Huntington Voters to See Only One Council Item

Times Staff Writer

The Huntington Beach City Council has decided against placing competing measures on the March ballot over whether its members should be elected by district or at large.

One measure, already on the ballot, calls for five council members instead of the current seven, and the members would represent districts instead of being elected at large.

The intent is to make the council more accountable and reduce the cost of campaigning, said its backer, former state Assemblyman Scott Baugh.

Councilman Dave Sullivan, while acknowledging that the voters might favor district representation, said a five-member council is too small. Much of the council's work begins with three-member committees, he said, and with five members, those committees would have to be reduced to two members, because having three on the committee would amount to an unscheduled council meeting in violation of the law requiring open meetings.

Sullivan instead proposed a competing district plan for seven members. The council had earlier approved the plan 4 to 3, but the measure needed to make it past a second vote. It failed to do that at Monday's meeting when Councilwoman Pam Houchen, who had voted for the seven-district plan, reversed her vote.

Opponents of the council district system say that residents who have a beef with the city or a problem they want solved could go to only one council member for assistance. Under the at-large system, they say, residents could have the ear of every council member.

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