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Election forums draw in residents

Arguments for and against Measure O are heard

City Council candidates talk on business, listening to H.B. citizens' wants.

October 06, 2010|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com
  • Fred Speaker, who is running for Huntington Beach City Council, speaks during a candidate forum at the Murdy Community Center on Monday.
Fred Speaker, who is running for Huntington Beach City… (Scott Smeltzer,…)

Interested residents gathered for two election forums Monday and Tuesday to learn about the City Council candidates and Measure O.

About 50 residents, including many City Council candidates, listened to the arguments for and against Measure O on Tuesday evening at City Hall.

Measure O would remove debt service and other costs from inclusion in the 15% of the general fund parceled out to infrastructure improvement, repairs and maintenance every year. If passed, the measure wouldn't go into effect until the 2017/18 budget.

Infrastructure includes items like storm drains, streets, sidewalks, street trees, parks, beaches, playgrounds, traffic signals and public buildings.

The League of Women Voters moderated the forum, giving each side a five-minute opening and closing and one minute each to answer audience-submitted questions.

Former Mayor Shirley Dettloff and Councilman Don Hansen argued in favor of the measure against former Mayor Debbie Cook and Councilman Keith Bohr.

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The proponents of the measure argued that residents directed the council to spend 15% of the general fund on infrastructure in 2002 when they approved Measure FF by almost 58%, but the council has been using a "loophole" to use some of the money for debt service.

That loophole has allowed about $6 million a year that should have been going to infrastructure to be used for other purposes, Hansen said.

"We need to realize that the will of the people can no longer be deemed inconvenient," he said.

Infrastructure is one of the most important issues facing Huntington Beach and is part of public safety and contributes to the litigation in the city, Dettloff said.

When infrastructure is in disrepair, an ambulance could be delayed by the street conditions, a child could be hit by a falling tree branch in the park, or an elderly citizen could trip and fall over an uneven sidewalk — the last two are common lawsuit issues the city faces, she said.

The issue isn't the need for infrastructure, which Bohr said is there, but where the money will come from and what the residents are willing to cut.

"Where is it coming from if we're not going to tax it?" Bohr asked. "We're down to the bone. Less services, less people doing them."

Hansen unveiled three charts showing that the majority of city money is going toward city pensions.

"The money is there. It's just going to take some tough, tough decisions to get it done," Hansen said.

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