City Lights: The 2010 oddball awards

This is our great high-minded issue of the year. The last week of December, the Independent ranks the top 10 stories of the past 12 months and pays tribute to the major figures in the community who passed away. The year-end retrospective can be joyful (KOCE-TV becoming Southern California's top PBS station) or sobering (the James Roberts and Rodney Alcala cases) or somewhere in between, but it tends to be short on weirdness.

No community, though, goes through an entire year without a few oddball moments. So here, continuing an annual tradition, are the Independent's Wacky Achievement Awards for 2010:

The Most Original Political Campaign Award goes to Andrissa Dominguez, a playground supervisor at Smith Elementary School who ran for Huntington Beach City Council. A grass-roots candidate to the max, Dominguez ran with a campaign budget of $0, and she requested that prospective campaign donors instead give money to political causes around town. When the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn. sent a questionnaire to every candidate, Dominguez declined, saying she lacked enough knowledge about city issues to respond.

But during a packed council race when nearly two dozen candidates' names plastered intersections around town, Dominguez had far and away the best signs — courtesy of dried fronds from the palm tree in her front yard, which she and her family members painted with the slogan "Andrissa 4 HB" and distributed to supporters. In the end, Dominguez's grass-roots (or palm-frond) campaign didn't net her a victory, but she did finish with 4,440 votes and topped three other candidates.

The Fuzzy Math Award goes either (a) to Mayor Joe Carchio, the only incumbent in this year's City Council race, or (b) to the many reporters, editors and record-keepers who have gotten his age wrong over the last decade. During the election, a reader pointed out that Carchio's age varied on several documents, and a quick perusal of the Independent's archives showed that clearly to be the case. In 2000, when Carchio ran for the first time, the paper gave his age as 53, only to up it to 57 when he ran two years later and 63 two years after that.

Meanwhile, this year, the Downtown Residents Assn. listed Carchio as 63, while voter registration pegged him at 69 and his high school alumni website showed him with the class of 1955, which would put him about 73. That last one seemed the most likely, because it takes more than a typo to place a student with the wrong graduating class, and Carchio confirmed it when we got a hold of him. He also said he didn't know where the wrong information came from.

"I don't think age really has anything to do with anything," Carchio said — perhaps echoing the sentiments of Ronald Reagan, who shrugged off his 73 years in a debate before drubbing Walter Mondale.

The Scatology in Education Award goes to Ocean View High School, which raised funds for the nonprofit Heifer International in the most, well, steaming way imaginable. The school's International Baccalaureate club puts on a function every year for the anti-hunger charity, and this time, teacher Jeneane Ottman came up with the idea of a Sheep Drop, in which a live sheep wanders around a fenced area with numbers painted on the grass, students feed it plenty of hay, and $25 goes to the person who bought the square the sheep defecates on first.

The sheep — named Sheepy — had shown impressive bowel movements earlier in the day, but once the Sheep Drop began, he took more than half an hour to relieve himself. Ultimately, he dropped his load on square No. 66, which netted the prize money for freshman Jeffrey Ashbeck.

I can remember a time, during my school days, when a student might have gotten lunch detention for suggesting a Sheep Drop on campus. But the fact that a teacher recommended it at Ocean View is another healthy sign that schools are becoming more liberal. And it resulted in this year's winner of the Quote of the Year Award: teacher Sara Spilsbury, who snapped, "Hey, how many of you guys could poop in front of this many people?" when students began nagging Sheepy to get the job done.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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