Mailbag: Review board takes a page from McCarthy’s playbook

Organizer Cathey Ryder addresses over 100 people protesting proposed changes at city libraries.
Organizer Cathey Ryder addresses over 100 people protesting proposed changes at Huntington Beach libraries.
(Eric Licas)

I was born into a Jewish family 17 years after the Holocaust. My early life was in full knowledge of these obscenities. I still do not understand how an entire country could allow this to happen.

As a teenager, I was fascinated by McCarthyism. How could our country allow such a man to singularly destroy patriots?

Why is this relevant? Well, history repeats itself.

We need look no farther than the dais of the Huntington Beach City Council and the not-so-fab four of Gracie Van Der Mark, Tony Strickland, Pat Burns and Casey McKeon as well as their cronies City Atty. Michael Gates and Interim City Manager Eric Parra. Even in light of overwhelming opposition to their degradation of our libraries, they care not what their citizens think because as a de facto dictatorship you don’t have to.

At the April 2 City Council meeting, library supporters knew that the agenda item banning books was a forgone conclusion. Public comments that are ignored do not allow moderate people to engage in a debate of the issue or presentation of facts. We must choose sides. I choose the library. I choose freedom of speech.


Wrapping yourself in a flag does not make you a patriot; taking away flags, books and cultural celebrations does make you an extremist. They are wrong. They are un-American. Extremism wins, for now.

But, like fascism and McCarthyism, extremism doesn’t last. In truth, they are the futile four — what they do will be undone, and they will be no more than a forgotten footnote in the history of Huntington Beach.

To our City Council: You have lost, even if you don’t know it yet. When you’re gone, no one will be praising you in the council chamber. Parks will not be built in your honor. Your despicable actions will disappear. You will simply become the forgotten four.

Larry Hersh
Huntington Beach

Regarding the Huntington Beach parent-guardian review board committee for children’s library materials, what is next? All must meet community standards. What are these standards and who gets to decide what they are? Apparently not the accredited review sources such as School Library Journal, Book List or Library Journal. Nor are the judgment calls made by the certified librarians looking at what subjects fill a need in the community.

I guess the only standards must be those held the mayor herself, her fellow conservative council members and her ultra conservative church members. However, I am a member of the community. I have lived in Huntington Beach for 51 years — much longer than Gracey Van Der Mark. Apparently, my voice and standards do not count or matter. Neither do the standards of anyone else who does not agree with her moralistic, homophobic outlook.

Isn’t this the way fascism starts? First they came after the libraries and started judging/condemning all the books “wrong for children and the community.” Instead of the burning books like the Nazis did, our city will just privatize the library to make sure only the books the City Council deems appropriate are allowed. This is what happens when people don’t come out and vote. Less than 30% of voters came out for the election when Mayor Van der Mark and her ilk took their council seats, and look what has happened to our city.

Barbara Richardson
Huntington Beach

Shame! Shame on our extremist majority four Huntington Beach City Council members. For months, they have ignored the vast majority of residents pleading for the preservation of our award-winning public library. They have denigrated our librarians, banned books that don’t suit them and now support the privatization of the library to turn a profit for a former mayor and an East Coast hedge fund. As a 30-year-plus resident of the city, it is repugnant to me to be represented by council people who are the antithesis of education and family values. Our public library offers the ultimate freedoms: freedom to read, to explore new ideas, to think broadly and critically, to learn and to simply enjoy a good story. Librarians are dedicated to fostering just that! Save the soul of our city, our public library.

Nora Pedersen
Huntington Beach

With the same 4-3 vote the conservative H.B. City Council marches forward with their book-banning plan while falling behind in common sense. Calling for a 21-member citizen review board of untrained political appointees is a setback for the community, especially when there is no appeals process and each of the members can individually call for a book ban.

This same self-serving legislation will continue until enough constituents object and remove them from public office. In the meantime the entire community will suffer the consequences of mediocrity.

Richard C. Armendariz
Huntington Beach

It’s not just that I oppose the H.B. City Council majority’s policies, but I resent their poor drafting of them and their reckless pursuit of ideological idiocy that will sink Surf City like a stone. The so-called “parent/guardian children’s book review board” is a perfect example. The council majority refused to even consider correcting the obvious flaws in the now adopted ordinance, guaranteeing a long and protracted fight with possible legal consequences. This rogue majority has consistently ignored even rationally routine corrections to its proposed legislation. Maybe they fear everything will unravel if they “get real” about what they are doing. It is sad to see my hometown so misgoverned.

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

The mailbag has been saturated with letters to the editor about Huntington Beach’s political faux pas. There are other issues besides monitoring our wonderful library that should be examined, including homelessness, infrastructure, air and noise pollution, and last but not least servicing H.B. residents and their animals with a no-kill shelter rather than contracting with O.C. Animal Care in Tustin, which contributes to the deaths of innocent animals.

