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The other side of the majority

Wendy Leece has spent the last two years on the losing side of 4-1 votes. Some say her politics have changed, but she and her supporters say she follows her own moral compass.

November 10, 2012|By Jill Cowan
  • Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece participates in a debate on Measure V during a live taping at KOCI 101.5 FM in late October.
Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece participates… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

First in a series of profiles about those in the trenches of Costa Mesa's political battle.

Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece peers down through a pair of spectacles at a pile of notes spread out on the coffee table.

"Because we have South Coast Plaza, we are in a very unique situation from other cities, like Stockton," she says, mentioning the bankrupt Northern California town. "We have this revenue source that brings in about $40 million — our sales tax revenue is about $40 million a year — and the rest is property tax...."

She continues, listing off budgeting figures and statistics. It's a quiet late afternoon a couple of weeks before election day, and Leece is talking politics from a comfy armchair in her living room on Costa Mesa's Westside. A "No on Measure V" sign leans against a wall by the front door. Leece's dog, Tucker, noses around on the sun-dappled carpet nearby.

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Leece speaks passionately, but she seems relaxed. Her name wasn't on the ballot, after all. Still, there may have been no one in Costa Mesa more affected by Tuesday's elections. Leece has spent the better part of two years on the lonely side of multiple 4-1 council votes and was hopeful voters in this election would improve that ratio.

Since Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's election in 2010 created a strong, unified majority bent on employee pension reforms, Leece has been a lone dissenting voice on some of the council's most controversial decisions. She was the only one to vote against laying off nearly half the city's workforce in March 2011. More recently, she was the only sitting council member to speak out against the controversial charter proposed in Measure V, which failed Tuesday, saying it was hastily written without proper public input.

"It's hard," she says, "I'm not going to say that it's easy. But I'm a committed person. I signed up for this."

Her next two years — Leece's last on the term-limited council — may not be much easier.

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