on both sides of the issue who might have time for him, including one he already knew of that writes his own blog here in town. I have no idea if he made contact with any of them. His piece was supposed to air sometime this week, but I doubt if many of us have access to Belgian Public Television, so we won't be seeing the results of his handiwork - at least not first hand.

MANSOOR'S LEGACY

I'm very disappointed that our city has become internationally notorious for the perception of it's position on race, but I guess I'm not surprised. Ever since former mayor Allan Mansoor attempted to cross-designate every Costa Mesa Police officer as an immigration screener two years ago and had his face plastered all over the national media as a "brave crime fighter" our city has become the tip of the lance wielded by the far-right-wing screamers in the battle of illegal immigration in this country.

GILCHRIST'S INSIDIOUS INFLUENCE
The presence and interference of Minuteman Grand Pooba, Jim Gilchrist, and his not-so-merry band of miscreants added fuel to that fire as they paraded around our city blockading businesses and stood before our City Council professing the righteousness of Mansoor's crusade against the invading brown hoard from south of the border.

HAM-HANDED HANDLING
Mansoor's ham-handed handling of the Benito Acosta affair, which was widely reported in the local and national media and can be viewed on YouTube ad infinitum, only exacerbated the situation. Mansoor's ill-timed and insensitive comments throughout the following summer when gang violence erupted amplified the perception of our city as a bastion of hate.

THIS IS NOT NEW

I've written many times about this subject. For most of this decade I've watched as frustrated residents followed the lead of a small knot of malcontents with racist views who guided them down this dark path. I've been amazed that the anti-Latino sentiment has been so widespread and pervasive in our city. I, naively, thought the residents of this town were more tolerant and intelligent - that it would take more than the rants of an articulate racist and the cherubic smile of our young jailer/mayor to direct them down this path. I was wrong.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

I look forward and see the year ahead, which will bring yet another election, and hope the voters of this city will not be swayed by the ongoing drumbeat of intolerance. The character assassination and lies that have become far too prevalent in politics - and our local politics in particular - has already begun. The City Council election in November could end up with a super-majority - a de facto absolute majority - of self-anointed "improvers" on the dais. That, in my view, would be catastrophic for our city. It would hand our future to the forces of intolerance and forever scar our city as a place where only white people need apply. It would eliminate any check and balance in our system of governance and permit them to, literally, plow the earth where Latinos live in our city and effectively expunge them from our borders.

TYPING WITH FINGERS CROSSED

I sincerely hope that does not happen. I hope the good voters of this city finally see what's going on around them and reject and repudiate those who would perpetuate this systematic march that has made our city a metaphor for racism and intolerance.

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Sad to say it's become such a 'your type' (as I was called when applauding the teaching of tolerance and diversity at Adams in the DP blog) vs. 'our type' environment. I'm right there with you on this one, Geoff. This town has changed a lot in my 40+ years here, and certainly not for the better.

It blows my mind that tolerance and diversity could be viewed as negatives, but such is the world we live in. It will be interesting to see who's up on the dais after the election in November.

2/06/2008 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

You may not be far off with your "plow the earth" comments, as Mr. U-Know-Who - the single most disingenuous person in Costa Mesa civic affairs - is again touting eminent domain on the Westside. He has stated, plain as day, that he opposes eminent domain on his blog and in commentray on the Pilot, but he was obviously being disingenuous. He also listed replacing businesses with homes on the Westside as one of the TOP strategies for dealing with our gang problem, far up the list from real solutions like gang injunctions.

Amazing.

I happen to strongly disagree with you about the racist implications of ICE, and remind you that the people screaming "racist" and inflaming the rhetoric were on the OTHER side of the ICE proposal.

Mansoor didn't call ANYONE "F@cking racist pig" and Americans holding flags and demanding that our laws be upheld, while facing down people screaming epithets, calling them horrible names, and accusing them of being Nazis were hardly the problem on the streets of Costa Mesa.

I know you watch Council meetings. Remember all the folks who stood at the podium speaking and saying horrible, baseless, incredibly racist things? They were AGAINST the ICE proposal. The true discord started with them.

They don't get a free pass in this issue, which you have virtualy been giving them by focusing your ire on Mansoor.

As for Gilchrist and Co., I know that you are referring to out-of-towners who came here to rile things up, but please remember that plenty of pro-illegal activists did the same exact thing.

