Tag Archives: Devin Dwyer

Commentary: Three Stooges Take Over Huntington Beach City Council

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Have we got a great show for you?

Hell yes!

Welcome to the Huntington Beach City Council/Three Stooges Comedy Hour.

First, there’s the crowd’s favorite, (Curly with hair) Joe Shaw, the council member who loves to be melodramatic and thinks it is his right to speak out of turn at council meetings whenever his feelings get hurt, which is pretty often.

Second, there’s (Moe without hair) Don Hansen, the council bully who thinks that he is 1) the mayor (he’s actually the mayor pro tem); and, 2) that he is smarter than everyone else. He has the social conscience and testosterone level of Napoleon Bonaparte, William F. Buckley and Sen. Joseph McCarthy combined. Watch out for his sarcasm, condescension, and scary glares.

Third, there’s (Larry) Devin Dwyer, the council member who thinks that being a brat, using potty language and insulting the city attorney, who has ten times his intellect, is witty and funny. Just like a little school boy seeking attention, he loves to brag about his childish misdeeds with that trying-so-hard-to-be-cute (gag me with a spoon, please) grin of his. Continue reading Commentary: Three Stooges Take Over Huntington Beach City Council

Viewpoint: Surf City Ideologues Reject Pension Savings, Opt for Fire Service Cuts Instead

Editor’s note: At a public meeting on March 31 City Manager Fred Wilson and Mayor Joe Carchio were asked about the city’s budget, contract negotiations with public employees unions and “unfunded liabilities” for employee pensions.

“Absolutely not. I think what they did wasn’t the right way to do things. I think that what we’ve done is to try to address the budget challenge more methodically. We’ve looked at outsourcing, but it’s on a very limited [basis], but trying to do it very inclusively with everybody at the same time. There’s been no one who’s said we need to do what Costa Mesa has done.”

Fred Wilson, when asked if any city councilmembers had suggested to him that Huntington Beach should take the same course as the city of Costa Mesa, i.e., to outsource and lay off half of its public employees.

“Probably, collectively, it’s over $100 million. That’s a big number. It sounds big and it is big, but just so you know, what that number is based on is what CalPers, which is a state agency, what they tell us it is.”

Fred Wilson, on the city’s “unfunded liabilities.”

“I think we’ve done a fair amount of contracting out. If you compare what we do to what Costa Mesa does, I think you’re going to see that a large number of services that we provide are contract services. We’re moving in that direction but we’re trying to do it more responsibly, more balanced, and not take that hard-line approach to say that this is the solution. And we’ve discovered that contracting isn’t the solution to every single one of the services that we provide.”

Fred Wilson, more on outsourcing.

“Part of the answer is that the pay difference between that Authority (Orange County Fire Authority) and our fire department isn’t much different. The real question about saving is what level of service do all of us want as residents. For example, we have, I think, seven fire stations. We respond in five minutes generally 90 percent of the time…So the solution to really balance the budget is to cut back on the local services that we are providing residents and nobody wants to do that.”

Fred Wilson when asked about outsourcing fire protection services.

“I would disagree with you completely. There’s no proposal to increase any taxes. I gave you one proposal for storm drain fees that the city council has to approve. And just to let you know, at the last meeting the city council considered an increase to our trash rate. And part of that increase was a 7 cent per month increase to cover our costs and they said no. But that direction that’s coming back to us is that they’re not prepared to increase fees. The point is, it’s symbolic. And they’re not prepared to increase fees and we’re looking at employee concessions and we’re looking at reductions in our budget…”

Fred Wilson, responding to a question about alleged city tax increases.

“The city’s not becoming insolvent. I think if you look at our three-year projections for the impacts of pension costs, the numbers are, I think, $5 million, $8 million and, I think, anther $4 million. But overall our budget is over $175 million. So, if you’re putting it into percentages, you’re talking anywhere between two to three to four percent we have to cut incrementally each year. If we can do that the next two to three years, I think that we can manage our budget with those pension costs. But far more, I think employees have to pick up the larger share of the pension costs. We’re working on those. And I think between the two approaches we’re nowhere near insolvency at all.”

