New HB Mayor Wants Legal Fireworks, Pension Tax Vote

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New Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen, who was appointed by his council colleagues Monday in front of a packed chamber, did not waste time laying out his policy goals for the coming year.

Among other things, he wants decisions on raising the city’s pension tax taken out of the City Council’s hands and fireworks put back in the hands of residents.

The new mayor said enforcement of the fireworks ban “drains resources from our police that need to go after bigger fish” on July 4, instead of “the family lighting a fountain [firework] in their front yard.”

He outlined an idea for a two-year pilot program for allowing fireworks, which would also include “fireworks-free zones” at beaches, parks, environmentally sensitive areas and downtown.

Hansen also has plans for a ballot initiative that would allow city voters, not the City Council, to decide whether to raise the city’s pension tax.

He said the city’s parcel tax for pension obligations has doubled in recent years and wants to see an item on next November’s ballot that would require a public vote before the pension tax rate is adjusted.

Hansen’s other goals include starting a citywide charity, preserving a youth sports field and reforming the way Huntington Beach appoints its representatives to regional agencies.

The charity, which Hansen called the “Huntington Beach Community Foundation,” would advance city and social welfare issues, including funding for seniors, arts, sports programs, and people at risk of becoming homeless. He hopes the foundation will raise $250,000 by the end of next year.

Finally, he proposed the creation of an ad hoc committee to preserve the LeBard Park baseball fields and ending what he said was a practice of Huntington Beach mayors appointing themselves as representatives at regional government agencies.

Aside from his role on the council, Hansen is also a vice president at Balboa Capital, a financial services firm based in Irvine.

Huntington Beach has a rotating mayor position, in which the city council chooses one of its members to serve as mayor for a year.

The outgoing mayor, Joe Carchio, described “being mayor of Surf City USA” as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience” and urged a conciliatory approach to solving the city’s problems.

“If there is one thought, one concept, one single idea I could leave you with, it is the concept of ‘let’s find solutions together,’ ” said Carchio.

“Pension reform is not black and white. Desalination is not black and white. Growth, no growth are not opposing ideas. These are concepts that need to be discussed, worked on, debated aggressively,” he added.

Hansen also encouraged dialogue, providing his email address (dhansen@surfcity-hb.org) and welcoming comments. He acknowledged his proposals will likely meet resistance.

“Let’s vet these issues. There’s some meaty stuff that I threw up there tonight, and I’m not saying everybody up here is going to agree with me,” said Hansen, gesturing toward the seven-member council.

“I hope three do,” he quipped.

— NICK GERDA

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