Friday, January 19, 2007

The Republican Limbo - Wistfully Searching For True Leaders

Yesterday the Daily Pilot had yet another smiley face photo of our young jailer/mayor plastered on it's pages - an illustration on an article describing his coronation by the Orange County Republican Party as their "Local Elected Official of the Year". Excuse me while I barf! This sets the bar so low you'd think it was a limbo contest!

When I read the news I visited the Red County/OCBlog site and found this grainey, shakey video clip of the actual award ceremony. If you view this five minute clip, don't forget your hanky. Way down at the end he tries to give credit to all the "volunteers" and specifically names "Wendy" - that would be Ms. Leece. He also credited Phil Morello, the rabid Mansoor supporter who, a year ago at a City Council meeting, screamed his version of "God Bless America" at demonstrators singing "We Shall Overcome".

The article in the Pilot was curiously juxtaposed with another article explaining that the mayor and his majority voted at their council meeting Tuesday night - the vote actually came well after midnight - to shut down the fledgling Youth in Government program initiated a year ago and, thanks to some outstanding work by the city staff, was just about to go full steam ahead. Instead, Mansoor, in a fit of pique, decided he'd not had enough chance to provide "input". What, a year's not enough time? I know the mayor's a little slow, but a year seems like plenty of time for even the most dense among us, don't you think?

No, his move was pure political posturing because Katrina Foley was the moving force behind this program. This is obviously what it's going to be like for the next 22 months, until the November 2008 elections. Mansoor and his majority will continue to do whatever they can to discredit and demean Foley until then.

I remember the "good old days" in our town when, not too very long ago, Costa Mesa politics were non-partisan politics. People ran for office as Costa Mesans, not as Democrats or Republicans. They won their seats based on strength of their accomplishments, backgrounds and their goals for the city, not from the tens of thousands of dollars funneled into their campaigns by outsiders. Back in those days the major parties didn't elbow their way into our town, plant operatives in critical appointive seats as political patronage and attempt to take over our city and use it as a testing ground for social experimentation. They didn't woo gullible elected officials with contrived awards designed to keep them in line.

Back in the good old days we didn't have bigots of international infamy designing the playbook for our politicians. Even though more than a few past Costa Mesa politicians have not been high on the political sophistication ladder, most had a strong moral compass and made up for what they might have lacked in academic credentials with a solid work ethic, boundless energy and a true desire to do the right thing for our city. From my vantage point, today I find those attributes lacking in several of our elected leaders.

Over the past few years I've observed and written about this city and it's movers and shakers and, more recently, provided strong opinions about where I thought this city was headed. I frequently wrote cautioning the readers that sinister forces were maneuvering to take this city into dark places. Well, sadly, most of what I feared might happen has occurred - and more. I didn't, for example, expect county politicians to hold such sway over our local leaders that they could force upon them a hired gun and place him in a highly coveted and important position on a city commission. I just didn't see that coming.

I did see the methodical attack on the Latino population coming, though, and most of what I thought would happen has happened. That demographic group, which represents a third of our population, is much less comfortable today, whether here legally or not.

In instances almost too numerous to count, the Mansoor-led majorities on the city council have meticulously removed the heart from this city. They say one thing and do the opposite. They say they're for our children, then defund and otherwise reject programs for them. They say they are for our seniors, then reject workable plans to provide funding for affordable housing. In their warped minds, "affordable" means "undesirable". I take no comfort in knowing that, one of these days when these heartless "leaders" find themselves retired and on a fixed income, they will be searching for an affordable place to live, too. I smile as I envision our young jailer/mayor at age 70, pushing a shopping cart from Lion's Park to the soup kitchen so he can have a bit of dinner.

I don't like the fact that some of our leaders can be so easily manipulated by outsiders, who give them a little peck on the cheek, hand them a fancy bauble - like honorary membership in their organization or a meaningless ego stroking plaque - then send them back onto the battlefield knowing that if they are not successful, well, it's only Costa Mesa, not some "important" city like Newport Beach, Anaheim or Irvine, for goodness sake. If that leader messes up he'll find himself so alone he'll think he'd contracted leprosy.

I don't like the fact that this City Council seems willing to just hand the keys to the city to developers without extracting from them very reasonable fees to support things like art in public places, libraries, affordable housing, etc. Their attitude was concisely demonstrated by a comment Wendy Leece made from the dais on Tuesday. She said the developers are "entitled to bring their presentation and their projects to us and actually make as much money as they want to make if they feel that they can..." While I couldn't see the faces of the representatives of the several tower projects sitting near the front in the council chambers when she said that, I'm sure they were beaming.

I find myself wishing for a group of leaders with more horsepower under the hood. I get the feeling that, when this group stands toe-to-toe with high powered developers in negotiations on projects in our city, the council is standing on the downslope intellectually. I don't think those developers "snooker" us, but they certainly do take advantage of the weakness of this group. We, the residents of this city, deserve better. However, this is what happens when the electorate is frightened into voting for a group based solely on a single issue - illegal immigration, a federal issue.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Costa Mesa's New Majority - The Three Stooges Reincarnate

Those of you who attended last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting, or watched it on television or streaming video, realize that any attempts at harmony and conciliation by the minority members of the council, Katrina Foley and Linda Dixon, are a flat-out waste of time. The New Majority - our young jailer/mayor Allan Mansoor, the court jester, Eric Bever and the human rubber stamp, Wendy Leece - have demonstrated that it makes no difference what Foley and Dixon think on any issue. The New Majority - Costa Mesa's version of the Three Stooges - is going to do what it wants, period.