Fred Wilson, when asked if any study had been done to determine at what point the city would become insolvent if it didn’t take drastic action on pension reform.

“Everyone of our employees knows what the situation is. They know. And they’re working really hard with us in being great partners in trying to make this work. Because they all know that we’re in a situation. They read the newspapers. They watch TV just like you do and just like I do. So, you know, they’re not playing hard ball. They’re trying hard to cooperate and we’ve found that they’ve been really decent about it…”

Mayor Joe Carchio, speaking about the city’s public employees unions.

By Gus Ayer
Analysis and commentary
Special to the Surf City Voice 

Is Huntington Beach following the Costa Mesa train to Crazy Town, opting for confrontation instead of common sense with their employees?

On Monday, May 2, the Huntington Beach City Council, in closed session, voted against a proposal that would save the city almost $1.3 million in pension costs over the next two years and would also create a second pension tier for future public safety employees.

On May 3, Councilmember Devin Dwyer told city employees that if they hadn’t been there very long they should start looking for another job. He also said that negotiations with the Huntington Beach Fire Department had broken down, but he was quickly corrected by the Huntington Beach Fire Association (HBFA) president, Darrin Witt, who expressed an interest in continuing to talk.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Orange County right-wing politics, where ambitious young pols like Don Hansen and Matt Harper seem poised to try to get some of the publicity that Jim Righeimer has been garnering in Costa Mesa. Term limits will open up one seat each for state Assembly, state Senate and Orange County Board of Supervisors, and the players want to be seen as pension fighters and union busters to appeal to the hard core of Republican primary voters.  

As Mayor Pro Tem Don Hansen said on his Facebook page during the last city council election: 

“Let’s take our city back! If you see a police car or fire truck on the mail – that’s code for ‘union owned.’ We need taxpayer advocates not union puppets now more than ever!”

Mailers supporting Hansen’s endorsed candidates echoed the attacks on public safety employees and their pensions.

After three months of bargaining, HBFA members thought they had a deal that would save Huntington Beach $640,000 a year for the next two years. The proposed side letter to their existing agreement would also change the retirement formula for new hires in order to lower pension costs in the future. After three months of negotiations with staff, Witt felt that “We had met all of the council’s goals set out in the strategic planning session at the beginning of the year.”

Instead of taking two scheduled 2 percent raises, one of which had already been postponed for 18 months, sworn fire officers would apply that money to their pensions thus increasing their pension contribution from 2.25 percent of their income to 6.75 percent of their income.

In return, the firefighters asked for guaranteed staffing levels so that they wouldn’t have to cut the number of paramedics and engine companies that were available to respond to emergencies.  

As the council kept moving the goalposts, the paramedics and fire fighters included a budget trigger which would void the guaranteed staffing levels if revenues drop, expenses rise unexpectedly or if CalPERS increases pension rates.

Monday, May 2, in closed session, the Huntington Beach City Council voted against the savings, moving instead toward further service cuts that would increase response times.

Cutting the budget could mean service cuts that might idle one of the eight paramedic engines or one of the two ladder trucks. Budget cuts could also reduce availability of one of the cross-staffed specialized engines.

Do you cut one of the paramedic engines that respond to over 12,000 (911) medical calls a year? Or do you leave partially idle one of the two ladder trucks that have the ability to put firemen at roof level and carry additional equipment like the “Jaws of Life”?

Even without more personnel cuts to HB Fire, the annexation of Sunset Beach, coupled with fewer available units for mutual aid in surrounding cities, will put pressure on response times in Huntington Beach. The HBFD has already cut six full-time employees, including a battalion Chief, after the city’s revenues dropped substantially during the Great Recession.  

In neighboring Costa Mesa, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer pushes the party line with staunch ideologue Steve Mensinger at his side and a bumbling mayor following along. Their hasty decision to issue layoffs to half the city has made Costa Mesa a laboratory for right wing political experiments in California. The result is clear: the continued exodus of police officers, firefighters and managers is crippling the city.

