Huntington Beach continues charter amendments talks

A voter enters the voting area at the Civic Center in Huntington Beach in 2020.
A voter enters the voting area at the Civic Center in Huntington Beach in 2020.
(File Photo)

Should Huntington Beach require voters to show identification when voting?

Like so many issues in the charter amendment process the city is currently undergoing, that depends on who you ask.

City Councilmen Dan Kalmick and Casey McKeon had a spirited discussion on the subject Thursday night from the dais, in the second of four special meetings relating to charter amendments.

“You’re making it more difficult for people without resources to vote,” Kalmick said to those proposing the change in voting protocol.


McKeon had a quick response.

“Vote by mail then,” McKeon responded. “In every aspect of your life you have to show ID.”

Voter ID requirements, more polling locations and supervision of voting drop boxes were three of the election-related issues debated Thursday as the council continued the process.

Informal straw voting could take place at the next special meeting on Sept. 28, along with the bundling of the amendments into ballot measures. At the final meeting on Oct. 4, the council would take formal votes to put the measures onto the primary ballot next March for the voters to decide.

Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton, center, makes a point at Tuesday's meeting.
Huntington Beach City Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton, center, makes a point at Tuesday’s meeting.
(Matt Szabo)

The Huntington Beach City Charter has not been amended since 2010. Four measures on the 2022 general election ballot, put there by the previous City Council, were shot down by voters.

Most public speakers at Thursday night’s meeting, which lasted about five hours, also were not in favor of any amendments to the charter. Of 38 people who gave comments before the council deliberated, 34 were against charter amendments. Two supported voter IDs, and one said she supported some proposed amendments but not others.

“There are a few changes within the charter amendment document I saw that could make sense,” resident Brenda Glim said. “But you nullified the entire document by adding right-wing, white-nationalist voting provisions. We spent years working to make Huntington Beach a beautiful, safe, inclusive place to live and visit, and you are tearing it down faster than a jackrabbit on a hot griddle.”

Another speaker, Amory Hanson, introduced an idea that seemed to be well-received by the council. It would require a special election when there is a vacancy on the panel, unless the departing council member’s term would soon expire and a general election would be held to elect his or her successor.

“With increasing public interest in our local government, it is important that we the people always be able to participate in electing our councilmen and other elected officials,” Hanson said.

Members of the City Council who weren’t on this year’s charter ad hoc committee also introduced possible new charter amendments to consider. Kalmick’s included allowing for council to have staff and increasing the pay of council members themselves.

“The majority of the city are hard-working, blue collar folks, and we don’t necessarily represent them that way,” Kalmick said. “I mean, everybody up here owns a home, and 50% of the city rents ... The financial burden of being on City Council stops a lot of people from running.”

Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton suggested amending Section 307 of the charter to state the City Council could not review or remove content in the city’s libraries. That amendment would be a direct response to Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark’s interest in reviewing library books, a hot topic item set to have city staff return with suggestions at a meeting next month.

“We’ve done a lot of talk about, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Bolton said. “Based on the debate we’ve had about the libraries and the community’s response, it looks like something that might be broken. We may as well consider a charter amendment and put it to a vote of the residents about the library issue.”

The council punted discussing amending the charter to only allow government flags, the POW/MIA flag and possibly the Olympic flag on city property until next week’s meeting. The proposer of that amendment, Councilman Pat Burns, was absent Thursday.

Earlier this year, the conservative majority on the City Council passed an ordinance with that language, which caused an outcry among some since it stopped the city’s flying of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag each June in recognition of Pride Month.