Likewise, a little more than two decades ago, Huntington Beach started redeveloping its blighted downtown area—linked economically as well as geographically to the beach and pier on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway—into a mall-style “village” that offers shops, hotels, and so far over 30 liquor serving restaurants and bars, all part of the city’s plan to market itself as a tourist destination.
From an economic perspective the plan has worked well. Over 11 million tourists come to the city each year; and two years ago the city collected a peak of about $7 million in hotel/bed taxes, most of it from the downtown area, Councilmember Keith Bohr pointed out at a recent city council meeting.
But encouraging tourism and alcohol consumption in a small area with a high concentration of liquor serving establishments has also created an alcohol dependent downtown with all the expected symptoms. Based on population, Huntington Beach has the 3rd highest DUI rate of any California city and is ranked 7th in the state, regardless of population, in drunk driver collisions, according to a report released by the Huntington Beach Police Department last July.
In 2009, according to the report, there were 274 alcohol related collisions in the city and 95 collisions occurred in 2010 between January and May. For the same time periods, respectively, there were 1,687 and 632 DUI arrests.
Death goes with the city’s high DUI rate. Last year the city had nine traffic fatalities, five of which were related to drunk driving, Chief of Police Kenneth Small told the council at its Jan. 18 meeting. “Drunk driving is clearly the most significant public safety problem we have in Huntington Beach,” he said.
Comparisons to other Orange County cities show how disproportionate the city’s alcohol problem is and how it relates to the downtown restaurant/bar scene. Irvine, for example, which has a slightly higher population than Huntington Beach (217,000 vs. 202,000), and despite being home to a large university, made 709 DUI arrests in 2008 compared with 1,729 DUI arrests in Huntington Beach. Anaheim (pop. 353,000) made 862 DUI arrests.
It’s as predictable as death and taxes: politicians say that everyone should obey the law, especially their interpretation of it, but when the law inconveniently conflicts with their own interests they just ignore it in violation of the public trust and their oath of office.
That’s what happened on Dec. 20 when, as reported exclusively in the Voice, the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6-0 to approve changes to the city’s municipal code that would strip the elected city treasurer of the powers and duties vested in that office by the City Charter (the city’s constitution) and hand them over to the Director of Finance, an appointed position under the direct control of the city manager and council, not the voters.
Simply put, the council majority conducted a coup d’état of the City Treasurer’s office, the charter be damned, even though voters said five times at the ballot box that they want an elected treasurer to provide checks and balances in order to better watch over their money.
That’s a good idea, judging from Councilmember Don Hansen’s opinion that it’s just fine to trust investment bankers to properly look after public funds in light of the drastic budget and staffing cuts that accompanied the coup, leaving a treasurer’s office that will be even less able to conduct its oversight duties.
The coup was depicted as an effort to save money—over $100,000 a year by making the treasurer a part-time position and consolidating staff.
Limiting the treasurer to conducting “core” charter duties would create more efficient management, City Manager Fred Wilson told the council, while preserving the independence of the treasurer’s office as required by the City Charter.
Wilson’s conclusions were based on a report by an outside consulting firm, but the changes he recommended and the council approved went beyond what the report called for and clearly conflict with the charter.
That report was not attached to the council agenda for council members and the public to read. Even worse than that act of negligence, when asked if they had even read the report or cross-checked the wording of the code changes with the City Charter, not a single voting council member responded.
Obviously, the City Council didn’t bother to do its homework or think of the possible long range consequences of its actions. When outgoing City Treasurer Shari Freidenrich gave her last address to the council that same night (she was elected Orange County Treasurer), she warned that its illegal actions would endanger the ability of the city to protect the taxpayers’ assets, but her concerns were casually brushed aside by Wilson and City Attorney Jennifer McGrath, as well as the council.
McGrath later conceded that her office is following up on the concerns raised by the Voice and that, “if an amendment is necessary to clarify any ambiguity, then it can be made at the second reading on January 17, 2011.”
Last year, after McGrath issued a legal opinion that said Section 617 of the City Charter—which had been approved by voters—allowed a mandated 15 percent budget set aside for infrastructure to include debt service payments for infrastructure designated bonds, she put her political career on the line.
Councilmember Devin Dwyer, who had hoped to create a city financial crisis that would force renegotiation of city labor contracts, lashed out at McGrath by calling her “another lawyer” using “legalese” to “twist things” in order to thwart the will of the people.
McGrath was attacked by local Republican Party bloggers and threats were made to remove her from office. If you believed the angry rhetoric, it was a war between Good and Evil and McGrath was Satan.
On Dec. 20 it was Dwyer who ignored the will of the voters, but he had plenty of help, even from an unlikely source sitting on the opposite side of his place on the right wing of the political spectrum.
