Commentary: Costa Mesa election is about trustworthiness


Who will listen to you? Whom do you trust?

These are the key questions Costa Mesa voters need to ask themselves as they decide on Nov. 4 who will lead their city. They are quintessential questions in any election, but especially in this one.

Ask yourself:

• “Who can I trust to make residents feel welcome to express their views in council meetings rather than barely tolerated?”

• “Who can I trust to consider the concerns of all interested residents about controversial issues?”


• “Who can I trust to come into council hearings with an open mind and a commitment to forge consensus?”

• “Who can I trust to make decisions for the community versus some outside interest?”

• “Who can I trust to support long-term plans for the city without undermining them with continual variances and “exceptions” that make those plans a joke?”

• “Who can I trust to respect the deep sense of community that makes Costa Mesa a wonderful place to live, and to guide it into the future by expanding, not destroying, that sense of community?”

Over the past four years, the current council majority has demonstrated that those who can most trust them are their business buddies and personal friends who have economic interests in Costa Mesa. Not every single decision they’ve made has been bad, but the city’s overall direction has been steadily downward since they took over.

The council majority touts the city’s current fiscal stability as proof of their “success.” But almost every city in California is fiscally healthier now, thanks to the national economic recovery. It’s interesting to note that the announced surplus in the city budget stems in large part from the difference between the number of police officers this council budgeted for and the actual number of officers on the city payroll.

Have the residents paid in safety so the council majority could show a budget surplus?

This council majority’s “solution” to the city’s financial challenges was a disastrous privatization and staff-reduction scheme that decimated one of the best city workforces in California — including our police force. Those who are left to provide Costa Mesa’s vital services feel constantly at risk. This action has led to big legal fees with no apparent success in defending the ill-considered choice of the City Council majority.

This is the same council majority offering up a rerun of a previously defeated city charter that would let them do pretty much anything. Given the my-way-or-the-highway mentality dominating the council, the danger is that Costa Mesa residents will be further removed from decisions about their own lives, property and future.

Here’s what city government needs to do to be trustworthy:

• Understand that all residents have the right to participate in council decisions and be treated with respect, whether or not the council majority agrees with their views.

• Make transparent decisions and not from a preconceived ideology with no thought to long-term effects.

• Respect Costa Mesa’s quality of life and understand that decisions that affect it, including safety and parklands, need thoughtful analysis and full participation by city residents.

• Most of all, retain a commitment to genuine stewardship, taking care of the community with which one is entrusted.

This council election is, more than anything, about trust. Whom do you trust?

Former Costa Mesa City Councilman JAY HUMPHREY is running for the council in the Nov. 4 election.