Tag Archive | "city charter"

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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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. Read the full story

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Who Will Control Surf City? The Election of City Attorney – Is T. Gabe Houston Eligible?


John Earl
Surf City Voice

Editor’s note: This article is the second of a three part series.

On August 6, the last day for local candidates to file papers, T. Gabe Houston came to Huntington Beach City Hall and officially became incumbent City Attorney Jennifer McGrath’s opponent in the November election.

When he handed City Clerk Joan Flynn his list of 24 qualifying signatures, Huntington Beach City Councilmember Devin Dwyer’s name was at the top.

Who is T. Gabe Houston, anyway?

T. Gabe Houston

T. Gabe Houston, says it's up to voters to decide if he is qualified or not. Photo: Houston web site

Houston’s official candidate’s statement says he is an attorney, business owner, financial professional and member of the Huntington Beach Finance Board—he was appointed by councilmember Keith Bohr.

But a quick look at Houston’s professional web site (his lean campaign web site was uploaded just before press time) proves that he is not likely to be the candidate who Red County blog publisher Chip Hanlon bragged McGrath would probably face:  “the strongest challenger she could imagine this Fall (sic)…Extremely close in [Republican] party politics…close to the Rohrabachers…very recognizable name…connected to the donor community in a big way,”  a person who would make McGrath faint when she received the news.

Houston has none of those qualities.

In fact, he is a defense attorney, licensed for little over two years, with a business web site that is tagged with choice Republican voter turn-off terms like CraigslistPimp, HBHookers, HBPimps, Hookers, OC Hookers, OC Pimps, Pandering, Pimping, Prostitution, Selling Sex, etc. Read the full story

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City Charter Review: What should be on the agenda?


First part of an ongoing series of video and written reports that will appear between now and election time (November) about the city charter review process and how it could affect Huntington Beach residents. In this second section (see Mark Bixby, first section), committee member and chair person Dick Harlow talks about his reasons for trying to or not trying to get various issues placed on the ballot for consideration by Huntington Beach residents in November. This interview was conducted by John Earl of the Surf City Voice in Jan. 2010 at city hall after one of the review committee meetings had finished.

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