Friday, March 30, 2007

Directly Elect The Mayor? I Vote No!

On March 20th, at the end of an entry I posted that day, I speculated that our young jailer/mayor might be investigating the methodology of directly electing the position of Mayor of Costa Mesa as opposed to the current method of being selected from among his peers on the City Council. I also postulated that such a move would further strengthen his grip on our city and result in a virtual dictatorship.

The Daily Pilot today, in an article by Alicia Robinson entitled "Elect mayors, end musical chairs?", brings this issue to the forefront. She tells us that former 12-year councilman (the only one to earn pension credits) Gary Monahan first proposed it earlier in this decade, but didn't have the votes at the time to put the change on the ballot. Mansoor inquired about what it might take to elect the mayor directly a month ago. Monahan is quoted as saying that a directly elected mayor would be "the de facto voice of the city". It is rumored around town that Monahan might be considering yet another run for a council seat in 2008.

People typically view the position of mayor as largely ceremonial, but Mansoor has changed that view with his ill-advised attempt to turn every Costa Mesa police officer into an immigration screener. From that point forward, including the moment when Jim Gilchrist anointed him as an honorary Minuteman, he became the poster child for the anti-illegal immigration movement in this country. His smiling face was plastered all over the media, including appearances on national television, where his "Aw, shucks, I just want safe streets." act endeared him to the radical right and made him a symbol for intolerance - and he dragged the reputation of our city along with him. "Ceremonial", my fanny!

We've seen him consolidate his power to the point where he can, and will, dictate even the smallest bit of minutia - like who sits where on the dais. This kind of arrogance of power should make every resident of this city nervous.

In her article Robinson quotes Mayor Carolyn Cavecche of Orange as saying that, following her election as mayor in 2006, "she's had a better opportunity to promote her agenda". That's what power does...

So, let me be clear on my view of this subject. I think the direct election of the mayor of our city is a bad idea, regardless who the candidate might be. I think it consolidates too much power in one person's grip. I think it would be especially tragic if our young jailer/mayor were to be directly elected to that position, because he's shown us his stripes for several years. He has demonstrated for us any number of times that he puts his own personal political future ahead of the safety of our residents and the well-being of our city. He's shown us that he is willing to lie during a campaign in order to be re-elected and that he's more than willing to turn his back on loyal supporters for political expediency. He's demonstrated that he's a man not to be trusted.

Even though Mansoor has the power of a dictator now through his control of the majority on the council, the direct election of the mayor would only exacerbate that problem and enhance his power. I vote "No!"

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Anger Management

Over at the CM Press our old buddy, The-Brain-That-Ate-Costa-Mesa, is ticked off at the Planning Commission again. Ohhh, poor baby! All this angst can't be good for his health.

Yep, he apparently thinks some members of his little flock seem to be drifting away from the path he's chosen for them and it angers him. This time he shredded four of the five commissioners - he thinks Commissioner Sam Clark is still on board with him. The remaining four, Chairman Donn Hall, Vice Chair Jim Fisler and commissioners Eleanor Egan and Jim Righeimer are sabotaging his grand plan for the renaissance of the Westside industrial areas because they voted Monday night to permit an existing contracting operation to continue to do business in our city. I watched the tape of the proceedings. The parcel in question is zoned industrial and the use as presented to them is just about as benign an "industrial" use as is possible to imagine. Still, "The Brain" is ticked off because they followed the rules instead of his wishes.

So angry is our pal, who very much resembles my theoretical character Your Neighbor, that he's blaming his majority on the City Council for appointing these commissioners. He practically demands that the council replace them, "as is their right", according to this bleating donkey. He makes not-too-veiled threats about the political future of a couple of these commissioners who don't toe his line.

Do you remember when the Westside plans were first launched? This guy stood before every podium he could find and yapped about "market forces" being the driving motivation for change on the Westside. He implied that no coercion would be necessary to oust existing businesses - that time and a changing market would facilitate the changes he wanted. Ha!

I wouldn't be surprised to see the specter of eminent domain rear it's ugly head once again. We already hear the chatter about using it as a way to bulldoze "slums" to make way for apartments or playing fields. The Redevelopment Agency - the City Council in a fancy dress - has the power to use eminent domain in it's area. The council has denied they intend to use it in the past, but I don't trust them, particularly now that their "leader of the band" is getting mad at them.

