Friday, May 23, 2008

Something Smells Funny At City Hall

(photo courtesy of Daily Pilot)

Here's something to gnaw on this Memorial Day weekend.

Last Tuesday,
May 20th, saw our City Council consider a request from the current owners of the derelict El Camino Plaza to extend for another year their entitlements to redevelop that blighted block smack in the middle of Mesa Del Mar. Their spokesperson was a sharp gentleman named Steve Sheldon, President of The Sheldon Group.

I watched the exchange of questions and answers and the public comments. I noticed that Mayor Eric Bever and Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor were taking the lead in support of the request. I didn't give that too much thought, although I do recall thinking that Mansoor was taking a pretty soft position on a project that has been plagued by delays for years. Eventually, after Sheldon promised that the structures on the site would be com
pletely demolished by June 19th, the council agreed to the staff recommendations.

(A quick circumnavigation of that block late this afternoon showed all the structures still in place, but the entire block is surrounded with chain link fence draped with green tarp material to mitigate the v
iew of the blighted area during the demolition. This will be a short month because of the holiday, so one can only hope the developer is as good as his word.)

But something kept nagging me - it just didn't smell right - so I did some research and find that Sheldon's organization was a major participant in Mansoor's reelection campaign two years ago. If fact, just a year ago they helped him put on an event which was disguised as a fund-raiser for the Veteran's Memorial Project but was, in fact, a fund-raiser for Mansoor. I wrote about that in a post on this blog on May 30, 2007, which is still available for viewing in the archives over on the right side of this page.

Further nosing around has led me to some sources that indicate The Sheldon Group may be an active member of Eric Bever's re-election campaign.

Here's my question for you: Is it appropriate for a consultant, who supported (that means he was paid to support) Mansoor's re-election effort and subsequent fund-raising and may be currently involved in Bever's campaign, to stand before the council as a paid spokesperson for a project with lots of money to lose if the vote goes the wrong way? I know this probably doesn't meet the threshold for conflict of interest violations under our municipal code, but it sure does have a peculiar odor to it - especially when you consider the subterfuge of Mansoor's fund raiser last year. It seems to me that Mansoor and Bever should have excused themselves from the discussions and vote because they have a financial relationship with The Sheldon Group. What do you think?

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Caspa On The Radio and Mickadeit on White Supremacists

The day is still young and it's already very interesting. First, I listened to Dr. Humberto Caspa speak about his book and his view of conditions in Costa Mesa during a fifteen minute interview this morning on KPFK radio, public radio in Southern California. In an unfortunate bit of programming, his fifteen minutes of fame, literally, followed a prolonged rant by a rabid Palestinian supporter. I'm not sure how many people hung around for Caspa's interview - besides me, that is.


Caspa had the opportunity to expand on the thesis of his recent book, "Terror
in the Latino Barrio: The Rise of the New Right in Local Government". He emphasized the influence of one local activist, not only naming him, but spelling it for the audience to be sure they got it. I couldn't help but smile. You can hear Caspa's segment on KPFK HERE.


Then I grabbed my copy of the Orange County Register and began reading the headlines, looking for issues that interest me. I came across columnist Frank Mickadeit's contribution to the "Local" section of the newspaper - an entry entitled, "Racism, bullying top ADL agenda", HERE. I like Fran
k's work, which ranges from the politically relevant to flights of fancy, depending on his mood.

As I quickly scanned down the single column I came across the name of Costa Mesa Police Lieutenant Clay Epperson, so I jammed on the brakes, backed up and began reading more slowly from the top.

The focus of Mickadeit's column is a recent dinner hosted by the Anti-Defamation League in which the subject of white supremacists in Orange County was discussed. He quotes Kevin O'Grady, director of the local ADL office as saying, "Southern California does have more white supremacist activity than the rest of the U.S., and (within Southern California) Orange County has the most". Yikes!

His mention of Lt. Epperson was in the context that he and Orange County probation officer Lowell Smith were honored because they, according to Mickadeit, "independently did groundbreaking work studying, documenting and suppressing white racist gangs".

Mickadeit goes on to discuss what he describes as the local gang of greatest concern, Public Enemy Number 1, about whom the ADL has produced a 12 page brochure. He mentions that Orange County is the hotbed of PEN1 activity and includes Costa Mesa as one of the four cities, along with Anaheim, Garden Grove and Huntington Beach, in which it is flourishing.

Why do I mention Caspa's interview on the radio and Mickadeit's column on white supremacists in the same posting? Funny you should ask...

