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Community Commentary: Costa Mesa needs to follow business model

May 24, 2011|By M.H. Millard

Why is it that one city has low crime, good schools and a top quality of life for its residents and a city next door is just the opposite?

It's not the police, the teachers or the city employees who make the biggest difference in cities; it is the residents themselves who primarily give a city its character.

As we think about improving Costa Mesa, partly by running our city more like a business, we might want to look at how successful businesses do things to attract customers.

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In the case of Costa Mesa, substitute the word residents for customers.

Most successful businesses decide where they want to position themselves in the market. And, they then package and sell themselves to the customer base that they want to attract and keep.

Every stable resident I've spoken to says they want Costa Mesa to be safe and clean and to have top schools and a high quality of life for residents.

Of course, that's the easy and predictable thing to say. Most smart second graders would say as much.

The hard part is having the right ideas and the will to do the things that will make it happen when those who benefit from the status quo don't want any real improvement and fight against it.

In our present day, when it is de rigueur to blame inanimate objects and forces for human caused problems, many people fail to see that the way to have such a safe and clean city is to attract residents to live, work and raise their families in Costa Mesa who are ambitious, upwardly mobile, self-sufficient and law-abiding.

People really do matter. The qualities they bring with them directly impact any city.

So, are we positioning Costa Mesa in such a way that we will attract upwardly mobile people, or are we positioning ourselves, perhaps unintentionally and unconsciously, in a different way?

What do people looking for homes see when they come to Costa Mesa? Are they seeing graffiti, rundown apartment buildings, shopping carts on street corners, homeless people sleeping along the sidewalks, many charities, people soliciting work from street corners?

And, when they dig deeper, are they seeing schools with low student scores, and are they seeing a relatively high crime rate?

We must ask ourselves if we're making Costa Mesa a comfortable place for upwardly mobile people who want to settle here and raise their families in our community or if we're making it a comfortable place for gangs, people who may need charity services and transients of all stripes.

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