Don't turn your back on these guys. You'll regret it.

On a lighter note, there was an interesting exchange between Chairman Hall and resident Mike Berry who, with his wife Judy, form a one-two punch on many issues before commissions and the City Council. This time it was the parcel mentioned above. Judy spoke first and pleaded her case for denial of the requested conditional use permit, citing her opinion that the Westside would never get changed if the commission continued to permit industrial uses in the industrial area. Then Mike stood to amplify her views. He got off on the wrong foot with Hall, who interrupted him to rebut a comment he'd made, then just flat told him "you're done" and shut him out as Berry stalked from the podium.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Do We Need A Daytime Curfew?

Recently the Costa Mesa Police Department, as part of their comprehensive plan to reduce gang activity in our city, recommended the establishment of a Truancy Ordinance, which amounts to a daytime curfew for school age children. The Daily Pilot provided a good overview in an article by Alicia Robinson here.

I watched the CMPD presentation before the city council at the study session and also watched a handful of concerned parents speak to this issue before the council at a subsequent meeting. I agree with most of the views expressed that night - this smacks of authoritarianism. Quite honestly, I'm not surprised that this city council is considering such a move. They have demonstrated many times in the past that they are more than willing to compromise the rights of residents to attain their own personal goals.

At a time when we've seen actions proposed by Mayor Mansoor and his majority cause a rift between the Latino community in this city and the government, including the police department, do we really want the Costa Mesa Police Department to be tasked to become truant officers? At a time when we should be attempting to build relationships between the police and the youth of this community do, we really want our officers randomly stopping kids who might legitimately be away from their campus for a variety of reasons?

What guidelines will they use for stopping children during school hours? Will they stop the white kids driving their mother's Mercedes to the skate park? Will they stop and interrogate the Latino children waiting at a bus stop for transportation from school to their after-school job on the other side of town? Will they sit in the Wendy's parking lot on 17th Street on Wednesday afternoons and cite the hoard of rowdy urchins from Ensign Middle School who descend on that fast food store each week?

What about those college students at OCC who look younger than their age? Will they stop them as they travel to and from that school?

Will this be a "zero tolerance" ordinance, with no room for the exercise of judgment on the part of the officers? If not, what are the parameters of this flexibility? Will every kid with brown kid be cited and every kid with white skin be warned?

What kind of identification and authorization must a child show to prove he or she is legitimately off campus during school hours? Will they be required to prove legal residence? Will they be taken to jail for a truancy infraction, where they get passed before the resident ICE agent? If that seems like a stupid question, I guarantee you there are children on the Westside of our city wondering about that very issue?

It seems to me that this is a perfect topic for those young people involved in the Youth in Government program to contemplate. It would be very interesting to get the viewpoints of those involved, bright young people who will live with this decision before casting it in stone.

The school district is charged with the care and education of our children during school hours. I suspect that if we returned to a time when there were closed campuses and an enforced school uniform policy many of the problems of children wandering throughout the neighborhoods during school hours would diminish. Drive past any high school in the district during the normal school day and you'll see a continual flow of children coming and going at all hours. I read of the procedure currently in place and wonder just why that's not successful in controlling truancy. Perhaps the district needs to tighten up the enforcement of their own policies before suggesting we unleash a draconian daytime curfew.

Many of you have dismissed out of hand my assertions in the past that our current elected leaders are tending to resemble the leaders of Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War II. This, I'm afraid, is just another example of that kind of behavior. Before we unleash the good men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department with an open-ended, inadequately defined plan for the interrogation of our kids, more reasonable, rational consideration should be given to this kind of plan.

Yes, we have a growing gang problem in Costa Mesa. Yes, we need to provide the police department tools with which they can combat this problem. I, along with many of my fellow Costa Mesans, are concerned that this approach proposed by the CMPD will only exacerbate the fracture in relationships between the police and a demographic group representing more than a third of our residents. Not only that, but it has the very real potential to create animosity and distrust among the children that are part of the remaining two-thirds.

I urge more debate and caution before this curfew plan is codified.

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