On July 6, my wife and I attended our first Huntington Beach City Council meeting, and it was truly an eye-opening experience. As members of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, we wanted to lend our voices to those opposing the proposed rezoning of five acres of parkland near our house, so that the bankrupt developer, Hearthside Homes, could build condominiums on it.
As we waited for hours for this agenda item to come up, we were exposed to the incredibly immature and selfish behavior of most of the council members (with the exception of Jill Hardy, who was always polite, well-informed and gracious). Based on what we heard and observed, the worst offenders were the hostile Keith Bohr and the sarcastic Don Hansen, but the others were not far behind. Bohr is unfailingly hostile, and Hansen seems to revel in sarcasm to witnesses he disagrees with.
The one witness who got their approval, to the point where they nearly spread-eagled themselves across their desks, was the vice president of the development firm, Hearthside Homes, who was given much more time than anyone else. While all of the others who testified were held to strict three-minute limits, he was allowed to speak at length, and his arrogance showed through, as though he was annoyed that he had to defend his project at all.
His was about the only favorable testimony, and the council all but bowed when he finally sat down — vastly different treatment from the rest of the witnesses, who were browbeaten, ignored and otherwise disrespected. As we watched witness after witness treated like dirt, my wife told me that it reminded her of classrooms full of third-graders.
It was not just the Bolsa Chica Land Trust witnesses who received this treatment, but also a large group of Sunset Beach residents, who asked that Huntington Beach hold off on incorporating their area until they could file their appeal in a few months. Again, they were treated like supplicants at their master's throne. Disgusting.
Of course, the fix was in, and the council voted for annexation of Sunset Beach and in favor of the developer over the unanimous wishes of the residents. With the exception of Hardy, who will be sorely missed after her departure, I have rarely seen such a bunch of inept and childish politicians.
It's a good thing that some of the council members are leaving. I can only hope that some of the more ethical and temperate candidates such as Blair Farley, Connie Boardman and Joe Shaw take their places.
Helicopters a waste of money
Take the cops out of the air and put them on the street!
With the city facing a budget short of $3 million, I cannot understand why we continue to fund a fleet of helicopters in the city of Huntington Beach ("Daytime patrols, helicopter hours on chopping block," Aug. 19).
I would recommend that council members take a hard look at the facts on the cost/benefit of the helicopters, and I think it would be obvious that they are a huge waste of money. They need to answer the question directly of how many criminals were apprehended because of helicopters. And is it worth it? Councilman Gil Coerper's statement that the helicopter program "has been very, very successful in catching people, bad people if you will, when they could have gotten away" is disturbing if that is his justification for spending millions of taxpayers' money. It's time to ground the helicopters and get cops on the street.
One less visitor in Surf City
The recent ordinance to charge out-of-towners for emergency services in Huntington Beach is a leap off a slippery slope toward privatization and discrimination and is simply un-American ("Non-residents to be billed for emergency services," Aug. 19).
Huntington Beach gets 10 million to 13 million visitors annually who come to spend money at local businesses, and they deserve the very same emergency services as "locals." Visitors having an "accident" should never be charged "several thousand dollars" on top of their already unfortunate loss as an insult to injury. Accidents are, by definition, unforeseen events that nobody wants to happen.
What is an "out-of-towner," anyway, someone from over the border in Newport Beach? If a family living on the other side of the street from the Huntington Beach border has a horrible car wreck a block away, should they have to wait longer for emergency response from Costa Mesa despite the fact that a Huntington Beach fire truck happens to be roaming much closer and stands a better chance of saving a human life? Firefighters should never have to go out on a rescue thinking, "Who's going to pay for this?"
Two can play that game. When a Huntington Beach resident gets in an at-fault accident in Los Angeles, Sacramento or across the street in Costa Mesa, maybe they should be charged, too. But where will it stop then? What happens to our successful system of "mutual aid" by Fire Departments of neighboring cities? Does that go down the drain in a red-tape-billing nightmare?
I'll think twice before driving to dinner in a town that charges me thousands more for the same rescue services as a "local."
Playa Del Rey