HUNTINGTON BEACH : New Citizen Group Criticizes Council

A new citizens' organization, Community Forum-Huntington Beach, has been launched, and the founders' initial target is the environmental majority on the newly constituted City Council.

Tom Duchene, one of the founders of the new group, has accused the council majority of ignoring the diverse views in the city.

"The biggest thing we're concerned about is the polarization of council politics in Huntington Beach," Duchene said. "We want to bring back a sense of consensus and the involvement of the people in the process."

Duchene and other founders of Community Forum spoke during public comments at the Monday night meeting of the council. They sharply criticized the council's process in filling the seat vacated by the death of Councilman Jack Kelly. The Community Forum organizers also urged the council not to appoint a successor to Kelly but instead to call a special city election.

The council, on a 4-2 vote, Monday defeated a motion for a special election. Subsequently the council members voted 5 to 1 to appoint Ralph Bauer, a longtime environmentalist, as the new councilman.

Duchene played a key role in promoting the 1990 campaign of Measure D, a ballot measure heavily supported by developers. Measure D was hastily put on the ballot in 1990 to try to derail a citizens' initiative, Measure C, which called for putting sharp restrictions on the sale or lease of city beach or park land. Measure C, which was backed by environmentalists, won by a landslide and is now part of city law.

Critics of Duchene have charged that Community Forum is a "front" for pro-development interests. But in an interview, Duchene said the accusation is not true.

"Absolutely not," said Duchene. "We don't represent developers." He described Community Forum as a "broad-based community organization that has elements of the business community, elements of youth sports and environmentalists."

In a news release, Community Forum announced that it would be a political force in the 1994 city and county elections. The organization said that it would support candidates who "represent the needs of all residents" and that the group's focus would be on "recreation, the environment and the economic climate in Huntington Beach."

Duchene has long sought a youth sports complex to be built in Central Park. He has charged that playing fields are rapidly disappearing and that young people need a safe, permanent place for Little League baseball and other sports.

In addition to Duchene, founders of Community Forum are Philip Baumfeld, Bryan Bridges, Diane McCue, Taylor Shaw-Bass, Tony Nottke and Planning Commissioner Jan Shomaker.

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