2/06/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

Geoff, I agree with you that it is unfortunate that CM is considered intolerant, but my point is that the actions of CM citizens didn't brand us with that label. Liberal pundits, activists and the media painted us with that brush. The rhetoric of a few who have admittedly racist views DOES NOT equal a racist city. When those same pundits, activists and media - along with the illegal aliens themselves REACT to what is now seen as perfectly reasonable, and even endorsed by the Daily Pilot - cracking down on crinminal illegal aliens - and brand the motives behind that, as well as the implementation, racist and intolerant THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT SO.

It is incumbent upon us to repudiate that impression and characterization. If Belgian Public TV calls me, I'll say exactly that. We cannot allow outsiders to define our city, and that is EXACTLY what is happening.

2/06/2008 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Mike, thanks for the comment. Those who attempt to present a voice of moderation in this town are shouted down by the radicals on both sides of the issue.

Rob, I appreciate your viewpoint. You may not recall that way back when we had folks yelping from the podium on both sides of the issue I stated many times that our city was not well-served by that rancorous discourse - and made a point of criticizing both sides. I still feel the same way. I agree that we cannot let outsiders define our city - which was happening. However, I don't like the way "insiders" define it, either. I don't think this is a city rife with intolerance - but the vocal minority who follow Mr. U. Know-Who's mantra certainly make it look that way. I harp on Mansoor because he was the poster child for the anti-Latino rhetoric. He was the face of Costa Mesa, plastered all over the national media. If the ICE agent has facilitated the removal of criminal aliens from our midst I applaud that effort. I do not agree that we should cross-designate all Costa Mesa cops as immigration screeners.

By the way, in his blog entry today Mr. U. Know-Who has the following statement: "Make a particular habitat uncomfortable, and what is comfortable there will move to find comfort elsewhere.... It works the same way with slums. That's why many cities with high crime rates use eminent domain to remove slum buildings."

It's obvious where he's heading with those comments.

2/06/2008 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

Geoff, I hear you - and understand where you are coming from. You definitely have been consistently calling for ratcheting down the discord, and you should be commended for that. I agree that cross-designating police is a bad utilization of police resources now that we have the ICE agent. This approach is working wonders in LA County, with thousands of inmate identified as illegal aliens in those jails.

Your consistent point about RACE is highly appropriate, and I think that I have overlooked that in my hair-trigger defenses of those who oppose illegal immigration.

This has NOTHING to do with race. Some have made it about race. It is about criminality. I hope that we can get to a place as a city where skin color is an irrelevant factor in civic affairs.

2/06/2008 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Bruce Krochman said...

Mike, Rob and Geoff,

It is true that Costa Mesa has changed in even the short 32 years I have lived here. I have mixed emotions about the talk of racism in our community though. On the one hand I find it reprehensible that others would look at my community as one of racial intolerance. On the other hand I find it comforting that it is a topic that is out in the open and being criticized. When I was a child I remember visiting family friends in Chicago. I would frequently hear derogatory remarks about one ethnic group or another. The funny thing is that most of the people making the remarks were first or second generation immigrants themselves. No one confronted those that espoused these ides. It was acceptable. So to the extent that we have people in our community that are unwilling to accept racist language, I am encouraged.

As for ICE, if the police department had proposed having ICE as a resource in the city jail I don’t believe that we would have had nearly the outcry we did when the political leaders of the city proposed training our police officers in immigration enforcement. The entire difference is one where the police focus on crime without regard to ethnicity or immigration status versus a police department that is responsible for identifying anyone here illegally.

One of the things I have a problem with is the issue of gangs. The police department put significant time and resources into a proposal to crack down on gangs while creating programs for intervention. The US DOJ has identified gang problems as resistant to enforcement efforts only. Yet, once again, our political leaders, for what I believe to be petty political reasons, decided to pick and choose what they would fund. My belief is that if I ask my experts to solve a problem, I will give them the tools they ask for to solve it and I will hold them accountable for meeting the goals established. By second guessing their tactics, I no longer have the right to go back to them and demand accountability if something isn’t working. I open a very legitimate door for them to tell me “if you had given us what we needed we would be where we said we would be”. To me that is bad management. If you feel you need to second guess your experts, you either need new experts or you need to adjust your management style.

2/06/2008 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Bruce, you're right on the money with your comment about police resources. The current and immediate past leaders chose to ignore the top cops and their recommendations regarding intervention despite all the facts pointing to how that was a critical element in a successful gang suppression program. Again, small people in big jobs. As always, I appreciate your contributions to the blog.

