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, September 1, 2006

More Campaign Musings
I've posted another "Just Wondering..." page for the month of September. Just slide your cursor to the left and click on the link.

***

Another day has passed since the campaign forum this week and more "highlights" are percolating in my mind.

I'm recalling the young man who tried to disrupt the proceedings by first asking a provocative question of our young jailer/mayor, then, as the mayor tried to answer it, this young guy tried to pass out flyers. The much bemoaned armed security guards intercepted him practically in my lap and escorted him from the room without much of a fuss being made. It ticked me off, though, because I was distracted from Mansoor's reply to the question, which involved one particularly controversial activist and his influence on the mayor.

Mirna Burciaga got off a couple of the best lines of the evening. At one of the many times that Mansoor and/or Wendy Leece made reference to three illegal alien sex offenders having been arrested in Costa Mesa, Burciaga asked why no such outcry about the other 97 apparently non-illegal alien sex offenders was being heard. At another point, when the mayor was decrying crime committed by illegal aliens, Burciaga spoke up and made the very accurate point that "crime is crime, no matter who commits it." We hope she and the other candidates will continue to call the mayor's bluff and expose him as the hypocrite he has turned out to be.

When Mansoor attempted to make a big deal of Bruce Garlich's campaign finances and Garlich tossed it right back to him with his comment that half of the mayor's came from sources outside the city, it got me thinking more about that issue. We suspect that the radical right-wing group, The Minuteman Project, has been and will be supplying Mansoor with campaign dollars. We do know that most of the correspondence in the local newspapers supporting him have come from people outside our city, many of whom are Minutemen or their camp followers. I just looked at the mayor's web site and find on his endorsement page few names of Costa Mesa residents. Yes, there are some, but fewer than 25% of the individuals identified live in Costa Mesa.

Contrast that with Garlich's endorsement page, which, as I type this, reads like a Who's Who of Costa Mesa. As I scroll down that list, it seems to me that far more than 95% of those listed either reside in or work in our city. Most of the names are very familiar because of their activism and involvement in our community, including former mayors, council members, volunteer activists who keep the wheels turning and members of other boards - including every current member of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees.

If you flip over to Mike Scheafer's web page you will find a similar mix of endorsers - perhaps even a greater percentage of them Costa Mesa residents.

So, when Leece and Mansoor begin to pontificate about outside interests, keep in mind that Mansoor's campaign is predominantly supported by outsiders, apparently hoping to influence the way things run in this city. It will be very interesting, indeed, to review the list of campaign contributors for our young jailer/mayor. I suspect it's going to look like the membership roster of The Minuteman Project, including their wacko, wild-eyed founder, Jim Gilchrist.

I caution observers of this campaign to take what our young jailer/mayor has to say with a grain of salt. He has already demonstrated to us a willingness to fabricate and misrepresent facts. (It's called lying) These are tactics of a desperate person - one who doesn't have the truth on his side. Since election of folks to represent our interests as community leaders is largely about trust, just ask yourself which of the candidates you trust to represent all residents and business owners of this city. That answer is an easy one for me.

Costa Mesa deserves to have an informed electorate make their voices heard on November 7th. Costa Mesa TV, Channel 24, will replay their tape of the August 30th forum several times this month. The first airing will be at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 2nd, followed by 2:00 and 8:00 on Sunday, the 3rd. Subsequent scheduled dates will be listed on the city web site. Please watch and form your own opinions. If you can't do that, just keep reading here and I'll tell you what to think. Only kidding... do your own homework, study the issues and candidates and cast a wise vote.

I hope you all have a safe Labor Day holiday, return refreshed and ready to plow ahead and stay engaged in this process.
2:28 pm pdt

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Watching Bobblehead Dolls On A Night To Remember
Well, that was fun! My wife and I attended the first Costa Mesa candidate forum of the season last night and we both found it to be enlightening - to say the least.

The star of the evening, of course, was former mayor Peter Buffa, who moderated the proceedings. As always, he kept the questions crisp and the candidates focused while injecting just enough of his trademark humor to keep it light.

I must say that this was the best forum of the many I've attended over the past six years, even though the sponsors found it necessary to hire armed guards. As pointed out by fellow blogger Byron de Arakal in his Itchinpost.com posting last night, this is a first in the 53 year history of this city. Sadly, it was necessary for the guards to flex their muscles when a misguided young man attempted to disrupt the proceedings with a political statement of his own.

