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.

Friday, August 12, 2005

St. Andrew's Decision Lacked Solomon's Wisdom
After years of planning, negotiation, debate, and demonstrations - during which it seemed that neither side of the issue could be satisfied - I guess I'm not really surprised that the Newport Beach City Council, in the wee hours of the morning Friday, made a decision that pleased no one.

At a time when the good people of Newport Beach were looking to their elected leaders for the proverbial "Wisdom of Solomon", they came away disappointed. Unlike the outcome of Solomon's decision in the "disputed baby" story, each side in the St. Andrew's case is left holding their respective halves of the divided child. The church finds itself with a project slashed by nearly 60%, probably wondering if it's worth the time, expense and trouble now. The residents of the adjoining neighborhood find themselves burdened with the specter of more traffic, noise and turmoil - just not quite as much as originally planned.

Our friends in Newport Beach learned something early Friday morning that we here in Costa Mesa have known for a long time - politicians usually don't make good decisions when their meetings stretch beyond midnight.
9:45 am pdt

Thursday, August 11, 2005

St. Andrew's Church Expansion - A Pasture Too Small
Like many residents of this area, I've been following the whole St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church expansion issue closely. I've tried to keep an open mind while digesting the views presented by both sides. I do not attend that church, but have friends who do. I don't live in the immediate area, but have friends and relatives who do. My daily travels take me in close proximity to the church location, so I'm familiar with the neighborhoods in question.

It's hard for me to imagine a more emotional issue. On the one hand you have a highly respected community church, going about it's business of "doing good" and providing religious guidance to it's congregation. On the other hand you have the neighbors surrounding this church who, while not in disagreement with the mission of the church, are impacted daily by it's current size and are staggered by the proposal for it's expansion, which will be considered by the Newport City Council tonight. After years of negotiation, there certainly seems to be no common ground to be found.

The arguments have escalated from reasoned discourse to accusations of, at least, faulty memories on both sides - maybe more than that. The demonstration by residents last weekend certainly illustrated the passion some in the neighborhood have for this issue. The local newspaper of record, the Daily Pilot, today published an extremely well-written editorial in favor of the proposed expansion. On the same page they published a commentary from a resident that described the demonstration Sunday in very negative terms, comparing it to the raucous and sometimes violent desegregation demonstrations in the deep South in the 1960s - an unfair and inaccurate comparison, but one sure to inflame opinions on both sides. In it's defense, the Daily Pilot has seemed to try to present arguments from both sides of this issue over many, many months.

So, into the arena of opinion I toss mine. This actually seems to be a pretty simple problem. It's a question of size. St. Andrew's - formerly a nice, comfortable neighborhood church - began to morph two decades ago when it first expanded. No longer is the congregation made up primarily of neighbors who could walk to services. Now, according the recent reports, the vast majority drive significant distances to receive spiritual guidance from a very dynamic pastor, Dr. John Huffman.

It appears to me that this good shepherd has allowed his flock to grow too large for his pasture. It has certainly over-grazed the good will of the neighborhood. The only good solution to this problem is for Dr. Huffman to do what any good shepherd would do - find a new pasture, gather his flock and move on to a location where it can flourish. The proposed church is just too big for it's present site.
11:02 am pdt

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

TriTunnel Express - Tunnels in Search of a Destination
The TriTunnel Express, a scheme that has been bouncing around for a few years now and the most recent fantasy conjured up to resolve Orange County's transportation woes, has made the news again recently.

The first time I heard of it was during a presentation by Jack Wagner, Executive Director of the Orange County Regional Airport Authority as he peddled the idea before the Costa Mesa City Council more than eighteen months ago. His pitch at the time was that this project - three multi-use tunnels between Orange County and Riverside County - was the answer to Orange County's air transportation problems. Novel idea, huh? A tunnel to solve air transportation problems - imagine that.

During his presentation this contemporary reincarnation of P.T. Barnum told us not to worry about the cost. He told us that, even though this latest hustle would cost over $3 billion (that estimate has now risen to nearly $6 billion) it would be financed by bonds - but if it didn't "pencil out" it wouldn't be built. If that has a familiar ring to it, just remember the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road - the last "great" Orange County transportation idea that is now hemorrhaging money like a burst aorta. I find it interesting, by the way, that some members of the same management team that guided the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road into a quagmire of red ink are lined up to operate the tunnels, too.

He went on to tell us how the three tunnels would carry not only automobiles and trucks, but would also include a gasoline pipeline. I've gone to their slick web site recently, the link for which can be found on my Useful Links page, and found that, in it's latest permutation, two of the tunnels would each actually carry cars, fiber optic cables, an oil pipeline and a 500,000 volt electrical transmission line. Now, there's a formula for a real E-Ticket Ride!