Incidentally, I don’t know anyone other than the four majority council members who want to farm out our library to a “for profit” library service. It’s no coincidence that H.B.’s former Republican mayor, Mike Posey, represents this service.

Lynn Copeland
Huntington Beach

Recall may be the answer

The residents of Huntington Beach could learn a lesson from the Orange Unified School District. On two occasions the school district has run successful recalls against members of the school board, in 2001 and in the 2024 primary election. In 2001, three trustees were recalled, and just last month two of seven were recalled. Both the conservative school board members of Orange and the four conservative members of the Huntington Beach City Council took control of their boards and turned them into microcosms of polarized America in the Trump era, raising culture war issues.

I feel sorry for the many Huntington Beach residents who write letters to the Daily Pilot each week expressing their frustration with their council. Unfortunately, the four conservative members were just elected in 2022, promising another two years of actions similar to the last two. The minority members are up for reelection in 2024, which does not bode well for the immediate future of those unhappy residents who will continue to face the decisions of the conservative majority.

I was greatly involved in OUSD’s first successful recall, and the amount of work involved was staggering. It took the teachers, parents and other concerned residents months of preparation and enormous footwork to stage that successful recall in 2001. In 2024, volunteers worked hard for months to recall just two of the school board members.

The difference between OUSD’s success and Huntington Beach’s failure might well be the large number of people the latter tried to recall. Orange chose only three members the first time and two the second. With those limited numbers, they still got the results they wanted — the break-up of a block of ultra-conservative votes. In addition to being too much work to recall a larger number than two or three, it also makes it too costly.

There is not enough time to initiate a recall in Huntington Beach before the November election. Also, residents will have to see who wins the three open seats. Unless they decide to limit the number of council members they wish to unseat, they just might need to bide their time until success is more attainable or they can come up with a better idea.

Lynn Lorenz
Newport Beach

Fixed fees would harm consumers

Once again, the California Public Utilities Commission demonstrates that it is not really the public’s agency but rather in the pockets of the investor-owned electric utilities. The latest version of their fixed fee proposal still plans a fixed fee that is more than double the national average. Those who consume less electricity, whether because of a small home, apartment or condo, or because they’ve taken energy conservation steps like double-pane windows, energy-efficient appliances and LED lights, will still see major bill increases. Those who consume large amounts of electricity will see their bills decrease. To make matters worse, the fixed fee is still totally uncapped, so it can continue to go up and up. Californians already pay among the highest electricity rates in the entire country, and this proposal will only make it worse. Legislators need to pass AB 1999 to stop these fixed fees.

David Rynerson
Huntington Beach

Politics at play over housing in C.M.

At the April 2 Costa Mesa City Council meeting, the subject was an inclusionary/affordable housing ordinance (IHO). When it was introduced, the information was positive; from the staff reports, survey results, statistics, with staff and council members — all women — relaying that developers had acknowledged to them that these stronger requirements were acceptable. The enthusiasm was enhanced by the full council chambers. Residents and advocates gave testimonials on the dire need for affordable housing, with some working two or more jobs and others having to rely on charities to eat after they pay their rent. Then Councilwoman Andrea Marr made a motion, saying she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t fulfill her campaign promises. Her proposal required 15% low or 10% very low income units in builds over 60 units per acre, ensuring the IHO would actually require inclusionary affordable housing. Councilman Arlis Reynolds seconded the motion. Whereupon Councilman Jeff Harlan got up on his hind legs, dismissed the facts espoused by the women and appointed himself the man really in charge of the facts. He then proceeded to raise the specter of terror, which he and Councilman Loren Gameros have been stoking, especially with Mayor John Stephens and Councilman Manuel Chavez. Harlan’s final pronouncement hung in the air as if it came from on high: No development will occur in Costa Mesa as long as affordable units are required.

Yet another council meeting beginning with its focus on the residents and ending by proselytizing about the hardships developers endure. Reynolds said the idea is laughable that billionaires won’t build in Costa Mesa, when they’re building in Santa Ana, which has a more restrictive IHO. She and others put forth revised motions leaving a confusing tangle. In an effort to make some progress, Marr and Reynolds finally voted with the majority 7-0 for 10% low and 5% very low income affordable units in projects over 50 units per acre.
Sadly, the council’s idea of playing hardball with developers is to give them everything straight off — an incentive-based program — allowing them to keep coming back to the city trough for more. Hopefully, November’s election will bring new council members with some backbone to the dais. Until then, the men on the council will make a spectacle of themselves playing hardball with their Pickleball paddles. Priscilla Rocco Costa Mesa