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MAILBAG:Costa Mesa dodges bullet with council vote

July 07, 2007

In the wee hours of the morning on Independence Day, the Costa Mesa City Council, once again, demonstrated their meetings can be high drama.

At five minutes before midnight Tuesday — the time when their rules call for them to cease deliberations for fear of making boneheaded decisions — Mayor Mansoor had the city clerk read into the proceedings the issue of whether or not to place the question of a directly elected mayor on the ballot.

As some will recall, this subject was requested recently by former 12-year councilman and multiple-term mayor, Gary Monahan.

He asked for it to be agendized, and Mansoor leapt at the opportunity to have it placed before the council at the earliest possible meeting — last Tuesday night. Cynics might postulate Monahan and Mansoor thought this move would ensure them a place at the municipal trough for a long time. The debate among the four council members (Linda Dixon was absent) went on for half an hour and even at that early hour included some very cogent public comments by experienced, respected members of the community.

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Former Mayor Sandra Genis got off the best line of the night. Apparently concerned about the concentration of power in a directly elected mayor, she said,"I think it's quite fitting that we're doing this just at the very beginning of the Fourth of July, because 230 years ago we said, 'We don't need no stinkin' kings' and that's what I say here — we don't need no stinkin' kings!' " Former councilman Jay Humphreys and activists Beth Refakes, Robin Leffler and Lisa Ready, representing the Mesa Del Mar Homeowners Assn., all made excellent arguments against directly electing a mayor.

The only person who spoke in favor was Monahan. As Councilwoman Katrina Foley said at the time, if this had been a burning issue for the voters of this city, more of them would have showed up to support it. Perhaps the most interesting exchange of the morning came between the mayor and Foley as she pressed the mayor for a reason to not include term limits in his proposal. Repeatedly she asked if he opposed term limits for this new position, and repeatedly he ducked the question.

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