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Saturday, May 7, 2011

What makes Costa Mesa Costa Mesa?

When, fresh out of college, my husband and I moved from Tucson to Costa Mesa in 1972, we were attracted to Costa Mesa's "small town" feeling.  I loved the fresh air and living a mile from the beach and close to the local schools.The realtor told us a big marina was going to be built below the bluffs near the Santa Ana River channel and PCH. That was definitely an enticement to settle in the Marina Highlands neighborhood. We bought our house on Valley Circle for $29,500 and stayed there for 27 years. We brought five Leece babies delivered at Hoag Hospital to this family home  from 1973 to 1989.

My late husband, John, was an architect who worked for Bill Ficker at one time and later had his own business on El Camino in the Mesa del Mar.  John's "next door neighbor" was  now Supervisor John M.W. Moorlach, then our accountant, who asked me to run for the school board in 89 and was my campaign treasurer.

I was a very busy and happy wife and mother and always content with the choice we made to live in Costa Mesa. Yes, I worked many fireworks' stands, sold candy, cookies, you  name it. With five kids I was always peddling something!  I always voted in the elections but didn't pay much attention to what was going on at City Hall. But I did wonder what happened to that marina.

Now, nearly 40 years later, I think nearly 24-7 about what is going on at City Hall and the future of Costa Mesa and the role I play as an elected council woman representing all Costa Mesans.  The national financial tsunami has shaken us to our core.

As a journalist and teacher, I strive to be prudent before voting on any issue. I listen to all points of view--that is my job.  I may be predisposed to vote on something, but sometimes, after listening to others, I change my mind. Last week I voted for the request from the planning commission to look at ways to increase efficiency in the planning and building departments.  That doesn't lock me in to approving those requests in the budget. But let's get it on the "wish list."

I continue to dig for the real numbers we are dealing with in the 2011-2012 budget. The current $5 million shortfall is still unidentified, but in upcoming budget meetings we may learn it is more or less and decide what to do about it. We will keep cutting. After all, two years ago we had to cut $20 million.

 How we will deliver all of our services, whether those be police protection, fire and emergency, street sweeping or graffiti removal, will impact us and our quality of life and the future residents we want to attract to our wonderful city.

I believe the debate about our future should be civil, just and respectful and full of public input, deliberation and transparency.  The public has a right to know how our decisions will impact them.

I have tried to honor and abide by those principles in the last three years of negotiations with our employees as the need for pension reform became apparent. I knew what happened to Vallejo when it went bankrupt. I am willing to meet and confer with them now so these groups can be part of the solution. I have asked myself as I weighed consequences of my votes on employee contracts, cuts to programs, layoffs needed to balance the budgets, "What's best for Costa Mesa?"  Yes, there is an urgency, but haste makes waste, and I don't like to hurry.  Analysis can be paralyzing too, so there must be a balance. Decisions must be based on sound data.
At the top of my list of concerns has been the safety of all Costa Mesans. Government can't do everything, but protecting residents and delivering emergency services are priorities. We should "love our neighbors as ourselves" and consider the diverse population we serve, especially our senior residents.  To put residents' safety at risk over hasty, poorly researched proposals or ideas, or to intentionally bring confusion or misunderstanding to our public square is unconscionable.  I am getting many emails this week from residents concerned about the four days of fireworks.

All of us make Costa Mesa Costa Mesa. If there ever was a time to find out what is going on at City Hall, the time is now. Or the very special Costa Mesa we know and love will only be a memory.

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