Between the Lines -- Byron de Arakal

o7 Are we on our way to Dover,

Or going merrily over,

The jolly old road that goes to Plymouth ho? No!

We're merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily on our way

To nowhere in particularf7

Some years ago, Disney produced a sprite animated feature of Kenneth

Grahame's classic "The Wind in the Willows," a slapstick chronicle of the

careening and aimless adventures of one J. Thaddeus Toad and his loyal

steed, Cyril. The flick's worth referencing as we noodle today's topic

because it produced a catchy ditty that plays often in my head when

life's circumstances begin bounding about like a super ball in a coffee

can or when true North eludes me.

Now if you've brought up any number of tikes -- or are in the dust

cloud of that tornado as you read -- you know the tune. But if you've

forgotten it, we've bumped today's copy with lyrics to refresh the

memory.

In the movie, Mr. Toad and Cyril belt out this anthem to recklessness

as they slalom across the English countryside with wild abandon, breaking

down fences and generally tearing up the terrain on their way to, well,

"nowhere at all."

The sequence, I think, is an exquisite metaphor these days for Costa

Mesa as it wildly veers and sideswipes its way through issues important

to this hamlet's future. Growing and congested and ever more populated,

the city has residents who seem more fractious and parochial and of a

million minds as to what this township wants to be. Which really means it

has no idea what it is or where it's going.

The best evidence of this -- apart from the divisions and growing

militancy in the various burrows around town -- is the rather edgy

uncertainty and foggy actions of the City Council as I have observed it

in the roughly 18 months I've been working this column gig. And instead

of finding its legs and some measure of clarity with time and familiarity

among the folks who occupy its seats, the council seems mired in a spiral

of confusion and hesitancy. It's as if the mother ship has a guitar pick

for a rudder and dysfunction for a captain.

Two observations in this era of wandering are worth sharing, I think.

On the weighty and vastly complex issues shaping the framework of Costa

Mesa's future (traffic management, for instance), the City Council is

infatuated with turning over the heavy deliberations of such things to

committees of homemakers and business owners and other ordinary blokes.

Meantime, the council occupies itself by sticking its fingers in micro

issues better suited for hashing further down the bureaucratic food

chain.

In August, for instance, the City Council deputized a band of Costa

Mesa residents to examine routes the city might take to break up the

traffic logjam on Newport Boulevard between 17th Street and 19th Street.

The clog there is so bad, wily motorists are slipping over to Eastside

residential streets to escape the quagmire.

Called the Downtown and Eastside Transportation Ad Hoc Committee, its

charge from the council was, well, to figure out ways to improve traffic

on Newport Boulevard and to relieve Eastside residential traffic

congestion. That's as clear as the council's mandate got. Armed with that

murky directive, the committee has met just three times since August.

And, say a few folks plugged into its deliberations, its meetings have

generally been awash in confusion, disagreement and turf wars between

parochial interests.

Strangely, perhaps the most striking recommendation to ooze from the

committee was the idea to return $700,000 in Orange County Transportation

Authority grants to study the one obvious solution for improving Newport

Boulevard traffic -- adding more lanes. That idea received alarmingly

serious consideration by the council Monday evening but was ultimately

rejected. That evening, too, the council decided to give the committee

clearer directions -- a mere eight months after its formation. Meantime,

the traffic crawls still.

Now lay that little abdication of heavy lifting and future casting

with the council's obsessive dial fiddling over featherweight matters

such as where and when folks can park their recreational vehicles.

Witness the trampoline act it performed over Michael Schrock's bit of

property on Cecil Place. And take note of the micro dissection it

performed on Calvary Church's plan to build a temporary sanctuary on its

Newport Boulevard property. Indeed, this city -- aimless in its

leadership vacuum -- is merrily on its way to nowhere in particular. And

November looms.

* Byron de Arakal is a freelance writer and communications consultant.

He lives in Costa Mesa. His column appears Wednesdays. Readers can reach

him with news tips and comments via e-mail at o7 byronwriter@msn.comf7

. Visit his web site at o7 www.byronwriter.comf7 .

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