City Life: What a candidate needs

With the start of the local campaign season, it is a good time to review the qualifications of the ideal candidate.

The ideal candidate knows a good idea when he or she sees one. That good idea can come from anyone at anytime. If the idea comes from someone with whom the candidate has had past differences, the candidate becomes a champion of the idea anyway.

The candidate looks at each paper clip in City Hall or the school district office as money. Copy paper is money. The desks, lamps, pens and pencils are money, too. To the candidate, each police car, school bus, telephone and scratch pad is money. That money was given, sometimes begrudgingly, by taxpayers who worked hard for it. In return, they want a representative who acknowledges their hard work and treats each of the above items with the respect they deserve.

The candidate understands that without taxpayer dollars hundreds of people who work for the city or the school district would not have jobs. The ideal candidate knows, accordingly, that the taxpayer covers the salaries of all of these people and that the taxpayer is boss.

The candidate knows that when a taxpayer is unhappy, the taxpayer is not a nuisance or someone to be avoided, but someone to be reckoned with.

The candidate keeps his or her mouth shut unless he or she has something substantive to say. The candidate does not, for example, call a press conference, as Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor did last month, and waste taxpayer dollars to say something he could have said in two minutes during the City Council meeting. The candidate does not, as Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Katrina Foley did on June 22, admonish her colleagues over their lack of revenue-generating ideas, then fail to offer any of her own.

The candidate is a person of business, preferably someone who owns or has owned a business. The candidate is somewhat less ideal if he or she has only managed a business. That person has had not had the experience of real financial risk in the decision-making process.

The candidate obeys the spirit and the letter of the Brown Act, which requires the public's business to be conducted before the public, and has never had a hint of violating it.

The candidate does not think in terms of "Us vs. Them," only in terms of what is best for the community.

The candidate is a parent. Only a parent can fully understand the enormous responsibility, commitment and sacrifice required to raise a child, particularly one in this era. That responsibility is the greatest in the world.

The candidate is a student of local issues, not just someone who shows up at meetings ready to vote. The best elected candidate around is Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who has a local political history dating back to her days on the school board of taking the necessary time to get her arms around an issue.

The ideal candidate does not consider it a sign of weakness to say, "I'm sorry," "I was wrong" and "I made a mistake." The candidate understands that strong people use these words and the weak avoid them.

The candidate does not hold a grudge.

The candidate will communicate with constituents on a frequent, regular basis, not just when it is time for damage control.

Most importantly, the ideal candidate has a track record of action and of progress. The candidate understands both the need for creating a strategic plan and for rolling up his or her sleeves to complete the plan's tactical elements.

The ideal candidate knows, in other words, that talk is cheap and action is everything.

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

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