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, April 21, 2006

Let There Be Light
An issue in our fair city that is simmering at the moment, but with the potential to burst into full boil within the next few weeks, is the subject of lighted playing fields at our Farm Sports Complex. What makes this such an interesting issue is that it has the potential to derail the political careers of certain local politicians if they vote against adding lights to a couple more fields at the complex.

I doubt you will find a single resident of Costa Mesa that feels we have adequate playing fields in this city. The job that organizers of youth sports have done to negotiate and facilitate the use of available resources over the past few years is nothing short of masterful. They deal with two political entities that sometimes have divergent interests - the school district and city government - while maintaining a single focus. That focus is the health and well-being of the children in this community.

I won't try to re-invent the wheel here. To provide an excellent synopsis of the issue, at the end of this entry I've posted a recent email from Parks and Recreation Commissioner Byron de Arakal to interested parties which is, in fact, a call to arms. I will say, though, that there are some members of our City Council who seem to not have a full appreciation of the need for additional fields in this city. Their attention span and perspective on this issue seems to be limited. Before they cast a vote against additional lighted fields, they need to think hard about the voters in this city they will be offending. One thing is sure, the proverbial "soccer moms and dads" know how to organize and get things done. The skills with which they juggle the demands of work, family and running youth sports organizations are quite easily transferable to the political campaigns that face us this summer. Candidates and incumbents who incur their wrath need to understand that by doing so they potentially place their political future - at least in this city - in jeopardy.

As stated in de Arakal's message, this item will be addressed by the Parks and Recreation Commission at their meeting on Wednesday, April 26th. I join him in encouraging you to show up and stand up for this issue. The future of our city will be in the hands of those young people in need of more places to play and learn the valuable life lessons provided by participation in team sports. The children of this community need your support on this issue. Please join the fight.

Byron de Arakal's message follows:

On March 22 the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission approved by a 3-2 vote a plan to light the remaining fields at the Farm Sports Complex, and recommended to the Costa Mesa City Council that it allocate funding for the lighting of Farm Fields 3 & 4 in the 2006-2007 budget. This was a VERY important action that stands to make a significant contribution to eliminating the long-standing field shortages we have been dealing with for several years now.

Unfortunately, our work is not done. It is not at all certain a majority of the City Council will vote to allocate the funds for the lighting project. If this project is not funded by the City Council, our field issues will continue to worsen to the detriment of our kids, the organized sports they enjoy and the social health of our community.

This is a CALL TO ACTION to mobilize all who participate in organized youth sports in Costa Mesa; parents, kids, coaches, volunteers and sponsors. We MUST make recreation in Costa Mesa a TOP priority, which necessarily means the expansion of the city’s inventory of lighted fields. I therefore URGE every one of you to write and call members of the City Council insisting they support the Farm Field lighting plan and that they allocate funds to light fields 3 an 4 in the 2006-2007 budget. You must also let them know that their decisions relative to youth recreation and the lighting of additional fields at the Farm will influence your vote in November. Communicate CLEARLY to the council that you will hold them accountable at the ballot box, and that the families of the more than 4,000 children who play soccer, baseball and Pop Warner Football in Costa Mesa are a significant, organized voting bloc.

The Council will be considering the Farm field 3 and 4 lighting plan at one of its meetings in May. The exact date of the meeting will be posted to this website. At this meeting, the council must hear loud and clear that you EXPECT its approval of this recommendation. They must also see NUMBERS; sponsors, coaches, parents, kids and other volunteers must attend this meeting. YOU NEED TO PACK THE CHAMBERS. NOTHING LESS.

You are also urged to write and call members of the Parks & Recreation Commission who voted against the Farm Field lighting plan and urge them to reverse their action. They'll have an opportunity to do this at the commission's April 26 meeting. At this meeting the commission will be reviewing staff recommendations for park capital improvement projects for the 2006/2007budget cycle. The lighting of Farm Fields 3 and 4 will be among those recommendations. The commission must hear loud and clear that you EXPECT its approval of this recommendation. Coaches, parents, kids and other volunteers must attend this April 26 meeting. Again, PACK THE CHAMBERS.