Councilmember Joe Shaw was just as adept at practicing his own form of selective democracy. Despite campaign speeches denouncing the past city council for approving an arguably unlawful senior center in Central Park, Shaw, who was elected to the council for the first time last November, also had no qualms about voting for another arguably unlawful action just as soon as he took office.
Some on the council, no doubt, see our ailing economy as a long awaited opportunity to diminish the functionality of local government and transfer control of the public’s money to the private sector. And some council members are simply happy to claim that they have saved money for the people.
But the real bottom line is that the voters have been betrayed and may end up actually losing money along with their right to vote for a city treasurer who has real power and is accountable to them.
The City Council will have another opportunity at its Jan. 18 meeting (no meeting on Monday because of Martin Luther King Day) to undo its mistakes when the changes to the municipal code come before it for a required second reading and final vote.
If you have read the Huntington Beach City Charter and think that you have the right to elect your city treasurer, don’t be so sure.
Section 311 of the City Charter—the city’s equivalent to the U.S. Constitution—calls for the treasurer to be elected by the voters at large. But budget cuts and other changes approved Dec. 20 by a 6-0 majority of the Huntington Beach City Council (Connie Boardman was absent) leave little more than a figurehead for a treasurer instead of the vigilant watchdog intended by the charter.
The Director of Finance, who is appointed by the council and answers directly to the City Manager rather than the electorate, will assume the treasurer’s core duties if the legal wording behind the new policy is taken at face value.
The apparent coup d’état was performed by eliminating Section 2.16 of the Municipal Code, which explained the duties and powers of the City Treasurer in detail based on the City Charter, and then attaching several of its provisions to the end of Section 2.15 of the Municipal Code that explains the duties and powers of the Director of Finance.
Outgoing City Treasurer Shari Freidenrich warned that transferring the treasurer’s duties as proposed would be in “direct conflict with the charter and state law.” Eliminating staff would cause the treasurer’s investment decisions to suffer, she said, and went against the will of the voters, who had voted to keep their elected officials elected many times.
Freidenrich was elected to the office of Orange County Treasurer in November. She received kudos earlier at the council meeting (her last) from City Manager Fred Wilson for15 years of service in which she “restored the honor and integrity to the City Treasurer’s position” after the notorious 1994 Orange County bankruptcy.
But Wilson had presented an entirely different analysis than Freidenrich’s in his presentation to the council, saying that the city would save over $100,000 a year by making the treasurer a part-time position and consolidating the City Treasurer’s duties with the Finance Department while preserving the authority and independence of the office. “[Only] the duties and responsibilities not required by the City Charter to be performed by the City Treasurer shall be migrated to the finance director,” Wilson said.
Councilmember Keith Bohr asked City Attorney Jennifer McGrath if the city was in compliance with the law. “Yes, we are,” McGrath answered, “The charter does not speak to whether this position is part time or full time. And by deleting the ordinance you are actually taking it back to the core responsibilities as dictated in the charter.”
Councilmember Joe Shaw asked if the City Treasurer’s office would retain its ability to act as an independent oversight in order to provide the checks and balances that it is intended to provide as an elected office. In the future, will the City Treasurer be able to do that?
“Absolutely,” Wilson answered.
Based on McGrath’s two sentences of legal analysis and Wilson’s word, and without cross checking Freidenrich’s assertions with the City Charter, all six council members present were satisfied with the plan. But if they had bothered to read the outside analysis which Wilson cited in his written report as the basis for the final recommendations or to double-checked the charter for themselves before voting, they might have had second thoughts.
But the Anderson report notes only one non-core function spelled out in chapter 2.16 of the Municipal Code: the collection of money. The report correctly notes that although the charter requires that the treasurer ultimately “receive” all city funds it does not prohibit the initial collection of the money by other agencies. The report recommends that function—and only that function—be transferred to the finance department.
The Anderson report goes further. In order to create a part-time treasurer and still provide the support necessary for that position to fulfill its charter mandate, it recommends that the City Treasurer have “primary support from the Finance Department to accomplish the Offices’ (sic) responsibilities.”
The report, which the six present council members apparently did not read because—although cited—it inexplicably was not attached to Wilson’s written report and probably also because they didn’t ask to read it, did not recommend cutting sections of chapter 2.16 that enumerate the charter mandated duties and powers of the City Treasurer and pasting them into chapter 2.15, which explains the duties and powers of the Department of Finance, but that’s exactly what Wilson did.
The result is a conflict between the city’s municipal code and the city’s charter, and a virtual coup d’état, either by design or by sloppy staff work, and by sloppy council oversight. Nobody on the city council bothered to check, but comparing the wording in the charter to the wording of the amended city law proves the point.
