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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Not Exactly a Company Man

Will the elevation to mayor of Robert A. Curtis, Mission Viejo’s erstwhile maverick city councilman, signal a new period of political maturity for one of Orange County’s newest cities? One would hope so. After a long season of wrangling, it’s time for reasoned dialogue.

Mission Viejo, only a few years old, has had baptism by fire in the political dynamics of having its own City Council. During the squabbles this year, the council’s public sessions have looked more like the deliberations of Chicago aldermen than those of a local government full of the promise of new beginnings.

Now, the city has emerged at the end of the year with Curtis as mayor. He’s the same man who had been a target of disdain on the council only months ago and the subject of a recall campaign because he begged to differ. Having survived that effort, which was heavily financed by the Mission Viejo Co., he will be in a position to provide fresh direction.

Curtis is backed by a sympathetic new council majority and pledges that “the era of company rule is over.” His ascendancy shows his own durability and more. The election of a compatible council majority, which selected him mayor, advanced the message the voters sent in the recall.

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In first rejecting the recall, they showed they wanted a say in local government--and that they were not interested in having dissenting voices silenced. Then on Election Day, the voters gave Curtis a supporting cast on the council.

There are some who complain that the new mayor already has become cozy with the Mission Viejo Co. But voters demonstrated that they don’t want a one-horse town, and no doubt will be keeping an eye on the new council and mayor to make sure that the public hears a full debate on matters of public interest.

So the people have spoken. The time has arrived in Mission Viejo for grown-up deliberations and an end to wrangling. If the recent changes do signal a new period of reason, the city will be better for its painful early experiences with local government.


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