All the candidates were prepared and the format allowed each of them to answer every question if they chose to do so. There was a good mix of prepared questions from the sponsors and others from the audience. I think we ended up with a pretty good idea of the positions each holds on many important issues. Congrats to the sponsors for a job well done.

For me, there were a couple surprises. First, newcomer Christopher Bunyan made a credible showing. He seems to be a smart young fella, but clearly has not been as engaged in local issues as the other candidates. If he's serious about serving the city in an elected capacity he will have to bone up. It's good to see a younger person willing to get involved.

The second surprise was the absence of one particular activist who very much resembles my theoretical character, Your Neighbor. He wasn't among the more than two hundred attendees, but apparently had more important things to do. When I got home I found a blog entry on his internet misinformation site indicating that he was out chasing bad guys in his part of town. I'm sure the police appreciate his attention to their business. He was not forgotten at the proceedings, though. Our young jailer/mayor, in response to a question, denounced him in public again.

It didn't take long to see the direction the proceedings were heading when Mansoor and his running mate, Wendy Leece, began what was to be an evening-long attack on Bruce Garlich and Mike Scheafer. Their targets for the night were the 1901 Newport Plaza condominium development - which they apparently felt added too much density to the area near Triangle Square - and the support being provided by the political action committee, Return to Reason. Even as they attempted to snipe at Garlich and Scheafer about the 1901 Newport Plaza development - including their reference to a large photo array in the back of the room - they demonstrated an amazing lack of understanding, or intentional misrepresentation of the facts, regarding the $1.5 million in fees directed to the developers. That was just the beginning.

At one point Mansoor accused Garlich of misrepresenting the cost of the mayor's original immigration screening plan, which Garlich correctly quantified as costing $1.4 million. In his rejoinder Mansoor flat out lied about this issue - another incidence of him doing so in a public forum to suit his purposes. Those numbers were provided by retired police chief John Hensley when he testified before the City Council earlier this year. At an earlier time I might have assumed that our young jailer/mayor was just confused - a condition in which he seems to find himself frequently - but not after watching him in action over the past 20 months. Based on my observations of him over this period of time, it's clear to me that he will fabricate and obfuscate as the mood strikes him. Last night he was in the mood.

Throughout the forum I frequently had the feeling I was following a car down the highway that had a couple of those bobblehead dolls in the rear window. Almost every time Mansoor would speak Leece would sit there and nod her head in agreement. Every time Leece spoke Mansoor did the same. It was predictable and comical. It was even more obvious because, through the luck of the draw, they were seated side by side on the dais. In fact, as they responded to each question their answers were so similar that you thought there was an echo in the room - except Leece would occasionally inject the fact that she was a mother of five.

So, here are some quick impressions of the candidates based on tonight's performances. Bruce Garlich was head and shoulders ahead of every other candidate in his grasp of issues and his delivery of his responses. He demonstrated just why he's the strongest candidate on the ballot. He deftly parried every thrust by Mansoor and Leece and was clearly the winner in the head-to-head competition.

Mike Scheafer, another recipient of Return to Reason support, also did a good job. While less precise in his responses than Garlich, his dedication and concern for the city came through loud and clear. Observers were left with no doubts about his views on the most critical issues facing this city today.

As stated above, Chris Bunyan made a good showing. He's not ready for prime time, but could have a future in public service if he spends a little more time getting focused on issues in this city.

Mirna Burciaga made a good showing tonight. Her concern for the city was evident and she seems poised to mount a much more aggressive campaign this time around. She acknowledge, with unusual candor, that she thought she could be successful last time by disregarding the need for money and simply by working hard and talking to people. This time around she is much more realistic and hopes to raise enough money to be competitive.

Wendy Leece showed us that she's got a firm grip on Allan Mansoor's coat tails and is holding on for dear life. Her campaign will probably not be too costly because she will just ride along on Mansoor's dollars and hope for the best.

Mayor Mansoor showed us that his handlers are more than willing to take the low road, including telling the occasional lie, to insure his re-election. For those of us who hoped for a cleaner campaign, this is quite disappointing. From their early utilization of misrepresentation and lies, it's clear that Mansoor and Leece are very worried about Garlich and Scheafer.

They attempted to cast suspicion on Return to Reason and their motives for supporting Garlich and Scheafer. In response to one of those exchanges Garlich pointed out that 92% of his campaign contributions come from Costa Mesa residents while half of Mansoor's money comes from outside the city.

