The Bell Curve: Costa Mesa deserves a new City Council


Two things coincided on Tuesday: Americans remembered the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 69 years ago to the day, and the newly-configured Costa Mesa City Council picked a new mayor and mayor pro-tem. I leave it to you to decide which of these happenings is historically more important.

Those of us who were around on Dec. 7, 1941, like to play a little game that goes where-were-you-when-they-hit-Pearl-Harbor? There are probably millions of accounts that have been jazzed up over the years, but I’ve stuck steadfastly to the facts.

I was in the middle of a warmed up meatloaf lunch at Mrs. Daley’s boarding house in Columbia, Mo., when one of my lunch companions, who had judiciously retreated from the meatloaf, dashed back to the dining room, shouting “get in here, quick.” And so we all huddled around Mrs. Daley’s radio until President Roosevelt came on and told us in his first fireside chat that we were at war.


Emerging from the boarding house, we found groups forming all over the University of Missouri campus, ready for marching orders to properly punish these invaders. I joined one group that had already appropriated the name of Flying Tigers. By some miracle we actually stuck together through enlistment in the Navy and the call to active duty when the “frat boys” — as the recruiting officers called us — were summarily broken up on the rocks of reality.

That’s my story, and I can still taste the warmed over meatloaf, which wasn’t one of Mrs. Daley’s strong points.

Meanwhile, in Costa Mesa on Tuesday, the Comedy Central show went on at City Hall. The cast of characters featured a former planning commissioner and newly elected councilman, who was appointed as the new mayor pro-tem.

Jim Righeimer had been telling the cops how to do their jobs. The cops had fired back with a smear campaign targeting the former planning commish, who, in turn, dispatched a lawyer who sent letters to warn off his client’s critics. And, thrown into the mix, we have an arrogant county supervisor and resident of Costa Mesa, John Moorlach, who had made headlines by calling a sitting Costa Mesa Council member “not qualified” for that job when she cast a vote that he and the Orange County GOP didn’t approve of. Citizens of Costa Mesa, these are just bits and pieces of Act One, Scene One of what you can expect from these people who will be running your city.

That’s why the naming of a mayor — normally a stick figure — is important. The promotion of the mayor pro tem has taken place routinely for many years. It was recently violated in Newport Beach and was violated in Costa Mesa on Tuesday night when the Republican muscle men extracted their pint of blood from for the now former mayor pro tem, Wendy Leece. The Republican heavies had accused her of violating an agreement she had made with them when the GOP endorsed Leece’s re-election bid. Instead of appointing Leece as the new mayor, the council voted 3 to 2 in favor of Councilman Gary Monahan replacing former Mayor Allan Mansoor.

If this is tough love, the citizens of Costa Mesa would be better served by the real thing.

To serve the best interests of the people of Costa Mesa, the entire City Council should resign and a new election be called. And the candidate who pulls the most votes would be named mayor. Meanwhile I will look into some similar problems, starting with promoting the pro tem in Newport Beach.

And, finally, let’s take a look at some of the words from Mansoor’s departing message: “The most important thing I’ve learned is that small groups of people acting locally can make a difference, even when addressing issues that are normally considered state or federal problems.”

Let us all hope that the “difference” the small group makes in Costa Mesa is not the takeover of local government that precludes the fair and equitable and respectful consideration of all points of view.

JOSEPH N. BELL lives in Newport Beach. His column runs Thursdays.