Measure O Battle Heats Up in Huntington Beach

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If last night’s Huntington Beach City Council meeting was any indication, tonight’s debate over Measure O — which calls for saving 15 percent of the city’s general fund just for infrastructure improvement — should be a raucous affair.

The measure would lock in 15 percent of the general fund for infrastructure maintenance by clarifying a 2002 voter-approved amendment to the city charter that created an infrastructure fund.

A city attorney interpretation allowed funds from that allocation to be used to pay for debt service. The measure would bar that use beginning in 2017.

Proponents of the measure say it will fulfill the original intent voters had when they approved the city charter amendment, while opponents say it hamstrings future City Councils’ fiscal decisions and will force painful budget cuts and possible layoffs.

Last night Councilman Devin Dwyer provided a window into just how heated the debate over the measure has become. Dwyer, who supports the measure, slammed a slate mailer opposing the measure that is made up to look like a newspaper called Huntington Beach Law Enforcement News.

The mailer doesn’t indicate a sponsor, but Dwyer said he suspects that the city’s public employee unions bankrolled it.

“It’s plain-out fearmongering,” Dwyer said. “If you see this coming around, throw it away. I wouldn’t use this in my hamster cage.”

Resident Gerald Chapman, who was a member of the infrastructure advisory committee that came up with the 15 percent calculation, also spoke against the mailer.

“When I got this at home, I read through it, and I had the same reaction as Councilman Dwyer to it,” said Chapman, who alleges that the police union, specifically, is behind the mailer.

Opponents of the measure, which include council members Jill Hardy and Keith Bohr, were largely quiet about the slate mailer.

Councilman Don Hansen suspected that the Huntington Beach Law Enforcement News took inspiration from controversial slate mailers in Irvine, the most recent being 2008’s Community News and Views.

Tonight’s debate on the issue will feature Bohr and former Mayor Debbie Cook arguing against the measure and Hansen and former Mayor Shirley Dettloff arguing in favor of the measure.

It begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall. You can also catch the debate on Monday on the city’s streaming webcast.

We’ll let you know what happens. Stay tuned.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

 

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