Council cleared in lawsuit

A Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that the Huntington Beach

City Council did not overstep its bounds when it put off a vote that

could divide the city into five council districts until March 2004.

The suit was filed by Huntington Beach resident Joseph Jeffrey

last week in an attempt to overturn the council's decision to have a

ballot measure that would divide the city into five city council

districts and eliminate two council positions placed on the March

2004 ballot, rather than the upcoming November ballot.

'I'm very upset that the judge ruled as he did," Jeffrey said.

"I feel that 22,000 voters are not being given the opportunity to

vote for, or against, the initiative. We're working on an appeal."

Jeffrey said Judge Dennis Sheldon Choate boiled the lawsuit down

to whether or not the city had the discretion to set the vote for

March 2004. The judge ruled that it did and said he didn't see

anything wrong with setting the vote for 2004, Jeffrey said.

Council members were delighted that the issue will wait until

March 2004 to go before voters.

"Obviously we're pleased," said Councilman Ralph Bauer. "Luckily a

judge saw the value of the prerogative of the council and agreed with

[us]."

Although the suit came as a surprise to Bauer, several of his

fellow council members said they anticipated the opposition.

"I was expecting someone to do it," said Mayor Debbie Cook, who

was the only council member to vote against the delay.

Council members as a whole said they felt that they, and the

public, needed more time to look at the issue.

Councilwoman Connie Boardman said she voted to put the measure off

because she felt that there were many unanswered questions. Despite

her vote, the suit did not come as a shock to her.

"The people pushing the initiative have spent $100,000 so I wasn't

surprised," she said.

Jeffrey, a supporter and signature gatherer of the districting

measure, contended that the council's decision to put the measure off

for a year-and-a-half was illegal. Supporters of the measure got

22,000 signatures, more than the required amount to have it placed on

the November ballot, and he argued that the council is preventing

city residents from voting on the measure in a timely manner.

-- Jose Paul Corona

Council candidates ready for November race

With four open seats, no incumbents, 18 candidates and a field of

contenders rife with both business advocates and environmental

activists, the race for the Huntington Beach City Council is on.

The closest thing to incumbents voters have to chose from this

November are a former Huntington Beach mayor, a former Hawaiian

Gardens mayor and the wife of a current City Council member.

Former Surf City Mayor Dave Sullivan, who served from 1992 to 2000

has thrown his hat into the ring, saying the city lacks fiscal

responsibility these days.

Kathleen Mello-Navejas has only lived in Huntington Beach for a 1

1/2 years, but she feels that her four terms as mayor of Hawaiian

Gardens will help her if she is elected to the City Council.

"I have a world of experience and talent," she said. "I just felt

that I could use my leadership for giving back to the community."

Just as the candidates divide themselves by their stance on

certain issues, generally, so do voters. Although the two do meet,

the Surf City camps traditionally split with the environmental versus

the development crowds.

There is a handful of candidates who put environmental issues,

such as saving the Bolsa Chica and cleaning up the beaches at the top

of their lists.

There's no doubt about which camp some of the candidates sit in --

activist Joey Racano for instance, or Cathy Green, a founding member

of Amigos de Bolsa Chica, are pro-environment. Green, wife of

Councilman Peter Green, has lived in the city for 32 years. Her name

is on the long list of those named Outstanding Citizen; it was added

in 1998.

Racano has been very vocal in his opinions of the current council,

despite its environmental bent of the last couple of years.

"The city's been run terribly. The polluted ocean and bad

infrastructure speak volumes," he said.

Another candidate who lists Bolsa Chica high on her list is

Planning Commissioner Jill Hardy, a teacher at Huntington Beach High

School. Hardy was one of 36 applicants for the council seat vacated

by Dave Garofalo in December.

Fellow teacher Diane Lenning, a 2000 council candidate and 2002

applicant, puts beaches up the top of her list, as does 15-year

resident Conrad Jim Moreno; Steve Ray, who has served on the

Huntington Beach Citizens Participation Board; and Keith Bohr, a

former assistant project manager for the city. Bohr, however, also

says a focus needs to be on helping the local economy grow.

Moreno and Bohr applied for the job in January.

The candidates who hope to give local business owners a stronger

presence and promote business development are plentiful this race.

One such candidate is 2000 hopeful J. Devin Dwyer, who has been

endorsed by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and by Orange County

Supervisor Jim Silva.

Joseph J. Carchio, who ran in 2000, also lists himself as a strong

advocate for small business owners in the city.

Stephen Garcia, a 16-year Surf City resident, also counts

redevelopment and the city's infrastructure as two major issues in

his campaign. He has served on the Citizens Participation Advisory

Board for the past five years. He also ran unsuccessfully two years

ago. Norm Westwell has also run for City Council before and he's

currently running for a seat on the board of the Ocean View School

District.

Don Hansen, 30, a strong presence in the south east section of

Huntington Beach, is making his first run for office as is Peter G.

