Will O’Neill: The keys to 2020 leadership

We learned a lot about the character of Californians – and the cities they live in – during the COVID year of 2020. Cities built and maintained by people of character withstood the storms of changed circumstances. Newport Beach is proof of that, and Mario Marovic is a prime example.

Business owners across the spectrum faced disaster when Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down our state four years ago. Restaurant and bar owners like Mario had no idea when or if they would reopen. But Mario still found ways to help. 

Remember when we couldn’t find toilet paper in stores?  Well, Mario purchased thousands of rolls from his vendors to donate to low-income seniors. Despite facing potential financial ruin, he was a helper and community builder. 

There were countless Marios, leaders who weren’t elected or even asked but who helped keep their communities together. Leadership that year required the same qualities that the Lord commanded of his followers in Micah 6:8: Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

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Too many of our elected leaders ignored that guidance. They felt they knew how others should live, ignoring their neighbors’ intelligence and dignity. Humility, on the contrary, required understanding – trusting people to make decisions based on their own unique risk profiles. That trust works both ways, making it more likely that people would listen to trusted health professionals.

Here in Newport Beach, we amplified the messaging of our community’s largest health provider, Hoag Hospital, because people trust their doctors in health and sickness. Our Fire Department partnered with Hoag to educate senior care and skilled nursing facilities because we knew early on that seniors would be the most vulnerable population to the COVID-19 virus.

That humble approach was, unfortunately, not shared across the spectrum. One Los Angeles County supervisor cast the deciding vote to shut down in-person dining in LA County – and then left City Hall to drive straight to her favorite restaurant just before the shutdown took effect. Sacramento agencies opened and closed businesses based on a color-coded chart that took into consideration how many trees existed in neighborhoods. 

The toxic mixture of that sort of hubris reached the boiling point when Gov. Newsom targeted Orange County’s beaches. During one warm weekend, when LA and San Diego County’s beaches remained closed, a long-lens photo of Newport Beach made it appear that our shore was packed with people. In reality, on that weekend, we had fewer than a third of the people we’d have hosted on any normal Fourth of July. Without calling anyone, including me, the city’s mayor, Gov. Newsom announced that he was shutting down our beaches by executive dictate.

Never mind that LA County had shut down its beaches for over a month and that, despite that closure, every single LA County beach community posted higher per capita COVID infection rates than Orange County’s open-beach communities. Never mind that we were dealing with a respiratory virus with no confirmed outdoors transmission. Never mind, even, that Costco, Walmart, and marijuana dispensaries remained open while Gov. Newsom closed beaches.

Here in Newport Beach, we fought back. We saw that the governor hadn’t relied on hard science. He had instead relied on political science – and in doing so, he put our residents at risk and eroded public trust. He reversed course quietly, but never learned the lesson. In fact, later that year, he held a press conference in which he actually recommended that people’s health could be improved by … going to the beach.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

McConnell Fends Off Leadership Challenge

He remains Senate GOP head, quashing bid by Scott, but vote shows caucus’ unrest.

Sen. Mitch McConnell was reelected as Republican leader Wednesday, quashing a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the Senate GOP campaign chief criticized after a disappointing performance in the midterm elections that kept Senate control with Democrats.

McConnell, of Kentucky, easily swatted back the challenge from Scott in the first-ever attempt to oust him after many years as GOP leader. The vote was 37-10, senators said, with one other senator voting present. McConnell is poised to become the Senate’s longest-serving leader when the new Congress convenes next year.

“I’m not going anywhere,” McConnell said after the nearly four-hour closed-door meeting. He said he was “pretty proud” of the outcome but acknowledged the work ahead. “I think everybody in our conference agrees we want to give it our best shot.”

At a GOP senators lunch Tuesday, Scott and McConnell traded what colleagues said were “candid” and “lively” barbs. The 10 Republican senators joining in Wednesday’s revolt against McConnell and voting for Scott included some of the most conservative figures and those aligned with former President Trump.

“Why do I think he won?” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), among McConnell’s detractors. “Because the conference didn’t want to change course.”

The unrest in the Senate GOP is similar to the uproar among House Republicans in the aftermath of midterm elections that left the party split over Trump’s hold on the party. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy won the nomination from colleagues to run for speaker, with Republicans seizing the House majority Wednesday, but he faces stiff opposition from a core group of right-flank Republicans unconvinced of his leadership.

Scott said in a statement that although the “results of today’s elections weren’t what we hoped for, this is far from the end of our fight to Make Washington Work.”

Retreating to the Capitol’s Old Senate Chamber for the private vote, the senators first considered, then rejected, a motion by a Scott ally, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to delay the leadership votes until after the Dec. 6 runoff election in Georgia between Republican Herschel Walker and incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock that will determine the final makeup of the Senate.

Cruz said it was a “cordial discussion, but a serious discussion” about how Republicans in the minority can work effectively.

In all, 48 GOP new and returning senators voted. Retiring Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska missed the vote to be home after his office said his wife was recovering from a nonthreatening seizure.

Senators also elected the other GOP leadership posts. McConnell’s top posts ranks remained stable, with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as GOP whip and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in the No. 3 spot as chairman of the GOP conference. Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines was elected to take over the campaign operation from Scott.

The challenge by Scott, who was urged by Trump to confront McConnell, escalated a long-simmering feud between Scott and McConnell over the party’s approach to try to reclaim the Senate majority.

Restive conservatives in the chamber have lashed out at McConnell’s handling of the election, as well as his iron grip over the Senate Republican caucus.

Trump has been pushing for the party to dump McConnell ever since the Senate leader gave a scathing speech blaming the then-president for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

McConnell has forcefully pushed back, blaming the Republicans’ problems on what he has called “candidate quality” after many of his preferred candidates were replaced by Trump-backed Republicans on the ballot. McConnell said Republicans put up the kinds of candidates who “frightened” independent and moderate voters.

Those voters held the view that “we were not dealing with issues in a responsible way, and we were spending too much time on negativity and attacks and chaos,” McConnell said earlier this week. “They were frightened.”

Among the many reasons Scott listed for mounting a challenge is that Republicans had compromised too much with Democrats in the last Congress — producing bills that President Biden has counted as successes and that Democrats ran on in the 2022 election.

The feud between Scott and McConnell has been percolating for months and reached a boil as election results trickled in showing there would be no Republican Senate wave, as Scott predicted, according to senior Republican strategists who were not authorized to discuss internal issues by name and insisted on anonymity.

The feuding started not long after Scott took over the party committee after the 2020 election. Many in the party viewed his ascension as an effort to build his national political profile and donor network ahead of a potential presidential bid in 2024. Some were irked by promotional materials from the committee that were heavy on Scott’s own biography.

Then came Scott’s release of an 11-point plan early this year, which called for a modest tax increase for many of the lowest-paid Americans, while opening the door for cutting Social Security and Medicare, which McConnell swiftly repudiated even as he declined to offer an agenda of his own.

The feud was driven in part by the fraying trust in Scott’s leadership, as well as poor finances of the committee, which was $20 million in debt, according to a senior Republican consultant.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Leading From Behind

Barack Obama leadership

Milt Priggee, www.miltpriggee.com