By John Earl
Surf City Voice
“Ms. M. You don’t know jack shit about guns, obviously…Seriously. Are you freaking blind, stupid or just like to ignore inconvenient facts like your pal Al Gore? Any dumbass knows automobiles kill people by the thousands each year.” – - Ocean View School District Trustee Norm Westwell debates gun control with a Huntington Beach resident via e-mail discussion forum (March 15).
When the Huntington Beach City Council banned fireworks in 1987 little did it know that its action would give birth to an unstoppable human firecracker that, in the egoist tradition of Ayn Rand, would use the ban to create a quixotic public personae and an unlikely political career.
His name was Norm Westwell, aka the self-proclaimed “Firecracker.”
From reading his 2010 campaign website “biography,” it seems that Westwell is a self-made man – the egoist’s version of Woody Guthrie.
“Norm has never been timid,” his bio brags. “He bought his first dirt bike motorcycle at age 11. He became a certified scuba diver at 14. He soloed his first aircraft at 16. At 18 he set out to see the world alone and toured the United States by foot, thumb, and boxcar.”
Westwell moved to Huntington Beach in 1977. In 1989 he would join and soon become vice president of truWest, Inc. a Huntington Beach swim suit factory that has helped him and his wife raise their two children.
Starting in the late 90s, the Firecracker earned his nickname by repeatedly speaking out passionately at city council meetings in favor of rescinding the city’s fireworks ban and against government in general. His bombastic style became his trademark but many people feared that if he ever got elected to a public office he would be an embarrassment and promote policies aimed at destroying government rather than making it work better.
Firecracker ran for local and state political offices—city council, school board and state assembly, sometimes simultaneously—in 2000, 2002, and in 2004. He lost each time. But in 2006 the Firecracker’s perseverance—little money combined with hand-made signs placed high on trees and telephone poles—finally paid off and the self-made man with an AA degree was elected to the school board.
After his election victory Westwell went legit. Within a year his fellow board members chose him as their clerk. In 2008 he was reelected to the board with the endorsement of the teachers union—and his bio brags about it—and in 2009 he was elected, unanimously, as the board’s president.
When he campaigned for city council again in 2010, Firecracker had fully transformed into something more like Ralph Nader than the quintessential anti-environmentalist and champion of corporations that he was before.
At least that’s how it looked in August when the city council race was heating up and Westwell joined with angry residents at City Hall to protest T-Mobile’s plans to install cell phone towers in two city parks. He warned of the possible dangers to children of radiation—“Let’s not experiment with our children”—and proudly pointed out that the OVSD board had denied the company permission to install cell phone towers at one of its schools. He also accused T-Mobile of trying to skirt a city charter provision that requires a public vote for in-park development.
Westwell, the Ocean View School District trustee, seeking to expand his political power base to the city council, had dropped the famed Firecracker moniker because people had told him that it was not in his best interests to use it if he wanted to be elected to the council. “When that many influential people tell me [something], I listen,” he told the Voice last August.
But changing political face was not the winning strategy that Westwell had hoped it would be and he finished only in 11th place with 4.8 percent of the vote for city council.
Westwell will remain on the school board at least until 2012 when his term ends, but recent online events were enough to make any voter wonder if he is fit to remain in office even that long.
Clearly, the Firecracker is back and more explosive than ever. Proof of that is in a recent series of e-mail rants by Westwell revealed during a debate over gun control in a local Internet discussion forum—he cursed and threatened others with violence after they disagreed with him and objected to his personal insults.
The drama unfolded after he posted a message opining that the police officers “DO NOT have any obligation to protect individuals from crime” because “individuals are responsible to protect themselves.” Westwell, who says he is a member of the NRA, explained that the police are here only to “ASSIST SOCIETY” but “NOT TO REMOVE ALL PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.” (Emphasis Westwell’s)
People who want police to protect them, Westwell argued, are a greater financial burden to the city than people who protect themselves by owning guns. He proposed that the city council pass a “Supplemental Law Enforcement Ordinance” that would charge all residents and businesses in the city $50 to supplement local law enforcement services. Gun owners could opt out.
