Across the Area

2022: Normalcy and division

GONZALO and Felicitas Mendez were immortalized at the Mendez Freedom Monument and Trail in Westminster, opened in late 2022 (Orange County Tribune photo).

By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune

After the trauma of the previous two years, roiled by a continuing pandemic and a contentious political year, 2022 promised to be a breath of fresh air with a return – somewhat – to a more normal life, in which terms like “social distancing” and epic angry political infighting would recede into history.

Certainly, in the nation at large and West Orange County in particular, there was some relaxation, a welcome return to what used to be called “normalcy.”

The Tribune’s coverage area is the cities of Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Stanton and Westminster. All those cities had to cope with not only a cautious relaxation from the strict and often controversial public health measures prompted by the COVID-19 disease and persistent crisis of homelessness.

In the former case, by spring and summer, the worst of the crisis seemed over. The Strawberry Festival returned to Garden Grove’s Village Green park in May, attracting what seemed to be record crowds, and the Fourth of July parade in Huntington Beach filled Main Street with music and merrymaking.

In 2022 there was progress to be reported in coping with the unsheltered. Huntington Beach’s Navigation Center will be evolving into “permanent supportive housing” and Garden Grove has found a location for its own navigation center, which will be operated in conjunction with Fountain Valley and Westminster.

The creation of new state mental health courts offer hope of new legal tools to move the mentally ill from street corners and parks.

After considerable foot-dragging, the Westminster City Council allowed voters to decide on whether to extend its one-cent sales tax. Over 70 percent of them cast ballots in favor and avoided what seemed to be a path toward possible municipal bankruptcy.

After a working through several interim city managers, the council there finally settled on the talented and personable city clerk, Christine Cordon as the new city manager, a choice that was widely applauded.

However, on most other issues, the council was bitterly divided, battling not only over the tax, but also the controversial proposed Quang Tri monument. The results of the 2022 election produced another 3-2 split, with angry words already being exchanged.

A veritable local political earthquake hit Huntington Beach on Nov. 8, as a majority of four new conservative candidates were elected to the city council and quickly began promoting their views on homelessness and pushing back against unpopular state laws.

The 4-3 split saw the council skip the typical practice of electing a new mayor based on seniority and chose one of their own, Tony Strickland, as mayor.

In Garden Grove and Stanton, the waters seemed a bit calmer. Long-serving incumbent mayors Steve Jones and David Shawver were re-elected, and both cities continue to see robust development, including approval in The Big Strawberry of a 500-room Nickelodeon-themed hotel on Harbor Boulevard.

Some local sports history was made as the Garden Grove High School boys’ basketball team won a CIF-SS basketball title for the first time in the school’s century-old history, and the Bolsa Grande High School football team qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 34 years.

Next week: A look ahead at what 2023 might hold for the West Orange County area.

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