In our city there are those who deny the presence and influence of white gangs, focusing, instead on Latino gangs. Some of these same people - the guy mentioned by Caspa during his interview, for one - are also holocaust deniers. All credible law enforcement sources admit that white supremacist gangs -
with their violence, drug manufacture/sale/use and their identity theft activities - are a big problem in our city. During a sweep 18 months ago, when nearly 60 white supremacists were snatched up throughout Orange County, a third of them - 20 - were apprehended at 17 locations in Costa Mesa. To this date our then-mayor, Orange County Deputy Sheriff Allan Mansoor, has never uttered a public comment about that sweep - a fact made even more difficult to understand because one of the reasons for the sweep was because those miscreants had put out "hits" on law enforcement personnel, including sheriff's deputies and prosecutors! How do we explain his silence on this issue when, at the same time, he was jumping up before the media every time a person of dark skin was arrested for any kind of crime? How do we interpret this curious double standard?

Personally, I think the denial of the impact of white supremacist gangs in our city, coupled with the obsession about Latino gangs, is indicative of the influence one man has had on the leaders of our city. It's clear to me, and to Dr. Caspa based on his views presented in his book, that the emphasis on the Latinos among us is a racist effort to expunge men and women of color from our city.

This will be an issue during the upcoming campaign season, regardless who runs for City Council. Members of the current majority - Mayor Eric Bever, for example - and others that follow the drumbeat of intolerance in our city who chose to run for City Council, will be subjected to intensive interrogation on their position about race in our city throughout the campaign.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Gangs, Caspa on Radio, Local Bloggers and Tomorrow's Council Meeting

Over the weekend I finally watched my tape of the Co
sta Mesa City Council Study Session from Tuesday, May 13th. I'm glad I did, because if I had relied on the "report" from one local blogger about the proceedings I'd have had a very different opinion of what occurred.


CMPD Capta
in Les Gogerty provided a brief overview of the current gang program in Costa Mesa - a program that focuses on enforcement since the council rejected an element that would have addressed the intervention/prevention segment a year ago.

Deputy District Attorney Tracy Rinauro, whose full time job is working on gang intervention/prevention, did an excellent job of giving information on intervention activities in Anaheim and, quite
recently, San Juan Capistrano. Many of those program elements she discussed sounded like they might be effectively used in our city.


One thing is sure - Mayor Eric Bever and Councilwoman Kat
rina Foley continue to be flint and steel. The tension between them was palpable during the presentations by Gogerty and Rinauro. It was clear to me that Bever has no interest in doing more on the gang issue until results of the enforcement-only policy can be quantified. This is a typical response by him and his pals. Their solution to a gang problem is to rid our city of anyone who MIGHT become a gang member. You can translate that to mean anyone with brown skin. It was obvious that Bever was angry because Foley had requested the information that was presented to the council in the Study Session. It's one more example of how the so-called "improvers" want to control the information available to residents.

Costa Mesa resident Dr. Humberto Caspa, author of the new, hot-off-the-presses book, "Terror in the Latino Barrio: The Rise of the New Right in Local Government", will be int
erviewed Wednesday morning, May 21st on radio station KPFK, 90.7 FM from 8-9 a.m. For those of you able to block off that hour Wednesday morning I suspect you'll find Dr. Caspa's comments of great interest.

Speaking of local bloggers, I'm not quite sure what's going on over at the CM Press. I fear the poor guy who owns it may be showing signs of early dementia. Twice in the past month he has used duplicate numbers for his entries - number 330 and number 366 each had two separate entries using the same numbers. In the most recent edition of #366 he used a big chunk of his text to tell us all what a wonderful, interesting life he has had. I wonder if he did that as a memory jogger - because he's forgetting who he is these days.

New bloggers "Mr. & Mrs. John Smith" over at the CM Watchtower continue to post strange entries. Twice this month they've made claims of being the "Best Local Blog Around", yet provide no source for that acclaim. I ha
ve this mental image of them saying, "You're Number 1! No, you're Number 1!" I'm still not sure what their focus is - they seem to dislike almost everyone. Perhaps, as the campaign season approaches, we'll get a better idea of what they think will improve our city. I'm not sure just who these folks are, but I think I've got a good idea. More on that at a future date.


And, over on the SantaAnaCentric Orange Juice! blog, the infighting continues. In a H
erculean effort, they changed platforms over the past week or so. The new look is going to work, but it appears to be a much more labor-intensive effort. Time will tell. In the meantime, spats continue between their various contributors. Watching them argue back and forth, accusing each other of deleting comments and posts, makes me very happy that I'm a Lone Ranger here.

The City Council meeting Tuesday, May 20th, promises to be very special. Scheduled events include the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem by the All American Boys Chorus; presentation of Vanguard University's National Champion Women's Basketball Team; proclamations for both Killybrooke and Sonora schools for academic achievement and topped off by the recognition of city employees who reached 25 and 30 years of service. Whew! After that the remainder of the agenda will be boring with a capital "B".

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