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
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
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
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
* 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 email@example.com
. Visit his web site at o7 www.byronwriter.comf7 .