By Jim Tortolano
Tito Ortiz, the mayor pro tem of the Huntington Beach City Council, will get to keep his title after all.
In a virtual meeting that lasted six hours Monday night, the council decided to table a proposal – without a formal vote – to strip Ortiz of the “vice mayor” position after lengthy public testimony and lively – and sometimes angry – discussion among the members of the panel.
The original idea, advanced by Mayor Kim Carr and councilmembers Dan Kalmick and Mike Posey, was to consider a vote of “no confidence” on Ortiz, remove him from the pro tem post and then elect a replacement.
While the position of mayor pro tem is largely ceremonial, it does place that person in position to run a meeting when and if the mayor is absent and – under council policies – put Ortiz in position to become the mayor in 2022.
Ortiz, a former professional mixed martial arts fighter who was raised in Huntington Beach, became controversial for refusing to wear a mask to combat the spread of the coronavirus – which he called a “plandemic” – and angrily denouncing a popular restaurant that declined to serve him as he refused to wear a face covering.
The public comments lasted three hours. By our count, 28 persons spoke to support Ortiz, while 25 spoke in favor of removing him from his largely ceremonial post.
When the item came up near the end of the meeting, most councilmembers first criticized Ortiz and then backed off on the idea of taking away his pro tem title. Councilmember Erik Peterson was his defender, saying, “You’re treating him like a child.”
Carr chastised Ortiz for what she called his “proclivity to lie,” and suggested he was not putting much effort into his role on the council. She then urged him to be a positive influence to help bring the city together.
“I need you to be my right-hand man,” she said. “I need you to be that leader.”
Ortiz was, by turns, combative and conciliatory. At one point he suggested that his critics were motivated by political or racial reasons.
“It’s never been about your politics, but about your actions,” said Carr. Later he confessed he had cried over the negative comments made about him. When it appeared that no action against him was to be taken, he spoke softly.
Ortiz vowed to do better and said, “I apologize if I let anyone down,” he said. “I went into defensive mode and should not have done that.”
The next city council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 16.
Categories: Huntington Beach