In Huntington Beach, it’s Mayor Pro Tem Don Hansen calling the shots, with Republican Central Committee member Matt Harper, and former Central Committee member Devin Dwyer as comrades. All three are close allies of party boss Scott Baugh, a lobbyist and perennial meddler in Huntington Beach politics.  Joe Carchio plays the role of the bumbling mayor whose deal to accept that office a year ahead of schedule has been repeatedly questioned.

Don Hansen, his Red County buddy Chip Hanlon, and their Tea Party allies were big losers in the 2010 election. Two Team-Hansen candidates who hired Hansen’s wife’s consulting business, Red Zone Strategies, lost in the 2010 election. Measure O, a ballot initiative that would have shifted money away from public safety, also lost decisively.

At the core are Hansen, Harper, and Dwyer, who have walked away from the deal that would reduce the city’s current and future pension costs, forcing service cuts instead of compromise.

Councilmember Joe Shaw, elected in 2010 without support from the fire union, refused to comment on what happened during closed session but indicated that he strongly supported the recommendations of the city’s pension consultant, John Bartel.

“We hired an expert who recommended that we work towards a second, lower pension tier for all new hires and move toward getting employees to pick up a greater share of their pensions while holding salaries down. That is exactly what the Fire Association proposed, and it could have been a model for our negotiations with all of our employees,” he said.

The public needs to see this choice debated in public, not hidden behind closed doors. Writing at Chip Hanlon’s Red County, Don Hansen seemed to agree as he expressed his love for country music. 

One effective strategy is to adopt a set of financial policies that would be debated publicly. These policies would set the parameters for labor negotiations. For example, you could adopt a policy that says “The goal of all labor negotiations will be to increase the employee’s contribution to pension costs.”  

 In Huntington Beach, the city recently gave direction to negotiate the elimination of pending salary increases by the end of February. Taking a public vote in a meeting keenly observed by many of the union leaders sends a signal that there is a solid vote for such a solution.

By setting a more transparent policy goal prior to the commencement of labor negotiations, elected officials become more accountable for the ultimate result. Further, if your community leaders are not committed to fiscally sustainable labor policy their position will be publicly vetted as well. The economic consequences of these decisions are too great to allow them to be hidden.

Because no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.

There are three simple questions for the councilmembers who rejected the fire union’s concessions:

1)      What policy are you advancing by refusing exactly the type of pension reform that your own expert recommends?

2)      When are you going to have the public debate on whether the residents and business owners in Huntington Beach want to sacrifice response times for your ideology or not?

3)      Are you looking for sustainable budget solutions or just pandering to Republican primary voters so you can get some of the attention that Jim Righeimer has been hogging?

Photo: L – R: Don Hansen, Matt Harper, Devin Dwyer. Courtesty of Calitics

Gus Ayers is a former mayor of Fountain Valley. He writes for Calitics, where this column was originally published. Huntington Beach Councilmembers Hansen, Harper and Dwyer have been invited by the Surf City Voice to respond to Ayers.

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Surf City’s Alcoholic Downtown: Build it and they will drink (and drive)

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Build it and they will come, the saying goes.  

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.

Anaheim and Irvine do not have highly concentrated downtown bar scenes; Fullerton, however, with a much lower population (137,000), also has a high number of downtown liquor serving establishments, according to the report, and made 1,188 DUI arrests in 2008—similar to the DUI arrest rate in Huntington Beach. Continue reading Surf City’s Alcoholic Downtown: Build it and they will drink (and drive)

New City Council: Priorities and infrastructure

By John Earl
Surf City Voice 

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.

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Carchio’s Plateless Venzas/T-shirt Delivery Service – Will Devin Dwyer be Mayor?

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Huntington Beach City Council member Joe Carchio has driven a brand new Toyota Venza for the past year without license plates. The car shows dealership plates that advertise Huntington Beach Toyota, where Carchio “has bought lots of cars for his family,” according to a salesperson there.

