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Monday, March 18, 2013

Time to drop hate, rely on facts 

Some people let the labels they apply to others color their own thinking. And, they use their hatred, usually unfounded hatred, as a lens to view those they hate. For example, Nazis labeled the Jews avaricious and hated them for “corrupting the Fatherland.” That justified confiscating Jewish property and ultimately, genocide.

But the results of believing their own labeling and hatreds don’t always lead to disasters. In Costa Mesa it’s just making a few people look silly.

Labeling vs. thinking

During the last election we discussed labeling, and how it is usually intended to convince by arousing emotion. It substitutes for reasoning. And, it often results in two-dimensional views of a complex, multifaceted subject. It’s usually unfair. Examples of labeling include; “he’s a nerd, she’s promiscuous,” and “they tell lies all the time.”  See blog

Let’s look at government transparency as an example of how labels and self-fueled hate are making a Council member, a spokesperson for the Employees Association, and a few who insist on labeling themselves as “grassroots” all look foolish.

Labeled without facts 

During the election we heard that candidate Mensinger was “anti-police, anti-union, and anti-City-pensions.” None of this was demonstrated by what Mensinger said, but it was promoted through “interpreting” his statements and ascribing motives to him. “He says he supports police but he’s lying, he wants to outsource the police department,” ran the argument.

Mensinger was condemned for using an “old boys” network to make appointments, and for dealing with City matters in “back room deals.” No proof or even a suggestion of truth was ever offered for this accusation of corruption.

Positive data ignored

Articles about their promised political agendas, about Righeimer’s humility and religious beliefs, and about Mensinger’s values were ignored. The columns, comments and articles provided information that conflicted with the fears and hatreds – and that conflicted with the labels. Only one view could be true. The folks who relied on labels and hatred chose to ignore evidence that conflicted with their prejudices..

We have the Sunshine Review, an independent organization that evaluates government transparency across the country giving Costa Mesa an A+, one of 22 cities across the country to be graded so high. Costa Mesa was among the top 214 of 6000 cities rated for transparency in 2012, as well. Sunshine award info

Meanwhile, another organization called the Sunlight Foundation gave the State of California a “D” for transparency and California Forward was sharply critical of the State and of many California cities for their (lack of) transparency.

Why so transparent

So Costa Mesa’s transparency was lauded by independent outside agencies and rated above California and other cities and states throughout the United States. One factor in the awards was Mayor pro Tem Mensinger’sCOIN” ordinance. (Civic Openness In Negotiation) This law ensures that voters are able to stay up to date on negotiations about the biggest expenses facing Costa Mesa – personnel expenses. COIN Ordinance Text

And, the Mayor and Mayor pro Tempore are out visiting and viewing every foot of Costa Mesa. They are holding “Meet the Mayor” events to give everyone, not just the “insiders” a chance to ask questions, raise concerns, or just comment. That’s certainly a chance for every Costa Mesa resident to learn about and to influence the City government.

You’d think residents would be proud of these accomplishments and outreach. And most are. But some…

Sour grapes attitude  

The Employee’s Association spokeswomen, and one Council member, vociferously criticize the COIN ordinance as “not enough because it doesn't cover everything.” That is, the ordinance that makes labor negotiations open to public view isn't enough.
Why not? Because it doesn't set openness standards for contract negotiations for supplies and services. (Supplies and services contracts are actually negotiated by City staff, anyway, and can’t be influenced by City Council members, so it’s a non-issue.) It doesn't cover zoning procedure discussions. It doesn't cover a multitude of minor expenses and processes, many that the Council can’t even influence.

That seems like criticizing an airline as “not safe enough” because it distributes stale peanuts and flat sodas during a flight.

Say it often and you'll believe 

Some of these people actually start to believe each other – and themselves. And not just about the Mayor and Mayor pro Tem.

The same group of “Anti-everything” folks warned us solemnly against voting for the proposed charter: “It will open up the City to no-bid contracts.”  As we pointed out at the time, that was patently false. However, they convinced enough voters to reject the charter. (Of course, three-quarters of a million dollars from outside interests to help them get their misinformation printed and mailed to voters helped a lot.)

This would make you think that the little “grassroots” group and the Councilwoman were fearful of contracts to spend public money without insisting on getting the best price for what Costa Mesa needed. You’d think they’d be outraged at any hint of significant “no-bid” contracts, especially one awarded to a political supporter.

Not so

You’d be wrong. They aren't concerned about the no-bid, sweetheart contract issued by Costa Mesa’s Sanitation Department. And the increased rates the Board passed to pay for the non-bid-contracted services? 

Not even a word from the “grassroots” folks or the Councilwoman. No complaints from any of them. It’s not the corrupt practice that offends them, nor the chance that the corruption would even be possible. It’s their hatred for a couple of Council members that matters, not no-bid contracts.

Fool themselves, look foolish

Some people surely look foolish when they fool themselves with their own propaganda, labels, and, yes, their own hatred. It’s time to let go of the hatreds and the labels; the election is over.

Costa Mesa is facing both problems and opportunities right now. Let’s help our City with rational discourse about facts. And let’s ignore the foolish few who see only through the perspective of their prejudices.

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