“The City Treasurer shall have the power and shall be required to,” according to the charter, “Receive on behalf of the City all taxes, assessments, license fees and other revenues of the City…”
But now, under the amended city code 2.15(k), the Director of Finance “Receives all City monies including taxes, fees, water, sewer and trash fees…”
Again, the City Charter states that the City Treasurer shall “Have and keep custody of all public funds belonging to or under the control of the City or any such office, department of agency of the City government and deposit or cause to be deposited all funds coming into his hands in such depository as may be designated by resolution of the City Council…”
But now, according to the amended city code 2.15(h), the Director of Finance “Establishes and controls all bank accounts, negotiates services and contracts with bank, makes daily deposits,…” and, regarding investments, in 2.15(l) also “maintains all trusts, bonds, security agreements, and funds for the City including depositing…”
Nowhere in the amended city code does it state that the City Treasurer has any authority over her transferred duties or powers, another indication that the supposed “consolidation” is at best an accidental transfer of power with the potential for future legal headaches or, at worst, a deliberate takeover.
September 15, 2009
At a town hall meeting held by the city’s Charter Review Commission, residents of Huntington Beach were asked to comment on possible changes to the City Charter, including the idea of changing the elected offices of city attorney, city clerk and city treasurer to appointed positions.
It was one of several meetings where the topic would be discussed along with many other charter reform ideas. At the end of the commission’s term various charter reforms were proposed to the council for placement on the ballot, but converting elected positions to appointed positions was not one of them.
Although strong arguments were made on both sides of the debate of elected versus appointed city officials, the question had already been put to the voters many times and their response was always crystal clear: ballot measures to have an appointed city attorney failed seven times; an appointed city clerk failed four times; and, an appointed city treasurer failed five times, most recently in 1996.
Due to the likelihood of yet another rejection by voters, the commission went with a proposal for stricter eligibility requirements for city treasurer instead of creating an appointed position, and that was passed by the voters.
In the past, the voters seemed to have said that they wanted accountability directly to the public in order to provide better checks and balances in local government. Freidenrich, speaking at the town hall meeting, noted the pressures that could be placed on an appointed treasurer to produce interest income, pressures that might lead to risky investments for the taxpayers. “An elected treasurer can be independent and unbiased an select the most important investments for the city,” she said.
In contrast, speaking at the Dec. 20 council meeting, member Don Hansen suggested a way for assisting the new part-time city treasurer to provide the “safety, security and liquidity” for the city that had been Freidenrich’s trademark by all accounts: investment bankers. They will be at the new city treasurer’s disposal, he said, and “we can’t dismiss their responsibility and commitment to the city in providing their services and experience…”
Whether the residents of Huntington Beach retain their right to elect their city treasurer in reality or in name only, and the extent to which they will have to rely on the recently proven commitment of investment bankers to to protect the public’s best interests, may depend on what happens at the second reading of the amended ordinance at the next city council meeting.
In response to a Voice inquiry, McGrath defended the quick legal opinion she gave to the council, and said the council’s actions were “wholly consistent with the City Charter, the Municipal Code and state law.” As for not answering Freidenrich’s assertions, it was not her responsibility to respond “unless asked by my client.” Only Bohr asked her a question. To that extent, she says, “I responded accordingly and there were no further questions.”
McGrath assured that she would be working closely with the city manager, finance director and treasurer to make sure that law is properly followed. But she also acknowledged that—in response to the concerns raised by the Voice—her office will “follow-up” by taking another look at the language of the ordinance, and “if an amendment is necessary to clarify any ambiguity, then it can be made at second reading on January 17 (sic), 2011.”
Note: The city council meeting will actually take place on the 18th due to Martin Luther King Day on Monday.
The following weather update was released by the City of Huntington Beach at 11 a.m. this morning.
Last night the City had the heaviest rain this year with nearly 2 inches of rain as recorded by our pump stations. This adds to a total of 7.03 inches for the last seven days. The forecast is heavy rain today but clearing up the remainder of the week. Public Works crews have been dispatched the last two nights addressing localized flooding, tree down calls, potholes, and building roof leaks. The flood pump stations have worked well with no loss of equipment with several running at high levels during the heaviest rains. Currently 10 park trees and 13 parkway trees have fallen down and 60 tons of debris has been removed from the streets and parks. There have been three reports of private property damage due to downed trees. In several parks trees will be delineated off until the saturated soil can dry enough that equipment can access the trees without damaging the turf areas.
The south bound lane of Magnolia, south of Hamilton, was closed at 8:00 AM this morning due to flooding of the street. North bound lanes remain open.
The parking lot for Central Park off Slater Avenue has been closed due to flooding.
Public Works crews will continue to monitor the coming rain, maintain storm drains, fill potholes, and remove debris from the streets today and tomorrow. During the closure next week Public Works Crews will be on-call if there are any additional needs.
