Thursday, January 11, 2007

Stand Back! Thar She Blows!

Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Stand back! It looks like the guy over at the CM Press is about to blow another gasket! This time he's really peeved at the whole Costa Mesa City Council for their response to the question posed by the Daily Pilot in an article today entitled, "Purging gangs from Costa Mesa may take several forms". The question was, "What do you think is the best way to eradicate gangs in Costa Mesa?" He was so angry that I bet there was steam coming out of his ears!

Each of the council members, in their own way, agreed that a multi-facted approach is best, stressing education and intervention. To no one's surprise, the New Majority expressed stronger views about enforcement, but they were not far off from the positions taken by the minority members, Katrina Foley and Linda Dixon. All, combined, encourage me that there might actually be a consensus reached on this issue. It's about time!

However, the CM Press author continues his rant about alligators and swamps - comparing the areas in town he thinks are slums to the swamp and the residents (Latinos) to alligators. It's clear that he continues to view anyone without white skin to be sub-human - hence the alligator and swamp analogy. If he had his way, he would be on the first bulldozer, leveling every high-occupancy apartment house in this city. It's unclear whether he would permit the residents to leave first or not.

I expect, at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, that the CM Press author will jump to the speaker's podium and rip the City Council for their less than stellar - in his view - response to the question posed by the Pilot. I'm thinking this poor guy is suffering from some unfulfilled career move. I bet that, from the time he had an inconsequential bit role as a reporter in a really crappy "B" movie back in the mid 70's, he's wanted to be a real reporter - hence, the creation of the CM Press. I suspect he perceives himself as Jimmy Olson, ace reporter, only a whole lot smarter. Maybe if we began calling him "Ace" instead of Your Neighbor he'd feel better about himself.

Sadly, he just doesn't understand the difference between reporting and propaganda. He can't tell facts from fabrications. So, he'll continue to rant and rave and whip some of his acolytes into a frenzy with his racist puke and pretend he's providing "news" to his readers. Pathetic is the word that comes to mind.

So, let's see if the City Council can join together and provide direction to this city on the issue of gangs and gang violence. From their responses, there seem to be kernels of some very good ideas waiting to be developed. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Undergrounding Utilities - R.I.P.

At their study session on January 9, 2007, the Costa Mesa City Council was advised by a representative of Southern California Edison that, for all intents and purposes, any chance of using "Rule 20" money to place utilities underground in our city is dead. Well, maybe not dead, but certainly frozen like a cryogenically-processed corpse until at least 2011 because of the unavailability of those dollars. Based on comments made at the study session, the Public Utilities Commission doles out those dollars based on whatever whim hits them at the time. Also, they've changed the rules recently, which requires Edison to retract an agreement it had made with the city to extend it's eligibility for those funds.

So, unless the council finds a way to fund the undergrounding of utilities beyond this source of finance, it looks like Mayor Mansoor's pet project has bit the dust. This is actually good news for Costa Mesa. The last time this issue was discussed a few months ago, the same Edison representative told the council that costs for such projects had risen dramatically - four times the estimate he provided two years ago. Instead of costing around $800 million to place utilities underground city-wide, it would be more like $4 billion - with a big B. Those kinds of dollars, if financed with bonds, would place a burden on the backs of the great-grandchildren of Costa Mesa kids currently in kindergarten.

Unfortunately, the mayor was absent from this particular study session, so there is no way to assess his reaction to this news. I'm confident that he won't let it be put to rest without an attempt at resuscitation.

I agree that our city would look much nicer with all the wires underground. However, as is the case in our personal lives, the city can't have everything it wants regardless of cost. I, for example, would love to have a Ferrari, but I can't afford it. Neither can the city afford to place the utilities underground when the costs are so exorbitant.

I expect to hear from our neighbors in Newport Beach with their stories of undergrounding specific neighborhoods. I think that's just dandy - one more reason to envy them. The fact is, Newport Beach is a much wealthier city than Costa Mesa, with two-thirds the population but a budget that is 50% greater. Ah, those property values and the taxes they generate! So, while we certainly do appreciate their advice based on their experience, we're working with a very different set of circumstances - and pockets that are just not as deep.

All is not lost, though. The Edison folks tell us that wires on poles are much easier to repair in the event of a break.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Is Newport Beach Really Prepared For A Tsunami?

I recently received an email from a woman living on the Balboa Peninsula who expressed concern about the potential for damage to that area by a tsunami. Apparently, her young son cannot sleep because he worries about a tsunami occurring and not being able to escape. In a subsequent exchange of emails she confirmed that she wrote to me because of the piece I wrote in the fall of 2005 entitled, "The Big One - Fiction Or Prediction?" on the earlier version of this web site. That piece addressed the probable damage from a major earthquake along the Newport-Inglewood Fault - which runs directly under Newport Harbor - but contained some thoughts about a subsequent, locally generated tsunami, too.

I understand the boy's apprehension. When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles we had frequent "drop drills" in anticipation of a nuclear attack and there were monthly tests of the "emergency warning system" - a city-wide system of sirens to alert the populace of their potential annihilation from a nuclear strike. None of those things made me feel "safe" - I was petrified at the thought of being incinerated by an atomic bomb.

