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Running for, not from council

October 14, 2004

Dave Brooks

Joey Racano is a little on edge these days.

After constant rallying against special interests in Huntington

Beach, Racano said he is afraid he has crossed too many powerful

people. Someone out there, he thinks, could be trying to kill him.

Even campaigning for City Council -- his third attempt in six

years -- has become problematic. The Brooklyn-born environmentalist

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once picketed for 111 days to save Little Shell Wetlands, but now

he's afraid to be seen at the city's own municipal beach.

During the interview for this story at Bolsa Chica State Beach,

Racano became extremely agitated when a Huntington Beach Police

helicopter flying up the coast suddenly maneuvered right and buzzed

over his RV.

"It was absolutely Orwellian," Racano would later write in a

letter sent out to everyone in the half-dozen e-mail groups to which

he belonged. "What a shameful display."

Fast-forward to an undisclosed Starbucks location with Racano

sitting behind his giant laptop, his RV home base and campaign

headquarters parked around back.

"Welcome to my office," he cheerfully said, before sullenly

remembering that he had just fled town.

"Can you believe that these fascists are doing this to me?" he

asked.

The problem, Racano said, is that he has begun confronting soft

money in Surf City.

"Special-interest advocacy groups are wielding a stranglehold on

our elective process," he said. "They are able to circumvent

campaign-finance limits. The results are that we are virtually

assured continued conflicts of interest."

The worst offenders, he said, are the police and fire departments,

private utilities, developers and the real estate industry, all who

he said have purchased advertising for candidates through loopholes

that allow them to spend unlimited amounts.

The result, Racano said, is that the city's spending priorities

get shifted away from vital social services.

"We've got budget leaks in the hull of the USS Huntington Beach,"

he said in his typical oratorical form, frequently pausing to make

sure every word he utters gets transcribed.

Look at the Police Department's helicopters , he said.

"We can't afford our own Air Force," he argues, "if we can't

afford free trash removal for low income seniors and decent library

hours. We're balancing the budget on the backs of the poorest part of

the community."

Racano said his dislike for the police also stems from his brushes

with the law , which included citations for sleeping in his RV on

city streets. He said once he was even picked up on an obscure

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