Carchio's car
Carchio's Venza, parked at City Hall without license plates. Photo: SCV

A car windshield sticker that is supposed to show ownership information is completely blank.

Planning commissioner Blair Farley, Councilmember Jill Hardy, and another City Hall official who asked not to be named, told the Voice that they have seen Carchio’s unlicensed car parked in its official space at City Hall various times during the past year. The Voice photographed Carchio’s unlicensed car there on two recent occasions.

The Voice left a message for Carchio at City Hall asking him to call about his car, but he didn’t respond.

The sales agent said that state budget cuts have created waits of 6 -8 months before the DMV delivers plates and that the dealer is not responsible for customers who don’t comply with the law after buying or leasing a car.

But Toyota HB’s General Manager, Bob Miller, told the Voice that Carchio has leased two different white Venzas from from his car lot in the past year and that it takes 8 -12 weeks for plates to arrive in the mail.

Agents for two major insurance carriers, however, say that license plates usually arrive within 4 – 6 weeks; if not, the dealer probably waited too long to send in the paper work to the DMV, one agent said.

Toyota of HB generously allows the city to use a fleet of 17 lifeguard vehicles in exchange for allowing it to advertise on those vehicles, the Voice of OC (no relation to the SCV) reported last summer.

Was a similar deal extended to Carchio? A 2009 Venza runs at about $28,000. A lease would probably be $500 – 600 a month. No such deal exists, Miller told the Voice, laughing politely.

City officials must report gifts and cannot take over $420 in gifts from any one source within a year. Violators can receive a $5,000 fine from the State.

Maybe Carchio just wants to plow through red lights and toll roads without being caught on camera.

Or maybe he just made on “honest mistake,” like he claimed to have done before the Voice exposed his six-month-long attempt to avoid returning $6,600 in health insurance payments by the City for his ineligible “wife.”

That would be the same wife who (as the Voice was first to report) divorced Carchio several years ago, when he had over $50,000 in tax liens filed against him by the IRS, and then collected the money from the sale of a downtown restaurant—that Carchio claims he owned but that she claimed (at that time) he was trying to steal from her—as part of a divorce settlement that he did not lift a finger to contest.

Delivering T-Shirts
In 2001, according to County records, Carchio was doing business as Carhio’s Imprinted Sportswear on Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach. That business folded and Carchio went into the restaurant business.

His restaurant business was gone as of 2008. As of 2009, according to his latest 700 form, Carchio was unemployed, and according to a knowledgeable City Hall source Carchio was still unemployed as of last August.

But Carchio’s former appointee to the Investment Advisory Board, Angela Rainsberger, wonders if he hasn’t gone back into the T-shirt business.

While talking to Carchio a year ago about the problems with downtown bars and revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan (DTSP) that Carchio had voted for a month earlier, they were joined by two of Mike Ali’s sons. Ali owns Zack’s Pier Plaza, a shop that rents surf boards and sells T-shirts, located on the beach next to the pier.

Joe Carchio. Jill Hardy in the background. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for the SCV

About mid-way into the conversation, Rainsberger wrote in an e-mail to a friend a few weeks later, “Joe gave his car keys to the boys and asked them to unload the boxes of tee (sic) shirts from his car for their dad. They pulled a few t-shirts out of the boxes and held them up for inspection. Joe was, and I guess is, in the tee (sic) shirt printing business…It didn’t dawn on me until today that Joe is doing business downtown because he is printing t-shirts for Zacks. Shouldn’t this require he recuses himself from the vote on the DTSP? The more tourist (sic) come to HB, the more t-shirts are sold, the more money Joe makes.”

Mike Ali did not respond to requests by the Voice for comment.

Carchio did not recuse himself from consideration of the DTSP the first time and voted for the revised plan. In January, when the required second reading and vote occurred, he did recuse himself, but not because of his alleged T-shirt business.

“In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been in negotiations with a restaurant to try to fill the vacancy that’s been left by Luggatti’s. So that might, according to the City Attorney, that might constitute a conflict of interest so I will be refraining from voting on this item,” Carchio told the City Council.

The restaurant ended up under the ownership of another party.

