Agenda debate suggests a highly divided City Council

Councilwoman Wendy Leece, often to the lone dissenter of the group, faces isolation as the majority supports the proposed employee layoffs.

August 19, 2011|By Joseph Serna,

COSTA MESA — Earlier this month Councilman Eric Bever suggested the city stop lone council members from putting items on the agenda.

Doing so, however, would have further isolated Councilwoman Wendy Leece, the only person on the council opposed to proposals to lay off city workers and replace them with contractors.

In a thinly veiled criticism of one of Leece's proposals at the Aug. 2 meeting, Bever said then that too often "junk" ends up on the agenda that is purely symbolic and is certain to die without support.


Leece failed at the meeting to garner any support from her colleagues or the public to reduce council pay or benefits. She argued that her proposed reductions, though minor, were important for city employees facing potential job losses.

"Yeah, it's symbolic and a lot of things, but it doesn't go anywhere because there's no support on the council," Bever said afterward.

He also took issue with the fact that Leece voted to table the motion after she was the one who brought it up.

"Generally, I always make a habit of knowing I have at least one person on board with me before going forward with something," Bever said earlier this month. "What it would do in this case, it would force [Leece] to start working with the council members, which she doesn't anymore. She could reach out to us and say, 'Hey, I got this idea and what do you think?'"

The two-term councilman's suggestion highlighted an ideological divide that's only widened since March, when the majority voted to issue layoff notices to nearly half the city's workforce.

But Leece believes that all elected officials, whether on the minority side of an issue or not, have the right to put an item on the agenda for debate.

Leece said she feels it's unfair in a democracy to require agreement with the minority view just to have an item put on the agenda.

"It's important to have the discussion," she said. "Sometimes we do just write a report to discuss something in public. Perhaps I could've gotten other people to agree with this. I didn't think it was necessary."

Bever made his suggestion informally and it is not clear yet whether it will reemerge as a formal proposal. Nevertheless, it illustrates the widening valley between the council majority and Leece, who is often the lone dissenting voice.

Past councils have also shown similar divisions, but this council's arguments have taken a more personal tone, observers say.

Today's council members regularly accuse each other of pandering to outside groups.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles