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Book Review: ‘Slow Democracy’ Means Real Citizen Participation and Better Results

Book Review: ‘Slow Democracy’ Means Real Citizen Participation and Better Results

By Debbie Cook
Special to the Surf City Voice

Whether you are an aging activist, annoyed elected official, or aggrieved citizen, the recently published Slow Democracy is the elixir for returning citizens to their rightful role in self governance.

Our country was founded on participatory democracy.  It has largely devolved into a faux democracy where we elect others to “represent” us.  And when they don’t, we scream, march, blog, and organize in order to be heard.  Such blunt instruments may produce short term results but they also leave permanent scars that divide our communities.

Slow Democracy challenges us to implement real democracy at the local level through a prescription of deliberation.

The deliberation as defined by Authors Susan Clark and Woden Teachout is long, careful and inclusive.  Creative forums for communication and understanding are the foundation for better decisions.

The book beautifully demonstrates the sharp contrast between our fast food democracy with its mandatory “public” hearings, reliance on “experts,” and top down mandates, versus a deliberative process that allows all parties to be heard, encourages investigation, and empowers diverse groups of citizens to move forward on difficult issues like water, education, and planning.

Authors Clark and Teachout hail from Vermont.  My first thought was, sure, I can see it in small town Vermont, but not megalopolis California.  But their examples of deliberative processes stretch from coast to coast.

In Felton, California residents fighting dramatic water rate increases wanted to buy back their privatized water system.  They mobilized to pass a bond measure and, under threat of eminent domain, were able to regain control.  Along with lower water rates and increased transparency, they built a solar installation and preserved 250 acres of watershed.  Citizen participation added tremendous value to the results.

In Gloucester, Massachusetts, residents, armed with the success of the Felton experience, were determined to buy back their town’s drinking water from the private corporation that had let its quality deteriorate until it was no longer drinkable.

A diverse group of residents mobilized and wrote a mission statement:  “to accurately inform the public, to share in the civil discourse, and to participate in the decision making process.”

They conducted community meetings, targeted residents in every way possible, and empowered the local citizenry.  The city council unanimously approved a resolution declaring “local control of their water as a democratic right.”

Their deliberative approach guaranteed the community members a place in the decision making process.

The most satisfying experiences I have had in local government, as both an activist and an elected official, have been those rare deliberative processes that somehow snuck into our traditional “Roberts Rules” top down governance structures.  Where members of the public, along with city staff and elected officials, take the time to deliberate over an issue, the results can be magical.

By contrast, wounds become septic at public hearings where millions of dollars have been spent, decisions have already been made, the vote is just a formality, and where everyone speaks and no one listens.

Resilient communities happen where people listen together, investigate together, plan together and act together.

At a recent water meeting in my community, a group of residents who have been fighting a water project for the past ten years were almost bowled over when one of the board members suggested that perhaps they should conduct a workshop so that the project’s opponents would have an opportunity to explain their concerns.

It may be ten years too late or it may be a fresh start toward greater participation.

Either way, Slow Democracy provides a roadmap.  Slow Democracy:  buy it, share it, apply it.

 

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Occupy This Book: ECONOMICS UNMASKED – From power and greed to compassion and common good

Occupy This Book: ECONOMICS UNMASKED – From power and greed to compassion and common good

By Sarah (Steve) Mosko
Special to the Surf City Voice

If you are looking for a passionless primer on modern economics spouting platitudes about how western style capitalism, unregulated markets and globalization are fail proof and good for all, this book is not for you.

If, instead, your guts tell you something is seriously amiss when the gulf between the rich and the poor is ever widening and the health of the planet is on a steady decline, all while politicians bicker over policy nuances that have nothing to do with solving these immense realities, then you will find this book vital and loaded with truths.

The authors are Philip B. Smith, a recently deceased physicist-turned-economist who recognized that the discipline of economics lacks the value-free pursuit of truth ideally embraced by hard sciences, like physics or chemistry, and Manfred Max-Neef, a very much alive academic economist who, when confronted with poverty in the flesh, became a dissident of mainstream economics upon realizing that everything he’d been taught left him bereft of any real understanding of poverty and its solutions.

They joined forces in this mostly easy to digest book (I have never had an economics course) to expose how the predominant economic paradigm driving the world’s economies today is based on far less-than-lofty values – greed, competition and accumulation – values so universally sanctioned that no apology is deemed necessary even though it can be shown that wealth accumulated through such a system leads to immeasurable human injustices and environmental ills.

