Mailbag: The real fear-mongerers in Huntington Beach

A woman who came out against privatizing Huntington Beach's libraries attends the May 7 City Council meeting.
(Eric Licas)

The May 7 Huntington Beach City Council meeting made me angrier than most, and that’s saying a lot given how contentious these gatherings have been since the conservative majority took charge. The four majority members kept falsely accusing the three minority members of using “fear-mongering” to agitate and divide the community.

If anyone deserves the title of fear-monger, it’s each of the four conservative members who have consistently used divisive speech tactics to enact controversial policies that have tarnished our city. The definition of fear-mongering in politics is “using exaggerated or manipulated information to stoke fear among voters, rather than engaging in productive discourse or presenting factual arguments.”

Declaring that our public library contains hundreds of pornographic books is fear-mongering. Declaring that our city libraries are “infecting our children with obscenity or pornography” is fear-mongering. Declaring that volunteers with ideological motivations are more capable than professional librarians for determining which library books to procure is fear-mongering. Declaring that our city has experienced election fraud is fear-mongering. Declaring that illegal immigration is financially impacting Huntington Beach is fear-mongering. And declaring that privatization is an inaccurate term for turning over the management of our library operations (book collection and programming) to a for-profit corporation is fear-mongering.


Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark, Mayor Pro Tem Pat Burns and Councilmen Casey McKeon and Tony Strickland are the real fear-mongers in this town!

Carol Daus
Huntington Beach

“Let the people decide.” This was the cry of the Huntington Beach City Council conservative majority after they recklessly forced three charter amendments on the voters in the recent March primary.

The respected minority members of the council — Dan Kalmick, Rhonda Bolton and Natalie Moser — have put forth an actual democratic action: Let the people decide. Instead of the City Council authoritarian majority’s scheme to have the Huntington Beach Public Library privatized, we should let the H.B. voters decide this issue. The hugely unpopular outsourcing of our beloved library would harm the community in innumerable ways, and if this were only put to a vote by the council , the outcome would be inevitable. In their usual hypocritical style, the four MAGA supporters will ride roughshod over the people of Huntington Beach with their lockstep unanimous “no” vote. Yes, we see it coming.

We are once again witnessing poor leadership and bad governance to further only the conservative majority’s personal agendas and self-interests. It is evident they have no regard for the people’s wishes, and it will be crystal clear who is destroying our public library system. As a 60-plus-year resident of Huntington Beach and former educator, I am appalled by the actions of Gracey Van Der Mark, Tony Strickland, Pat Burns, and Casey McKeon. Our library is the last straw!

Laura Sire
Huntington Beach

For those who viewed the Huntington Beach City Council meeting of May 7 to the bitter end, and after witnessing dozens upon dozens of residents in public comments both support our public library and rail against any plans to privatize or outsource its operations, the conservative council majority members showed how they have lost touch with the community they are supposed to represent when the agenda item came up for discussion and vote. They stubbornly clung to their discredited motives of trying to save money for the city and protect citizens from radical management practices by well-respected and well-credentialed library professionals through foisting an RFP (request for proposal) for a private for-profit company to take over running our library system. The agenda item would have placed the issue before local voters in the November election (costing a fraction of the money the council majority spent on its own charter amendment schemes in the March primary election). The majority’s arguments ranged from disingenuous to dodgy and from fallacious to false equivalent in denying a public referendum. In trying to tout their civic stewardship, the council majority exposed only their authoritarian arrogance and insensitivity.

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

As usual, the unresponsive Huntington Beach City Council majority four ignored hundreds of letters and over 70 speakers at the May 7 City Council meeting. Instead of wisely agreeing to let the voters decide in November with a measure on the ballot as to whether or not to proceed with an RFP to privatize our public libraries, they voted 4-3 to go ahead now.

No matter that we love our libraries, our librarians and the many programs they provide just the way they are. No matter that the cost is less than $27 per person per year in taxes to support this outstanding public library system. No matter that the budget has increased only 2% in the last nine years. No matter that thousands of hours of volunteer time and about $300,000 in donations would be lost. No matter that most research says this is a bad idea and that many libraries that have privatized have been dissatisfied and tried to get out of their long-term contract, or not renewed. Why would we want to pay a for-profit East Coast hedge fund, send taxpayer money out of state and lose valuable employees and services?

These four political extremists rail about fear-mongering, try to confuse people about the actual meaning of the word privatize, claim it’s to save money and plunge full speed ahead on the road to destruction. The wreckage they leave behind will take a long time to recover from, and we may never be made whole again. Even many who voted for them had no idea this is what they would do to us. Their culture war on the libraries and LGBTQ+ community is destroying our city.

They spent nearly half a million dollars to put three measures to amend the City Charter on the primary ballot to gauge the will of the people, yet refuse to include this one, which would cost a lot less, on the November ballot. Obviously, they don’t value the will of the people when they know they’d lose if they put it to a citywide vote.

Michele Burgess
Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Councilman Casey McKeon states that data or facts are needed before they determine if the H.B. library should be privatized. Since when were data or facts needed by the majority on the City Council, when they decided that Voter ID and other charter changes were necessary?

As for the remarks made by Mayor Van Der Mark that they were elected to make the hard decisions, that’s true. But it is not a hard decision to determine that the H.B. library does not need privatization. She is correct in saying that there is no point in she or the other three right-wingers to continue serving on the council since they are wasting their time and our money, by creating non-issues. If over 400 emails have been received and dozens of comments have been made in opposition to this lame idea, what other hints do they need?

Richard C. Armendariz
Huntington Beach