Well, I'm back. After enjoying a wonderful holiday hiatus I just couldn't stay away. And you thought you wouldn't hear from me until after the New Year!
...AND BUMMED OUT!
While gone I did stay abreast of things here in the Newport-Mesa, including reading the rambling rants of Costa Mesa's racist laureate - The Mouth From Mesa North. I'm trying to figure out whether he has the hots for Katrina Foley or Wendy Leece - or both. The poor, deluded guy just can't seem to get those two blond ladies out of his head! Even when he fabricates issues - like his inference that the miscreants who attacked the homeless fellow with paint ball guns earlier this week were Latinos simply because the crime occurred in an area of town where some Latinos live, even though there has been no evidence or official speculation to that effect - he still finds a way to insert Katrina Foley into the story. Ain't love grand? Yeah, I know he's "married with children", but he's also a big fan of plural marriage, so....
As the New Year arrives I've been thinking a little bit about what stands ahead for Costa Mesa and Newport Beach in 2009. In both cities there will be difficult issues, many of them controversial, that will face their elected leaders and their city staff.
CITY HALL AND REHAB HOMES
In Newport Beach, the new City Hall is a biggie, as is the ongoing discussion about the proliferation of Rehabilitation Homes in that city.
MUNICIPAL FISCAL TRAUMA
Both cities face the uncertainty of the economy and it's impact on municipal budgets. Even though our state bureaucrats have dragged their feet for six months on a budget, both are already making adjustments and planning for more within the next couple months.
CHOPPING COPS TO BALANCE BUDGET
Our anonymous friend over at the CM TRUTH blog recently broke the story that the Costa Mesa Police Department folded it's Narcotics Unit into the Special Enforcement Detail (SED), delayed some promotions and reassigned officers into existing vacancies in an attempt to reduce costs. We hope that's all that will be necessary right now, but we won't know until we see the post-holiday sales tax numbers. Predictions are bleak. Automobile dealerships along our Harbor Boulevard of Cars are suffering the worst downturn in memory.
CAR DEALERSHIPS IN PERIL
Some dealerships have already disappeared and others consolidated operations to reduce costs. Of course, the elephant in the room is the future, or lack thereof, of the Big Three American automobile manufacturers. If GM, Ford and Chrysler are, in fact, forced into bankruptcy, the "ripple" that will go through all phases of our economy will be more like a tsunami. Predictions of millions of workers facing lay-off as a result is very unnerving. Locally, it could mean the demise of several dealerships in our town, which will result in a major punch in the gut to our municipal budget.
WHITHER SOUTH COAST PLAZA?
Our big sales tax generator, South Coast Plaza, seems to be doing OK this holiday season, if packed parking lots are any indication. We'll know in January.
ACOSTA DRAMA CONTINUES
Other shoes waiting to drop in Costa Mesa include the on-going drama of the Benito Acosta affair. The criminal case filed by the city has, once again, been rejected by an appeals court. The civil suit filed by the ACLU on behalf of Acosta against the city is pending, with the trial scheduled to start in February. In my opinion, the city should instruct Jones & Mayer, our contract legal counsel, to stop any further action on the criminal case and find a way to settle the civil case before goes to trial. If we don't, it's very likely that the ego of Mayor Allan Mansoor will cost our city dollars in seven figures - something we certainly cannot tolerate in these difficult financial times.
SR-55 WIDENING TO BEGIN
In January the widening of SR 55, Newport Blvd. as it passes through the Downtown section of Costa Mesa, will commence. This construction will be a short-term solution to a growing traffic congestion problem. Unfortunately, even though most of the work will be done at night, cut-through traffic adjacent to the construction area will almost certainly increase.
WENDY'S WITCH HUNT
Councilwoman Wendy Leece's on-going interference in the operations of the Senior Center is sure to get much ink in the press as she continues to let the unfounded gripes of a couple seniors drive her own personal agenda and keep the center in a state of turmoil. She has recently complained about being "out of the loop" on issues, yet conveniently didn't mention that she has not attended six of the last seven meetings of the Senior Center Board.
TROIKA BECOMES A JUNTA
As mentioned above, the budget will be a huge concern for the "new" City Council. Of course, none of the members are actually "new" - they've all got at least 2 years experience under their collective belts. That doesn't necessarily mean they're smarter. They just have a lot of tenure between them. We'll see how the new majority will use the power they have as a group, and how much they try to marginalize Katrina Foley's contributions.
The condition and use of school playing fields will also be a big issue to be tackled by the Costa Mesa City Council. We'll find out whether our current council plans to take a constructive, conciliatory role in this issue, or if they will attempt to bully the school board into following their requirements.
Annexation will also be another big issue. We'll find out, for example, whether Gary Monahan has moderated his position on this subject from his last term on the council, when he exhorted his peers to "play hardball" with Newport Beach on this issue. I thought at the time, and still do, that it was a strange position to take, since Newport Beach held all the cards.
Regarding Monahan specifically, we'll also find out if a faltering business - he told us he had to lay off a few people this summer - and participation on both the Sanitary District Board (where among his first acts a couple years ago was to vote himself a raise) and as a city council member will stretch his limited skills too far.
The future of Banning Ranch continues to churn. Will it be developed? How much of it? By whom? What will the impact be on Costa Mesa?
DAILY PILOTS FUTURE?
What does the future hold for the Daily Pilot, our local newspaper of record for a century? The bankruptcy chaos continues at the Tribune Company, owner of the Los Angeles Times who, in turn, owns the Daily Pilot and her sister community newspapers. Staff cuts over the past year have severely impacted the news gathering and dissemination by the Pilot. Chops at the top - publisher Tom Johnson and Director of New and Online Tony Dodero - are two very significant losses. Will the Pilot survive? I sure hope so.
And, will Tom Johnson and former Daily Pilot editor Bill Lobdell succeed in their recently-announced plans - a story broken here first - to launch an online newspaper to compete with (or replace) the Daily Pilot? According to their web site, HERE, they plan to use the VoiceOfSanDiego publication as their model. As I've said before, my preference would be for them to acquire the Daily Pilot and morph it into the model they have in mind - online first, with a once-a-week print edition. Time will tell.
INSIDIOUS INFLUENCE BY "YOUR NEIGHBOR"
It's going to be very interesting to watch to see just how much influence the guy mentioned in the second paragraph above will continue to have on the policies and actions of the "improver" council majority. His warped agenda has been a driving force for the past decade and has resulted in a definite anti-immigrant slant on many things proposed by the majority.
IT'S GOING TO BE INTERESTING
Right from the get-go 2009 is going to be a very interesting year here in the land of Newport-Mesa. The very first Costa Mesa City Council meeting on January 6th promises to launch the new year with controversy if rumors about pending agenda items are true.
THANKS FOR READING
Thanks for reading my take on these issues. I hope you'll find your way back to these pages in the coming months.