This paradigm fosters rapid economic expansion “at any cost” to people or the planet, and it is fed by the uncontrolled consumption of fossil fuels and a belief that consumerism is the path to happiness. It also concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a small minority.

Several “myths” underlying the economic system which have successfully evaded scrutiny are brought to light. Most fundamental is the notion that perpetually increasing economic growth and production are a necessity, and even possible, on a finite planet.  A case is made that such magical thinking is the root cause of global warming and depletion of natural resources including oil and gas, fresh water and biodiversity. The authors warn of the inevitable environmental crash in our future if a more sustainable economic system is not adopted.

Other myths debunked include the views that globalization is inevitable and the only route to development (recall that the United States did not follow such a model) and that competition and integration into the world economy are necessarily good for poor nations. We are reminded, for example, that the natural resources of poorer nations are very often plundered and their local industries destroyed by rich nations under the pretext of globalization, and that jobs are lost at home when competition prompts corporations to outsource overseas.

Furthermore, democracy takes a back seat to corporate power when international institutions like the World Trade Organization dictate laws and regulations that nations need follow which effectively enable corporations to “rule the world.”

Who has gained

An over-arching theme of this book is the de-humanization of mainstream economics, where the GNP (gross national product) is revered as the ultimate indicator of a nation’s wealth, when in reality the GNP has become detached from the real measures of a nation’s success and well-being: the health and economic security of its peoples and their freedom to act in pursuit of their own best interests. The authors stress that a shift to a humanized economy will necessitate that culturally approved values of greed, competition and accumulation be replaced by solidarity, cooperation and compassion.

The key premises upon which a humanized economy would need to be based are laid out. Among them are realizations that the purpose of the economy is to serve the needs of people and not the reverse, that the economy takes place within the biosphere so permanent growth is impossible, and that reverence for life trumps all other economic interests.

Although “Economics Unmasked” reached bookstore shelves just months before the Occupy and 99 Percent movements had names or affiliates, it’s fair to say they seem drawn from the same wellspring of moral outrage over the social and environmental injustices attributable to the prevailing economic model. The fundamental difference perhaps is that the book authors’ academic backgrounds and access to real world facts about mainstream economics enabled them to lay out a forceful imperative for and roadmap to a more moral economic paradigm whereas, accurate or not, Occupy and 99 Percent have been criticized for lacking clear messages and solutions.

Activists within these movements, as well as sympathetic onlookers, would no doubt benefit from reading this book to help them better articulate both their grievances with the status quo and proposals for change. And to those who might take offense at any criticism of capitalism, know that this book is in no way a blanket indictment of capitalism, just of its recent incarnation.

“Economics Unmasked” was published in 2011 in the United Kingdom by Green Books.

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Author Will Discuss Warrantless Surveillance in Cyberspace

Author Will Discuss Warrantless Surveillance in Cyberspace

Award winning novelist Lois Tiller will discuss warrantless surveillance in cyberspace at the monthly meeting of the Green Party of Orange County this Sunday, April 3, at 2 p.m.
Tiller is a certified system engineer who advocates for electronic privacy protection and Net Neutrality. Her recently published suspense novel, “Fatal Exception,” explores the ethical ramifications of the possibly illegal partnerships between US security agencies, like the NSA and CIA, and private technology companies to mine used data and control Internet content.
Tiller’s presentation will include a simple overview of electronic snooping and she will identify important efforts underway to thwart warrantless surveillance in the USA. Her talk is intended to give a deeper understanding of the technical issues of the day, such as Facebook’s impact on democratization I the Middle, Google’s online censorship of content, as well as the ongoing battle in the US for Net Neutrality.
For more information about her novel see: http://www.fatalexceptionthriller.info . If you can share a ride of need a ride to the meeting, contact Bea Tiritilli: tiritilligreen@sbcglobal.net
The event will be held as part of the monthly meeting, which takes place at 15600 Sand Canyon Ave. in Irvine (about half-way between the 5 and 405 freeways).

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UCI: Special Collection at Langson Library Chronicles Surfing’s Role in Local Culture

By Laura Rico
UCI Communications

Some of the world’s best surfing beaches are just minutes from UC Irvine. Closer still is a special collection at UCI’s Langson Library that documents the history of surfing and surf culture in Orange County.

Archive memorabilia includes books, magazines, vintage photos, movie posters – even the first published description of surfing. It goes on display Wednesday, Feb. 23, through the end of spring quarter. Photo: Michelle S. Kim / University Communications

“It’s a small collection but one that appeals to a growing number of our patrons – UCI undergraduates” says Steve MacLeod, public services coordinator in Special Collections & Archives. He started gathering materials for the collection five years ago.