But if Carchio was doing business downtown, why didn’t he report it on his 700 form and why didn’t he recuse himself for that reason on both DTSP votes?

This time the Voice managed to speak to Carchio by phone. Unfortunately, however, he was in the middle of an Orange County Vector Control meeting and said he couldn’t talk just then. Those meetings must be boring, though, because a glance online at the same time revealed that he was also busy adding friends to his Facebook account.

Carchio did not call back after the meeting.

Who Will be the Honorable Mayor?
Interesting rumors abound about who will be crowned as the next mayor of Huntington Beach at the Dec. 6 meeting of the City Council.

As the Voice first reported last August, it looked like Huntington Beach City Council members Joe Carchio and Don Hansen were openly and secretly negotiating a deal so that Carchio would become the new mayor, out of turn, instead of Hansen.

The city council can vote for any one of its members to be mayor, but traditionally its members have gone in order based on their previous time served. It would normally be Hansen’s turn to be mayor starting in December with Carchio following him the next year. But if the two of them switched places, Hansen, who is termed out of office in 2012, would be well poised to run for higher office as mayor instead of a mere city councilman.

Since August, however, a series of revelations, most of them first reported by the Voice, have made it less likely that a council majority will take a chance of embarrassing the city by electing Carchio mayor this year-or any year.

But well-placed City Hall sources have spread the following titillating rumors about who will be the next Surf City mayor:

  • That Hansen knew about Carchio’s tax problems, fake marriage, insurance scam, etc., before they were revealed in the Voice, and threatened that he would reveal that information if Carchio did not agree to swap their mayoral terms;
  • Carchio doesn’t want to be mayor, but Hansen offered that if he agreed to switch places for mayor he (Carchio) would be allowed to appoint himself as the council’s liaison to the Orange County Sanitation District, which pays $170 per meeting;
  • That Councilmember Devin Dwyer will be the next mayor.

Hansen told the Voice that “none of these [rumors] are even close to true,” and added that we “forgot the rumor that I was going to move to City Treasurer. That was one of my favorites to date.”

But Dwyer indicated that there might be some truth to the rumor that he would become the next mayor:

“I don’t know. I was asked by a businessman in the downtown area if I would be willing. That there was talk of shuffling the order. I said I would consider it.”

Tune in on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m.

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‘Concilman’ Joe Carchio Returns, as Good as Ever

By John Earl
Surf City Voice 

Victorious city council incumbent Joe Carchio won’t be officially sworn in again until December, but he has already started to “finish the job he started” as he promised to do in his campaign literature. 

So far, after four years in office, Carchio has managed to define himself at best as a barely competent acolyte to Mayor Cathy Green, who cowers in fear of councilmembers Devin Dwyer and Don Hansen, to an outright con man and thief at worst (see our series of pre-election exposes).

At the Nov. 15 post-election meeting of the Huntington Beach City Council, Carchio got back in the swing of things with a bumbling performance as the Grand Inquisitor, a poor imitation of Hansen’s trademark habit of humiliating contrary public speakers with a blend of McCarthyism and the Socratic method. 

His targeted victim this time was an unsuspecting businessman—the co-owner of Alpha Omega Christmas Trees, Inc., who was offering $8,000 to rent a vacant city-owned lot at Edinger and Parkside Lane for two months so he could sell Christmas trees and other holiday merchandise. 

About five weeks earlier Omega reached a tentative licensing agreement with city staff. That agreement was up for routine approval by the council at its Nov. 15 meeting. Omega’s trees and other supplies would be delivered only days later. Time was of the essence and Omega’s owners thought they had a deal in hand. 

The only problem was that some council members have a soft spot for another Christmas tree company, owned by the “Johnson brothers,” that had done business with the city at the same location in years past. 

The Johnsons made plans about a year ago to sell trees elsewhere this year because the city had indicated that the Edinger site would be under redevelopment and unavailable for rent. 

Councilmember Devin Dwyer had asked Stanley Smalewitz, Deputy Director of Economic Development, to help the Johnsons find an alternative Surf City site, but as of a year ago the brothers reported that they were happy with a new site they had already found in Irvine. 