One last note: Sandbags are available to Huntington Beach citizens at the Corporate Yard located at 17371 Gothard Street. The yard will be open during business hours 7:30 am to 5 pm, December 22 and 23.
Confidential State Department memos released through Wikileaks and the New York Times show that Surf City’s congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, tried to obtain special favors for his friends while undermining Obama’s foreign policy during a visit with Honduran coup d’état leaders in the later part of January and start of February last year.
A military coup had recently overthrown the democratically elected president, Manuel Zalaya, who remains exiled to this day. Representatives of the new government, under the titular leadership of President Porfirio Lobo, pressed Rohrabacher to help them restore U.S. aid that had been withdrawn because of the coup.
Based on the documents, the Times reported that “Using his status as a senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Rohrabacher cheered his hosts in Honduras by openly challenging the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda there..”
The Times also reported that “…Mr. Rohrabacher’s trip last February was different because he pushed for small, specific companies with which he had personal and political ties. The coin dealer, John R. Saunders, is a big contributor to Mr. Rohrabacher’s campaigns, dating back at least a decade. The president of SG Biofuels, Kirk Haney, is a friend of Mr. Rohrabacher’s wife and a former intern in the congressman’s office, Mr. Rohrabacher said, as well as a contributor.”
Rohrabacher met with the president of the Honduran Supreme Court and congratulated the court for its ruling justifying the removal of president Zalaya from office, one memo indicates.
“He urged the Government of Honduras to eschew establishing a ‘truth commission,’ asserting that the ‘Supreme Court is the truth commission’ and that any further investigation into the events of the summer would result in continued political division and animosity in the country,” the once-secret memo says.
Rohrabacher and his “delegation,” including representatives of SG Biofuels—one of whom interned for Rohrabacher and is a friend of his wife—met with Ramon Espinoza, President Lobo’s science advisor and agricultural expert, and a government economist to discuss introducing the seed of a strain of Jatropha, a biofuel being developed for the company the University of California at San Diego, to Honduran small farmers.
Current City Councilmember James Righeimer also accompanied the congressman. Righeimer was Rohrabacher’s campaign chairman in his last two reelection campaigns.
The leaked State Department cables are reprinted below.
Date 2010-02-24 20:28:00
Source Embassy Tegucigalpa
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TEGUCIGALPA 000169
1. (SBU) Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) visited
Honduras January 31-February 2 and called on Hondurans to
“turn the page” on the political events of the summer.
Congressman Rohrabacher commended the Honduran
people for their commitment to democracy and said he would
urge the U.S. government to re-instate revoked U.S. visas.
Congressman Rohrabacher expressed concern that
establishment of a “truth commission,” as called for by the
Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, would have the effect of
continuing to divide Hondurans. Congressman Rohrabacher,
who was accompanied by several American businessmen and
investors, endorsed US investment and particularly lauded
the benefits of the development of biofuel industry in
Honduras. He enthusiastically promoted a start-up biofuel
company, SG Biofuels. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Congressman Dana Rohrabacher visited Honduras
January 31-February 2, accompanied by President and
Vice-President of SG Biofuels, Kirk Haney and Greg
John Saunders and James Righeimer; and political consultant
Mark Klugman. The delegation met on February 1 with
Porfirio Lobo, who was accompanied by Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs Mario Canahuati; with President of Congress
Juan Orlando Hernandez; and with Science Advisor to the
President Ramon Espinoza. The delegation met on February 2
with President of the Supreme Court Jorge Alberto Rivera
Aviles. The Ambassador and the Embassy country team
provided Congressman Rohrabacher with a briefing. In
addition to these official meetings, the delegation met
independently and informally with several important actors
in the Honduran political scene including: former President
Ricardo Maduro; current Mayor of Tegucigalpa Ricardo
Alvarez; businessmen Camilo Atala, Robert Vinelli and
Richard Vinelli; and President of the Honduran Association
of Small Renewal Energy Producers Elsia Paz.
TURNING THE PAGE ON THE COUP D’ETAT
3. (SBU) Throughout his visit, Congressman Rohrabacher
stressed his great admiration for the commitment of the
Honduran people to democracy. He warned of the danger of
allowing “caudillos” or strongmen, like Cuban President
Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to
assume control and praised the recently replaced Honduran
de facto regime. (Note: Rohrabacher did not request a
meeting with Roberto Micheletti. End Note).
4. (SBU) In his conversation with President of Congress
Juan Orlando Hernandez on February 1, Congressman
Rohrabacher told Hernandez that he was an emissary of
Honduras’ friends in Congress, in particular member of
Congress Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Congressman Rohrabacher told
Hernandez he believes it is important to bring closure to
the Honduran political crisis. Hernandez agreed that
Honduras needs to put the crisis behind it, adding that the
political amnesty decree passed by the congress on January
26 will contribute to that.
