March 18, 2000

In the world of representative government, there are leaders and there

are politicians. In Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, we have had our share

of both.

We admire the leaders and appreciate the valuable community service they

provide. Politicians, well, that's another story.

When we suspect politicians are trying to pose as leaders, we have to

call their bluff.


Last week, Newport Beach Councilman Tom Thomson became the only City

Council member to come out in support of the Greenlight initiative -- a

measure that would require public votes on major developments in the

city. The movement has evolved out of a growing antidevelopment sentiment

among many city residents.

Thomson, who has been a councilman for nearly four years, is not your

typical Greenlight supporter.

He's a real estate broker who, in his last campaign, was endorsed by the

Chamber of Commerce, an organization that is ardently opposed to


In his time on the council, Thomson has never met a major development

project he didn't like.

And just listen to Thomson's own words regarding his conversion to a

slow-growth cause.

"I'm sure many of us are tired of seeing every square inch being

developed to its maximum," he said. "There were 9,000 people that signed

that petition to do something about unbridled growth."

Maybe we are wrong. Maybe Thomson has had some sort of epiphany that has

caused him to reject his pro-development past and stand on the side of

environmentalists and City Hall critics.

We think we have a more likely answer: Thomson is already thinking about

next November's election.

On that ballot will be the Greenlight initiative; but more importantly,

Thomson's seat will be up for re-election.

By declaring his support for Greenlight now, Thomson could manage to take

the steam out of any opponent who might use the measure as a campaign


Don't forget. It was Phil Arst, one of the fathers of Greenlight, who

lost to Thomson four years ago.

Here's what really makes us skeptical.

Only hours after Thomson told us he supported the measure, he tried to

take the statement back. All it took for him to waver was a call from a

powerful business leader, apparently, questioning Thomson's new


Ultimately, he stuck with his new pro-Greenlight position with the sudden

caveat that he'd like it to come under "further study."

We have a suggestion for Thomson. If indeed the councilman has decided to

fall squarely behind Greenlight, he should say so loud and clear and

become a major supporter.

Time will tell whether Thomson's new slow-growth stance is a heartfelt

change of principles or an election year ploy.

We hope it's the former.

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