This is a critical time for youth sports in Costa Mesa. And it is immensely unfortunate that we have to work this hard to ensure our city leaders make youth recreation among their highest priorities. But, that is the reality we face. If we dare hope to continue to provide youth sports opportunities for our city’s children, we must make certain that the Farm field lighting project is approved, and that we have a city council that is appreciative and supportive of organized youth sports in Costa Mesa. We simply cannot afford to lose this battle.

Sincerely

Byron de Arakal
Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commissioner
10:37 am pdt

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Undergrounding Buried and Your Neighbor Harried
Watching the late proceedings at our City Council meeting Tuesday night was a little like riding the Tea Cups at Disneyland, as Mayor Allan Mansoor and his runnin' buddy, Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever, kept trying to apply spin to the results of the survey the city commissioned on the subject of possible funding mechanisms for the placement of utility wires underground throughout the city.

Despite the fact that the survey amounted to a "push poll" - one in which the initial premise was so heavily weighted in favor of undergrounding the wires that participants might assume the decision to do so had already been made - the results actually showed that the vast majority of those polled couldn't care less about undergrounding. As was so clearly and accurately pointed out by Councilwoman Katrina Foley, despite the fact that this item had received very significant coverage by the press prior to the meeting, there were very few people who showed up to voice an opinion one way or the other. Apathy doesn't even come close to describing the lack of interest in this issue.

Those facts notwithstanding, Mansoor and Bever charged right ahead, reaching into the bowels of the poll for a glimmer of hope. They took the fact that a high percentage of those polled would choose an increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) as a funding mechanism IF the decision was made to underground the utilities and ran with it. They tried to spin that isolated response into a mandate to move forward with undergrounding. Of course, there is no mandate.

The debate was almost comical at times, as Councilwoman Linda Dixon's off-hand remark about setting up some kind of a "slush fund" had City Manager Allan Roeder almost leaping out of his seat to catch those words and somehow stuff them back into her mouth - but the damage was done. He did manage to "save" the moment, though - as always.

The upshot of the discussions was to receive and file the results of the poll, but to recommend that more "education" is needed for the residents of the city. That means a propaganda campaign to try to convince people that a project that will cost well over $1 billion and take somewhere in the area of 80 years to complete is a great idea. Good luck with that one, Mr. Mayor.

For an increase in the TOT to be placed on the ballot in November, the council must make a decision to do that within the next 6 weeks. It doesn't seem likely that will happen considering the almost complete lack of interest in the issue by the residents of this city.

Once again, Mayor Mansoor has demonstrated that he is out of touch with the true feelings of most residents of this city and is being guided by his small knot of supporters, including some with very questionable motives. When he tells us that he's "heard from the community" on an issue, what he really means is that some of his pals have provided him with guidance. As one wag recently put it, "His 'community' would fit in his living room".

Another highlight of the meeting for me was to see a resident who very much resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor, step to the speaker's podium so flustered that, for the first time in memory, he was almost not able to speak. It seems he didn't particularly like being called out by earlier speakers, who continue to use his presence and obvious influence on events as a target for their displeasure with the current council majority. Most observers cannot recall this particular speaker ever having been so rattled in the past. It's about time he got a dose of his own medicine. For years he has stood at the podium and pointedly criticized anyone with a viewpoint divergent from his - including many past and current council members. He's used his "little newsletter" - now a blog - and his many essays on far right wing web sites to slice and dice opponents. It's nice to see residents speaking up about his bullying. Humberto Caspa, for example, gave us a great impression of Howard Beale, the character in the movie NETWORK for which actor Peter Finch won an Oscar, as he stood at the podium and said "we're not going to take it any more", referring to Your Neighbor's intolerant influence in city matters.

Perhaps the mayor's immigration plan has finally awakened the slumbering majority in this city. Perhaps enough will begin to actually pay attention to what's going on and decide that they, too, aren't going to take it any more. We can only hope.

During the Public Comments portion early in the meeting fewer people stood to speak for and against the mayor's plan to cross-designate police officers. Fewer Minutemen appeared, but we were graced by the presence of the Grand Pooba himself, Jim Gilchrist, who again encouraged the mayor - his anointed one - to stay the course. Once again, the most articulate presentations were from Costa Mesa residents, not the outside agitators like Gilchrist, who have no real vested interest in the issue in our city.

The clock ticks and the election season approaches. I can hardly wait...
11:47 am pdt

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Copyright, 2006 - Geoff West