Black History Month, other observances back on in Huntington Beach, it appears

A Pan African flag, bottom left, is shown flying at the OC Fair & Event Center in recognition of 2022 Black History Month.
A Pan African flag, bottom left, flies at the OC Fair & Event Center in recognition of Black History Month in 2022. The majority of the Huntington Beach City Council, which voted earlier this year not to fly banners for such observances, has taken some heat for an agenda item passed last week to institute a new 12-month calendar that appeared to entirely eliminate recognition of Black History Month and others like Pride Month. The city now says “miscommunication” led to the controversy.
(Courtesy of OC Fair & Event Center)
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Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Dec. 27. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at the latest local news and events.

People who are keeping an eye on the Huntington Beach City Council — and its many decisions this year that have undone previously established policies — may be feeling a sense of whiplash. It was reported Dec. 20 the council’s conservative majority had pushed through a 12-month calendar that eliminated Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month and other familiar observances the night before. On Friday, after a slew of news outlets got wind of such a controversial move and it was reported more widely, the city’s spokesperson sent out a news release saying it had all been a “miscommunication.”

The agenda item approved 4-0 last Tuesday night was introduced by Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark, Mayor Pro Tem Pat Burns and Councilman Casey McKeon. It received the deciding vote from Tony Strickland, who passed gavel to Van Der Mark just this month. The item states it was designed to honor the rich historic heritage of the country, state and Surf City itself.

It further stated on the agenda item that any previous monthly themes or celebrations approved by earlier Huntington Beach City Councils would be repealed and superseded. That wording indicated Black History Month, and others observed in the city previously, were being nixed in 2024.

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The item stated the new Huntington Beach celebrations included on it the new calendar are intended to be “free of any identity politics and political agendas.”

To be certain everyone understood the item correctly, Councilman Dan Kalmick asked McKeon, who came up with the plans for the new city calendar, if it meant that Black History Month (and the others) would no longer be observed in Surf City beginning in 2024. He asked the question more than once and elicited a response that affirmed that stance from McKeon, who added it was because the new calendar was already set, but nothing precluded previous themed months from being added back in future years.

Their exchange can be viewed beginning roughly at 2 hours and 40 minutes into the YouTube recording of the Dec. 19 meeting, for those who want to see it for themselves.

Huntington Beach public affairs manager Jennifer Carey on Friday blamed the controversy that ensued on “miscommunication,” reports my colleague Matt Szabo, who covered the Dec. 19 meeting for the Daily Pilot. Carey released the calendar for the first quarter of 2024, which included the approved themes of “Founders’ Legacy — Celebrating Huntington Beach’s Origins” for January, “We Love Our Libraries — Huntington Beach’s commitment to books, reading and learning” for February and “California’s History — Before statehood to now, and what it means to be a Charter City” for March.

Black History Month and Women’s History Month are also listed for February and March, respectively, Szabo reports.

“I think there was, and understandably so, confusion in regard to the item,” Carey said. “[It was discussed] that we have this one celebration and that’s it, and that’s simply not the case.”

McKeon echoed Carey, telling Szabo the agenda item was “misinterpreted in a way,” adding that it was a pilot program that will be continue to be fine-tuned.

For his part, Councilman Kalmick seems not to be entirely buying that miscommunication had anything to do with the controversy.

“The video’s clear, the action agenda is clear,” Kalmick told the Daily Pilot reporter. “We explicitly asked, ‘Are we going to be celebrating this anymore?’ and they said, ‘No.’ So I don’t know how staff is managing that ... We asked [McKeon] four different ways, ‘Does this mean we’re not going to celebrate this?’”

Kalmick maintains that since the agenda item, as passed, was not clear in its intentions, it needs to come up for a vote again.

“They’re going to have to bring it back [to the City Council], or it’s illegal,” he said.

MORE NEWS

With a rescue team scaling back in O.C., some are worried area horses will be in peril during the next wildfire. L.A. Times staff writer Gabriel San Román, in this news feature, explains how rescuing horses and livestock from wildfires all over O.C. has been undertaken by volunteers in previous years and how that work is now in some jeopardy. He writes that last year a mutual aid Large Animal Rescue Team, based in San Juan Capistrano, was formed to serve the county. “But now, citing finite resources and a dwindling roster of members, the group has decided to limit its deployments to within San Juan Capistrano city limits,” San Román writes. Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, whose district encompasses fire-prone canyon areas, told the reporter that necessary adjustments will be made now that LART has scaled back significantly. “The county should not run out and say the sky is falling,” Wagner said.

A magnitude 3.4 earthquake hit Huntington Beach Friday night. According to the L.A. Times report on the shaker, one person wrote on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, “That was crazy. ... Our building felt like a semi truck ran into it.” The 9:52 p.m. quake’s epicenter was just east of Newland Elementary School. Light shaking was reported in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and Garden Grove, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Fountain Valley is set to add to its affordable housing stock. The City Council approved needed entitlements for a new 29-unit building at a site on Magnolia Street owned and operated by the nonprofit Our Lady of Guadalupe. Plans call for 15 studio apartments and 14 one-bedroom units.

Metrolink service is suspended through the end of day Friday for maintenance and enhancements. All Metrolink lines, including those in O.C., are affected by the service stoppage. “We scheduled this work on dates of historically low ridership and are working hand-in-hand with our transit partners to identify alternate transportation options for those who will be impacted,” Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle said in a statement. The transportation agency has posted online a page with answers to questions riders are likely to have.

