That was the year that was … and frankly, it was not a 12-month parade of non-stop encouraging news of progress and harmony for the West Orange County area.
As I look back on 2018 and the events that mattered for the communities of Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Stanton and Westminster, it looks as if the plusses and minuses just about cancelled each other out.
Before packed and emotional houses, the city councils of Huntington Beach and Westminster voted in favor of resolutions opposed to Senate Bill 54, which places some restrictions on cooperation between federal immigration officers and local police agencies regarding the citizenship status of those in custody.
Huntington Beach went even further, going to court and getting a Superior Court ruling declaring SB 54 to be unconstitutional, a ruling certain to be challenged in higher courts.
What was discouraging was not the issue of illegal immigration itself but more the fact that it was all about a lot of heat and not much light. Some folks at these hearings begged the council to “opt out” from enforcement of the law, which is not an option. Others made it into a purely political or ethnic issue.
Certain speakers wore “Make America Great Again” T-shirts and caps. One guy on the other side wore a Mexican flag as a cape, an insult to both nations. To top it all off, many of those – probably most – who spoke were not local residents. One pair of ladies had driven in from Arizona. It was all like a traveling circus of divisiveness.
Another big story locally was how the “Blue Wave” of the Nov. 6 elections turned all seven Congressional districts serving Orange County into Democrat-held seats, something unheard of in the 130-year history of the OC.
The impact rolled down-ballot even to the 34th State Senate race in which popular incumbent Republican Janet Nguyen was beaten by Democratic challenger Tom Umberg. It’s likely that many voters in this year of backlash against the President’s manner as much as his politics cast their ballots based on the “R” next to her name, rather than any specific complaint about her.
A rising tide raises all boats; a falling tide beaches them.
It was a year of departures as well. The Garden Grove City Council moved toward replacing the 92-year-old fire department with service from the Orange County Fire Authority.
Voters in that city approved a 1-cent sales tax to beef up public safety. Long-time Westminster mayor and councilwoman Margie Rice stepped down. Shakespeare Orange County found itself muscled out of the Festival Amphitheater in Garden Grove and will relocate to Santa Ana College.
Jack Wallin and Leo Zlaket, two icons of Garden Grove, passed into history. So did Mike Scioscia’s career as field manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Westminster School District is still without a permanent superintendent, having fired their last one after just six months on the job.
And a year of starts: a ceremonial ground-breaking was held in advance of actual construction of the OC Streetcar that will link Santa Ana and Garden Grove. The SteelCraft project on Euclid Street is underway and bike and pedestrian lane plans for all across the area are in the offing.
The Village at Beach in Stanton/Garden Grove at the intersection of Garden Grove and Beach boulevards – now in the early stages of reconstruction – should provide a needed boost to both cities.
So, in reflection, it was a mix of the encouraging and the troubling. Just like every other year, it seems. Let’s hope that 2019 will be an exception.
Jim Tortolano’s Retorts is posted on alternate Wednesdays.