Mailbag: Did Van Der Mark miss an opportunity?
At the Huntington Beach City Council meeting last month, Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark clearly missed an opportunity to exhibit grace when questioned by Councilwoman Natalie Moser about her unbiased suitability to serve on the ad hoc Human Relations committee given allegations that she is a Holocaust denier and affiliated with white supremacists. Instead, she lashed out at Moser in a most unprofessional manner. Van der Mark could have seized this opening to coolly squelch any misconceptions the public may still harbor. The manner in which she responded did her no favors and makes one question her veracity.
Subsequently, and incredibly, the conservative four approved an agenda item to censure Moser for this exchange at the Sept. 5 council meeting. If there was a perceived breach in decorum, it seems more appropriate to be applied to the responder, not the council member asking a question. This is very disturbing, to witness a council member being censured for asking a salient question, which leads me to ask, why weren’t Moser and Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton assigned to the Human Relations Committee, given their experiences on this topic, rather than Van der Mark, Pat Burns and Casey McKeon? Perhaps the answer is obvious — the conservative four had already determined to eliminate the Human Relations Committee as well as revise the Human Dignity declaration to reflect their limiting views that negate the very intention of this document. This was merely an exercise of going through the motions.
It is the role of a city’s government to safeguard the welfare and rights of all its citizens, fostering unity and equality. When I moved to Huntington Beach over two decades ago, our City Council was successful in fulfilling this role. Unfortunately, this has changed as the council majority has enacted measures that ultimately will make our city unsafe, weaken the rights of its residents and tarnish its image to tourists, businesses and home buyers.
Sadly, our city is becoming known as an anti-LGBTQ+ city. This current council has banned the Pride flag on city property, has dissolved the 25-year-old Human Relations Committee that fostered inclusion and is considering restricting books to teens that have a LGBTQ+ theme. And this past week we had one more dangerous example of their bigotry: They have inserted anti-LGBTQ+ language in their rewrite of the Statement on Human Dignity. (It’s ironic that they use divisive language in something that’s called a Human Dignity statement!) We all know that the newly revised statement, which no longer states that the city condemns hate incidents and hate crimes, has nothing to do with human dignity; it’s all about a dangerous political agenda.
The definition of a “tin-pot dictator” is an autocratic ruler with little political credibility and typically having delusions of grandeur. We have four of them in Huntington Beach, constituting the City Council majority. The arrogance and intolerance of these amateur authoritarians was on full display at the Sept. 5 City Council meeting following hours of public comments where critical remarks towards the council majority had at least a 5-to-1 advantage over supportive ones. Citing recommendations from so-called “ad hoc” committees composed solely of council majority members, a whole raft of decisions was passed on 4-to-3 votes, which were so anti-community even the tin pots were rattling.
It was a sad day for democracy in Surf City, which may have been exactly the intended outcome of the “Fascist Four.” There was no pretense of representation for constituents who raised concerns over the high-handed dismissal of civic norms and protections. The meeting lasted until the wee hours of the morning, with much of the dirty work done in the dead of night after many dissenters in the audience had understandably departed. It was disgraceful.
The responsible residents of Huntington Beach now know what they’re in for over the next two years, the dismantling of our democracy which will take years to reverse and the efforts of many tinkers to repair.
Paying attention and voting in accordance with what’s good for our beloved Surf City — clean, safe streets, a responsive (not reactive city government) and efforts to humanely mitigate homelessness, along with continued support for our senior citizens and continued and diverse educational opportunities for our community members at all ages and stages of life — ought to be the focus of our municipal representatives and city residents, not expensive, narrowly focused and largely unnecessary charter amendments or a dubious new Policy on Human Dignity, which is much less dignified than the original.
Which is it, Huntington Beach City Council conservative majority? You don’t want the government to tell you what to do with your body when it comes to masks and vaccinations, yet you support a political party that would force a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term under any circumstance. You don’t want the schools to teach children acceptance and diversity, yet you support a party that is making laws to prevent families who have transgender children to make medical decisions on their behalf. You make a statement about sex differences in the new policy for Human Dignity but make no comment referring to the difference between biological sex and gender. Gender, by the way, refers to the continuum of complex psychosocial self-perceptions, attitudes and expectations people have about members of both sexes, which can vary greatly in different cultures. I know complexity can be scary, but I believe you would benefit from removing your tinfoil hats and maybe expanding your knowledge.
While I read so many letters about the disdainful and attention-seeking antics of the majority members of the Huntington Beach City Council, I am reminded of some of the embarrassing behavior of Newport Beach’s former council during the pandemic.
I think that was when city politics were at their worst. I now ask myself, is it because the newly elected council in Newport Beach is focusing on real issues in the city rather than political ones or because so many of us in Newport Beach grew weary of council-watching due to the despicable behavior of some candidates during the last election?
Has the infusion of new candidates made the council more professional than political? Or am I just unaware due to the fact that my attention has been focused lately on another city of my former professional life, where the politics are presently even more circus like than those of both Huntington Beach and Newport Beach during the pandemic? Again, I would like to think that it is the more the former than the latter.
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