Smith: Say what you will, but Mansoor took my questions

In the 10 years I have been writing about former Costa Mesa City Councilman Allan Mansoor, most of my commentary has been critical, sometimes sharply so.

What I cannot criticize Mansoor for, however, is a lack of response or a lack of accessibility. Each of my requests to meet the 68th District assemblyman has been met with an immediate response, and a willingness to sit down and talk at a place and time convenient for me.

That may not mean much in terms of our differences on important issues, but it is indicative of a man who is respectful and who has never been afraid to confront his critics.

Over coffee May 10, I sensed that Mansoor is frustrated with the state of the state, as are many California voters. We're all tired of the petty politics in Sacramento, but unfortunately the solution is in the hands of people with an interest in preserving the status quo.

Mansoor may be particularly frustrated because he was Costa Mesa's leader — in reality (as mayor) or by de facto (as the strongest voice) — for at least five of the years he was on the City Council.

Here he had authority and could get things done. In Sacramento, he is the freshman assemblyman from a city somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego.

When I asked Mansoor for his Sacramento expectations prior to taking office, he replied, "I didn't know what to expect" — which I believe would be the answer for many freshmen. Either they were a clean slate when taking office or what they have witnessed is far worse than anything they imagined.

Mansoor was articulate about the source of some of his angst.

"What frustrates me is the lack of transparency," he said. "[In Costa Mesa] we had multiple ways in which our budget was openly discussed and debated. In Sacramento, there is a lot that goes on behind closed doors.

"Every day, rules are waived without anyone questioning them. Gridlock is part of the fabric of Sacramento politics. I do have some optimism, though, due to redistricting."

I asked him why he thought the Capitol differed from a city like Costa Mesa, why the politicians in Sacramento were able to get away with more shenanigans than the politicians in a city of about 100,000.

"People are busy with their families and they're busy with work," he said. "Locally, they know more about what is going on because they live in that town. But it is much harder for them to keep up with what is going on in the state."

To his credit, Mansoor did not blame the Democrats for the gridlock. In fact, of the several examples he provided of where rules are bent or broken, or where people and legislation are manipulated for none other than a purely political reason, only one was presented as a Democratic ploy.

When he told me, "There is no incentive to be efficient," he was not talking as a Republican, but as someone who understands the larger issues facing the stagnation of progress in the state capital.

Mansoor has opponents in his current campaign for the newly redrawn 74th District, as well as others around town who want to emphasize his lack of progress in achieving anything meaningful in his first two years.

To his opponents, Newport Beach activist Bob Rush and City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, I would recommend toning that rhetoric down to a whisper, for I will wager a steak dinner that their freshman record in Sacramento will be no better than his, possibly worse.

And I will be the first one to call you on it in two years, should you defeat him in November.

Mansoor said it best: "Running for office is very different than being in office."

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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