When the subject of safety came up Wagner assured us that, despite the fact that the tunnels would cross four active earthquake faults, they would be perfectly safe. As mentioned again in a recent news piece, he quoted Dr. Charles F. Richter of Richter Scale fame as stating that a tunnel is the safest place to be in an earthquake. I suspect the good doctor didn't have in mind a tunnel crossing four active fault lines, filled with flammable liquids and containing a convenient 500,000 volt ignition source. The image of Saddleback Peak being launched toward Catalina Island following a quake and resultant explosion floats in my cranium as I contemplate this project. Yes, sir - I'm going to run for those tunnels at the first sign of "The Big One".

And then there's the engineering challenge of venting the exhaust fumes of 120,000 cars a day from tunnels twelve miles long below a couple thousand feet of Saddleback Peak. Sure, I suspect the technology is there but, like almost everything else in life, it simply becomes a function of time and money.

During that presentation near the end of 2003 we were also told that consultants would be paid a premium for the initial planning so it could be compressed into one year instead of the normal three required because time was of the essence - that Orange County freeways would be in a state of perpetual gridlock by 2010. That sounded a little suspicious, but to the proponents it made perfect sense. If you have an extremely questionable plan you simply speed up the process so it can slide past the residents of the county unnoticed. Here we are, more than eighteen months later, with the proponents in a flat-out sprint and gaining momentum.

The Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles has jumped aboard this project recently because it apparently sees a way to move water from the Inland Empire to Orange County at a reasonable cost by piggybacking the transportation tunnels. To me, that's the only part of this thing that makes sense.

As bizarre as this project was initially, it has become even more so recently. Recent news reports now inform us that the good folks in the Inland Empire don't want a commercial airport at the site of the former March Air Force Base - the primary reason for this triple hole in the ground in the first place. So, much as the now-dozing CenterLine light rail project was a train to nowhere, this hole into which somebody will be asked to dump money by the ton is a transportation corridor in search of a destination. The proponents of this plan are in a tizzy trying to figure out how they can hang a left turn mid-tunnel and end up popping out of the mountain somewhere close to the Ontario Airport to meet their objective of relieving Orange County's air transportation problems.

Let us summarize: Nearly $6 billion to build it; no destination; four active earthquake faults; two oil pipelines; two 500,000 volt electric lines; the exhaust from more than 120,000 cars and a management team with track record of red ink on these kinds of projects. Yep, that sounds like a great idea to me. This is yet another pie-in-the-sky scheme being foisted off on the gullible residents of Orange County. Hopefully, enough of us will wake up, stand up and speak up against this one before it goes any further.

I'm not saying everything is wonderful transportation-wise in Orange County. The 91 corridor through the Santa Ana Canyon is a disaster almost any time of any day. Clearly, it's time to solve that problem, but double-stacking that right-of-way makes much more sense than the tunnels. All the TriTunnel Express does is divert precious fiscal and intellectual resources from actual, workable solutions.
10:24 am pdt

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Cloning Around In Costa Mesa
I've been reading and watching the news coverage of the South Korean scientist who apparently cloned an Afghan hound recently. Some of that coverage has included a photograph of the donor and it's "offspring", if that's what you call something created by scraping a few cells from the donor's ear then soaking them in some kind of magic potion in a test tube. Granted, there is a heck of a resemblance between the two. Amazing!

Most of the articles went on to talk about Dolly, the sheep that was cloned some time ago and then further speculated about when human cloning might occur.

Well, in case you hadn't noticed, it's already happened right here in Costa Mesa. Yes, sir - all you have to do is look at our lame duck Mayor Pro Tem, Gary Monahan, and then at his shadow, Planning Commission Chairman Bill Perkins and you'll understand what I mean. Since Monahan has taken young Perkins under his wing the two seem to be morphing into one entity.

Word has it now that Perkins is launching himself into a career as restaurant owner - just like his mentor. He's apparently teaming up with a fellow who has presented more than one project to the Planning Commission on which Perkins has served. His current project - the one in which Perkins is identified as a partner - is scheduled to be addressed by the commission on August 8th. Don't you find that interesting? I sure do. A skeptical person might be curious about that situation, don't you think?

It will be especially interesting to see if the remaining four members of the commission - without Perkins, because he must excuse himself from the deliberations - will follow staff's recommendations and deny part of the concessions being requested. If they do, will the applicant appeal it to the City Council and will the council - with Monahan voting - overturn the appeal? Should be interesting.
7:20 pm pdt

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Copyright, 2006 - Geoff West