A Trip Down Memory Lane - The Beginning
WHERE THE HECK DID HE COME FROM?
Did you ever find yourself muttering to yourself, "Where the heck did this guy, West, come from?" Well, here's your answer...
Fifteen years ago Byron de Arakal - then a columnist for the Daily Pilot - wrote a provocative column about the Costa Mesa City Council, HERE. I usually didn't pay much attention to that stuff, but that particular day I did and decided to write a letter to the editor to the Daily Pilot in response. And.... they printed it! A month later he wrote another one that provoked me, so I wrote another letter... And they printed it! That was the beginning of this whole thing. Blame Byron... it's all his fault!
LOTS OF WORDS AND NUMBERS
One thing led to another - lots of letters and commentaries published by the Daily Pilot and elsewhere, lots of offers to write a column (12 from the Daily Pilot alone), a few awards and - after two different blog hosts, more than 3,400 entries and more than 3 million page views - what you see published here nearly every day is the result of this very first Letter To The Editor and the encouragement from my sweet wife and readers like you. Thanks...
So, for your reading pleasure, here's that first letter as dredged up from the Daily Pilot archives. A lot has changed... and some has not. It sure has been fun...
April 11, 2002
As a longtime Costa Mesa resident -- 28 years and counting -- I have
been concerned about our present City Council and its apparent inability
to work together to get things done in our city. For months I have
struggled with feelings of extreme frustration as, month after month, the
council seemed to blow in the wind on almost any issue you care to
discuss. They, as a group, seem to lack the ability to focus, analyze,
prioritize and act on the many serious issues that face this city.
Byron de Arakal's column ("Merrily on our way to nowhere at all,"
April 3) was a masterful piece of work. He managed, in his own special
way, to hit the nail right on the head. As he stated in his column, "It's
as if the mother ship has a guitar pick for a rudder and dysfunction for
a captain." That's a perfect description of how the leadership of this
city is operating these days.
On Monday, April 1, I sat at home and watched as much of the council
proceedings as I could stomach. I stayed up until the bitter end, which
turned out to be just after 1:30 Tuesday morning, hoping for signs of
accomplishment. I went to bed disappointed.
I know that the members of the City Council have chosen to make
sacrifices in their lives for the overall well-being of the city. I'm
sure that each of the current council members try to do a good job.
Unfortunately, as a group, they are just plain ineffective. There is no
leadership evident, as witnessed by the frequent breakdown of decorum
during the council meetings.
Over the past months I have watched council meetings, looking for
signs that would help me decide who, if any, of the current crop deserves
my vote next time around. Painfully, the answer is none of them do.
Mayor Linda Dixon, who is probably a very nice person, is in over her
head. It's absolutely no surprise to me that the Downtown and Eastside
Transportation Ad Hoc Committee has accomplished so little since it was
formed way back last summer. Clearly, she provides no more leadership for
that committee than she does at council meetings. She seems much more
concerned with "fluff" than the nuts and bolts of keeping a city running.
Gary Monahan has chosen to take himself out of the running next time
around but is clearly frustrated by the way things are going on the
council. He makes no effort to hide that fact.
Karen Robinson seems to be uninformed on issues facing the council.
She appears to have way too much on her plate these days, and her
performance on the council suffers because of it.
Libby Cowan is clearly the strongest personality on the council. As
she sits beside Linda Dixon on the dais, you can almost see her pulling
the strings. She has clearly displayed her own agenda, which has more to
do with empire building than consensus building, over the past months.
Her unwillingness to take a firm stand on issues that affect her employer
-- and our neighboring city -- should disqualify her from further
Chris Steel is, well, Chris Steel. Not only does he attempt to appeal
to the basest parts of human nature, he lacks the ability to articulate
whatever is going on in his head. He is a perfect example of what happens
when the electorate doesn't take an interest in the process. There were
good reasons he ran unsuccessfully so many times in the past. Perhaps
nothing else more accurately defines Steel than the entry on the official
city of Costa Mesa Web site. At the link that introduces the City
Council, with photos and summaries of professional accomplishments,
beside his photo is a blank page.
The leadership vacuum in this city is so great that you can almost
feel the life being sucked out. Without clear, strong leadership, this
city is in big trouble. Without clear direction from the council, the
city staff will continue to run around in circles, trying to guess what
kind of a curveball the council will throw next. Do you suppose
exceptional public servants like City Manager Allan Roeder would even
consider another job if he was satisfied with the leadership in this
city? Neither do I.
It's getting to the point where it might be better to just recall them
all and start over.
Do you suppose it would be possible to Shanghai Peter Buffa and Joe
Erickson for another tour on the good ship Costa Mesa (by-the-sea)?
Again, my thanks to Byron de Arakal for stating the problem so