Don't Ask Why. . .
Garden Grove City Councilman Bob Dinsen isn't happy that Garden Grove's Agency for Community Development (ACD) is more than $150 million in debt. He's not happy it plans to bulldoze 65 businesses and displace 1,200 people so that a developer can build a mall on Harbor Boulevard. But he's said all this and more in public, and that may have cost him his job.
Dinsen, who served on the City Council for 18 years, finished third in a race for two council seats in November. But City Councilman Ken Maddox, one of the top two vote-getters, also won the state Assembly seat vacated by Curt Pringle. As the OC Weekly hits the streets on Dec. 17, the council will have the chance to appoint Dinsen to the post Maddox is leaving behind.
It almost certainly won't, even though Garden Grove voters approved an advisory measure in 1990 saying the council should appoint the runner-up--in this case, Dinsen--to a vacant council seat. But last week, Mayor Bruce Broadwater said he wouldn't nominate--or even second--Dinsen for the council. Indeed, at several council meetings, Broadwater has told Dinsen, "I wish you'd retire and leave right now."
Dinsen might not be liked in the council chambers, but he's popular in town. He gives residents his home phone number. His photo hangs on the wall at Adrian's Barber Shop in northern Garden Grove.
"Bob is a wonderful man," said Adrian Zamora, who has been Dinsen's barber for eight years. "Bob lent me $2,000 out of his pocket in 1994 so I could open this shop. He said I should start my own business. He even looked at my lease and got me a better deal. I'm just his barber.
"Everybody who comes into my shop knows Bob," Zamora said. "They say he's the one honorable man on the City Council. He stands his ground."
At a Dec. 8 meeting, resident Muhammad Qureshi scolded the council for not wanting to re-appoint Dinsen. "You only don't like him because of his age," Qureshi said. "But he is experienced. Any time I call him, he listens. He is a really nice guy."
Later that evening, City Councilman Ho Chung cited Dinsen's age as a reason he wouldn't re-appoint him. "He's 82 years old," Chung said, tossing on an extra year. "It's time for him to take care of his health. . . . As I said [to a voter] when I ran for mayor in 1994, 'He should be retired.'"
At council meetings, however, it's Dinsen--not his more youthful colleagues--who usually asks the most probing questions. Last year, the council heard residents protest the city's attempt to close the Oasis Senior Mobile Home Park to make way for a new mall. The owner didn't want to sell; his residents, several of whom are blind, did not want to move. Acting as the ACD, the council took over and bulldozed the park. Only Dinsen criticized the deal.
Dinsen also spoke up for Trish Pham, owner of the Cavalier Inn. In the same deal, the ACD took her hotel and gave the land to a developer. Dinsen accused the ACD of "having little respect for the private ownership of land."
Growing up in Arizona during the Depression, Dinsen made $11.50 per week at his first job. He served in the Army during World War II and then became a building contractor. After joining the council in 1980, Dinsen officially changed his name to Robert Frank Taxfighter Bob Dinsen. He's called himself "very conservative," but he's clearly a populist as well. He supported requiring non-smoking sections in restaurants in 1989. He opposed giving the Orange County Symphony Orchestra money from the ACD, saying it would pay for wealthy people's entertainment. He opposed outlawing Korean-language business signs. In 1988, he supported OC's slow-growth initiative, Measure A.
Whatever else he may be, Dinsen is also gentlemanly, a characteristic that helped him lose his last campaign. In September, Broadwater admonished candidates against posting campaign signs on public property. "I have signs in my garage," Dinsen recently said. "But after hearing the mayor say he'd enforce the sign code, I didn't use them."
Others did post signs, however. Just before the last election, large "Broadwater for Mayor" signs appeared on public property throughout Garden Grove. At last week's council meeting, Broadwater thanked his supporters for putting them up.
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