Thursday, April 03, 2008

Winships Thumb Their Noses

A couple of our good neighbors over in Newport Beach, Ron and Anna Winship, posted an entry on the Newport Beach Voices blog yesterday that is sure to ruffle the feathers of more than one Costa Mesa resident. The Winships, who also post on the SantaAnaCentric Orange Juice Blog, have set a new low water mark for smarmy, snooty, in-your-face comments in the battle for annexation of county lands between Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

At a time when officials from both cities profess to be attempting to mend fences between our cities, this kind of condescending tripe can only harm those efforts. There are already plenty of Costa Mesans who are offended by the holier-than-thou attitude displayed by more than a few Newporters without the Winships rubbing our municipal nose in the loss of West Santa Ana Heights. In fact, if I were one of those new Newport Beach residents annexed recently I'd take offense at the childish "instructions" provided by the Winships on how those good folks should act as new Newporters.

Now, I've read many of the Winships previous posts and I know they sometimes stumble in their attempts at tongue-in-cheek humor. Occasionally it seems that what might have been funny in their heads loses something when it hits the page - or screen, in this case. If this effort was one of those times, then I apologize. Read it for yourself and decide. You can find it HERE.

Newport Beach is a fine city with municipal wealth we Costa Mesans can only dream about. Our neighbors in Newport should feel very proud of their city and all it's assets. However, there are many issues in which both cities share an interest, including the probable expansion of John Wayne Airport, our school district, Banning Ranch and the future of the 55 Freeway extension, to name a few. Residents thumbing their noses at us across our common border certainly isn't very neighborly and won't help with our relationships on those issues and others.

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Smoother Sailing at Second Workshop

Well, that's more like it! Last night's second workshop on the SR 55 Access Study, conducted by the OCTA and their consultants, LSA Associates, in the City Council chambers at City Hall, ran more smoothly than the first one on Monday. These workshops are designed to facilitate development of solutions to the growing volume of traffic through the Costa Mesa "downtown" area, which will soon strangle commerce and create major traffic issues on adjoining residential neighborhoods as frustrated drivers cut through seeking relief.

While the auditorium setting was a little less user friendly for the 70 or so attendees (roughly half of Monday's contingent) - it was more difficult to meander around and see the exhibits, for example - the meeting had a little more much-needed structure. Instead of permitting speakers to jump up and speak randomly, as was the case on Monday, a "speaker card" system was used to permit orderly presentation of questions and suggestions. The result was a much smoother flow of both questions and answers.

The tone of the meeting was more civil, too. In a refreshing display of candor, two speakers apologized to the moderators for their allegations Monday that traffic numbers they presented were bogus. Both speakers, among the most emotional on Monday, acknowledged that the consultant's numbers were accurate and the numbers they, the speakers, had been throwing around were way, way off the mark. And, last night there was no vitriolic criticism directed at the City Council.


The array of questions from residents were thoughtful and relevant. For example, former Planning Commissioner and two-time city council candidate Bruce Garlich used part of his time at the microphone to suggest a modification to the apparently most popular choice - the so-called "cut and cover" option. He suggested that a "boring" alternative be investigated, citing the advantage of being less disruption to traffic and commerce in the Downtown area during construction. His suggestion was seconded by a subsequent speaker. It was good to see Bruce back in harness again, bringing his wisdom and insight to city affairs.

This workshop was the final presentation in Costa Mesa. There remains one more workshop scheduled - at the Sea Scout base in Newport Beach on April 10th, 5-7 p.m. After that meeting representatives of LSA, the OCTA and Cal Trans will assess all the options, use the comments presented to promulgate others and distill those down to 3-4, from which a course of action may be chosen. It is hoped that once those final choices are prepared the residents and other stakeholders involved in this process will have a chance to hear about them before the responsible government entities make their final selection.

Unclear is where the mountain of money necessary to fund any of the long-term options will come from. The current, funded and approved, plan to add one northbound lane on Newport Blvd. through the downtown area and one short southbound lane from 19th Street to Broadway will be constructed later this year. Other short-term solutions, such as signal synchronization, will be implemented in the relatively near future.

For those of you interested in reading some relevant contemporary articles on this subject, you can follow these links. Byron de Arakal published two columns in the Daily Pilot the past two weeks. The first is entitled, "Don't count on 55 Relief". The second is, "55 outlook grim at OCTA forum". Between those two commentaries the Daily Pilot published an article entitled, "OCTA asks for 55 Freeway input". In addition, you can go to the OCTA website for more detail, including charts and descriptions of the several alternatives proposed at this time.

