Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ironic Timing

Ah, the world if full of ironies. One day following the City Council Mansoor-led majority's decision to ignore the advice and counsel of their top law enforcement officers and trash can the intervention and prevention elements of the CMPD's gang initiative, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a sweeping new initiative in that city which includes - here it comes, folks - a significant element dedicated to intervention and prevention!

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Villaraigosa's plan was applauded by Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton. Bratton is quoted as saying this about the plan, developed in concert with police, gang experts and neighborhood leaders, "Mayor Villaraigosa's $168 million for gang prevention and intervention is the vital component missing from the city's gang plan."

In the article Villaraigosa is quoted as saying, "Take it from a former high school dropout: Fighting gangs is fundamentally a question of putting people on a path to a productive life."

Hello! That's precisely what Chief Christopher Shawkey and Captain Ron Smith attempted to tell the council last Tuesday night. When asked specifically whether, in their best professional opinion, resolving the gang problem in Costa Mesa was possible without the intervention/prevention elements of their proposal, both men replied unequivocally that it was not. Using Captain Smith's analogy, no matter how fast you drain the tub of gang-bangers, unless you turn off the spigot to stop the flow of new members into the tub, you will never win the battle. And yet, in a snit about how the Newport-Mesa Unified School District manages it's money, the Three Stooges who form the majority on the council gave our top cops the stiff arm and rejected that part of their proposal. They also dismissed, without debate, any consideration of the Truancy Ordinance that was included in the CMPD's proposal.

I don't know Antonio Villaraigosa, but I do know that he's an effective politician. His ideology, in a broad sense, is far from mine. It wouldn't surprise me if he becomes the next Governor of this state. I do know Chief Bratton, though, and respect his skills as one of the top law enforcement officials in this country. I agree with Bratton that this proposal is a giant step in the right direction for the City of Los Angeles, and the entire southern California region.

The timing of Villaraigosa's announcement couldn't have been better - unless your name is Allan Mansoor, Eric Bever or Wendy Leece. It emphatically points out the lack of understanding of the problem by our city council majority. Our young jailer/mayor continues to display an amazing lack of understanding of actual law enforcement, despite being a Deputy Sheriff for fourteen years. Bever seems intent on righting wrongs he experienced as a whippersnapper, growing up in a gang-infested neighborhood. Whatever affronts he experienced as a kid - maybe he was harassed about his pigtail hairdo - he seems determined to take it out on the budding Costa Mesa gangs by authorizing only ramped-up use of force instead of a plan designed to seriously address the deeper issue of how to nip the gang growth in the bud - by intervening with the at-risk kids in their early school years.

Leece, who seemed to be sympathetic to the intervention plan during the discussions, turned out to be merely pathetic as she read her prepared statement before the vote. Obviously, these three "leaders" have no interest in hearing from residents nor their senior staff - they already have their minds made up before they get to the meetings.

Like Bever, I, too, grew up in a part of Los Angeles that had a significant gang population. That part of the city was the focus in a recent series done by the Los Angeles Times. The predominant gang way back then was Los Avenues, which is still the largest gang in Los Angeles. It is now in it's fourth generation of gang-bangers - a systemic problem no matter how you cut it.

In their presentation before the council Chief Shawkey and Captain Smith said that Costa Mesa's gang problem is not "generational". The word that was missing was "yet". If nothing is done to divert the young people at risk from becoming gang members I fear we will be seeing the same kind of generational infestation in Costa Mesa that Los Angeles is currently attempting to resolve.

Residents of this city should put pressure on the council majority to re-consider their rejection of the intervention/prevention element of the CMPD's proposal. The majority should get over their snit with the NMUSD and do what is right for this city, instead of fanning the flames of discontent. I stated in an earlier post that I thought they actually wanted a gang problem in this city to help meet their broader goal of the removal of all Latinos from our borders. One way for them to prove me wrong is to institute the intervention/prevention element and let the police do their job.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mansoor Majority Creates Gang Haven

I'm still reeling from watching the City Council meeting Tuesday night. After many hours of watching and cogitating I've had an epiphany. Here's what happened:

In their deliberations on the Gang Initiative last night, the Allan Mansoor-led City Council majority chose to send our law enforcement officers into the battle blindfolded, with one arm tied behind their backs. They chose to approve only the enforcement element of this plan. Despite the specific, unequivocal statements by the Chief of Police, Christopher Shawkey and his strong right arm, Captain Ron Smith, that the intervention/prevention element was critical to the success of the program and despite the fact that it had been funded in the last budget session, the majority vetoed that segment.

Additionally, although several residents, including some students, rose to speak against the Truancy Ordinance and the police department recommended that element be referred to a subsequent study session so it could be thoroughly vetted before a decision was made, the majority ignored the recommendation, thereby pitching it into the trash can. I wasn't surprised about that, since both Mansoor and Bever had written publicly in the Daily Pilot indicating their displeasure with such a plan. Instead of taking the opportunity to hear more testimony on the subject by staff and residents they ignored that idea and chucked the whole thing. Their minds were already made up.

