Friday, December 05, 2008

Benito Acosta And The Open Barn Door


PICKING THE SCAB
Daily Pilot writer Joe Serna's article on December 4, 2008, "Fight still on against activist", HERE, picked open the scab on the whole Benito Acosta affair, allowing it to
fester once again. I think that's OK - perhaps a little air and light will help this wound heal.

"HOPE" FOR THE HOPELESS
Serna te
lls us that city prosecutors (read that, "Jones & Mayer") still think they have a "glimmer of hope" to prosecute Benito Acosta for his transgressions before the City Council 35 months ago. You will recall that Judge Kelly MacEachern dismissed the city's charges against Acosta because lawyer Dan Peelman, (of Jones & Mayer) hadn't been sworn as a prosecutor. Her ruling was upheld repeatedly by the Orange County appellate court.

OF EQUINES AND CANINES
Jones & Mayer has been flogging this dead horse on their own dime ever since Judge MacEachern bounced the case, trying to wipe the egg off their corporate face. They've been acting like a legal pit bull with Acosta in it's teeth, shaking him like a rag doll.

UNNECES
SARY IN THE FIRST PLACE
The truly astounding part of this whole thing is that none of this would have happened if then-and-cu
rrent Mayor Allan Mansoor had simply administered the rules of conduct at the speaker's podium fairly and without bias. He didn't, Acosta protested and was subsequently dragged from the council chambers and arrested like a guy who had cried "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

NOW YOU TELL US!
At the City Council meeting last Tuesday Jones & Mayer presented a new ordinance to the council for it's consideration. The preamble of this ordinance reads as follows:
"A Resolution of the City Council of the City of Costa Mesa, California clarifying its intent with respect to legal services provided by contract city attorney Jones & Mayer". It goes on to describe in detail the delegation of authority conferred upon contract City Attorney, Kimberly Hall Barlow. The council passed the ordinance unanimously.

HAND IN COOKIE JAR
Clearly, this is a
much-too-late response to the situation we're in with the Acosta affair. It looks to me as though they are trying to close the barn door after the horse has already escaped. This is like a little kid, caught with his hand in the cookie jar, saying, "I didn't do it, but if I did, it wasn't my fault!"

CURIOUS ADMISSION
Is this new ordinance not a de facto admission of their failure to provide clear guidelines for the delegation of authority by Barlow to her subordinates? It sure seems like it to me. And how will any future court considering the Acosta case view this move? Won't they find it just a little bit curious? I sure do.

JUDGMENT QUESTIONED

As an observer, admittedly not close to the inner workings of the Costa Mesa Lega
l Department, I've been generally impressed with what appeared to be quality representation provided by Jones & Mayer since they were selected to provide legal services for our city. However, this gaffe, and their dogged, almost irrational, tenacity on this issue in which they seem to step from one pile of manure to another, leaves me wondering about the judgment at the top in that organization. I also wonder about the judgment of those in charge in our city for permitting this fiasco to continue.

THE "OTHER" SUIT
And, the other shoe waiting to drop is the civil action filed by the ACLU on behalf of Acosta against the city in this matter. In these difficult fiscal times, I find myself wondering how much cash the city has set aside toward a settlement of that case.

AN EXPLANATION DUE

In my opinion, the tax payers of this city deserve an explanation from ou
r leaders about why they are letting this issue continue. It appears the only reason for permitting this to go forward is so Jones & Mayer can extricate themselves from the quicksand into which they've jumped with both feet.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your "New" Costa Mesa City Council!

ADIOS, LINDA, AND THANKS
Last night, after bidding departing council member Linda Dixon a fond adieu with a nice video tribute prepared by the city staff and accolades from Wendy Leece a
nd Katrina Foley, the new City Council was sworn in and seated on the dais. Congratulations to Katrina, Eric Bever and Gary Monahan.

AT LEAST SHE'S THERE...
It will
come as no surprise that Katrina Foley WAS NOT elected as Mayor. No chance of that happening with this council. At least they allowed her to remain on the dais and didn't force her to sit in the audience!



MANSOOR AND LEECE (SOUND FAMILIAR?)
Allan Mansoor was nominate
d by old newcomer Gary Monahan as Mayor, which was seconded by Wendy Leece. Mansoor was unanimously elected to a term which should take him to the end of tenure on the council in 2010. Mansoor then nominated Wendy Leece as Mayor Pro Tempore (seconded by Monahan after a pregnant pause) and she was also elected unanimously.

POLITICAL GAMES
S
o, we're right back where we were a couple years ago, with Wendy stuck to Mansoor's hip like a barnacle. And, we're all set up again for the old "dais shuffle" that Mansoor and Bever pulled a year ago when they swapped seats. Watch for Mansoor to give up his seat to Wendy again in about a year so she can run for re-election as "Mayor" - a huge leg up on the competition. Ah, the political games we play in good old Costa Mesa.

