Friday, November 11, 2005
Why The Low Voter Turnout?
An editor of our excellent local newspaper, the Daily Pilot, recently wondered why there was such a low voter turnout last
Tuesday. Why the low voter turnout? We're just too darn busy - that's the reason so few showed up at the polls this time
around. Most of our neighbors lead very busy lives, with barely enough time to chug down a Tub-O-Starbucks, much less invest
the time and mental energy to read through a voter pamphlet and sample ballot. Many who actually do take the time to vote
just dash into the polling place, flip open the ballot, read the title on the issues and mentally toss a coin before making
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As hard as the partisans try, and despite the mountains of money they spend, they just don't do a very good job of waking
the voters up. As loud and as frequently they scream their message, eventually it just becomes part of the ambient noise.
Even when our young mayor appeared on TV, pushing his position on Prop. 75, it apparently wasn't enough to roust the voters
from their routine. Mail boxes are jammed with so much political "literature" as election day draws near that most
of it is tossed directly into the trash, along with the ever-present pennysavers and other junk mail.
The really big issue locally, Proposition F, got lots of publicity, pro and con, for weeks before the election. Either as
a result of all that notoriety, or in spite of it, the $282 million school bond apparently just barely squeaked through by
the skin of it's teeth.
Maybe we need to make some changes to the system. Perhaps we should adopt a system whereby registered voters who don't take
the time to vote would be fined or flogged - or both. If that seems too extreme, perhaps we could just pay every registered
voter to participate. That might insure a healthy turnout.
Or, better yet, maybe I'll start a voting service. All you would have to do is register to vote absentee. Then, when your
ballot arrives each election season you could just sign it and send it off to me along with a nominal fee - say, five bucks
- and I would vote for you. That way you wouldn't have to take time out of your busy day to participate in your government,
I would make a pile of money and eventually end up with absolutely nothing to gripe about. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Geppettos and Pinocchios
You will likely recall the story of Pinocchio, the puppet (a wooden dummy) carved by Geppetto. The poor little marionette
- who wished to be a real human boy - had all kinds of troubles, including a nose that grew if he didn't tell the truth.
The story was turned into a wonderful Disney movie in 1940. Well, here in the land of NewportMesa we have a little scenario
going on that reminds one of that story. We have at least a couple players in town who could certainly pass for some of the
more memorable characters in that delightful story - except for the "delightful" part.
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For example, a couple of our current councilmen do resemble Pinocchio. In fact, so similar are they, that they might be referred
to as the "Pinocchio Brothers". Their thoughts seem to be scripted - almost to the level of Brown Act violations.
These men occupy high positions on our city council, which means they are in a position to control the flow of debate as
it occurs. They can choose to recognize speakers, or not.
Many times it seems that these marionettes have never had an original thought, but rather echo the words of one particularly
persistent activist in town. Which brings me to my next character.
The man in question resembles in many ways the character Geppetto, the kindly old fellow who created the puppets mentioned
above - except for the "kindly" part. He not only pulls the strings, but scripts the dialogue, as well. Such a
master puppeteer is he that he's been able to manipulate events using his creations, the wooden dummies.
Sadly, what seems to be missing from our little scenario is the character of Jimminy Cricket - the conscience for Pinocchio
- because the script in our little puppet show has taken some dark turns recently. We can only hope that, as our drama unfolds,
we will hear the chirping of a "Jimminy Cricket" out there somewhere, trying to set our puppets back on the right
In the meantime, I recommend that you stand back if you get close to the puppets in question - growing noses can be dangerous.
Sunday, November 6, 2005
Bever's Big Night - The Streak's Alive!
I finally had a chance to watch the tape of the November 1st city council meeting and there were several events that stood
out . For example, I was amused by the debate on the encroachment on the public right of way by the owner of the controversial
Huscroft House. Seems he decided to build a wall along the sidewalk that encroached nearly halfway across the required setback.
After lavishing praise on the man for the stellar job he is doing refurbishing the house - it does look pretty good - the
council allowed him to retain the wall and the pond he built in the front yard, even though both represent a potential liability
for the city. The Huscroft House - a gift that keeps on taking.
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I think the evening at the council meeting can best be described as "Eric Bever Night", because the rookie councilman
was the centerpiece of several controversial events that took place. First, he had the warrants - the process by which the
city pays it's bills - removed from the Consent Calendar for separate consideration, then voted "No" when the vote
was called. It seems his nose is still out of joint on the discretionary funds issue and decided to protest the process by
voting "No". This juvenile display of pique is certainly not what most of us expect from our elected leaders.
Later, after some very interesting and enlightening discussion by Mayor Allan Mansoor and Councilman Gary Monahan about what
a wonderful choice Bever would be, he was elected Mayor Pro Tem. Of course, this mostly ceremonial position puts Bever on
an obvious fast track to become this city's next mayor - a disaster, in my opinion. He continues to demonstrate poor judgment
- something that will eventually hurt this city very significantly.
A perfect example was his participation in the discussion of the Poseidon project, which would place a four foot water pipeline
across nearly the entire expanse of the city from the Santa Ana River to the corner of Del Mar and Eldon Avenue. The discussion
on the dais was heated, to say the least. Both Bever and his buddy, Mansoor, came loaded for bear. They rejected a more
moderate approach proposed by councilwoman Linda Dixon - to wait until they actually had a project in front of them to consider.
Instead, Mansoor and Bever led the charge to make a "strong statement" of disapproval. During this discussion
- which did end up with the council voting 3-2, Dixon and Monahan voting "No", to reject any plan to run a pipeline
across the city - Bever used his new platform as Mayor Pro Tem to describe the efforts of the good folks in Huntington Beach
in disparaging terms. He used a four-letter word for excrement to describe the deal they had made with Poseidon. That's
certainly not the kind of language most of us expect from our elected leaders - and certainly not from one so recently anointed
with increased power on the dais. Bever kept alive his streak of making at least one boneheaded statement in each meeting
since he was elected - a sad accomplishment, for sure.
With the next municipal election just a year away, it is certainly not too early to begin to size up potential candidates
for the two seats that will be contested. Even though Mansoor seems to be posturing for higher office these days, there is
no reason to think he won't run again. The vacancy created by Monahan's departure after twelve years on the council will
provide an opportunity to return the city to the guidance of adults with the interests of all residents of this city in mind
- not a narrowly focused, vocal few.