5. (SBU) Hernandez told Congressman Rohrabacher that it is
difficult to understand why some foreign nations have not
recognized the government of President Porfirio Lobo.
Hernandez noted that the electoral process that led to the
November 29 general election began long before the June 28
coup d’etat and was organized by an autonomous body, the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Hernandez asked Congressman
Rohrabacher for assistance with resumption of U.S.
assistance. Hernandez stated that some steps on
re-engagement had already taken place, noting his meeting
with the Ambassador earlier that day. Hernandez told
Congressman Rohrabacher that all political parties
represented in congress are ready to take measures to
attract foreign investment. Hernandez said that he is
committed to modernizing the congress and requested
information about the workings of U.S. congressional
6. (C) Hernandez noted that he was scheduled to meet with
an Israeli delegation on February 5 to discuss their
concerns about Iranian contacts with Venezuelan President
Chavez; Hernandez added that he knew the U.S. was also
concerned about such contact.
TEGUCIGALP 00000169 002 OF 003
7. (SBU) During Congressman Rohrabacher’s meeting with the
President of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court
Justices on February 2, he congratulated the Supreme Court
for its actions in removing President Jose Manuel “Mel”
Zelaya from office. He urged the Government of Honduras to
eschew establishing a “truth commission,” asserting that
the “Supreme Court is the truth commission” and that any
further investigation into the events of the summer would
result in continued political division and animosity in the
country. He also explained that he would return to the US
and urge the administration to reissue visas for those
people whose visas were revoked or suspended in response to
8. (SBU) The Supreme Court Justices each took the
opportunity to thank Congressman Rohrabacher for his
comments and defended the integrity of the legal process
used to remove President Zelaya. Justice Victor Manual
Martinez Silva said that the Organization of American
States (OAS) had expelled Honduras and the European Union
(EU) had censured Honduras without even hearing their legal
justifications and he urged that international financial
sanctions be removed. Justice Rosalinda Cruz Sequiera
observed that various human rights reports, including the
Committee on Inter-American Dialogue report, contained
statements that were “completely false” in referring to the
removal of former President Zelaya as a “coup d’etat”. She
expressed the belief that history would bear out the
correctness of their actions. Vice-President of the
Supreme Court-Jose Tomas Arita Valle emphasized that the
actions taken by the court were not driven by political
interests and were practically unanimous.
SUPPORTING US INVESTMENT IN HONDURAN BIOFUEL
9. (U) Congressman Rohrabacher and members of his
delegation met on February 1 with Ramon Espinoza, an
agricultural expert who serves as science advisor to
President Lobo. Mr. Espinoza was accompanied by Manlio
Martinez, a development economist who works in Mr.
Espinoza’s office. The economic counselor also attended
10. (SBU) Congressman Rohrabacher introduced Kirk Haney
and Greg Simon-Miro, representatives of the company SG
Biofuels, which has been developing a highly productive
strain of jatropha, a biofuel, in Guatemala. Congressman
Rohrabacher told Mr. Espinoza that experts from the
University of California at San Diego had been working with
the company to develop the strain. Haney said that the
company had planted 600 hectares of the seed, which is the
top-producing jatropha strain to date, in Guatemala. The
challenge now is to bring the technology to the market.
Haney told Espinoza that, when he first met with
Congressman Rohrabacher about this topic two years ago,
Congressman Rohrabacher had told him that the best way to
do this would be to make the seed available to small
farmers. The company would give the farmers a contract to
buy the seed at a pre-set price.
11. (SBU) Espinoza said that he had worked on a biofuel
project while in academia. He stated that he has talked
about biofuels to President Lobo and believes that the
President wants to make this area a priority. Espinoza
noted that Brazil had benefited from its foresight in
making this a priority starting in the 1980s. Honduras,
Espinoza said, is behind in this area and the challenge
will be to select two or three key priorities. He told
Congressman Rohrabacher that he had opposed Honduras’
emphasis on palm oil, since he does not think it is
advisable to turn a food material into an energy source,
given the distortions this causes to food prices. He said
that the jatropha project was an excellent opportunity.
Haney said that his company was not looking for special
favors from the Honduran government but wanted to make the
government aware that the project was available.
