Wu: Voters want to move past divisions

So there you go.

With Costa Mesa City Council candidate John Stephens conceding, two of the "3Ms" kept their seats while former, and now future, Councilwoman Sandy Genis made it from the "Top 3" list of candidates opposed to the council majority.

Status quo with the now 3-2 council majority will reign again, at least for the next two years, when Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer is up for re-election and Councilwoman Wendy Leece is termed out.

How close was it from being the other way around? How close was the Top 3 trio, along with Leece, to being able to turn the ship?

Pretty freaking close, with Stephens coming within 150 votes of defeating longtime incumbent Gary Monahan. Close enough to almost make me eat my words from my last column, where I predicted the winners. One hundred and fifty votes is close, but not crazy close like the 30 votes that separate two Fullerton council candidates or even the three votes (yes three) that County Supervisor Janet Nguyen won by in 2007.

But the 150 surely made a statement, huh?

Where the Measure V charter proposal was resoundingly defeated, the balance of power in Costa Mesa was on a string, waiting for the Orange County registrar of voters to finish counting the ballots, and it looked as though every single vote was going to matter as Stephens inched closer and closer to Monahan.

Then, all of sudden, the pendulum swung the other way, and Monahan started gaining votes. Enough for Stephens to concede, before the election is certified.

And the Costa Mesa voters have spoken. But what are they actually saying?

I think they're saying that they're tired of that the divisiveness of the council. Tired enough for change to have almost really occurred. Out of the 38,800-plus votes cast, the balance of power was determined by less than 0.4% of the electorate.

Yet, Costa Mesa had only a 64.1% voter turnout, which is actually less than the county had overall, with 66.2%, although considerably better than the estimated 57.5% nationally, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.

That means that out of the 60,575 registered voters in Costa Mesa, almost 22,000 people didn't make the effort to say who they wanted for president, who they wanted for Assembly, and who they wanted to steer the ship they call home. And with 150 votes determining the direction of the S.S. Costa Mesa, the people get the representation they deserve.

For those who did vote, and, as evidenced by the commenters on dailypilot.com, are still bitter and angry, this is quite a pill to swallow, at least until the next election in 2014.

But they can take solace in the great performances by Stephens and Harold Weitzberg in their very first elections, both of whom had no name ID when they entered the race.

As I wrote Stephens in an email, even though he's a Democrat, he will make a great council member in the future and that I even wished he would move to Newport Beach to give our residents a public servant who wouldn't want to inflict an exponential fee (tax?) increase to homeowners lucky enough to have a dock to help pay for overinflated pensions and salaries, as well as pay for the shimmering symbol of governmental decadence (Taj Mahal) — but more on that topic in another column.

The same would definitely be true with Weitzberg and Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy, who helped give me further glimpse into Costa Mesa issues and the people behind them.

But with all that said, the time for talk and complaining is over. What's done is done, and everyone needs to move on. For the winners, the voters spoke and made it extremely close, so perhaps some introspective looks at the past two years need to be done to prevent such a divide.

Righeimer has already made such overtures with his new-found desire to rescind all the layoff notices that started all the chaos with Orange County Employee Assn. General Manager Nick Berardino, even seemingly trusting in Righeimer, saying, "Because we strongly believe that together, there is much, much more we can do for the citizens of Costa Mesa than we can do when we're not pulled together."

For the complainers and the malcontents, perhaps the next two years will serve as an opportunity for them to actually step up to the plate themselves and do the bravest, most admirable thing they can: Run for public office.

Instead of complaining about something, they can actually do something about it, just like Genis, Stephens and Weitzberg did.

And if Berardino believes that this "great new start" is something worth believing in, perhaps it can be a Christmas miracle if Costa Mesa can start 2013 by working in unison.

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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