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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.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Losing Expertise and Windy Wendy
What the heck is going on at City Hall? At Wednesday night's Parks & Recreation Commission meeting Jana Ransom, the head of the Recreation Division, announced the departure of a couple of her key people. I've also heard that at least one key person in the Finance Department is departing.

Combine this with the recent departure of the Police Chief and the anticipated retirement of the Fire Chief and it looks like we've got trouble in River City! And, I'm led to believe that this may just be the beginning of an exodus of senior staffers who have become tired of dealing with the current council and the inane demands they place on the staff, so will take advantage of their retirement benefits and bail out.

For example, last night a couple hours were spent discussing Paularino Park. This issue is driven by one lone resident who complained so persistently about marauding soccer players in that park - no other residents have come forward with this complaint and Recreation staff and law enforcement do not see it as a problem - that hundreds of hours of staff time have been devoted to "fixing" a problem that doesn't exist. The resident in question - it will come as no surprise for you to learn - is the man who resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor.

I, for one, am getting very tired of this jerk tying up valuable staff time trying to accomplish his agenda. He spends hours each week skulking around City Hall, gathering information for his "little newsletter", er, blog. More often than not, he gathers bits and pieces, then fabricates an issue from whole cloth. This whole "Paularino Park" issue is just one of his many attempts to make life miserable for the Hispanics in this community. (Yes, I said "Hispanics". I don't have to follow the Los Angeles Times style book here in my blog, so I'll just go with the term the federal government uses.)

It's interesting to note that the Orange County blog world has discovered this guy and have pilloried him and his relationship with the majority on the City Council for most of the past couple weeks. It's about time someone else started shining the light of truth on him and his activities and agenda.


The Parks & Recreation Commission meeting last night was very enlightening. We had a chance to watch the Chairwoman, Wendy Leece, in action again.

Leece, the anointed running mate of our young jailer/mayor for a council seat in November, demonstrated for us again just how ill-prepared she is for any kind of a leadership role in our community. Even though she has several years on the School Board under her belt and 18 months on the Parks & Recreation Commission, she has absolutely no clue about how to run a meeting. She lacks focus and preparedness. She just talks and talks and talks until she runs out of things to say - then talks some more. Watching her attempt to discuss an issue is like watching someone watching a tennis match. She twists her head from side to side, attempting to be sure she's got her peers attention - like some kind of drug-crazed owl. I half expect her to do an impersonation of Linda Blair in The Exorcist one of these evenings, with her head spinning like a top! Watching her try to conduct these meetings is like watching a Tupperware party, except without all the cool burping boxes. Leece maintains no discipline on the dais - it's all chatter, all the time. She certainly doesn't have the skill set to perform on the City Council. It was especially frustrating watching her pander to the activist mentioned above, although not at all surprising, since she's one of his devoted disciples.

I suspect watching her during her campaign will be like watching someone trying to cross a stream by jumping from one slippery rock to the next. I'm betting she'll get her feet wet more than once on that journey.
10:18 am pdt

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Your Neighbor's Wishful Thinking
We had an interesting event here in the land of Newport-Mesa. A guy who closely resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor, posted an entry on his blog - which he pretends is an actual news vehicle - in which he scooped the world by announcing that former mayor, Arlene Schafer, had pulled papers to run for City Council again.

Turns out that he, once again, was wrong, wrong, wrong. Apparently as he was skulking around City Hall, digging up information, he observed Schafer in a conference room with the acting City Clerk and jumped to the conclusion that she was pulling papers for council. As I understand it, she was actually handling some paperwork having to do with her position on the Costa Mesa Sanitary District. Your Neighbor had to publish a retraction today, no doubt gritting his teeth as he typed the words.

Incidentally, Arlene Schafer is not related to council candidate Mike Scheafer - whose name Your Neighbor continues to misspell. Even a Mensa member should do his homework.

So, Your Neighbor manages to fabricate yet another event for his readers. I'm sure he was hoping that Schafer's presence on the ballot for City Council would throw a monkey wrench into the plans of other candidates and the good folks at Return to Reason. Sorry, Mr. Neighbor - you'll just have to look for joy elsewhere as you contemplate the very real possibility that our young jailer/mayor might get bounced in November.

Speaking of whom, I've visited his web site, trying to see what he will be using as campaign issues this year. Good luck with that. Right now, the only information you can get from his site is how to volunteer and give money. There's no biographical information, no campaign platform - the important stuff for voters to consider.

For more on Mansoor please refer to my previous blog entry.
4:50 pm pdt

Monday, July 24, 2006

Measuring Mansoor
As we slide into the summer and, coincidentally, the campaign season, I thought it was time to begin to assess some of the candidates for City Council. We'll begin with our young jailer/mayor, Allan Mansoor, who was elected to his position almost four years ago, when he whipped then-sitting Mayor Linda Dixon.

Do you remember how your parents used to back you up against a door jamb and mark your height to measure your growth. Well, since his election in 2002 Mansoor actually seems to have diminished in stature. Let us contemplate ten reasons we should not return Mansoor to the City Council in November.