Albini, who works for an electrical consulting firm. Another

candidate is former Huntington Beach Police Department officer Gil

Coerper. Two more little-known candidates are Jennifer Legg and

Robert Lillis who says his management experience is something that

the city is sorely lacking.

In the race for city attorney the field is small but fierce.

Deputy City Atty. Jennifer McGrath has stated her intentions and is

hoping to fill the opening left by her boss, City Atty. Gail Hutton.

Former Independent columnist Ron Davis, who has done legal work for

the city in the last year and ran against Hutton in 1998, is also

interested.

Fed up with the money spent on outside attorneys, civil attorney

Benjamin Pugh joined the race. Lastly, Alan Leigh Armstrong, as

26-year resident hopes to keep the city out of litigation by writing

easy to understand statutes and contracts.

-- Jose Paul Corona

Surf City beaches cleaner than ever

Surf City has an image problem.

Huntington Beach's shoreline, which has taken its lumps in the

media for a rash of bacteria outbreaks, is cleaner than it has ever

been, a UC Irvine study concludes.

"I think there's a positive environmental message here," said

Stanley Grant, the report's lead author. "There's been a lot of money

spent over the years on mitigation, and we can clearly see the

impacts of that."

In the report, published last week on the Web site of the American

Chemical Society's journal, Grant surveyed water-quality data from

1958 to 2001. The Orange County Sanitation District and Orange County

Health Care Agency provided the data.

One of his findings in the report was that water quality improved

dramatically after the sanitation district replaced its outfall pipe

in 1971. The district releases 234-million gallons of sewage per day

from a pipe 4 1/2 miles out to sea.

Before 1971, the district released its sewage only a mile

offshore.

Grant, who chairs the school's Department of Chemical Engineering

and Materials Science, also questioned the validity of current

water-quality testing methods. When county health regulators warn

swimmers away from Huntington State Beach, they're using data that's

almost 24 hours old, leaving open the possibility that the bacteria

levels have already returned to more appropriate levels, Grant said.

The beach, Grant said, could already be clean when the sign is poked

into the sand.

"You'd have to have a stoplight up on the beach flashing green and

red," Grant said. "It flashes red, and everybody would have to run

out of the surf. It flashes green, and everybody could run back in."

The county's regulators applauded the analysis as food for

thought. Larry Honeybourne, a spokesman for the Health Care Agency's

environmental health division, said Grant's study presented the data

in a unique way.

The report also pointed to a series of unexplained "hot spots" for

bacteria outbreaks at the city's state beaches.

"Huntington State Beach is an area [where] we have had

intermittent postings," Honeybourne said. "It is a location that

tends to have higher bacteria counts."

-- Paul Clinton

UCI scientist gets $640,000 for study

A team of researchers at UC Irvine has been given funds to launch

a statewide water-quality study.

Led by noted scientist and lecturer Stanley Grant, who teaches

environmental engineering in the school's Chemical Engineering and

Materials Science Department, the researchers are looking into what

role wetlands play in ocean pollution.

"We've known for some time that coastal wetlands are a critical

habitat for rare and endangered species," Grant said. "The issue is

whether animal feces released from coastal wetlands are contributing

to beach closings in Southern California."

The UC Office of the President handed Grant and his team $640,000

to complete the study.

UCI environmental engineer Brett Sanders, oceanographer Clinton

Winant and biological oceanographer Lisa Levin of the Scripps

Institution of Oceanography have said they will work with Grant

during the study.

Researchers said the study was needed to help uncover answers to a

persistent and enigmatic trend of postings and closures at beaches

that are caused by elevated bacteria levels in the water.

The group will study the Back Bay, Newport Harbor, the Santa Ana

River sloughs, Tijuana Estuary, San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, San

Dieguito Lagoon, the Ballona wetlands and the Mugu Lagoon.

Scientists have theorized that the bacterial outbreaks could

likely be caused by urban runoff, a polluted stew of animal waste,

human waste, pesticides and copper residue from car brakes that

washes off roadways.

In research done in a summer 2001 study, Grant and Sanders found

that bird droppings in Talbert Marsh contributed fecal matter to the

coastline off Huntington Beach.

"We want to know if our results from Talbert Marsh are unique to

that location or if this is a more widespread problem," Sanders said.

--Paul Clinton

Warnings posted at State Beach

County health regulators on Tuesday warned swimmers to stay out of

the surf at Huntington State Beach near Magnolia Street.

The Orange County Health Care Agency announced the posting in a

news release at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Warnings were in place in the sand

stretching 500 feet in either direction of Magnolia Street.

Health agency officials detected elevated levels of bacteria in

the water off the beach, triggering the posting.

The beach at Magnolia is notorious for its outbreaks of bacteria,

the cause of which are still largely unknown. Polluted urban runoff

and bird and animal waste are thought to be the leading possible

causes.

Warning signs will remain at the beach until follow-up water

testing shows bacteria levels have returned to acceptable levels.

--Paul Clinton

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