Unexpectedly, however, the Edinger site was still available when Omega approached the city several weeks ago, so staff jumped at the last minute opportunity to make some extra money on the vacant property after all. 

Knowing that the Johnson’s were happy, Smalewitz and his staff didn’t bother to offer the Johnsons a chance to bid on the Edinger site. But Dwyer was ticked off at Smalewitz for not following through as asked. 

“That opportunity should have been open to him (sic),” Dwyer snapped at Smalewitz. “I mean, if we can competitively bid for something, we want to get our best dollar for the city. Don’t we?” 

But what to do now? 

Councilmember Keith Bohr suggested reopening the bid process to allow the Johnson brothers another chance to rent. Staff said that it could process everything within a few days, but member Jill Hardy preferred to leave things as they were rather than risk not getting any business at all, considering that the Johnson brothers might decline and Omega needed to find a site a.s.a.p. for its incoming merchandise and might have to go elsewhere rather than wait for a potentially unfavorable decision. 

In fact, Omega’s owner told the council, if the city of Redondo Beach came through on a potential rental deal the next morning, as he expected it would, he would have to go there rather than take the chance of ending up without a place to do his holiday season business. 

By that time it should have been obvious that the only fair and practical thing to do was to go with the original motion—to accept the agreement with Omega—and make sure the bidding process was better coordinated next year. 

Carchio the Bully
But Carchio, after agreeing with Hardy’s analysis, decided to bully the Omega owner before accepting staff’s recommended action. 

“So, in other words, you’re telling me…that if the City of Redondo Beach tells you yes tomorrow, then you don’t want to enter into an agreement with us, period. You’d rather have the deal in Redondo Beach,” Carchio asked, twisting the applicant’s words.

“I just need to facilitate my time frame right now. That’s my only consideration sir,” the Omega owner answered. But Carchio got tougher.

“[Y]ou’re telling me if the Redondo Beach guy tells you yes tomorrow that you’re going to Redondo Beach, no matter what.”

Reexplaining the obvious, the applicant said he had to be prepared to go to Redondo Beach, if necessary, and that he could conceivably end up doing business in both cities.

“Then I think you need to make a decision as well as us. I mean, do you really want to be here or do you want to be in Redondo Beach,” Carchio lectured.

“I would like to be here. However, I could lose this if that vote goes that way. And so that doesn’t make good business sense to me,” the applicant replied.

“Well, it seems to me that you’re trying to put our backs to the wall here,” Carchio accused.

Justifiably irritated by Carchio’s off-the-wall assertion, the applicant tried to maintain a polite demeanor. “Well, I’m sorry, I think you understand I lost my [previous tree] lot of 22 years, so my back is against the wall too, sir. And I’m not-”

“And I understand you’re a businessman, and you’ve got to look out for the best deal that you can make and the quickest deal that you can make, because you do have trees and they have to start selling,” Carchio interrupted, with unconvincing sympathy.

“Yes, sir.”

“The only thing is I have to clarify in my own mind is whether you’re more interested in being here or you’re playing Redondo Beach against us.


“Or you’re playing us against Redondo Beach.”

“Sir, I just found out about Redondo Beach yesterday as a back up only because I wasn’t sure what was going to go on here.”

“So this is your – ”

“That was a good choice on my part because you’re telling me that I have to wait till tomorrow night now, after I have waited almost five or six weeks already. So I think it’s just a good business choice for me. You’re making a business choice too. If you can get this other gentleman in and he can bid more you’re making a business choice on me. That’s all I’m saying.”

Then Carchio brought his interrogation to a crescendo.

“So, what I want to clarify in my own mind: are we your number one choice or is Redondo Beach your number one choice?”

Oblivious, Carchio acted surprised when Mayor Green gasped and all of his colleagues broke out with nervous laughter.

“I’m not going to make that choice,” was the applicant’s final answer.