I listened as Chief Shawkey and Captain Smith presented their case to the council and answered questions posed by individual members for clarification. It didn't take long to see that Mansoor and Bever were opposed to the intervention segment. When Jane Garland, author of a recent Daily Pilot commentary and school district employee in charge of Project ASK, stepped up at the request of Katrina Foley to correct mischaracterizations by perpetually ignorant resident Mike Berry and to answer questions for the council about the interface between the district and the CMPD, it was clear that Mansoor and Bever view her as an antagonist, not a partner in the resolution of our common problem. I hoped Wendy Leece would understand the importance of the intervention segment, particularly when the chief and one of his top men stated emphatically that they felt it was essential to the success of their plans to eradicate gangs from our city. She didn't. When the votes were finally cast and only the enforcement element was passed I kind of just rocked back in my chair in disbelief.

This is the third straight police chief a Mansoor-led majority has rebuffed emphatically. Two years ago they rejected then-Chief John Hensley's ideas on the immigration screener scheme. A year ago Mansoor jumped the gun on the reward issue when Chief Staveley was on board and now Chief Shawkey has some idea of why he's the third Police Chief in the City of Costa Mesa in two years. This council majority, led by our young jailer/mayor, has no respect for the opinion of their highly skilled senior law enforcement leaders. Their idea of enlightened law enforcement is simply getting a bigger stick and swinging it harder and more often. Bever apparently is trying to right wrongs he experienced as a youth in a gang-infested neighborhood. You could see the bile boiling as he spoke about it.


As I sat here mulling over tonight's events a light went on. I've finally figured it out! Mansoor and his cronies don't really want to resolve the gang issue! They don't want to follow the advice of their top cops and include an element in their plan that can actually get to the root of the problem and nip the gang problem in the bud. They want this problem to persist because it gives them the wedge issue they need to expunge every Latino from this city! If you "fix" the problem through education and intervention that means that many young Latinos will be saved from a life as gangsters and will thrive in our city. That is precisely what Mansoor, Bever, Leece and their yapping cadre of followers do not want. They want the Latinos out and the gang issue can be the tool they use to accomplish that. They want more gang crime, because it will make the remainder of our citizens fearful and more susceptible to their plans for the ouster of the Latinos.

In my opinion, this is a very sad day for our city. The elected majority on the council seem determined to grind this city into the dust with their arrogant "I-know-best" attitude.
I give Shawkey two years, max, before he realizes that his position is one of supreme futility and he bails out. I sure hope he didn't buy a house yet. With this action tonight, by virtually spitting in the eye of our top cops, the Mansoor-led majority has insured the on-going departure of experienced cops from the CMPD. What honest, hard-working career officer will want to work in this city - where the marching orders are given by a bunch of racists?


Without a change of direction this city is doomed to be known as a bastion of intolerance. Soon few people will wish to enter our town because the leadership has intentionally permitted it to become a dangerous locale. More bright, young families will seek homes and educational opportunities for their children elsewhere, leaving behind those of us who are too old, too poor or trapped by an equity imbalance to seek greener pastures. Thank you, Allan Mansoor, Eric Bever and Wendy Leece, for greasing the skids of this city. Your legacy will be the demise of this town.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tragedy and Leadership

Today, as I write this piece, I can't get the tragic events at Virginia Tech yesterday out of my mind. The convocation from that stricken university is on the television behind me, where speakers, including President Bush, have expressed many of our thoughts. It's hard to comprehend how such a terrible event could occur.

It's impossible to fathom what was in the mind of that troubled young man, Cho Seung-hui, as he methodically went about slaughtering those innocent people. Once again, this kind of event has reached out and grabbed this country by the throat. The images and sounds of that day were looped endlessly throughout the day yesterday, making it impossible to avoid the agony being felt by those in Blacksburg. Many of us look around and say to ourselves, "If it can happen there, it could happen here, too!"

Tonight our City Council will debate a program addressing the growing gang problem in Costa Mesa, trying to decide which path our city will take on this difficult issue. Some apparently feel that only enforcement is necessary control this problem, giving no credence to the experts in this field that tell us a comprehensive program of prevention and intervention is essential to nip gang involvement at the roots.

Some will say that the Truancy Ordinance, which is presented as an important segment of the CMPD's plan, is draconian - a step that will only alienate the broader community in an attempt to control the actions of a relative few. I'm still willing to hear the reasoning behind this plan before offering a final opinion. If the leaders of our police department feel this program has critical value in our fight against gangs, I'm willing to hear their views. I expect to hear residents, including some parents and students, speak on this subject tonight and I hope our elected leaders will listen and deliberate before stating their decision.

Tonight will be another test of the leadership of this city. Tonight we find out if they will, in fact, be the leaders most hoped for when they were elected, or will they pander to the vocal, intolerant few among us. Will they listen to the testimony of their experts and of the concerned residents of this city before making the decision? We'll see.

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