12. (SBU) Espinoza said that Honduras’s development is
hampered by the country’s lack of technical skills. He
noted that Intel had just announced that its highest-end
chip will be produced in Costa Rica, but that this type of
manufacturing would not be possible in Honduras. Congressman
TEGUCIGALP 00000169 003 OF 003
Rohrabacher recommended that Honduras develop its patent and
copyright framework so that there will be an incentive to
The Congressman said one way that Honduras could attract
innovators would be to make income derived from patents and
13. (SBU) In a productive meeting with Ambassador Llorens,
the representatives from SG Biofuel presented their
proposal for initiating jatropha planting operations in
Honduras. The Ambassador and Congressman Rohrabacher
discussed the many ways that this serious initiative
coincides with the Mission’s Strategic Goals on renewable
energy. The Ambassador arranged break-out meetings for the
SG representatives with the economic section, Millenium
Challenge Corporation (MCC) and USAID to discuss further
opportunities for collaboration.
PP RUEHAO RUEHRS
DE RUEHTG #0169/01 0552028
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 242028Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1731
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR JTF-BRAVO PRIORITY
Joe Carchio’s first act as the new mayor of Surf City will be to appoint himself as the city’s representative on the governing boards of four county agencies, giving him a combined salary increase of $15,040, according to a proposal he has submitted to other members of the city council. The increased responsibility and accompanying boost in pay would be a significant although temporary career advancement for Carchio, whose term as the new mayor lasts for one year.
The draft document was leaked to the Surf City Voice by a source at City Hall.
Combined with his mayor’s annual salary of $22,615, Carchio’s potential earnings would reach $37,665 a year, not including regular city provided benefits which last year ranged from $5,380 to $13,984 per city council member, according to Executive Management Salary Benefits Final August 2010 (2).
Carchio proposes to appoint Councilmember Don Hansen’s protégé, Matt Harper (elected to the council for the first time in November), to SCAG which pays $120 per meeting with a maximum of four meetings per month.
The following information relating to the City’s appeal of a 2009 court ruling curtailing the the use of Quimby funds and on the validity of the City’s Enviornmental Impact Report for the proposed senior center for Central Park was just recevied by the Voice from the City. The Voice has not had time to review the details but will follow up on the issue later.
From: McGrath, Jennifer
To: CITY COUNCIL; Executive Team; CITY ATTORNEY; Payne, Laurie
Sent: Mon Dec 13 16:38:52 2010
Subject: Fw: Parks Legal Defense Fund v. HB (Decision in Senior Center Appeal)
I am pleased to report the Court of Appeals issued a favorable ruling in the Senior Center case today. As noted below, the City prevailed on the Measure C issue so there is no need for a new vote to proceed with construction. The City also prevailed on the right to use all of the Pacific City Quimby Fees to construct the Senior Center based on the statute of limitations.
These two issues were the core issues in the case.
Parks Legal Defense prevailed on the EIR and General Plan causes of action. The City has the opportunity to do a Supplemental EIR and General Plan amendment.
We are analyzing the impact of the decision on the attorney’s fees and the deadline for filing an appeal of the decision.
From: Fujii, John
To: McGrath, Jennifer
Cc: Field, Scott
Sent: Mon Dec 13 16:14:32 2010
Subject: Parks Legal Defense Fund v. HB (Decision in Senior Center Appeal)
The Court of Appeal just issued its opinion in the Senior Center appeal. The Court of Appeal ruled it the City’s favor on the Measure C and Quimby Act claims. However, the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Parks Legal Defense Fund on the CEQA and General Plan claims, which means that the City must certify a supplemental EIR and amend the General Plan. We need to determine how this opinion affects the attorneys’ fees appeal. A further memo with more in-depth analysis will follow.
John M. Fujii
Sr. Deputy City Attorney
Huntington Beach City Attorney’s Office
2000 Main Street, 4th Floor
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
phone: (714) 536-5623
fax: (714) 374-1590
After being sworn in last Monday for his first term on the Huntington Beach City Council, Joe Shaw, who is openly gay, said he wasn’t surprised that he was elected.
“When I first came to Huntington Beach with my then partner eight years ago,” he reminisced in his acceptance speech , “we opened a business downtown and at once we were warmly embraced by the people of downtown, our customers and people from all over the city.”
Shaw says he and his partner were accepted “unconditionally and without judgment” and that “I looked at this beautiful city and its wonderful people and knew I had found a new home.”
Surf City does offer domestic partner benefits for city employees, but its citizens also reelected Dana Rohrabacher, one of the most homophobic representatives in Congress, by overwhelming vote margins for the past several decades.
Rohrabacher opposes marriage, adoption and military enlistment rights for openly gay or lesbian adults and he favors amending to the Constitution to define marriage as an act to occur between men and women only.
Rohrabacher’s anti-gay views might not be openly shared by most of his Surf City constituents, but they still hold sway in Orange County Republican politics and, at least indirectly, in Surf City politics.
One of the main reasons that the Orange County GOP didn’t endorse Barbara Delgleize—who lost fourth place in the city council election to Shaw by a handful of votes—is that she supports the right to same-sex marriage, according to reports in the Republican blog Red County, including one written by OCGOP Chairman Scott Baugh.
