Thursday, April 10, 2008

Newport Beach SR 55 Workshop Report


FINAL SR 55 WORKSHOP IN NEWPORT BEACH
I attended the Orange County Transportation Authority's final public outreach workshop on the subject of resolving the traffic snarl currently occurring on Newport Boulevard (SR 55) in Costa Mesa's "downtown", just beyond the terminus of the Costa Mesa Freeway at 19th Street.

SPARSELY ATTENDED
Unlike the two similar workshops in Costa Mesa last week, this one was sparsely attended. A dozen folks who identified themselves as Newport Beach residents attended, plus some Costa Mesa residents. The total headcount at the meeting, including OCTA and consultant staff, was fewer than 30 people. It made me wonder if our good friends in Newport Beach would rather sit on the sidelines until this process is well down the road, then jump up and say, "NO WAY!"

NO ELECTED OFFICIALS CARED ENOUGH TO BE THERE

One disappointing fact was that, with the exception of Newport Beach Councilman "Walkin'" Don Webb - who kicked it off then left - no Newport Beach elected or appointed official attended the meeting to hear what their constituents thought about the plans presented. Former controversial councilman Dick Nichol showed up after the formal presentation, but was actively engaged in the subject, asking many questions and making very relevant comments. And, even better, not once did he mention "Mexicans on the grass". (That's a kind of inside joke, folks.)

NEWPORTERS FEAR TRAFFIC DUMPING
Many of the comments made by the Newporters were concerns about the traffic being "dumped" into Newport Beach. I had to chuckle, because they already get that traffic. Most of the more favorably viewed options presented would help folks heading for Newport Beach arrive there more quickly and with much less stress. No matter how carefully the moderators of the workshop tried to explain the situation, much apprehension still existed at the end of the meeting.

CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC A CONCERN

Our good neighbors - most of whom lived in the Newport Heights area - were concerned about cut-through traffic in their neighborhoods. If that sounds familiar, it should, because many of my Eastside Costa Mesa neighbors expressed the same concerns at the two previous workshops. The difference between them is the fact the the Eastside of Costa Mesa is feeling the impact of cut-through traffic NOW due to the long delays on Newport Blvd.

TRAFFIC DISPERSION CONCERNS

Much was made about the need to disperse the traffic at the end of the freeway. Nichol was concerned about the freeway ending at one single traffic light at Industrial Way - as it does now at 19th Street. Nichol - who had not yet viewed the options on the display boards - suggested off ramps at 16th Street and 17th Street to help with the dispersion of traffic. That rankled residents, who "heard" that to mean more traffic on their residential streets.

OFF-THE-WALL SUGGESTIONS, TOO
Along with valid concerns and suggestions there were, predictably, some pretty off-the-wall suggestions. One woman suggested discarding all the proposed solutions and concentrating on public transportation alternatives. She apparently just arrived from Mars, or would have known that southern Californians don't leave their cars to go anywhere. Another speaker took my tongue-in-cheek suggestion about installing toll booths and turned it into a suggestion!


THE NEXT STEP
Despite the paucity of attendees, the OCTA and consultant staff dutifully took copious notes of the concerns and suggestions. Now this process will continue with the blending of existing proposals with suggestions made by attendees of the workshops and the distillation of the options to 3 or 4 possible choices. Those will then be presented to the OCTA Board and elected officials. More community outreach will be conducted following that effort. The target for the end of this phase of the project is August of this year.

FUNDING? - NO DOLLARS ARE AVAILABLE
At that time cost estimates will be compiled and possible sources of funding will be investigated. No funding is available for any of the long-range options at this time. When I asked how long it would take to get something built, the moderator, using assumptions that one of the more costly options would be chosen and it would involve property acquisition, speculated that it would take 10-15 years. Yikes!

LOOKING FOR MATURE LEADERSHIP
I fear, based on some of the comments made this evening, that this project is going to be one more contentious issue that the cities of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach will butt head on. The problem that generated this study is clearly a Costa Mesa issue. At the two workshops conducted in Costa Mesa many residents expressed displeasure that Newport Beach even gets a vote. I hope the elected leaders and staff will be able to mediate an amicable approach to this subject because there are many more issues that require close cooperation that are at least as important as this one. If we allow this to deteriorate into a schoolyard spat there is much to lose on both sides of our common border.

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Wall Street Journal Report on Illegal Immigrants

WALL STREET JOURNAL - "IMMIGRANT FLOW SLOWING"
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal provided us with a Front Page report by Miriam Jordan entitled, "Crossings by Migrants Slow as Job Picture Dims". Her lead paragraph sets the tone by stating, "The number of illegal immigrants apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border is falling steeply, an indication that the economic downturn and
beefed-up security could be deterring unauthorized crossings."

