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 26, 2005

Inappropriate Influence?
Recently, we witnessed some unusual activity by a couple of our city council members - unusual, but probably not illegal.

At a recent Planning Commission meeting councilman Eric Bever - a former planning commissioner - stood at the speakers podium before the commission as they considered an agenda item having to do with "storefront churches". He expressed his opinion, and what he said was the opinion of his pal - Mayor Allan Mansoor, against such entities. At the time I thought it was curious that a sitting councilman would take the time to formally advise his appointees of his opinion and found myself wondering how that affected the deliberations on the subject.

Then, just before the most recent Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, Mayor Mansoor apparently had an email distributed to commission members expressing his opinion on an issue that was to be heard that evening. My understanding is that some of the commissioners had no time to read and consider that correspondence prior to the meeting. Again, I find myself wondering about the propriety of this action - slipping a bit of information to the commissioners just before they began deliberations.

In both these instances it certainly looks like Mansoor and Bever were trying to pressure the commissions to vote the way they directed.

The male majority on our current city council has radicalized the process and have demonstrated a willingness to play fast and loose with the rules ever since they were seated following the November, 2004 elections. They've attempted to launch debate of subjects which had not been agendized, ignored the recommendations of citizen committees assigned to evaluate and make recommendations and have ignored opinions of the minority on the council. They've attempted to manipulate the debate on issues by slipping notes to each other on the dais instead of simply voicing their opinions so the public could hear them. Having watched these guys in action for more than half a year, there is no doubt in my mind that their preference would be to exclude public participation in any decisions and simply pre-fabricate solutions prior to any public debate.

The way things are going, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see Gary Monahan, the swing vote on the male majority who is termed-out next year, try to get the rules changed so the position of Mayor would be directly elected by the people instead of being selected by his peers on the council. That could effectively anoint the winner with even more power than is presently the case. I suspect Monahan would love to be the anointed one, perched on the throne of power for years to come.

If the majority on this council continues unchallenged down their path of attempted strong arm tactics and behind the scenes manipulation, it looks like they might successfully pull off a bloodless coup and turn this city into a dictatorship, run by the ruling troika.

A word of caution to them, though. This is the kind of activity that spawns recalls. If the residents of this city lose confidence in their elected officials to the point that they feel mislead, manipulated and abused, such a remedy is possible. It only take a few signatures on a petition to start that ball rolling.
11:10 am pdt

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Skate Park - Finally!
On a perfect day for skating, Costa Mesa dedicated it's brand new Volcom Skate Park yesterday. In attendance there was an enthusiastic throng of residents, past and current city officials, staff members and eager skaters, ready to get rollin'.

This park, the first such facility in our city, is a generation overdue. Some of the prime movers in this process were children when they first began asking for a skate park and now they have skating kids of their own. The delay notwithstanding, the facility is wonderful and the young people using it seemed to be pleased. I guess a million bucks can buy happiness.

It was supremely ironic to watch the four city council members who made it to the ceremony line up for the ribbon-cutting and to consider that three of them had nothing at all to do with it being built and Mayor Allen Mansoor was not an enthusiastic supporter of the project. That didn't keep him from donning borrowed pads and helmet and briefly skating cautiously on the flat spots on the course while mugging for the cameras. Ah, the perks of power...

I was pleased to see former councilman Mike Scheafer at the dedication. The skaters of this city owe him a debt of gratitude, because it was his persistence during his short tenure on the council that got this ball rolling.

Congratulations to all involved for a job well done, and thanks to the young new millionaires at Volcom who have provided sponsorship for this facility. Now it's time to get moving on more venues, so all the children of this city can enjoy their passion for skating. Rather than try to find another large hunk of land for another large facility, my suggestion is to consider carving out several smaller pieces in the numerous neighborhood "pocket parks" around this town. Each could be different from the others in size and complexity, but would provide assessable locations for more of our children to skate safely.
2:59 pm pdt

Monday, August 22, 2005

Apparently Someone Does Care
My entry dated August 18, 2005 entitled "Does Anyone Care?" seems to have hit a nerve with some folks in this little slice of paradise. I've received several comments on this issue and want to share a couple of them with you.

***

One note came from a local educator - a person with impeccable credentials and a unique perspective on local issues. The following is excerpted from her message:

"It is not just the cities of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach where there is a lack of interest and participation in government. And it is ironic that we are fighting a war and spending billions of tax dollars to bring democracy to the Middle East when most of our citizens don't participate in the democratic process in their own country. The underbelly of a democracy is an informed electorate, and clearly that is lacking in our country. News has to be entertaining and visual and reporting about complex issues does not lend itself to those formats. As Neal Postman said over 30 years ago, "we are amusing ourselves to death." I have been teaching MBA students at UCI for 25 years, and increasingly find many of them don't read a newspaper, are not aware of who represents them, don't vote, and appear to have no concern about how laws and appointments made by their elected and appointed representatives impact their lives. And these students are our future leaders. Not sure how to change this. Wish I knew!

Judy B. Rosener, Ph.D.
Paul Merage School of Business
UCIrvine"

***

Business owner and community activist Mirna Burciaga wrote to share the difficulties she encountered when she first decided to get involved. After a lengthy description of the trials she and her family experienced as she tried to fix a problem in this community - in which she took on the powers-that-be and prevailed - she commented, "Many people donít voice their concerns or participate because they donít want to put themselves in risk of retaliation or to be criticized."

She went on to comment that she intends to continue to be involved in community activities because she's concerned about this city's direction. Again, to quote her as she addressed her perception of the feelings of most of the residents of our city: "I believe that the majority are very concerned about the road that our city is taking, to see how our city council is voting, how the majority of the council is making decision after decision based on their political or personal agendas."

***

Those are but two voices from within our community - one from a concerned academic and the other from a person battle-tested in the municipal trenches. Each, for different reasons, affirmed my opinion and left me even less comfortable with the current condition of political awareness and community involvement.

I suspect there might be other viewpoints floating around out there and I'd be happy to hear them. Those would be shared only after specific permission is granted by the writer - and maybe not at all. If you choose to enlighten me, please go to the "Share Your Opinion" page, click on the link to email me.
10:59 pm pdt

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Copyright, 2006 - Geoff West