By Jim Tortolano
For Huntington Beach’s newest member of the city council, the most important challenge facing Surf City is about as close to home as it gets.
“I think the big issue that is on a lot of people’s minds, that they communicate to me, is their concern about housing,” said Rhonda Bolton, who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council in July. She replaced the controversial Tito Ortiz, who resigned his post.
“Some people are concerned about whether we are going to have housing that’s affordable for the work force that’s here, a middle class work force,” she said. “The cost of housing is an issue for a lot of people. When some people think of affordable housing, they think of people using Section 8 [government-subsidized for the poor] housing.”
“It’s an issue for a much larger group of people because housing here is so expensive. For some people,” she added, “the issue is we need more housing but where is it going to fit?”
Bolton, an attorney who described herself as “over 40,” has lived in Huntington Beach for “nearly nine years,” moving to California after residing in Washington, D.C. In her home, there’s a husband, two kids, two dogs and “a very grumpy goldfish.”
Her approach to housing and other issues in the community is simple.
“Do I have the answers to all that? No. I’m studying it right now and I’m talking to people. I don’t think it’s a matter of me saying, ‘Here’s what I think.’ It’s still important to listen to what people have to say and what they think about everything and then it’s our job to do our best with all the information we can gather to make a decision.”
That sober reflection on issues and facts may run counter to the present heated political atmosphere. But she is hopeful.
“Are people [that] divided? I don’t know they are actually that divided,” she said. “What I see and what other people tell me is that they see the tenor of our national discourse is not as thoughtful as it could be. We’re not treating people in a tolerant way.
“I don’t think it makes sense to demonize someone just because they don’t believe the same thing you do,” she said.
She’s faced some heat from people who advocated for a different choice to fill the council seat. “I don’t think that represents most of the people in Huntington Beach,” Bolton said. “What I’m focused on is my work. I tend to tune out distractions. It’s not productive stuff.”
As for bringing courtesy back to the civic arena, the solution may be in the political and cultural center, she feels.
“Part of the reason I applied for the position is you don’t hear from people in the middle. They’re there, they just not the ones who are raising their voices to be the loudest. Finally, I thought, ‘I’m a person in the middle. I’m going to do something.’ I want to do something to try to create the environment that I would like my kids to see.”
Categories: Huntington Beach