MR. U. KNOW-WHO RANTS

One amusin
g sidebar did occur during public comments. A local activist - Mr. U. Know-Who - seemed to almost blow a gasket as he instructed the council on their responsibilities regarding the two school foundations. He accused the foundations of violating their agreements with the city and violating the law. I thought the poor, deluded man was going to stroke out right there at the speaker's podium.

BERRY BLATHER

Bever
's campaign chairperson, the perky Judi Berry, instructed the council that they need to think about cutting salaries or staff to balance the budget and included an illegible graph as part of her presentation. She was followed to the podium by her husband, Mike, who continued the script with his own rant. What a team!

DON'T TURN YOUR BACK ON THEM

I'm apprehensive about what to expect from this council. They've been described in some venu
es as the most conservative council in recent memory. I think that's probably accurate. I suspect we'll see some moves to restrict individual freedoms from this group and will almost certainly result in further legal challenges as the next couple years pass. History shows us how they vote on many issues. Mansoor and Leece, in particular, seem determined to overlay their extreme right-wing views on our community. This does not bode well for our city, and the Latino population and those entities that provide a support system for them, in particular. This group is still smarting from the whole "Benito Acosta" affair (Monahan mentioned it during campaign forums) and will likely look for opportunities to strike back.

ENJOY THE BREAK
We now have a month to gather our thoughts, celebrate the holidays and try to figure out just what to do with the budget come January. Comments from residents last night implied that everything should be on the table - even staff cuts. Funny, I didn't hear any of the council members volunteer to work for a dollar a year until the crisis is over - maybe that will come in January (he says, stifling a snicker).

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Time for Daigle And/Or Foley?


AN "URGENT" REQUEST
Recently, while I was on my much-needed post-election vacation, I received an email from a friend requesting that I contact him on an issue of urgency. So, I telephoned him from a far-off location. It turns out that his idea of "urgency" and mine differ slightly.

DAIGL
E AS MAYOR
My friend, a well-connected person whose name you would recognize if I told
you - which I won't - wanted me to sign in on the issue of Newport Beach council member Leslie Daigle being passed over (maybe) for consideration as mayor. The editors of the Daily Pilot have already voiced their opinion that Daigle should be given her turn at the helm. My friend thought I should add my support for Daigle's selection.

MAYOR SETS THE TONE
Understand that, as a resident of Costa Mesa, I have no vested interest in who is selected as mayor of Newport Beach except - and that's a big one - the mayor sets the tone for how things happen in Newport Beach for his or her term of office. That includes the interrelationship with Costa Mesa on issues of common interest - li
ke John Wayne Airport, Banning Ranch and annexation of county land parcels, to name a few.

DON'T KNOW LESLIE
I don't kno
w Leslie Daigle. I've only been in the same room with her once - at the joint Newport Beach-Costa Mesa city council meeting recently, during which she was mute. I've not taken the time to review her performance as a council member ever since she was appointed and subsequently won her seat (because Barbara Venezia chose to drop out, some have said). I've read some of her commentaries published here and have not been particularly impressed.

DAILY PILOT ENDORSES DAIGLE

The editors of the Daily Pilot have voiced their opinion that Daigle should be the
next mayor, HERE.

DICK NIC
HOLS REDUX?
Some critics will point to her Dick Nichols-esque gaffe awhile back when she reportedly threatened to have a American citizen Latino employee of the school district "deported" because he cha
llenged her misuse of a field at Corona Del Mar High School. That event, if true, tells me much about how Daigle would use - or misuse - the power of her office.

PREVIOUS FEMALE MAYORS COMMENT

I read the comments in Briana Bailey's recent Daily Pilot article, HERE, which quoted previous female mayors. Quite honestly, I found their comments about Daigle as a potential mayor to be cautious, at best. That tells me a lot. In that same article Daigle is quoted as follows: “We have a time-honored tradition of rotation,” Daigle said. “Whether the mayor has done a good job or bad job, this is our system.” When I read that the first time I thought it was a strange comment from a person lobbying to become mayor, and still do.

'TIME' FOR AN
OTHER FEMALE?
My friend told me that it was "time" for another female mayor in Newport Beach - Jan Debay was the last one chosen, in 1996. Well, I don't buy that argument. Gender shouldn't play a part in the selection of mayor - leadership should be the issue. If her peers on the council feel Daigle can provide the leadership Newport Beach needs for the next year then she should be considered. If they don't think Daigle has what it takes, they should select another of their group to lead the city.

KATRINA'S "TURN"?
During the conversation with my friend I directed the discussion to the Costa Mesa c
ity council, pointing out that the self-anointed "improvers" now hold a Super majority, and speculated about Katrina Foley's role on the council. He told me flat out that "Katrina will never be mayor of Costa Mesa". As true as that comment may be, it still irritated me. Most folks know that I'm a big fan of Katrina Foley. She has worked tirelessly for our city, balancing the requirements of wife, mother, business owner and council member with the skill of a Cirque du Soleil juggler to help guide our city. Along the way her views have made her an irritant to the current council majority, especially Allan Mansoor and Eric Bever.

