Joel Bishop may spend his days as the chief of Global Strategies and co-owner of VESystems, a software and services company, but when he isn’t in the office, he’s dabbling in local politics in South Orange County.
Bishop, 51, who served as mayor from 2007-2008, now sits on the Dana Point City Council, where he continues to share his opinions on just about everything, as many locals will attest. Bishop recently spoke about his interest in politics before heading off to Australia on business.
And, yes, while his name is close to that of the late entertainer with the “Rat Pack,” Joey Bishop, this Bishop is rarely – if ever – mistaken for the same person.
“I have always been involved with local government since being a room monitor in first grade. I believe that one must be involved in the process to really be a part of the community. I want to belong to the community,” says Bishop.
On “the other Bishop,” he does remember the actor: “Only people born before the 60s remember him. It was a common game in my youth, and I actually did go by Joel in grade school!”
These days, however, Joel Bishop is known around town for being somewhat outspoken, but that doesn’t seem to bother him
“I have had some criticism for siding with City liability over resident comfort and perceived safety, and for reducing pollution versus keeping government out of people’s lives.
I believe that people respect leaders who can share a differing opinion articulately and convincingly. What drives people mad is dogma recited without qualification and backing,” he said.
Like many a councilmember, Bishop has disagreed often with the council, but that’s what keeps the job interesting.
“Sure, there are times when I have a distinctly unique view of an issue. Being on the short side of 4-1 isn’t bad; it’s just a different point of view,” he shares.
On the flip side, he takes the good with the bad, which for Bishop, is to be able to meet and interact with the people and businesses of Dana Point.
“I enjoy working on new events and facilities to enhance our quality of life,” he said.
During his two years, and four months on the DP City Council, he has had some crazy things happen, but he has learned to deal.
“When I was mayor last year, I was promoting a certain position. I knew that the vote would be close so, I arranged to teleconference in while on a business trip. It turned out that the vote was 2-1-1 — two in favor, one opposed, one abstained and one absent. I ended up losing that item in a later vote, but it was a very unusual outcome.”
Is he worried that most citizens think city council members don’t do much other than run their mouths off? Not really.
“I say try not to generalize. Our council members are smart, committed and articulate. We truly endeavor to do good for our city and are not self promoting or loud mouths,” he justifies.
Right now, the biggest issue facing this seaside community is tackling revitalization in a weak economy
“We have grand designs to revitalize the town center and the harbor. This will be great for business and for the city and residents of Dana Point. The challenge is the current economy,” he said.
If he had his way, he’d have the city take over the harbor and beaches.
“I find it difficult to have the assets so close and be so out of our control of them,” he explains.
While it’s true that Dana Point has a lot going for it … the marinas; close proximity to beaches, rich people with yachts … many question why it isn’t it more like nearby Laguna Beach with bustling with visitors.
“We exist because of tourism. Guests may buy T-shirts in Laguna, but they sleep and eat in Dana Point, a beautiful destination city. We have outstanding hotels, fabulous restaurants, businesses, and exceptional events including the Whale Festival, Turkey Trot, Dana Point Grand Prix bicycle race, concerts and plays in the parks, Holiday Festival of Lights and boat parade, tide pools, and great groups and clubs to keep us all busy,” he insists.
Speaking of beaches in South County, Dana Point’s main beach, Doheny Beach, is usually being closed down for sanitary reasons, and that’s the truth. Why?
According to Bishop it’s because of “Basic topography.”
“Dana Point is at the end of the watersheds; water from upstream cities washes into the creeks and streams, and into the ocean bringing pollution. Oils, fertilizers, animal feces, and other contaminants come down and drop right off in Doheny, as well as Salt Creek. This week alone, a 25,000 gallon sewage spill from Moulton Niguel Water District added to the supply of nasty stuff. Dana Point has been active in diverting dry weather run-off and South Coast Water District has fixed every major defect in the sewer system in Dana Point,” he explains.
When asked about the State’s budget issues and why it can’t simply tack on an additional tax on cigarettes to raise some money, Bishop says it isn’t that easy.
“They could, but do we want to pay for all the budget on the backs of smokers alone? Is it prudent to put all of our eggs in one basket? Will we add vodka drinkers next? We need a broad-based source of revenue, as well as controlled and reduced spending,” he says.
In the meantime, Bishop is OK with the job Governor Schwarzenegger has been doing and says, “It’s difficult to try to work in a collaborative way with people of all persuasions. Creating a true win-win requires that both sides have successes. The Governor has been in a difficult position with ample detractors. Generally, I respect the Governor and the work he has done.”
As for President Obama, Bishop warns it’s too soon to rate the success or failure of the new president.
“He was hoping for collaborative cross-party participation but has not been able to break the deadlock,” Bishop surmises.
Would Bishop ever want to become President of the United States?
“Not a chance; all politics is local for me. I am not seeking any additional office outside my city,” he says. “I have a job, a family and a great city. I can’t do better.”