Based on comments made by officials at the meeting last night, regardless which is selected, none of the longer-term solutions will begin for more than two decades. By then, most of the attendees will either be long-gone or will be residing is a care facility, concerned only about the traffic to and from the dining room.

In the meantime, the recently-energized cadre of citizen-activists promise to pay close attention to this issue and provide guidance to our elected officials - whether they want it or not. That's good news for all of us.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

High School Kids Outshine Costa Mesa Council

Our amigo, Art Pedroza, over at the Orange Juice Blog posted an entry yesterday entitled, "O.C. Human Relations Commission announces 2008 Award Winners". If you click on that title you will be linked directly to his entry, which describes the awards and the 2008 recipients. This is the 37th annual presentation of such awards. I "borrowed" the graphic above from Pedroza's post.

Once there you will find that among those recognized is Corona Del Mar High School. The paragraph describing CDM's achievement reads as follows:

"The school’s student-led Human Relations Council launched a campaign to promote student voices and unity by bringing diverse campus groups together to integrate a message of “Ubuntu” or the “spirit of community” into their programs and activities. The Council has made significant strides in institutionalizing an integration of human relations issues and student voices into many aspects of school wide policy."

Congratulations to the students of Corona Del Mar High School for their efforts, which demonstrate enlightenment and maturity uncommon today.

I post this entry today as a contrast to the Costa Mesa City Council's approach to human relations. Readers will recall that, not too long ago, the council led by then-mayor Allan Mansoor first de-funded, then disbanded without so much as a thank you the Costa Mesa Human Relations Commission. That organization served as a communications bridge between the city's diverse population segments for almost two decades.

Then, quite recently, Mansoor showed his attitude about this subject again. Following the annual presentation by a representative of the Orange County Human Relations Commission on incidences of intolerance within our city, Mansoor stated emphatically from the dais that he no longer was interested in hearing such reports. When he was reminded by the City Manager that such reports are provided as a matter of course each year Mansoor reaffirmed his unwillingness to hear them in the future.

Such is the sad state of affairs in our city - when the elected leader thumbs his nose at even the thought of improving human relations in our city you know we are dealing with a sadly unenlightened man with the power to enforce his will upon all of us. This is something to remember as the election grows near this year. Although Mansoor isn't running, his buddy, Mayor Eric Bever and possibly several other so-called "improver" candidates, may be on the ballot. Our city will not be well-served by perpetuating intolerance by electing people who share Mansoor's attitude and values.

So, tonight - appropriately, April Fools Day - as you watch the city council meeting, think about them as they spend your tax dollars and set policy that will govern your lives. Think about their motives and ask yourself if they coincide with yours.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

First SR 55 Access Study Workshop

Tonight, at the Neighborhood Community Center, representatives of the Orange County Transportation Authority and the City of Costa Mesa presented an overview of the current plans for the mitigation of the traffic problems on Newport Boulevard from the terminus of the Costa Mesa Freeway at 19th Street to the city limits at Industrial Way.

This was the first such workshop and it played to a packed, standing-room-only crowd, some of whom were more than a little vocal. This meeting is the first of two - the second will be held in the City Council Chambers at City Hall on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 from 6:30 - 8:30. A third such meeting will be held in Newport Beach on April 10th to provide it's residents a chance to chime in on this issue.

It was clear from the tone of the questions tonight that many folks attending this meeting were very apprehensive about a "solution" being decided without having been given a chance to provide input. This is understandable, since this process has been going on for more than 6 months and this is the first such opportunity for the general public to express their views. Meetings have previously been held with city government and business owners plus a select few "stakeholders" - a description that certainly fit every person in attendance tonight. Some speakers were clearly nervous about being left out and some were quite hostile toward the officials present.

The charts provided good information about the current roster of alternatives. These are, according to the folks who led the meeting, not the only options available, but represent the current thinking of those people in OCTA and Cal Trans who have studied this subject. Following the other public workshops those responsible will cull through the suggestions and concerns and try to generate three or four alternatives for consideration. At that time representatives of the various government entities involved will consider each and attempt to make a final determination of the right solution.

Speakers indicated that this is a long-term issue - that nothing could happen for at least 5 years, maybe longer - once a final plan is adopted. Approvals and funding must be secured before the first shovel of dirt is turned - a long, complicated, expensive process.

So, if you have an interest in how the traffic flows through our city at that location I encourage each of you to attend the next workshop or to communicate directly with the OCTA and/or the City of Costa Mesa Transportations Services Department with your thoughts.

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