As predicted, they stacked the deck on the Planning Commission by re-appointing Jim (I'm a realtor here in town) Fisler, improver activist Sam Clark and carpetbagger Jim Righeimer. I'm not surprised that Righeimer was appointed. I covered that in my previous post. It does deeply sadden me that the bullies running the Orange County Republican Party have elbowed their way into Costa Mesa this way and appear intent on making it a de facto Farm Team for their party. That's my party, by the way, and it still ticks me off!

For me, one of the most interesting sidebars of the appointment process last night was the fact that, when considering candidates for the Planning Commission, Mansoor voted against long time resident, long time improver and long time Mansoor spear-carrier Paul Bunney not once, not twice, but three times! So, in baseball parlance, Mr. Bunney - You're Out! It looks like he was another loyal foot soldier cast aside by a heartless political opportunist following the drumbeat of his party. So much for loyalty, huh, Paul?

The evening, a long one that dragged out until well past midnight, was full of drama and comedy. At one point in the proceedings Linda Dixon held up a hand-written note, which she said was passed to her by someone on the dais - she didn't name the person. The note accused her of being unprofessional because of her "snide" remarks. Amazingly, as the camera showed us a wide view right at the appropriate moment, Eric Bever held up his hand like a little kid in pre-school who got caught throwing a spit wad. You will recall that Bever was also guilty of passing a note in an earlier council meeting in which he attempted to manipulate the agenda surreptitiously. Not only has he proven to be an arrogant buffoon on the dais, but he's obviously also a slow learner.

The highlight, or lowlight, depending on your position, came at the very end of the proceedings. Discussing the final agenda item, the implementation of the Youth in Government program that has been forming for more than a year, the ill will on the dais came to a head and burst like a ripe pimple as Foley and Mansoor got into it. Mansoor, like a petulant little kid, simply refused to discuss his reasons for not supporting the program. Foley pressed him and Dixon pressed him but Mansoor, who appeared to be off his normally feeble game this night, wouldn't budge. It was obvious that he simply didn't want to support a program that was initiated by Foley, regardless the benefit to the community. He finally forced a vote to receive and file the item - which effectively killed a program that is already underway. One of the objectives of this program was to give the youth of our community a close look at the way government works, to prepare them to participate at an informed level. Well, Mansoor sure did that last night. He showed those dedicated young people who had signed up and were ready to elect officers, that pettiness is part of politics and that one weak, heartless man's personal political future is more important to him than the youth of our community.

By the way, rumor has it that our young jailer/mayor is investigating the methodology required to convert Costa Mesa to a city in which the mayor is directly elected by the voters instead of being chosen by his peers on the City Council. Sounds to me like he's trying to set himself up as "Mayor For Life" - kind of like Idi Amin Dada in Uganda.

All you Mansoor supporters are going to rue the day you cast your ballots for him. Based on his performance last night, it's only a matter of time until he puts his hobnailed boots down on some of your rights, too. It's clear that he doesn't care about Costa Mesa - he cares about Allan Mansoor and will stomp on others who get in the way, regardless how loyal they might have been to his cause. I leave you to contemplate that and stew in your own juice.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Riggy" Looking For A "Giggy"? Political Patronage, Costa Mesa Style

As I scanned down the names of the candidates for appointment to the Planning and Parks and Recreation commissions tonight I found a few I didn't recognize. So, as a guy with way too much time on his hands, I did some Googling and found some interesting entries on one of those unfamiliar names - James Righeimer.

It seems that Mr. Righeimer is a very well connected political activist who has been floating around Orange County for a few years. Sources tell me he's been a campaign manager for Congressman Dana Rohrabacker recently.

One particularly interesting entry from the internet is an entry dated 1/6/06 on the FLASHREPORT authored by Jon Fleischman, Executive Director of the California Republican Party from 1999 to 2001. In his post, Fleischman touts Righeimer as a the next Republican candidate for the 68th Assembly District, replacing Van Tran, who was slotted to make a run for the 34th District Senate seat. Fleischman goes on and on in his posting about what a good soldier "Riggy" is, providing a history of his loyal activism to the Orange County Republican Party. The political gods conspired against those moves, so Righeimer was left without a seat when the music stopped.

I'll be watching tonight's City Council meeting with great interest. The agenda item regarding the appointments comes very, very late in the meeting, at a time almost guaranteeing sparse attendance by residents and minimal viewers on Costa Mesa TV. The placement of this item way down at the end will certainly reduce the chance of any questions about potential appointees and their qualifications.