2/06/2008 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous mike mcniff said...

The must frustrating thing to me in all this is the liberal vs. conservative slant you see everywhere. I don't think it belongs in city politics, but there you have it, on the council, the planning commission, etc. It shouldn't matter at this level whether you are liberal or conservative to fix potholes or eradicate gangs and make our neighborhoods safer and schools better. But whenever I voice an opinion viewed as liberal (which I freely admit I am)in the DP, it gets thrown back in my face, and I don't think that should be the issue. Of course, with U Know Who somewhat quieter these days in the DP, I don't seem to get it as much.

It's obvious everyone here who contributes to these dialogs wants to do the right thing. That just varies from person to person. Fortunately, you are all intelligent, reasoned voices regardless of your beliefs, and that can only lead to positive change.

2/06/2008 08:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Bruce Krochman said...

Mike,

One of the discouraging dynamics is that the County Republican Party, Rohrabacher and their cronies, are using school boards and city councils as a breeding ground for political protégés. So to prove their chops, these local politicians need to walk and talk like conservative zombies. As a life long Republican, even I know that Wendy Leece claiming that developers pay too much in fees already and should not have to pay offsets for low income housing is simply a checkmark on a oath of allegiance that is short sighted and not in our city's best interest. Every city charges developers fees to build infrastructure, support social programs, and reduce the impact of the new traffic and load on local resources those developers are adding by building office space and residential units. I think we need a local effort to reduce the influence of big money politics on our little community. Our city council is being bought and sold by the local Republican Party.

2/07/2008 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous mike mcniff said...

With Romney dropping out today, Bruce, they must be a tad dissapointed, especially Geoff's favorite carpetbagger, Jim Righeimer.

2/07/2008 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Bruce Krochman said...

You are right Mike, Also, it just goes to proves that Romney is an intelligent businessman. He understand return on investment and when to cut your losses.

2/07/2008 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

I agree that local councils are totally inappropriate places for partisan displays. National economic policy doesn't play well in local venues. Conservative ideals about small, limited government applies to the federal government - local governments deal with such issues as zoning and redevelopment. I can't weigh in on specific projects recently approved, but Bruce is EXACTLY right about developers.

What amazes me and will inspire me to get heavily involved in ALL aspects of the upcoming election is the "influence" Mr. U-Know-Who allegedly wields. His ideas about the Westside are about as anti-conservative as they get, and his incredible hypocrisy and demands for heavy-handed government redistribution of property is a shocking departure from the conservative ideals the "majority" allegedly represents.

His renewed support for Mayor Bever, a remarkable retreat from his recent heavy and condescending criticism, is interesting.

2/07/2008 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

On the issue of intolerance and race, Mr. U-Know-Who has a post detailing an exchange between Lou Dobbs and the spokesperson for The National Council of La Raza.

Regardless of your take on motives for Costa Mesa activities relating to illegal aliens, this is a very illuminating exchange, and goes to my intense frustration on the issue.

Minutemen ARE NOT AUTOMATICALLY RACISTS.

Opposing illegal immigration is not racist or hate speech.

The debate over illegal immigration is imperiling free speech.

Geoff, I have taken you to task before for characterizing Minutemen as "Minutemob." This is your blog and you can say what you want, but the fact of the matter is that most Minutemen were retirees - many ex-military and law enforcement - who did nothing more than volunteer their time to sit on the border and call in illegal border crossers.

There was NEVER one report of any violence or intimidation by any member of the Minutemen.

There were, however, many documented instances of rock-throwing, intimidation, verbal harassment, blinding with spotlights, and other actions against these volunteers by pro-illegal immigrant activists. Let's not forget the rampant drug-use by the ACLU "monitors."

Yet Minutemen are branded vigilantes, racists, intolerant, etc.

What nonsense.

Of course there are those who take it to the extreme on both sides, but the automatic assumption by some that anti-illegal immigration activists hate Latinos is disgusting, inappropriate, and has done MUCH to make this issue as divisive as it is.

Even Frank Mickadeit threw out the "racist" accusation when referring to people opposing ballot materials printed in foreign languages. Gordon Dillow's front page column was about his opposition to multilingual ballot materials.

The knee-jerk and reflexive overuse of the term "racist" is getting really old. It's wrong, inflammatory, inappropriate, and MUST be addressed and countered.

