An influential evening

S.J. CAHN

A quick search of the Daily Pilot (and its sister paper, the Los

Angeles Times) for the name "Buck Johns" pulls up a scattering of

familiar descriptions: GOP fund-raiser, Lincoln Club director,

developer, one of the county's most influential Republicans.

You can add affable, incorrigible host to that list.

Johns hosted a get-together Monday night -- nothing unusual for

him. What was unusual was his allowing me past the gates and up his

long, winding, American flag-lined driveway.

The occasion was Johns' pitching of a business venture to about

100 folks. And not just any venture. This one is to build a dam

across the Congo River, the fifth longest in the world, in the

Democratic Republic of Congo. It would be near the mouth of the

river, where the water drops unusually quickly. As a result, Johns

estimates, a dam there could provide power for the entire African

continent (a claim I found elsewhere, as well).

Johns has experience in this area, having helped back the High

Desert Power Project in the Victor Valley.

All those details aside, particularly fascinating about the

evening was how it proved an old saw we tell job candidates: Our

readership includes some of the most influential, powerful people

you're likely to run across.

I think this claim tends to roll right off them because, well, if

our "influential people" somehow aren't in magazines, movies or TV,

their influence is harder to see.

Johns fits this bill. A short list of people milling about his

pool includes Rep. Ed Royce, an expert on Africa; Rep. Buck McKeon;

former Orange County Republican Party Chairman Tom Fuentes; a city

councilman and the city manager from Victorville (where the High

Desert Power Project is); Olympic swimming champ Brian Goodell; and

the guest of honor, Jean Pierre Kalema Losona, Democratic Republic of

the Congo energy minister.

It was an evening for people like this to get together in one

place, get to know one another and, possibly, get on the same page

regarding a $30-billion-or-so project. And at its center was Johns,

making jokes as people stood in line for dinner and introducing most

of the crowd at one point or another.

It was, I realized at one point, how a lot of things get done, how

major business deals are made. There was much talk, including by the

energy minister (who spoke in French), about friendships and people

counting on one another.

It was networking at its highest, most powerful levels.

And watching it happen was illuminating.

Getting the terms right

Here's an unfortunate incident that probably proves not everything

you see in print is true.

Shocking, I know.

The Daily Pilot has reported repeatedly -- as in more than a dozen

times, and even as the root of one of our stories to watch in 2004

(under "Improvers make play for council") -- that Costa Mesa City

Councilwoman Libby Cowan is "termed out" of her seat.

I've even cited this fact.

Well, it turns out it isn't quite a "true fact," but the end

result holds up.

The confusion comes from the date of Cowan's first election in

1996. That same election, Costa Mesa voters approved the two-term

limit for council members. At the time, it affected Cowan. (But not

Mayor Gary Monahan, elected two years earlier. He thus was able to

run two years ago.)

Legal decisions, unrelated to the Costa Mesa term limit, since

then have changed things, City Manager Allan Roeder told me. The

rules now state that people voted into office at the same time as

term-limit laws aren't immediately eligible.

Which means Cowan could run again. But she has said over and over

she won't.

Which means everything works out the same in the end, with one

caveat: When Cowan doesn't run, it will extend the deadline for

people to decide to seek a seat a week, from Aug. 6 to Aug. 13.

And a Friday the 13th might prove to be the right day to start the

race.

* S.J. CAHN is the managing editor. He may be reached at (949)

574-4233 or by e-mail at s.j.cahn@latimes.com.

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