Calm down and make a better case

A BIG CROWD – some members polite, some not – attended Monday’s meeting of the Huntington Beach City Council (Orange County Tribune photo).

The biggest thing in Orange County this week – other than Shohei Ohtani – is the struggles surrounding SB 54, which bars local law enforcement from communicating in some ways with federal immigration authorities. On Monday night the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6-1 to sue the state over this legislation, claiming it infringes on local control. On Tuesday, the Fountain Valley council voted to file an amicus brief (“friend of the court”) on the same matter.

What’s noteworthy to a lot of observers isn’t so much the legal issues involved so much as the way the whole thing devolved into what one observer called a “circus.”

Good manners were pretty much swept away. Many members of the audience – heavily laced with people wearing signs supporting President Donald Trump or wearing his signature red “Make America Great Again” caps – catcalled, interrupted speakers who had the floor and generally conducted themselves in a rowdy manner.

A smaller group of those supporting SB 54 were generally a little more restrained, but one honyocker wore as a cape a flag that included the national seal of Mexico along with the red stripes of the U.S. flag.

A little free advice to both sides. Image is everything. Be as passionate as you like, but be polite and adult in making your case. Be proud, but don’t disrespect the Stars and Stripes. One of the most famous sayings of the 1960s was Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message.” If you look and sound like you’re throwing a tantrum, it’s difficult to be taken seriously.

Maybe you can’t have it both ways

You can only go to the well so many times before it dries up or gets blocked off. In Westminster, the city council – pleading the fear of bankruptcy – got voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax. It was a responsible move, considering how bad the city’s finances had become.

RAISING TAXES should be accompanied by some fiscal restraint.

But then last month the council voted to spend $85,000 on a special election in June for the non-urgent issue of extending the mayor’s term of office from two to four years. The argument was that a longer term would allow the mayor to better implement his programs.

Let’s face it: in a council-manager system of government, the mayor’s job is mostly ceremonial. He (or she) bangs the gavel and cuts the ribbons. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the city manager and his (or her) people.

Will voters be happy about paying that kind of taxpayer’s cash shortly after agreeing to a sales tax increase on the grounds of pleading poverty?

Something similar may come out of a recent proposal to shut down the Garden Grove Fire Department and replace it with the services of the Orange County Fire Service Authority. The premise for the switch is to save the city several million dollars a year.

But at the same time, a sales tax increase is being considered that would bring in an estimated $19 million a year, obviating the need to get rid of a department which is nearly a century old and which has deep roots in the community.

Both cities run the risk of sending mixed messages. Good ideas – and bad ones – can be scuttled by the way they are presented.






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