A Bubbling Cauldron
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Welcome to A Bubbling Cauldron, a blog dedicated to the observations and opinions of this writer. Most of the time the subject will be local politics and politicians - those issues and/or people affecting the lives of those of us in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. Occasionally, I might write about something obscure that interests me. Or, I may just launch off into some philosophical rant if the urge moves me. I might even include comments by others from time to time.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Early Reviews and Westside News
Well, after a week, the jury's still out. Some of you who have visited this site apparently like what you read, because you've told me so. Other comments have been "guarded" - probably because they fear being quoted. Others are probably still seething with rage and have not yet been able to type a response.

One old friend, though, made what might be a telling Freudian slip when he referred to this site as "A Babbling Cauldron". I can hear the heads nodding in agreement out there as you read that last sentence.

One of the great things about this medium is that you can choose to read this stuff - or not. This site is not a newsletter, per se. I'm not going to send you a weekly reminder to visit the site. You can bookmark it and visit as often as you like - or not. I'm not going to add content on any particular schedule - I might post something new twice a day. Then, again, I might only post something once a week. As I said in the beginning, this is a work in progress...

On another note, on July 16th our local community newspaper, the Daily Pilot, saw fit to print yet another of my commentaries. As usual, the editors did a good job of polishing my original submission. And, as is sometimes the case, they also chose to delete a segment in it's entirety. They, for some reason, chose to delete my last two sentences, which read: "Thuggery is not leadership. This is not a happy time for our city."

I don't plan to point out editing decisions in the future, but thought this particular example might be informative for you.

***

Daily Pilot
Community Commentary

Published July 16, 2005
Westside war path

By Geoff West

Columnist Jim de Boom, and this writer along with him, were wrong. I whole-heartedly agreed when de Boom suggested, in his annual turkey of the year piece 18 months ago, that Eric Bever flew above that mob -- that he was an eagle -- because of his selfless act of citizenship when he stepped aside so Mike Scheafer could be appointed to the City Council, thus avoiding a costly special election. That was then; this is now.
Now on the council, Bever's smug willingness to virtually put a gun to the head of a property owner by threatening to condemn his business makes me very nervous.

Several months ago, Bever -- elected in November by the slimmest of margins -- quick pitched the process by ignoring the recommendations of the Westside Redevelopment Oversight Committee by moving to place a residential overlay zone over virtually the entire redevelopment area.

This should have been a wake-up call for every resident in this city, because he and the other men on the council have subsequently shown a willingness to play fast and loose with the rules.

Sadly, it comes as no surprise to me that Bever, in his writing to the Pilot on Thursday, reaffirmed his willingness to use the sledgehammer of eminent domain with Triangle Square.

I'm afraid this is just an omen of things to come for residents and property owners in the redevelopment area on the Westside.

All industrial property owners in that area should be quaking in their boots right about now.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain as back-up, the council can now begin to purge the Westside of those businesses they find so offensive and proceed to sell off the property to salivating developers -- who, coincidentally, might just become major campaign contributors.

Eminent domain is supposed to be but one of the tools, such as a scalpel, available to local governments to resolve blighted areas. The way it's beginning to look right now, the tools of choice for this council will be a billy club, brass knuckles or baseball bats, as they flog reluctant property owners into submission.

It sure looks like the majority on the council -- rather than negotiate and provide incentives -- plan, figuratively, to simply drag reluctant property owners into an alley and beat the daylights out of them.

I wonder just how many of us will simply stand by and watch the muggings take place without comment.

I wonder if those Westside residents who stood with cocky smirks on their faces a couple months ago when Bever cast the shroud of the residential overlay over them -- figuring it would solve all their problems -- realize that they may be hoisted on their own petard.

I wonder if they realize that if their little bungalow happens to be in the way of future redevelopment plans, they might also be plucked out and cast aside like some unwelcome weed in a garden.

I wonder how many of us realize that we just might be among the next group of property owners to be threatened, pummeled and pitched overboard.

* GEOFF WEST is a Costa Mesa resident.
10:48 am pdt

Friday, July 15, 2005

Adios, Human Relations Committee
After voting to withhold funding for the Human Relations Committee at a recent council meeting, the Costa Mesa City Council will likely vote to disband that organization at its meeting on July 19th.

