Friday, September 16, 2005
Quakes, Skating Vagrants, Boundary Creep and High-Tech Viewing
First, let me direct your attention to the list on the left of this page. I've added a new page, The Big One - Fiction or
Prediction?, and encourage you to take a few minutes to read it. I'll leave the page up for awhile, so you can refer your
friends to it.
4:00 pm pdt
I hear that our Costa Mesa City Council is considering a novel plan to rid Lion's Park in the downtown area of vagrants.
The male majority is hot to build the next large skate park in town at that location, sacrificing the softball field to the
skaters. In a city trying desperately to find more fields for the youth of this community, I fail to see how this plan makes
any sense. This is just another smokescreen.
If the problem is the vagrants, the city should fix the leaky ceiling at the police sub-station across the street, staff it
and "encourage" the vagrants to find other places to sleep in the middle of the day. Mothers with their children
should be able to use the park without fear of encountering scruffy bums sleeping under the trees.
This city has almost 30 parks. Certainly, space can be carved out in one or more of them for mini-skate parks so children
can safely engage in that sport at a location near their homes.
From their actions, I'm beginning to think that Allan Mansoor and Eric Bever - men without children of which we are aware
- have no clue about the needs of the youth in this community. These are issues to consider next year during the election
Rumor has it that some of our neighbors may have been encroaching on Canyon Park - planting trees, building fences, installing
irrigation systems - on the public right-of-way in the park. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the city will be
with their enforcement of the boundaries, as they were recently with a similar situation at Fairview Park.
Costa Mesa is in the process of making most important meetings available for viewing via streaming video. It's a work in
progress, but sure seems to provide a valuable service to those of us who are at least semi-computer literate. The days of
my video tape recorder may be numbered.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Byron de Arakal and Obese Consent Calendars
Commentator Byron de Arakal, in his contribution in the Daily Pilot Sunday, hit the nail right on the head. His observation
and quantification of the bloating of the consent calendar during recent City Council meetings made it very easy for even
the most casual observer to understand the problem. When he tells us that, based on his analysis, over the past three months
the council attempted to handle items representing $22.7 million - 21% of the city's budget - via the consent calendar, it
sure got my attention. In fact, when I called him to verify his numbers he told me that he made a little error - that those
numbers were for the last three meetings, not months! So, the problem is even more serious than he, and I, first thought!
8:19 am pdt
In my opinion, the expanding consent calendar is just a symptom of a broader problem in this city. To me, a more than casual
observer of things going on at City Hall, it represents an example of questionable and inadequate leadership in this city.
One only had to watch the most recent City Council meeting on September 6th to understand what I mean. That meeting ended
up being a disjointed affair, with the agenda shuffled like a deck of cards in an attempt to accommodate the large and diverse
constituencies present that evening. Mayor Pro Tem Gary Monahan had the agenda juggled so an issue involving approvals for
a restaurant co-owned by his pal and protege', Planning Commission Chairman Bill Perkins, could be heard early. He then took
the rest of the night off, leaving the other four members of the council to deal with the remainder of the agenda. The obese
consent calendar only contributed to the confusion.
This council, under the leadership of Mayor Allan Mansoor, has changed the rules several times since it was seated, but accomplished
only the perpetuation of chaos on the dais. For example, earlier this year they decided they needed to shorten the meetings,
so they moved to cut them off at midnight. However, since that decision we've seen meetings stretch on into the wee hours
even more frequently.
Combine that with the almost under-handed way some council members have attempted to sneak items onto the agenda under the
radar or to engage in debate of subjects not on the agenda and you have a formula for corruption. Their attitude and heavy-handedness
may be best demonstrated by two examples. First, the way they handled the closure of the Job Center earlier this year. Second,
the way they first de-funded, then disbanded, the Human Relations Committee without notification to the group or acknowledgment
of their efforts on behalf of this city.
A cynical person might observe that this council - at least, the current ruling troika - seems to be dedicated to the reduction
of citizen participation and the information made available to them. It certainly appears that their preference is to avoid
any debate that might interfere with their pre-fabricated decisions.
Then there is the appearance of catering to one particularly persistent activist in this town - a man who took the podium
on September 6th to complain to the council about what he perceived to be unwarranted criticism of his influence. This, from
a man who appears to have never met a microphone he didn't love or a podium he didn't embrace. He can't have it both ways.
He can't jump in front of the spotlight, then complain when it follows him back into his hole. He can't expect people to
give his opinion credence without wondering about his motivation. If he doesn't like the attention, he can simply stay out
of the spotlight.
I find it ironic that it was de Arakal's commentary more than three years ago that also dealt with the leadership, or lack
thereof, in this city that prompted me to write my very first letter. Time passes, players come and go but things don't change
much, do they?
In the two weeks since Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast we've heard pundit after pundit rant about the failures
by politicians and bureaucracies in their responsiveness to the crisis as it unfolded. We've all probably heard enough about
that, but one thing is clear in my mind - leadership is the key to handling any kind of crisis and what we saw along the gulf
coast was a failure of leadership.
For this reason, I find myself wondering about how our city would fare in such an event. Do our elected leaders have enough
wisdom, intelligence, integrity and maturity to be responsive in a crisis? Do they have the leadership qualities so essential
to bring us through something like, for example, a major earthquake? These questions alone should be enough to encourage
more residents of this city to pay attention and speak up when they don't like or understand something that's going on in