Costa Mesa City Council Candidate Runs to End Partisan Politics

Costa Mesa City Council Candidate Runs to End Partisan Politics
The Civic Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Sept. 29, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Rudy Blalock

After serving six years on Costa Mesa’s planning commission with two years as its chair, Robert Dickson, a senior paralegal with an emphasis in environment and land issues at the law firm Latham & Watkins thought his time with city service was over.

But he decided to run for the Costa Mesa City Council in the upcoming Nov. 8 election, he said, because he feels it has become too partisan with six out of its current seven members strongly identifying as Democrats.

“I hope that I win this race, but even if I lose, I think raising awareness of the issues that are causing a great deal of concern to my neighbors is important,” Dickson told The Epoch Times.

(Courtesy of Robert Dickson)
(Courtesy of Robert Dickson)

He said during COVID, some of the policies the council implemented—such as lockdowns and restrictions—didn’t mirror the desires of the community.

“They didn’t reflect the ... nature of Costa Mesa,” he said.

Dickson said he didn’t initially want to run, citing his busy work schedule while raising two young children, but when he noticed no one with his political alignment was in the race, he felt compelled to toss his hat in the ring.

“Nobody stepped up, nobody was identified, nobody was even expressing interest. And so, I felt that I was the best person to do that,” he said.

Homelessness is one issue he would like to address if elected, he said.

“It’s a very entrenched and difficult problem to fix, and the city has made some very good efforts,” he added.

But, he said, the city, thus far, seems to be taking the national and state approach of what’s known as a housing first model, which he said provides shelter without getting at root causes.

He said that individuals suffering from mental health and addiction problems need more than just a place to sleep.

According to Dickson, more treatment for the homeless is needed.

He said while campaigning, he’s heard from locals their concerns about rising property crime such as car break-ins, bike theft, and unrestricted drug use in the city.

With the homeless free to use drugs out in the open, panhandle, and given a place to eat and sleep at the end of the day, Dickson said Costa Mesa is a desirable place for the lawless.

“So that’s a kind of interrelated thing, homelessness, and crime,” he said.

He mentioned how the Orange County Sheriff’s Department found thousands of bikes tucked in a tunnel near a homeless encampment in Santa Ana a few years ago, and that selling stolen goods is one revenue stream for some homeless.

He said that more community patrolling and resources for the police is something he would advocate for if elected.

“When folks call the police, they want the police to come. They don’t want to hear,” there’s no one available, he said.

Another issue Dickson has concern for is what he calls Sacramento’s “one size fits all” approach to development in cities. He said current councilors haven’t done anything to combat the state’s laws that can greatly affect the make-up of the city.

Last year Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 9, which allows single-family lots to be divided into developments of two to four houses as well as SB 10 allowing high-density development near highly populated and transit and job-rich areas, with no requirement of affordable units.

“Every single city in California, every single community is unique, and Sacramento is trying to put a one size fits all sort of approach to that,” he said.

He criticized council members for not pushing back on the new laws, like some cities which have filed suit to overturn SB9.

“We’re literally talking about the future of our neighborhoods, and so I think it’s really an important issue that the city council has shown no leadership on,” he said.

On a personal note, Dickson said Costa Mesa fits his family’s adventurous lifestyle. He said he enjoys spending time with his wife Jennifer and their children whether it be at the beach, skate park, or just bike riding around town.

His opponent for District 5, which encompasses part of the city’s westside and downtown, is Arlis Reynolds. He said he shares a different political philosophy than his rival, but thinks she has some great ideas like making the city more bikeable and walkable.

Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.
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