Huntington Beach

No deal on city council vacancy

THE HUNTINGTON BEACH CITY COUNCIL – socially distanced – could not agree on how to fill a vacancy and decided to try again within seven days (OC Tribune image),

Unable to agree on which candidate should fill a vacant seat or whether to hold a special election, the Huntington Beach City Council voted Monday night to adjourn to another meeting within seven days to take the matter up again.

The vote was 5-1 with Councilmember Erik Peterson voting against.

It was a contentious meeting that lasted for two hours and 18 minutes and was punctuated by repeated shouts from some members of the audience. The council was seeking to find a replacement for former Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz, who resigned his seat in June after being elected in November.

“I think it’s our responsibility to try, try again,” said Councilmember Dan Kalmick, expressing his desire not to spend $1 million on a special election in the fall.

The original process agreed upon was an attempt to reach consensus. It called for each councilmember to nominate three potential selections. After five rounds of balloting, three people retained support: Kevin Morin, Rhonda Bolton and Gracey Van Der Mark.

After a recess at 7:18 p.m., the procedure shifted to an up-or-down vote on those three, but none won a majority.  Later in the meeting, a vote to hold a special election failed on a 3-3 vote.

Another up-or-down vote produced no consensus again, and the council finally decided it could not decide and would try again at a meeting date to be named later.

Under the law, if the council doesn’t either make a final selection or agree by July 31 to approve a special election, such a special election would automatically be triggered.

Balloting would be combined with the statewide midterm election on Nov. 2, and would the cost the city an estimated $1 million, according to City Manager Oliver Chi.

Public comments before the council conferred were primarily in support of Van Der Mark and Dominque “Dom” Jones. Supporters of the former proclaimed their desire for a “conservative voice” on the council; some decried Huntington Beach as becoming like San Francisco with “liberal values” and high-rise residential development. They noted that since Van Der Mark had finished fourth in the November election (there were three seats being contended), she deserved to be selected.

Jones was lauded for her community service and embrace of “diversity.”

Mayor Kim Carr repeatedly asked rowdy elements to show courtesy to speakers and at one point threatened, “We can hold this meeting on Zoom, you know.”

The meeting eventually was brought to an end at 8:18 p.m., having started at 6 p.m.

Leave a Reply