2/07/2008 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob, You're correct, this is my blog. The characterizations of some people used on the blog are my choice and accurately portray my view of them. I've called Gilchrist's followers the Minutemob because that's how they acted while attempting to support Mansoor's assault on the Latinos in this city. If you doubt my characterization just ask Mirna Burciaga. I will continue to characterize folks here as I see fit, based on my opinion of them.

You are correct - I doubt that ALL Minutemen are racists - I've never said they were. Please don't try to overlay comments made by others onto things said here.

You said, "...but the automatic assumption by some that anti-illegal immigration activists hate Latinos is disgusting, inappropriate, and has done MUCH to make this issue as divisive as it is." If that comment was directed at me, I've NEVER said that. What I have said, and chronicled for several years, is that there is a systematic attempt to dislodge the Latinos from our city - and I don't mean only illegal immigrants. The track record is clear and undeniable. In fact, Mr. U. Know-Who has provided the marching orders in writing and as he stood before the council at the speaker's podium many times. His rhetoric IS racist, as are the actions by certain elected officials in this city that his comments provoke.

As always, you're entitled to you opinion on these issues and I'm happy to provide a place from which you can espouse them. You may not like the characterizations of some people as presented here, but it is, after all is said and done, my blog. It represents my views of the circumstances as I see them - and those who submit comments addressing them.

2/07/2008 10:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Bruce Krochman said...

Rob,

I agree that it is frustrating when your position is broadly painted by the opposition. It is however a tactic that is common to the point of being expected. I support the conduct of churches in our community that provide charitable services to our neighbors. For that I am routinely referred to by Millard as part of the population that is fostering illegal immigration. I look at it as fostering Christianity, Judaism or whatever religious tenets the church in question supports.

I know you are aware that there are some in the Minuteman movement that are in fact endorsing vigilantism. There are others that support the Minuteman project out of shear racist hate. Fortunately, the broader group has not endorsed those points of view nor organized any vigilantly activity. So I see the Minuteman project as actually providing an outlet for frustrated boarder closers to feel they are helping resolve a problem without taking the law into their own hands. I don’t support them, but I find them benign as a social group.

Their political policies are another issue. If anyone is going to take a scorched earth approach to our immigration problem, I will be found firmly entrenched against that. As you know I believe that the social and economic costs of such a policy are inappropriate for the wealthiest and most charitable country on earth. I am firm however on not encouraging future bad policies by the feds and future bad behavior by our neighbors’ citizens. Admittedly that is a tough combination to reconcile.

But back to my original point. Yes, broad strokes are frustrating, but part of the process I am afraid. I will attempt to refrain from doing so, but I know I have in the past.

One other point with respect to the blog posting with Dobbs, you may have noticed it pretty much paralleled my complaint and discussion with the Pilot. I don't feel that they served the community well by allowing racist posts on the blogs and they felt they were providing information. I will never see eye to eye with them on that issue.

2/08/2008 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous rob dickson said...

Geoff,

First and foremost - my apologies if my post seemed directed at you in any way, because it wasn't. I referred to your past characterization of the Minutemob simply to introduce the subject of the unfair painting of them with broad brushes, as Bruce describes.

Certainly, some Minutemen are rabble-rousers, but the vast majority are not.

Part of the ratcheting up of the discord in this debate is the overuse of these terms. I have been called a racist to my face. I am not a racist and react VERY poorly to such an accusation.

My post was meant to illuminate how the "other" side tries to stifle speech by elevating normal discourse to "hate speech" which it is not.

Bruce, I understand your frustration with the Pilot blogs, but not one thing mentioned by the La Raza woman came close to being as offensive as the things you protested against.

Your point about bad people being drawn to the Minutemen is accurate, but what gets lost is that for every lunatic racist, there are perhaps as many as a dozen good people frustrated with federal inaction.

Just like here in Costa Mesa, many good people oppose illegal immigration and are unwilling to compromise the integrity of our borders or our "principled defense of the rule of law."

It is dramatically obvious that meaningful reform is needed, and is on the way.

BOTH sides need to remember that this is about people and communities, and that extremism is inappropriate from either side.

The people here on this blog are not extremists, but the post was about the perception of Costa Mesa in light of our immigration debate. I am a loud voice against illegal immigration, and I am not a racist, not do I hate Latinos. I HAVE been accused of both, and that is totally inappropriate. Of course, no one here has done that - I was trying to illustrate how the oether side uses terms like "racist" and "code words" and "hate speech" to stifle debate.

When people do resort to racist actions, hate speech, etc. they should be called on it then...

2/08/2008 01:56:00 PM  

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