It’s part of a much larger collection on Orange County history that encompasses environmental activism, Irvine Ranch, Mission San Juan Capistrano, the city of Irvine, ranchos, the Irvine Company, 19th century actress Helena Modjeska and local politics. 

It was a good fit for MacLeod, a Palo Alto native who learned to surf in Santa Cruz as a teenager. “This was before wet suits,” he says, recalling the chilly Northern California waters.

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 23, selected surfing collection materials – books, vintage photos, movie posters, etc. – will be on display in Langson Library, near the fifth-floor entrance to the newly renovated Special Collections & Archives department.

To read the rest of this story, please click this link.

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Obit: Donald J. Tyson, Chicken Choker

By Jim Earl
Contributor

Donald J. Tyson, visionary leader of Tyson Foods and instigator of the worst chicken holocaust since Kevin Smith’s last barbeque, is now on his way to processing.

The man who made eating chicken almost as safe as living under Chernobyl’s concrete containment dome, was found dead in his home, his legs grotesquely pulled apart and looped over his freakishly large breast muscles as if someone had made a cruel wish.

Donald J. Tyson

Donal J. Tyson, chick choker

The health department discovered his body buried beneath half a foot of fecal waste which apparently was scheduled to be cleaned out every 18 months.

As a young boy working on his father’s chicken ranch, Tyson knew there was something about poultry that he liked. But it wasn’t until he enrolled at the University of Arkansas that he truly embraced his love for cock.

Tyson later recalled he could never get enough cock. Though he was partial to white cock, Tyson soon grew to crave black cock as well. And the bigger the cock the better, he said.

In 1952, he married Twilla Womochil, which coincidentally is the sound a chicken makes when you crush its skull with a steel-toed boot.

Under his leadership, the company’s revenue increased from $51 million to more than $10 billion. And that’s more money than Jesus ever made with his stable of chickens.

In 2001 the company was charged with using illegal immigrants to work in its chicken processing plants. In his defense, Tyson claimed he was just using them for “nugget filler”.

Biographers note Tyson was often compared to fellow Arkansan Sam Walton, primarily because both were huge assholes.

Tyson requested bored employees stomp, kick, and slam his remains against a wall, but not before hanging him by his feet, cutting off his nose and mockingly playing baseball with his head.

Jim Earl has written for The Daily Show, numerous shows on Air America Radio, and is a recipient of the Emmy and Peabody Awards. You can read his satirical obituaries at MorningRemembrance.com, where he makes fun of dead people. You can listen to Jim’s band, The Clutter Family, on iTunes http://bit.ly/bhK9t3

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Update: Bomb investigation is over

Update: Bomb investigation is over

Approximately 30 minutes ago HB police and fire investigators unblocked the intersection at 14th and Crest streets, drawing an investigation of a “suspicious” object that could theoretically have been a bomb. The Voice awaits more details of the investigation from the HBPD.

Update at 3:16 p.m:

Lt. Russell Reinhardt of the HBPD issued the following statement to the Voice:

“The device was a grenade brought to Dwyer school by a student. The bottom had been re-sealed making it appear to be active. The OCSD Bomb Squad removed the device from the school.”

And Jeri Moreau, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent of the Huntington Beach City School District, issued the following statement to the Voice:

“Want to inform you that the issue at Dwyer School has been resolved.  The Police investigation revealed that there was no danger to any students. Students have resumed their normal day at school and parents have been provided information throughout. Also please know that Smith School was never involved nor included in the investigation.  Please don’t hesitate to call the Superintendent, Kathy Kessler at (714) 378-2011 for any additional information.”

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

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

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The Real Bottom Line: City Council betrayed the voters

The Real Bottom Line: City Council betrayed the voters

Commentary
By John Earl

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.

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Vote by Unvigilant Council Usurps Treasurer’s Office and City Charter

Vote by Unvigilant Council Usurps Treasurer’s Office and City Charter

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

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.”

City Manager, Fred Wilson. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino SCV

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.

The report, “Final Report: Organizational and Staffing Evaluation of Limiting the City Treasurer to Core Charter Responsibilities,” written by Ralph Anderson & Associates, a government consulting firm, does recommend changing the treasurer to a part time position, limiting its range to powers and duties outlined in the charter, and transferring non-core duties over to the Finance Department.

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.

Outgoing City Treasurer, Shari Freidenrich. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino SCV

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.

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Surf City: 2 inches of rain last night, 7 inches in past week; street closures noted

Surf City: 2 inches of rain last night, 7 inches in past week; street closures noted

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. 

Current Closures:

  • 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.

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