Protect Huntington Beach group seeks to stop charter amendments
A group of Huntington Beach residents, including several former mayors, have formed community group they’ve named Protect Huntington Beach in response to the actions of the current conservative City Council majority.
They held a press conference Wednesday afternoon outside of City Hall, urging Surf City voters to reject three charter amendments that will be on the March primary ballot that include items like requiring voter identification in local elections.
About 100 people gathered to hear thoughts from former mayors Connie Boardman, Shirley Dettloff, Barbara Delgleize, Jill Hardy, Linda Moulton-Patterson and Vic Leipzig, as well as media questions.
Several noted that a city council is supposed to be nonpartisan. Yet, 4-3 votes and bickering on the dais have become commonplace since each of the four current conservative majority members — Mayor Tony Strickland, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, Casey McKeon and Pat Burns — were seated last December after being elected by voters.
Since the four have been seated on the dais, boards like the Human Relations Committee and Mobile Home Task Force have been eliminated, while the Declaration of Policy on Human Dignity was significantly altered. Most recently, the council majority introduced measures that would censor public library books.
“I served on two very different [City] Councils,” said Boardman, who was mayor in 2003 and 2013 and has regularly denounced the current majority during public comments. “But I never believed that people were voting against the best interests of the city. I believe that now.”
Hardy, who was a council member for 16 years and mayor in 2005 and 2015, said she treasured the nonpartisan aspect of her tenure.
“The sides were about the issues, not what party we happened to belong to or vote for,” said Hardy, a math teacher at Marina High. “I treasured the community input; I don’t understand the fear of having advice from experts. I always remembered that I might be really angry with somebody for their vote on Item No. 9, but I’m going to be nice, because I need their vote for Item No. 23. We don’t have that right now. We have people who vote for their side, instead of thinking about the issue and voting for themselves.”
Leipzig, who served on the City Council in the mid-1990s, said the vast majority of votes during that time were 7-0. He added that he was a registered Republican at the time, not that it mattered to his colleagues.
“You have Republican friends, you have Democratic friends,” he said. “You should be talking to all of them about these ballot measures and encouraging them to vote, in the best interests of the city of Huntington Beach, against these ballot measures.”
Strickland, who has said repeatedly that last fall’s election represented a mandate from Huntington Beach voters, responded after the press conference Wednesday.
“These are people who are looking for relevance who don’t represent the city of Huntington Beach,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the March election. These charter amendments are simple measures that will pass ... There’s a reason why all four of us won in a landslide. If you add up all of our votes, we’re over 51%, out of  candidates.”
Strickland said the conservative candidates simply did the opposite of what the previous council did, citing the character George Costanza from “Seinfeld,” who did the opposite of what he normally would in one popular episode of the show. He added that the majority was elected to shake things up.
“They didn’t understand that they were extremely unpopular,” Strickland said of the previous council. “If they were popular, us four would not have swept in together as a team. We believe the people are on our side. There’s a difference between them organizing to get people at City Hall and the city as a whole, in terms of the people and where they stand ... The bottom line is that I’m very confident that we represent the people of Huntington Beach.”
The press conference also included the giant Pride flag that was first unfurled in Huntington Beach last spring, after the council voted in February to pass an ordinance allowing only government and military flags to fly on city property. A similar charter amendment would require a unanimous vote of the council to fly any other flags besides those flags, the PIO/MIA flag and possibly the Olympic flag.
Pride at the Pier organizer Kane Durham said the group supports the no charter amendments campaign.
A Protect Huntington Beach event is scheduled for Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. in Central Park, next to the library.
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