Construction work underway on Laguna Canyon Road this week is causing closures. Caltrans advises motorists southbound lanes of the road will be closed between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily between today and Friday, between SR-73 and El Toro Road.

PUBLIC SAFETY & COURTS

Stephen M. Redd, housed at San Quentin Rehabilitation Center on condemned status since 1997, died Dec. 21, 2023.
Stephen M. Redd, housed at San Quentin Rehabilitation Center on condemned status since 1997, died Dec. 21, 2023. He was 78 years old. Redd was sentenced in O.C. on Feb. 28, 1997, after being convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree burglary as a third striker, first-degree robbery as a third striker, attempted murder as a third striker, and second-degree robbery as a second striker. Redd fatally shot a Yorba Linda supermarket manager during a robbery.
(California Dept of Corrections )

A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy convicted of a 1994 Orange County murder died in his cell. Stephen Moreland Redd, 78, was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin Rehabilitation Center around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, authorities said. Convicted in 1996, Redd was on death row for killing grocery store manager Timothy McVeigh, 34, during a robbery in Yorba Linda. Redd was a convicted bank robber free on parole when he began a string of robberies in O.C. leading up to the shooting of McVeigh. Redd’s cause of death remains under investigation.

Firefighters knocked down a second-alarm blaze at a two-story apartment building in Rancho Santa Margarita, authorities said Tuesday. Fire crews responded to the 100 block of Via Amistosa at 8:25 p.m. Monday and had the fire out by 9:05 p.m, the Orange County Fire Authority reported.

A man was killed Tuesday when he was struck on a La Habra street by a vehicle whose driver did not stop to help him. The crash was reported at 6:56 a.m., when a man was down in the northbound No. 1 lane of Beach Boulevard, according to a City News Service report. The man, in his 50s, was pronounced dead at the scene.

A 36-year-old man was struck and killed Saturday morning by a hit-and-run vehicle in Westminster, authorities said. At about 4:45 a.m. officers were sent to Bishop Street, west of Brookhurst Street, where they found a Garden Grove resident dead at the scene. A witness said the man had been struck by a small dark-colored sedan that fled the scene.

LIFE & LEISURE

Miss Pepa Dodge teaches a 55-and-older class at Huntington Academy of Dance.
Miss Pepa Dodge teaches a 55-and-older class on a recent Monday afternoon at Huntington Academy of Dance in Huntington Beach.
(Susan Hoffman)

Meet Miss Pepa Dodge, who’s 96 and is still teaching ballet and Spanish dance classes, not to mention water aerobics. She never misses a day of work, either, according to this Daily Pilot feature story. The native of Reggio Calabria, Catona, Italy, moved to the United States when she was 5. At the age of 19 her dance career was launched and she developed into a respected performing artist with tours in this country as well as in Europe. For decades now she’s been affiliated with the Huntington Academy of Dance, where the nonagenarian teaches classes in partnership with the Huntington Beach Senior Center in Central Park. She teaches the water aerobics at a local YMCA. Her advice to others who’d like to live a long life: “Stop eating, keep moving.”

Dr. Alison Taur practices her wave for the upcoming Rose Parade.
Dr. Alison Taur practices her wave for the Rose Parade on Kaiser Permanente’s float, “Symphony of You.” Taur will be one of 10 individuals riding the float on New Year’s Day.
(Courtesy of Alison Taur)

A doctor from Newport Beach will ride on Kaiser Permanente’s Rose Parade float Monday to boost trans visibility. Dr. Alison Taur, who’s known to her friends as “Allie,” will represent the transgender and gender-diverse community on Kaiser’s “Symphony of You” float. She told the Daily Pilot she would normally like to hang out with her family that day but agreed to participate at the urging of her wife, Joyce, who is also a physician. Taur, who transitioned in 2014, said she agreed it was important to be visibly trans because of recent efforts across the country, including in North Carolina, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and other states, to restrict or remove gender-affirming care for minors.

CALENDAR THIS

Los Lobos: David Hidalgo, Conrad Lozano, Steve Berlin, Louie Perez  and Cesar Rosas.
Los Lobos: David Hidalgo, from left, Conrad Lozano, Steve Berlin, Louie Perez and Cesar Rosas, shown in a 2021 file photo, will be at the Coach House for their New Year’s Eve show on Sunday night.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Los Lobos will perform at the Coach House on New Year’s Eve. The venerable rock band out of East L.A. is marking 50 years in the business. Still taking the stage together are David Hidalgo, Louie Pérez, Jr., Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin. Sunday night’s event is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. at the Coach House, located at 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $98 and can be purchased here.

Also on New Year’s Eve, Fullerton will hold its First Night 2024 celebration. Family-oriented and alcohol-free, the city promises food, live entertainment, kids games and fireworks. Hours are 7 p.m. until midnight Sunday at the Downtown Fullerton Plaza, located at 125 E. Wilshire Ave. Free admission.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Thank you for reading today’s newsletter. If you have a memory or story about Orange County, I would love to read and share it in this space. Please try to keep your submission to 100 words or less and include your name and current city of residence.

I appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. (photos welcome!) or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com.