FOLEY WANTS THE JOB

In an article by Alan Blank in the Daily Pilot today, HERE, Foley is quoted as saying "I would be next in line in the rotation. Historically it's been a rotational type of appointment." Later in the article she acknowledges that it is "highly unlikely" that she will be elected.

FOLEY'S DEDICATION QUESTIONED BY HACKS

Partisan hacks have criticized Foley for choosing family obligations - she has two school-age sons attending Costa Mesa public schools - over council obligations. These same people conveniently forget that Foley, during con
valescence from a bout with cancer, arranged to participate in council meetings from her sickbed at home. No other council member in recent memory has demonstrated such dedication to the well-being of our city.

SHE'S STILL THE BRIGHTEST

In my opinion, Foley has consistently been the brightest bulb on the dais, presenting her views with skill and clarity. The recent election will not change my opinion. What will change is that her role will be even further marginalized and the nearly 16,000 voters who cast their ballots for her will have their voices muted by partisan politics. That's a shame.

TERM
OF MAYOR
The question of the term of mayor was addressed in articles about Daigle - the mayor of Newport Beach currently serves a one-year term. A couple years ago Gary Monahan, nearing the end of his 12-year tenure, orchestrated a change in Costa Mesa which made the term of mayor a two-year event. This effectively locks out many of the council members who might have eventually "rotated" up to that position. I thought at the time that Monahan was trying to
set the stage for a directly-elected mayor - an observation that appears to have been validated by his failed attempt to have that issue placed before the voters this year.

IN MY VIEW, ONE YEAR IS PLENTY

In my opinion, the position of mayor in both cities should be a one-year gig. If the incumbent does a superior job then he or she can be re-elected by the council for another term. The job is potentially much more time-consuming than that of other council members. Sometimes the requirements are too much for the individuals to handle, as witnessed by Eric Bever's failure, time after time, to present himself as the elected leader of our city at many events. He didn't even show up at the last couple candidate forums this year, for goodness sake.


BE CAREFUL WHAT Y
OU ASK FOR
So, to my friend I say, if the Newport Beach city council members feel Leslie Daigle has what it takes to lead Newport Beach then she should be selected as mayor. If her peers don't have confidence in her ability to fulfill the requirements of the job they should select another. To do less would be a disservice to those who elected them to make these kind of decisions.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Back In The Saddle...

I'M BAAACK!
After a much-needed post-election vacation I had hoped to return refreshed and ready to wade into the important local events that face us in the new year. Sadly, that turned out not to the be case.

SO MUCH FOR REST AND RELAXATION...

Although the vacation - 1600 miles that included visiting relatives and old friends,
exciting times in San Francisco and Carmel and a very enjoyable Thanksgiving day on the glorious Central Coast - was fun and relaxing, it also included picking up - as a parting gift from a sniffling little grand-niece - my first cold of the year. I won't bore you with the details, except to say, thank goodness for absorbent, long-sleeved sweatshirts...

FORCE-FED BAD NEWS

Then, upon
our return, I began to plow through the accumulated two weeks worth of the Los Angeles Times (and Daily Pilot) that had been saved for me. Although I'd tried to stay current on events of the world while driving, there is nothing quite like being force-fed the headlines that covered those events of those two weeks in just a few hours. Fires, war, financial disasters, auto industry non-bailouts and on and on and on.... It was a real bummer.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD...
And then I turned to our local news, the most important of which to me was the final results of our local elections. Those numbers were covered in my previous post. Today I look forward to the Costa Mesa City Council meeting tomo
rrow at which the election will be authenticated and the new (old) council members will be sworn in. Tomorrow we will find out just which of the majority - a four-person "super majority" now - will be elected as Mayor and which will be Mayor Pro Tem. We'll see if Bever and Mansoor will switch seats again, or will they fold Wendy Leece into the fold as Mayor Pro Tem. Or, will Gary Monahan - beginning his 13th year at the public trough - be re-elected Mayor? Does Katrina Foley have a snowballs chance in hades of being elected to either office? It should be interesting.

LEPRECHAUN BACK AT THE TROUGH(S)

Speaking of Monahan, I guess he is going to have a tough scheduling problem in the months ahead. My understanding is that he will continue to be a member of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board, too. That gig includes the opportunity to be paid around $2,000 per month, on top of the city council stipend of $952.00, plus medical and pension credits. I guess it's a good time for a bartender with a shaky business to be nose-deep at the municipal trough again.

HERE WE GO AGAIN...

So, dear readers, off we go again... I'll try to stay abreast of important issues around our town and region and give you an opinion or two along the way. Feel free to offer a counterpoint to my views if you choose - a healthy debate of issues is good for the community. As always, I appreciate your participation and your attempts to set me straight.

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