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Mailbag: Hoping for change on the City Council

September 01, 2010

On July 6, my wife and I attended our first Huntington Beach City Council meeting, and it was truly an eye-opening experience. As members of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, we wanted to lend our voices to those opposing the proposed rezoning of five acres of parkland near our house, so that the bankrupt developer, Hearthside Homes, could build condominiums on it.

As we waited for hours for this agenda item to come up, we were exposed to the incredibly immature and selfish behavior of most of the council members (with the exception of Jill Hardy, who was always polite, well-informed and gracious). Based on what we heard and observed, the worst offenders were the hostile Keith Bohr and the sarcastic Don Hansen, but the others were not far behind. Bohr is unfailingly hostile, and Hansen seems to revel in sarcasm to witnesses he disagrees with.

The one witness who got their approval, to the point where they nearly spread-eagled themselves across their desks, was the vice president of the development firm, Hearthside Homes, who was given much more time than anyone else. While all of the others who testified were held to strict three-minute limits, he was allowed to speak at length, and his arrogance showed through, as though he was annoyed that he had to defend his project at all.

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His was about the only favorable testimony, and the council all but bowed when he finally sat down — vastly different treatment from the rest of the witnesses, who were browbeaten, ignored and otherwise disrespected. As we watched witness after witness treated like dirt, my wife told me that it reminded her of classrooms full of third-graders.

It was not just the Bolsa Chica Land Trust witnesses who received this treatment, but also a large group of Sunset Beach residents, who asked that Huntington Beach hold off on incorporating their area until they could file their appeal in a few months. Again, they were treated like supplicants at their master's throne. Disgusting.

Of course, the fix was in, and the council voted for annexation of Sunset Beach and in favor of the developer over the unanimous wishes of the residents. With the exception of Hardy, who will be sorely missed after her departure, I have rarely seen such a bunch of inept and childish politicians.

It's a good thing that some of the council members are leaving. I can only hope that some of the more ethical and temperate candidates such as Blair Farley, Connie Boardman and Joe Shaw take their places.

Raymond Sherrard

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