By John Earl
Surf City Voice
Have we got a great show for you?
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.
Oh, I almost forgot, there’s also a fourth stooge, Surf City’s mayor in name only, the “Not while I’m mayor” chest pounding (Shemp) Joe Carchio. If he even thinks about being anything more than a ceremonial ribbon cutter and seat warmer, Moe quickly face slaps him into total submission.
Yes, it’s a hell of a show; just check out the video of the July 5 City Council meeting on the city’s website if you don’t believe it.
As a child, I always laughed at the real Three Stooges. I still do. Admit it, you probably do too. But there’s just one problem with the Huntington Beach City Council/Three Stooges Hour: it’s not funny.
In fact, it’s embarrassing and stupid. It also wastes time and money. And it should be taken off the air, immediately please!
The most recent episode on July 5 illustrates the point.
The council was considering the Consent Calendar, a collection of items that are considered routine and thus are not subject to hearings or lengthy discussions, and are usually voted on all at once.
Each council member, however, can “pull” a given item for discussion prior to a vote. Councilmember Matt Harper did that with calendar item #7, which asked the council to fill three longstanding vacancies on the Mobile Home Park Advisory Board.
Harper questioned whether the board should exist, stating that “I’m kind of questioning, what is the role of the Mobile Home Advisory Board in this current context.”
Carchio, in a rare show of wisdom, motioned to postpone the discussion until the next meeting of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee later in the week when various other city committees were also scheduled for review. Hansen seconded that motion.
Before the vote, Councilmember Shaw asked MHAB chairperson Barbara Boskovich to explain how the board helps seniors. She did, adding that “Your heart goes out to them because they are on fixed incomes and have nowhere else to go.”
Shaw agreed, and said that he was “kind of shocked” that Harper pulled the item with little notice and that there would even be a discussion about doing away with the MHAB.
“I’m going to vote against this motion strongly, and I’m beside myself when you think that this is something people think we need to get rid of,” he said, with obvious emotion.
Then Hansen attempted to correct Shaw, starting with snooty sarcasm. “So nobody is too shocked, the consideration was to hear the report of the IRC. The motion is not to eliminate the Mobile Home Advisory Board.”
But Shaw seemed to have referred to Harper’s strong hint that the board should be ended, not to the motion that followed.
Justifying Shaw’s fears even further, Hansen started to explain why maybe the board should be eliminated. In his opinion, it wasn’t fulfilling its mission. “And it sounds like most of the advocacy,” he started to say—but then Shaw rudely and loudly cut him off, starting what could best be described as a cat fight.
“So, you’re really telling us the IRC—you’re really telling us how the IRC is going to vote,” Shaw proclaimed. The IRC is run by Carchio, Dwyer and Harper.
Then Shaw and Hansen started talking over each other. At that point a real mayor would have slammed his gavel down hard repeatedly until both of the stooges shut up. Then he would have warned Shaw to hold his tongue until the mayor recognized his turn to speak.
Instead, Carchio was unable to assert his authority. When he tried he was drowned out by the cross chatter and scolded. “Excuse me,” Hansen snapped to the man who would be mayor, instantly whipping him into silent submission.
At that point, Carchio should have taken the gavel and hit Hansen on his cue-ball head with it. For sure, Hansen had reason to be pissed, but look at the video yourself and see if you aren’t frightened like I was by his pathological overreaction to Shaw’s own overreaction.
Hansen, seething with barely containable anger, lashed back at Shaw with an absurd ultimatum. “Now, if you are giving me carte blanche to interrupt your tirades at any given time, we can proceed like this. Which would you rather have?”
“I apologize for interrupting,” Shaw replied, not sounding very sincere.
“This is the fourth time,” Hansen started to say, before Shaw attempted to interrupt him yet again.
“But, what I” –
“No. No. I have the floor.”
“Ok. Go ahead. Go ahead.”
“Councilman Shaw. So, first of all, I would like us to have an agreement that we will follow our procedures.”
“I will agree with that as long as you agree not to belittle me and belittle my comments when you speak, which is what you do.”
“That is not the case.”
“That is the case,” Shaw shot back. “That’s why I interrupt you.”
What? Does Councilmember Shaw believe that every time he is offended by another councilmember’s remarks he has the right to prevent that member from speaking? Councilmember, the council forum is not your private soap opera stage. Please stop whining and start acting like a leader.
Hansen lectured on, rightly stating that the two of them were going to have to work out a better way to communicate with one another in the future. “Because enough is enough,” he added, still seething with nearly uncontrollable rage.
“I will agree to do that,” Shaw replied.
“I have never interrupted you and I’m going to ask you the same,” Hansen continued. “Enough!”
Following that declaration was a long silence during which any reasonable person might have thought Hansen was either finished or had burst a blood vessel.
But when Carchio, the mayor, tried to go on with the meeting Hansen barked him into submission once again, “I’m not done,” and continued talking about the need to keep decorum at meetings, even when people disagree. He looks forward to meeting with Shaw.
We should all look forward to that meeting.
Until then, however, Hansen might remember that he is the one who long ago started the City Council’s downward spiral into the kind of acrimonious chaos that caused him to say “Enough.”
On numerous occasions he set the precedent that others followed with his own boorish and out of order interrogations of public speakers, blatant partisanship, and harassment (joined by Dwyer, Bohr, Carchio and, more recently, Matt Harper) of the City Attorney. He has also tried to use the council members as puppets to build his own political fiefdom. Witness his disrespectful treatment of Mayor Carchio as added proof.
Shaw is still in his first year of office and has time to change his ways, though the sooner the better for us all. If he doesn’t change, he’s likely to find himself out of a job in a few years.
But Hansen has served for almost seven years and during that time he has shown increasingly less respect for his peers and his constituents—a point that Councilmember Connie Boardman made during her successful comeback campaign in the last election. Since then, in a sneaky deal made with Carchio, Hansen set himself up to be mayor during his final year in office, starting next December. With that prospect in mind, Hansen would be wise to take his own medicine if he really cares about his legacy and the city.