Councilmember Don Hansen scornfully mocked Carchio. “Wow! First of all, to the representative of Alpha Omega, we just put him in a ridiculously uncomfortable position,” he said, recommending that the council take a more responsible course.

Bohr withdrew his motion and the entire council, including Carchio, voted to rent the land to Omega after all.

In the future, Carchio will continue, no doubt, to finish the job he started four years ago.

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Who Will Control Surf City? – The Republican wrath against Jennifer McGrath (Part 1)

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a 3 part story

Since 1957 a vote of the people has decided who would be the Huntington Beach City Attorney. Since 1978 no incumbent holding that office has lost an election. Gail Hutton, who defeated incumbent city attorney Don Bonfa in the city election that year, easily remained in office until her retirement 24 years later in 2002.

Her replacement, Jennifer McGrath, was elected to the office next with 48.2 percent of the vote in a race against three opponents, but she ran unopposed in her 2006 reelection campaign.

Next November she will have one opponent listed on the ballot, T. Gabe Houston, who officially signed his candidate’s papers at the City Clerk’s office on Aug. 6, the last day to file.

Council member Devin Dwyer. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for SCV

Like other City Attorney challengers, Houston may also end up as election fodder. But his late entry reveals a serious flaw in the Huntington Beach City Charter—despite nine months of work by the City’s Charter Review Commission that recommend reforms—and exposes the hidden attempts (and not so hidden attempts) by various  members of the Huntington Beach City Council to gain political power by manipulating the reform process for better or worse.

Previously, the Voice showed how the council’s backroom political dramas have come to center stage at city council meetings. But recent e-mails obtained by the Voice give a sharper picture of the passion and acrimony flowing through the political veins of the city.

Some of the conflict centers on the office of City Attorney. One side wants the city attorney to be elected by vote of the people; the other side thinks that he or she should be appointed by the council or the City Administrator. Continue reading Who Will Control Surf City? – The Republican wrath against Jennifer McGrath (Part 1)

Commentary: Poseidon up for review and city council members mingle with their corporate god

Personal Observations and Commentary
By John Earl

Editor, Surf City Voice

If there ever was a corporate right-wing conspiracy going on behind the Orange Curtain (Gasp! Who would have thunk it?) it happened last Friday inside the Grand Californian Hotel at–perhaps appropriately enough–the Disneyland Resort. It called itself the OC Water Summit, presented ostensibly by the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the Orange County Water District but, in fact, sponsored by a bunch of multi-national and other water related business sharks that smell green blood in the lucrative business of disaster capitalism via control of heretofore public water resources.

Disciples of Poseidon
Poseidon disciples: HB City Council members Gil Coerper, Joe Carchio and Cathy Green sitting at the Poseidon table with CEO Scott Maloni. Member Devin Dwyer's empty seat is seen too. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for SCV

The summit’s stated purpose was to look at solutions to California’s water problems. In reality it was a mostly one-sided presentation (Central Valley farmers good, environmentalists and little fishes bad) and seemed like a thinly veiled plug for water privatization, what some critics would call unsustainable agriculture practices, and urban sprawl  via speculative desalination.

The summit’s stand-in facilitator of the day, after comedian Paul Rodriquez couldn’t make it, was Laer Pearce of Shea Properties/Parkside/build on the Bolsa Chica Mesa fame/infamy whose politics are about as far-right as you can get in Orange County without totally going insane. Normally highly opinionated and hot tempered, Pearce was on his best behavior; but, with a few exceptions, it might have been a more entertaining half-day if he had just acted like he does when he’s being interviewed by the Voice.

Of note, the presentation by Karl W. Seckel of MWDOC on the now underway Dana Point desalination project, a public owned and operated concern with a totally different, much more environmentally friendly, perspective than Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant, was well worth viewing and we will have more on the details of that soon. Also of great interest, the presentation by Gary Crisp, a desalination advocate from Australia, on how his country is implementing desalination. More on that later, too.

