Huntington Beach City Council members are expected to appoint someone to replace Tito Ortiz Monday, who abruptly resigned from his position on the council at the beginning of last month.

The expected move will mark the latest appointment to fill a vacancy on city councils throughout OC — which usually leaves some residents unhappy. 

The debate on how city councils should fill vacancies on the dais has emerged at least four times this year in not just Huntington Beach but in Costa Mesa and Orange — both of the latter two cities appointed someone.

Debate on how to fill a vacancy is also playing out in Cypress.

Following Ortiz’s departure, Huntington Beach City Council Members decided they would interview a pool of applicants to fill the seat.

Tito Ortiz being sworn into office on Dec. 7, 2020. Credit: HB City GOV

That decision led to about 190 residents applying in a seven-day time frame to fill the empty spot on the dais. 

More than 100 people showed up to council chambers to be interviewed last weekend at two special meetings.

Fullerton City Council members took a similar approach in 2019 after Jesus Silva beat former Councilman Greg Sebourn for the eastern District 3 seat in November, leaving his at-large seat vacant with roughly two years left on its term.

And, like in Huntington Beach, many Fullerton residents either called for a special election or for the council to appoint the next top vote-getter.

Helen Higgins, a resident of Fullerton for 21 years, came to address the council Jan. 29. Credit: KATIE LICARI, Voice of OC

If Huntington Beach council members fail to come to a consensus on which applicant to appoint by July 30, then the decision goes to residents at a special election estimated to cost the city between $885,000 – $1 million, according to a staff report.

Since Ortiz’s departure, the council has been facing pressure from residents who keep showing up to their meetings demanding council members appoint the runner-up in the 2020 November election — Gracey Van Der Mark.

Ortiz too has voiced support for Van Der Mark, who won 8.2% of the vote last year, but lost to the former UFC champion, Dan Kalmick and Natalie Moser. 

Other residents are hoping the council doesn’t pick her.

Van Der Mark has been criticized in the past as being racist, islamophobic and anti-semitic. She was also removed from two committees in Huntington Beach’s local school districts. 

Meanwhile, some residents are pushing for Oscar Rodriguez who came 5th in the race for city council last year with about 7.6% of the vote.

Cypress City Council to Appoint New Councilmember

On Monday, Cypress council members decided at their meeting they would appoint a replacement for Stacy Berry following her resignation last month 

Like Huntington Beach and Fullerton, Cypress is using an application process.

Those who want to apply for Berry’s spot must be registered to vote, residents of the city and cannot have served on the council for more than eight years.

The deadline to submit an application is Friday July 30 at 5 p.m. and interviews will be held Aug. 9-13.

More information on the application process can be found on the city website.

Like in Huntington Beach, some residents in Cypress showed up to the meeting to call on the council to appoint the runner up from the 2020 November Election — Carrie Katsumata Hayashida who lost to Councilmembers Anne Hertz and Frances Marquez.

“She represents an underserved representation of Cypress,” one resident told the council about Hayashida being Asian American.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 35% of the city’s population is Asian but Asian Americans are not represented on the city council.

Carrie Katsumata Hayashida addresses the Cypress City Council at their meeting on July 12, 2021. Credit: Cypress City Gov.

Hayashida, who won 15% of the vote in the last election and beat the candidate behind her by over 2,000 votes, also showed up to call for her own appointment.

“This isn’t an entitlement issue because I came in third, because I would feel this way even if it wasn’t me that came in third … This is about the democratic process and I am asking the council to acknowledge that 6,070 residents voted for me.” 

Carrie Katsumata Hayashida, past council candidate

Last year, Cypress residents voted to change the time frame of a city council vacancy appointment process.

A ballot measure, which won 69% of votes, amended the city charter to allow for 60 days to fill a vacancy on the city council through an appointment process rather than 30 days.

“If I look at what the results of the November election were, 70% of our residents are the ones that asked for this, giving us the extra thirty days for this type of process,” said Councilman Paulo Morales at the meeting.

At the same meeting council unanimously appointed Morales to serve as the Mayor Pro Tem.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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