Thursday, February 01, 2007

Brown Act Follies

I guess most of us who follow Costa Mesa politics know that our young jailer/mayor, Allan Mansoor, and the court jester, Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever, are pals. Both men have alluded to that relationship many times over the years. Mansoor made it very clear when he actively campaigned for Bever in 2004 and Bever speaks on behalf of Mansoor frequently. Based on their public statements, it's clear that they have a tight relationship.

Those of us who watched the campaign last year realize that Mansoor took Wendy Leece under his wing and professed his support for her candidacy at every opportunity. She was at his side at almost every public function and shared campaign literature with her. He even contributed to her campaign. It appears that not much has changed since the election, either. I've seen recent video of the two of them at a Republican function, where he acknowledged her great contributions to the City of Costa Mesa.

All this collegial coziness leads me to a question for you. Do you know about the Ralph M. Brown Act? That act is part of the California Government code, and was designed to guarantee that public bodies, like commissions and councils, conduct their business in an open manner. To quote the first section in part, "It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly."

Here's why I asked the question. Since the mayor and Bever are buddies, and since the mayor and Leece seem to have been joined at the hip over the past nearly a year, what are the chances they occasionally violate the Brown Act by discussing city business together out of view of the public? Not possible, you say? How about this scenario? The mayor and Bever talk about an issue, then the mayor and Leece talk about the same issue. The mayor can't have that second conversation without considering Bever's viewpoint, can he? Based on my understanding of the law, that "chain conversation" is a violation of the Brown Act.

What brings this question to mind is the frequency with which The Mayor, Bever and Leece seem attuned to each other's view on issues. Yes, I'm sure they agree on many things philosophically and it's obvious that, once they decide on an issue, it's going to pass. The minority on the council has no real voice since it doesn't have the votes. Of course, Mansoor's New Majority understands that fact - all of them can probably count to three - so it's not outside the realm of possibility that they pre-fabricate their opinions before the actual public meetings.

Do I have any evidence about such potential violations? Nope, not a one. Do I think those violations are possible? Yes, I do. Do I think they are probable? Well, I've watched Mansoor and Bever on the dais for several years and I know that Bever continues to play fast and loose with the rules. He's passed notes on the dais suggesting a course of action to other council members, which is a technical violation of the Brown Act. When challenged on these transgressions he just cavalierly brushes the criticism aside with a glib retort. Does this make him trustworthy? I'll leave that speculation to you.

Because of their special relationships, I think the probability of Brown Act violations exist. After the lies and deceit during the campaign, this is just one more reason to view the performance of the New Majority with a critical eye.


Monday, January 29, 2007

A Breath Of Fresh Air - Then Back Into "The Swamp"

A little time away from home can do wonders for one's perspective. I spent a few days out of town last week in an area of our state that is renowned for it's beauty and less frenetic pace. It was a welcome change.

As I enjoyed the beautiful vistas and the opportunity to get "up close and personal" with the wildlife in the area, I found any thoughts of the political posturing back home being shoved way, way back in my head. I enjoyed reading the local weekly newspaper, which was filled with mostly positive news articles and columns of local importance. Oh, yes, there were some dicey issues covered, but they were done with a little softer edge than I'm used to reading back here in Costa Mesa.

The letters to the editor were generally well-conceived, thoughtful discussions of local issues with no tinge of the kind of harsh retorts we've become accustomed to reading in our local media here - the kind of things I've occasionally written, too. It was refreshing to see that adults in a community can debate issues of importance without resorting to school yard taunts, petty political ploys and attempts at character assassination. It was nice to see the debate kept at a high level, focused on the issues and not personalities.

Then I came home.

As I attempted to catch up on local events by blitzing through the accumulated newspapers and doing some online browsing, I found myself slapped back into reality. I, once again, found myself immersed in the vitriolic invective that writers to the Daily Pilot online have published as comments.

For example, last week I wrote about an article on the Youth in Government program that our young jailer/mayor and his New Majority quashed in their last council meeting. By choosing to "receive and file" the issue it effectively stopped the program in it's tracks, although the 18 bright young people from our community were already active in it and were about to elect officers last week. If no council member brings it to a study session it is gone - poof! - on the whim of a trio of petulant politicians. When I wrote about it last week there were 30 comments posted online. Today, as I type this, there are 60. We are able to read comments from some of the young people affected by this decision, some by their parents, some by those adults in our community who think this was a bad idea and many from those apologists of the mayor and his majority - including the court jester himself, Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever. Unfortunately, some of the most "adult" comments were written by the children.

While I was gone the racist hypocrite over at the CM Press was busily warning us that we needed to "drain the swamp" to improve Costa Mesa. However, on Friday, January 26th, he stooped to a new low when he attempted to use the tragic death of a young Costa Mesa boy as political fodder. The young man in question, Marco Anthony Perez, died of a brain tumor on January 24th. He had been the subject of several newspaper articles and fundraising efforts in recent weeks. The CM Press made no impassioned plea for support for this young Costa Mesa resident of Latino heritage during his brief fight for his life. No, Marco Anthony Perez only became important to the CM Press in death - to be used to, once again, attempt to blame his passing on those terrible Westside industrialists! The man has absolutely no shame. It amazes me that otherwise intelligent residents of this city can follow this guy's drumbeat like a bunch of sheep.

So, I welcome myself home by taking a deep breath and waiting for the next series of boneheaded moves by our New Majority on the City Council. I expect the youth of our community will be among the first to feel the results of their bias. I expect them to reject the plan previously approved to light all the fields at The Farm Sports Complex - the best solution for providing more fields for our children. I also expect them to alienate our neighbors in Newport Beach by placing tighter restrictions on residency of soccer field users.

In the next two years I fully expect our city to become Fortress Costa Mesa, as the New Majority pulls up the drawbridge and fills the moat with, yes, alligators - to the detriment of all residents.

Labels: ,