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Candidate wants to promote business-friendly tactics

City Council contender is a former Los Angeles Sheriff's Department officer and also runs a local nonprofit.

September 22, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com

William "Billy" O'Connell heads across the street from his office to handle election business, not wanting to mix his work with his campaign.

O'Connell, the executive director and founding member of Colette's Children's Home and a public works commissioner, is making a bid for one of four open seats on the Huntington Beach City Council.

A New York native who grew up in Ireland, O'Connell worked for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department for nearly a decade before the needs of homeless women and children in the area moved him to take action.

It wasn't until recently, as he watched the economy tank, businesses leave the city and infrastructure fall apart, that he decided to get involved in politics. The situation, combined with rising fees, has created an unsustainable scenario, O'Connell said.

In running for council, he wants to give back to the community and believes the city needs someone who can handle the hard issues.

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"I see the needs in the community, and I see the way the citizens in this community are taken for granted," he said.

O'Connell's connection with Colette's, which has dealings with the city, is the only concern Councilman Devin Dwyer said he has with O'Connell.

Dwyer, who is endorsing O'Connell, Barbara Delgleize and Matthew Harper, said he is talented and would do well as a council member, but would have to watch out for conflicts of interest.

"He will have to watch his Ps and Qs," Dwyer said.

The candidate said he will do his best to keep politics separate from his nonprofit work. He called himself a "compassionate conservative."

If he takes office, O'Connell said, he wants to stop fee increases, look at city pensions and outsource when possible. He supports the senior center and the council's decision to appeal the lawsuit against it, and is in favor of the Poseidon Seawater Desalination Plant.

Infrastructure is also an issue that needs to be taken care of immediately, he said.

"If we don't do it now, it's going to be a lot more expensive," he said.

Public safety is also important for O'Connell. As a former officer, he said he can understand the unique challenges the police face better than the average person.

The Police Department needs more manpower in downtown, he said, but he wouldn't consider limiting the number of liquor licenses. To do that would penalize future businesses for the actions of a few, he said.

"The government needs to stay as much as possible out of it," he said, adding that there are enough laws and they just need to be enforced.

Limiting the licenses would also discourage new businesses, which is the exact opposite of what O'Connell wants to do. He said he wants to create a business-friendly atmosphere, cutting business license and inspection fees and being more aggressive in economic development.

"There is so much the city could do to encourage businesses," he said. "By doing that, we'll create more jobs, more revenue coming in to the city, and in the long term, we'll benefit as a whole city."

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