Grandpa Ken Inoue, who has lived in Huntington Beach for nearly five decades, sat in the middle of the stage on Wednesday night.
A few benches to the left of Inoue sat student Gabrielle Sami, who plays basketball at Orange Coast College.
This year’s Huntington Beach City Council race has certainly brought a variety of ages, experiences, and perspectives with 18 candidates.
16 of them attended a forum in a senior center on Wednesday night, which was held by the Chamber of Commerce. Questions largely related to business in the city.
The 100-minute forum, moderated by Sheikh Sator, has found commonalities and differences among the candidates, who are vying for four vacant seats in November. Only two, Jill Hardy and Billy O’Connell, have served on the council in the past.
Other nominees who attended, in alphabetical order, included Bobby Britton, Brian Burley, Pat Burns, Gina Clayton-Tarvin, David Clifford, Vera Fair, Amory Hanson, Casey McKeown, Oscar Rodriguez, Tony Strickland, Gracie van der Mark and Mike Vogler . .
Most agreed that homelessness is a core issue that the city must address.
“I pledge that if elected, I will work with the city attorney as my attorney to develop comprehensive municipal ordinances that will address this problem,” Vogler said. I don’t want to intrude on anyone’s civil liberties or civil rights, but we have to get serious about this. We don’t want Huntington Beach to become Venice Beach.”
Crime was an issue that seemed related to homelessness to some, including Burns, who served as a police officer in Long Beach for 30 years. Burns, van der Mark, McKeown and Strickland campaigned together to try to grab the four open points on the podium.
McKeown noted that some companies are fleeing to neighboring cities, which have fewer restrictions.
“We bled sales tax money to other cities,” McKeown said. “this is unacceptable.”
Clayton Tarvin identified inflation as a major problem, not only nationally but specifically in Surf City. As chair of the Ocean View School District’s Board of Trustees, I have watched the realities of economics closely.
“We have seen our construction costs to rebuild our schools by measure R literally triple,” she said. “It damages the school district and damages Huntington Beach.”
Sami said she witnessed work issues firsthand as an employee at a local hotel.
“I have discussed with a couple of companies what problems they feel, and one of the most important is employment, especially in a post-COVID economy where no one wants to go back to work,” she said. “I work at the Hyatt in Huntington Beach, one of our most beautiful hotels. They pay the minimum jobs $22 an hour, and they can’t get anyone who wants to work now.”
Sator also asked candidates which sectors of industry the city should pursue, other than tourism and car sales.
Fair and Clifford noted that Huntington Beach residents are getting older, which makes medical services even more important.
“I think we need to bring medical care closer to home for seniors,” said Clifford, a transportation industry employer. These are high paying jobs. I also agree with Brian that we need more industrialization, higher paying blue collar jobs.”
O’Connell said revitalizing downtown Huntington Beach is important.
“Families don’t want to go to downtown Huntington Beach,” he said. “We have to invest. I’m talking about free and fair trade, but when you don’t have free and fair trade, we have to step up and support American small businesses and workers. If we don’t start encouraging our supply chains from being overseas to go back to the United States, it will be a challenge big in the future.
Strickland, a former state assemblyman and senator, said he would listen to the community’s input if he was voted into the House.
He said, “God gave you two ears and a mouth for a reason.”
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