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Surf City Awash in Budget and Pollution Issues

In a race focusing on Huntington's economic woes, 18 candidates are up for four council seats.

October 17, 2002|Phil Willon | Times Staff Writer

At a time when Huntington Beach is facing some big-city growing pains, voters in Surf City are being asked to reshape a City Council that has four of its seven seats up for grabs in November.

Once elected, the newcomers will have the task of guiding a city that has suffered two straight years of budget cuts and has been hamstrung by beach pollution that hurt the tourist economy.

Among the 18 candidates on the ballot are former Huntington Beach Mayor Dave Sullivan; a vocal environmental activist; and Kathleen Mello-Navejas, a former mayor of Hawaiian Gardens who was recalled in 1997 after she fought a voter-approved card club.

Others include a local sportswear manufacturer who goes by the nickname Firecracker, two high school teachers and the wife of a council member whose term ends this year.The city has been forced to cut its annual budget by about $7 million each of the last two years because of shortfalls, and the situation for next year "looks just as bleak," said Mayor Debbie Cook, who is not up for reelection this year.

Sullivan said the city could save a bundle of money by cutting back benefits for city employees -- especially the city's "top shelf" health insurance policy that's provided without employees paying any share of the premiums.

"Wages and benefits are excessive," Sullivan said. "Millions are being diverted from other necessary projects because of that."

Sullivan, who served on the council from 1992 to 2000, helped eliminate the practice of what he called "salary spiking" among city employees, the practice of increasing salaries shortly before retirement to hike pension benefits.

Candidate Joey Racano, a founding member of the Ocean Outfall Group, is calling himself the "clean-water candidate." "Without clean water, Huntington Beach really doesn't have any other issues," said Racano, one of 16 candidates who appeared at a forum last week sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Racano, a musician, also wants to establish a world-class recycling program and require the city to use clean-air cars.

Real estate broker Keith Bohr said keeping Huntington Beach's coast pollution-free is critical for the health of the tourism industry. Candidate Stephen Garcia agreed and echoed the sentiments of many candidates in saying that the city should not have to tackle the problem by itself.

"This is a regional problem; it's not just our problem," said Garcia, an accountant. "We have to get the state involved in this."

Most of the candidates also stressed that the city needs to do more to attract tax-revenue-producing businesses but were less forthright about how to lure such companies from other nearby cities.

No matter who is elected next month, they'll quickly find out there are no easy solutions, said Mayor Cook, whose term lasts until 2004.



Who's appearing on the ballot

Candidates for Huntington Beach City Council in the Nov. 5 election:

*--* City Council (vote for four) Don Hansen, Commercial finance executive Jill S. Hardy, Teacher/Planning commissioner Kathleen Mello-Navejas, Director, physician relations C. Jim Moreno, Health-care administrator Keith Bohr, Real estate broker Stephen Garcia, Office manager/accountant Cathy Green, Businesswoman/nurse J. Devin Dwyer, Small-business owner Peter J. Albini Jr., Electrical designer Norm "Firecracker" Westwell, Sportswear manufacturer Joe Carchio, Restaurateur Gil Coerper, Retired police officer Dave Sullivan, Retired orthodontist Steve Ray, Business owner Joey Racano, Musician Jennifer Legg, Educator/homemaker Diane A. Lenning, High school teacher Robert Lillis, Information services manager


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