So, off we go dear friends and neighbors. While one side attempts to take the high road, Mansoor and his buddies are watering down the trail ahead to prepare for their roll in the mud. Such is the way politics have declined in Costa Mesa.

12:20 am pdt

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Let The Games Begin!
On Wednesday, August 30th we here in Costa Mesa will get our first look at all six candidates for the two open seats on the City Council at the first candidate forum. If recent history is any indication, this first forum promises to be the best and most well attended of the series. Sponsored by Mesa Verde Community, Inc., it will be moderated by former mayor and Daily Pilot columnist Peter Buffa. Although Buffa does a great job, don't expect anything but softballs to be lobbed to the candidates. There's no chance any "have you stopped beating your wife?" type of questions will be asked.

I find myself wondering if there is any way that controversial issues will find their way into the mix of questions asked of the candidates. I wonder, for example, if the mayor will be required to defend his ill-conceived ICE plan.

I wonder if the candidates will take the high road, addressing issues and not personalities. I wonder if the subject of outside financial support for the candidates will come up, and how it will be handled.

I wonder if we'll see our young jailer/mayor's buddies from the Minuteman Project in attendance. If so, that would be interesting, to say the least.

The forum will be taped for replay on Costa Mesa's public access channel, Channel 24. Two years ago a similar tape played many times for a couple weeks, providing many residents who couldn't attend the live performance the opportunity to see their candidates in action.

So, in twenty-four hours we will have a pretty good idea of the positions of each candidate on many issues. It will be up to the voters of this city to sort the truth from the rhetoric and make informed decisions on November 7th.

Let the games begin.
10:36 pm pdt

Monday, August 28, 2006

Anticipating Candidate Forums
After taking the weekend off for some R&R, I returned home refreshed and ready to go again. I needed to get my head flushed before the first of what may be many candidate forums to be held this campaign season. The meeting Wednesday will give interested residents a first look at the half dozen candidates for the two seats on the city council being contested here in Costa Mesa.

Our young jailer/mayor, Allan Mansoor, will be joined on the dais Wednesday night by his anointed running mate, Parks & Recreation Commission Chair Wendy Leece - the human lightning rod for controversy. They appear to be running as a team and will likely share some of that mountain of outsider money - from the Minuteman Project and it's supporters - during the campaign. I suspect Leece is hoping Mansoor's coattails are broad enough to drag her along.

Bruce Garlich and Mike Scheafer - two long time residents and community activists - will also be there. The Daily Pilot called them a "slate" in an article by Alicia Robinson last week. That, of course, is not correct. They are two individuals running against the other candidates for one of the seats available, although they do share the support of the political action committee, Return to Reason. Garlich, who will complete six years on the Planning Commission this year, has served the city with distinction in many ways. Scheafer, who served as a council member a couple years ago but failed to be elected in 2004, has spent virtually his entire life in Costa Mesa and throughout his adult life he has served as a volunteer in any number of organizations, including the Lion's Club, where he is known as "Mr. Fish Fry". Both men have demonstrated leadership and sincere community concern through their tireless volunteer activities.

Also on the dais Wednesday will be Mirna Burciaga, Latina business owner and activist. She has served as a Parks & Recreation Commissioner in the recent past, but was not re-appointed after the 2004 elections. She has proven to be a tenacious member of the community, twice taking on the Newport Mesa Unified School District and coming out victorious. Wednesday we will have an opportunity to assess her depth of understanding about broader community issues.

The final candidate is someone named Chris Bunyon. Don't know a single thing about him, so I'm looking forward to Wednesday night.

***

This morning the Daily Pilot published another of my letters. This one postulated that the changes made by our young jailer/mayor and his majority are the reason for much of the recent violence in our city. The final paragraph in that letter reads as follows: "There's no doubt in my mind that the strategy and tactics employed by our mayor and his majority on the council are, in great part, responsible for the pressures that have led to the shootings in our town. His mantra of wanting to make Costa Mesa a safer place to live is all well and good, but we didn't have this kind of lawlessness before he and his mob took over. It's obvious that something in this city must change. November is an opportunity for that change."

***

In a posting today on his blog, Itchingpost.com., Byron de Arakal addresses a very important element in the campaign this year - money. I encourage each of you to visit his blog via the handy link on my "Useful Links" page. In fact, scroll down through the past several entries for some of the best written and most pertinent commentaries on Costa Mesa politics you will find anywhere.
2:12 pm pdt

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Copyright, 2006 - Geoff West