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Stories of the Year – 2011

Well, 2011 is just about behind us and a presidential election year is just ahead – time flies.  Let’s look back at some of the 2011 stories we covered here in no particular order.  We can debate which one is the top story but it’s pretty subjective.  Please feel free to include your own in comments below.

Costa Mesa Mayor Gary "The Terminator" Monahan celebrates St. Patricks Day after the suicide
Costa Mesa Mayor Gary "The Terminator" Monahan celebrates St. Patricks Day after the suicide of a city worker who received a layoff notice (photo: Nick Berardino)

1. The Mess in Costa Mesa — it’s kind of hard to top the mess the conservative majority on the Costa Mesa city council have manufactured through outsourcing and cries of unfunded liabilities.  Privatization isn’t going to be nirvana these elected say it will be and the cast of characters is downright comical to watch.

2. The Kindee Durkee scandal — Trust can take a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy. And who knows how much money Kindee Durkee allegedly stole from solid Democrats all over the state.  The charges will have a profound impact on Democratic political races in Orange County for the foreseeable future. 

3. Claudia Alvarez and Irv Chase — The debate over the future of Downtown Santa Ana and the PBID was completely overshadowed by anti-Semitic comments made by Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez towards Irv Chase, a developer, landlord and a Jew.  Alvarez continued to make matters worse by first not apologizing, then by apologizing but not personally to the Chases, to a full on apology tour featuring a by-invitation only Kumbaya summit.  In the end, the Santa Ana city council let Alvarez off with a slap on the wrist which exposed the city’s ethics ordinance as a joke.

OccupyOC-Irvine Protesters (Photo: Dan Chmielewski)

4. Occupy – Occupy Wall Street inspired national Occupy movements and the encampment in Irvine is being held up as an example of how local governments and protesters can work together.  We are pleased to see Occupy begin to do more than just camp out and hold up signs.  Showing support for Ballot Initiatives that benefit the 99 percent is a great start.  In time, we hope Occupy will endorse candidates and raise money to elect officials that will adhere to their principles in much the same way the Tea Party Movement got candidates elected to office that reflect their views.  But as we’ve learned the one thing the Occupy movement has in common with the Tea Party is remarkably thin skins for any criticism of the movement.  Deal with it.

CRC Commissioner Mike Ward (R) - Photo: Chris Prevatt

5.  Redistricting — Look back to Prop 11 and Prop 20 and see the list of supporters for both measures that got electeds out of redistricting and placed it in the hands of citizen commissions and you wil see vast Republican and conservative organizations behind both measures.  Add to the fact, Republicans — with only 30 percent of voter registration in the state — got equal representation on the redistricting commission, and it looked like strike 2 against California’s progressive majority.  But what the citizen redistricting commission did was expose the fact that gerrymandering actually protected Republicans more than Democrats and the citizens have taken away many safe Republican seats to make them ..gasp… competitive.  So the GOP is doing what they do best — sue.  Careful what you ask for Republicans, because you got it.

6.  Recalls — Recalls are still remarkably hard to pull off.  At the tail end of 2010, the successful recall in Capo Unified seated new trustees.  Tustin residents came close to recalling Boss Tweed Jerry Amante, but just by making him the second Tustin Mayor to be subject of a recall tarnished his reputation and legacy.  In Fullerton, three conservative council members are the target of a recall over the city’s mishandling of the Kelly Thomas police brutality case.  And while we’re happy to see conservatives recalled, as these council members surely deserve to be, it’s really more about replacing members of the city council with candidates who will genuflect before the altar of Tony Bushala.  The recall presents an opportunity for Fullerton Democrats who seek to help the mentally ill and homeless in their city which truly provides a full measure of justice for Kelly Thomas.

7.  The (Lack of) Transparency issue — From Costa Mesa to Santa Ana, the more a city government claims to be transparent, the less likely there are to actually be transparent.  In Costa Mesa, charges of vandalism against members of the city council by “union thugs” without a shred of evidence.  In Santa Ana, the community kumbaya for Claudia Alvarez that acting city manager Paul Walters told us “didn’t cost the city a dime” actually cost the city tens or hundreds of thousands of dimes and we still can’t get a straight answer.  In Tustin, they can’t answer a simple “yes” or “no” question about whether or not Jerry Amante plans to return all the money he’s paid as Mayor back to taxpayers since he has a ballot measure designed to let voters determine if council members should be paid at all — which takes place after he leaves office.

8. Racism and Bigotry — from Marilyn Davenport’s email of President Obama as a chimp, to San Juan Capistrano council member Derek Reeve’s naming his dog Mohammed, to Villa Park council member Deborah Pauly’s bigoted remarks against Republicans, racism and bigotry were alive and well with our friends on the right.  Of course, Santa Ana mayor pro team Claudia Alvarez counted with anti-Semitic statements and defended them.  The OC Register even changed its commenting policy because of the anonymous hateful racists screeds.

9. The coming election year battles – AD69 is shaping up to be a fun race to watch. The Irvine city council race is also one that bears watching because with Sukhee Kang running for Congress, progressives in Irvine will need to replace him on the dais unless Kang also runs for council as well as Congress.  The Santa Ana city council election will be fun to watch and there’s an important battle for First District supervisor — which Democrat will run?

 10. County shananigans — From John Moorlach’s three-peat failure to overturn pension agreements to county board of supervisors redistricting, OC county politics are fun to watch.

One Comment

  1. Kathy Findley Kathy Findley January 1, 2012

    The Kelly Thomas case is the one that had the most effect on me. I guess because I work with the mentally ill, I feel the frustration of the families and the failure of options for the client in terms of treatment, housing and medication. I have also had my share of frustration of lack of understanding with some police officers. I also have a son, so my heart went out to the parents.

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