Thursday, June 07, 2007

Directly Elect a Mayor? Why?

Seldom is there a time when I agree with our old buddy over at the CM Press. This time, though, The-Brain-Who-Ate-Costa-Mesa asks some pretty darn good questions - some of which I had posed in an earlier entry. Based on his blog comments, it looks to me he's really more concerned about losing influence over the council than anything else. Still, his questions are good ones and I've provided a link to his posting here.

At issue is the apparent fast-tracking of the proposal voiced by former mayor Gary Monahan at the city council meeting on Jun
e 5th to move forward with a plan to directly elect the position of mayor of Costa Mesa.

Now, bey
ond the fact that Monahan obviously thinks he's got a lock on the job, the whole subject presents some interesting questions that should be asked and answered before this change is rammed down the throats of the voters in this city. Since it was obvious that the mayor and city manager were not surprised by the request on the 5th, one can only assume that there's been a whole lot of dialogue going on behind the scenes on this issue for some time. It's going to be very interesting to see how this shakes out.

I've thought some more about this and have many of the same questions the CM Press addressed in his post.

1 - Will this be an additional position or replace one of the council positions?

2 - If it's an additional position, will i
t be a voting position?

3 - What will the tenure be - 2 or 4 years?

4 - How much will we pay this position?

5 - Will the compensation package include retirement credits?

6 - What about medical?

7 - Will it be a full-time job, or part-time, like the council positions?

8 - Will there be term limits applied to this position?

9 - If the dire
ctly-elected mayor gets hit by a truck - or falls off a bar stool - and cannot fulfill his responsibilities, how will he be replaced?

10 - Will this position have greater powers and authority than the present position of mayor? If so, it seems to me that there is a huge opportunity for abuse of that power and for corruption.

After watching the council meeting when Monahan requested this change, it sure looked like Mansoor was all for it. If he's for it, you can be sure Bever and Leece will vote to put it on the ballot, too, regardless the
public input.

In the Daily Pilot article that addressed this issue, here, our young jailer/mayor is quoted as saying,
"It does give a little more clout on regional issues, and it gives us more of a mandate regarding the direction of the city. And so that can be beneficial." I read that and found myself wondering just how the directly-elected mayor gives our city more clout on regional issues? I mean, a mayor is a mayor, right? Does that mean Mansoor is less a mayor than one who might be directly-elected? I'm sorry, I know that question is a set up, but I couldn't resist. And what's this "more of a mandate" stuff? Mansoor and his cronies have been crowing like those darn birds that infest my neighborhood ever since the election about their "mandate", for goodness sake.

The last segment of his quote is very interesting, too. What do you mean, "beneficial", Mr. Mayor? Do you mean beneficial to you, who has been padding his war chest recently under the guise of raising funds for the Veteran's Memorial Project? Does it mean the person who occupies the directly-elected mayor slot would have more visibility than you've had the past few years? How is that even possible? I mean, your mug has been all over the media ever since you decided to become a Minuteman and save our country from the brown hoards.

It's too early for me to express an opinion on this question - there are too many unanswered questions right now. However, it sure looks like this was contrived to benefit one person - former mayor Gary Monahan. I may be wrong, but he sure acted like he was back in control Tuesday night and had every confidence that his idea would fly.

I noticed that Monahan handled this one just as so many other important issues have been handled - he requested it be agendized for a council meeting, not a study session. This is precisely what happened with the Immigration Cross-designation fiasco. You'll also recall the way he slid the closure of the Job Center into the agenda
with a similar, low-key, almost whispered, request.

An issue of this importance should be agendized for a study session, where potentially contentious elements can be discussed, before being placed on the council agenda. This sure looks like another quick pitch by this council majority to implement something extremely important to all residents of this city without giving them sufficient time to voice their views.

I wrote a satirical piece about a fictional (?) land of Mansooria, in which a person resembling our young jailer/mayor becomes Emperor. It's a long one and you can find it in the archives of this blog. I found myself thinking, tongue firmly planted in my cheek, that I wonder why we should bother with the position of directly-elected mayor? Why not just withdraw from the union and appoint an emperor to govern?

Before I express an opinion on the direct-election of the Mayor of Costa Mesa I want to know why it is necessary. Wh
at changes will this make to the governance of our city? Why now? What was the event that pushed us over the edge to this decision? Why will this move make Costa Mesa a better city for all it's residents?

Another interesting element is the date that this subject will be discussed by the Costa Mesa City Council - July 3, 2007. Yep, they've managed to get it placed on the agenda on a date when many regular attendees will likely be vacationing and the more casual observers will be otherwise occupied. Pretty clever, don't you think? I guess that means we'll be having fireworks two nights in a row next month.

The direct election of the mayor may turn out to be a terrific idea. However, the circumstances under which it has been proposed makes one suspicious. Baring any new information that changes my mind, I'm willing to wait to hear more about this new position, and how it affects the way this city is governed. It's going to be a very interesting month...

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Snapping Fingers, Monahan Lingers, Anti-Airport Wrath and A New Bike Path

You know, sometimes watching a Costa Mesa City Council meeting can be a little like watching someone riding the Tea Cups ride at Disneyland. The way some members of the council change their minds, you almost half expect them to dizzily stumble off the dais from all that spinning.


As predicted, the Mansoor Majority on the Costa Mesa City Council decided Tuesday night to discard the Neighbor
hood Traffic Calming Program, previously discussed here. Instead of taking a proactive position and proceeding with the plan staffer Peter Naghavi had proposed to establish guidelines for implementation of traffic solutions when residents bring them to their attention, the council majority - using it's obviously limited grasp of management principles - decided to require the staff to just keep on chugging away, handling one problem at a time.

