An Interesting Election Season Ahead
We have before us an election season that will likely be unlike anything we've ever seen in Costa Mesa before - and part of it has nothing to do with what's on the ballot.
WHO KNOWS HOW MANY COUNCIL CANDIDATES?
Yes, we will likely see 8-10 candidates vying for one of the three city council seats being contested. It is presumed that both incumbents, Mayor Steve Mensinger and Councilwoman Sandy Genis, will run and likely hold their seats. Gary Monahan's finally termed out again - it's about darn time! - so it's really his seat in play. Lee Ramos has announced he's running - again. Former councilman Jay Humphrey says he's running again and hopes to be the victor for Monahan's seat. You will recall that he lost a seat in the last election by only 47 votes. Barrister and former candidate John Stephens says he's running again - he lost by 155 votes the last time he ran. And, the one-note-samba, Al Melone says he's running again and has zero chance of winning. And the official date for pulling papers is still months away!
MULTIPLE MEDICAL MARIJUANA ISSUES
The ballot will contain a lot of "stuff". We will certainly have two (2) medical marijuana issues - probably three because the city is making noise about resurrecting Monahan's initiative, or something like it, to take control of that issue. And, it's possible there will be a state-wide recreational marijuana initiative, too.
DUELING "GROWTH" INITIATIVES
And then there's Costa Mesa First's Smart Growth Initiative.... that's not really the name of it, but the actual name is too long and I prefer this one since it's accurate. The power elite - and developer-friendly - members of the City Council have decided to have the city staff create a competing issue in an attempt to defeat the Smart Growth Initiative.
MAYBE A FAIRVIEW PARK INITIATIVE...
Signatures continue to be gathered by the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance for an initiative to protect that 200 plus acres and the protected species and irreplaceable artifacts from development.
...AND TWO BOND ISSUES
And, it is possible that there will be two bond issues on the ballot totalling more than $50 million in obligations for the voters to consider. The first - a bond to rebuild our main library/community center complex at Lions Park - may be for around $34 million. The second, Jim Righeimer's vindictive, punitive $20 million bond for affordable housing, is clearly being placed on the ballot at great expense as an in-your-face move against affordable housing advocates. When it fails - and it likely will fail - he will waive that defeat in their faces and - as he's said already - dare them to bring affordable housing before the council again.
All that will make November 8th very interesting.
THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
However, I'm most concerned about the impact of social media on this upcoming election. We've seen council majority-friendly folks create a Facebook page following the model used in Huntington Beach the last time around. This page - CLOSED page, falsely using the term "public" in it's name when it's anything but public - allegedly has over 6,000 members who apparently engage in group-think exercises where only one side of issues is permitted. Folks may not even view the activity on that page unless permitted membership. And, worse, denizens of that page skulk out to other OPEN pages and provoke folks to write critical comments and, if they're also members of that CLOSED page, they may be bounced off for those unrelated transgressions. Meanwhile, character assassination takes place and misinformation is spread without an opportunity to rebut.
THE POWER ELITE PROMOTE THIS DECEPTION
What worries me the most, though, is the fact that several members of the council majority - all of them, actually - are frequent posters on this page. And, many of their appointees also participate regularly. Council members and commissioners who participate also tout the page as "THE" place to get good information and have good discussions on important issues - from the dais of their respective groups. It's obvious that there is a growing assumption by them that they think they are seeing the true will of the people on that page - a blatant false assumption, since it's closed to many of us who have differing viewpoints.
STIFLING PUBLIC PARTICIPATION...
This sad commentary is a perpetuation of the institutionalized stifling of public participation on issues in this city. The City Council has discouraged public comments by arbitrarily limiting the number who may speak early in meetings and forcing the remainder to wait until the bitter end - sometimes well into the next day - to have their views/grievances heard.
Similarly, they force items pulled from the Consent Calendar to be trailed to the end of the meeting, too, so if a person wants a clarification on, for example, a particular expenditure on a Warrant, that information will not be discussed until the end of the meeting.
BLOCKING PUBLIC AWARENESS
And, the council majority has forbidden Award-winning Costa Mesa Television from recording ANY candidate forums this cycle. In years past those forums were important to each election and, although a couple hundred people attended most of them, many thousands more could watch the taped replay at their convenience and see the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates.
Rather than entertain issues important to everyone in the appropriate venue - a City Council meeting - the Mayor has chosen to have tightly-controlled, semi-private gatherings on Sunday afternoons where residents can meet with him in small groups to discuss their issues. There are no reports from those meetings and City Staff are required to attend on one of the few days they might spend with their families.
MISUSE - AND PERHAPS ILLEGAL - OF CITY STAFF
And, now we have rumblings that members of the City Council have been personally assigning city staffers to observe and harass members of the public who are legally going about collecting signatures on petitions for initiatives they hope to place on the November ballot. If true, this is clearly a misuse of the power of their office and a misuse of staff resources at a time when they are severely strained due to under staffing.
KEEP ON SPEAKING!
One can only hope that members of the public will continue to bring issues to light that are important to the entire city - not just developers, who will hit and run - even considering the considerable obstacles being placed in their way. We hope they will continue to step up and speak up - the stakes are too important to permit the power elite to quash public participation.
TO THE POWER ELITE - STOP WHINING!
We know the power elite read this blog - they whine about the content and comments frequently. So, to them - stop whining and pay attention to the voices of your constituents! That's your job!