City Life: Study up on your candidates

The news coverage of local elections has moved from the City Council races in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach to an assessment of the upcoming seats available on the Newport-Mesa Unified school board.

This is a good time to review two recurring themes.

The first is the notion that these local elections are far more important to your daily life than the national contests that elect our president and our representatives in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, the recession has proven this point for we are now witnessing the slashing of services and bodies from local budgets. (Have no fear, unions will make sure that staff will return just as soon as we all resume shopping at South Coast Plaza.)

Except for rare monumental legislation, such as the new health care "reform" package, most of us are affected more by the decisions made to pick up our trash, sweep our streets and provide police and fire protection, to name a few. Unfortunately, the percentage of voters turning out for local elections is sometimes less than half the turnout for our presidential election.

It is perplexing, to be sure. So, I urge you to study the local candidates and vote this November.

The second theme involves studying. When deciding who should represent you on your city council or on the school board it is extremely important to separate what a candidate says from what he or she does. In any enterprise, public or private, there are talkers and there are doers. The talkers talk and spin and generally skate by on luck, connections and by avoiding conflict.

The doers, however, are the ones who are rolling up their sleeves, studying issues, asking questions and, most important, making recommendations for policies or services that offer a potential improvement from the status quo. They stick their necks out and are not afraid to challenge the accepted ways of doing things.

What we end up getting too often, however, are more bureaucrats who are content to protect their position and their political base by doing little or nothing, though they may talk about doing something and even look good doing so.

Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor is a fine example of a talker. For all of his bluster on the national media, where he presents himself as the local version of Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, Mansoor has done nothing to change the illegal immigration policy in the city.

All talk, no action.

But Mansoor has something over the members of the school board, who neither talk nor act. For years, the board has fully embraced the concept that silence is golden. At least Mansoor will sound off from time to time on the pages of the Daily Pilot.

Sometimes, though, even a do-nothing school board member has to take action.

For this voter, the standout action of the last 10 years was the support given in 2001 to Jim Ferryman, then a board member, after he was arrested with a blood-alcohol level of 0.19%, more than over twice the legal limit, and after being involved in an auto accident.

Ferryman later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunk-driving charge and refused to resign. Four of the six board members who supported Ferryman back then are still serving: Judy Franco, David Brooks, Dana Black and Martha Fluor.

The only board member to call for Ferryman's resignation was Wendy Leece, who later got a well-deserved promotion to the Costa Mesa City Council.

The hypocrisy and arrogance of Ferryman's supporters was astounding. I wrote at the time that any parent whose kid got busted for drugs or alcohol could and should challenge a suspension or expulsion based solely on the decision to retain Ferryman.

Meanwhile, there are at least four schools on the Westside of Costa Mesa with statewide rankings of two on a scale of 10, according the latest reports on the district website. That is more than unacceptable — it has become the status quo.

Once again, it's your choice. Look past the talk toward the track record of action. And vote this time.

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