Tag Archives: infrastructure

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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Fred Speaker: Crotchety Council Candidate Zips Lips Over Budget Slips

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Huntington Beach Planning Commissioner Fred Speaker is no doubt one of the leading candidates from the pack of 20 locals running for one of four open City Council seats on the November 2 ballot.

Speaker—in his own words—is a “fiscally responsible” and “pay as you go” candidate who as an experienced small businessman knows “how to balance a budget” and who promises that he “won’t treat taxpayer dollars any less carefully.”

He recently received the endorsements of the City’s two most powerful unions, the HB Police Officers Association and the HB Firefighters Association.

Speaker is also expected to get the full endorsement of the Orange County GOP in a vote to take place Monday, according to publisher Chip Hanlon writing on his blog, Red County.

Red County is the voice of Orange County’s Republican partisans who hope to get “real” Republicans in office and do their part to take back control of America—by following the tenets of “revolution” proclaimed by Party leader Scott Baugh.

The union and OCGOP endorsements combined with the PAC money and campaign donations that they will generate will make Speaker a “virtual shoe-in” on election day, says Hanlon.

But Hanlon and other Red County revolutionaries are wondering what Speaker has done to deserve an endorsement and why more credible Republicans like council candidates Billy O’Connell and Barbara Delgleize have been rejected by the OCGOP.

Hanlon explains that those two leading candidates were denied their endorsements because Delgleize supports gay marriage and abortion rights for women and O’Connell gave campaign money to a few Democrats in the past.

One of the underlying problems with the Speaker endorsement, however, is that it would violate one of Baugh’s most important revolutionary decrees: the Party shall oppose union backed candidates. Continue reading Fred Speaker: Crotchety Council Candidate Zips Lips Over Budget Slips

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)

Never Ending Cycle: A green and healthy way to get around in Surf City

By David J Keulen
Special to the OC Voice

Old fashioned bicycle
David Keulen tries out an older version of bicycle riding. Photo: Dave Keulen

Riding a bicycle can be fantastic in Huntington Beach. The city has all the right ingredients for a pleasant ride….lovely weather, wide roads, and almost exclusively flat terrain.  Plus the recent economic downturn has illustrated the advantages of changing to a means of local transportation that is convenient, healthy, and low-cost, in other words, cycling.

Of course, there’s just one problem, namely the mega-ton four-wheeled vehicles that also course over the same roads that lead to the beach, the store , the schools. Virtually everyone who has ridden a bicycle anywhere other than on the beach bike paths has experienced a potentially life-threatening near-miss with a car. As an experienced bike rider, unfortunately one begins to take this for granted and hopefully learns to be extra cautious, learning to anticipate dangerous situations in advance in order to avoid a collision that will inevitably injury the bike rider more than the driver of the car.

But it doesn’t have to be so dangerous. All across the United States numerous cities have begun to see the value of bicycling for both transportation and recreation, and have incorporated cycling access, parking, and education into their municipal infrastructure. These aren’t bicycling fanatics, but are city planners and transportation engineers involved with issues such as public safety.  And, of course, it is a public safety issue, not a private safety issue that can be solved by wearing a helmet , a reflective vest, and using a special kind of bicycle. If the city environment is engineered with cycling as a defined part of the transportation package, it becomes safer and more viable. Continue reading Never Ending Cycle: A green and healthy way to get around in Surf City