APPREHENSIONS DOWN DRAMATICALLY
She goes on to tell us that the U.S. Border Patrol reported on Tuesday that the number of individuals apprehended between October 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008 dropped 17% to 347,372, with particularly significant drops occurring in the Yuma, Arizona sector, where the number dropped 76%.

YEAR END RESULTS MIGHT BE 50% OF PREVIOUS YEAR!
Jordan's report is lengthy and is full of statistics. For example, she tells us that this dramatic drop in the first half of the fiscal year could mean that the apprehensions for the full year ending September 30, 2008 could be less than the 858,638 in 2007. That would be half of the nearly 1.64 million arrests made in fiscal 2000. Stunning numbers!

CLASSIC SUPPLY AND DEMAND
The nut of her report can be captured in a quote from from Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Hoyt is quoted as saying, "The U.S.-Mexico labor market is one of the most efficient examples of the law of supply and demand. If the demand goes down in the U.S., the supply of people coming from Mexico goes down."

"REMITTANCES" UP, BUT SLOWING
One measurement used in this assessment was the amount of money sent "home" by immigrants. In 2007 these "remittances" sent to Mexico and other Latin American and Caribbean countries amounted to $66.5 billion - an increase of 7% over the previous year. While the amount of money sent home increased, this is the first time in this decade that the rate of growth of remittances failed to reach double digits.

IMMIGRATION COSTLY TO ILLEGALS
While acknowledging that there is no way to accurately measure the number of illegal immigrants coming to this country each year, officials apparently feel that tallying those apprehended can illustrate trends. Jordan quotes T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union that represents 13,000 agents, on the issue of the cost to the illegal immigrants attempting to cross our borders. Bonner is quoted as saying, "The coyotes typically charge $2,500 per person, up from about $350 in the early 1990s in California or Texas. The cost of being smuggled has increased dramatically. People are thinking more carefully before crossing the border."

SMIRKS ALL AROUND

This report should be viewed as good news to those who blame all the ills in our society on the illegal immigrants among us. Those in our community who bemoan the "slums" where they purport illegal immigrants make up the majority of residents should be happy now. Those who complain about the negative impact of the children of illegal immigrants have on our schools should be happy now.

EXODUS OBSERVED?
If Costa Mesa is, in fact, a haven for illegal immigrants and if the thesis of the Wall Street Journal article is valid, then we should be seeing an exodus of dark-skinned folks leaving our city for either greener pastures or back home across our southern border. I've seen no reports recently to indicate this is happening, but that doesn't mean it isn't.

WILL EMPTY APARTMENTS BE BULLDOZED?
So, if there is such an exodus of immigrants from those "barracks-style" apartments on the Westside and in areas in the north part of our city, will the owners capitulate and sell the buildings so they can be demolished so more upscale, single family homes can be built? If so, where will those buyers come from, considering the current condition of the real estate market? And, who will build those homes?

WILL DAY LABORERS DISAPPEAR?

Will we see the pockets of loitering day laborers scattered around town - those willing workers who once used the now-defunct Job Center to find work each day - gradually disappear? What will the impact on our labor market be if these willing workers do, in fact, disappear?

WILL IMMIGRANT'S DEPARTURE STIFLE RECOVERY?

In Jordan's article she tells us that, "About 60% of all unauthorized workers in the U.S. are originally from Mexico" and that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 14.4% of all Mexicans in the U.S. work in the construction industry. She says experts estimate that if the illegal workers were folded into that equation the number would be much higher. I find myself wondering how the departure of this cadre of willing, affordable workers will affect our country's ability to eventually pull itself out of what is almost certainly going to be a recession?

PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL JOBS GO BEGGING
In a great paradox, on the same page there was an article exclaiming that the full quota for H-1B visas - those reserved for highly trained professionals, like engineers and computer programmers - was used up within a couple of days of becoming available. Industry leaders are screaming that they cannot find enough of such workers and want the quotas to be increased. Our economy is so strong that our universities cannot generate enough technical professionals to fill the need and our present immigration regulations prohibit us from importing that talent from abroad. I guess it's no wonder that companies, when faced with this dilemma, choose to export the jobs in order to remain in business. We're living in strange times, indeed.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Study Session Canceled plus Jailers Suspended



NO QUORUM, NO MEETING (NO PROGRESS)
What's that old phrase, "The best laid plans...."? Well, the study session Tuesday in which the council was to hear from the Costa Mesa Police Department on several issues, including gangs, was canceled. It seems three of the five council members were absent - no quorum, no meeting. Oh, well. I certainly hope they don't wait another month before hearing what the CMPD has to say on this subject... it's too important.

