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In the Pipeline: The public wants its voice

April 28, 2014|By Chris Epting

I like it when City Hall is packed and public comments at the meetings take hours. Those are signs that our system is working and that people care about what their elected officials are doing when it comes to running the city.

April 21 was one of those nights. Councilman Dave Sullivan attempted to place the plastic bag ban on the November ballot, an issue that drew a large crowd. The ban was narrowly approved by the council in the fall but now some want the matter put to a public vote.

By my observation, both sides were well-represented. Those in favor of a public vote outnumbered the opposing side — but not by much. As one of the public speakers, I said that even though I support a ban on plastic bags, I think the people should have a say.

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For me, any issue that affects hundreds of business people and tens of thousands of residents is worthy of a public vote. I believe that the will of the people collectively is more important than what you or I think.

This issue is clearly a polarizing one in Huntington Beach, and if both sides on the City Council are confident in their viewpoints, there should be no problem laying it out for a vote.

Yes, it has been hashed out many times before at council meetings. But does anything really replace a vote? Talk about it 100 times at meetings, and still my mind wouldn't be changed. This issue is just too big and raises too many questions — like why all of a sudden do stores have to charge for paper bags?

I also think the public's right to vote on major issues will become the defining issue of November's election. We heard from several candidates for City Council on Monday.

Billy O'Connell, executive director of Colette's Children's Home, and Planning Commissioner Mike Posey both spoke out in favor of allowing the public to vote, while Planning Commissioner Mark Bixby sided with Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw and Council members Connie Boardman, Jill Hardy and Jim Katapodis, who argued against having a vote and who prevailed once votes were counted.

The issue of what we are allowed to vote on as residents blew up outside of council chambers as well. Online comments ran intense, and resident Michael Daly formed a Facebook discussion group called Huntington Beach Community Forum.

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