I expect the New Majority to stack the deck with their cronies on both commissions. However, if they place Righeimer on the Planning Commission it will be the most flagrant example of political patronage I can recall in Costa Mesa. Here's a guy who, until recently, resided in Fountain Valley, then moves to Costa Mesa after his pal, Rohrabacker, helps our young jailer/mayor get re-elected. From what I read in many pieces on the internet, it sure looks to me like "Riggy", as Fleischman calls him, is just another political opportunist looking for a nest. How else do we explain a guy who, a year ago, was being touted as the next Assemblyman for the 68th District showing up in Costa Mesa as a probable appointee to the relatively lowly Planning Commission? Don't be surprised to see him appointed to the Planning Commission this year, then mount a well-financed campaign for Katrina Foley's seat on the City Council in 2008.

I sure hope someone takes down that sign that says "Carpetbaggers Welcome" at the entrance to Costa Mesa soon! I'm really getting tired of outsiders like Jim Gilchrist and his Minuteman Mob, Rohrabacker and now Righeimer stomping into our city to take it over.

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"Born In East L.A." - A New Reality

Back in 1987 many of us laughed at the plight of Cheech Marin's character, Rudy, in the movie "Born In East L.A." Rudy, a Latino American citizen, was picked up by an INS raid and, since he didn't have his identification on him and no one could contact his mother because she was on a trip to Fresno, Rudy was deported to Mexico with other factory workers. The movie follows his travails as he tries to make his way back. It was actually very funny - then.

Today in Costa Mesa that scenario is very likely to play out in real life. I can see the very real possibility of legal residents being swept up by overly-aggressive police officers and being mishandled at the jail, resulting in deportation.

Based on the report from the first month of activity by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent assigned to the Costa Mesa jail, half of the people detained and processed for deportation are those apprehended for misdemeanors. This is in direct conflict with Mayor Mansoor's often repeated assurance that he wasn't interested in sweeps, only in getting dangerous felons, repeat offenders, off our streets so they couldn't prey on our residents. So, even though he didn't get his original wish for all Costa Mesa patrol officers to be certified as immigration screeners, the effect will be the same. If this continues to play out the way it appears it might, soon the brave men and women of the CMPD will find themselves snatching up every person of brown skin who commits even the most minor of offenses - jaywalking, parking violations or lingering near a convenience store after buying a refreshment following a hard day at work. Instead of chasing those dangerous felons the mayor is so concerned about - a job they do very well, by the way - the CMPD will become de facto immigration agents.

This is just another example of the mayor's curiously tentative relationship with the truth. Of course, to those of us who watched him obfuscate his way back into office this past fall, it comes as no surprise. Beneath his cherubic countenance there lies a darker side.

Now, before you go all apoplectic on me, let me state one more time that I do not support illegal immigration. See, that was a simple, declarative statement - unambiguous and easy to understand, right? I fully understand the impact of illegal immigrants on our country. I understand the burden they place on our social services and education system. I understand that, instead of spending that money they work so hard to earn, they send a large portion of it "home" in the form of remittances. Those remittances sent to Mexico, last estimated at more than $15 billion annually, represent the second greatest form of income for that country - oil revenues are number one.

I also understand that it is simply not practical to yank every illegal immigrant currently working in this country from the labor force and deport them back to their country of origin. Extracting those 12-30 million workers from the workforce would cripple our economy. Yes, I've heard the bogus argument that those workers are taking jobs from "real Americans". That's a load of bull! When is the last time you saw a bunch of white people - "real Americans" - picketing a field for the backbreaking work of harvesting strawberries or any other crop? Not in the last 20 years, at least. When did you last see "real Americans" picketing hotels or restaurants for jobs as maids, custodians, dishwashers or cooks? Give me a break!

As I've said many times before, real illegal immigration reform must start with secure borders. Until they are secure, all those people the ICE man at the Costa Mesa jail identifies as illegal and processes for deportation will soon be back, probably working in their old jobs. Fix the border first, then let's discuss the solution to the question of those already here. Maybe a form of amnesty will work. I'd support that only if the borders are secure to block further illegal immigration. Perhaps we should consider a program of guest workers similar to the bracero program that was in place when I was growing up. It worked well for it's duration.

Our mayor and his cronies are looking for simple solutions to complicated problems. If simple solutions were workable someone would have implemented them long ago. There are not simple solutions to these issues. For example, no one has addressed what happens to the American citizen children of illegal immigrant parents who might be deported. What's the mayor's solution to the plight of those citizens? Will he propose revoking their citizenship? That wouldn't surprise me at all.

Another related question for our "tough on criminals" mayor... how does he feel about the 57 white supremacists rounded up a few weeks ago - 20 of which were picked up in Costa Mesa at 17 different sites? To date, we have heard nothing at all from our mayor on the subject. Since he, and his buddy who runs the CM Press, are so vocal about the illegal immigrant criminals among us, it strikes me as curious that both of them have been completely mute on those raids. It is not illogical to assume that, since they've said nothing about an issue that really cries out for comment, they might be sympathetic to those folks. As the old saying goes, their silence speaks volumes.

And, before I forget, I want to wish my old pal at the CM Press a very happy Martin Luther King Day.