The most curious but totally unsurprising spectacle of the event, however, at least for Surf City residents, might have been the sight of four of our city council members (Joe Carchio, Cathy Green, Devin Dwyer and Gil Coerper) sucking it up with Poseidon Resources CEOs at its specially reserved round table. Poseidon, by the way, has a new EIR currently before the city for approval, due to the fact that the once-through-cooling process, which it was depending on (along with hundreds of millions in government handouts) to provide mythologically (as in Poseidon, God of the Sea) inexpensive water to Orange County residents, has been banned by the State. How Poseidon and its city council cohorts expect to be able to use a banned water intake process is unclear at this point, but nothing stands in the way of a god, apparently.

Joining Poseidon’s city council disciples at the supper table was Huntington Beach Planning Commissioner John Scandura. Carchio is a candidate for reelection in November.

Disciples 2
HB Planning Commissioner John Scandura, next to Poseidon CEO Scott Maloni at OC Water Summit. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for SCV

Did the four city council members violate the Brown Act by meeting with each other and discussing or listening to issues before the city? No, they did not, even though the summit cost participants between $125 and $140 each. According to the law, it’s fine in this case because the event was open to the public, despite its prohibitive cost. But if you ever wondered why our elected officials vote the way they do, you might consider who they get their information and social support from.

Surf City residents might want to ask their elected and appointed officials what they talked about at that meeting, however. They should have kept records of all that was discussed.

Update: At last night’s city council meeting (May 17, 2010) during disclosure time, member Gil Coerper disclosed that he had gone to a League of Cities meeting, but none of the council members mentioned that they had been to the OC Water Summit and that they sat with Poseidon’s CEOs the whole time.

However, mandatory disclosure time, as required by AB 1234, comes right after public comments on the city council meeting agenda, nearer the start of the meeting. That’s when, presumably, spectators still exist in the chambers and before the television audience goes to sleep–and there’s nothing in the rules to prevent a council member from commenting on a non mandatory item, such as a summit about the future of California’s and Surf City’s water supply. But, at the end of the meeting, non mandatory disclosures, often mentions of charity events and the like, are normally made. At that time, Mayor Cathy Green, who took her turn last, was the only council member who bothered to mention her attendance along with Dwyer, Carchio and and Coerper at the OC Water Summit–without any information about the event other than that they attended it. Green told the Voice, “…I was reading off a list after a long evening. Remember we start at 4 p.m. [including the study session and closed session]”

So much for the water crisis.

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Commentary: Are HB City Council Members Doggone Hypocrites?

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

If coyotes can no longer prowl our city streets and parks for fresh cat and people meat with impunity, why should dogs be allowed to?

In fact, a city ordinance requires out-and-about dogs to be on a hand held leash six-feet or less in length.

The ordinance is clearly posted in every city park, but maybe a lot of dog owners don’t read. Whenever I walk Sappy, my small but ornery Mini Pin, to the local city park, he is usually the only dog on a leash.

Ten or more dogs are often frolicking about—always without leashes—but usually doing nothing more offensive than mutual butt sniffing. Sometimes, however, you find out why the city’s leash law should be enforced, as I did on two memorable occasions.

The first incident was several years ago. I rode my bike on the street that circles the park when a large unleashed Doberman ran for me at full speed, like a wolf chasing a caribou. I barely escaped.

Are our city parks going to the dogs? Photo: Surf City Voice

The dog’s owner sat on a park bench watching, but did nothing to stop her dog. What would have happened if one of my young children had been on that bike instead of me?

I called the police and the dispatcher said to call Animal Control, which I did, but AC said that it was unlikely that an officer would arrive on time to deal with the dog and its owner.

My next dangerous dog encounter was about two months ago while I was walking Sappy, on his leash, at the park.

Sappy gets very irritated by frisky puppies or larger dogs. Usually, he snarls a bit at the other dog and it goes away or I just lead him the other way by his leash and everything is fine.

But this time two very large and powerful pit bulls, probably well over 100 pounds each, which ran free with leashes dangling behind them, didn’t like the idea of being shooed away by an upstart Mini Pin a fraction of their size. Continue reading Commentary: Are HB City Council Members Doggone Hypocrites?