Robert Gentry, who served on the Laguna Beach City Council 1982 – 1992, was the first openly gay elected official in Orange County, but Shaw is the only one currently holding office in the county.
Shaw will concentrate on being the “best councilman I can be,” not the “gay city councilman,” he said. But he believes that his victory should provide hope to others.
“I must acknowledge it,” he said, “because it will make a difference in many peoples’ lives to know that this is possible in Huntington Beach and Orange County. It does get better.”
Lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered people want the same things in life that everyone else does, Shaw said, explaining the broader significance of his victory. “We want good schools, safe and well maintained streets, clean water and air, and abundant open space,” he said.
For his first-term priorities, Shaw hopes to tackle the city’s tough financial problems. “First, we have challenging financial conditions ahead of us. We have made some difficult cuts and will likely have to negotiate more. I intend to be fiscally prudent without harming our ability to provide our essential services,” he declared.
Not harming “essential services” is the obligatory mantra of even the most hawkish fiscal reformers on the city council, and those services are usually defined as police, fire and infrastructure, which includes just about everything a city government provides.
Protecting those services won’t be easy under the ongoing recession—likely to be exacerbated by plans to cut a $25 billion state budget deficit and federal tax cuts for the rich proposed by Obama and the new Congress—with little hope for state or federal bailout money for cities across the country.
Shaw’s goals for Surf City’s future are optimistic, however, including a proposed 25-year mobility plan designed to accommodate future development with alternative modes of transportation, “including buses, trollies, trains and bike ways.”
Shaw seeks to develop a more sustainable city by encouraging projects like the Community Garden set to open soon in the southeast portion of the city and he will try to encourage new business creation through deregulation, making sure that “all of our citizens are treated as valuable customers by the city.”
Shaw also announced that he will reappoint Blair Farley to the Planning Commission. Farley, who narrowly trailed Delgleize in the election, campaigned with Shaw and co-victor Connie Boardman as part of Team Huntington Beach.
Councilmember Joe Carchio will drive his shiny white (and, finally, fully licensed) 2010 Toyota Venza into the Huntington Beach mayor’s official parking space for the next year, thanks to the same council member who had hoped (informed sources say) a few months ago to put him out of office.
Don Hansen was supposed to be mayor, with Carchio following next year, according to Resolution 6320, which says that council members will rotate based by seniority to serve as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tempore for a one-year term.
Any council member who declines his or her turn goes to the end of the line, according to the resolution.
The 1991 city council enacted the resolution in order to prevent future councils from manipulating the selection process on behalf of special interests, according to current council member and former mayor Keith Bohr.
This is the first time since the resolution was passed that a city council hasn’t followed it.
But the resolution can be broken by a majority vote and that’s what happened during last Monday’s City Council meeting at Don Hansen’s request, with Carchio gladly accepting the honor of becoming mayor.
The vote was no surprise to readers of the Surf City Voice, which exclusively revealed last August that the seat swap between Carchio and Hansen—which will theoretically give the latter a campaign image boost if he decides to run for higher office in 2012—was as good as a done deal.
Carchio and Hansen both strongly denied the assertions made in the Voice story—as well as subsequent rumors that included Devin Dwyer becoming mayor—all the way up to Monday’s swearing in ceremony.
New council members Joe Shaw, Connie Boardman and Matt Harper, as well as reelected City Attorney Jennifer McGrath, were also sworn in.
As Hansen started the new city council’s first meeting with the motion to make himself Mayor Pro Tem and Carchio the mayor, his reason for it came across like the proverbial student’s claim that the dog ate his homework.
“As many of you know, I work in the financial sector and the economy…has really taken a toll on my business,” he explained. “And I had always looked forward to serving as mayor when I could do the best job that I possibly can.”
Unfortunately for Hansen and citizens both, “after deep reflection” about what would be best—not just for him and his family, “it did not seem to me that this would be the time where I could do the best for the citizens of Huntington Beach and the best job that I could possibly do.”
Considering that the mayor of Huntington Beach is a figurehead, with few additional duties attached to the role, one wonders how Hansen can give sufficient devotion to his current—less glamorous—but equally demanding role as a city councilman during the same economic hard times that, regrettably, now prevent him from serving as mayor.
Fortunately for Hansen and Surf City’s “citizens,” however, his admirable sacrifice can end in exactly one year. That’s because—almost paradoxically—even though the economy is bad now it is also getting a lot better now, according to Hansen.
“We are seeing the resurgence of my business,” he continued, “and I don’t want to forfeit in any way my ability to serve [as mayor] and do like to serve [as mayor] in 2012.”
Thank you, President Obama.