With the devastation caused by Hurricane's Katrina and Rita in 2005 and the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, all of us have a heightened awareness of potential natural disasters.
Along the Oregon coast there are signs posted in low-lying areas which direct travelers to routes to higher ground in the event of a tsunami. There is also a system of warning sirens for such alerts. As I drove that area on vacation last year I found myself wondering just how effective those preparations would be. I did keep looking for those signs, though - just in case.

In doing research on this subject I find no record of a tsunami ever hitting the coast in Newport Beach, nor any Orange County beaches, for that matter. Chances are slim that one would ever strike this section of coast, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a plan in place.

Recent local news articles tell us that the federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has recently deemed Newport Beach to be "tsunami ready", joining Dana Point and Huntington Beach. That would imply that all systems are in place in the event of such a disaster. So, I went to the Newport Beach web site to find out what they've done. What I found was not very encouraging. On their site, under the "Disaster Preparedness" page, I scrolled down to the section entitled "Tsunami Safety Information", looking for information and comfort. I must say that I came away from that experience disappointed.

On that page readers are encouraged to turn on the radio or watch local television if you feel an earthquake, which they quaintly call "a natural tsunami warning". They are also told that, in the event of an earthquake, they should leave the beach and low-lying coastal areas. Well, duh! No kidding! Among the most profound instructions is to "make sure your teenagers don't go to the beach" during a tsunami warning. Is that the best they can do?

Subsequently, I dug deeper and found a link to their Emergency Management Plan and, buried on pages 91-93 of the 171 page PDF document are more details about their plans to try to insure the safety of residents and visitors in case of a tsunami.

I wrote back to this distraught woman and advised her to contact City Manager Homer Bludau, 644-3000, and ask him about the specifics of the city's plan in the event of a tsunami warning. How will residents and visitors be notified? Do they plan to block inbound lanes for use by outbound traffic? What about plans for the children at Newport Elementary School, which sits on the sand on the peninsula? Does the school district have a plan for their survival?

If I were one of the roughly 20% of Newport Beach residents who live in an area potentially threatened by a tsunami I'd be on the telephone to my officials demanding information about their preparedness. I'd want to know the details of their plan, so I could also be prepared to help implement it so my neighbors and I actually had a chance to evacuate and survive. If I had children in Newport Elementary School I'd want to know the contingency plans for them.

I made a few telephone calls and found the woman in charge of managing the tsunami preparedness plan for Newport Beach. She told me that a workshop will be held at the City Council Chambers at City Hall on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 6 p.m. at which time informational flyers will be distributed and questions answered for any residents or other concerned parties who choose to attend.

Based on what I know of Newport Beach's plan now, there is one glaring deficiency - notification of an impending tsunami. Dana Point has a system of sirens and loudspeakers to notify residents and visitors of an impending tsunami, plus clearly marked evacuation routes. Their plan can be viewed here.

Newport Beach has signs in place, and has evacuation routes plotted, but apparently intends to use emergency vehicle loudspeakers and those on the jointly-owned helicopter to make audible notification to folks in threatened areas. To me, this seems inadequate and is a significant problem - even if the possibility of a tsunami hitting their beaches is quite remote.

To those of you concerned about this issue, I recommend attending the meeting mentioned above and get some answers for yourselves.

In the meantime, you can be comforted by the fact - based on the information provided on Newport Beach's site - that even a projected "500 Year Event" of the largest magnitude anticipated would likely raise the water level only 16 feet. Visions of 100 foot high waves that might be in some concerned folk's minds are just not realistic. The last, and only, event of any magnitude encountered in Newport Beach was following the 1964 Alaska earthquake, at which time the ocean level rose approximately 4-5 feet and caused minimal damage. From what I can learn, no one in our region expects anything like the Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred in 2004 and killed at least 310,000 people - but you never know...

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Peninsula Envy

Over at the CM Press the guy that very much resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor, continues to spout off about Costa Mesa not being a true coastal city. In a recent posting he rants about how unfair it is that Huntington Beach and Newport Beach have ocean frontage and Costa Mesa doesn't. He says the following, "Go ahead, look at a map. See how Costa Mesa is between Newport Beach and Huntington Beach except near the ocean, and then Newport Beach (with some county land as well) has muscled us out of the way as it goes all the way over to Huntington Beach on land that should be ours?"

Does this have a Hitleresque ring to it? It should! First this guy gives the angry, frustrated folks on the Westside someone to hate - the Latinos - just as Hitler did with the Jews. Now he's lobbying for the takeover of land near the ocean - five miles from his home - so Costa Mesa can be a true "coastal city". This is what Hitler did with Poland, Austria and the the rest of Eastern Europe.

So, what's next, a blitzkrieg of the Banning Ranch? That's about the only way Newport Beach is going to give up that chunk of land. Costa Mesa has little leverage and the majority on the council have demonstrated absolutely no negotiating skills. They, instead, prefer to spit in the eye of our neighboring cities. They apparently equate thuggery with leadership.

Of course, that's about all you should expect from easily manipulated folks who take their marching orders from a guy who is proud of his racist views. It saddens me that so many gullible people in this city have bought into this tripe. On January 4, 2007 I posted an entry entitled, The Lemming's Roadmap, which included a couple dozen links to essays written by this guy. Pick one or two and read them - and try to keep your dinner down.

In the meantime, we will just continue to watch the new majority and report when they institutionalize the trampling of resident's rights.