I'm trying to decide what this tells me about our City Council, and the city in general. The Human Relations Committee was created by an enlightened City Council in August of 1987, with the expressed mission to: "...advise the City Council on matters of social significance; to recommend and implement projects that will encourage interaction, sharing and understanding of each other's culture's riches; to be a catalyst for the resolution of issues that divide individuals; and to serve as a 'public forum' where citizens of Costa Mesa can address their concerns."

I listened to the comments by council members, Mayor Allan Mansoor specifically, as he stated flat-out that this committee has outlived its usefulness. Of course, since he is a former member of this committee, I guess he should know - right? Or is there more to it than that?

Some observers will recall that the same verbiage was used during the dialogue about the Job Center - that it, too, had outlived its usefulness. At that time I interpreted that comment to mean that the Job Center was in the way of development - an accurate interpretation, as it turns out.

I guess our current City Council no longer has the need to be advised on matters of social significance. I guess the relationships within our city are so trouble-free that we no longer need a group to "recommend and implement projects that will encourage interaction, sharing and understanding of each other's culture's riches". Yeah, right....

It seems to me that the exact opposite is the case. Obviously, there are factions within this city that are at loggerheads. Clearly, there are those who resent the presence of the dominant Latino population on the Westside of town, because they have worked diligently to expunge that group from our borders for many years. Is this not precisely the type of situation the Human Relations Committee was created to handle? What does the willingness of this council to cast aside a group intended to facilitate municipal harmony say about them - and us?

When this act is coupled with this council's reduction of funding for some charitable organizations earlier this year and the apparent distain the majority on the council has for the Recreation Division - the arm of city government which oversees many of the cultural elements within our town - it certainly does not bode well for us as a community.

I fear we are approaching some dark days for our city.
11:29 am pdt

Saturday, July 9, 2005

EMINENT DOMAIN AND THE WESTSIDE
The potential redevelopment of Westside Costa Mesa got a whole lot more interesting recently. On June 23, 2005 the United States Supreme Court ruled in a Connecticut case that eminent domain can be used to force property owners off their land so another entity can replace it to generate more tax revenue. However, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states, in part, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation". In this case that term, "just compensation", is just another way of saying, "way below market value".

If I were a business property owner on the Westside of Costa Mesa I would be shaking in my boots about now. It was bad enough when the residential overlay was approved for the entire area that will permit a willing industrial property owner to sell to a developer and facilitate the integration of residential units in the present industrial area. This recent ruling makes it a whole new ball game. Now eager developers can sweet talk our City Council into using the sledgehammer of eminent domain to oust even the most reluctant of property owners. Do I hear the jingle of campaign finance coins in the air?

You're probably saying to yourself, "Nah, our council members would never do that." Well, don't be too sure. It takes lots of money to successfully run for public office. Eric Bever, for example, managed to round up over $50,000 for his war chest in his slim victory last November. He and his pal, Mayor Allan Mansoor, seem likely to run again - Mansoor in 2006 and Bever in 2008 - so developers with jingling pockets will probably start showing up on their doorsteps pretty soon with plans for the "mansionization" of the Westside.

Ambitious Mayor Pro Tem Gary Monahan, who theoretically is termed out of a council seat after his current tour, might be looking forward to higher office - perhaps County Supervisor. I imagine he will have his ear cocked for the sound of jingling coins, too.

Lest you think the ladies on the dais will be left out, I suspect Katrina Foley and Linda Dixon can expect the developers to come calling, too.

If you're thinking to yourself that this won't affect you, think again. If you own a one of those little, old homes on the Westside in an area that falls under the shroud of the residential overlay, you might be getting a queasy stomach right about now. If you had a cocky smirk on your face a couple months ago when the Westside Redevelopment Oversight Committee's recommendations were usurped by Bever's sleight of hand that put the residential overlay over virtually the entire Westside because you thought it would rid you of obnoxious industrial neighbors, think about this: As I understand this ruling, it would be entirely possible for a residential property owner living in a redevelopment zone to be forced to sell his home for "just compensation" so a new, larger one could be built that would generate more property tax. If your little bungalow just happens to sit on a sliver of land that might be a key acquisition for a larger development, we could soon be seeing your taillights as you head out of town, because you sure won't be able to afford another place in Costa Mesa with the proceeds of your "just compensation".

Are you nervous yet? You should be - especially in this city, where the ruling troika on the City Council has already demonstrated a smug willingness to play fast and loose with the rules.

I, for one, expect to have more than a few sleepless nights about this issue.
2:48 pm pdt

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Copyright, 2006 - Geoff West