Commentary: Huntington's summer of discontent

What a weird summer.

The end of August and the first few weeks in September are typically the warmest in Huntington Beach, and these past few days have been no exception.

It's the best time for locals to enjoy the miles of coastline before the kids go back to school. All the tourists have returned home, and once again Main Street is tolerable after the craziness of the Fourth of July and the U.S. Open of Surfing. But something has changed in Huntington Beach. What happened to us this summer?

Huntington is a city based on tradition and for that we are proud. We are known for having the largest Fourth of July parade west of the Mississippi and also for the illicit activities that generally follow.

This year certain fireworks were deemed legal on a trial basis, but it was the explosives that were disturbing well into the wee hours of the next morning. These terrified cats, dogs and people. The sound was like that of a war zone, not a celebration of independence.

Even stranger was the lack of police presence this year. Officers seemed to have vanished on a night that residents needed to feel secure. Weird.

With the new and improved sponsor of the U.S. Open of Surfing, locals were anticipating a more family-friendly event. It was anything but. It's a shame officials didn't do their homework. By axing one of Huntington Beach's treasured traditions, Rockin' Fig, the beloved announcer of what would have been his 20th year as the "voice of the U.S. Open of Surfing," they angered the locals, big time.

Unfortunately, it went straight downhill after that. Rioting broke out, and I doubt we will ever be the same again. It still is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch footage of strangers destroying our city.

And if that wasn't bad enough, the City Council demonstrated a lack of leadership. A special meeting was called, and the downtown small-business owners, along with residents and their families, came forth to express their horror over the events of July 28. All hoped for a solution to prevent this disaster from happening again.

Instead they were treated as whiners by a noticeably bored panel of city officials who concluded the meeting with their own comments. Councilwoman Jill Hardy talked about her trip to the beach with her daughter. Other council members seemed detached and confused. Were they genuinely surprised that history repeated itself?

The only City Council member to actually empathize with the residents of the city and who spoke with any degree of eloquence was Joe Carchio. Who are these people who are supposed to be representatives of our fair city?

Just last Sunday, another city tradition took place — the annual Blessing of the Waves. This event started five years ago. It draws in excess of 2,000 attendees and is organized by the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council.

Sounds like a good thing, right? It would have been if scorned former Mayor David Garofalo hadn't put his foot in his mouth by dissing one of the most beloved religious speakers, Pastor Sumo Sato, chaplain for the lifeguards, by saying he would not be part of the procession because of a conflict of interest. What? Seemed nobody knew what that could possibly be, not even Sumo himself.

Why is this man representing our city when he brought shame upon it not so long ago for his illegal business activities? It was another humiliating and embarrassing moment for the city.

Maybe it's time to scrutinize the individuals who are making questionable decisions on behalf of the residents who pay their inflated salaries. What changes are they working on to better our community and help us move forward and put this strange summer of disillusionment behind us?

There is an opportunity to end this dark summer on a positive note with the proposed music festival to be held on a state beach by a professional, well-respected promoter named Steve Thacher. Thacher is the creator of Wet Electric, to be held on Saturday, and he is so confident that his event will offer good, clean fun for the over-21 crowd that he went before the City Council and officials this last week to put their fears to rest.

City Atty. Jennifer McGrath expressed her optimism by suing to put the kibosh on Thacher and his event. Just when we had a window of opportunity to prove that Huntington Beach is resilient and above it all.

Summer 2013 changed Huntington Beach. Residents are bewildered and battered. We are in need of strong leadership.

It was a very strange summer indeed.

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ANDREA ROBERSON is a Huntington Beach resident.

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