City Life: Study up on your candidates

August 02, 2010|By Steve Smith

The news coverage of local elections has moved from the City Council races in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach to an assessment of the upcoming seats available on the Newport-Mesa Unified school board.

This is a good time to review two recurring themes.

The first is the notion that these local elections are far more important to your daily life than the national contests that elect our president and our representatives in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, the recession has proven this point for we are now witnessing the slashing of services and bodies from local budgets. (Have no fear, unions will make sure that staff will return just as soon as we all resume shopping at South Coast Plaza.)


Except for rare monumental legislation, such as the new health care "reform" package, most of us are affected more by the decisions made to pick up our trash, sweep our streets and provide police and fire protection, to name a few. Unfortunately, the percentage of voters turning out for local elections is sometimes less than half the turnout for our presidential election.

It is perplexing, to be sure. So, I urge you to study the local candidates and vote this November.

The second theme involves studying. When deciding who should represent you on your city council or on the school board it is extremely important to separate what a candidate says from what he or she does. In any enterprise, public or private, there are talkers and there are doers. The talkers talk and spin and generally skate by on luck, connections and by avoiding conflict.

The doers, however, are the ones who are rolling up their sleeves, studying issues, asking questions and, most important, making recommendations for policies or services that offer a potential improvement from the status quo. They stick their necks out and are not afraid to challenge the accepted ways of doing things.

What we end up getting too often, however, are more bureaucrats who are content to protect their position and their political base by doing little or nothing, though they may talk about doing something and even look good doing so.

Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor is a fine example of a talker. For all of his bluster on the national media, where he presents himself as the local version of Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, Mansoor has done nothing to change the illegal immigration policy in the city.

All talk, no action.

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