Commentary: Fairview Park debate requires civility

I recently took my 9-year-old daughter to what was billed as a Meet the Mayor event concerning Fairview Park. Little did I know that an Oakland Raiders football game would break out in what should have been a civil discussion.

Despite the sour temperament and barely concealed agitation of the people in the crowd, they were, at least initially, not openly hostile to the mayor and those city employees who had come to talk to them.

But this fragile veneer of civility soon cracked when several took exception to Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz's explanation for the proposed turnaround and parking lot at the Pacific Avenue entrance to the park. They didn't like it, so they jeered him, interrupted him and bullied him to such a degree that the mayor strongly interjected and strongly defended him.

The angry, pointed and accusatory statements of several aggressive constituents had empowered the rest of the crowd to start chiming in, turning what should have been a civil discussion into an exercise in heated name-calling.

It reached the point where my daughter came to me and asked, "Why is everyone so angry?"

That's a good question. Why are the opponents of the mayor and council majority so angry? He and city employees came to talk to them in a polite and civil manner. They came to rage.

Having witnessed this animus over the past several years, I can only conclude that it's an inexplicable bias. They simply dislike Jim Righeimer and reflexively oppose whatever he favors.

If tomorrow he advocated "police over potholes," as one councilwoman has, they'd ridicule him for ignoring the community in favor of richly compensated public servants, who at the very young age of 50 can take home a $125,000 pension that will double over the course of retirement.

The issue that ignited the crowd that night is a simple one. Pacific Avenue abuts Fairview Park with a "Welcome to Fairview Park" sign at its end.

The previous general plan, culled from much resident input, called for adding access via a small entranceway and parking lot on this southwest corner of Fairview Park. Both the additional entrance and handicapped parking are very much needed.

An entrance and turnaround that would accommodate a fire engine and a parking area for 10 vehicles was proposed. Our city has more than 20 parks, and nearly every one is within a residential neighborhood that requires residents to bear modest park traffic — no different from what was proposed at Fairview Park.

With every development, small or large, whether it is IKEA or a housing tract of a dozen homes, we hear the same complaints about traffic: that it will ruin the neighborhood.

The reality is that such fears never materialize. Moreover, isn't it unfair to give one neighborhood veto power over the use of a public road to a public park?

We should expect civility in our local governance. We can do better. And we should expect better of our community and of ourselves.

Attorney TIM SESLER is a Costa Mesa planning commissioner.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World