Westwell’s premise for the proposed legislation, that “study after study has concluded that MORE GUNS = LESS CRIME” is given as a “not debatable…cold hard fact” although he never references a single one of the supposed studies. Of course, he admits, the progressive liberals and socialists will oppose such a law so it has little chance of passing.
It was Westwell, the born-again Firecracker, talking now, not Westwell the aspiring career politician.
From that point there were a series of e-mail exchanges in which Westwell responded to replies from others with further explanation of his theory of crime control as well as vulgar insults, name calling and threats of violence. Those critics are dumbasses, communists, and socialists—who hate the individual person—and he will fight them to the death if it comes to that. Or he will just beat their asses if they don’t watch their tongues.
“Just don’t try to force ME to be like YOU,” he wrote to this writer, in response to a mild satirical rebuke. “I would rather die first. It may come to that, we will see. John, I am prepared to die to preserve our capitalist society. Are you prepared to die for your socialist ideals? If so, I look forward to the upcoming battle.”
After John Scott, a respected Huntington Beach activist, opined that Westwell’s reply to “Ms. M” (Merle Moshiri, who leads Residents for Responsible Desalination – see the intro to this story) “does not instill me with a lot of comfort knowing he as a gun,” (Westwell did not say if he owns a gun or not) and that calling people “dumb asses” is the first step toward dehumanization, Westwell went into a delusional, grandiose, and threatening rant that readers might consider even more frightening since it came from an elected official who looks over our children.
Readers of the diatribe that follows in its entirety might wonder if Westwell is intellectually or emotionally fit for the important office he holds.
“If my words make you uncomfortable…BFD. I could care less about your socialist feelings John [John Scott].
“You don’t know if I own a gun or not! Again you simply make up facts to support you (sic) pre-fabricated conclusion. It is the socialist means to the socialist ends.
“You have ASSUMED again. You know what happens when you assume. (happens all the time with you) You can take your PC speech and place it comfortably where the light doesn’t shine. It may be crowded thought (sic) with the rest of the BS in you have (sic) previously placed there.
“That is the whole point isn’t it? If you think I have a gun and you think I just might use it to settle a score. YOU will be less inclined to spew your bad socialist behavior or risk the consequences. Works very well for me. So be careful. Woooooo, scary.
“In any case, if I decided to kick your ass for the verbal abuse you inflict, I wouldn’t need a gun to do the job John. Using a gun in that situation would be like trying to kill ants with a nuclear bomb, necessary. Fortunately for you John, I no longer (well rarely anyway) simply beat the crap of rude people who think the law protects them and their rudeness. If I think you need a refresher course in that lesson, I will give it to you without your consent. I recognize of course that there will be a penalty to pay for such an act. I would of course be responsible for my actions and accept any penalty because of it. However, YOU will discover how the law does NOT protect you (sic) rude, groundless hate speech behavior from painful redress by those who you inflict it upon. You WILL think twice the next time you think it is behind your screen and spew hate speech and lies.
“This is not a offensive threat. It is a defensive promise. I am a peaceful man. I wish you no harm.
“I am like a porcupine. Just leave me alone and you will be just fine. Become a physical aggressor at your own peril. When it comes time to fight or flee. I historically fight. I find I feel much better after cleaning the clock of a socialist A-holes (sic) who have a holier-than-thou attitude and think I’m a pushoever peacenick.
“Be warned. The world is a dangerous place John and I can be a dangerous man when provoked. Dare to go there?
“If you continue down this road of coyly threatening me with violence I may be forced to react defensibly. Don’t tread on me John.”
In a time of growing fear and hate over political differences, when leaders and their associates have experienced serious vandalism, death threats, multiple murders and an attempted assassination in Arizona, are we safe when a local politician—one who as an educator helps decide the future of our children—hasn’t learned the first thing about peaceful coexistence from our nation’s most recent tragedies?
In the past, Norm “Firecracker” Westwell’s illogical rants were taken in stride, even in good humor. But there will be no more of that for Merle Moshiri. “I am afraid of this guy,” she told the Voice. “He isn’t a joke. He’s a public menace.”
Photo: Arthur Tolenttino for the SCV
Editor’s note: Norm “Firecracker” Westwell did not respond to the Voice’s request for comment.