I'm not surprised at this outcome at all. It just demonstrated for us all exactly how much control our young jailer/mayor has over his two lackeys on the dais with him. Both Eric Bever and Wendy Leece were enthusiastic supporters of Naghavi's plan when it was presented at the study session in January. All it took was for Mansoor to snap his fingers and they did a 180 on this issue. No good reasons were given for this turnabout by either of them. I guess they want to be sure their pal, the mayor, doesn't forget them when campaign time comes around. After all, he's still going around building his war chest, so he'll have plenty of bucks to pass around.

There was a moment of humor in this discussion, though. At the end - once the mayor moved to stop further action on the plan and to receive and file the report and it passed 3-2 - he asked the City Manager, Allan Roeder, to have a report prepared briefly discussing potential solutions for Eastside streets Flower, Raymond and Westminster. Others chimed in stating that all those Eastside streets, including Broadway - much beleaguered by speeders in the recent past - Magnolia and 19th Street should be included. Because the staff had already wasted lots of time, money and energy on the Traffic Calming issue
, Roeder responded that he'd like to have that in the form of a motion, so they were sure of the direction the council was giving this time. After some hemming and hawing the whole idea was dropped because Mansoor apparently realized that he was asking for exactly the kind of information Naghavi's plan would have provided! Hoisted on his own petard! Ya gotta love it!

Another int
eresting event occurred at the council meeting Tuesday night. You may recall that in an entry at the end of March this year, here, I speculated about the probability of there being a movement afoot to propose the direct election of the position of mayor. Well, Tuesday night former council member and mayor Gary Monahan peeked over the speaker's podium and formally asked for the council to consider putting on the ballot a measure to provide a mechanism to do exactly that - directly elect the position of mayor of our fair city. This comes as no surprise to me - I've heard rumors about this for months. What surprised me is that the request came from Monahan and not the mayor. Of course, Monahan wants his old job back. I wouldn't be surprised if he thinks it could end up being a lifetime gig for him.

That whole idea brings with it many questions. For example, presently the mayor is selected from his peers on the council for a two-year term. I assume the directly elected mayor would have an automatic four year term. Also, would our current term limits regulations apply to that position? Maybe we should elect the mayor for only a two-year term... that would be fun.

Would this position be a full time job or a part time position like the current council seats? Monahan is already the only council member to qualify for a pension, which would be padded by his elected for, say, two terms of four-years each.

Also, even though the present position of mayor is largely ceremonial, the person on that throne does control the flow of debate to a very large extent and is in a disproportionately powerful position relative to his fellow council members. To put that much power in the hands of one person for as much as eight consecutive years creates a situation ripe for abuse and corruption.

This is going to be one issue that gets thoroughly vetted before it hits the ballot - maybe as early as the primary election early next year.

On a more positive note, among the other items considered Tuesday night, the council did pass a resolution opposing the use of the back nine holes of the Newport Beach Golf Course for parking and recommending using the current Bristol Street Mini Storage site as much-needed lighted playing fields.

They also agreed to fund a study to consider using the route along a couple flood control channels as a bike path across the city. This is another good move.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Stop John Wayne Airport Expansion!

This morning the Daily Pilot published a commentary by Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley in which she announced that, at their meeting tomorrow evening, the Costa Mesa City Council will consider an anti-airport expansion resolution she is sponsoring. To read the text of her commentary click here.

I support Foley's vie
w that any incursion by the John Wayne Airport into peripheral properties, such as the back nine holes on the Newport Golf Course or the site of the storage units on Bristol Street near the freeway, will only facilitate expansion of the airport beyond the current growth caps negotiated between the county and the City of Newport Beach.

Although I won't attempt to revive that dead horse, The El Toro Airport, it's worth noting that, instead of utilizing that former Marine flight facility
as a commercial airport, the site will soon become home to the biggest boondoggle in Orange County history - The Great Park. The plans for this "park" include tens of thousands of homes, which will result in a population increase in that area of nearly 100,000 people! Many of those folks will certainly be air travelers, who will certainly avail themselves of John Wayne Airport.

If Costa Mesa does not join Newport Beach in t
heir fight against airport expansion it is likely that very aggressive moves will be made to stretch the existing runways and/or to add one more to facilitate more flights. By stretching the runways the airport will be able to accommodate larger airplanes - the jumbo jets - none of which will be expected to go through the airborne gymnastics currently required of those commercial airliners flying from John Wayne. Nope, those big guys will fly straight toward the ocean without noise reduction requirements (throttling back) and maneuvering to fly down the Back Bay. When they begin to fly, the quality of life for those of us on the Westside of the Back Bay, including Newport Beach's Dover Shores and Costa Mesa's Eastside, will be significantly damaged. Our friends in Tustin, Orange and Villa Park will also suffer from the addition of the large airliners at John Wayne.

If John Wayne Airport is permitted to expand to handle the jumbo jets, like the Boei
ng 747-400 pictured here, for example, it will be catastrophic for our neighborhoods. That plane has a maximum take-off weight of nearly 900,000 pounds and holds around 60,000 gallons of fuel, according to the entry in Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

I concur with Foley that it's important for our elected officials to go on record opposing any future expansion at John Wayne Airport. Past council's failure to act responsibly regarding El Toro abetted that perfect site being turned into a "park". We c
annot afford to simply standby and watch this time around. I encourage you to let your city council know just how you feel. You can email them at this address: Further information can be found at the web site for the grass roots organization, Air Fair, at the link I've added to the right, just below Newport Beach.

It's time to wake up and speak up - or begin making plans for your children to suffer significant health problems as the increased jet traffic spews more effluent onto our neighborhoods and playgrounds. The clock is ticking.

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