The new city council approved Hansen’s plan unanimously, 7-0. He will be Mayor Pro Tem now and Mayor in 2012, just in time for the next election campaign season, if he so chooses.
But as Carchio read an unusually coherent acceptance speech that he, wishfully perhaps, claimed to have “hasently” (sic) written, there seemed little doubt that a deal had been signed, sealed and delivered.
“When you get elected to the city council,” he said in deep reflection, “you realize that one day it would be your turn to be mayor.”
Mayor Joseph John Carchio is in good company, however, at least some of the time. “It’s so humbling to follow in the footsteps of some of the great mayors in the past,” he said, noting some of the ones who left well honored paths: Ralph Bauer, Dave Sullivan, Shirley Detloff, and Debbie Cook, to name a few.
“These are big shoes to fill,” he said in conclusion, promising that, “I will continue to carry the great traditions of the city.”
The Surf City Voice recently asked the new and continuing members of the Huntington Beach City Council what their priorities will be in the next year and how they will handle the issue of infrastructure funding for the city. Keith Bohr, Don Hansen, Matt Harper, and Joe Carchio did not respond.
Question 1: As a new, reelected or continuing city council representative, what will your top priorities be in the coming year?
Joe Shaw: Obviously, making sure we stabilize our city’s budget is the most important thing we can do in the short term. We need to make sure we can continue to provide the best services we can at the level we can afford during this recession. We need wise planning to ensure that short term cuts do not jeopardize our future.
Devin Dwyer: A recession can be a great opportunity for government to evaluate what services are absolutely necessary and what services we can no longer afford to provide in a declining economy. I see our most basic needs as Public Safety and Infrastructure. Public Safety is 51% of our General Fund budget. Since this is the largest use of public funds we need to surgically remove any waste without compromise to our citizen’s safety. The first item that comes to mind is our pension system. The idea that any person should be retiring at 50 is ridicules. Airline pilots are mandated to retire at 60 and now they allow 65 if there is an accompanying pilot aboard less then 60. Second is the idea of defined benefit. The public sector no longer provides a defined benefit in there compensation package. They provide some sort of 401K that both the employee and the employer contribute too. I propose a second tier for new hire benefits. This would help secure those employees with the more generous benefits that currently work for us at the same time new employees would contribute more towards the new 401k program and the city would contribute as well. And those on the more generous benefits need to contribute more towards their pension.
There was a time when public employees were not compensated well so to make up for it the city used benefits to compete with the private sector for staff. Today that is not true. You will find that compensation at our city for Public Safety employees when measured with private sector jobs is not only competitive but many out side government feel excessive.
Infrastructure had no champion until I came along. Each Council Member has an appointee to the Finance Board. Our Finance board has been complaining for a decade that our infrastructure was in decline and if we did not spend more in the near future we are headed for trouble. This has fallen on deaf ears until I and the Charter Reform Committee pointed out that we have greater than a billion dollar need with less than half that we can pay for. I was saddened by the Public Union’s spending more than $ 100,000 to defeat Measure O. There inability to see our citizens needs over there own was atrocious. I will rally my fellow Councilmember’s to support budgeting more every year towards infrastructure for the next few years I am on council.
One of the ways out of our plight is to bring more businesses to Huntington Beach. These new businesses will help generate tax dollars that could help pay for items that we have grown accustomed to our city providing. I will continue to work hard through all my business connections to fulfill this priority.
And as I have shown as one of my priorities is to talk straight to the public. If there is one thing I hate about politics its spin! If I think something is “Horse Shit”. Then that’s the way I’m going to characterize it!
Connie Boardman:My first priority will be to make wise budget decisions to arrive at a balanced budget while preserving important city services. I will work to continue the search for funding sources for infrastructure projects to solve water quality issues, repair streets and sidewalks, and to provide public safety needs such as traffic lights.
Question 2:Given the defeat of Measure O, how should the city council decide its budget priorities, including infrastructure, and what steps should be taken to deal with public employee pensions?
Devin Dwyer: See above.
Connie Boardman: Devoting 15% of the general fund revenue to infrastructure and not counting debt service toward the 15% did not become part of the City’s Charter. However, there remains in place a policy of allocating 15% of the general fund money toward infrastructure projects. We have a huge back log of infrastructure needs, and I am sure funding infrastructure projects will be a high priority with the new council.
There is a need for pension reform, I think everyone on the council realizes this. We can certainly learn from the experiences of other cities. I am interested in working with representatives of the unions, the public, and the city administration in developing a workable plan to make sure we can continue to offer sustainable, and affordable retirement benefits to the employees.
Joe Shaw: I believe we must still prioritize infrastructure given the enormous backlog we have. I believe we can work with our public employee unions and city employees to find solutions to the pension crisis.