By John Earl
Surf City Voice
Informed and “reliable” sources have told the Voice that Joe Carchio has stated his understanding that, following his self-assumed reelection to the Huntington Beach City Council next November, he will become the city’s mayor for 2011.
According to practice established by the city council in 1991, however, councilmembers rotate in set order into the mayor’s docket for one-year terms. According to policy, it would be Councilmember Don Hansen’s turn to be mayor in 2011, followed by Carchio the next year.
The resolution was passed to prevent manipulation by special interests (the Huntington Beach Company in particular) of the mayor selection process, according to councilmember Keith Bohr.
Since its inception, the resolution has been followed without exception, but the city council can adopt a new selection method by majority vote anytime.
Reform advocates wanted to make the resolution part of the city charter so the council could not alter it. Their efforts failed at a June 7 city council meeting when councilmembers decided not to place the proposal on the November ballot along with other proposed charter changes.
Carchio issued a statement by e-mail firmly denying the assertion that he said he would be mayor out of turn.
“Your source is ill informed and unreliable. I have never had conversations with Don Hansen about switching rotation for mayor nor has Don Hansen had that conversation with me. Also, I am not assuming nor have I ever assumed about being re-elected, that (sic) is entirely up to the voters and I will be judged on my record over the last four years. I think we as a council have made some difficult decisions, but mostly positive. I hope you will print this response correctly.”
Likewise, Councilmember Don Hansen told the Voice that he did not have “any kind” of a deal with Carchio.
The sources did not assert that Carchio claimed he made a deal with Hansen, only that he would be mayor starting next December.
Carchio Reaches Out
Regardless, in the city’s official video record of the June 7 city council meeting it’s obvious that Carchio is reaching out to Hansen during a heated debate over whether the resolution should be put before the voters or not.
And, likewise, Hansen dropped strong hints of his own desire to politicize the process for selecting the city’s mayor.
Councilmembers Cathy Green, who Hansen accused of trying to block former mayor Debbie Cook from taking her term as mayor in 2008, and Jill Hardy, who warned that a deal might be in the making, voted for placing the charter revision on the ballot.
Both Green and Hardy are termed out under current city charter rules, meaning they have served two consecutive terms on the council and must sit out an election cycle before they can run for city council again. If elected again in the future, they would have to go to the back of the line for the office of mayor.
Hansen is termed out in 2012.
Hansen, Devin Dwyer, Keith Bohr and Gil Coerper voted to keep the charter as is, but Hansen led the argument.
But Hardy warned that if the charter isn’t revised future councilmembers will play with the mayor’s term for political purposes. It was clear she was thinking of Carchio and Hansen when she said “Watch the votes” when one council member decides to defer his term to another so that he can be mayor as he heads into a campaign for higher political office.
“They can’t be switching around to get their buddy, who says, ‘I’ll switch this year and you can have that year,’” Hardy complained. “That’s just playing the system…Like I said, watch the votes. If it doesn’t end up being in the charter, then just watch what happens. I know. I know what I’m sayin (sic).”
Then Carchio, who by various accounts is not liked much anymore by OC Republican Party big shots, and who at recent city council meetings seemed, embarrassingly, to echo every utterance of favored party acolytes Hansen and Dwyer, all but extended an official invitation to Hansen to reverse positions in the rotational cycle for mayor.
“If someone came to me, and I knew the situation were (sic) dire and that person needed to, you know, skip a term, and switch, I would switch with that person. It wouldn’t make a difference to me.”
Carchio bumbled on. “If I knew that it would help the person or make sure that if they had a serious illness in the family or an extenuating circumstance from work—”
Hardy shot back. “That will be interesting to see if since you’re due in 2012 to see if anybody asks you to switch your year.”
“If it was a legitimate request, I would probably do it,” Carchio answered.
Loathing and Politics
Of course, Carchio or Hansen are “great people,” Hardy pointed out, but “it might be two buddies trying to help somebody with a title in their future. And it might not be anyone of the seven of us, but I have my suspicions about the way it is right now…”
Then councilmember Cathy Green expressed her views, based on personal experience.
“I think the fact of the matter is that most of the games were played with me, so I can probably attest to this. And the second thing is, that’s why you have a mayor pro-tem,” she blurted out.
Hansen pounced on Green’s self pity with obvious loathing.
“As if your hands are clean and you weren’t trying to engineer it on prior mayors yourself behind closed doors. So, let’s not take a holier than though approach when all of these scenarios are played out and people have been involved on both sides of the equation.”
The council needs flexibility, Hansen explained, and the fact is, “Like it or not, there’s still some politics to this office. And I think if any games were played, it was to bring attention to that whole unity factor of working together wasn’t really working.”
By “flexibility” Hansen may mean that he wants the power to stack the city council with people who will obediently help him tackle the city’s budget problems, most notably by cutting the city’s pension funding obligations to city employees while providing him with a convenient pedestal—the office of mayor—in 2012.
City council candidates and, relatively speaking, political neophytes Barbara Delgleize and William O’Connell may foot the bill: they have spent $5,432.25 and $5,400.55 each, respectively, on Red Zone Strategies, a political consulting firm that operates out of Hansen’s home, and they should be well trained by swearing in day.
Carchio, until now at least, was left hanging by his former Republican friends possibly due to some spending votes that were contrary to Party doctrine and duly noted, but not detailed, on the blog Red County.
Hansen has been trying to remove Carchio from office, local political insiders say, because Carchio has been Green’s lackey and Hansen, like some other council members, despises Green, and due to his (Carchio’s) close association with former Surf City mayor and convicted felon Dave Garafalo.
There is also Carchio’s own perceived vulnerability to corruption—he no longer runs a downtown restaurant, his most recent financial statement at city hall indicates he is currently unemployed, and he likes to be a big shot.
But Carchio has been as legally clean as any other councilmember by all accounts. He is also by nature eager to please the powers that be, carefully following his cues during city council meetings, an approach likely to intensify due to his apparent dire straits. All this could make him the perfect city council patsy for Hansen.
Meanwhile, by almost all accounts, true or not, Hansen is the OC Republican Party’s chosen one and is also being groomed for higher office.
A few words of caution are in order: rumors are like tumors—once they start growing they are hard to stop.
But anything can happen in politics.
As for his future, Hansen told the Voice, “I don’t have any plans at this point after my term ends in 2012. I am looking into a career as an investigative journalist.”