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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sounds good but it ain't true 

More about the discordance between what we believe and what the facts indicate.

Last night’s Council meeting provided some examples of babbling about beliefs that are contrary to the best current information.

Positive meeting

First though, this was a relatively-positive meeting.

Comments were generally courteous and commenters generally dealt with City Council issues. Most commenters – and Council members – seemed to have thought about an issue before they began to speak. So the meeting resembled what Civics classes taught us to expect from governmental processes.

Police got new wheels

One example was a consent calendar item, police vehicles. Replacements and upgrades had been budgeted. So, the department followed its own procedures and City rules designed to ensure efficient, fair procurement. Then the money was allocated by the Council to pay the bill. None of the whiners accused the Council of giving business to their friends. Perhaps reality has taken hold in their minds. We’ll see.

Westside condos

A project developer explained the details of his proposed residential development to the Council He answered both insightful and foolish questions, and collected data that will help him meet Council concerns. The project looks like it will be an asset to Costa Mesa.

Look at parks

Study of the potential acquisition of Talbert Park, and improved access to Talbert and Fairview Parks, was discussed and authorized. 

Opposition to these items was primarily irrelevant to the issue. It focused on opposing park access and acquisition because the folks opposed the priorities for using City funds, which wasn't being discussed. We’ll touch on this again a little later.

Long but productive

Overall it was a long, well-run example of a (mostly) well-informed populace and Council working toward a better Costa Mesa.

One council member opposed any investment in infrastructure or City improvement until more police officers are hired. That is, she opposed studying City improvement options until the council agreed to hire more police. Hoping that more “men in blue” will make crime go away is misguided, anyway.

Effective ways to fight crime

Social scientists and law-enforcement experts recommend approaching situations like ours by addressing the neighborhoods. They suggest eliminating the niduses of crime by making the neighborhoods good places to live.

That is, eliminate “slum” housing, remove graffiti, enforce sanitary and housing codes – and institute a “zero-tolerance” law enforcement effort. The better their neighborhoods become, the more the residents try to help make the area safer and more attractive.

It’s not easy to measure the effects of graffiti removal, walking visits by the Mayor and Pro Tem, or code enforcement. It’s easy to count the number of police officers hired (each one an expensive fifty-year investment). One approach works, the other is easy to count and feels good.

This “community oriented policing” has been proven to work in many communities similar to Costa Mesa. Chief Gazsi is using proven strategies to implement a tailored approach to Costa Mesa’s crime. The City staff is vigorously supporting neighborhood development and betterment.

Productive residents improve neighborhoods

Another "neighborhood-improver" is attracting a better class of people.

Engineers who want their families to be safe will support strong law enforcement. Sales executives who want their homes to appreciate will expect neighborhood code enforcement.  And managers who are considering extended careers in Costa Mesa will scrutinize infrastructure’s development and maintenance.

The project reviewed during the Council meeting will build condominiums on the Westside. These will be marketed for around $500,000. Families moving into the development will probably be very interested in schools – graffiti-free walls, student appearance, and academic levels -- and arts. (After all, they’re moving to the City of the Arts.) Partnering with the schools to better educate Costa Mesans is just good business.

Looking for places to work and play

These families will be interested in the parks and open areas for healthy recreation. Areas like Fairview Park are attractions for productive adults and families. Improving playing fields, some of which have been neglected for forty years, will help convince visitors that Costa Mesa will be a good place to live.


Would four – or forty – police officers contributing to the City’s plunge toward bankruptcy entice productive families to Costa Mesa? Would it encourage you to move here instead of to Irvine?

It worked out OK

So, during the Council meeting, hope that more cops would lead to less crime led to one vote against most infrastructure development proposals. But the wisdom of the majority favored the Fairview Park and Costa Mesa High School playing field improvement studies.

Don't make me do without

There also was testimony from folks who apparently feared that their pensions would be cut. One or two took the podium to propose spending no money on parks and athletic fields to reduce the risk to their (own) pensions. That is, “let Costa Mesa deteriorate so I can keep up my pension-funded lifestyle.”

The Mayor was also criticized for “breaking faith” with the retirees by saying he didn't want to put one cent extra into CalPers because it was a political entity that was just a “black hole” for money. He opposed paying extra into a system he, and many of us, believe is going to bankrupt itself soon. He did say he’d entertain putting money aside for impending unfunded pensions, but did not favor paying ahead into CalPers to try to reduce our unfunded liabilities.

Then, some of the “anti-everything” folks complained that the Mayor and the City wanted to “break faith” with the retirees by not paying into their pensions – “Oh Dear!” Again, that’s an example of unthinking or uninformed people expounding on an unfounded belief.

Most was well-thought-out

However, much of the commentary, presentation material and debate last night was fact-based and insightful. Costa Mesa is fortunate to hear from thinkers at the Council meetings.

Our own unrealistic, feel-good hope is that everyone at a Council meeting will think through the issue before expounding. Three minutes of uninformed babble can seem like a long time, even in the padded seats.

It’s getting better, though, every month.

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