Although at first he looked and sounded like a nice, earnest young man who was eager to make positive change in this city, he has proven to be easily led and susceptible to direction by those among us who have a sinister agenda. One good example of this trait is his coronation as an honorary Minuteman by co-founder Jim Gilchrist, who stroked our young jailer/mayor so deftly I thought I could hear him purring. And, of course, there is the undeniable influence by one particular activist in town who spouts racist views in his voluminous internet essays.

Despite the fact that the Job Center had proven to be a big part of a solution to loitering day-laborers after it was created by an enlightened City Council more than 17 years ago, Mansoor and his allies, Mayor Pro Tem Eric Bever and lame duck councilman Gary Monahan, chose to succumb to the intolerant whiners in our city and closed it at the end of 2005.

Despite the fact that no experienced law enforcement leader in Orange County thought it was a good idea, Mansoor initiated a plan to cross-designate all Costa Mesa police officers as immigration screeners - a plan that would have cost the city at least $1.4 million initially and much more as time wore on. Although not a good solution, Monahan proposed a slightly less draconian plan - to follow the lead of Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona with his plan. That plan, to cross-train only Gang Unit members, detectives and jailers, would cost at least $200,000 initially, but would also require on-going training in perpetuity. Carona's plan would utilize federal government money - the Costa Mesa plan comes right out of the city coffers and the pockets of the residents. And, of course, Mansoor's plan is not necessary to accomplish what he used as his primary reason for pursuing it - to get dangerous felons off Costa Mesa streets. We already have laws and procedures in place to accomplish that goal. His plan, if launched, will only delay the process and keep highly trained officers off the streets, performing administrative minutia. The job of enforcement of immigration law is that of the federal authorities. It's actually pretty simple - if you try to do someone else's job, you can't do yours.

During his 18 month tenure as mayor, Mansoor has proven to be an erratic leader, at best. He has demonstrated time after time that, despite his assurances that he wants to "hear from the public" on issues, he only listens to his small cadre of disgruntled "Improver" buddies and usually has his mind made up on major issues before he sets foot on the dais. He's treated the female minority on the council with disregard and disrespect and ignored any views they put forward.

He has consistently demonstrated a "shoot first and ask questions later" style, which has caused apprehension and distrust throughout the community. A perfect example, one of many, is the way he and Parks & Recreation Commission Chairwoman Wendy Leece, announced their plan for the demolition of 25% of the municipal golf course, to be replaced by playing fields, without any contact whatsoever with the franchise holder, members of recreation programs leadership, golfers or other city leaders. He continues to assume that any idea he has must be good for the city simply because he has it.

The reason for the above move is that he and Leece were willing to subordinate needs of the many to the wishes of the few on the issue of lighting two more of the six fields at The Farm Sports Complex. Their choice was to ignore the needs of the children of the community by acquiescing to the complaints of a few residents near the fields. This certainly demonstrates his tendency to view issues in our city through a very narrow prism, usually focused for him by one or more of his cronies. There are many times when it seems as though he lacks the ability of independent thought.

In consort with Bever, they cast aside the years of work performed by the Westside Revitalization Oversight Committee and it's predecessor organizations and initiated their own, much more wide-reaching plan for that part of our city. After a year of diligent, sometimes contentious, deliberations, the WROC participants had reached unanimous consensus on a plan that, based on what they presented to the City Council, seemed to be a reasonable, workable compromise which addressed the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. The plan Bever launched with the total support of his buddy, Mansoor, is now moving on down the track at warp speed, casts a much broader net and has made few of the initial participants - except the "Improver" faction - happy.

As unpredictable and capricious as he is on the City Council, our mayor also seems to have a peculiar lack of political instincts. He, for example, supported an opponent of his boss, Sheriff Mike Carona, in the recent elections. Carona has shown a vindictiveness against those who opposed him, having demoted a few of those who supported one of his lieutenants. Bill Hunt. Mansoor also openly supported Hunt. Of course, Mansoor probably has little to worry about, since he's apparently voluntarily chosen one of the least desirable assignments in the Sheriff's organization - that of a jailer. It would be hard for Carona to demote him from that spot - one usually reserved as the first assignment of rookies deputies.

Mansoor frequently shows that he uses a double standard on the dais, as he applies a different set of rules for those who criticize him than those who agree with - or praise - him. We've seen him cut off speakers with which he disagreed before their allotted time had passed, then permit those who praise him even more time than normal. We've seen him attempt to stifle debate on contentious issues by calling for a vote before an opposing council member had finished discussing it. This is not leadership, it's dictatorship.

He has proven to be a man who talks out of both sides of his mouth. On one hand, he sits on the dais and decries the imbalance of rental units to owner-occupied housing in the city. On the other, after commenting for a couple years about noise in his neighborhood he did what many have done - sold the home, pocketed his profit and moved into an apartment.

Perhaps these comments will be helpful to you as we slog through the campaign season. I hope they at least help provide you with a tighter focus on our mayor between now and November.
10:23 pm pdt

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Copyright, 2006 - Geoff West