VIDEO OF GANGS IN THE O.C.
One of the folks who posted anonymous comments on my last post on this subject, a person who identified him or herself as "cmtruth", provided a url to a YouTube video tha
t is fascinating. For those who missed it, simply click HERE and you'll be taken directly to the video. Once there you can watch it, then view the other four in the series by British documentarian and actor, Ross Kemp from the menu on the right side of the page. It's a fascinating study on Gangs of Orange County and the first two mention Costa Mesa extensively. CAUTION: these video clips - each is around 10 minutes long - are not for casual viewing.

GRAND JURY REPORT ON LACY JAIL BEATING DEATH

All over the news in the past couple days is the grand jury report on the beating death of inmate John Chamberlain in the Theo Lacy Jail here in Orange County. Based on that report and the news coverage thereof, it seems the poor fellow was beaten to death by a half dozen of his fellow inmates - perhaps because one of his jailers mis-identified him to other prisoners as a child molester.


LAZY JAILE
RS?
It now turns out that the jailers don't do a very good job of paying attention to their charges in the hoosegow. There are reports that they watch television, leave their posts to workout and generally ignore prisoners. The names of several jail personnel who have been suspended were published in the newspapers Tuesday. You can read the Los Angeles Times article HERE and the Orange County Register article HERE. I looked for familiar names but didn't find any.

JAIL TOURS TOO LONG FOR DEPUTIES

I'm not really surprised that the sheriff's deputies who are performing the job of jailers ignore their duties. The tour in the jail can be 6 or 7 years - perhaps even longer if a person requests it. I've been led to believe that's the case with our former mayor, Allan Mansoor. In my opinion, using deputies as jailers for an extended period of time is a waste of training and talent. Perhaps the new Sheriff of Orange County, whomever it turns out to be, will address this issue. We do know that interim sheriff, Jack Anderson, has stated he wants to replace sworn deputies in the jail with civilian custodial officers. Sounds like a good start to me.

MANSOOR ON
THE MEAN STREETS? - OMIGOD!
Of course, that m
eans that Mansoor will actually have to become a real law enforcement officer and work in the streets. I'm sorry, but I can't help but smile...

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Gangs - Drumbeat Of Lies Muffles The Truth

GANGS TO BE STUDIED - AGAIN
At their
study session on Tuesday, April 8th, members of the Costa Mesa City Council will consider, among other things, proposals from representatives of the Costa Mesa Police Department about their plans to manage the gang issue in our city. You may recall that the council majority rejected a proposal to fund an intervention element last year, restricting the police department's activities to enforcement only. As I've stated many times, enforcement alone will not solve the gang problem. I can tell you that from first-hand experience. The neighborhood where I grew up in Los Angeles is now dealing with it's fourth generation of one gang - Los Avenues - and they are more vicious than ever.

NO DETAILS AVAILABLE
We really don't know what the CMPD has in mind this time around because the staff report, such as it is, tells us only that the issue will be presented, with no details. I guess we'll just have to wait until Tuesday at 4:30 in Conference Room 1A to see what they have up their sleeves.

MISINFORMATION SPREAD

In the meantime, sources of misinformation around town are howling about this event, proclaimin
g that it will be another plot by "lefties" to make Costa Mesa a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. As is usually the case, this blather is pure fabrication, intended to further inflame a difficult situation in our city.

BULLDOZING THE "PROB
LEM"
There are folks who think the one-third of our population that are Latino are the root of all problems in our city and the solution is to bulldoze apartment buildings occupied predominantly by immigrants - usually Latino immigrants. Apparently they feel that if you can't use legal means to discourage these folks from living in our city, then it's OK to chase them out using the blade of a Caterpillar D9 as motivation.


LATINO GANGS THE ONLY PROBLEM? NOT!

Another little bit of self-serving fiction being foisted off on r
esidents is that Costa Mesa gangs are primarily and overwhelmingly Latino, and that the members have strong links to illegal aliens. Horse manure! Yes, there are Latino gangs in Costa Mesa. Yes, some probably know illegal aliens through their cultural ties. However, ask any Costa Mesa cop familiar with the gang issue and he will tell you that White Supremacist gangs are a huge problem in this city. They are much more dangerous to the general populace than the Latino gangs might be. They are heavily engaged in the drug trade and identity theft, infiltrating financial institutions and harvesting personal data. Those who spread misinformation about gangs won't tell you that... I wonder why?

A PLAN FOR ALL GANGS NEEDED
I hope the study session presents to the city council options for dealing with all gangs in Costa Mesa and I hope they will give very serious consideration to the funding and implementation of an intervention element this time around. You simply cannot "enforce" gangs out of existence - a fact to which every credible student of this subject will agree.

LIAR, LIAR...
Meanwhile, the drumbeat of intolerance continues to attempt to drown out the truth with a steady stream of lies and fabrications... You'll probably be able to tell who the purveyor of these lies is if you attend the study session - he'll be the guy with his trousers aflame.

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