The Top Stories - Of The Year And Decade
It's that time of the year when those of us who write a little begin thinking about the events of the past year, and what they've meant to me, personally, and to the community in which I live.
BUDGET CRISIS AND FAIRGROUNDS SALE
For 2009, for example, the two biggies are quite obvious - the fiscal disaster that has beset our city, region and state and the potential sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds. More than any other events I can recall in recent memory these have turned our city upside down and forced decisions I wouldn't have thought possible only a couple years ago.
NOT JUST "TODAY" STORIES...
Sadly, both these stories will have "legs", and will carry over into 2010 and will probably big items again next year.
NATIONAL STORIES OF THE DECADE
Then I began thinking about the important issues we've faced in the decade that ends on December 31, 2009. As a nation, the events of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent "War on Terror" are right at the top, followed by the election of our trainee president, Barack Obama and the ill-advised moves he's made that appear to be turning the most powerful Republic in the world into another socialist enclave. If he and his crew continue on their current track they will rack up a bill that your grandchildren will still be paying after Obama is long out of office.
LOCALLY - "IMPROVER" TAKEOVER OF COSTA MESA
Locally, though, in my opinion the biggest event in Costa Mesa this decade is the takeover of our city government by the self-professed "improvers" in our community. Beginning with the election of the perpetually inept Chris Steel to the city council (and his subsequent un-election when he stood up to the "improvers") and the later elections of Allan Mansoor, Eric Bever and Wendy Leece, the "improvers" have established an iron grip on our city. That grip was tightened by the appointment of more "improvers" to city commissions and committees, which dramatically affected the way business is conducted and the residents of our city are treated.
"THE MOUTH" LEADS THE WAY
Led by the pontifications of one particularly prolific writer and speaker - our old pal, The Mouth From Mesa North - the "improvers" have established an agenda the cornerstone of which seems to be the expulsion of the Latino population from our city. For more than a decade The Mouth has inserted himself into local politics while firmly establishing himself as a voice for the rabid right via his hundreds of racists internet essays and his "little newsletter", now turned blog. His "drain the swamp" mantra, in which he advocates leveling many of the apartment buildings around our city to make parks, is a perfect example of his goal of expunging Latinos from our city.
CHRONICLE OF OPPRESSION AND REGRESSION
This group has successfully closed down the Job Center, which had served our community effectively for almost two decades. That act, first proposed late at night by Councilman Gary Monahan, created an atmosphere of mistrust and tension within our city that exists to this day. The recent federal civil rights trial by Benito Acosta against The City and Allan Mansoor was a direct result of the Job Center closure and Mansoor's efforts to deputize every Costa Mesa police officer as an immigration screener. Those two actions created tension and demonstrations previously unseen in this city.
The "improvers", through their elected surrogates, unceremoniously folded up the city Human Relations Committee, which had been a venue for resolution of cross-cultural differences in our city for more than 20 years without so much as a thank you to those volunteers who served on that committee.
FAILED ATTEMPT TO CLOSE OCC SWAP MEET
They tried, unsuccessfully, to have the Orange Coast College Swap Meet - a venue for low-end commerce and social interaction for many within the Latino community - closed down. The excuse was that traffic from "other parts of the county" (meaning Santa Ana) was putting an undue burden on our streets. The motivation was clear. That effort was hyped by The Mouth, but it failed.
PAULARINO PARK BARS SPORT
They managed to turn Paularino Park - a neighborhood park in The Mouth's Mesa North enclave - into a "passive park", thereby making it off limits to neighborhood Latino men who would, on occasion, gather to kick a soccer ball around after work. They did that under the guise that it was a public safety issue. They, through their mouthpiece, ginned up the specter of marauding dark-skinned men, wildly kicking soccer balls all over the park and urinating and defecating in the bushes - none of which was found to be true. It was simply another way to make members of our Latino community uncomfortable. Fortunately, their move to ban similar sports in most other city parks failed.
The underlying motivation of all these actions, and many more over the past ten years, has been aimed directly at the Latino population of our city - which represents more than 35% of the populace. With constant prodding by The Mouth, the so-called "improvers" kept up a constant drumbeat of intolerance which apparently, and sadly, struck a chord with many voters. It was on this wave of intolerance that Mansoor rode to re-election, carrying with him Wendy Leece on his coattails.
NEW BREEZE IN TOWN
However, there is change on the horizon. A new movement is taking place - one that is not as overtly intolerant of our Latino neighbors. There are some new faces in the political spectrum in Costa Mesa - folks who don't share the angry, intolerant foundation of the so-called "improvers". Among them are current Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer, a political operative who moved to Costa Mesa a couple years ago after providing political support for Mansoor in his re-election run and was promptly offered a plum spot on the Planning Commission. With him is his long-time business associate, Steve Mensinger, who also now holds a slot on the Planning Commission. Both of these men are developers and, when coupled with developer attorney Colin McCarthy, form an unbreakable "developer" majority on that important body. These men are not in the pocket of the "improvers" and can go toe-to-toe with The Mouth any time.
DIFFERENT, NOT NECESSARILY BETTER...
I'm not necessarily sure that having a developer majority on the Planning Commission is a great idea for our city, but at least it does clear the air of the stench of intolerance that has permeated many activities in recent memory. Residents better pay close attention to the Planning Commission in the next several months. The current majority seems more than willing to bully applicants and to impose their own, personal stamp on new projects.
NOVEMBER, 2010 ELECTIONS WILL BE FUN
The elections of 2010 are going to be very interesting. The Mouth has already provided Wendy Leece with an ultimatum in his blog. His instruction to her is clear - she had better continue to march to his beat - or else! We all watched him when Chris Steel got some spine and pushed back - it got him ousted. It will be interesting to see if Wendy can actually carry her own weight in a re-election campaign. I'm not sure she can raise the money on her own to pull it off. And then there's her tendency to try to impose her own, personal religious beliefs on city matters. That's going to be a problem for her...
RIGGY - CAN WE TRUST HIM?
We'll see whether Righeimer makes yet another pass at a council seat and, if so, will he drag along any of his pals with him. He's a smart enough guy, with a solid business background and political connections up the wazoo. The question that lingers for me is, "Can we trust him?" His activities in the whole Fairgrounds sale dust-up makes me wonder... I guess time and close attention to his actions will tell.
POLITICAL MACHINES - BUTT OUT!
So, off we go, into a new decade. It is my hope that less strident, less polarizing voices will emerge to lead our city. I hope that national political organizations will butt out of our local politics and give the good, honest, hardworking voters in our city a chance to seriously consider the kind of leaders we want and need today.