Are Costa Mesa voters better off now than ten years ago?


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Delusional Ten Years in Costa Mesa

Has ten years of bickering over the immigration issue paid off in Costa Mesa? Today this city stands proudly as one of the shinning towers of right-wing conservatism and anti-immigration.

While the rhetoric on immigration has grown larger over the years, Costa Mesa’s economy has lagged behind its close neighbors.
According to Decipher, a research think tank, Costa Mesa is the only city in Orange County with a cero profit margin from 2000 to 2008. In fact, it ran a 4.4 million deficit during those years .

These new findings might have deepened Costa Mesa’s troubled mindset. Back in the heydays, it suffered from an inferiority complex that trickled down to its own citizens. Up from the hills, Costa Mesans gazed upon its Newport Beach neighbors, and silently admired their appetite for economic exuberance.

Not wanting to become an enclave for underdevelopment, Costa Mesa followed up on its southern neighbor’s footsteps. In 1942 the Santa Ana Army Air Base settled in what today is the Fairgrounds area and Orange Coast College. This move provided seeds for economic development and social mobility.

Once predominantly a rural area, Costa Mesa rapidly evolved to a suburban hub with formidable economic power. However, it was in 1968 when it finally reached first world status. South Coast Plaza opened up its doors to the public.

Little by little local residents spoke highly about their city. Today Costa Mesa houses one of the nation’s most sophisticated art centers, many five-star hotels, abundant recreational areas, and mega movie theaters.

Local government officials and politicians conspired to toss out the stigmatizing “Goat Hill” label and brought in a more alluring nickname: “The City of the Arts.” Costa Mesa was ready to show off its new look.

The new outlook and economic growth brought demographic changes as well. According to 1980 U.S. Census figures, a total of 82,562 people lived in Costa Mesa. A little more than 80% of the population belonged to the Caucasian or White group; people of Spanish origin made up about 10%; Asians and Pacific Islanders 5%; and Blacks 1% .

Ten years later, the U.S Census again revealed a consistent demographic transformation. Minority groups outpaced Caucasians in population growth. Some areas of heavily entrenched Latino residents, such as the Westside area, showed signs of becoming more “Latinized” not only in their cultural characteristics but also in economics.

As a result, local businesses began to cater Latino markets. Out of the 96,357 counted by the 1990 Census, 19,319 said they were Hispanic; 6,318 were Asians or Pacific Islanders; 1,282 were Blacks; whereas Whites amounted for 69,493, that is 72% of the total population; 10 percentage less than the previous census .

As early as 2000, Costa Mesa experienced a bold political wave due to the economic and demographic transformation of previous years. A new generation of actors entered the political scene. They were concerned about a growing number of blighted areas in the west side of the city.

Mayor Allan Mansoor’s arrival in Costa Mesa City Hall can be attributed to this new wave. He was first elected in 2002, although his activism in politics dates back to 2000, when an alleged noisy lunch truck broke his neighborhood peacefulness with loud Mexican tones.

For the last eight years, he has been instrumental in turning Costa Mesa into an anti-immigrant city, and has become the poster boy of a new bread of activists imploring more restrictions on undocumented immigrants.

Recently he pushed a “Rule of Law” ordinance in the City Council to reassure Costa Mesa’s anti immigrant stance. His plan to require local businesses to use E-Verify for new hires is pending.

Mansoor now wants to represent the 68th District in Sacramento. In difficult economic times, voters in this district may want to ask residents in Costa Mesa whether their economic well being is better off than ten years ago. More likely they will say no.

Humberto Caspa lives in Irvine, Research Fellow at Economics On The Move, and columnist of La Opinion


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