Monday, October 29, 2018

This Election Is Too Important To Be Silent

Eighteen months ago, in the wake of my wife's retirement and my previously-mentioned health issues, I retired this blog.  At that time I presumed the restoration of my health and our anticipated travel would preclude me from giving enough attention to issues in Costa Mesa to justify the time it takes to produce this content.
Instead, although I throttled-back my meeting attendance to almost nil and paid a reduced amount of attention,  I didn't stop watching completely and I burped out frequent Facebook posts with my observations.  However, times have changed a little, to the point where I think it's important for me to comment here on our upcoming elections.  I don't know what the future holds for the blog - or for me, for that matter - but I may post things here on a very reduced schedule, so stay tuned.  And now, about this election...
I've lived in Costa Mesa for more than 45 years - 46, if you count the short time I rented a little studio apartment just off 19th Street in the mid-60's.  I've written about all things political in our city for more than a fifteen years, both in local newspapers and here on my blog.  I have never seen such a contentious, divisive political season in all my years as a Costa Mesan, and I'm concerned that our city might not recover from the wounds being inflicted in this campaign.  Civility is a lost art in our town these days.

For the first time in it's 65 year history Costa Mesa voters will select council members by district, launching a potential "Balkanization" of our town, pitting one district's interests against others.  This was predicted several times from the dais by Jim Righeimer - the man who eventually orchestrated this mess.  And, for the first time, the mayor of our city will be directly elected by the voters instead of being chosen by council members from among their peers.  The only advantage of having a directly-elected mayor is that an incumbent can't be ousted by a capricious, petulant, agenda-driven majority in the future.  It will take another vote of the people to cast aside a mayor in the future.

Since the campaigning began in earnest this summer two clear factions have emerged.  One, which includes current mayor Sandra Genis, current council member and former mayor Allan Mansoor (running for the District 5 seat), unknown newcomer Michelle Figueredo-Wilson (running for the District 4 seat) and Brett Eckles (running for the District 3 seat), appears to be largely funded by developer interests and other friends of termed-out councilman Jim Righeimer and former mayor Steve Mensinger - who was soundly defeated in his run for re-election two years ago in a statement by the voters that they'd had enough of their pro-developer schemes.

The other faction is led by former mayor Katrina Foley and includes outstanding candidates Arlis Reynolds (District 5), Andrea Marr (District 3) and Manuel Chavez (District 4).  More about this team later...
The Genis faction has chosen a very vicious, back-stabbing, divisive tack, spewing lies and other fabrications to cast a shadow on Foley, in particular, but also includes attacks on the others in her faction.  This has fractured old friendships throughout the city and may have done long term damaged to the very fabric of our city.  The Foley faction, meanwhile, has focused on presenting their qualifications for office, citing their strong education credentials, career successes and previous public service, instead of rolling around in the political mud with their opponents.

Steve Chan (District 4) and Rebecca Trahan (District 5) are outliers and bring little for the voters to consider, but both tilt strongly toward the Genis faction, which could complicate the votes in their districts.

In this most unpleasant campaign season Mansoor, a divisive councilman throughout his career with two years left on his at-large term, has chosen to attack Foley with lies and deceit rather than actually taking on Reynolds for the District 5 seat.  Clearly, he knows he has nothing to lose, since he will be sitting on the dais the first week of December when the results are certified no matter which way this campaign goes.  Perhaps he's contemplating a run for mayor in 2020 and figures he can fool the voters, again - who knows?

Similarly, Genis - also with two years remaining on her at-large seat -  will still be sitting on the dais even if she loses the mayor's race to Foley, who will be out without a seat once the music stops unless she prevails on November 6th.  The Genis team has chosen to unleash a blistering social media (perhaps "anti-social" is more appropriate) attack on Foley, spreading lies and falsehoods to all who would read them.  Foley, on the other hand, has taken the high road, remaining focused on guiding her team of volunteers in positive actions - meet-and-greets, letter-writing, knocking on doors, placement of signs throughout the city - instead of engaging the opposition in combat on those sites.

Genis has a long and, until recently, illustrious political career in Costa Mesa. She's a former mayor, with service on the council dating back 30 years.  No one can question her contributions to our city, both as a council member and as a private citizen.  However, more than a year ago she changed and that change manifested itself most clearly in her unwarranted, unexplained and unceremonious ousting of Foley as mayor a year ago - despite the fact that she, herself, nominated Foley for that slot - and having herself placed in that job by a 3-2 vote.  Mansoor and Righeimer joined her in that vote.  Previously viewed as an intelligent, independent thinker, with only the good of the city guiding her moves on the council, she has shifted her focus and aligned herself with the developer-oriented folks who seem eager to pave over every single square foot of earth in our city.  These are the very folks who, only a short time ago, vilified, ridiculed and chided her mercilessly and attempted to sabotage her last campaign - straight out of the OC GOP playbook that we saw in action in the 48th District Primary combat between Scott Baugh and Dana Rohrabacher.   It's difficult to see how the city benefits from this new alliance, since the voters spoke overwhelmingly two years ago that they'd had enough of that kind of governance.
My wife and I mailed our completed ballots off to the Registrar of Voters last Wednesday and they included our votes for Foley.  This time around we get no vote for our council district, Number 6 - that will wait until 2020.  If we could have, we would have also voted for Arlis Reynolds - a hometown woman with an M.I.T. engineering degree, a successful career and strong community volunteer history, including currently serving as the Vice Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission; Andrea Marr - a Naval Academy graduate with five years of service in the United States Navy where she led sailors in hostile waters and has shown a strong volunteer spirit, serving on two important committees, since moving to our city 6 years ago; and Manuel Chavez, another home-grown product of our schools and a UCI graduate who, despite his youth, has been heavily involved in his community since a child.  Nobody has a better feel for residents of the district and the needs of District 4 than Manuel Chavez.

My concern is how this city comes together after this campaign.  How will those campaign combatants reconcile their differences, resolve the bad feelings generated over the past couple months and find ways to work together for the good of all our residents?  We've seen this campaign fracture old alliances and friendships.  How do those get repaired?  In my view, that will take strong leadership - something Katrina Foley has clearly demonstrated throughout her political and volunteer career, and especially during her year as mayor, when she guided the prioritization of issues for the future of our city.  Genis has not shown leadership since ousting Foley.  Quite the contrary - Genis has allowed others - Righeimer and Mansoor -  to guide the ship during her recent mayoral tenure.

The future of our city is in the hands of the voters, who will cast their ballots in the most important election since the formation of this city.  I hope they do it with care.  I hope they will select Katrina Foley, Arlis Reynolds, Andrea Marr and Manuel Chavez to lead our city into the future.

In recent elections we've had races decided by fewer than 50 votes, so it's very important that every registered voter take the time to exercise this responsibility.  PLEASE VOTE!

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