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Candidate is all about the numbers

Erik Peterson, who has served the city on the Planning Commission and Finance Board, seeks a spot on the dais.

October 24, 2012|By Mona Shadia
  • Planning Commissioner Erik Peterson is running for Huntington Beach City Council.
Planning Commissioner Erik Peterson is running for Huntington… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

While many of the candidates for the Huntington Beach City Council speak of reforming pension, Erik Peterson says he's studied the issue inside and out and knows how to fix it.

"I've been studying it for four years," said the planning commissioner, one of 12 candidates running for council. "I know what the comprehensive annual financial report is, and I know how to read it. I've worked on the Finance Board, especially on pension reform."

Peterson, who runs an electrical contracting business, said the city's financial future stands on whether pensions are reformed.

Having served in the Marine Corps, Peterson said he knows safety employees work hard and he values their efforts, but he said something must be done to manage overtime pay.

While he said he wants them to have the opportunity to get paid overtime, that money could go toward extra police officers. However, without reforming pension and creating a sustainable system for everyone, it's difficult to hire more officers now.

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"Even if you took that overtime and hired three officers, we're stuck with that same liability that we get through the pension, so we need to change the pension structure," Peterson said, adding that the city also needs to look at starting salaries and adjust them if need be.

One thing Peterson would like to bring back if he's elected to the council is the Finance Board, where he first became involved with city matters. Councilman Devin Dwyer, the only incumbent in the race, appointed Peterson to the board. Peterson was then appointed to the Planning Commission by Councilman Matthew Harper, who is among those endorsing Peterson.

Peterson said the Finance Board was a useful tool and provided a chance to check all contracts the city entered.

"You have independent citizens being able to go in and review contracts with the city," he said. "If a City Council member wanted you to look into something, they'd say, 'Look at it and see if it's a good idea.'"

The Finance Board was eliminated earlier this year after all boards and committees throughout the city were evaluated for their effectiveness. At one point, the Finance Board was merged with the Investment Advisory Board, but that ended up not working out, said Councilwoman Connie Boardman.

While there's no guarantee that council members will take the board's recommendation, Peterson said, at least someone is looking at contracts in detail, which increases transparency.

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