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.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

A City Divided
Did you feel it? Last night the fabric of this community began to tear apart.

Shortly after the City Council meeting began, a little after 6:00 p.m., during the Public Comments portion when speakers rose to address the pending closure of the Job Center, the first crack appeared. A proclamation presented by a group of activists who said they represented something called the Costa Mesa Republican Assembly, provided "instruction" to the council in the form of a proclamation by their group on just why closing the Job Center was such a good idea. Their rhetoric was nothing new - just a collection of their "greatest hits" that we've heard from these same people for years. That presentation was countered by several members of the public, who spoke passionately, requesting the council to reconsider the closure. Those pleas fell on deaf ears. The closure of the Job Center is a done deal.

The crack widened, however, when our young mayor Allan Mansoor's proposal to have Costa Mesa police officers trained to become immigration officers was debated. His plan, which had been interpreted to include all field officers, raised hackles throughout the community.

Former mayor and now lame duck councilman Gary Monahan may have defused an incendiary situation and saved the day when he showed up prepared to do battle with his own version of how the city should be involved in screening illegal aliens. His plan would piggyback an as yet incomplete plan by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, a two month old draft of which Monahan used as a study guide for his presentation. He read bits and pieces of the draft, selecting those portions he felt were important and leaving out much of the meat of the plan.

He sprung his scheme on his fellow council members and the audience, as well. None apparently had seen his plan until the moment he unveiled it on the dais. Of course, none in the audience could begin to form cogent questions since they had no clear idea of his plan. Basically, he wanted to join the Sheriff's Department in their plan, whenever it evolves and, separately, prepare an agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE) for the training of those few civilian jailers who are qualified.

The entire debate on this subject took more than four hours, including nearly three hours of public comment during which 71% of those who spoke were against any plan for the use of any members of the Costa Mesa Police Department as immigration officers.

Our young mayor, a deputy sheriff and jailer himself, was the subject of much verbal abuse. Perhaps the low point was when one speaker vilified the mayor in language previously only heard on The Sopranos - or in any high school locker room. The fuming mayor called a short break, after which the debate and abuse continued. He did have his supporters, though. Of those few who spoke in support of the plan, most were members of his tight knot of compadres who have anointed themselves as "Westside Improvers". They offered nothing new to the debate - only the same, self-serving, worn-out rhetoric designed to evoke fear among old-timers on the Westside.

It was clear to anyone watching the proceedings last night - which actually ended at 1:35 this morning - that this issue has polarized large parts of this community. Speaker after speaker decried Mansoor's plan as a move that would burn bridges of trust built over the past couple of decades between the rapidly growing Latino community and the police department. Perhaps, during the time it will take for the Sheriff's Department to get their plan moving, there will be opportunities for our city leaders - such as they are - to stamp out those fires of distrust.

Among the things we learned last night was the fact that Mansoor would even consider such a move has made more than a few folks angry. When one speaker called him a "racist pig" twice, the second time preceded by a word normally used to describe a sex act in progress, he was visibly shaken. Another spoke of the probability of his plan being part of a broader scheme to create a "Latino-free" Westside. Another speaker threatened to do all in his power to block the re-election of any council member who voted for either plan. The beat continued on and on.

Acronyms were flying as members of LULAC, MALDEF, OCCCO and the ACLU took the podium to renounce the plans, and to warn of fractured trust and possible legal action if they went forward.

One thing is very clear. The plans approved last night will not have a significant impact on violent crime in this city - which is dropping, by the way. The cost in time and manpower to handle each potential deportee will more than offset any value of this plan. This was all just a political ploy to gain notoriety for our young, ambitious mayor - who apparently feels a few moments in the spotlight are more important than the damage such actions leave in his wake within the community. Fortunately, that issue can be corrected in a less than a year, when the voters of this city enter the voting booth to select two new council members.

In the meantime, don't blink or turn your back on these guys. Your civil rights might be the next ones trampled.
5:23 pm pst

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Copyright, 2006 - Geoff West