Mailbag: Readers respond to H.B. council majority’s push against the state

Councilman Casey McKeon, City Atty. Michael Gates, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, Mayor Tony Strickland and Pat Burns.
Councilman Casey McKeon, City Atty. Michael Gates, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, Mayor Tony Strickland and Councilman Pat Burns at Gates’ home during an Election Night party in November.
(Matt Szabo)

The conservative four newly elected City Council members should realize and understand that they do not represent the majority of Huntington Beach residents, and their election was a concerted effort on their part to get out the right-wing vote. The bottom line of this issue is that a housing element in compliance with state law, a law that requires all California cities to provide a specific number of housing units, has to take place.

The prior council had created a housing plan in compliance with the state plan, but this present council decided not to vote on this plan and instead to file a lawsuit against the state to contest the allocation of 13,368 units, even though legal challenges by other cities have been unsuccessful. The city attorney does not have the experience to file a lawsuit to challenge the state law. To file a lawsuit against the state, especially since the state attorney general has sent a letter warning the city that it’s out of compliance, will lead to sanctions against the city borne by its residents.

This City Council should focus its efforts to fight and provide affordable housing instead of wasting the community’s assets fighting windmills.

Richard C. Armendariz
Huntington Beach

As evidenced by what I see on the streets everyday — that is, people pushing shopping carts loaded with their sleeping bags and other ragged belongings, as others panhandle on street corners — homelessness is abundant and problematic in my hometown of Huntington Beach.

Provisions that require developers to devote 20% of new housing units to “affordable housing” or “100% to moderate-income housing” is not an effort to “urbanize” Huntington Beach, as one newly elected City Council member suggested, rather it’s a positive step toward addressing the issue of homelessness in Huntington Beach. By mitigating the problem, we will also reduce the need for police intervention and increase safety and sanitation on the streets of Surf City.

Ben Miles
Huntington Beach

It was amateur hour (five of them, actually) at the Feb. 21 Huntington Beach City Council meeting as the new four-member majority struggled to justify their brash moves to reshape our local government in their image. While it was to Mayor Tony Strickland’s credit that he had previously insisted that all speakers in public comments could have up to three minutes each, it backfired when almost six dozen signed up to speak. Had all of them done so for their allotted time, it would have taken 3½ hours before getting to the reports and consent calendar. Then, the rookie mayor struggled further to control a boisterous audience pitting his MAGA-style base against proponents of flying the Pride flag on city property. While there were catcalls on both sides, the bulk of the disruptive clamoring came from the majority’s right-wing supporters. Strickland seemed powerless to rein his people in even when it resulted in outright “f-bomb” profanity.

The new conservative majority so doggedly pursued their agenda objectives in the face of powerful and incisive criticism from opposing council members Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton that several audience members wondered if the majority was simply being remote-controlled by the powerful special interests who had engineered their election. Despite having their arguments and reasoning effectively rebuffed, the majority members stuck to their unloaded guns and set us on a collision course not only with the state but the community at large as well.

As I stated during the public comments, I have never seen such an openly and nakedly authoritarian council majority in over 20 years of participating in Huntington Beach civic affairs. I further stated “If all you are pushing is performative partisanship, then that is not what I would call egalitarian representation” and concluded, “It is you who are being divisive, and you claiming to the contrary simply doesn’t make it so.”

The City Council meeting ended with all of the majority members’ ordinances and Councilmember (“H”) Items passing despite dire warnings of deleterious consequences, legal entanglements and community unrest. It promises to be a bumpy year at City Hall.

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

Flag decision offends this Christian

The Pride flag controversy (Huntington Beach City Council moves ahead with ordinance to stop flying Pride flag on city property, Daily Pilot, Feb. 22) misses a singularly important point. As a white male Christian property owner in Huntington Beach, when I look up at the Pride flag, I do not see the “divisive” symbol Councilman Burns sees (as depicted in Patrice Apodaca’s recent Daily Pilot column, Huntington Beach move to narrow flag rules is about exclusion). When I look up and see those rainbow stripes, I recall the original covenant that the rainbow symbolizes in Christianity. That we all — all of us, from the poor and the least and the despised up through those of us living in mansions in the Harbour and Edwards Hill — have a claim upon the mercy of the creator. When I look up at that flag, proud and free over our city, I see a stripe for me, and for my children and for each of us altogether. Not raising the flag — and this flag in particular — is a grave offense against my sense of what it means to be a politically engaged Christian.

The sense of shame I feel in this regard on behalf of my beloved city is overwhelming.

Galen T. Pickett
Huntington Beach

Education in chaos in Orange

It is unfortunate that one of the most important and vulnerable institutions in American society, our educational system, did not go unscathed during the divisive political environment of the last decade, particularly during the pandemic. Teachers and students became victimized by the fractionalization of society. However, in a recent NPR poll, a large majority of parents expressed satisfaction with their children’s school and what they are being taught. The title of the article by NPR sums up the present situation as follows: “The education culture war is raging. But for most parents it is background noise.”

Not so in the Orange Unified School District, which recently surprised almost everyone except the players when four of the school board members in a private meeting recently fired the highest officer in the district, the superintendent, and put the assistant superintendent on leave. People were hired by a minority of the district personnel to replace these positions; yet those replacements were totally unprepared to lead, and ultimately they quit too. The leadership atmosphere is chaotic with no reprieve in sight, and contract buy-outs are depriving the students’ educational budget of $1.5 million.

The four members who conducted the secret meeting are part of a conservative majority on the school board, the fourth new member of the coalition whose election barely squeaked by. Orange Unified is not a stranger to controversy with board clashes leading to a recall of three conservative candidates in 2001.

State Sen. Dave Min called the present personnel changes “a reckless decision” and was pursuing the possibility that the conservative board members privately discussed the firing in violation of the Brown Act, a state open-meetings law.

Parents in the district who were outraged by what they consider chaotic challenges to their children’s education and irresponsible spending by the conservative majority of the school board are organizing a recall.

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

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